As a model, Picciolo might consider teammate Rickey Henderson, who bats in an exaggerated crouch and is a paragon of patience. Henderson, the A's leadoff man, drew 117 walks this season, second in the American League to Willie Randolph's 119. And he was so pleased when Picciolo walked against the White Sox that he followed that miraculous occurrence by hitting a two-run homer.
Senior Editor Mark Mulvoy, an erstwhile Boston rink rat who has written and edited hockey for SI for 15 years, takes NHL President John Ziegler to task in this issue (page 50) for, among other things, failing to deal adequately with violence during games. That shortcoming, of which the other pro leagues are also guilty, albeit to a lesser extent, was the subject of House Judiciary subcommittee hearings last week on proposed legislation to make excessive violence in pro sports a federal offense (SCORECARD, Sept. 8). Richard B. Horrow, a 25-year-old lawyer who has worked closely with the bill's sponsor, Ohio Congressman Ronald Mottl, admits that immediate enactment of House Bill 7903 is unlikely but says that the hearings "put the sports world on notice that the Federal Government is at least watching."
That the NHL merits special attention is made clear in Sports Violence, a recently published book that grew out of research Horrow undertook while attending Harvard Law School, from which he graduated last year. In his book Horrow marshals evidence that instead of curbing violence, the NHL encourages it as a way of filling arenas; that each team tries to have at least one player known variously as the policeman, enforcer, hit man, cement head or designated hitter; that this player often deliberately starts fights to give teammates a psychological lift and to intimidate opponents; that under NHL "etiquette" players pair off for fights according to size and position; that during contract negotiations management often dwells on how well a player uses his fists; that teams have offered to give players boxing lessons; that players who fail to stand their ground in fights are often derided or traded; that rules are so lax that even if a player, without provocation, knocks an opponent senseless, the "appropriate" punishment is seldom more than a two-minute minor penalty; and that the NHL has made only "token gestures" to clean up the game.
Horrow notes that the NHL excuses fighting on the grounds 1) that it constitutes an "escape valve" for aggressiveness that might otherwise lead to worse behavior, and 2) that because of unsure footing on the ice, nobody can get hurt in a fight. Horrow points out that neither of these claims is true—to the contrary, fighting and the retaliation it encourages can lead to the more dangerous use of sticks—and he adds that gratuitous violence in the NHL detracts from hockey's inherent finesse and skill.
Ziegler was invited to testify at last week's hearings, as were four other commissioners, baseball's Bowie Kuhn, the NFL's Pete Rozelle, the NBA's Larry O'Brien and NASL's Phil Woosnam. All declined. Ziegler couldn't make it because he was going to Europe to watch exhibition games in Sweden involving the Washington Capitals and the Minnesota North Stars and to smooth out some differences between the NHL and the Czechoslovakian hockey federation.
After Stanford's 31-14 upset victory over Oklahoma, the San Francisco Chronicle's Lowell Cohn went to a Norman, Okla. bar called the Interurban, where he talked to stunned Sooner fans, including a law student named Dave, who told him, "It's kind of unfair. Those Stanford players have academics. But if our guys don't play football, well, what the hell are they good for? We should just get rid of them."
A SPECIAL FAREWELL
Few athletes have retired with as much dignity as the Boston Celtics' Dave Cowens did last week. The 31-year-old Cowens sat in a hotel room in Terre Haute, Ind., where the Celtics were playing an exhibition game, and drafted a handwritten statement without benefit of a ghostwriter. In the statement, which ran in both Boston newspapers, Cowens—a 10-year veteran who was the NBA's most valuable player in 1973, led the Celtics to league championships in '74 and '76 and was their player-coach two years ago—explained that he was retiring because he was hobbled by foot ailments. He added, "I do not believe in taking medication which many others utilize to mask the pain and allow them to play more years and earn more income."
Cowens said he was worried that by quitting only nine days before the 1980-81 opener he might be committing a "fraudulent act" toward Celtic season ticket-holders, but finally concluded he'd have done them a greater disservice by playing. "I'll tell you why it is such a difficult decision to make—because of the financial reward," he wrote. "I have climbed the ladder of success in the NBA to the point where I command top dollar for my services. But the last time I negotiated a contract was five years ago. The only reason I am getting paid top dollar now is not because I am a top talent; it is because I negotiated from a point of strength five years ago...I wouldn't feel guilty about the amount of money I would earn under these conditions if I thought I could play even as well as I did last year. But I can't...."