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Keith (Muddy) Waters of Scunthorpe, England, won the Zimbabwe tournament, by the way, on the fifth hole of a sudden-death playoff. No, Cuthbert had nothing to do with the nature of Waters's victory.
In a way, the NCAA basketball tournament has already begun. Rawlings makes the official balls for the tournament, including specially inscribed ones for the Final Four, and this winter at its plant in Licking, Mo., the balls have been getting quite a workout. No, the workers haven't been playing pickup games with them. Rather, the new balls are fed into a contraption called the Slam Machine, which can simulate four games worth of use in just five minutes. Says Roger Lueckenhoff, manager of quality control at the plant, "It's a pretty amazing machine, considering it's older than dirt." Actually, the machine is about 50 years old.
The way it works is this: A ball is fed into a guide chute, then goes down the chute and between two troughed wooden wheels; the wheels propel the ball at approximately 30 mph toward a tilted backboard made of hardwood seven feet away that deflects the ball upward; the ball lands in a catching area, which is channeled into the guide chute; and the cycle begins again.
The machine, which is also used for testing the various leathers and glues used to make a ball (Rawlings calls this "research and destroy"), has remained basically unchanged since it was devised. Just think. Balls touched by George Mikan, Bill Russell and Shaquille O'Neal may have all gone through the Slam Machine.
For the second year in a row, the Caribbean Baseball Series was held in Miami, but this time the series, called WinterBall I, was played at Bobby Maduro Stadium and thankfully not on the football field of the Orange Bowl (SCORECARD, Feb. 19, 1990). Bobby Maduro, the spring home of the Baltimore Orioles from 1959 to 1990, was the right choice for several reasons. It is, after all, a baseball park. And because the stadium is situated in a large, baseball-loving Dominican neighborhood, the atmosphere and the attendance were much improved over last year's. Finally, Bobby Maduro has the unique distinction of having foul poles illuminated by hot-pink neon lights-perhaps a tribute to Miami's Art Deco heritage.
The series has a heritage of its own. Such stars as Minnie Minoso, Luis Aparicio, Roberto Clemente and the three Alou brothers have played in the Caribbean series since its inception in 1949. There were legends galore in the stands in Miami last week: Chico Carrasquel, Manny Sanguillen, Manny Mota and Willie Miranda among them.