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Scott Ostler

Intelligence Is Where You Find It--but Some Keep It Well Hidden

September 05, 1985|SCOTT OSTLER

More and more athletes are declining to talk to sportswriters, and I don't blame 'em.

It must be a terribly frustrating experience for these players, trying to communicate with people of inferior mental agility.

Not that sportswriters are stupid, understand. It's just that ballplayers are on a much higher intellectual plane than the ink stained wretches who invade the locker rooms in search of misquotes.

And why would these heroes want to pass on their thoughts and insights to you, the reading public, when you're no smarter than sportswriters?

Think about it: If you went to college, did you ever have one of the school's famous athletes in any of your classes? Of course not. The stuff you were studying in physics or history class, they already had in second grade. By college, they were taking special advanced courses.

Most of them were so busy studying this advanced stuff, they don't even bother to go to graduation.

Personally, I am constantly intimidated by my inability to comprehend the talk of jocks. It starts as soon as I show up at the ballpark and head for the locker room in search of famous stars to not interview.

Posted on the door of the clubhouse is an official-looking sign that reads: "Visitors Dressing Room. No Visitors Allowed."

What am I supposed to tell the guard at the door? "It's OK, buddy, I live here"?

Then you get inside and you really feel stupid, because you hear things you can't understand. Especially when the athletes are discussing their two favorite subjects: math and logic.

Like the time Joe C Meriweather was playing center for the New Orleans Jazz and took an elbow in the face. The team doctor examined Meriweather's nose and told him, "The nose is broken, Joe."

Joe moaned. "Oh, no. That's the same one I broke last year."

Or when Bob Horner of the Atlanta Braves showed up at a banquet and someone asked him why he wasn't wearing the beard he'd had during the season.

Horner said: "I've been traveling so much, I haven't had time to grow it."

That kind of logic, to quote former Manager Danny Ozark, "is completely beyond my apprehension."

It was Ozark who, when asked why a certain player was playing so well, said: "Because his limitations are limitless."

Which is sort of like Yogi Berra, when asked if a certain rookie's play had exceeded Yogi's expectations.

"He's done more than that," Yogi said.

These guys just outthink us mere mortals. When Abe Gibron was coaching the Chicago Bears, he once called time out to tell his team to run out the clock.

Now you expect that kind of wisdom from the old gurus. But even the kids these days are talking over the heads of sportswriters.

William (The Refrigerator) Perry, the Bears' huge rookie, explained: "Even when I was little, I was big."

When Perry's college team was put on probation, a two-year, TV-and-postseason-play ban, Perry said: "What makes it hard is that we can't watch television for two years."

Don't worry, Perry probably found a loophole. I'm telling you, these guys are brilliant. Take Arthur Cox, the Atlanta Falcons' tight end. When they wheeled Cox into the operating room one morning for arthroscopic knee surgery, the doctor wanted to make sure Cox had followed the routine pre-op instructions. He asked Cox if he had had anything to eat or drink after midnight.

"No," Cox said, "but I had a big breakfast this morning."

To quote Ozark again: "I go to every extremity" to understand these guys.

But when they talk math, I kiss it off.

If life is a chess game to these guys, I'm still trying to learn checkers. Know what I mean?

Yogi, of course, is the most amazing mathematician. He's the one who explained that "90% of the game is half mental." And he's the one who, for a spring training drill, instructed his players to "pair off in threes."

That's like Mickey Rivers, comparing his eccentricity to that of his team owner and manager, saying: "Me and George and Billy, we're two of a kind."

George Rogers, when he was a fearsome runner for the Saints, was asked what his goals were for the season, and he said: "I want to gain 1,500 yards or 2,000 yards, whichever comes first."

It's difficult to even measure the intelligence of athletes, but Reggie Jackson, for instance, once claimed to have an IQ of 160.

To which Mickey Rivers responded: "Out of what? A thousand?"

Someone asked Duane Thomas, then a great football runner, if he knew what his IQ was and Thomas said: "Sure, it's a perfect 20-20."

And former Minnesota Twins owner Calvin Griffith confided some information to a sportswriter, but cautioned the writer not to print the info, because: "I'm telling you this on the IQ."

Yes sir, I know when I'm overmatched. These jocks, I tell ya'. To quote former Met Manager Wes Westrum: After they made these guys, "they threw away the molding."

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