Topics in the News
The McClain Metaphor.
Baseball was struggling in 1970. It had lost its innocence long ago, but now it was faced with disgrace. Public scandals, labor disputes, greed, arrogance, dissolution, and hucksterism characterized the nation's game. It took more and more spectacular plays every year to draw the fans' attentions from the pages of the tabloids to the field. At the beginning of the decade the character of the entire game seemed to be symbolized by the misfortunes of the blustery Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McClain. He had won thirty-one games in 1968—the first pitcher since Dizzy Dean in 1934 to win over thirty—and he had twenty-four wins in 1969. He was at the top of the game, and then he self-destructed. First he was suspended from baseball for two months for his involvement with professional book-makers. He turned from insufferable braggart to self-pitying apologist overnight, explaining that his association with gamblers had resulted from financial misfortunes and that he had been taken advantage of by unscrupulous men. When he returned contritely to the mound, he had lost his brilliance, and he was too thin-skinned to take the criticism of sports reporters. He was suspended from the team for a week by manager Mayo Smith when he angrily threw ice water on two sports reporters. He floundered after his second return, winning fourteen of twenty-eight games before he was finally...
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The Big Men.
The battles between Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell of the 1960s had popularized and revolutionized professional basketball. Every time the two big men—Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers and Russell of the Boston Celtics—met on court, a momentous clash of opposing styles of play and personalities occurred. Wilt ("the Stilt") Chamberlain was the scoring wonder, Russell the defensive specialist. Chamberlain scowled as if he had homicidal intentions; Russell played an unselfish game seemingly without emotion. As Chamberlain wound down his career in the early 1970s, however, and Russell left the game, a void was created, and no team or player seemed able to fill it.
Nevertheless, as public interest in professional basketball waned, the sport seemed to be in good shape financially—at least as far as the sport's athletes were concerned. Professional basketball's 240 players averaged $158,000 a year in salaries by the end of the decade. At the end of the 1960s salaries had averaged $43,000. The NBA had survived competition offered up by the ABA, which folded in 1976, and had a lucrative $74 million television contract with CBS, paying about an average of $800,000 a year to each team in the league. Television ratings had slipped badly by 1980, however, and game attendance fell as ticket...
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During the 1970s the sport of boxing was Muhammad Ali, and Ali was boxing. At the beginning of the decade, on 20 June 1970, Ali's five-year jail sentence for his refusal to join the army was reversed, and in September of that year his boxing license was restored. Ali came back from his three-year exile having been stripped of his heavyweight championship but loudly proclaiming himself "The People's Champion." It was no idle boast: Ali's extraordinary popularity cut across racial lines. Many whites saw in Ali the reincarnation of Joe Louis, the great heavyweight champion who during his reign seemed to move easily and comfortably among white fans. Yet unlike Louis, Ali brought to his public-relations campaign an eloquence rarely seen among athletes practicing such a brutish sport. His desire to speak out on issues of race did not seem to pose a threat to the white community, for Ali attached wit to everything he did both in and out of the ring; many whites simply tuned out the controversial Ali and chose to instead tune in Ali the funnyman—his ring predictions issued in rhyme and his constant clowning with sportscaster Howard Cosell. To African-Americans, however, Ali was a leader and a spokesman. He preached a Black Muslim message of revolutionary change within the African-American community, and he became a kind of unofficial statesman representing the interests of the American...
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At the beginning of the decade, few fans held their breath over what team would be crowned champion of college basketball. Many fans—and even a few sportswriters—complained that the winning ways of the John Wooden-coached UCLA Bruins had robbed the season and the NCAA championship tournament of any drama. But Wooden eventually retired and the Bruins' level of play returned to earth. Great teams led by brilliant and colorful—if not slightly deranged—coaches emerged in the Midwest, and in 1979 two super-stars faced off against each other in the NCAA finals, giving birth to the media-hyped carnival atmosphere that has made the tournament one of the greatest events in American sports. Larry Bird and Earvin ("Magic") Johnson in the next decade went on to become pro basketball's saviors, but they left behind a college game that had achieved new heights in popularity.
UCLA had become the New York Yankees of college basketball. They had won the NCAA championship an astounding five times in the previous decade—in 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, and 1969. It seemed that the Bruins always had a big-play man to lead them, and when Lew Alcindor left for the pro ranks, all-American forward Sidney Wicks stepped forward along with brilliant six-foot-one-inch playmaker Henry Bibby to fill the void. As were the great Yankees dynasty...
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A Saturday Tradition Returns.
By middecade, college football fans were filling campus stadiums in record numbers. With the end of the Vietnam War and the onset of an economic recession, football—along with fraternities and sororities—regained popularity among students seeking a return to the traditional collegiate lifestyle. The millions who sat in the bleachers on Saturday afternoons or watched on television had much to root for. During the 1970s college football stood for innovation and high scoring—and many of the garnet new fans were indeed former Sunday armchair quarterbacks who had grown bored with stodgy, defense-minded NFL teams and their two-back offenses and who were looking to the campuses for an alternative brand of football.
The college game, which throve on trickery and deceit, featured four-back offenses and aerial attacks led by such great passing quarterbacks as Art Schlichter of Ohio State, Joe Theismann of Notre Dame, and Jim Plunkett of Stanford. The decade also saw some of college football's greatest running backs. In the West, Southern California's Anthony Davis, Charles White, and Ricky Bell followed in the wake of 1960s Southern California superstar O. J. Simpson. Big Eight speedsters Johnny Rodgers of Nebraska and Billy Sims of Oklahoma provided the excitement in the school's option backfields....
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As had the Green Bay Packers in the previous decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s dominated professional football, winning four Super Bowls between 1975 and 1980. The Steelers were not the only glamour team during the decade. The Dallas Cow-boys, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, and Oakland Raiders each inspired either intense love or hate in football fans from coast to coast. Pro football by the end of the decade had indeed become America's game. Results from a 1978 Harris sports survey showed that football enjoyed a 70 percent following among American sports fans—compared to 54 percent for baseball. More than a quarter of the fans surveyed named football as their favorite sport; 16 percent named baseball. Record numbers of American families viewed Super Bowls VI through XIV on their televisions, making the glitzy, heavily hyped championship between the American and National Football Conferences one of the most-watched sporting events of all time.
As the game and its fans moved from icy fields and rickety bleachers to ultramodern domed stadiums carpeted with artificial turf, football more than any other professionally played major sport came to reflect the high-paced, high-tech society in which it was played. Highbrow Sunday-afternoon television programming of the fifties and early...
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In the 1970s the game of golf at all levels—from the professional to the amateur ranks—had never been healthier. Americans in 1971 watched on television as astronaut Alan B. Shepard sent a six-iron shot sailing in the moon's thin atmosphere; millions shared an enthusiasm for the sport with Shepard. In the previous decade Arnold Palmer in swashbuckling, go-for-broke style had popularized the game and had opened country-club gates to legions of middle-class fans. Although he played a sport perceived by many Americans to be snobbish, Palmer was seen as an everyman on the golf course, his untrained-looking swing wildly hooking the ball into the woods then slashing it back into play. "The King," as he was called by his fans, sweated and chain-smoked his way through a round with a determined walk and stare. As millions of Americans headed out to the public links to emulate their new hero Palmer, a pudgy-faced, long-hitting Ohioan named Jack Nicklaus began challenging Palmer's rule. By the 1970s "the Golden Bear" was seemingly winning everything in sight and had claimed all four major titles. Nicklaus was Palmer's successor—just as Palmer had succeeded Ben Hogan. But as the decade progressed many became convinced that Nicklaus had surpassed all of his predecessors and had become golf's greatest player ever.
A Mass Sport.
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The Olympics: 1972
The retirement of Avery Brundage as president of the International Olympic Committee at the end of the 1972 Olympics marked the beginning of the end of pretense about the games being restricted to amateur athletes. Star athletes had challenged the rule in the Olympics of the 1960s, and by 1972 it was clear that Western athletes enjoyed a level of support that approached the Eastern system of state support. The new president, Lord Killanin of Ireland, announced immediately that his first priority would be to reconsider the definition of amateurism as it related to the qualification of athletes for the games.
The Winter Games.
The Winter Olympics were held in Sapporo, Japan, from 3 to 13 February. There were 1,015 men and 212 women from thirty-seven nations competing. A hint of controversy arose when Austrian skier Karl Schranz was banned from competition for flagrant commercialism. Although he encouraged his team to compete, they did not fare as well as expected. Americans won three gold medals, including a surprise win by Barbara Cochran in the slalom. American women won two other gold medals in speed skating. Sixteen-year-old world-record-holder Anne Henning won the 500-meter competition, despite a near collision with a Canadian skater who was disqualified for obstruction. Dianne Holum won the 1500 meters and took the silver...
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The Olympics: 1976
The 1976 Winter Olympics were held at Innsbruck, Austria, in the Tyrolean Alps, from 4 to 15 February. For Americans, all of the winning opportunities came on the ice. Figure skater Dorothy Hamill upset the reigning world champion Dianne de Leeuw to win the gold medal in figure skating. Her coach, Carlo Fassi, had the unusual distinction of also coaching the winner of the men's gold medal in figure skating, John Curry from Great Britain. Peter Mueller won the gold in the 1000-meter speed skating, and Sheila Young set an Olympic record in winning the gold in the 500 meters. Young, who also won a silver in the 1500 meters and a bronze in the 1000 meters accounted for nearly a third of the ten medals won by the United States team.
The Summer Olympics held in Montreal, Canada, began with the political controversy that had come to be identified with the games in the postwar period. This time the New Zealand team was the center of attention. New Zealand had sent a rugby team to play in South Africa, and the black African nations wanted that country banned from Olympic competition as a result. Tanzania led the black African protesters, and they were joined by Iraq and Guyana. Taiwan boycotted because the Canadians insisted that they not call themselves the Republic of China. By the time the games were declared in progress...
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As it had through much of the previous decade, the National Hockey League (NHL) during the 1970s suffered from shrinking attendance, yet the league continued its aggressive program of expansion begun in the late 1960s, when the NHL doubled in size from six teams to twelve. By 1975 the league had grown to eighteen teams, and NHL owners and officials were predicting even further expansion. As the game moved from the snowbelt to exotic places such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Kansas City, many sportswriters and longtime hockey fans feared that the quality of play would diminish. With each team added the talent became more thinly spread across the league. The magic word among NHL officials, however, was parity—a word soon echoed in other professional sports circles. The NHL looked forward to the day when each of its teams was a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and, hence, when each of its teams was a viable moneymaker.
At the beginning of the decade, however, the NHL's state of affairs appeared dismal to the league's numbers crunchers. Far from introducing parity to the NHL, the expansion clubs were whipping boys at the hands of the established clubs. Furthermore, the venerable league found itself faced off with a competing organization when in July 1971 two California entrepreneurs, Dennis Murphy and Gary Davidson, helped...
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Sports and Television
The "Big Daddy."
The business of sports television boomed during the 1970s. At the beginning of the decade ABC, CBS, and NBC televised a combined 787 hours of sports yearly. By 1979 that figure had increased by 72 percent, as sports telecasting hours totaled 1,356. In the 1950s ABC had ranked a weak third among the three major televison networks; in the 1970s ABC achieved dominance that was largely due to the phenomenal viewer numbers generated by the network's glitzy sports coverage. The New York Times called television in the 1970s the "big daddy" of sports. Certainly during the decade big-daddy television paid out billions to professional and college sports in order to acquire broadcasting rights—and certainly made much more in return. That professional and big-time college athletics partly owed their continued survival to television had become clear. Yet it had also become clear by the late 1970s that the modern era of American sports had been in large part the creation of the broadcasting industry.
In 1960 Roone Arledge, one of ABC"s young and ambitious producers, sent to his superiors a remarkable memo outlining his vision of the future of televised sports. The game on the field, Arledge prophesied, would no longer be covered passively. Rather, the roving camera eye, cutting-edge production technology, and...
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The Open Era.
The year 1968 signaled the beginning of a revolution for those athletes who sought to make a living playing a sport known for its snobbish appeal and starchy white-flannel image. In that year tennis's "open era" began, and professionals could compete with amateurs for the sport's most coveted titles. Tennis was free to enter the new decade unabashedly commercial, casting off its "shamateur" label earned during the previous era in which the game's spokesmen hypocritically held up tennis as pure amateur sport while paying off players under the table.
The "In" Sport.
During the 1970s the tennis revolution took to the streets, as tennis became the "in" sport in the United States and certainly the nation's growth sport. The country's middle class embraced tennis as theirs and spent millions on equipment and clothing. By the end of the decade it was estimated that more than a quarter of the country's population—and a nearly equal number of blacks and whites—played tennis at least four times a year; approximately 160,000 tennis courts had been built, with an extraordinary 5,000 more expected for each coming year. In 1978 the nation's premier tennis tournament, the U.S. Open, was moved from tony, exclusive Forest Hills to a public park, the recently built National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York. The change...
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Violence and Competition
An American Mirror.
Sports in the United States has always served to reflect the best and worst the culture has to offer. The big-money wheeling and dealing of professional sports and the increased professionalization of amateur athletics since the end of World War II were, after all, reflective of an American society that was maturing in its new role as a political and economic world power. During the 1970s, however, the image of Americans mirrored by their participation in and obsession with sports was far from pretty—indeed, had never before been more disturbing. The frightening rise of violence at all levels of American sport during the decade seemed to be not only tolerated but also embraced.
The country's failed military intervention in Vietnam; domestic social ills, such as the decay of America's cities and the sharp increase in crime; and a loss of faith in the American government brought on by the Watergate scandal contributed to an atmosphere of cynicism. American institutions of business, family, and government were being questioned and attacked—and in the institution of American sport, in the way in which Americans played and competed, could be seen the ugliness of the social transformation. Fan violence poured out of the stands and onto the field. In major professional sports the acceptance of...
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Ali, Muhammad 1942-
HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION BOXER
Muhammad Ali called himself "the Greatest." While sports historians may argue whether he was a greater boxer than Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, or Jack Dempsey, none could dispute that he was the most publicized sports personality of the 1970s and, indeed, of the century. In the six-year period beginning September 1970 Ali won more than $26 million in fight purses, and he fought all comers at the remarkable rate for a heavyweight of four to six times a year; he met twenty-two opponents in those six years. But Ali's fame did not stem only from his boxing prowess. The ring was simply his stage. Ali was a celebrity because he was the most articulate and attractive black man of his time who could demand the world's attention, and he took that opportunity to address issues more profound than who was the best boxer of the era. He was a role model for his race; he was a paragon of athletic prowess; he was a man of unshakable principle; he was a martyr to a cause who was defeated and rose up again to triumph over his enemies; and he was a talented...
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Fixx, James F. 1932-1984
POPULARIZER OF RUNNING
James F. Fixx was a soft, self-indulgent, 220-pound magazine editor in 1969 when he received the call to exercise. He found that his "roly-poly" tennis game suffered because he had trouble getting to the net, so he took up running to improve his conditioning. That decision changed his life. Fixx fell victim to the obsession with conditioning that only runners can understand. He responded with the dedication of an athlete and the perception of a journalist. The result was the bible of runners in the late 1970s, The Complete Book of Running. It sold 993,000 copies in hardback and topped The New York Times nonfiction best-seller list for eleven weeks in 1978.
A Runner's Passion.
Fixx's father suffered his first heart attack at thirty-six and died at forty-three. The author was aware of the genetic character of heart disease and the positive cardiovascular effects of aerobic exercise, but his passion for running had no single cause. Running provided what he described as an array of benefits, from weight control to an improved sex life. He was convincing enough to reassure, if not convince, a generation of joggers that they were on the right track. By the end of the 1970s one hundred thousand Americans were finishing marathons each year, and it was estimated that nine...
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King, Billie Jean 1943-
CHAMPION OF WOMEN'S TENNIS
Billie Jean King transformed women's tennis into a professional sport. When she won her first Wimbledon singles title in 1966, the prize was a gift certificate for clothes. King's response was to begin a campaign, along with leading men's tennis players, to demand prize money at all U.S. Lawn Tennis Association tournaments. Five years later she was the first woman to earn $100,000 in a year as a professional tennis player. Rod Laver, the leading money winner on the men's tour, won $290,000 that year, suggesting the next inequity King challenged.
In 1972 she complained loudly when she received only $10,000 for winning the U.S. Open, while male champion Ilie Nastase received $25,000. The women deserved parity, she argued, and they got it. Margaret Court won the U.S. Open in the first year of parity, as least partly because King was exhausted by September, when the tournament took place.
King had just experienced what may have been the most publicized event in American tennis...
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Nicklaus, Jack 1940-
Player of the Century.
For most of the past thirty years Jack Nicklaus has been considered golf 's greatest. His longevity has proved equal to Arnold Palmer's, and only Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones can be considered players in Nicklaus's league. But in numbers of major tournament's won, Nicklaus stands alone with twenty victories—a remarkable figure that does not include major titles won on the Senior Tour. He has won seventy times on the PGA Tour and has fifty-eight second-place and thirty-six third-place finishes. Nicklaus has finished top PGA Tour money winner and held the tour's low-scoring average eight times. He was named the PGA's Player of the Year in 1967, 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1976, and Golf magazine in 1988 celebrated American golf's centennial by naming Nicklaus the "Player of the Century."
Nicklaus began playing golf at the age of ten in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, He shot a fifty-one for the first nine holes he ever played. At the age of thirteen he broke seventy and held a three handicap. By then his hero had become the great Jones, who won the 1926 U.S. Open at Nicklaus's home course, the Scioto Country Club. Tutored by club pro Jack Grout, Nicklaus early on realized his potential for tournament play, dominating local and national junior golf events and going...
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Rigby, Cathy 1952-
Cathy Rigby was designated America's finest gymnast and a contender for a gold medal at the 1972 Olympic Games by the media. She was pretty, pixieish, talented, and hard working; just as important, she was good copy. Born with collapsed lungs, a chronic sufferer of bronchitis and pneumonia when she was a child, Rigby overcame her physical disabilities with pure grit. She began gymnastics at the age of eleven after she impressed her father with her skills on a trampoline and worked hard to be the best gymnast in the United States.
In 1963 Mr. Rigby took his daughter to coach Bud Marquette, whose Southern California Aero Team (SCAT) is considered one of the finest gymnastics teams in the nation. "In two months, she was better than girls who had been training for two years," Marquette recalled. "She never fooled around." By 1968 she was performing at the Olympic level, but only by American standards. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, the United States team finished sixth, and Rigby led the team, finishing sixteenth overall. "In 1968 it was all fun and games," Rigby commented. When she returned home, she got down to work.
A Silver Medal.
In the four years after the 1968 Games, Rigby trained eight hours a day, seven days a week....
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Simpson, O. J. 1947-
RUNNING BACK, BUFFALO BILLS
Weeb Ewbank, one of pro football's greatest head coaches, once said of Orenthal James Simpson, "The problem isn't to tackle O. J., it's to catch him." As the most dominant running back of the 1970s, O. J. Simpson combined the strength and durability of Jim Brown and the phenomenal cutting ability of Gale Sayers in forging a new style of running that would be emulated by the next generation of football players. His extraordinary peripheral vision allowed him to seek out and pick holes in the defensive line quickly, as well as to avoid tadders. He cut and stutter-stepped his way through defenses, then relied on bursts of speed to outrace pursuers. In this way Simpson turned losses into four-yard gains—and the four-yarder into the occasional forty-yard breakaway dash. Of his elusive style Simpson once said, "I run like a coward/'To many, however, "the Juice" was an American hero, a charismatic team player who generously shared the credit for his rushing success with his offensive line, "the Electric Company," and in so doing symbolized the best in professional sports.
Rags to Riches.
Part of Simpson's appeal with sports fans was his rags-to-riches story. He was born 7 July 1947 to James and Eunice Simpson and was raised in Potrero Hill, then a predominantly black housing...
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Spitz, Mark 1950-
WINNER OF SEVEN OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALS
Mark Spitz was a precocious swimmer. At the age of ten he held seventeen national age-group swimming records and practiced ninety minutes a day. He was encouraged by his father, a steel-company executive, who impressed one message upon him relentlessly: "Swimming isn't everything, winning is."
Mark Spitz was seventeen in 1967 when he set his first world record, 4:10.6 in the 400-meter freestyle, and he was widely regarded to be as talented as his Santa Clara swimming teammate Don Schollander, who had won four gold medals at the 1964 Olympics. Spitz went to the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City with lofty expectations, and he came away disappointed. He had qualified for three individual events and three relays, but he won only two gold medals, both in relay events. "I had the worst meet of my life," he told a reporter. So he worked harder. In the next four years before the 1972 Olympics, he set twenty-two more world records, and by that time he had set thirty-five U.S. records in swimming events....
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People in the News
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was named most valuable player in the National Basketball Association five times during the 1970s, in 1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, and 1977. He was also named MVP in 1980.
Mario Andretti won the World Drivers' Championship in 1978; he was only the second American to do so.
Earl Anthony won the Professional Bowlers Association championship three years in a row, beginning in 1973.
Swimmer Shirley Babashoff won eight medals (two gold and six silver) in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics.
George Blanda scored his record 2,002nd point as a professional football player in 1975.
Geoff Bodine won fifty-five NASCAR modified stockcar races in 1978.
Bobby Bond of the San Francisco Giants set a season record of 180 strikeouts in 1970.
Wilt Chamberlain had a .727 field-goal average (426 of 586) for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team in 1972.
Ben Crenshaw of the University of Texas won three consecutive NCAA golf championships beginning in 1971.
Tom Ferguson won six consecutive AU-Around Cowboy titles at the Rodeo World Championships, beginning in 1974.
In 1972 Michael Finneran was the first diver ever to be given...
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Stanley Benham, 57, U.S. bobsled champion in the early 1950s, 22 April 1970.
Moe Berg, 70, major league baseball catcher from 1924 to 1939 and reputed spy, 29 May 1972.
Lyman Bostick, 28, professional baseball player for the Minnesota Twins and the California Angels, 23 September 1978.
Ezzard Charles, 53, heavyweight boxing champion (1949-1951), 28 May 1975.
Paul Christman, 61, professional football player in the 1950s and later television sports announcer, 2 March 1970.
Fred Corcoran, 72, helped found the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950, 23 June 1977.
Alvin Crowder, 73, major league baseball pitcher (1926-1936), 3 April 1972.
Arthur Daley, 69, Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist for The New York Times, 3 January 1974.
Dizzy Dean, 63, Saint Louis Cardinals pitcher in the 1930s; won thirty games in 1934, 17 July 1974.
E. A. Diddle, 74, Western Kentucky basketball coach for forty-three years, 2 January 1970.
Charles Evans, 89, first winner of the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur golf championships in the same year in 1916, 6 November 1979.
Daniel Ferris, 87,...
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Yuri Brokhin, The Big Red Machine: The Rise and Fall of Soviet Olympic Champions (New York: Random House, 1978);
Heywood Hale Broun, Tumultuous Merriment (New York: R. Marek, 1979);
Jimmy Cannon, Nobody Asked Me, But…: the World of Jimmy Cannon (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1978);
John Charles Daly, ed. Pro Sports—Should Government Intervene?: A Round Table Held on February 22, 1977, and Sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Washington, D. C. (Washington, D.C.: The Institute, 1977);
Parnell Donahue, Sports Doc: Medical Advice, Diet, Fitness Tips, and other Essential Hints for Young Athletes (New York: Knopf, 1979);
Paul Gardner, Nice Guys Finish Last: Sport and American Life (New York: Universe Books, 1975);
Government and the Sports Business: papers prepared for a conference of experts, with an introduction and summary (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1974);
Isao Hirata, The Doctor and the Athlete, second edition (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1974);
Jerome Holtzman, No Cheering in the Press Box (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston 1974);
Individual Sports for Women,...
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Important Events in Sports, 1970–1979
- On January 11, Billy Casper wins the Los Angeles Open golf tournament and becomes the second pro golfer (Arnold Palmer was the first) to earn $1 million in his career. By the end of the season Jack Nicklaus would surpass his earnings total.
- On January 11, in an upset the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl over the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7.
- On January 26, National Football League (NFL) commissioner Pete Rozelle announces a four-year, $142 million contract with the three major television networks to broadcast professional football games.
- On February 16, Joe Frazier wins the undisputed world heavyweight boxing championship, knocking out Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round.
- On February 19, Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain receives the first of his two suspensions from baseball, this one for consorting with gamblers. He is suspended again on September 9 for carrying a gun.
- On March 4, Pete Maravich of Louisiana State University is named NCAA player of the year.
- On March 21, UCLA defeats Jacksonville University 80-69 to win its fourth straight NCAA basketball championship.
- In April, the American League (AL) baseball team the Seattle Pilots moves to Milwaukee and becomes the Brewers.
- On April 13, Billy Casper wins...
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