Summer, hurrying to its close, produced a week of climax and contention.
•All four front-running big league baseball clubs kept jostling, shirt-sleeved weekend crowds roaring with high-decibel tension. In the American League, Cleveland was four games ahead of New York by Sunday and in the National League the Giants were one and a half games in front of the Dodgers as they headed for this week's trysts with fate and each other—the Indian-Yankee, Giant-Dodger series which could all but settle the 1954 pennant races in a few explosive days. The hum of eventfulness even played over Williamsport, Pa., where baseball's Little Leaguers, striking major-league postures, settled the championship of the 12-and-under set (see pages 24-25).
•In track-and-field events, Russia's heralded athletes scored 269 points and swept the European Games at Bern, Switzerland—though not without an unplanned touch of comedy. Soviet Marathoner Ivan Filin, a gnarled little ex-coal miner, trotted into Neufeld Stadium in the lead but groggily started his lap around the track clockwise (in Europe races are run counterclockwise). Officials turned him around after 30 yards, but in that time Finland's Veikko Karvonen, winner of this year's Boston marathon, was on his way to victory, and Russia's Boris Grischaev on his way to second. After Film's fist-shaking protests, the officials awarded him an extra gold medal.
September 5, 1954
•The somnolent metropolis of Philadelphia was roused with cries and countercries. Second Baseman Granny Hamner of the Phillies (who made headlines earlier by nabbing a private detective in the act of trailing him home) bitterly complained that the club was still treating players "like high school kids." In retort, Manager Terry Moore complained, among other things, that some players had been airily drinking whisky before his very eyes. After thinking it all over for a day, Hamner apologized and quiet descended once more.
•Horse racing, too, enjoyed a brief, refreshing line squall. Owner Andy Crevolin (whose Determine won the Kentucky Derby, whose stable has amassed more than $656,130 in winnings this year) announced in a magazine interview that neither he nor many another turfman ran young horses to win in early races. The Illinois Racing Commission turned on him, furious as dowagers confronted by a tattooed woman. Crevolin, too, apologized (see page 56)—although he waited five days to Granny Hamner's one.
•Meanwhile, as their elders quarrelled, sporting youth helped itself liberally to the huckleberry pie of victory. Twenty-four-year-old Arnold Palmer of Cleveland rallied at the last minute to defeat 43-year-old veteran Robert Sweeny of New York and win the U.S. Amateur golf tournament.
Fourteen-year-old Nick Egan, an ice-cream-gulping high school sophomore from Flushing, L.I., outshot the biggest trapshooting field in history to win the 55th Grand American Handicap—while 14-year-old Dianne Williamson, a ninth-grader from Compton, Calif., beat all feminine contestants in the trapshoot (see page 22).
•And, last but far from least, Nashua, a two-year-old trained by Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, won the $78,750 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga with Eddie Arcaro up—and seemed (with Native Dancer retired and this year's U.S. three-year-olds a less than fascinating lot) on the way to becoming the nation's next equine hero. "I don't know whether he's ready...just yet," said Arcaro not long ago, "but in the long run you just watch him, he's the best." Nashua, as it turned out, was ready.
Applause on the Platte
Properly conceived, pursuit of the noble trout is an intellectual as well as a satisfyingly atavistic occupation, and there are few men who do not feel an urge to be alone when they wade out, fly rod in hand, to stalk the runs and riffles of their favorite stream. All over the country last week, fishermen shuddered as if with the ague when they contemplated the drawbacks of the presidency, and vehemently informed their long-suffering wives that they would not take the job if George Washington himself returned from the grave, white charger and all, and personally pleaded with them to move into the White House.
They were referring, of course, to the fact that crowds of excited Coloradans lined a dirt road along the north fork of the South Platte River one day last week and watched Ike Eisenhower's fishing technique with a disconcerting beadiness. But even though Ike grumbled a bit himself at the lack of privacy, there is good reason to believe that the average U.S. fisherman would have ceased shuddering and swapped places with him in an instant if the opportunity had only arisen.
The scene of the presidential outing, for one thing, was enough to make the average fly fisherman stare like an owl at noon. Beyond the flat grassy meadows of the Swan Hereford Ranch (owned by Denver Banker Bal Swan, an old friend of the Eisenhowers) the pine-dotted Colorado mountains stood in craggy majesty against a clear blue sky. As Ike advanced, in a powder blue Stetson, loud yellow shirt, fishing jacket and hip boots, clear warm sunlight bathed the high (7,500 feet) valley. The river ran crystal clear over its riffles, blue-green in its deep pools. And within moments after Ike made his first cast—he fished a black-bodied dry fly tied on a No. 14 hook—a two-foot rainbow rolled and sucked it in. The water was full of big, hungry trout—Friend Swan had thoughtfully purchased 500 pounds of them from nearby Elk Creek Hatchery a few days before and dumped them into the river.
It was, in a word, a situation beyond the ordinary. Even purists, who argue that only wild trout deserve their attentions, seldom bridle at a planted fish mannerly enough to rise to the fly—if they have cast the fly. And a good deal of a fisherman's desire for privacy stems, in all honesty, from the need to be alone in those horrible moments when his fly hangs up in a tree or he puts down a fish with a cast calculated to frighten a whale. Once engaged in combat with a big one he is apt to yell for a gallery—and Ike, before his admiring claque, took trout after trout with nonchalance and ease.
The first two-footer got away. There were times later, when his attention wandered—he snagged a bush at one point as a delighted elderly housewife called: "Hello, Mr. Eisenhower. I came here last year to see you. God bless you!" But he had a dozen trout by lunchtime, among them a 16-incher which weighed almost two pounds. He donned an apron and cooked them for his friends over an outdoor barbecue, and returned to the stream for more in the afternoon—though he was fishing public water, the stream had been privately stocked and the State of Colorado had no objection to his exceeding the normal legal limit of 10 fish. He headed back to Denver with the air of a man who had lived. This week, furthermore, he planned to go deeper into the Rockies, to distant St. Louis Creek —there, with another eminent U.S. dry-fly artist named Herbert Hoover, he will attack the trout again with nobody around but Secret Service men.
Minor sport (farm)
In Hog calling, as in life at large, there is a right way and a wrong way. Herewith, for their inspirational value, are the official rules for scoring the hog callers who last week competed in a farm sports festival held on the campus of the University of Illinois:
"A. VOLUME or CARRYING CAPACITY. This is important because the voice must reach the ears of the hogs if they are in the backfield.
"B. APPEAL. The voice must be earnest and sincere, denoting honesty. It must carry conviction to the hogs that their supper awaits them.
"C. VARIETY. A varied call is more interesting and penetrating than a monotonous one given in the same key.
"D. ORIGINALITY. The hog should know his master's voice so he may not be fooled by impostors.
"E. CLEARNESS and MUSICAL QUALITY. A clear, musical call is more enticing and appealing than a throaty one lacking music. Hogs enjoy music and happiness aids digestion. A musical call will bring them in quicker and with better appetite."
In other words, the hog expects you to have a voluminous musical appeal with varied originality. And, oh yes, a pair of leather lungs.
Woman are so pleasantly constituted that they cannot compete on even terms with men in sports. This fact was accepted in Victorian times as healthy and normal, like fainting, and a girl who did not like athletics was welcomed everywhere.
Even today, in spite of the eminence of Babe Zaharias and Maureen Connolly, there still are members of the sex who do not care for athletics. A father of one of these, after profitlessly studying his daughter for 16 years in the hope of finding some outdoorsy thing which would interest her, has come to the conclusion that she is incorrigibly unathletic. So have the authorities at the school she attends.
For some time now there has been a conflict between the daughter, who dislikes sports, and the authorities, who insist on sports. She describes the authorities as "pedagogic bureaucrats," making it sound like something which has been spat. The bureaucrats are determined that every girl in the school shall engage in athletics, as they put it, and not just gym but something competitive. The girls are required to choose among field hockey, volley ball and a version of softball.
What riles the daughter as much as anything is that this compulsion is selective. It does not apply to boys. Boys can collect stamps if they like. Girls have to get out in the open and sweat.
She sees in the rule all kinds of dark implications, such as the possibility that some day women will be working on road gangs during summer vacations in order to stay in something that may be called shape. We are being Russianized, she says, in the name of democracy. She refers to her volley ball team (she chose volley ball) as "the collective" and to the captain of the team as "Rough Cut."
During a vacation which looks forward once more to school—and a choice between volley ball and field hockey—her morale has been sustained only by the memory of an event which featured the Victory Celebration of her volley ball team last season. She was voted Most Detrimental.
Look sharp, Vermont
Its last problem solved with the hiring of engineers who can get to work next winter on skis, Vermont's first television transmitter went into operation atop Mount Mansfield last week. Although some Vermonters have been kibitzing on New York and Canadian television stations, the entire state will now be exposed to video. Thus, what has become commonplace to most other Americans will come fresh and startling to thousands of new viewers. Soon Vermonters will be whistling (in spite of themselves) the Look Sharp Be Sharp March, which has become the theme music for many a sports event. A little later, the same Vermonters may be wishing they had never heard the thing or, indeed, its companion piece, the stirring How're Ya Fixed for Blades? But Vermonters will find that the price they pay is not too high. For the theme music will herald some of the best sports events on the calendar: the World Series, the Rose Bowl game, the Kentucky Derby, the big fights. And even the most sophisticated sports fans among them now have an edifying experience in store for them. Inevitably, in one of the commercial interludes—there in their own homes among the Green Mountains —they may see a ball player shave.
Disruptive St. Leger
It is traditional that the St. Leger Stakes be run at Doncaster, near Sheffield, on a Wednesday. But tradition and economics are barely on speaking terms in England nowadays, and so this year, as in all but one since 1939, the famous race will be run on a Saturday—September 11.
Each year Doncaster hopefully schedules the race for a Wednesday and each year, at the last moment, is forced to move it to the weekend. The reason, as reported by The Sporting Life: "Representations had been made to the government by South Yorkshire industrialists that a midweek St. Leger would disrupt production and cause voluntary absenteeism...."
In 1946, the one year since World War II began that the St. Leger was held on a Wednesday, the Yorkshire Post estimated a turnout of 250,000. The St. Leger did not always attract great crowds. In 1777, 150 good seats were offered, at seven guineas each, with first refusal to "the noblemen and gentlemen that live in the town and the neighborhood." Seventy-nine of the tickets were sold.
The striper cometh
The big fellow is out there somewhere, having a high old time, chasing his sea-going snacks right up to the beaches on the black and stormy nights. These are the nights when the surf casters put on their foul-weather gear and come out in force because they know that the worse the weather, the closer the big fellow will come.
Right now, the big fellow is smart. He's been smart ever since he swam out of Chesapeake Bay in the late spring and started his annual journey north. He has been laughing his striped bass laugh as he has spotted the plugs and jigs cast before him in an attempt to deceive him. The big fellow is buying none of these tackle shop tidbits.
The big fellow will outsmart the surf casters all along Cape Cod. But then, full of cockiness, he will start south toward a fateful rendezvous in which some tin or plastic gadget will fool him, smart as he is. For this big fellow is the one destined to win the Martha's Vineyard Derby (Sept. 15 through Oct. 15) for some surf caster who, at this moment, may be staring dreamily out of an office window in New York or Boston or Chicago or Kansas City.
The surf casters come from all over to the Martha's Vineyard Derby, but wherever they come from, they are all of one breed. They are the most dedicated of all fishermen. Others who fish with zeal and passion must have a fish now and then to keep them going. Only the surf caster can survive on faith alone. Only the surf caster can come back year after year with never so much as a strike to reward him. His faith never fails him. He believes, he knows, that some day, some year, his striped bass will come along and when it does, it will have been worth all the waiting.
Let last year's winner of the Vineyard Derby testify. He is a tall and lean young man crowding 30 and his name is James Walpole. Reached on the job at a Martha's Vineyard hardware store, he had this to say about what his winning striper (51 pounds, 11 ounces) had meant to him:
"It was the most terrific thing that ever happened to me. I hadn't even had a strike for six years. Overnight, I'm a big man. I'm on television. I pose for newsreels, I give out interviews for sportswriters. I get my picture taken shaking hands with the governor of Massachusetts. Everybody stops me on Main Street with the big hello. I seem to get more confidence. They tell me my whole personality has improved. All this that one big striper did for me."
This year's big striper is out there right now, swimming slowly toward his rendezvous with the surf caster who will win the 1954 derby. And the lucky fellow will never be the same again.
Win, place and revolt
The London Daily Worker has been printing racing selections since 1935, presumably on the theory that the workers of the world have nothing to lose but their change. Almost from the beginning the Worker's horse-seer has been Alf Rubin, who at 18 won a newspaper contest by picking eight winners out of eight. This topped a previous achievement, at age 9, when he precociously forecast the winner of the 1926 Derby (Coronach, 11-2) and the second and fourth horses as well.
When the Worker began publishing in 1930, the party line, based on a conviction that the revolution was only a furlong away, grimly opposed mention of the morning line. But after some experience with recurring crises of circulation the paper decided to humor, for the time being at least, the fascination which horse racing holds for the British working class as well as for British royalty. The Worker ran a few predictions and then decided to get itself an expert. Standing outside the door was Alf.
Alf Rubin, at 37, has thinning hair, blinks out at the world through thick glasses, and talks somewhat incoherently when the subject is not horses. He claims that he is no Communist and that he never votes.
"It doesn't matter which government is in," he says, "so long as you keep out of trouble with the police."
Furthermore, Rubin disagrees with the Worker's editorial policy.
"What the British public wants," he says, "is good sports coverage in a newspaper, not all that politics."
Holding such deviationist views, it is a marvel that Rubin has survived almost 20 years on the Worker staff.
The secret is in his picks. He has been studying racing forms since shortly after he learned to read and his selections, unlike those of the vast majority of track experts, show a profit. So far this season he is anywhere from 28 to 80 points ahead (points being equal to any currency unit the bettor can afford—dollar, pound or shilling) depending on whether his followers bet to win, across the board or long shot.
"You should follow this man," proclaims the Worker, not unreasonably, to its readers. "When Cayton (Rubin's nom de track is Cayton because the Worker started publishing on Cayton Street) gave our readers his 400th...winner of the season last Tuesday that was just another milestone in his long and successful career for the Daily Worker."
The man on whom the Communist paper depends for a fair chunk of its estimated 83,000 circulation had to leave school at 14. For four years he worked at such jobs as tailor's assistant until the day he astounded the Sunday Referee by picking eight out of eight winners in that newspaper's contest. The Referee hired him, though only for a month. From the Referee he went to the Daily Worker. There he became easily the hottest item on the sports page.
He has had spectacular triumphs, some of them with mystical overtones. In 1949 Russian Hero won the Grand National at 66 to 1. Who picked Russian Hero? The Daily Worker's man, Rubin. This sort of thing leads to jokes and Rubin resents them. The Observer chided him recently for selecting Red Influence in a race at Newmarket. Red Influence won, naturally,' but Rubin is still infuriated at suggestions that propaganda sways his studies.
Rubin seldom bets and almost never goes to the track. He knows very little about breeding, since "that's another field." He works solely from form.
"It's a nerve-racking job," he says. "Nobody believes what a nerve-racking job it is."
Watch the guards,
The experts say;
They're the tip-off
To the play.
But I shall peek
And see, this fall,
What is happening
To the ball.