Mike Rhodes, a sophomore guard at Vanderbilt, was being congratulated. The Southeastern Conference had just released its weekly basketball statistics and Rhodes was leading the league in free-throw accuracy with a nifty 85.2%.
Then somebody pointed out that while Rhodes was leading the SEC, he ranked only second on the Vanderbilt campus. Ann Morrow, a 5-7 junior on Vandy's women's team, had hit on 26 of 27 attempts from the line, for a spectacular 96.3%.
Ben Crenshaw, who won $108,305 on the PGA Tour last season, obviously knows something about greens. That may explain why the Austin, Texas telephone directory lists his occupation as "Professional Grocer."
On Valentine's Day, Johnny Longden will celebrate his 72nd birthday. Alan Balch, the marketing director at Santa Anita, wanted a dynamite idea to promote a Longden Day for the famous horseman. "What better way than the world's longest birthday cake?" he thought. A long one for Longden. One furlong long, in fact. An eighth of a mile. Two hundred and twenty yards.
"It seemed like a great idea at the time," says track caterer Donald Williams, indicating that the thing had turned into a giant pain in the pan. "I honestly don't know if we can pull it off," he said.
The recipe is simple enough: 5,256 eggs, 750 pounds of flour, half a ton of sugar and 375 pounds of shortening. Oh, yes, and lemon flavoring to taste. But the logistics are another matter. Williams' plans read like a Mission: Impossible script. The cake will be baked in downtown Los Angeles in three-foot sections, an operation that will take 24 hours. While the bakers are baking, workers at the track will be setting 90 eight-foot tables end to end outside the rail in the grandstand, stretching from the eighth pole to the finish line. The tables must then be leveled by carpenters to prevent the cake from separating.
At 4 a.m., the cake will be loaded into vans in eight-foot sections and transported to the track. Pink icing will be used as mortar to join the sections. Seventy-two candles will be placed eight feet apart atop the cake, which will be six inches wide, except for the middle 20 feet, which will be 24 inches wide. At 11:10 a.m., 36 track employees will march out and light the candles.
As yet, no one has figured out how Longden will be able to blow out 72 candles spaced eight feet apart in a single breath. He could mount a horse and recreate his many rides at Santa Anita with a stirring stretch run while brandishing a candlesnuffer rather than a whip. More likely, the snuffing will be performed by the Los Angeles weather, which has provided the track with 9.06 inches of rain since the opening of the meet on Dec. 28. Anyone for sponge cake?