The promotions geared to Strawberry's name make one wonder why entrepreneurs over the years haven't done the same thing with other evocatively named ballplayers. Imagine if teams had given out free ears of corn when Ty Cobb came to town. And think of the benefits a sneaker manufacturer might have derived from an endorsement by Shoeless Joe Jackson, or the tie-in a stereo manufacturer might work up with a latter-day Tris Speaker. And couldn't Geritol somehow use the Mets' Joel Youngblood in its advertising?
Besides inspiring promotional extravaganzas, Strawberry is causing people to break out in a rash of puns. For example, a New York Post story detailing some troubles he's been having at the plate carried this headline: STRAWBERRY RUNS INTO (.210) JAM IN ROOKIE LEAGUE. As for that low batting average, an unworried Darryl vows, "I'll be hitting my stride soon." Let's hope so, before folks in the Appalachian League start dishing out raspberries instead of strawberries.
THOSE FRIENDLY FOES
Given the historical animosity between Germans and Russians, the whole thing should have come as no surprise. Still, it took the Moscow Olympics to lay bare the truth about sports relations between the Soviet Union and East Germany. Publicly, officials of those two closely aligned nations claim to be the friendliest of athletic foes. And indeed, after World War II, Soviet coaches and sports administrators gave the East Germans invaluable counsel and assistance. But the GDR has long since become a sports power in its own right, and these days neither country is particularly eager to share training and sports-medicine secrets with the other.
With the U.S. and West Germany out of the picture at Moscow, the intense rivalry between the GDR and the U.S.S.R. was only too evident. The host country won 80 gold medals and 197 medals of all kinds, the GDR 47 and 126. The East Germans were not above making excuses for coming in second. A GDR spokesman, Wolfgang Gitter, told SI's Paul Zimmerman, "We're a country of only 17,000,000. Russia has 250,000,000, 55,000,000 of whom are into sport." And Volker Kluge, a writer for the GDR newspaper Junge Welt, shrugged, "The U.S.S.R. at home is unbeatable."
For their part, Soviet athletes made it a point not to fraternize with their East German rivals. "To talk to a GDR athlete is not a good thing," explained one Soviet competitor. "You are observed, and that is not good." Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, the former long-jump star and now a Soviet coach, put the best possible face on the situation, saying, "What you see here is a natural rivalry. If five men are fighting, you don't feel it so much. But if there are only two? Well, then...." But Daniel Korica, a Yugoslav track coach, said of the East German- U.S.S.R. rivalry, "Politics says they must maintain a friendly relationship. But all the athletes know they are not friends, not friends at all."
THE MAN WITH THE VELVET GLOVE
Maury Wills last week became the major leagues' third black manager, Frank Robinson and Larry Doby having preceded him, and one of the few blacks currently managing at any level of organized baseball. On assuming his new job with the Seattle Mariners, Wills let it be known that he's different in other ways, too. Under his predecessor, Darrell Johnson, radios weren't allowed on the team bus, jackets had to be worn on travel days and hotel bars were off limits, but Wills abolished those rules. "Baseball is so traditional and stagnant in its thinking," he said. "I'm trying to relate to young people living in 1980. I can't kick their butts like they kicked mine when I was a player." Consequently, Wills said he wouldn't fine anybody. "I don't believe in anything that alienates players. I like things done out of respect."
Wills also took issue with the time-honored assumption that ballplayers shouldn't engage in levity after a loss. "That's b.s.," he said. "I take notes during the game, and afterward we talk about what we did, and then it's history. Then we can go out and have a good time." But Wills was tough enough to order the Mariners to show up for games 30 minutes earlier than usual to work on fundamentals. If that sounded like spring training all over again, so be it. The Mariners had lost nine straight games when Wills took over, and they lost five of their first seven games under him, leaving them with a 41-70 record, baseball's worst.