HOTTING UP THE WAR
By agreeing to let Connie Hawkins end his long exile and jump from the ABA's Minnesota Pipers to its own Phoenix Suns, the National Basketball Association accomplishes the following: 1) it avoids the agony of a $6 million law suit; 2) it gets on the right side of public opinion, which has come to look upon Hawkins as the victim of a bum rap (in being blackballed by the NBA because of alleged links with basketball fixers); 3) it substantially strengthens its weakest team; and 4) it delivers what one ABA official admits is a "terrific blow" to the new league.
Although Hawkins has been accepted by the NBA, he has not yet been legally signed, newspaper reports to the contrary, because the option clause in his ABA contract does not expire until September 30. "And the NBA cannot hide him until then," says an ABA source, defiantly. Before that date Hawkins certainly will be under pressure from his home-town New York Nets to sign with them.
But Hawkins' jump has caused severe friction within the ABA. The other teams in the league are furious at the Pipers and Commissioner George Mikan for letting such a superstar escape. And the incident has added venom to the inter-league war. Oakland's Alex Hannum says, "In the past I've told NBA players who have inquired about jumping to sit tight and wait until things settled down more. But not any longer—not after this. There's going to be a lot of action in the next few months."
Jerry Wolman, who incurred debts of more than $30 million while running, among other things, various sporting enterprises in Philadelphia and who was obliged this spring to sell his Philadelphia Eagles to Leonard Tose for $16,155,000 (SCORECARD, April 7), is trying to pop back into the picture. His sale of the club to Tose was a conditional one, to become final only if Wolman could not raise the money to satisfy his creditors by a specific date, reportedly May 1. But last week, when Wolman appeared at a creditors' hearing in a Baltimore court, he said he had a "telephone commitment" to repurchase the Eagles and added that he had told Tose that he was in a position to buy the team back. Tose, on the other hand, says that the deadline for repurchase has passed.
The crucial question is, if Wolman regains control of the Eagles will he bring back Joe Kuharich?
Some things arc so shattering that they defy comment. We therefore will do no more than report that the Houston Music Theatre has produced what it feels is a contemporary, updated version of Damn Yankees. The title has been changed to Damn Cardinals. And, according to a spokesman, "Where there is a reference to the Washington Senators, we've changed it to the Montreal Expos."
A report is in from Bermuda Naturalist David Wingate (SI, Nov. 4, 1968) on his back-to-the-wall effort to stave off the extinction of one of the rarest birds in the world, the cahow, or Bermuda petrel. Wingate has been providing and protecting the nesting burrows for the few remaining cahows, which breed, and lay their solitary egg, only on several islets off Bermuda. There were, according to Wingate, an estimated 24 nesting pairs observed on the islands last season, but only seven chicks were hatched. One of these died after two weeks, "apparently of starvation," Wingate says, "when one of its parents died. I tried to feed it, but it was too late." Reproductive success was thus only about 29%, which means the predicted rate of decline is indeed continuing. The villain is, of course, DDT—which may have been used on a field as far away as Nebraska or Japan but which the cahow ultimately ingests feeding at sea. DDT causes thin shells and consequent high breakage rates in the birds' eggs. Wingate speculates, too, that unhatched chicks may have such frail bone structure that their efforts to peck their way out of even thin-shelled eggs may result in concussion, failure and death.