SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
August 13, 1979
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August 13, 1979


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There's no need to wait for the Nielsens on this one: for presenting the International Special Olympics, ABC-TV rates high.


Baseball teams are sometimes accused of being too quick to fire their managers. In fact, if the recent experience of the Cleveland Indians means anything, they may be too slow to do so. After Frank Robinson was sacked as manager in 1977, the Indians won their first seven games under his successor, Jeff Torborg. Things eventually soured for Torborg, and two weeks ago he was replaced as manager by Dave Garcia. The Indians promptly won 10 straight games.

One possible explanation for the Indians' dramatic postfiring turnarounds can be found in experiments conducted in the late 1920s and early '30s with a group of women employees at the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric Company in Cicero, Ill. Researchers kept altering the women's working conditions and found that regardless of the nature of the changes, their productivity seemed to increase. The simplified conclusion was that the very act of their being singled out for special treatment was psychologically beneficial—in other words, that change for change's sake is often a good thing.

Garcia had better watch out. Last Wednesday Cleveland's win streak was snapped in a 7-4 loss to Boston. If the Indians take to heart what has come to be known in industrial relations as "the Hawthorne effect," it may soon be time for another change of managers.


The International Olympic Committee keeps promising to curb what it calls the "gigantism" of the summer Olympics. but its efforts have so far been meager. Before the 1976 Games, the IOC eliminated three swimming events, an anti-gigantism move that had this unremarkable result: the number of participants in swimming declined from 551 at the 1972 Games to exactly 547 in Montreal. That fueled suspicions of U.S. officials that swimming had been singled out for a reduction of events only because this was a sport in which Americans traditionally did well.

Now the IOC is making matters worse. Under pressure from the International Swimming Federation (FINA), the IOC executive board recently recommended that the three scrapped events (men's and women's 200 individual medley and men's 400 freestyle relay) be reinstated—but only on condition that the number of entrants allowed each country in any individual event be reduced from three to two. FINA balked and is supposed to meet soon with the IOC's program commission in an effort to resolve their differences. Robert Helmick, a Des Moines lawyer and FINA's secretary, complains, "The IOC is trying to make us choose between two alternatives, both of which lower the quality of competition."

FINA is justified in resisting the IOC. In Montreal a single country swept all three medals in six swimming events—the U.S. in four events and the Soviet Union and East Germany in one each. Had a two-entrant-per-event limitation been in effect, the world's third best swimmer in each of those events would have been deprived of a deserved bronze medal.

To reduce the size of its swimming program, the IOC could reduce the overall number of competitors allowed each country, which would deny the U.S. and other powers the luxury of relay alternates and the like. It could also tighten up qualifying-time standards, thereby eliminating swimmers who realistically have no chance of winning medals. A country is permitted up to three entrants in every event at the Olympics in track and field. Swimming deserves no less.

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