THOSE WERE THE DAYS
Not counting the decathlon, there are 20 individual Olympic men's track and field events, and the best-ever performances in five of them occurred on Wednesdays. Four best-ever performances took place on Fridays, four on Saturdays, four on Sundays, two on Mondays and one on a Thursday. And, oh yes, Sebastian Coe's world record of 3:49 in the mile, the most celebrated non-Olympic event, was set on a Tuesday.
This information comes courtesy of Columbia University law student Jed Brickner, a track and field nut who realized a while ago that he could fill a rare and, to him, unpardonable gap in the statistical esoterica that attends the sport by analyzing top performances in men's track events on the basis of which days of the week they occurred. Brickner's research consumed "hundreds of hours" ("Lawyers are trained to keep track of their time—that's how they bill," he says cheerfully) and yielded such tidbits as the fact that Brazil's versatile Joao Carlos de Oliveira not only set his world record in the triple jump on a Wednesday but also boasts the best distance ever achieved in that event on a Saturday as well as the best long jumps anybody has ever accomplished on either a Monday or a Saturday. And while West Germany's Karl-Hans Riehm has recorded the longest hammer throws in history on a Sunday, a Monday and a Tuesday, the "records" for each of the remaining days of the week belong to others. Brickner also has come up with the startling—some, admittedly, might say startlingly trivial—fact that only one athlete holds the record in his specialty for every day of the week. His identity will be divulged in this space next week.
Until last year baseball owners more than held their own in salary arbitration with their players. Under the rules, each side submits a salary figure, one of which is then selected by the arbitrator, no compromise allowed. After arbitration went into effect in 1974, owners won 32 of the first 53 cases, including seven of nine in 1978. But players won eight of 14 cases a year ago and 15 of 26 this year, easily the most noteworthy award being the one given last week to Chicago Cub Relief Pitcher Dave Sutter. The Cubs submitted an offer of $350,000, but the arbitrator opted instead for Sutter's formidable figure of $700,000.
Why are players now winning a majority of arbitration awards—and for such enormous sums? Arbitrators obviously have been influenced by the huge salaries some owners have voluntarily been paying their players, for example, Nolan Ryan's much-publicized million dollars a year. But it also appears that some clubs may have submitted intentionally low figures, all but assuring that they would lose in arbitration. The thinking is that while this may cost them more money than if they had made more realistic offers, they thus avoid setting precedents that might be invoked by other team members. Detroit General Manager Jim Campbell, for one, says that he followed this slightly Machiavellian strategy in offering $105,000 to Second Baseman Lou Whitaker, whose $130,000 demand was granted by an arbitrator.
"If I gave him what he wanted, what would Morris and Parrish say?" Campbell asks, referring to two other Tiger players who had already agreed to terms that presumably were less favorable than Whitaker's. "So I let them blame the arbitrator."