Don't expect sudden death of playoffs


Much of the hue and cry against 18-hole playoffs the following day in the U.S. Open comes from reporters who are (a) inconvenienced and (b) sick and tired of being holed up for a week in places like Chaska, Minn.

I know. I hued and cried myself while covering Monday playoffs at Winged Foot, Brookline and Medinah. What bothered me most was the way they ended, not with a bang but with a whimper. The crowds were less than half the size of the previous day.

But if you think media criticism and the small crowd that watched Payne Stewart win in a playoff over Scott Simpson yesterday signal a change in format, you're probably wrong.

Typical of the traditionalists who strongly favor the existing format is Maryland State Golf Association executive director Jack Emich, who has served on many U.S. Golf Association committees.

"The U.S. Open is the most important championship we have," Emich says. "I think it would be ludicrous to have a sudden-death playoff.

"I remember years ago when we had 36-hole playoffs, and if they were still tied after that they played 36 more. It would be terrible to have our championship decided by a stroke in sudden death. I think The Masters was wrong when it went to a sudden-death playoff."

Emich says the feeling of the young players at his club, the Baltimore Country Club, is "mixed" on this issue.

It seems to me the more reverence you have for the game of golf, the more likely you are to favor the 18-hole Monday playoff. And the older you are, the more likely you are to want to preserve that.

* A sports change I've clamored for over the years is the resumption of the Navy-Maryland football series. That ended after 1965 amid hard feelings between the institutions. It appears to be no closer to resumption now than it was 15 or 20 years ago.

It makes all the sense in the world for Maryland and Navy to meet annually, either on a home-and-home basis, or in Washington, or -- best of all -- in football-starved Baltimore every year. Travel costs would be almost nil. Fans from both schools could attend every game. The rivalry would be intense.

Frankly, I think we'll see a sudden-death playoff at the U.S. Open before we see Navy and Maryland on the same football field again.

* Ever wonder what major-league umpires do with their idle daytime hours? Many are golfers. Rocky Roe is the best of the bunch. Playing with local umpire Bill Gehring last week at Hunt Valley, Roe showed that he is nearly a scratch golfer. "Dale Ford is also an excellent golfer," says Gehring.

* Don't expect the owners of the new Miami baseball expansion team to be interested in Earl Weaver as manager. Earl's not that interested in the situation, even though he lives in Miami. Says the ex-Orioles manager:

"I don't have the desire to come to a lot of the games. After 35 years of it, I'm not starved for baseball."

People will never understand this, because to them baseball is a game, not a job, but a lot of ex-players and managers feel as Weaver does. Two have told me they've seen enough of the game, but they continue broadcasting it because the money is good.

* When the Maryland Bays defeated Millonarios of Columbia, 2-1, Sunday night in Washington, they gave up their first goal in 296 minutes. That's great defense, but isn't that always the complaint about outdoor soccer in the U.S.? Not enough scoring? No wonder there were only 2,103 spectators at RFK Stadium.

The world will remember former baseball commissioner Happy Chandler, who died Saturday at 92 in Versaillies, Ky., for having approved the contract of Jackie Robinson. I'll also remember him for a story he told when he spoke at the 50th All-Star Game in Chicago in 1983.

"When I turned 16," Chandler told a huge luncheon audience, "my daddy said, 'Son, you're a man now, but promise me one thing -- that you won't go across the river into Cairo, Ill., to the burlesque theater.' So the next day, naturally, I went to Cairo to the burlesque theater and bought a ticket. When I took my seat, guess who was sitting in front of me. My father."

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