Perhaps because everyone was so busy keeping track of the dramatic events surrounding the defection to the U.S. last month of Bolshoi Ballet star Aleksandr Godunov, nobody was paying attention to the whereabouts of Zoltan Toth. Toth, the goalie for the Hungarian national soccer team, mysteriously disappeared while his team was playing in a tournament in Cadiz, Spain. Now Toth has surfaced, just as mysteriously, in an unlikely spot, Allentown, Pa.
Well, not so unlikely, as it turns out. The Pennsylvania Stoners of the American Soccer League are based in Allentown, and Stoner Coach Willie Ehrlich is Hungarian. Although they had never met, Ehrlich knew of Toth's desire to defect, and so the 23-year-old goalie is now working out with the Stoners on a temporary work visa arranged by Ehrlich.
FIFA, the body governing international soccer, will have to decide Toth's status as a player before he can sign with a team, but chances are slim that he'll ever show up in the Stoner lineup. Money, not politics, was Toth's reason for defecting, and the ASL is in no position to outbid the NASL for his services.
PITCH AND PUTT
Gene Mauch of the Minnesota Twins is widely considered to be one of the most astute managers in baseball, not merely because he knows the rule book inside out and is a shrewd strategist, but also because he seems to concentrate on baseball to the exclusion of all else.
Ah, but that's only part of the Mauch method. During the off-season he is all golf. "Between October and February I probably hit more balls than any touring pro," he says. "On an average day I might hit 300 practice balls in the morning, play 36 holes by midafternoon and hit another 300 balls before dinner.
"I've learned a lot about hitting a baseball from studying the golf swing. For instance, it's a mistaken notion that you open your stance if you want to pull the ball. As any golfer knows, an open stance results in a slice, not a hook."
Despite some obvious dissimilarities, baseball and golf have much in common. Both involve hand-eye coordination, intense concentration and the same muscles in the forearm and back. With no time limit and a wide-open playing area, an afternoon of golf or baseball can produce extraordinary predicaments.
Anyone who remains unconvinced of the baseball-golf connection should consider the following. Now that Washington, D.C. lawyer Edward Bennett Williams has purchased the Baltimore Orioles, there is speculation that he will build a new stadium for them between Baltimore and Washington. Bird watchers already have a name for such a relocated franchise: the Bal-Washers.