AGENT KUBAS' CRYSTAL BALL
The California Bureau of Organized Crime and Criminal Intelligence is in the practice of placing small bets with bookmakers as a means of gathering evidence against them. During a recent four-month investigation into a suspected illegal gambling ring in San Diego, undercover agent Walter Kubas found it necessary to place two dozen bets on sports events totaling some $30,000, an unusually large sum for the bureau to be wagering. After three suspects were arrested, the bureau revealed that it had prudently, if rather unsportingly, hedged its bets. Every time Kubas placed a wager with the bookies in San Diego, another agent crossed the border into Nevada, where such gambling is legal, and put money on the other team, thereby reducing the bureau's possible loss to the "vigorish" that bookies pocket for accepting bets. A bureau spokesman issued a statement about the case that sounded, no doubt unwittingly, like a ringing vote of no confidence in Agent Kubas' ability to pick winners. The practice of placing offsetting bets, the spokesman said, "certainly saved the state and the taxpayers a lot of money."
CRACKING DOWN ON THE SPRING TOUR
The long arm of the NCAA has put a stranglehold on high school all-star basketball games. These showcases for graduating schoolboy hotshots have inevitably become battlefields in the recruiting war among college coaches. There are scores of such games each spring, and promoters scramble to line up top players to participate in them. It's not unknown for a coveted prospect to go on what amounts to a tour, playing in a dozen or more games. Not surprisingly, the games attract hordes of scouts, coaches, agents and glad-handers.
The NCAA first placed restrictions on all-star games involving high school athletes two decades ago, but only on those scheduled between completion of the players' senior year and the start of college. But last year, the NCAA went further, holding that a college-bound athlete would forfeit his first year of NCAA eligibility if he performed in unapproved high school all-star games scheduled anytime after completion of the season in that sport, which means, in the case of basketball, in March, April and May, the months in which the games usually are held. To be approved, games would have to be sanctioned either by the appropriate state high school federations or the NCAA itself. And the NCAA would only sanction games played for the benefit of charitable or educational organizations. Also, interstate games would be confined to players from two adjacent states. That last proviso puts a crimp in "national" games such as Pittsburgh's Dapper Dan Roundball Classic, which pits a team of, Pennsylvania blue chippers against one consisting of U.S. all-stars. The NCAA also limited high school students to two all-star appearances each.
Rich Hunter, the NCAA's assistant director of championships, says the new rules were designed to reduce classroom absenteeism on the part of high school athletes, which is certainly a commendable objective. But if that were the only concern, the NCAA need only have adopted its new two-games-per-player limitation. By also ruling that sanctioned events must have a charitable or educational beneficiary and must involve only players from neighboring states, the NCAA was obviously trying to deemphasize and decommercialize the games. Bob Geoghan, director of the McDonald's Capital Classic in Landover, Md., a game whose reputation rivals that of the Dapper Dan, says the crackdown may also reflect the fact that "a lot of college coaches are tired of chasing kids all over the country. Even if a boy is signed, coaches feel that they have to put in an appearance just to let him know they're still interested."
Arguing that they couldn't change their plans on such short notice, organizers of several games, including the Dapper Dan and the McDonald's Classic, have received waivers from the NCAA to stage their events as scheduled in 1981. Things could be different next year. Some all-star games may fold, and the Dapper Dan Club, the charity that sponsors Pittsburgh's big game, expects to change its format so that Pennsylvania all-stars henceforth will play not U.S. stars, but a team from, say, neighboring Ohio or New York. Lamenting that the new rules will destroy some of the event's glamour, Ray Burnett, the club's secretary-treasurer, says plaintively, "The national all-star game has become the dinosaur of the 1980s."
It could be as hot as the Prince racket or it could quickly land on the scrap heap next to the tricolored basketball. Either way, the SSK baseball glove now being introduced in this country is certainly distinctive. The pocket of each glove is dotted with 300 tiny holes that are said to halt the spin of the ball, making for a surer catch. SSK markets a full line of pockmarked fielders' gloves for baseball and Softball, and it doesn't just stop there. Also sporting the chicken-pox look is SSK's line of leather grips, which supposedly give a surer grasp and are available for baseball and softball bats as well as for tennis, squash and racquetball rackets. And please don't laugh. SSK America, Inc. is merely trying to accomplish in the United States what its parent company, SSK Sasaki Company. Ltd., has already achieved in Japan. There, thanks largely to what it calls "Dimple Power"—dimples presumably being more marketable than pock-marks—Sasaki has enjoyed a rapid growth in business and now ranks second in the sale of baseball equipment only to the giant Mizuno Corporation.
Newspaper stories reporting the death of John Gerber on Jan. 26 in Houston at the age of 74 accurately described him as a well-known bridge champion and a powerful figure in bridge politics. However, the obituaries didn't relate the story Gerber shared with only a few intimates about what supposedly happened to him in gangster-ridden Chicago on July 6, 1933 after he was announced the winner of a major tournament, the Culbertson Gold Cup.
As Gerber told it, he answered a knock on his hotel-room door late that evening and was greeted by two strangers, who forced him to leave with them. They took Gerber to a room in another hotel, where three men were playing bridge. Apparently one of them, a tough operator accustomed to getting his way, had decided he wanted the Gold Cup winner as a partner. Gerber was never told the stakes, but the game ended two days later with Gerber and his partner winning. The grateful partner slipped Gerber $1,000 and cautioned him not to tell anybody about the incident.