YOU PLAY BALL WITH ME
Next week is when spring training seriously begins for major league baseball, or was supposed to begin, or, God forbid, gets delayed indefinitely. The effulgence of spring—in the form of pitchers loosening up, batters swinging rustily, shortstops cautiously trying that first long throw across the infield—can be dimmed and lost if the infighting between the owners and the players gets in the way.
But hope springs eternal, the pun probably being intentional. Spring is the season to be optimistic. Agreement has yet to be reached in baseball's big contract dispute, but some signs of settlement can be found. The owners, traditionally intractable, made an offer to the players that showed management is at last willing to accept the principle that the reserve clause has to be changed. In other words, litigation is no longer necessarily the last word on the subject. The players, while countering the offer, used temperate language, made it clear that they were willing to accept some restriction on their freedom of movement from club to club, made no instant threat to strike and reaffirmed that they were willing to go to spring training without a contract.
In other words, even though we're negotiating, let's play ball. Right. It would be a dreadful mistake for the owners to lock the players out of the training camps, as they are seriously threatening to do. After the upbeat note of last season, culminating in a splendid World Series, spring training this year is essential, as much for the continued goodwill of the fans as for the conditioning of the players. Neither side compromises itself by taking part in this warm, welcome rite of spring, and "play ball" is not just an idle phrase.
People disturbed by stories of declining interest in sport might be interested to know that tickets for the 1977 NCAA basketball championship, which will be played in Atlanta late in March, will go on sale April 1—this year. Stan Watts, chairman of the NCAA's Division I basketball committee, says, "There has been such a demand for tickets to the championship the past few years that we have to hold a lottery." All public sales are by mail only (maximum: four tickets per customer), and to have your order even considered it must be postmarked April 1 or later. Except later may be too late. The April 1 letters are put in a pool and drawings are made until all tickets are gone. If tickets are left over, April 2 postmarks go in the pool. "However," Watts warned, "we had to return many April 1 orders last year."
IT PASSETH UNDERSTANDING
Sport as a bellwether of international goodwill was at its finest in a recent diplomatic discussion between France and Italy. The boundary separating the two countries twists and turns through the Alpine hills and mountains, and it was discovered that while the 1st tee of a golf course near Montg�nevre was in Italy, the 18th green was in France. Similarly, a ski lift rising to a French slope had its bottom stations in Italy.
Consultation and, voil�, a sporting exchange: the boundary has been formally straightened. Italy got the golf course, France the ski lift. Peace.
The Philadelphia Phillies, given to extravagant promotional stunts on opening day, have worked out a complex Bicentennial revue for this season's home opener on April 10. A baseball will be carried by riders on horseback all the way from Boston to Philadelphia and into Veterans Stadium, where it will be transferred to someone called Rocket Man, who will jet pack his way around the stadium before presenting the ball to Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, who will, after all this effort, toss out the first ball.