BASEBALL SCANDAL (CONT.)
Following the disclosure in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED last week of Denny McLain's involvement in a bookmaking operation, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn conferred with McLain and then announced that because of Denny's admissions to him the pitcher was being indefinitely suspended from baseball. McLain said afterward that he hoped to be reinstated later this season, which in the circumstances seems remarkably optimistic.
McLain's plight has engendered considerable sympathy. It is sad to contemplate the mess he has got himself into, the perhaps irreparable harm he has done to his superb career. But sympathy for McLain should be tempered with sympathy for baseball and for all sport, to which he has done such grave disservice. Despite prevalent cynicism, people generally have a respect for the honesty and integrity of sport that they do not have for other aspects of contemporary society. It is vital to the continued good health of sport that that faith be justified and maintained.
Baseball has taken something of a beating in recent years, mostly from instant sociologists who insist that it is in extremis, but despite all the attacks it is still very close to being the American game, a common ground of experience and interest. To have it besmirched, as in the McLain affair, hurts everyone who has ever experienced the joy of playing the game or the fun of rooting for a team. The blame for this lies not with Commissioner Kuhn for suspending McLain, nor with the investigators for digging out the story, but with McLain for abandoning his responsibilities to the sport that nourished him.
Weston Adams Sr. of the Boston Bruins, whose Ted Green suffered a fractured skull in a stick fight during an exhibition game last fall, suggested to the National Hockey League earlier this season that it make the wearing of helmets mandatory (SCORECARD, Jan. 5). The proposal was rejected out of hand, and the reason given was that the players were adamantly opposed to the idea. Now Alan Eagleson, executive director of the NHL Players' Association, says that during the 1967-68 season NHL players were polled on two questions relating to helmets: 1) Are you in favor of wearing helmets in NHL games? 2) Would you agree to the wearing of helmets if the majority of the members in the association voted in favor? Eagleson says the vote was 85% in favor on the first question, and that only two negative votes were cast on the second. The results of the poll were made known to league officials, Eagleson says. He wonders how they have since discovered that the players are opposed to helmets.
BIGGER THAN BOURBON
It may not have been a typical week for basketball in Kentucky, but never mind. These things happened. Travis Grant of highly rated Kentucky State broke his school's scoring record by 30 points in a 141-93 victory, making 75 points and hitting an impressive 70% of his shots from the floor, and hurt his accuracy average because he went into the game shooting 73% for the season. John Dromo, coach at the University of Louisville, refused to let a 6'6" transfer student named Joe Sigur suit up because of his long hair. Dromo, who conceded that Sigur "maybe could have helped us win a game sometime," said, "I don't mind if my boys let their hair grow a little long in the back or if they wear sideburns, but I'm not going to have them looking like Saint Bernards." Sigur said, "I just don't see any correlation between my hair and how I play basketball. I've always wondered what God said a basketball player was supposed to look like." And, finally, Eastern Kentucky apparently defeated Murray State 79-78, but Murray claimed the clock had flipped at the end of the game and ended 10 seconds too soon. The clock was tested and, by golly, it had swallowed up the last 10 seconds. Commissioner Art Guepe of the Missouri Valley Conference ruled that the missing 10 seconds would have to be played before the game could be called official. And so, on March 5, Murray State will travel 600 miles round trip from Paducah at the western end of the state to Richmond at the eastern end to play 10 seconds worth of basketball. That may appear to be extreme, but you must remember that in Kentucky, tradition to the contrary, basketball is more important than horses or bourbon.
APES AND ICE
If you are a lover of zoos, you might give a moment's thought to a problem that faces some zoos when the weather turns bitter cold and stays there, as it did in so many places this winter. A typical example is what happened at Paignton in England, where delightfully athletic—but nonswimming—apes called gibbons are allowed to run free on an island surrounded by a small artificial lake. When the temperature heads toward zero for an extended visit, the water in the lake freezes and the apes find themselves with a splendid natural bridge to the outside world. To frustrate this, the zoo assigns men to row back and forth, day and night, to keep the water clear and unbridged, the animals confined to their island and neighboring backyards pleasantly free of gibbons.
It is not an easy job. Did you ever row a boat through ice with the temperatures nosing down towards 0�? It makes weather like that at NFL championship games in Green Bay and Minneapolis seem like an afternoon in May. Ask George Washington.
ODD BALL OUT