COURTING A BOYCOTT
There's talk in tennis of a player boycott at this year's U.S. Open at Flushing Meadow. Members of the players' union, the Association of Tennis Professionals, are threatening to pass up the Open to protest the treatment of paid officials known as supervisors, who for the past two years have been assigned to oversee the work of linesmen and umpires and to otherwise monitor the conduct of tournaments on the men's circuit. The supervisors also discipline players for tardiness, swearing and other malfeasances, but most players welcome their presence.
That sentiment is not shared by promoters of Wimbledon and the French and U.S. Opens, who recoil at the idea of surrendering any of their authority to supervisors. Among other things, they point out that their tournaments include women, while the supervisors enjoy jurisdiction only over men. Arguing that such help is needed only at lesser stops on the circuit, like Dayton and North Conway, the Big Three have tried to relegate supervisors to little more than an advisory role. The results have been disastrous, witness the shameful shouting match Ilie Nastase was allowed to engage in with umpire Frank Hammond at last year's U.S. Open and the failure to penalize Guillermo Vilas at last month's French Open when he was late for his match with Manuel Orantes, who defaulted in protest. In both cases, the power of supervisors to deal with the miscreants was undermined by bumbling tournament officials.
The dispute over supervisors has been exacerbated by the Professional Tennis Council, which consists of three players, three tournament directors and three representatives of the International Tennis Federation. The council pays and assigns the supervisors, and a few months ago it voted 8-0 (with one abstention) that all tournaments, the Big Three included, had to adhere to its rules and procedures. More recently, however, it backed off and decided by a 6-3 margin (the three players cast the minority votes) that neither the Big Three nor the fourth Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, had to use supervisors. Angered by that decision, the ATP voted overwhelmingly at a meeting in London on the eve of Wimbledon to boycott the U.S. Open unless a supervisor is on the job at Flushing Meadow. And according to the ATP, 25 players have already withdrawn from the tournament.
Since withdrawals become final only on July 15, it won't be known until then how serious the boycott threat might be. What hurts the ATP's leverage is that while virtually every other player belongs to the union, the top four—Borg, McEnroe, Connors and Gerulaitis—don't. Still, they are believed to be generally on the ATP's side in the dispute, and there is no denying that many other players are angry and mean business. Butch Buchholz, the new ATP executive director, says, "I didn't know my players as well as I should. I had no idea they were so upset about this issue."
Lest anybody think that Al Oerter is the only vintage Olympic champion with life left in the old bones, there's also Alain Mimoun, who at 59 recently finished the second annual Paris Marathon in two hours, 49 minutes and 45 seconds. Mimoun's feat is particularly impressive when you consider that his gold-medal time for the 1956 Olympic marathon in Melbourne was 2:25:00. That means that in 24 years he has lost barely a minute a year over 26 miles and 385 yards.
MONKEYSHINES AT ANAHEIM
As president of the San Diego Padres, Buzzie Bavasi had a hand in the baseball debut in 1974 of that famous costumed character, the Chicken. Thus, Bavasi has only himself to thank that Chicken-like mascots have since proliferated at other ball parks. And that he, now executive vice-president of the California Angels, was fated to come face-to-furry-face with Joe Badame.
Badame is a 35-year-old fan who showed up at Anaheim Stadium on opening night clad in a slightly decrepit, decidedly smelly, ape's costume. Promptly dubbed Angel Ape, Badame became a regular at Angel home games, during which he flashed cards to spell out the team's name and led cheers by waving a white towel. But some fans groused that the ape man's antics were less than amusing and that he frightened children. Others complained that he obstructed their view, but, as Bavasi said, "We couldn't make him stay in his seat, because then they complained about how he smelled." To make matters worse, superstitious members of the Angels, last year's American League West champions, blamed the Angel Ape for their skid into the cellar this season. As Don Baylor put it, "He wasn't around last year, and ever since he appeared, we haven't won."
Dick Foster, the stadium's director of operations, finally banished the ape costume, prompting Badame to protest. "I don't know why the players began picking on me. I wasn't on their pitching staff." Badame reemerged for one game wearing a less malodorous bunny suit and billing himself as the Halo Hare, but then disappeared, explaining that with rabbit paws, he couldn't properly hold his flash cards. Bavasi, who admits to growing doubt about the value of mascots in baseball, calls the fuss stirred up by Badame "a pain."