TIME TO SIGN
O. J. Simpson's decision to sign, finally, with the Buffalo Bills was welcome news (nobody wanted to see O.J. sit out the season on a movie set), but it somewhat uncomfortably brought to mind a comment Paul Brown made earlier this month. The coach and general manager of the Cincinnati Bengals had expressed curiosity about the absence of so many unsigned top draft choices from the All-Star Game in Chicago. Brown wondered whether the players, with the tacit approval of the clubs that had drafted them, were deliberately avoiding the game to eliminate the possibility of injury.
"If you read about a sudden rush to sign over the weekend after the game," said Brown, "then we'll really know."
Well, only Ron Johnson of Michigan, top draft choice of the Cleveland Browns, signed that first weekend, but in the next seven days four other first-round draft choices—Joe Greene of North Texas State and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ted Kwalick of Penn State and the San Francisco 49ers, Ron Sellers of Florida State and the Boston Patriots and, of course, O.J.—followed Johnson's lead.
VERY EARLY MORNING LINE
A Thoroughbred racehorse by Social Climber out of Crowding In has been named Joe Namath.
GOODBY TO ALL THAT
The lull in combat action between the Kansas City and Baltimore bullpens (SCORECARD, June 16) was broken in the final game of the Orioles' last scheduled visit of the season to Kansas City. When Moe Drabowsky and the rest of the KC relief crew reported to their bullpen before the game they found four sturdy goldfish cheerfully swimming around in their watercooler. There was no immediate retaliation, but last week correspondents kept a close eye on the situation when, in turn, the Royals paid their last 1969 visit to Baltimore. Drabowsky talked of hiring a plane to fly over Municipal Stadium with a banner reading, MOE WILL STRIKE AGAIN. But, perhaps depressed because Kansas City was able to win only one game all season from the Orioles, Moe didn't fly, didn't strike, didn't do nothing, and the Great Bullpen War of 1969 quietly faded into history.
Al Schallau, the Los Angeles lawyer who headed one of the two (later three) groups that tried and failed to organize a professional track and field operation last winter, is making waves again. 'The idea of pro track is not dead," he says. "We have figured out a new way to make it work."
The "new way" will be less lucrative for the athletes, but Schallau says his group had to work out something that could survive without TV or other major financial support. Last year the idea was to guarantee the athletes an annual salary of $10,000, plus purses of $5,000, $3,000 and $1,000 for the first three finishers in each event at each meet. The new idea has no annual guarantee, and prize money has been reduced to a rather modest $600-$400-$200 pattern, plus a $500 bonus for a world record. Two meets would take place each weekend, with the athletes moving from city to city like professional golfers.