While baseball's flanneled warriors strove at the gates of Valhalla last week (with Cleveland and Giant fans full of anticipatory delight, Yankee, Milwaukee and Brooklyn followers vocal with dogged, mathematical hope), new heroes emerged into the limelight on land and sea:
•The most surprising, most dogged, most long-suffering was a demure 16-year-old Toronto high-school girl named Marilyn Bell who became the first human to swim the 32-mile width of Lake Ontario from Youngstown, N.Y. to the Canadian shore near her home city. Marilyn stayed at her grueling chore after Channel Swimmer Florence Chadwick gave up, fought winds and rough waves, was almost—but not quite—conquered by exhaustion half a dozen times before she reached the Toronto seawall (see page 23).
•Eugene ("Gene") Walet III of New Orleans, who startled the yachting world last year by winning the Mallory Cup in the North American Sailing Championship at the tender age of 18, successfully defended his prize in a Lightning Class craft on Louisiana's Lake Ponchartrain (see page 47).
September 19, 1954
•The Kentucky-bred three-year-old Never Say Die brought tears of joy to the eyes of his owner—78-year-old New York Financier Robert Sterling Clark—by winning England's historic and testing St. Leger by 12 lengths (see page 25).
•Meanwhile, the U.S. college football season began—so quietly, so diffidently, so far out in the brakes and the bushes that hardly anyone noticed. Nevertheless there were scores: Wayne (Neb.) 13, Augustana (S.D.) 7; Youngstown (Ohio) 13, Gustavus Adolphus 0; Moorehead (Minn.) 7, Huron (S.D.) 0; Concordia (Minn.) 12, North Dakota State 0; Central Michigan 26, Milwaukee State 7; Peru (Neb.) 14, Panhandle A & M (Okla.) 7.
Dressed to kill
Pepper Martin was in the news last week, a wire-service item from Norfolk, Va., reporting that Pepper at the age of 50 had pinch-hit a double for his Portsmouth Merrimacs, the team he manages in the Class B Piedmont League. Pepper is, of course, the old Gas House Cardinal whose rambunctious, hell-for-leather, dirty-uniformed play excited major-league fans for 12 years.
About the same time another item arrived, this one reporting that at the International Softball League tournament in Selma, Calif., the Dayton (Ohio) Nationals had been selected as the "best-dressed team" in the tournament. What with memories persisting of the hawk-nosed Martin belly-whopping into third, dust spurting up all around, the news from Selma seemed somehow depressing.
Glenn Scobey Warner
Big-Bodied Pop Warner entered college football as a player at Cornell in 1892—in the era, as he liked to describe it, of "tousled hair and overstuffed pants." He was a dominant figure in the game for almost half a century. He burst into prominence as a coach at Carlisle's Indian school; with Jim Thorpe and other mighty redskins he made life miserable for Harvard, Princeton and Yale in the early years of the century. At Pittsburgh and Stanford, during the decades of football's emergence as a truly national sport, Warner reigned as a brooding colossus of strategy. He invented the single-wing and double-wing system of attack and brought them to their zenith of effectiveness; in the late '20s and early '30s there were but two ways to play the game, the Warner way and the Rockne way and disciples of the two giants preached the rival gospels with missionary fervor from coast to coast.
The massive Warner reputation and the impressive Warner manner, however, hid a strain of roguishness, of gleeful opportunism—which produced, among other stunts which pained early rules committees, the famed hidden-ball trick. It was this aspect of his character that many of his graying former players recalled last week after Warner died, victim of cancer at 83, in Palo Alto Hospital. Hal McCreery, who was captain of Warner's Stanford University team of 1927, hesitated not a second in recalling his most vivid memory of the grand old man. It concerned Stanford's game with the University of Washington, played on a dirt field which had been reduced to a quagmire by rain (abetted, Stanford always suspected, by judicious use of a fire hose). The Stanford attack depended on speed and the passing of Fullback Biff Hoffman, and bogged down horribly in the first half.
"Every time the halfbacks tried to run they fell on their faces," McCreery said. "Biff, who had to grip the ball to throw it, might as well have been trying to grab a piece of quicksilver. At half time we were behind 7 to 0. In the dressing room Pop went over to Biff and said, 'Show me how you grip the ball.' Then he got a thumbtack and taped it to the inside of Biff's index finger so the point just stuck out of the tape. That thumbtack did it. Biff, who could throw the ball farther than any man I ever knew, just rared back and dropped it in Dick Hyland's arms twice in the second half and we won the game 14 to 7."
When the Detroit Lions turned up in Dallas last week (for an exhibition game with the Cleveland Browns—see page 28), Detroit's Doak Walker and Cloyce Box found time for practice and skull sessions only through careful budgeting of their time. Box, a onetime West Texas State hero, owns a Buick agency in Belton, Texas and an interest in the Johnson-Box Construction Company of Fort Worth. Walker, an old Southern Methodist star, owns the Doak Walker Sports Center, a retail store in Dallas. Together, the two own an interest in a 229-unit housing development near Killeen, Texas, are Texas associates in the whopping George A. Fuller Construction Co., are state distributors of a plastic-bag firm and are involved in sundry oil deals and other distributorships.
Both hit Dallas ahead of their Detroit teammates so as to have time for one business meeting after another. Walker, in fact, hustled downtown on the afternoon of the game. "We're supposed to eat at four and rest until the kickoff," he said with a worried air. "But I've got to make a personal appearance at 4:15 at E. M. Kahn & Co. [clothiers who handle Doak Walker "personally designed" slacks] and I've got a lot of calls to make."
What about rumors that Doak will retire this year? "He has to," said Cloyce Box. "He can't get the time to play football any more."
The man who came back
No matter what happens to the Yankees, there can be no denying that they enjoyed a splendid and bracing experience in their first game with Baltimore last week. They won. This was more difficult than it might sound. The lowly Orioles started Pitcher Bob Turley (11 wins, 15 losses), and Turley fanned 12 men—a 1954 strike-out record against the Yanks.
But big, drawling Yankee left-hander Tommy Byrne ruined Turley's act. He not only limited the Orioles to two runs but hit a triple in the third, drove in three runs with a double in the fourth and went the distance with ease and aplomb. All this was both heartening and astounding for Byrne—known for both speed and wildness during his early years in the majors—was shucked off by the Yankees back in 1951 and, by the law of averages, should never have been seen in a Yankee uniform again.
When the Yanks turned him loose he drifted from the desolate Browns through the White Sox to the Washington Senators. With a peculiar lack of feeling Washington's Clark Griffith peddled him to Charleston—one day before he would have become a major league "10-year man" subject to the maximum player pension and the right of free agency before being shunted to the minors. Disenchanted, Byrne won only one game last season.
Seattle nonetheless picked him up in a winter trade. "We have a chance to get Tommy Byrne," said Rainier Manager Jerry Priddy to Casey Stengel. "What do you think?"
"Get him," snapped Casey. "The fella'll drive you crazy with walks, but pitch him reg'lar and he'll pitch himself out of it. I fought the front office when we let him go. The fella's still got an arm."
Seattle did more. They treated Byrne well. He was given a percentage of his sale price and Seattle General Manager Dewey Soriano promised to make an all-out effort to get him his "one more day" in the big leagues. Seattle players were told: "If Tommy talks about being wild, change the subject. Tell him his control is good. Tell him the umpires are robbing him."
Byrne responded by winning 20 games. Between pitching chores he played first base and in the outfield. He worked in relief. He coached first base. And he hit—he whacked out seven home runs and piled up the team's second-highest batting average, a respectable .295. After each of his victories General Manager Soriano sent out 16 identical telegrams, addressed to each major league club, detailing his strike-outs vs. walks, his earned-run average and other milestones in his heartwarming comeback. After his 20th victory Soriano sent a wire to Casey Stengel and to Yankee General Manager George Weiss: "Byrne wins No. 20. Struck out seven. Now has 199 strikeouts against only 18 walks. Byrne control amazing." Two nights later in Portland Soriano and Manager Priddy called the pitcher to their hotel room.
"You're going to get that extra day, Tommy," said Priddy. "You're going back up."
Byrne rubbed his head. "If I stayed here I could pitch you into the first division, partner."
"Tell him who," said Priddy.
"The Yankees, Tommy," said Soriano. "They want you right away."
The husky, Maryland-born pitcher did not speak for a while. Then he said, "Say, now, that's real nice. The Yankees. I didn't think they'd ever want me back." He grinned then and shook his head slowly. He looked at the telephone on its night stand. "Does anybody mind if I call my wife?"
Baseball in Europe
Author James T. Farrell writes in about the first tournament of the European Baseball Federation, which he watched in Antwerp this summer:
To the American, European baseball is both a comedy of errors and touch-ingly idealistic. The players are eager and they try very hard, but they are lacking in the fundamentals. A few vital statistics will give Americans an idea of the stage of development.
Teams representing Italy, Spain, Belgium and Germany participated in this year's four-game tournament. In the championship game, played before about 600 spectators, Italy took Spain 7-4. According to the official box scores of the four games there were 70 errors and 55 hits. The longest hits were doubles and one or two were accidents.
The Italians were relatively impressive. Their pitchers struck out 25, walked only six. Moreover, they definitely played to win. In all this they reflected the devoted coaching of an American named Horace J. McGarity, superintendent of the U.S. military cemetery at Nettuno.
Unfortunately the McGarity-Italian approach did not endear itself to the audience at Antwerp. In the final game, an Italian base-runner slid home and was tagged out—but the catcher dropped the ball. When the umpire insisted that the Italian was out, McGarity walked out to protest—and explain. The umpire ignored him, and McGarity got no sympathy from the crowd. "Playing to win!" sneered a Belgian near me.
The two big problems of European baseball are those of umpiring and scoring. In Europe the umpire is more important than in America and only the manager or captain of a team may protest him. The umpires take their role with a sense of great importance and will not allow their dignity to be trod upon. After the tournament games, many crowded around the chief umpires and congratulated them on their work. Umpires must be trained. Courses are given for umpires in all the countries. In Belgium it lasts 16 weeks and sessions are held once a week. But despite the importance of the umpires, the fans sometimes insult them. When provoked beyond patience, Spaniards call them jackasses. Italians, alas, have been known to shout "Cuckold!"
Baseball developed in Italy and Germany after the war. When the beachheads had been secured GIs wanted to play ball. The Italians learned some of the rules of the game, tried their hand at Softball and graduated to baseball. The Spaniards learned their baseball from the Puerto Ricans. The Belgians played baseball before the last war and one finds old ballplayers in Antwerp. (The game was introduced by Japanese sailors who would play near the docks when their ships were in port.) Most of the German players are teen-agers. At a banquet held after the final game they were cheered enthusiastically. This happened in Belgium—a nation that, less than 10 years before, had still been occupied by the German army.
Baseball is completely amateur in Europe. American baseball language is used officially, and fans and players are beginning to use American baseball terms. The Germans call a double play "Eier mil Schinken" (ham and eggs). It is a strange and unusual experience to see Belgians, Germans, Spaniards and Italians talking of hits, outs, errors and double plays and to talk with them about Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. And to hear in old Europe the cry "Play ball!" Regardless of how well or badly the game is played in Europe, our national game has now struck roots on the continent.
Diplomat or pole vaulter, it matters not—turn a Russian loose in the Western world and before you can say Jack Rabbit he is collecting refrigerators, elevator shoes, ladies' nylon underwear or hair oil, with the scuttling fervor of a field mouse in the chicken feed. Few, however, have been quite so carried away as the Russian athletes who invaded Turin the other day for the European Swimming Championships. A toy store, the United Press reports, was their undoing. Four Russkies invaded the place with an interpreter, demanding an explanation of the plastic water pistols in the window. The weapons were filled and squirted. The Russians watched with incredulous joy. They bought. More Russians soon showed up to be armed. The next day they entered the stadium beaming, yanked their weapons out from under their sweat shirts and sprayed their Iron Curtain colleagues, rocking with helpless laughter.
From then on, every toy store in Turin was under siege. Hungarians bought water pistols. Czechs bought them. Poles bought them. Romanians bought them. Spectators at the meet were treated not only to championship swimming matches (Hungary won), but to endless wild West duels as well. By the time the well-squirted Communists departed, the price of water pistols in Turin jumped from 150 lire to 250.
This was a man who had taken up skin diving in a small way, on weekends.
"It's the coldest sport I've ever known," he said. "It's incredible. I use a snorkel, a breathing tube, but I try not to stay under more than 15 minutes at a time. When I come up and pull myself on to the beach or a rock, I'm shaking. Literally shaking. Lying there in the sun with the temperature in the 90s and I'm shaking. I've got a good layer of fat too."
The question was put: Why? Because, like Everest, it's there? He laughed. "No," he said. "It's a challenge, but not like Everest, not like skiing. It's strange. It's the awkwardest damn thing to get into. You have on these flippers. Sometime try to walk with flippers. You feel like a fool. You go out, say, when the tide is out, and there's all this flat, black muck, just stinking. Dirty shells all around and slimy rocks and seaweed. Awful. You can't dive into the water, because of the face mask and you can't find a rock and push off because of barnacles.
"It's the awkwardest thing. It's hot and glaring and you feel foolish. You work your way far enough and then you sort of slide forward and sink into the water. And just like that, it's all changed. It's like a cathedral, all soft, diffused light and the sun touching the surface of the water above you. The muck on the rocks is like velvet and the seaweed is floating, each piece standing up by itself and waving slowly back and forth.
"It's quiet, but it's not deathly quiet. You can hear things. You can hear a lot of things under water. Motors, metal on metal, things like that. But it's different. It's soft and it's peaceful. You're suspended sort of weightless, and you move almost without effort, like in slow motion. The most completely relaxing thing I know.
"Cold," he said, "but wonderful."
WOMEN HAVE NO PLACE IN A BULL RING
Novillera Patricia McCormick, who has fought 80 bulls and proved her courage every time, was knocked down by one at Villa Acu√±a, Mexico last week and was gored in the groin and through the bladder. It was her third goring since she began practicing secretly for the bull ring while an art student at Texas Western College. She is 24 and very pretty.
In sports which involve the killing of animals the objective is to kill clean and quick. If a display of courage is involved at all, as in the killing of dangerous animals, it is only incidental to the real objective. For it is form which makes such things sport—form in the killing of a trout with a dry fly, or shooting birds on the wing, or taking a lion with a well-placed shot from a rifle of sufficient caliber to do the job well. It is not sport to use inferior weapons which are likely only to wound.
On this subject, with which he is very familiar, Ernest Hemingway has made some observations in Death in the Afternoon. They seem apropos as Patricia McCormick lies under opiates in a Texas hospital, where in semicoma she told her mother that she would go out to fight the bulls again.
In the old days, Hemingway says, the bulls were bigger, fiercer, older, less easily controlled. The matadors, in turn, were mature men of long apprenticeship who knew how to make the final sword thrust without butchery. But in time the bulls were bred smaller, put into the ring younger and what showmen know as hokum was introduced in cape work.
"It is the decadence of the modern bull that has made modern bullfighting possible," says Hemingway. "It is a decadent art in every way and like most decadent things it reaches its fullest flower at its rottenest point, which is the present."
The present seems not to have changed much for the better since Hemingway put out his book in 1932. As wrestling decayed in the same period, bouts between women wrestlers became more frequent, and as bullfighting decayed, more and more women were putting on the tight pants of the matador and treating the crowds to spectacles rather than sport.
At week's end, Novillera McCormick was still on the critical list.
CO-ED TALKING TO HERSELF
I wonder if, in those huddles,
They're always talking shop;
I told Randy to hint to Frank
To ask me to the hop.