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The home run described by Brennaman actually happened, and it was unquestionably the highlight of Chaney's baseball career. During 11 years in the major leagues, most of them spent as a utility infielder with the Reds, Chaney had a career batting average of .217, with 14 home runs, including that solitary grand slam. It came off St. Louis Pitcher Rich Folkers in an 11-2 win over the Cardinals in Riverfront Stadium in 1974, and Chaney modestly remembers it as "a tremendous shot, 400 feet at least, to right center." Because the ball hit the seats and bounced back on the field, Chaney got it as a souvenir, which he displays on a table at home. As for why he went to the bother of rigging his doorbell to the Brennaman recording, Chaney offers a perfectly plausible explanation, saying, "When you don't hit many homers in the big leagues, you have to cherish one like that."
SINCERELY, W.D. GRETZKY
"ENTIRELY, ENTIRELY DIFFERENT"
The International Olympic Committee deserves all the praise it has received for reinstating Jim Thorpe's amateur status and restoring to him the two gold medals he won at the 1912 Olympics (page 48). U.S. Olympic Committee President William E. Simon, who lobbied the IOC to correct the 70-year-old injustice to Thorpe, has every right to take a bow, too. But the pleasure derived from the long-overdue resolution of the Thorpe case is tempered by the lack of interest shown by the IOC and the Simon-led USOC in restoring the Olympic eligibility of two other American track-and-field men, shotputter Brian Oldfield and pole vaulter Steve Smith, both of whom are still competing. In contrast to the largely symbolic action regarding Thorpe, the reinstatement of active athletes like Oldfield and Smith would be more than a mere gesture.
Oldfield and Smith lost their amateur standing by competing from 1973 to 1976 on the now defunct International Track Association pro circuit. In keeping with the supposed relaxation of amateur rules in international sport, both were reinstated for ordinary amateur competition by The Athletics Congress in 1979, a move that was subsequently approved by the International Amateur Athletic Federation. However, the reinstatement didn't apply to the Olympics and related competition. Oldfield and Smith were reduced to seeking and obtaining court injunctions against the USOC to win the right to compete in the 1980 Olympic trials—each finished fourth, missing berths on the honorary U.S. team by one place—and the 1981 National Sports Festival. They now have a suit pending against the USOC in U.S. District Court in Denver in which they seek to be declared eligible for the 1984 Olympics, but the USOC has countersued, asking that Oldfield and Smith be enjoined from further "interfering" with the USOC's activities and seeking at least $10,000 damages from them.
Simon, so vigorous on behalf of Thorpe, tries to defend the USOC's jarringly less sympathetic posture toward Oldfield and Smith by saying that theirs is "an entirely, entirely different case" because they, unlike Thorpe, were "pure professionals." In point of fact, Thorpe, Oldfield and Smith were guilty of exactly the same "sin": They accepted money for athletic competition. USOC lawyer Richard G. Kline argues that his organization has no choice but to "conform with existing IOC requirements of eligibility." Wrong again. The USOC has a perfect right to appeal to the IOC on Oldfield's and Smith's behalf. It's altogether possible, of course, that the IOC would reject such an appeal, but the sorry fact remains that the USOC hasn't even made the effort.
Will Oldfield and Smith also have to wait 70 years for justice? As arm twister Simon and arm twistee Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president, demonstrated in the Thorpe case, Olympic officials can cut through their seemingly impenetrable bureaucratic thicket in a hurry when they so desire. The failure to act with similar dispatch in the case of Oldfield and Smith will have the effect of callously punishing two refugees from a professional track circuit that disbanded, ironically enough, partly because it offered participants less money than so-called amateurs routinely receive in under-the-table payments. And both the USOC and IOC know it.
DO AS I SAY...
A GLANCE AT THE POLICE BLOTTER