Few athletes have comported themselves more honorably than the members of the Saginaw ( Mich.) High School ice hockey team. The Trojans lost to Traverse City 48-0 last week in the opening round of the state tournament, yet when Traverse City Coach Denny Meyers mercifully offered to cut the massacre short. Saginaw declined. Its players struggled to the finish, congratulated the winners and skated off the ice.
The loss left Saginaw with a season-ending 0-20 record, but Claude Marsh, the athletic director, says, "We're an inner-city school and only seven boys came out for the team. This means all our kids have played nearly a complete game every time. They may have had limited skills but they never quit once."
Meyers said that Saginaw "lost with class." Saginaw Goalie Tom Szczypka, who survived a bombardment of 129 shots, had particular reason to be proud. The final score reflects only the 48 shots that Szczypka let in. Somehow, the 81 he stopped seem just as noteworthy.
A-COURTING THEY WILL GO
Tennis has its own versions of the blind date and most players have suffered through at least a few of them. In like need of a suitable opponent or doubles partner, two strangers venture onto the court and quickly discover they aren't going to live happily for an hour, much less ever after. What is needed, obviously, is a reliable handicapping system by which players can gracefully and accurately let each other know in advance how good, middling or bad they are. Over the years a number of schemes have been suggested but all of these have proved unworkable.
Now the National Tennis Association, an organization representing 500 clubs, has come up with one that sounds good. Next month the NTA will distribute brochures to clubs, resorts and municipal parks; the brochures will outline what the NTA calls the National Tennis Rating Program. The handicapping system is self-administering and, unlike those proposed in the past, has been endorsed by both the USTA and the teaching pros' group, the USPTA. Each player simply assigns himself to one of 13 levels of competence ranging from 1.0 (for somebody "just starting to play") on up to 7.0 ("a polished tournament player...who has been nationally ranked"). In between are 1.5, 2.0 and so on. A 3.5, to take another example, "still lacks stroke dependability, depth and variety" but volleys "with consistency if the ball is within reach."
The NTA says that a player might find it a good idea to verify his rating with a pro, but that this would be entirely optional. The sole object is to help players avoid unfortunate blind dates. A 4.5 would figure to do so if he scrupulously steered clear of, say, a 2.0—or a 6.5. He would likely find a 5.0 far more compatible.
BUT IT HAPPENED LONG AGO
There have been few, if any, pro football quarterbacks as minuscule as the short shortstop on this week's cover, but 5'7" Eddie LeBaron came close. LeBaron, who is now general manager of the Atlanta Falcons, played 11 NFL seasons and still holds one passing record. On Oct. 9, 1960, playing for Dallas in a 26-14 loss to Washington, he completed a two-inch scoring pass to Dick Bielski. Of all the touchdown passes in NFL history, that's the shortest.
OVERSIGHT AND OVERLAP
In the interest of wrapping up competition before the school year ends, the NCAA has rescheduled its golf championships, traditionally held in June, for May 23-26. As a result, three top college golfers—John Cook of Ohio State, Bob Clampett of Brigham Young and Gary Hallberg of Wake Forest—won't be competing for the U.S. in the Walker Cup Match against Great Britain. The Match will be held at Muirfield in Scotland on May 30-31, but the U.S. Golf Association's itinerary calls for the American team to leave New York on May 23 and brooks no exceptions. Players either depart on that day or don't go.