One day this month Major David Mills, the secretary of the All-England Lawn Tennis Association, will stand in front of a large cardboard box, pour the requests for Wimbledon tickets into it, shake them up a bit and pull until the available seats are taken. Even if you get the ticket you wanted—say one seat in the center court for the fortnight of the tournament—you may not feel like a winner, for the seat can cost $560.
"The ballots are oversubscribed by a colossal margin," Major Mills says. "Literally thousands of people fail to get tickets, but the lottery system remains the fairest way to distribute them to the public."
Major Mills is reluctant to disclose the number of people turned down or, in fact, the number of seats actually put on sale. It varies from year to year, depending on how many seats are allocated to foreign tennis associations and dignitaries by the All-England club.
There is one other way to get a ticket—by buying a debenture that entitles the holder to a center-court seat for five years. The number of debentures is limited, and only a few are sold, usually in Paris. The going price is $2,250, which means a seat costs $40 a day or $450 a year.
You may see an amateur's game, but hardly at an amateur's price.
Chicago's Channel 9, the station that carries the White Sox games, has television cameras that scan Comiskey Park. But there is one place they have yet to focus on—the scoreboard. It seems that another Chicago station outbid WGN-TV for the right to televise the 1968 White Sox games, and that station has put a sign on the scoreboard that reads: "Watch the Sox on Ch. 32 next season."
WHO ARE THE PIGEONS?
The opening of the English pigeon-racing season has put the board of British Railways into a flap. For many decades the railways have played an essential part in pigeon racing, transporting the birds in specially equipped cars at a nominal charge and arranging with stationmasters at designated points to release the racers. The empty cages are shipped back to the owners free of charge. Station attendants also operate a lost-and-found service for pigeons, picking up as many as 150,000 in a year. The strays are returned home for a flat fee of half a crown (35�). This sporting service started back in the 1890s, when trains were still treated with some suspicion by the general public. Hoping to attract passengers, the railways offered working-class pigeon owners cheap transportation for their birds, figuring that if a man could be brought to risk his pigeon, eventually he would risk himself on rails.
But now the railway board feels pigeon transportation is for the birds. It would like to get out of the business or, at any rate, raise its charges. Birds must be watered and fed while in transit, and first-aid facilities must be provided at considerable cost.
The railways would settle for a percentage of the $28 million in prize money distributed during the course of the racing season, but there isn't a pigeon man from Scotland to Wales about to give up tuppence of his purse. Instead, pigeon owners have formed cooperatives and have purchased lorries to transport the birds. They talk of Sir Stanley Raymond, the railways' board chairman, the way they talk of farmers who shoot their pigeons. In the end, the railways may lose pigeons and passengers.