Will a ballplayer lay down on the job because he's not getting the salary he thinks he deserves? That's the ugly talk in Houston. When Joe Sambito and nine other Astros, mostly pitchers, were unable to come to terms this year, General Manager Tal Smith renewed their 1977 contracts. This prompted Sambito to sound off: "Don't they want us to win? We play 14 of our first 16 games against Los Angeles or Cincinnati, and considering how upset our young pitchers are, it could cost us some games. I know my performance could be affected by the way I'm treated. This is going to show. It will affect our concentration."
Pitcher Floyd Bannister said, "When I go out on the mound knowing I'm not getting what I deserve, sure it'll be on my mind. How can you be expected to do the job?"
Last week such talk led Smith to reprimand the players behind closed doors—and, with their knowledge, Smith taped the words for the press. This is what he told the players: "These comments are going to come back to haunt you. You turned a lot of people off by your statements.
"One thing that really disturbs me is the reference that you can't perform well if the club doesn't satisfy your demands. To me, that casts a reflection on your integrity as a professional athlete.
"Your fans, your teammates and your club, I think, are entitled to your best efforts. If you get beat, the fans and your teammates and your club should feel it was because the man or team was better than you on that given day. You've run the risk of leaving the impression that when you get beat, it's because you lay down."
Duane Wood of Licking Valley High School in Newark, Ohio made the dream shot against Big Walnut High. With two seconds to go in the half and Licking Valley trailing by two points, Wood, standing under the basket at the opposite end of the floor, heaved the ball 88 feet and it went through the hoop without touching the rim. A remarkable shot (but one which had no bearing on the outcome: Licking Valley won 86-75), and it brings to mind the 1957 NBA All-Star Game when Bill Sharman of the Celtics tried to pass to Bob Cousy downcourt. Sharman overthrew Cousy and the ball swished through the basket 70 feet away. Nonchalantly turning to Dick Garmaker of the Lakers, who was guarding him, Sharman said, "You never did play very good defense."
ZONE OF CONTENTION
Larry O'Brien, the NBA Commissioner, called a foul on one of his own officials last week. Before a game between the New Jersey Nets and the Atlanta Hawks at Piscataway, N.J., Richie Powers, the lead referee, informed the coaches and captains of both teams that he would not enforce league Rule No. 12, Section I, which prohibits zone defenses. The Nets, who won 97-95, used a thinly disguised 2-3 zone, and the Hawks a zone trap.
O'Brien promptly fined Powers $2,500 and suspended him without pay for three games, stating, "The job of a referee is to enforce the existing playing rules, not to arbitrarily set aside those rules to suit his own views."