All right, you fishermen, let's hear it for Dr. William Childers of the Illinois Natural History Survey in Urbana. While you were out having fun this summer, Dr. Childers was toiling away to help create a kind of superfish that grows faster, spawns earlier and fights harder.
Childers' work began eight years ago, when he succeeded in fertilizing the eggs of a largemouth bass with milt from a smallmouth. The hybrid fry were stocked in a small pond containing no other fish, and by the end of the growing season they were seven inches long. When a year old, they produced second-generation hybrids of their own, unusual because hybrids are often sterile, like mules, and because the largemouth and smallmouth species do not normally reproduce in central Illinois until they are two years old. One hundred of the second-generation hybrids were stocked in another pond, and, when they were two, produced a third generation.
In a scientific paper, Dr. Childers noted that the first two generations of hybrids were "extremely aggressive and exhibited little, if any, fear of man or other animals." Because of this, the fish has been nicknamed Meanmouth. People who swam in the ponds reported the hybrids nipped them. "When the hybrids were small," Childers wrote, "this behavior was merely annoying, but when they grew to one-to two-pound sizes, they occasionally bit a swimmer hard enough to lacerate the skin."
Once Childers watched a woman swimmer in a bright bathing suit get chased around by a bass. "The bass leaped from the water, struck her on the head and chest and drove her from the pond. She reentered the water approximately an hour later, and the bass attacked her again." On another occasion, Childers watched the hybrids attack a dog in shallow water. "Several bass leaped out of the water and struck the dog. The dog repeatedly snapped at the bass, but never caught one, and as the water in the area became muddy, the bass abandoned their attack."
Dr. Childers says more work needs to be done on the hybrids to determine their potential in the wild, and, thanks to a grant from the Bass Research Foundation, Paul Beaty at the University of Illinois is doing his Ph.D. thesis on the fish. Among other things, Beaty is assessing their vulnerability to hook and line. They could be so aggressive that fishermen could clean them all out in no time.
Dazzled by prime-time TV coverage, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn might not have realized what the new playoff and World Series schedule will do to high school football attendance this year. Game 3 of the American League championship is scheduled for Oct. 7 at 8 p.m., and Game 3 of the Series for Oct. 14 at 9 p.m. Those dates are Fridays, and across the land in thousands of towns and cities Friday night belongs to high school football.
In deference to high school football, the NCAA colleges have rarely televised games on Friday nights during the high school season. Federal law prohibits the NFL from televising games on Fridays and Saturdays in this period. Brice Durbin, the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which represents 15,500 schools that play football, says the baseball scheduling "will surely affect us very much. It will be very significant as far as high school athletic budgets are concerned because we depend on that revenue to support non-revenue sports. With curtailed budgets, it's a real struggle."
"The mental pressure was so great it was almost physical," said Japan's Sadaharu Oh of the three days between his drawing even with Henry Aaron at 755 home runs and moving ahead with No. 756. "I'm glad it's over."