The world of sport—as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED begins, with this first issue, to write and picture its week-to-week history—is in a new golden age.
This is a new kind of golden age. Granted, it cannot yet match—man for man, woman for woman—all the superstars of the 1920s and before. Still, for world-wide interest and participation, for huge crowds and vast audiences, for smashed records and astonishing performances by outsiders and underdogs, this new golden age in scores of ways outstrips and outdazzles them all.
As if no other world existed, the world of sport is crowded with action and excitement and filled with high sports spirits. Sports are booming everywhere. The Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Ceylon, Indonesia, Japan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nationalist China and South Korea get together in the Asian Games. Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Spain, Lebanon and Syria find common ground in the Mediterranean Games. All the nations of the earth are training for the next Olympic Games, scheduled for Australia in 1956.
Paced by soccer (spread to the four corners of the earth by England and now the No. 1 game of the world), sports of all kinds are on the upswing in what, only a few years ago, would have seemed unlikely places. Cairo, Egypt has an athletic stadium as big as California's Rose Bowl and Rio de Janeiro has one just about twice as big. India is pushing a big sports program in all its principal cities and will have a monster stadium, named in honor of Prime Minister Nehru, in Delhi. In Ceylon, the city of Colombo had to get a new stadium started when half of the crowd was turned away from the India-Ceylon soccer games.
Here in the United States, Americans are participating in sports as never before. Tens of thousands of pin boys are kept leaping by 20 million bowlers and, quite properly, the 60,000 bowling alleys around the country include one in the basement of the White House. The favorite outdoor sport is fishing. Last year 17,652,478 citizens took out fishing licenses and eight million more fished where licenses either were not needed (along the coasts) or were not likely to be asked for. Hunting licenses totaled 14,832,779.
Three million Americans go skiing every winter, a half-million own sailboats, a half-million more prefer inboard motorboats and three million fasten outboards to all manner of rowboats, skiffs and even cabin cruisers. This activity is not confined to the sea-coasts; for instance, 4,000 boats are registered on Lake Texoma on the Texas-Oklahoma border.
There are five million golfers (and again, there is a White House symbol in the putting green outside the President's office). There is softball to be played (the Amateur Softball Association of America claims a million players) and basketball is a year-round sport and topic No. 1 in thousands of U.S. towns. There are horseshoes to be pitched in a million back yards and croquet balls to be tapped by belligerent believers who insist that it is the only worth-while game in the world.
When Americans are not playing or working, frequently they are looking on as sports spectators. Although they fill the bowls and the ball parks and the grandstands at the race tracks (when attractions are good enough) they also have time to look in on television. With all its varied sports programs, TV has made millions of new fans—including, for wrestling, Maestro Arturo Toscanini, the symphony conductor, and Mrs. Harry S. Truman, formerly of the White House.
Kids up and down the country who never set foot in a big-league ball park are now able to look over the catcher's shoulder at the All-Star Game and World Series. And, at the same time, there is not so much baseball on television (only New York and Chicago stations carry the full schedule) that the kids have quit playing the game themselves.
But is sports' new golden age long on quantity and short on quality? Nothing of the kind. Mount Everest, the unconquerable top of Creation, was conquered last year and its lofty neighbor, K-2, was climbed last week. The superstition that no man could run a mile in four minutes has been blasted not once, but twice. Roger Bannister, a British medical student (now a doctor) did it in 3:59.4 and before the ink was dry on the record books, an Australian butterfly chaser named John Landy did it in 3:58. (The two of them met last week in a new golden-age dream match at the British Empire Games in Vancouver, B.C. (see p. 20).
Swimming records have been falling like apples from a tree; a dozen records were broken during the first six months of this year. In the whole area of track and field events, the records are being smashed until it has become foolhardy to predict that any man may fail in whatever he sets out to do. Bob Mathias has outperformed the immortal Jim Thorpe (p. 52). Parry O'Brien has bettered the 60-foot mark for new world records in the shot-put. In many track and field events, U.S. schoolboys are matching and beating what were world records of the older athletes not so many years ago.
Back in the 1920s New York City went wild in a ticker-tape welcome home for Gertrude Ederle, the American swimmer who had conquered the English Channel. But in the 1950s Florence Chadwick swam the Channel three times (swimming it in both directions and once clipping more than an hour from the Ederle record) and, moreover, swam the Catalina Channel off California, the Straits of Gibraltar, the Bosporus and—like Leander—the Hellespont both ways.
In London this summer Maureen Connolly, a California girl not yet 20, won the Wimbledon championship for the third time (Louise Brough forced Maureen to play her finest game) and advanced a step further toward her announced goal of equaling the record of a tennis immortal, Helen Wills. (Maureen's recent accident, in which she broke a bone in her right leg, will keep her out of the Women's National this month, but tennis fans are sure "Little Mo" will come back to win many another title.)
But the full story of sport's new golden age cannot be contained within the records and the statistics any more than the story of Romeo and Juliet can be told in Dr. Kinsey's graphs and tables. The new age is gloriously unpredictable, and throughout the world the athletes are testifying dramatically in support of the bedrock rule of sports: "A man who won't be beaten can't be beaten."
This summer in New Jersey a man named Ed Furgol—a man whose crippled left arm should prevent him from playing golf at all—played better golf than the best in all the world and won the National Open. In Massachusetts Mrs. Mildred (Babe Didrikson) Zaharias, who, by the rules, should have resigned herself to a life of semi-invalidism, won out over the field by a 12-stroke margin in the U.S. Women's Open. In this golden age Ben Hogan literally turned back from death's door to become the greatest all-round golfer since Bobby Jones. In New York, Rocky Marciano, no great boxer, and Ezzard Charles, no great puncher, boxed and punched so savagely that the match was agreed to be one of the most thrilling and furiously fought heavyweight matches of all time.
The Iron Curtain itself was forced to collaborate in a dramatic demonstration of what the human spirit could do. Russia and her satellites had sent a new breed of athlete out into the free world. He was a superbly trained, coldly efficient, intensely suspicious, completely humorless fellow. He worked full time at sports, although he competed as an amateur, and he swiftly built up a legend of invincibility. He won almost every event he entered, and in England his Hungarian image humbled the old country at its own treasured game of soccer. But in the world soccer championships at Bern, Switzerland the new kind of athlete was cut down to size and beaten by his opposite number from Free Germany in a staggering upset (score: Germany 3, Hungary 2) that drove the West German fans wild with excitement (one of them tried to buy the air out of the football), provoked antigovernment riots in Communist Budapest and magnificently reaffirmed the high potency of what baseball calls the old hustle and holler—the ingredients that cannot be built into an assembly-line athlete.
The spirit is everywhere in the world of sports. Even animals exhibited it in the new golden age. A cocker spaniel named Rise and Shine, in the face of agreement that cockers were passé, exhibited such confidence, such poise, such cool disdain for his rivals that he now rules the dog world as Westminster's Best in Show.
American schools, at all levels, place heavy emphasis on intramural sports as part of the student's education. This attitude would have horrified American educators of the 19th Century who insisted that the student came to learn, not to be "indulged." In Mediterranean countries, like Italy and France, the students must organize their own sports after school hours. Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries have sports programs in the schools and the countries behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains are pushing sports for all they are worth. In China the new trend is particularly significant, for not very many years ago Chinese scholars wore their fingernails long in order to prove that they were above manual labor and violent games and completely preoccupied with the things of the mind. The Red regime in China gets no credit for starting the sports trend; American missionaries had done that long before Lenin.
As the 20th Century brought a new attitude toward sports in American schools it also saw the beginnings of industry-sponsored sports. Sports in industry grew slowly but steadily until World War II and then they boomed. Today 30,000 companies with 34 million employees spend $800 million to sponsor bowling, softball, basketball, golf, horseshoe pitching, baseball, lawn and table tennis, fishing and volley ball.
Taking it altogether, taking it from the standpoint of interest, of participation, of performance; taking it from the smashed records, the Herculean feats of the outsiders and the Sisyphean frustrations of the upset favorites; taking it from center field at the Polo Grounds in New York City and Wonderful Willie Mays, there is no other word for the age but golden.
Willie Mays, by himself, is almost enough to make it that. At 23, Willie is already being talked of as one of the all-time greats. It is not only Willie's performance in the field and at the bat; it is Willie's Way. For Willie is, above all, happy to be playing baseball and he makes everyone who sees him feel happy, too. And it is important to remember that in no other age of sport could Willie play on a big-league ball team. Indeed, less than twenty years ago, a Willie Mays could not have purchased a ticket to sit in the grandstand in many major-league parks. No Negro could.
If sports were late in breaking down the color barrier, still they were years ahead of the United States Supreme Court. And, even before, sports offered the youth of America their best opportunities for overcoming class distinctions. For striking examples, turn back the clock to 1910. In Boston, Mass. there is a caddy who works part time in a downtown dry goods store. In Baltimore, there is a boy in a school for wayward, delinquent children. In Lakeview, Colo. there is a wild boy of the streets, associate of hoodlums, in grave danger himself of being dragged down into the underworld. The three boys in 1910: Francis Ouimet, 17, who won the National Open three years later and started golf's big boom; George Herman Ruth, 15, who came out of the Baltimore school to become baseball's greatest hero; William Harrison Dempsey, 15, the boy of the Colorado streets, destined to become boxing's greatest champion.
In order to appreciate the effect the three boys of 1910 had on their games, it is necessary to go back a little and set the stage for their entrances.
The oldest game is Jack's game, for long before men began hitting things with sticks, they were hitting each other.
The history of boxing is primarily the story of the big boys, and the first to make a reputation for himself was Theagenes of Thasos. He took on all comers in Greece during the Fifth Century, B.C., and for durability no one has matched him since. He ran up a string of 1,425 victories, all to the death, and—wearing leather thongs fitted with metal spikes on his fists—sometimes disposed of 10 opponents in a single day.
Next big boy of note was James Figg, who appeared on the boxing scene in England in the 18th Century with muscles of iron and a head that was bald as an egg but filled with ideas for the improvement of the game. He popularized bare-fist fighting and spurned the use of wrestling holds.
It was the Boston Strong Boy, John L. Sullivan, who was destined to popularize the Marquis of Queensberry rules and make the transition from bare-knuckle to gloved fighting. John was not afraid to face the bare fists of any man alive but he saw, with others, that the gloves might help to bring the fight game out of the back rooms of saloons and place it beyond the concern of police raiding parties.
John, alas, was also conducting a running battle with the Creature, as whiskey was known among the Irish in his home town of Boston, and although he probably was the most popular champion of all time he was soft and pitifully outclassed when he faced James J. Corbett in 1892. Gentleman Jim introduced defensive science and artful boxing, and years later the best talents of both Sullivan and Corbett in their prime were fused in the person of Jack Dempsey.
If Francis Ouimet, the golfer, and Babe Ruth, the home-run king, seemed to have poor chances of becoming national heroes as they were growing up, Jack Dempsey seemed to have none at all. Born into poverty, he had only a few years of formal schooling, then went to work digging ditches, picking fruit and toiling in the mines of Colorado and Utah. He fought almost constantly, for in his circles a boy had to.
There was everything around Jack to make him go bad. Many of his pals did. But Jack's way with his fists set him apart, and when an old-time fighter named Andy Malloy told him he might go places, Jack listened hard. It was Malloy who taught the young Dempsey the fundamentals of boxing and hammered into his head the importance of keeping in condition—until Jack was safe from the temptations of his squalid world.
Jack got $2.50 for his first fight on a regular promoter's card—and he won with a one-punch knockout. But he was crude and it took a few beatings by old trial horses to make him realize it. Once he did, Jack never failed to learn from every fight and he learned so fast that one night he got a telegram from a manager named Jack Kearns. Kearns offered only a railroad ticket and $5, but that was enough. Thus the partnership was born that, with the connivance of promoter Tex Rickard, led to the boiling hot afternoon in Toledo when Jack mashed a sack of potatoes named Jess Willard, attacking him as if he were the very symbol of the life Jack was now to put behind him forever as heavyweight champion of the world.
There have been other great champions (notably Joe Louis, a product of boxing's modern incubator: the Golden Gloves tournaments) but Dempsey—more than any other man—gave boxing big-time status and with the collaboration of Gene Tunney, the gentleman and scholar who got $990,445 for a single fight, made it acceptable even to women. By the time television came along it seemed the most natural thing in the world for all the networks to present regular boxing programs as staples of family entertainment. It is probable that some of the antics that pass for boxing on television would make the blood of Theagenes, Figg and Sullivan run cold. But most dispassionate observers will go along with the proposition that for color, for odd characters in and out of the ring, for strange techniques and eagerness to please, for courage and candor and sheer cussedness, the weird world of boxing offers millions of Americans highly entertaining interludes in which they can watch somebody else take a beating for a change.
THE BABE'S GAME
There is only one thing certain about the precise origins of the Babe's Game. Baseball was not invented by General Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1839 although Organized Baseball put on a monster centennial celebration there in 1939 and so is stuck with the myth.
As a matter of fact, bat and ball games seem to be almost as old as man himself. But baseball historians have come to agree that the game is essentially American, owing a little to cricket, a little to rounders, a little to town ball, but owing most to the inventiveness of American boys. Baseball became the name for it along about 1835 when flat rocks—or bases—replaced the hazardous four-foot-high stakes that had formerly marked the runners' stations.
The haphazard rules of the early games were first put into some sort of order by the Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New York City in 1845. The Knickerbockers also commissioned a surveyor named Alexander Cartwright to redesign the square playing field and it was Cartwright (and not Doubleday) who came up with the baseball diamond of today.
Through the years baseball has survived wars, scandals and depression. The fans' faith was badly shaken by the Chicago Black Sox Scandal of 1920 when it was revealed that Chicago players had "thrown" the 1919 World Series to Cincinnati, but two men rose up to carry baseball to greater heights of popularity than ever before.
One man was Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a federal judge in Chicago selected by baseball men to rule over the game as a czar. Landis was accepted at once as a symbol of uncompromising honesty and (as his very name suggested) a rock of righteousness. The judge even looked the part for which he was cast, with his jutting chin, his great shock of snow-white hair and his piercing eyes as angry against corruption as a Biblical prophet's.
The other man was George Herman Ruth, the Babe, the boy of the Baltimore "home," the superman, the eternally lovable scamp, a big hulk of an athlete America took to its heart as it has no other. If baseball's status was ever in the slightest doubt, the Babe blasted it away with his home runs and his unique way with the kids of America with whom he seemed to have some secret and beautiful communication.
Another man to whom modern baseball will always be heavily in debt is Branch Rickey. Although his Pittsburgh Pirates now languish in eighth place of the National League, Rickey's influence is felt everywhere. He invented the "farm system" which made it possible for clubs of modest means (like the St. Louis Cardinals of the '20s) to compete on even terms with the richest clubs. Rickey's protégés are all over baseball today—and one of them, Larry MacPhail, who is, out of it, raised the loud and raucous voice that forced the major leagues to adopt night baseball. But Branch Rickey's greatest contribution to baseball—the one that made it truly America's national game—came when he closed the door of his Brooklyn office in 1945 and told Jackie Robinson that he was to be the man to cross baseball's color line. In that meeting Rickey, casting himself as the voice and manner of intolerance, poured into Jackie's ear every insult he could imagine.
He acted the part of a runner charging into Robinson at second base and snarled: "Why, you dirty black...!" Rickey was a hotel clerk in the South, a sports writer full of prejudice, he was a pitcher throwing at Robinson's head, a fan gratuitously pouring out a string of invective as Robinson left the park. It was a scene that only a Rickey could play and as a climax he swung a punch that grazed Jackie's cheek. He spat out another vile name and then, breathing hard, asked: "What do you do now, Jackie?"
Jackie Robinson was silent a moment. But surely he thought of the tens of thousands of colored boys playing ball in the streets and alleyways. Finally, he looked at Rickey and said:
"Mr. Rickey, I guess I turn the other cheek."
Thus, again, at a baseball turning point, two men were exactly right to do what needed to be done. Today there are 25 Negro players in the major leagues, accepted and honored whereever they go.
Last year 14,383,797 persons went to 16 major league ball parks; 23,296,889 saw 292 teams play in 38 minor leagues. A million boys played in the American Legion baseball program, millions more as semipros, in the Little Leagues, the Little Bigger League, the Babe Ruth League. Thanks to television, more Americans saw the game than ever before, millions learning to follow it for the first time.
Deep thinkers, domestic and imported, looked at this baseball picture and said what had been said a thousand times before: Baseball is our national game because it reflects the national character, because it is rugged individualism in action and at the same time a striking demonstration of cooperative effort; it gives a man a chance to blow his top harmlessly; it satisfies the latent killer instinct in us all. And, as the more perceptive thinkers recognized, a big stadium and a roaring crowd are not essential to the baseball drama. All that is really needed to create it is a gang of kids, a beat-up ball, a taped-up bat and a vacant lot. Given these, you have the Babe's Game.
The United States has five million full-time and sometime golfers (a quarter of them women), more than 5,000 courses (twice the number in all the rest of the world) and spends $230 million annually to play the game and extract the maximum enjoyment from its side effects. For this agreeable state of affairs U.S. golfers are in the considerable debt of Mary Queen of Scots, King James I of England, and the boy who was a caddy in Boston when Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey were growing up—Francis Ouimet.
Mary Queen of Scots is the first woman golfer of record, and it was Mary who gave great impetus to the game by playing it often and openly at a time (the 16th Century) when even the Scots regarded it as a frivolous waste of time. Mary (who was beheaded by Elizabeth for another reason entirely) also made a historic contribution to the language of the game. Returning to Scotland from a visit to France, she brought with her the French word cadet to describe the boys who carried her clubs around the golf course. The Scots soon refined cadet into caddy; and the word has served admirably ever since.
But Mary's greatest service to golf was the passing on of her own love for the game to her son, destined to rule Scotland as James VI and take the throne of England as James I. James had the golf bug bad. He is forever the patron of the Sunday golfer. As James I of England, he put the enormous prestige of the British crown behind the solemn proposition that there was nothing wrong with a round or two on the Sabbath, once church services were over. This was a shocking idea to the Puritans of James's day but in 1618 he boldly issued a royal pronouncement entitled "Book of Sports" which asked (and answered) the question: "For when shall the common people have leave to exercise if not upon the Sundayes and Holidays, seeing they must apply their labour, and winne their living in all working days?" The pronouncement settled the issue for King James and he appointed a royal club maker, slapped a royal price ceiling of four shillings on golf balls and played Sundays and weekdays, too.
Almost three centuries after King James had hooked and sliced for the last time, the stage was set for the incomparable Francis Ouimet to make his great contribution to the game as the United States knows it today. It was flourishing before Francis, of course; it had been played crudely even in Colonial times. But it was growing slowly and even its devotees suffered from vague feelings of embarrassment and inferiority. The embarrassment arose out of the fact that it was plainly labeled a game of the upper classes. The inferiority stemmed from the fact that the English seemed to be able to play it best.
The National Open of 1913 changed all that. Entered in it were the greatest stars of the golfing world, the British professionals, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. The only question seemed to be: Would it be Vardon or would it be Ray?
It would not be entirely accurate to say that Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old with the ascetic look of a seminarian, came to the Brookline Country Club, scene of the Open in suburban Boston, out of nowhere. For as a matter of fact he came from just across the street. The modest, workingman's home in which he was raised was directly opposite the 16th hole. For years Francis had trudged across the Brookline course to go to school and, incidentally, to search for lost balls. When he had enough, he traded them for his first golf club. At 11, he became a Brookline caddy. One member of Brookline gave him his first set of well-used clubs; later another member invited Francis to play Brookline's course (in violation of the caddy master's rules) for the first time. The caddy master spotted him at the 15th tee and Francis was so upset that he took a 10—for an 84.
Francis was very well known around Brookline but to Harry Vardon and Ted Ray and the other big stars who had come there for the 1913 National Open, the name of Francis Ouimet could not have meant less. And yet it was this rail of a boy who stood tied with Vardon and Ray at the end of the 72-hole test and who went on to outplay and outnerve them in a playoff that for sheer drama has never been matched. Henry Leach, a British golf writer, affected not to believe what he had seen with his own eyes:
"American golfers are telling me [wrote Leach] that Mr. Francis Ouimet, an amateur, has won the open golf championship of the United States. That is nonsense. Harry Vardon, five times open champion of Great Britain and the world, the finest, most splendid player who ever hit a ball, was one of the competitors. Edward Ray, open champion of Great Britain and the world last year, who can drive a ball farther than any man alive, was another. How could Francis Ouimet beat these men? Nobody can beat them. Francis Ouimet is only 20 years of age—a youth, a boy. You tell me that a child like this, scarcely blooded to the game, has beaten our Vardon and our Ray? The conditions also—a heavy, sodden course, a drizzling, depressing rain—made the game harder than ever to play, and no fluke victories could be accomplished. How, then, could Mr. Ouimet win? It is absurd."
Finally, conceding that it did happen, Leach wrote: "This was the greatest day in all golf history. There will never be another like it. There cannot be. Only four Englishmen besides myself have seen it, and when we are old men, little golfing children will ask us to tell them again the romantic story of the 20th of September in 1913."
Francis Ouimet was just right, a Horatio Alger champion who came along at precisely the right time. A boy from the wrong side of the tracks, a caddy, a kid who worked after school and during summer vacations. Francis was a champion everyone could take to his heart. Now golf was no longer labeled the caprice of the upper classes. Now the clerk, the shopkeeper, the factory worker was emboldened to buy a bag of clubs and lug them aboard a trolley car to the public courses. When Ouimet vanquished Vardon and Ray, there were no more than 350,000 golfers in the nation. Within 10 years there were two million, and Americans were playing the best brand of golf in the world.
Taking nothing from Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur of all time, or from Ben Hogan, the best of all the professionals; nothing from John Reid, "father of American golf" who laid out the first three-hole course in a Yonkers, N.Y. cow pasture; nothing from the great names of Travers, Travis, Evans, Hagen, Sarazen, Snead, Sweetser, Little, Turnesa, Stirling, Collett, Suggs, Zaharias and all the rest down to Ed Furgol and Billy Joe Patton and back to King James and Mary Queen of Scots—still and for always there will be Francis Ouimet, standing alone as the kid from across the street who beat the Englishmen, Mr. Vardon and Mr. Ray.
A TRANSFUSION FOR TENNIS
Less than a year after the great victory of Francis Ouimet in golf, the drama was almost exactly duplicated in tennis. The backdrops were the same, the cast of characters played roles uncannily similar.
Tennis had also been regarded as an upper-class, much too ladylike, game. Its capital was the ultrafashionable resort of Newport, R.I. and Eastern newspapers usually sent more society reporters than sports writers to the tournaments. But in August of 1914, exactly 40 years ago this week, the West Side Tennis Club of Forest Hills, Long Island, was host to the Davis Cup players for the first time. With all of New York City to draw on, the matches attracted daily crowds of 12,000 and more, including many rank and file sports fans who, if they came to scoff at the garden party game, remained to be thrilled by a monumental upset. They saw Maurice "Red" McLoughlin, a 24-year-old California real estate salesman, overwhelm the Vardon and Ray of the tennis world: Norman Brookes and Anthony Wilding of the Australian Davis Cup team.
McLoughlin, who had learned the game on the public courts of his home town of Carson City, Nevada before moving to California, brought to Forest Hills a more devastating service, a more savage net attack than had ever been seen up to that time. He defeated Brookes, No. 1 player of the world, with scores that tell the story: 17-15, 6-3, 6-3. Next he whipped Wilding, the No. 2 player, 6-2, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
In years to come, it was McLoughlin's style which became the foundation for the even greater games of Big Bill Tilden, Little Bill Johnston, R. Norris Williams and the others. But tennis, in this new golden age when Australia again has most of the top players in the men's game, still honors the name of McLoughlin, the young man who smashed the tyranny of the tea cups and made the racquet another symbol of red-blooded sport.
RED BLOOD TO SPARE
If tennis needed a transfusion of red blood, a large share of football's troubles have come from having too much. Growing out of the English games of soccer and rugby, the first game of American college football was played by Harvard and McGill University of Montreal, Canada in 1874.
It was an instant hit, but it quickly became a crushing, bruising, punishing game. With the flying wedge introduced by Harvard in 1892 and flying interference originated by the University of Pennsylvania in 1894, the early game placed its emphasis on brute strength. It had become so filled with violence by 1905 that the whole country was appalled and President Theodore Roosevelt had to step in to save it. Roosevelt, a football fan as well as a warm admirer of all other sports, summoned college officials to the White House for a meeting which led to a drastic change in rules. Out of these changes came a more open style of play and the use of the forward pass. This last was quickly exploited by St. Louis University but it was not widely employed until Gus Dorais and Knute Rockne used it brilliantly as Notre Dame, then little known, upset Army in 1913.
All these events were concerned with the playing field, but in 1914 Yale University looked to the spectators. The Yale Bowl was built at New Haven and it started a trend toward the king-sized stadium demanded by the ever-increasing crowds that boomed football into a major U.S. sport.
Today football provides Americans present at the scene with an opportunity to yell in unison and in rhythm over swift-moving events that are not always precisely clear to them, to hear the music of smart-stepping bands, to pound one another on the back, to sing, to weep, to laugh and, with social propriety, to drink whiskey straight from the bottle. On one day of the year, New Year's Day, when the big bowl games are played and broadcast, football receives America's almost undivided attention.
But on all days, from the close of Baseball's World Series to New Year's night, football is very much on America's mind. It is kept there by high school, college and professional teams which play before an estimated 35 million spectators. It is kept there not only by the games that are played, but by the build-ups and letdowns, the wild claims of brash coaches, the banshee wails of those who affect a chronic pessimism. It is kept there by radio broadcasts of all leading games and network telecasts of a Game of the Week.
But for the genuine football fan, not even color television in 3-D would provide an acceptable substitute for the thrill of being part of the football crowd. The 56,338 seats for next October's Notre Dame-Michigan State game were sold out on July 23.
In sports' new golden age, football is at its peak of popularity and a significant change in the rules last year may well produce individual stars to match those of the '20s. For more than a decade, the rules had permitted unlimited substitutions. Out of this came the two-platoon system. Now limited substitutions are again the rule and as a result, players must be more versatile and durable. And of versatility and durability the Red Granges and the J. C. Carolines (J. C. is performing brilliantly on Red's old campus at the University of Illinois) are made.
THE MAGNIFICENT DIGRESSION
In the development of games played with an inflated leather-encased ball (soccer, rugby, U.S. football), there was a digression in the fall of 1891—a digression with magnificent results.
James A. Naismith, a physical director employed by the Springfield, Mass. branch of the Y.M.C.A., was worried about his job. Attendance at the Y gym was falling off and Naismith was searching for some new kind of game, suitable for part-time and middle-aged athletes, and playable in a gymnasium. Walking the streets of Springfield one night, he passed a grocery store with peach baskets stacked outside. Naismith had been thinking of a game to be played with soccer balls and now the complete idea hit him. Why not throw soccer balls into peach baskets?
Naismith hurried home and started drafting a set of rules. Next evening he assembled a group of middle-aged men at the Y and began to teach them the new sport. They were crazy for it, and by January 20, 1892 Dr. Naismith had enough players to put on the first basketball game in history at the Springfield Y.
"Next season," he recalled years later, "young boys took up the game and the world knows the rest of the story."
Today, basketball is one of the great games of the world. Last season in the United States, college games drew crowds totaling more than eight million. Professional basketball games attracted 2,250,000 persons and were televised to weekly audiences averaging 7,500,000. Basketball teams of the Amateur Athletic Union gave 6,635 men and 6,056 women an opportunity to participate. High schools play the game before uncountable millions (it is a year round game in many states) and in Indiana high school basketball is an institution that outshines the very moon along the Wabash. Fort Wayne has a basketball arena seating 10,000—Switz City (pop. 328) has one seating 4,500.
The Y.M.C.A., missionaries, American soldiers of both World Wars and the Harlem Globe Trotters, a professional team that features comedy with flabbergasting ball-handling, have spread the peach basket game around the world. China, Japan, India, Egypt, Syria, Turkey and Canada have had the game for half a century. Almost every other European and Asian country has taken it up, in varying degrees, in more recent years. Russia played it well enough in the 1952 Olympics to finish as runner-up to the U.S.
For dyed-in-the-wool fans, there is no game like basketball and among its heroes, George Mikan of the professional Minneapolis Lakers occupies the position of Babe Ruth in baseball. On all levels one thing is certain: Naismith's invention (the only game purely American in its origin) now is so exciting that the middle-aged man for whom it was conceived finds the mere watching of it strenuous enough.
EVERY MAN A KING
In the foregoing sampling of the sports scene, all the games that have been explored depend on the contest alone for their appeal. But the most heavily favored sport (in terms of paid admissions) in the new golden age has a little something added. Not only may the spectator witness an exciting sports drama; he may sit in prior judgment of it as a seer and then may post a cash wager that he has judged correctly.
Horse racing was never more golden than in this new golden age. In 1953, a total of 49,747,992 fans saw all the horses run, trot or pace. There is good reason to expect that 1954 figures will be just as impressive.
Racing has always been popular in America. There was a race track on Long Island in 1665, and a little later Virginia had five tracks operating. Still later George Washington was a Virginia owner, breeder and racing official. The South held a virtual monopoly on racing before the Civil War, but after it racing boomed in the North as well. Before the war one of the greatest of America's running horses was in his prime. His name was Lexington (he set a record for the four-mile track of 7:19¾ which stood for 19 years) and he belongs in a select company of great American horses, including Man o' War, Exterminator, Seabiscuit, War Admiral, Citation, Whirlaway and the fabulous gray: Native Dancer. The Dancer's record is identical with that of Man o' War.
There were great jockeys to ride America's great horses. Tod Sloan, popularizer of the modern "monkey crouch" seat, so captured the imagination and affections of Americans that George M. Cohan wrote Yankee Doodle Boy about him. Today there are jockeys with the winning ways, if not the personal glamour, of Sloan. Among them: Eddie Arcaro, with 3,352 wins, Ted Atkinson with 2,980, Willie Shoemaker with 1,832, Johnny Longden with 4,426, and Sir Gordon Richards, the jockey knighted in 1953 by Queen Elizabeth, with 4,870.
But if the spotlight were reserved for just one man in the history of running horses in the U.S., it would have to fall on the late Colonel Matt Winn, long president of the American Turf Association. Racing is in debt to Colonel Winn not only for doing so much to build the Kentucky Derby into an American institution, but for saving racing's very life. There was a great reform wave directed against the sport in the early 1900s and it was Colonel Winn who turned back the tide. He installed pari-mutuel machines at Churchill Downs at Louisville, Ky., in 1908, and persuaded two Maryland tracks to do the same. Thus, he kept racing going when tracks in all other states were shut down. The machines had been tried out as far back as 1870, but Colonel Winn made them stick.
Today, in the view of many who have never seen the horses run, it is the machines alone that draw the millions to the tracks. The late Joe Palmer, the college professor who turned racing writer, would have none of that notion. "Racing," Palmer once wrote, "is an athletic contest among horses. If the spectators can whip the totalizator, meanwhile, that's all right, too. But it isn't what people go to see, and it isn't what you pick up a paper to read about. The statement is frequently made that people go to races to bet. This is a half truth (or seven eighths truth) and it is denied in part by the fact that the worst betting race on the card—the steeplechase—inspires the most excitement and interest."
Alben W. Barkley, the former vice president, agrees with Dr. Palmer, the former professor, that "to see a real thoroughbred horse perform is one of the joys of man." And anyone who exposes himself to the color and excitement of the race track, with its ritual and fanfare, with its splendid (the slowest of them) horses, as eager to run as Willie Mays is to get the ball game started, anyone who holds his breath in the agonizing moments before the start and lets himself go with the crowd as it roars in the stretch, anyone so caught up in the racing drama is almost certain to be won to the views of the Palmers and the Barkleys—especially if he has a $2 ticket from the machines riding on the nose of the front-running horse.
THE NEW GOLDEN AGE
In this look around and over the shoulder at the sporting scene in a mid-century world, no attempt has been made to list all the great stars and all the great events that in some way contribute to the richness of this new golden age. The principal point to be made here is that, while we once seemed in grave danger of becoming a world of onlookers, now millions are getting out and participating in sports. And, at the same time, the same millions have time to be spectators at events that for color and excitement and high quality of individual performances make no apologies to any other age.
The world of sport has never truly recognized any world outside its own. In the world of sport, George Washington is admitted as a horse owner along with Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth; Dwight D. Eisenhower is a golfer, a hunter, a fisherman and fair-to-middlin' camp cook. In some other world outside, men of science have produced some new bombs, some new missiles and a wrinkle-resistant wash-and-wear suit for men. But who has time for these items—except possibly umpires who get awfully wrinkled? The only bombers the baseball fans of the typical American city of Cleveland, Ohio fear are those led out of The Bronx by Casey Stengel.
This does not mean that the world of sport is a dream world. As a matter of fact, there are solid reasons for suspecting that it is at present performing with greater logic and more straight talk than the world to which the front pages of newspapers are devoted. The talk, it should be said quickly, may not always seem straight to outsiders (take Casey Stengel's calculated gibberish as an example), but the sports fan's ear automatically translates as the eye automatically inverts an image. Thus, when a Frank Leahy-type of football coach says: "We'll be lucky if we get a first down," the fan instantly knows he really means: "It will be a massacre by my boys."
Far from being a dream world, the world of sport, booming as it is everywhere, may be keeping another world from blowing its top, literally and figuratively. At a time when the talk is all of freedom, the sports world demonstrates every day its own brand of freedom which makes it possible for a man to do anything he has enough will to do (Score: Free Germany 3; Red Hungary 2). And yet, there is the reminder that this freedom is not the freedom to do just anything: the freedom of the sports world operates within a framework of rules.
The free sports world has solved many a social problem that appeared impossible of solution in the world outside—remember Rickey and Robinson in 1945. At a time when juvenile delinquency is an alarming problem, the sports world is doing for tens of thousands of boys what it did for the famous boys of 1910, Ruth, Ouimet and Dempsey. In New York City, the police put more faith in the Police Athletic League as a weapon against delinquency than they do in their night sticks. From Chicago, the Catholic Youth Organization founded in 1930 by Bishop Bernard J. Sheil has spread its sports gospel to more than 10 million boys and girls from coast to coast. Authorities everywhere agree that a boy busy with sports has little time to get in trouble.
There is nothing bad about sports. Where there seems to be, a closer look reveals that what is wrong is wrong with people. You can look only at the wrong people and dry up into a sports cynic. Or, while you remain vigilant against the corrupters and degraders, you can look for the good and the wonderful things—and they are everywhere in this new golden age.
LEADING SPECTATOR SPORTS
Estimated paid and unpaid admissions at U.S. events
HORSE RACING 50,000,000
LEADING PARTICIPANT SPORTS
Estimated totals of individuals active in the last calendar year
THE PRESIDENT GOLFER
"I have played the game only a little. I think it is a fine method of relaxation for men in business life, but, like everything else which is an outside enterprise, it can undoubtedly be carried to excess."
—Calvin Coolidge, 1926
THE WHOLE MAN
"Sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man and, while perfecting the body, it also makes the mind a more refined instrument for the search and communication of truth."
—Pope Pius XII, 1945
AT RINGSIDE: HOMER
One of the earliest sports writers was Homer. About 3,000 years ago he covered a bout between Euryalous and Epeios and wrote:
"...and the two boxers being girt went into the midst of the ring, and both lifting up their stalwart hands fell to.... And noble Epeios came on, and as the other spied for an opening, smote him on the cheek, nor could he much more stand, for his fair limbs failed straightway under him...and his dear comrades stood around him and led him through the ring with trailing feet, spitting out clotted blood, dropping his head awry, and they set him down in his swoon among them...."
—The Iliad, Book XXIII
OUR FIRST SPORTSMAN
Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first president to appropriate a White House lawn for golf practice, here completes a pitch shot to an imaginary green. The green is no longer imaginary. A real one was recently constructed outside the President's office. It has a small sand trap on one side, two undersized holes, deliberately made that way to help Ike sharpen his putting eye. Other sports facilities at the White House: F.D.R.'s swimming pool and a bowling alley installed during the Truman administration.
BOB MATHIAS VS. JIM THORPE IN THE OLYMPICS
100 METERS DASH
22 ft. 6¾ in.
22 ft. 10¾ in.
6 ft. 1½
6 ft. 2¾ in.
400 METERS RUN
42 ft. 5½ in.
50 ft. 2¼ in.
125 ft. 3¾ in.
153 ft. 10 in.
110 METERS HURDLE
10 ft. 8 in.
13 ft. 1¼ in.
149 ft. 11¼ in.
194 ft. 3¼ in.
4 min. 40.1 sec.
1500 METERS RUN
4 min. 50.8 sec.
In 1952 U.S. Decathlon Mathias beat Thorpe's 1500-meter time with 4 min. 33.6 sec.