•Through the roar of major league crowds and the cries of peanut vendors last week came the unmistakable clanking sound of the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers running on treadmills. The Yankees outpitched and outhit their vexing rivals from Cleveland to win two games out of three—only to lose the following series to Washington while Cleveland was winning. The Dodgers took out in pursuit of the Giants in a now-or-never mood, only to stumble, two games out of three, in the Polo Grounds (see pages 19-22). Bookmakers in Las Vegas, Nev., who know that races are seldom won on treadmills, this week made the Cleveland Indians (at 2-7) and the New York Giants (at 1-4) odds-on favorites to win.
•At Forest Hills, over the decorous applause and the ping of rackets hitting tennis balls, came the muffled sound of favorites falling on grass. In the beginning, the National Singles tournament seemed like a complex mechanism for putting Tony Trabert, defending champion and top-seeded U.S. player, at the throat of Australia's 19-year-old ace, Lew Hoad. But neither even got to the semifinals. Trabert was beaten by Australia's Rex Hartwig, seeded No. 4 among foreign entrants. Hoad fell to Ham Richardson of New Orleans, the inspired diabetic, who is ranked No. 6 among U.S. players.
•Quietest news of the week came from Kid Gavilan, welterweight champion of the world, who canceled his fight with Johnny Saxton on the ground that he had gotten his lumps before the battle. The Keed, three physicians testified, had the mumps.
September 12, 1954
Skeet Shooter Carola Mandel of Chicago is one of the best-dressed women in sport (see pages 50-51). Last week she added a new item to her apparel: the national 20-gauge skeet crown. Hitherto, national open championships in skeet have been won exclusively by men, but last week at Waterford, Mich. Mrs. Mandel made a clay pigeon of that tradition.
To win the 20-gauge championship Mrs. Mandel broke 50 straight targets in a shoot-off against five men after knocking off a perfect 100 straight to win the women's 20-gauge division. She also won the women's High-Over-All championship.
While the clothes she wears are fastidiously smart, the guns she uses in competition are prosy, standard-grade jobs. She does own some fancy, highly ornamented weapons but when she leaves her handsome three-story house on Chicago's Near North Side for a meet, the shotguns she packs are the old reliables—a.410-gauge Winchester pump Model 42, and 28-, 20-and 12-gauge versions of the Remington automatic Sportsman 48.
Beating men at what used to be considered their own game is not altogether new for Mrs. Mandel. She did it in 1950, her first year of full competition, when she entered an international meet in Spain and topped all the men. She takes pride in outshooting men, not because they are men but because they represent the toughest competition. And Mrs. Mandel is a competitor. She has participated in shoots in freezing cold, in 103-degree heat waves, in driving rain and with a case of mumps—something for Kid Gavilan to think upon. Last week at Waterford she won her greatest triumph with a broken toe, suffered the night before competition began when she walked into, naturally, a bathroom door.
The delicate mechanism that controls human emotions, one of the eternal mysteries was revealed for a moment last week, but, as usual, the mystery remained. After Ham Richardson's grueling upset victory over Lew Hoad in the quarter finals of the National Tennis Championship, his mother, Mrs. Roger Richardson, who had watched every minute of the match from the marquee, was dissolved in tears. "I was all prepared," she sniffled, "to smile in defeat."
Jockeys seldom hear applause. Race track crowds grow noisy enough, it is true, but they generate a peculiar cacophony all their own; they want their money, and as the horses round the final turn into the stretch the bettors grumble, complain and demand. Even the notes of exultation in the uproar have a certain hoarseness of tone; joy at the track is bought on the gray market. But the sound changed one day last week at Aqueduct. That eminent thoroughbred driver, Theodore Frederic Atkinson, banged a Greentree 2-year-old named Devastation home in front in the third race and was rewarded with genuine whistles and genuine cheers. Teddy had just become the fourth man in racing history to ride 3,000 winners (the others: Sir Gordon Richards, Johnny Longden and Eddie Arcaro), and as he went under the wire he had gotten a leg up, as it were, on immortality.
The next day, while shirt-sleeved sports from Flatbush and Avenue A crowded the fence around the winner's circle, the dignitaries of the Queens County Jockey Club hailed the fact with ceremony. Atkinson, a black-haired, handsome little man (5 ft. 2 in., Ill lbs.) dismounted after the sixth race and walked forward, still dirty and sweating from his exertions. Before him reposed a card table with shaky legs. Upon the table reposed a limp caterer's napkin, and upon the napkin a silver bowl. Gray-haired Cyrus Julian, Aqueduct's president, shook the hero's hand, described him aloud as "a model of deportment and a tribute to racing," and presented him with the silverware.
"Comb your hair, Teddy," bawled a voice from the throng. "Less talk—give him a drink!" yelled another. Teddy acknowledged these tributes with a grin, made a short, graceful speech in praise of 1) Aqueduct's officials, 2) its racing strip and 3) its "two-dollar bettors." Then he fled along the track to the jockey house' to change his silks and, as it turned out, to ride winner 3,001. The crowd against the fence—which often takes up its position there simply to catch losing jocks at close range and tell them what larcenous and scurvy bums it considers them—applauded all the way. It was a tribute indeed.
It seemed, however, like little enough. Atkinson was born in Toronto in 1916, was raised in upper New York State (where his father, a glass blower, toiled for the Corning Glass Works) and launched his own career during the depression as an $8-a-week labeler in a Brooklyn bottling works. He was 20 years old before he as much as touched a horse, and then he did so only experimentally at a Bronx riding academy—thus, according to track lore, he was too old to succeed before he started. He rode his first winner, a beast named Musical Jack, on the "leaky-roof circuit" at Beulah Park, Columbus, Ohio at the age of 21. Nevertheless, as of last week, he had ridden no less than 18,112 mounts, had not only racked up his 3,000 victories, but 2,546 seconds and 2,263 thirds as well. In so doing he had earned $12,951,305 for owners and a tenth of that sum for himself.
It was difficult not to wonder what traits of character lay behind these impressive figures. Atkinson, lounging in the jockey house with a cooling can of beer, answered only indirectly—but clearly enough. He is a dignified little man—quiet, courteous, well-read, well-spoken. But a look of real anger crossed his face when the 3,000th victory was mentioned. "Some of the newspapers are saying I lost my job," he said. This seemed like startling news—had Green-tree fired him?
"My job at the bottling works," he went on fiercely. "I didn't get fired at all. I quit—I wanted to try racing because I couldn't stand an indoor life. But I was doing fine there. The Rose Lux Chemical Works. We put up a bleach. I did more than label, too—I worked overtime in the office and they were paying me $35 a week. I could have stayed as long as I wanted."
There are ten excellent reasons why the muzzle-loading rifle should have vanished from the American scene with bear-grease hair lotion and the up-and-down churn. To load one a rifleman must: 1) measure out a charge of black powder; 2) pour it down the barrel; 3) moisten a cloth patch, usually with saliva; 4) place a lead ball on the patch; 5) set patch and ball in the muzzle; 6) drive both tentatively down the bore with a small mallet; 7) trim the patch; 8) push ball and patch down the barrel with a short ramrod; 9) seat them more fully with a long ramrod; and 10) prime the firing mechanism with powder or cap.
Something in the human brain, however, balks at discarding old machinery—particularly old machinery which makes a loud noise—and finds reaffirmation of ancient virtues in polishing up discarded narrow-gauge locomotives, and one-lung touring cars. In the last 20 years, growing thousands of Americans have not only taken to shooting muzzle-loaders (in many cases rifles of their own manufacture) but have done their best to dress up like Daniel Boone on Saturday night before beginning the rites.
Half a thousand muzzle-loader addicts from all over the U.S. who gathered in a sylvan glade near the hamlet of Friendship, Ind. last week for their annual national championships—many of them after driving hundreds of miles to get there—gave a magnificent demonstration of this long-suffering devotion to antiquity. Scores of trailers and almost 200 tents dotted the woodland near the range; ladies of the Farmer's Retreat Lutheran Church served thousands of meals in a big central clubhouse which the National Muzzle-Loading Rifleman's Association (6,000 members) has built for the annual championship shoots.
The riflemen themselves lent the scene an unmistakable individuality. Their costumes were, to put it mildly, bright—and if not completely authentic were at least early MGM. Members of two Ohio groups—the Ironton Charcoal Burners and the Bill Moose Muzzle-Loading Club—arrived wearing fringed get-ups of what they described as velvet deer finish leather. Michigan's Chief Wyandotte Muzzle-Loading Club affected beaded finery. Coonskin caps and old-fashioned powder horns were plentiful. Neither the Richmond Grays (who wear Confederate Civil War uniforms) nor the Washington Blues (who wear Union suits, as it were, of the same vintage) showed up, but a Canadian named Ernest Swain strode about in full Highland regalia.
Thus attired, and surrounded by admiring wives and children, they spent five full days loosing of their fearful weapons at targets while the Southern Indiana hills rumbled with the echoes. A muzzle-loader not only kicks the average shoulder blade into a loose group of bone fragments at the first blast and leaves the eardrums useless, but emits a cloud of smoke which smells very much like rotten eggs. It also fouls up the barrel with every shot and, on pulling himself together and wiping the tears from his eyes, the fusilier must clean it thoroughly before beginning the time-consuming process of reloading. But were the riflemen dismayed?
Veteran Muzzle-Loader Elihu Lyman summed up their general attitude some time before the championships. "When I'm dead," he said, "I hope they cremate me. Then I'd like them to roll my ashes into a well-cast ball, ram me down the barrel of a muzzle-loader and let some good marksman blast me through the bull's-eye."
The pilots who competed in that time-honored aerial sporting contest, the 16th annual 1,900-mile (Los Angeles to Dayton) Bendix Trophy Race last weekend flew jet airplanes and spent a great deal of their time scribbling complex problems of navigation and fuel management upon pads strapped to their thighs. They strove for flight so scientifically correct that the last drop of fuel would be utilized at the instant of passing the finish pylon. The winner, Air Force Captain Edward W. Kenny, averaged 616.208 mph and used the last of his fuel as he was taxiing off the runway, seconds after landing. Nothing could have been in more dramatic contrast to the memories, aroused but a few days before, by the death of the one-time world speed king, Bert Acosta, reckless, roistering and tragic hero of aviation's brave and lusty youth.
In his wild way Acosta was a near genius—from the moment he built and flew his own airplane in San Diego as a teen-ager in 1910 it seemed obvious that he had been born for the air. Handsome, nerveless, burning with a lust for adventure and speed, he reached his tabloid-chronicled zenith in the booming '20s. He was the first man to fly more than 200 miles an hour. In 1927 with Clarence Chamberlin he set a world endurance record of 51 hours 11 minutes and 20 seconds; in the same year he flew Admiral Byrd's perilously overloaded Fokker, The America, across the Atlantic.
Bert Acosta could fly anything, anywhere, his admirers cried. He tried. Once he flew an antiquated Jenny under three of New York's East River bridges. He zoomed past the clock on New York's Metropolitan Life Tower after a hapless passenger asked him the time. He blew a fortune, lost his pilot's license, was repeatedly jailed for nonsupport of his second wife and two sons. By 1936—middle-aged, broke, forgotten—he was a Bowery bum. He had only courage and instinct to sell. He went to Spain as a pilot for the Loyalist Armies and for 20 incredible days flew bombing missions with ancient and coughing transport planes while Hitler's hot young fighter pilots hunted him in the clouds. Disillusioned by Spanish "democracy," he left without a cent.
He rarely flew again. Tuberculosis claimed him. A few years ago old friends sent him to the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society's sanitarium in Denver and there, last week, he died. His day was long done—but during it, in his gallant and foolhardy way, he had put his glowing match-scratch of achievement upon the sky. Some of its light lingered still.
Outfielder among friends
Back when Boston fans started booing Ted Williams, an onlooker might have supposed he didn't have a friend in the world. But even then there were intimates who believed he could do no wrong and they became the nucleus of a group of three dozen whose loyalty is never questioned—his doctors, druggist, dentist, accountant, a couple of bellhops and others outside the baseball world.
Last week they gave a birthday party (he was 36 on Aug. 30) for him in the Cub Room of Jimmy O'Keefe's Restaurant—across the Fenway from Fenway Park. It is a room that is dedicated to baseball, with a glassed-in shrine containing Joe Cronin's old Red Sox shirt and one of the bats with which Ted hit .406 in 1941.
John Buckley, theater manager, who got acquainted with Ted as a rookie keen about Westerns, was there. So was Captain John Blake, State Police Adjutant who first met Ted when, as a traffic cop, he stopped him on the road. So was Dr. Russell Sullivan, the surgeon who put a steel pin in his shoulder. (The surgeon is now debating whether to remove it.) No one was present from the Red Sox and there was only one baseball player—superannuated "Jumping Joe" Dugan. Ted's feud with the press was indicated by the fact that there were only a couple of sports writers—a Boston Traveler columnist and the SI man.
Williams, who looked handsome indeed in a tweed jacket with a brown sports shirt open at the collar, was in an ingratiating mood. He clapped his friends on the back as he came in, grinned at a waitress who brought him a training schedule tipple of ginger ale and yelled, "Hey, this is nothing but straight ginger ale!" He also presented each of the gang with a present—a Zippo lighter bearing a red enamel Sox emblem, the recipient's own name and Ted Williams' engraved signature. "I'll never carry this around and take a chance on losing it," said one of the 35.
Two aging Irish minstrels sang "That Old Gang of Mine." A six-year-old boy, the protégé of a friend of Ted's, was perched on a table and sang a tearful song about "She's My Mom." Williams seemed delighted. "Gee," he said, "that was wonderful." Everyone watched a motion picture which depicted 1) Ted Williams bonefishing and 2) Ted Williams hitting a home run.
After Chef Guy Marchitelli entered in a towering white cap, carrying a big cake, and after the gang stood and sang "Happy Birthday, Dear Teddy," Williams was presented with a big maroon-and-ivory wardrobe trunk. "Ted," said the venerable Boston Traveler columnist, George C. Carens, "I guess you know what you're supposed to do with this. You will now have no excuse not to play next year and we all hope that you'll be back."
But one condition of friendship with Williams consists of refraining from even suggesting an interest in his more personal affairs. Williams, as everybody present knew, has had both a good and exasperating season. He has cracked out 25 home runs. He leads most other American League hitters with close to a .350 average but because his injury kept him idle so long (and because pitchers walk him so often) he will not have enough official "at bats" to win the American League batting championship. Despite all, no one present had the temerity to ask him whether he had reconsidered his decision, announced last spring, to retire from baseball at the end of the year. The dinner broke up at 10 o'clock with the question unanswered.
But Dr. Sidney Isherwood, Williams' dentist, hopefully reported what he conceived to be a significant fact: on a recent visit (the Williams' teeth are in excellent condition) Ted asked how often he should report back for a cleaning job. Their hero, the 35 decided happily, is considering at least one more year at Fenway Park.
THE PRESIDENTS ON FISHING
Last week two fishermen who have other interests in common went fishing together near Fraser, Colo, (see cut). Both knew what they were doing, and why. Both, like other fishing Presidents, have contributed their convictions on fishing doctrine. Samples:
Hoover Doctrine: "[To go fishing] is the chance to wash one's soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of the sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men—for all men are equal before fish."
Eisenhower Doctrine: "I refuse to Use anything but dry flies. I want fishing to be a challenge."
Coolidge Doctrine: (in full): "Worms."
Cleveland Doctrine: "A true fisherman is conservative, provident, not given to envy, considerate of the rights of others and careful of his good name. Many a day [he] returns at night to his home, hungry, tired and disappointed; but he still has faith in his methods, and is not tempted to try new and more deadly lures. On the contrary, he is willing in all circumstances to give the fish the chance for life which a liberal sporting disposition has determined to be their due."