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Still, Pilson admits, "I don't think you can ignore the USFL. They'll be a factor. We'll have a pretty good idea of what will be available in 1987 before we renew with the NFL, and we'll have to give some consideration to the USFL. It's not inconceivable that one or more networks might do one or more leagues."
The USFL is gambling, hoping to soothe ABC, which isn't too happy about losing its relatively inexpensive spring football programming, hoping to placate the players ("I see this translating into a continuing escalation for the players," says the ever optimistic Trump), hoping to re-create in the fall whatever credibility it has established playing in the spring. The USFL isn't out of the new-league woods yet. It may be just getting into them.
CAVEAT EMPTOR—ESPECIALLY AT $8.25 MILLION
Horse trading may not be the world's oldest profession, but it's a contender, and through the centuries its practitioners have acquired a reputation for integrity close to that enjoyed by used-car salesmen. But shoddy merchandise isn't supposed to be passed along at high-level horse auctions, where animals are sold for fabulous sums of money; top dollar is supposed to get top quality. At the Keeneland Sales in Lexington, Ky., July 23-24, air could hardly get more rarefied than that surrounding a yearling colt sold to the prominent British horseman Robert Sangster. Hip No. 93, a dark bay colt by the renowned sire Northern Dancer out of Ballade (the dam of Devil's Bag), was bought for $8.25 million, in the annals of yearling auctions a price second only to the $10.2 million paid last year at Keeneland for another Northern Dancer colt.
But a few days after Sangster bought Hip No. 93, it was discovered that something was wrong with the colt's right front foot. Windfields Farm, the seller of the animal, has no legal obligation to cancel the deal and refund the purchase price, but because Windfields and Sangster have long had a good business relationship, a readjustment of the sale price is being negotiated. Both parties are reluctant to comment on the affair, refusing even to specify what's wrong with the colt's foot, and the racing public may never learn the outcome of the negotiations.
Even so, perhaps caveat emptor—let the buyer beware—should be tattooed inside the lips of thoroughbred horses along with their identification numbers. Prospective buyers might also do well to recall the horse trader's rhyme that goes, "One white foot, buy him; two white feet, try him; three white feet, look well about him; four white feet, go without him." The rhyme is based on an old horsemen's belief that white hooves are softer and more prone to injury than are dark ones. The expensive colt that Sangster purchased has three white feet. The trouble is, the bad foot on Hip No. 93 is black.
WAITE AND BABE
Waite Hoyt, the Hall of Fame pitcher who died last week in Cincinnati at the age of 84, had a tumultuous life, most of it entwined in baseball, much of it wreathed in humor. A schoolboy star before World War I, he was in the big leagues before he was 20, was a brilliant pitcher for Babe Ruth's Yankees in the 1920s and, after 21 seasons in the majors, became a play-by-play broadcaster for the Reds. His rambling, idiosyncratic style at the microphone both charmed and exasperated his listeners, and he became an institution in Cincinnati.
"Waite would occasionally interrupt an anecdote to tell what was happening on the field," says an admirer. "He was the only broadcaster I ever heard who did play-by-play in the past tense. He'd say things like, 'He hit a hard grounder to the shortstop who made a nice play and threw him out at first base.' "
Hoyt loved to reminisce about the good old days and sometimes annoyed members of the great Cincinnati teams of the 1970s by telling them they couldn't hold a candle to his beloved 1927 Yankees. He told countless stories about Ruth, whom he once fought in the clubhouse when they were teammates and with whom he shared a keen interest in off-field carousing.