KICKING THE HAND
This year, for the first time, more Charlotte, N.C. youngsters are expected to play soccer than Pop Warner football. " Pop Warner, it's no secret, is suffering, and soccer is the reason," says Doug Meelan, director of the Starclaire Athletic Association in Charlotte. That city's Park Sharon Athletic Association dropped football this year when participation declined in three years from 200 youngsters to 75. During the same period, the soccer program grew from zero to 500. Charlotte's Olde Providence Recreation Association dropped football three years ago and started a soccer program with 160 youngsters. It now has 600. On the other hand, Charlotte's SouthPark program dropped soccer to protect its $25,000 investment in football equipment. "One sport dilutes the other," says Tom Little, SouthPark's director. But it's clear which one is winning. At least in Charlotte, N.C.
And at least one former pro footballer is kicking the hand that fed him—although perhaps that's not so surprising when one considers that he played soccer as a child in Hungary long before he even heard of American football. Pete Gogolak, former placekicker and alltime leading scorer for the New York Giants, is running a soccer camp in New Canaan, Conn. for more than 300 youngsters. "This sport hasn't even scratched the surface," says Gogolak. "To put an 8-year-old in a helmet and shoulder pads and tell him to start hitting is madness. Football has been great to me, but for this age group, soccer is the only sport."
TO SLEEP, PERCHANCE TO SCREAM
If you are thinking of attending the Ali-Spinks rematch in the New Orleans Superdome on Sept. 15, you had better plan on floating a bond issue to finance the trip. Ringside seats (all 13,000 of them) are going for $200 and the cheapest seats cost $25. Most hotels and motels are raising their rates for the week of the fight beyond even what they charge during Mardi Gras and are demanding a minimum reservation of three to four days.
The Delta Towers Hotel, at which a single room costs between $28 and $45, is charging $100 a night, with a three-night minimum. The Dauphine Orleans Motor Hotel will raise its premium rate from $52.65 to $85 a night with a four-night minimum. Commendably, some hotels, such as the Royal Orleans, Fairmont, Hyatt Regency and Royal Sonesta are maintaining their policies of never altering year-round rates.
Ray Liuzza, president of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Motel Association, has called "unfortunate" the fact that some hotels have raised rates "beyond what would be necessary to cover the additional expenses during this special period." Nonetheless, New Orleans hoteliers are predicting there will be little room at the inns.
YOU SPELL RELIEF W-I-L-H-E-L-M
This week the Rolaids Relief Man Award was placed on permanent display in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., and it was interesting to note that the trophy got into the Hall before any relief pitcher did. Although 41 starting pitchers have been inducted, no reliever ever has. In the most recent balloting, Hoyt Wilhelm received 158 votes, but 285 votes are needed for induction.
Wilhelm, who still has 19 years to get the requisite number of votes, made his major league debut in 1952 as a 28-year-old rookie with the New York Giants. That year he became the first reliever to win a league ERA title with a mark of 2.43, and his 15-3 record was the best in both leagues. In 1959 his 2.19 ERA for the Baltimore Orioles made him the only pitcher—starter or reliever—ever to win the earned run championship in both leagues, a record that still stands. During his 21-year major league career ( Wilhelm was 49 when he retired), he set six other records, one of them unofficial and all of which still exist. Among them are most saves (227), most relief wins (124), most games pitched (1,070). He retired with a lifetime ERA of 2.52, allowed only 150 home runs in his major league career, and in 1958 pitched a no-hitter for Baltimore against the New York Yankees in one of only 52 starting appearances.