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Bob Cousy, the articulate 11-year performer who elevated the professional basketball player to whatever stature he may have today, spoke harshly in Los Angeles the other evening; and when Cousy speaks about the National Basketball Association, everyone listens.
"The owners are going for quantity instead of quality," began Cousy. "Now they're talking about increasing the schedule, which is ridiculous. We ought to play fewer games and devote more time to promoting them. I'm fed up with playing basketball. There isn't a player in this league who isn't dragging. This has been the worst year for travel yet.
"The Los Angeles Lakers," Cousy went on, "make the rest of us look like we're on a Sunday outing [The Lakers will travel 100,000 miles this season]. They're on the road constantly. I saw them waiting to get out of Chicago. They were bushed."
Cousy's team, the Boston Celtics, is sure to be in the playoffs, but that does not make Cousy happy: "The playoffs are a farce. We play 79 games to eliminate one team in each division, now they even added two games to the playoffs. Instead of the first round being the best of three games, it's best of five. Then a best of seven for the division and four of seven for the championship. You can't expect the players to sustain any drive. The playoffs should be abolished. A 50-game season is enough with the division champions meeting in a true World Series."
Maurice Podoloff, the president of the NBA, answered much as any league president would. "The spectators like the playoffs, so they are not a farce."
HAND IN GLOVE
Lefty Gomez, the old Yankee, was in there pitching last week before the U.S. Tariff Commission in Washington. A representative of a sporting goods company, Lefty testified that the U.S. market was being flooded with Japanese baseball gloves. "In the past couple of years," he said ominously, "more and more youngsters have been using imported gloves and mitts."
Lefty's fears were borne out by statistics. Imports of baseball gloves rose from 137,000 in 1957 to 2,412,000 last year. Over the same period, American production slumped from 3,334,000 to 2,653,000. "It's the difference in price," Lefty admitted. A glove an American manufacturer sells for $16.95, for instance, can be duplicated by his Japanese counterpart for $5.95. What Lefty was asking, of course, was that domestic manufacturers be given greater tariff protection.
The situation brings to mind a remark of Casey Stengel's. "Those Japanese players will never make it in the big leagues," he said. "Their hands are too small." But their gloves and their prices seem to be just the right size.