Although American promoters confidently expected Tanzania's sensational Filbert Bayi, who broke Jim Ryun's world record for 1,500 meters at the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand three weeks ago, to run the mile at indoor meets in Toronto and San Diego last week, Tanzanian officials squashed the project. In Dar es Salaam, Major General Sarakikya of the Tanzanian Olympic Committee said, "Not all invitations are aimed at improving the standards of our athletes. Some meets are mainly for making big money for capitalists abroad. All further invitations to Bayi and our other top athletes will be very carefully scrutinized before they are accepted, and we will definitely discourage indoor meeting invitations."
Bayi, a sergeant in the army, stayed in Tanzania. While it was accepted that he deserved a rest after his accomplishments in New Zealand (he was given a furlough from his army duties), the question rose whether the arbitrary action by Tanzanian officials might eventually move Bayi to turn professional, as did Kenya's renowned Ben Jipcho (page 20), who grew tired of being constantly chivvied by his country's amateur athletic officials.
Yet Bayi was quoted as saying, "Why should I be for sale? If you turn professional, you come under the mercy of someone who makes business from your sweat. You run for money and nothing else. I don't like the system. I prefer running for my country, and to rest when I am finished."
Fans sometimes argue about which sport produces the best athletes, and which is most difficult to play. Whether this contributes anything constructive to such discussions is questionable, but General Manager Phil Seghi of the Cleveland Indians is fuming because three of his baseball players were injured playing basketball this winter. Rookie Outfielder Tommie Smith broke his arm and Infielders Buddy Bell and Frank Duffy both had ankle injuries. From football, pro Quarterback John Reaves broke his arm this winter in a basketball game, and Brad Van Pelt, the All-America safety at Michigan State who was something of a bust as a linebacker with the New York Giants last fall, broke his foot. Van Pelt, a superior pitcher who had turned down a big bonus from baseball's St. Louis Cardinals, had planned to pitch for Michigan State this spring, thus taking advantage of the new NCAA rule that allows a pro in one sport to play another sport in college.
Some years ago Bobby Tolan, then with the Reds, tore his Achilles' tendon playing basketball and missed an entire season. Dick Hall, the old Baltimore Oriole relief pitcher, broke his hand playing the game. Baseball contracts once contained a clause barring players from taking part in other sports during the off-season, but as a concession to the players it was deleted a few years ago. Back in the 1950s, when he was general manager of the Cardinals, Frank Lane invoked the clause to keep Red Schoendienst and Del Rice off the courts
An angry Seghi said, "They're asinine to play basketball. It's stupid, and if I could stop them, I would. They beat their brains out to make the majors, and then risk it all by playing basketball."
Bill Russell always did say it was the toughest game.
DIDN'T BIRDIE CHEW?
You may have read that Cincinnati's historic Crosley Field was torn down a few years ago and is now only a memory. Don't believe it. A real estate broker, motel owner and self-admitted baseball freak by the name of Larry Luebbers is reconstructing part of the held on his 210-acre farm in Union, Ky. Already in place is the familiar old left-field fence, including the terrace that sloped up to it, plus the signs advertising hot dogs and soft drinks. When the wreckers were demolishing Crosley Field, Luebbers went down to purchase a couple of seats and found himself going back time and again, until finally he had bought all the fences, the scoreboard (including the clock), both clubhouses, the foul poles, 400 seats, the bullpen, dugout, benches and much more. Along the way he picked up odd tidbits of information. For instance, the strange hole in one wall of the home dugout. Birdie Tebbetts, it turned out, liked to smoke in the dugout but didn't want smoke drifting out onto the field. Instead, he blew it out the hole. Putting the field together piece by piece, Luebbers hopes to have it complete this year for use by baseball teams. If you're worried about that seating capacity of only 400, well, Union has a population of 250.