Playing by the Rules In Women's Wrestling

MENTION women and wrestling, and most people likely think of something intended as entertainment, such as mud wrestling or hokey, staged matches on the pro circuit. In an obvious publicity grab, one such enterprise in Japan reportedly was prepared to offer controversial figure skater Tonya Harding $1 million before the Lillehammer Winter Olympics to switch from toe loops to half nelsons.

What few realize is that women are wrestling as serious athletes these days. As in other countries, there is a national women's team in the United States. It has competed in the world championships each of the last four years and finished first in 1992. The women wrestle the same way the men do, only their matches are shorter (4 minutes instead of 5) and their weight classes lighter.

The top US star is Tricia Saunders, a 1989 University of Wisconsin graduate and former gymnast who works as a bacteriologist in Phoenix. Wrestling in the 110-pound class, she won a gold medal at the Klippan Cup competition held in Sweden in February. Saunders's husband, Townsend, was a member of the 1992 US Olympic men's wrestling team.

Professors study baseball integration

ANTHONY PRATKANIS, an associate professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has concluded that the 1947 integration of major league baseball was the start of the first affirmative-action program in history. Pratkanis and San Jose State University's Marlene Turner studied baseball's ``great experiment'' to see what relevance this textbook case might have for today. They identified nine principles of successful affirmative action that Branch Rickey intuitively employed in hiring Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Among them:

* Establish equal status and common goals. With the Dodgers focused on winning the pennant, Rickey was convinced that the racist attitudes of Robinson's teammates would be subjugated.

* Offer forgiveness and redemption. Rickey was willing to reward people whose attitudes changed for the better. Catcher Bobby Bragan, who initially opposed Robinson's hiring, was later given the job of coaching young ballplayers, including blacks, in the Dodger farm system.

* Identify and remove institutional barriers. To smooth Robinson's transition to the majors, Rickey moved the team's spring training to Havana, Cuba, where desegregation was a fact of life.

Golf's Price in geographic limbo

THERE'S no simple way to geographically place Nick Price, one of golf's best players. Some writers skirt the matter altogether, as did a recent 800-word New York Times piece on Price that made no mention of his nationality or where he is from. Why? Perhaps because it is so confusing.

The PGA Tour media guide gives his birthplace as Durban, South Africa. Most of his growing-up years, however, were spent in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and he served two years in the Rhodesian Air Force. He carries a British passport, though, because his parents were British. Today, he lives with his wife and two children in Orlando, Fla.

Trashing basketballs - on purpose

BECAUSE pro-basketball players like to use a game ball that feels like an old shoe, it often looks like one, too. ``They use such beat-up balls it embarrasses me,'' says Jack Lacey, a vice president with Spalding Sports Worldwide, which makes the official ball of the National Basketball Association. ``They play with the dirtiest, trashiest things.'' Part of the reason, Lacey says, is that a leather ball needs to be roughed up before the tanning oils come to the surface, creating the proper grip or ``tack.'' Spalding preconditions its leather basketballs before shipping, shooting them onto a steel plate anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 times. ``Even then,'' Lacey says, ``teams don't want to play with a ball right out of the box.''

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