A somewhat startling new practice is being followed by the American League this season to record attendance. The traditional method (still followed in the National League) is to count the bodies actually passing through the turnstiles each day. But the new way is to add up the number of tickets sold and release that as the attendance—and never mind how many of those tickets are still lying unused in a desk drawer someplace, which frequently happens when season ticket holders feel disinclined to come out on a chilly, misty night to watch the Boston Red Sox, say, take on the Seattle Pilots.
It may be valid business practice (visiting teams get their full share of all tickets sold), but when the box score says, "Attendance—22,542," it seems that should mean 22,542 fans were right there in the ball park.
Last week members of the city council of Macon, Ga. rejected what they said was a request from Muhammad Ali to box in their fair city. "This man has refused to fight for his country," said Mayor Ronnie Thompson, "but he wants to fight for the dollar under a free-enterprise system that other Americans, both black and white, are fighting and dying to preserve. I would prefer that he not come to Macon."
Said the heavyweight champion: "They turned me down? That's pretty funny. I didn't even know I was asking. Who in his right mind would want to fight in Macon, Geeoorgiia?"
What happened was, some time ago a group of black Georgia citizens called Ali. Would you, they asked, be interested in fighting an exhibition to help our people? The money from such an exhibition, Ali was told, would go toward the purchase of sewing machines. "They said they'd use the machines to make clothes to give to the poor black people. I said that if that was what the money would go for then I'd be glad to fight an exhibition. That's the last I heard until now. They must be the ones that asked."
While the requesting and subsequent denying was going on, Ali was in Miami Beach where he spent 10 days—and 42 rounds—sparring with Jimmy Ellis, his old sparring partner, who will defend his WBA share of the heavyweight championship against Henry Cooper in London this month. Ali was paid $50 a day plus $32 for hotel expenses.
"People were getting all excited to see me jumping around in a ring," said Ali, "but I was just getting in shape. I don't know why they think I'm getting ready to fight. Everybody knows I'm going to jail."
"You know he's going to jail," said Lou Gross, a Miami Beach trainer who noticed that Ali came alone to the Fifth Street Gym each day. "Remember when he was fighting? He must have had 20, 30 guys around him, courting him, spending his money. Now he's got nobody. The bloodsuckers know. That man is jailbound."