•Though bleeding spectacularly from a split nose and a cut eye, Rocky Marciano ended Ezzard Charles's third attempt to recapture the world's heavyweight championship by knocking him out in the eighth round. The rematch chiefly established that 1) Charles and the champion no longer belong in the same ring, and 2) Marciano is the most relentless fighter in the world today (see pages 58-61).
•Big-time college football began with a bang. Explosive Oklahoma won a nationally televised intersectional game with California 27-13, despite the best efforts of the Golden Bears' Passer Paul Larson and the pleading roar of 58,000 Berkeley fans (see pages 70-71). Maryland, 1953 national champions, beat Kentucky 20-0; Georgia Tech beat Tulane 28-0; and Texas took Louisiana State 20-6. Meanwhile, California's San Jose State solemnly defeated a San Quentin Prison eleven 26-13 (at San Quentin) to gain a year's possession of one of the oddest trophies in sport: a ball and chain.
•As football drew its first crowds of the year baseball drew some of its last before the World Series; Cleveland won the American League pennant, and at week's end the New York Giants had a virtual death grip on the National League championship.
September 27, 1954
•There was tennis: Vic Seixas beat Tony Trabert in the finals of the Pacific Southwest Championships at Los Angeles. There was golf: 21-year-old Barbara Romack of Sacramento won the women's amateur championship. There was even championship walking: Leo Sjogren of Brooklyn did 50 kilometers in 4 hrs. 43:44, a new record for heel-and-toe work, in Baltimore.
Ezzard Charles was a fearful sight as New York's irascible swarm of fight writers jostled in to inspect him after his gallant 15-round stand against Rocky Marciano last June. The whole right side of his face was swollen grotesquely, his right eye was a slit and one corner of his mouth had puffed into a shiny, pink, unlikely bulb. But there was a fierce and sullen dignity about him for all that. "I want him again," he whispered. "I want him again. He's all the plan I've got." One night last week the same Ezzard Charles—a curiously different man—entertained again in the same brightly lighted dressing room.
He had punched recklessly enough with Marciano in a few exciting flurries. He had been down thrice, and the third time had risen a split second too late. But he bore not a mark as he stood, naked except for a Turkish towel about his middle, and watched the reporters and photographers pushing in through the door. It was Marciano—his nose split, his eyebrow torn by Charles's calculated work in close—on whom the surgeon was working down the hall. Charles behaved as if it were he who had won—and talked as though he were convincing himself that he could have done so.
He smiled at the big question of the night—could he have risen a split second before the count of ten instead of a split second after it, and fought on? "I was up," he said in a monotone. "I know I was up. Sure, I could have finished the round. Two more rounds, I'd a won the fight."
"Won it? How could you have won it?"
"He'd a been cut up. Two more rounds, he'd a been cut up."
"Why did you fight different this time, Ezz?"
"Decided I'd knock him out. I tried to knock him out. I changed my plan in the fight."
"How do you mean—not to knock him out?"
Charles carefully buttoned up a baby-blue sport shirt. He looked down at the handler who was trying to induce him to slip one foot into a shoe. "To knock him out," he said.
"Ezz—did you ever think you had him going?"
"Sure," said Charles, speaking suddenly with the positiveness of accomplishment. "I bust his nose—left jab. I bust his eye—left jab. Two more rounds I'd a won the fight."
He looked up, suddenly, and cried "Hey!" His wife walked in. Behind her walked Joe Louis, elegantly tailored, closely shaved and grinning widely. "No women in the dressing room," said Charles. His wife laughed. "This Joe Louis said he could do anything and he did do anything. We got in." She pulled her silver-blue mink stole around her shoulders and sat down, while flashlights blinked. "Put your arm around her, Ezz," called a cameraman. Charles stared, face expressionless, pushed out his lower lip, stared some more and shook his head.
"Ezz," called a reporter. "Do you still say he isn't the hardest hitter you've fought?"
"He's strong," said Charles. "But Walcott knocked me out. You don't go around in fights trying to think who hits you hardest. He had me groggy. But I knew what I was doing."
"What did he hit you with in the second, Ezz?"
"I don't know," said Ezz. "Didn't see the fight myself."
"What are you going to do now—you gonna retire, Ezz?"
"Go on fightin'. Knock around a couple of weeks and then start training. See who's next on the men-yoo."
"What did he say when the fight was over, Ezz—up in the ring?"
"He say," said June's fierce, wounded gladiator, and grinned with what almost seemed like pride, "I'm the cleverest man he ever fought."
Book jinxes Yankees?
There is general agreement among students of American literature that no one has yet written a really good baseball novel, nothing to compare with War and Peace anyway. Baseball is a difficult subject for fiction because the game itself is tinged with fantasy, and not just in Ebbets Field, either. A writer of realistic fiction who tries to improve on characters like Babe Ruth or Casey Stengel is a fool and so some authors, aware that in writing about baseball they are dealing with a world of improbability, have the good taste to stick to plots which are fanciful and, very often, downright weird.
So it is with this year's baseball novel, a major league or Book-of-the-Month Club choice for September entitled The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant. Written by a man with the fanciful name of Douglass Wallop, it tells of a Washington Senators fan (there really are such things, as Bela Lugosi used to say) who, in his 50s, makes a Faustian deal with the devil. In return for the fan's soul, the devil arranges for him to become a fabulous young outfielder who bats over .500 and almost singlehandedly leads the Senators to the pennant. And, with a timing worthy of Stan Musial, the book comes out in a month when the Yankees have indeed lost a pennant.
There have been surprisingly few good movies about baseball, too. Among the most successful was another fantasy of a few years back, It Happens Every Spring, in which the plot turned on a magical baseball that avoided wood and hence could not be hit. This movie brought to mind a short story written by Ralph Henry Barbour many years back, when St. Nicholas magazine was still being published for boys and girls. In Barbour's story a sea captain presents a 12-year-old boy with a baseball bat made of the marvelous wood of the hoki-moki tree, which grows only on an unmapped island that abounds in wild horses. The horses love to scratch their backs against the tree, and in time, by an evolutionary process, the tree develops an affinity for horsehide. Equipped with a bat that draws baseballs to it like a magnet, the boy wins the big game.
In writing this tale, Barbour accomplished two feats in the realm of prophecy. He worked a switch on the authors of It Happens Every Spring long before they had even thought of their plot (which gives an idea of how valuable Barbour might have been to Hollywood had he not been content to write solely for the 12-year-old mind) and he predicted Willie Mays, who last week knocked out his 41st home run and was just behind Duke Snider for the batting championship. The young hero of Barbour's story, the boy with the preposterous hoki-moki bat, was named Billy Mayes, but, of course, a little typographical error is permitted to prophets now and then.
Mad day on No. 4
It was a day for daring and vast Elizabethan deeds. A half gale sent grey clouds racing over rain-swept lawns and hedges at the Roehampton Club on the outskirts of London. Flags snapped like whips and leaves blew in the gusts. And out on Court No. 4 ("the truest in all England"), watched by a tense and avid crowd of nine persons, two men battled it out in the last match of the Croquet Masters Tournament for the President's Cup.
The two last match competitors (from a field of eight) were far past youth. Humphrey O. Hicks was 50, Maurice Reckitt "well past 65." But the conflict had produced a distillate of excitement and edginess which was reflected by the umbrella-shielded knot of spectators.
As the last game began the tournament had already been won by Hicks, a Devonian gentleman of leisure who swings the mallet off his right foot. But Reckitt—an "Irish-style" player who swings the mallet between spread legs—was keyed to prevent him from establishing an all-time cup competition record of 14 straight games. And Reckitt, author of a book, Croquet Today, not only led in the early stages, but did so in a manner which brought whispered criticism from watchers who insist on an unemotional style. He had, two of them noted, "silly mannerisms"—a habit of "willing" the ball's path with body English after a shot. After good shots, moreover, he was sometimes not absolutely able to conceal, from close watchers, a sense of satisfaction.
"Maurice is frightfully pleased with himself," said the first.
"He's been playing well this week. Have to admit it," replied the second.
Then Hicks began to gain. The white-mustached Reckitt's manner grew grave. Reckitt shot and missed. "Look at him. Look at him," said the first, as Reckitt stamped his foot in vexation. "Why can't he keep it to himself?" Both brightened as the victorious Hicks's last ball hit the post, as the loser cried, according to tradition, "Thank you!" and the winner, "Thank you very much!"
By the end of the match, the crowd had swelled by a few. Some of them had the look of mere curious spectators. An old member of the Croquet Association waved in their direction. "These people," he said, "they're always coming. They watch but they don't understand the game." Turning in his chair, he said with the intensity of a bishop discussing the Bible, "Do you know, for most people in England nowadays, croquet is a closed book?"
Villanova University lost six football games out of ten last year. There is not the slimmest likelihood that this year's team, by no means drenched in talent, will win a bowl bid. Still, Villanova looks forward serenely to a 100,000 sellout for its game with University of Mississippi at Municipal Stadium, Philadelphia on October 2.
Whoever wants tickets to this game can buy them in the usual way or pick them up free with the week's grocery order at an Acme Supermarket. Acme has bought 85,000 tickets to the game. Last week the chain began giving them away with the groceries in 165 of its stores, just as last year it gave away 58,000 to the Villanova-Georgia game. Ninety-eight thousand persons showed up for that one, many of them housewives who never before had seen football but could not resist a bargain. Average attendance at Villanova games in recent years has been ten or twelve thousand.
Villanova's inventive approach to ticket selling, from the promotive brain of Ambrose Dudley, athletics director, has inspired merchandising schemes at other colleges. A chain-store company guaranteed Akron University $10,000 for its game with Wittenberg College on September 25, the chain selling tickets at half price, two for a dollar. For $5, Stanford University is putting out a "sports sampler" book, not altogether a novelty, admitting the holder to skating and the Washington State game on October 30, with the opera and dancing, too. Fordham University will offer business houses blocks of seats for some of its games, the tickets to be distributed to customers as entertainment expense.
Entire families turned out for the Villanova-Georgia game last year, with Mom supplying the tickets, Dad advising on the finer points of the game, like who's got the ball. This year, as last, Villanova is holding out 15,000 seats for students, alumni, opponents and regular customers and expects them to be mightily outnumbered.
With a $10 grocery order the customer gets a $2.50 ticket, and a $3.80 ticket with each $15 order. Last year people came to Philadelphia from as far as Allentown, 50 miles away, to do their week's food shopping.
S. Spencer Heaney, Acme sales manager, recalled the poignant predicament of a husband whose wife, seeing the final-day advertisement for free tickets, shooed him out to the store with a long grocery list and $30. At the checking counter, his shopping done, the husband asked eagerly for his three football tickets. The checker looked at him blankly. The unfortunate fellow had done his shopping at the A & P. Almost in tears, the husband appealed to Heaney as a sales manager and a member of the sex and Heaney, understanding the confusion which overwhelms men in supermarkets, gave him three tickets.
Ed Rommel, the American League umpire, received a summons to grand jury duty in Baltimore last week but asked for and received a stay until the American League season is over, a gesture of professional courtesy if ever there was one. When Rommel does sit with the grand jury it would be fascinating to breach the privacy of the hearings and watch him in action. Does he sit quietly, listening and deliberating? Or does he, when the district attorney raises his voice in loud argument for indictment, glare back, draw out his watch and indicate just 20 seconds more of this, Buster, and out you go?
Polo for the people
While the country has been gawking at attendance records set by Milwaukee's Braves this year, few have noted another Milwaukee sports miracle, of lesser stature but no less extraordinary—a sudden upsurge of popular, shirt-sleeved interest in polo.
Not since the 1930s, when international matches on Long Island drew crowds of 40,000 or more, has there been so much broad interest in polo—not just on Long Island but throughout the country, especially in the Middle West and most particularly in Milwaukee. On a farm eight miles north by northwest of the shrieking home of the Braves, 51,869 spectators have attended 13 games this season, almost four times as many as were drawn all of last year.
The farm is owned by Robert August Uihlein Jr., who is vice president in charge of sales of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company and the big man (6 feet 4½ inches, 215 pounds) behind Milwaukee polo.
"Only in Delray Beach, Florida do they draw anything near the crowds we get these days," says Uihlein (rhymes with bee-line), "and in that vacation resort area at least half the fans come out to see Barbara Hutton, Rubirosa and so forth. All we have to offer here is polo."
Now 38, Uihlein first played polo as a junior at Phillips Academy at Andover in 1932. He also played some at Harvard and at Wyoming dude ranches, but it was not until 1946 that he went in for the game full tilt, organized the Milwaukee Polo Club and wound up owning some 15 polo horses (worth anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 apiece) and the Good Hope Road farm on which he based the Milwaukee polo field. In addition he pays the expenses of players who have to commute weekends from as far away as Florida.
With Uihlein as No. 4, or back man, Milwaukee won the national 20-goal tournament in both 1949 and 1950 and the national open in 1951. He has a four-goal rating and is noted both for hitting the long ball and for his defensive ability in riding off an opponent—something like a football block except that it's done on a fast-charging horse.
Winning ways did not account for the crowds Milwaukee drew to polo this year. The team won only three games and lost seven in regular season play, then was eliminated in the first rounds of both the national 20-goal and national open tournaments. Ticket sales are made at the gate, without advance sales or brewery purchases of big blocks for free distribution. And Uihlein feels the Braves have helped, not hurt, attendance at polo matches.
"Because of the Braves," he explains, "Milwaukeeans are now used to going places, seeing sporting events of all kinds. Although the Braves have already drawn over 2 million fans we are having by far our biggest season. So is auto racing."
A special satisfaction for Uihlein is the fact that his matches draw a "shirtsleeve crowd" and that "the farmers around Granville (near the field) can hardly wait for the games."
Yachtsmen up and down the Atlantic Coast looked out last weekend on seas which bore no more than the normal September complement of wave and wind but many of them had no boats to sail. Carol and Edna, two harridans on a spree, had seen to that.
The first and the worst was Carol. Insurance companies which deal in marine insurance estimate she cost them about $5 million for damage to New England pleasure craft alone and that she cost uninsured yachtsmen upward of $3 million more—not to mention hours of worry and months of regret. Then along came Edna, a skittish dame who feinted a blow here and there, got lost from time to time, split in two and eventually huffed and puffed into Penobscot Bay. She knocked some glasses off the bar and then went up into the Maritime Provinces, where she passed out. Edna didn't have what Carol had. At Bar Harbor, for instance, only six small craft and a 22-foot sloop were lost to her. Edna made the mistake of coming in at low tide, whereas Carol pushed high tides even higher, smashing boats inland against docks and whatever stood in their way.
Insurancemen took Edna in stride and weren't even bothering, two weeks after Carol, to straighten out their pleasure-craft books on the second hurricane. They were still occupied with Carol, who, among other things, blasted the Atlantic Tuna Derby out of the water. Awaiting the derby were 77 boats valued at more than $2 million. After Carol had gone, 24 of them were on the bottom of Rhode Island's Harbor of Refuge or piled up on battered piers and the shore. Damage to these alone was in excess of $300,000 but Carol wasn't through.
By the time she was through, about one in four craft in New England was damaged in some way, the average insurance claim running in the vicinity of $2,000. The Boston Insurance Company had about 700 claims which may total $1,500,000, the Insurance Company of North America about 500 claims for $1 million. These two are among the largest in the marine insurance business and the biggest claim against them was $30,000.
Boats of far higher value were lost, however. The reason for low coverage was explained quite simply by Arthur G. B. Metcalf, President of Electronics Corp. of America, whose 12-meter yacht Trull went on the rocks at Marblehead, and was gutted by fire.
"The Trull," Metcalf said, "was one of only fourteen 12-meter boats built in Germany and one of five in commission in this country. To reproduce her today would cost from $175,000 to $200,000. To insure a boat for that amount each year would be economically prohibitive. It would cost too much because premiums are so high. Most of the larger yachts probably are insured for only about 10% of their actual value."
Boats that cost $10,000 to build in the '30s today may be worth $40,000. Such a boat was Navigo II, George D. Haskell's eight-meter sloop which was lost at Marblehead.
Other big beauties lost to Carol included Malay, a Concordia yawl, owned by Dan Strohmeier of the New Bedford Yacht Club and the smallest boat ever to win the Bermuda race (this year), valued at $50,000; Avanti, Walter Rothschild's 55-footer, which was to have been delivered to the U.S. Naval Academy, valued at $90,000; Djinn, $75,000 cutter owned by Henry Morgan, former commodore of the New York Yacht Club; Mohawk, 60-foot ketch owned by Kenneth Magoon and valued at $100,000 though she cost $25,000 when built.
But some boats declared total losses by the insurance companies probably will sail again. The hulks will be bought cheap, repaired and refitted by men who know their business and make handsome profits after every big storm. The Mohawk, beached several times by storms, has a fabulous record for returning to her element. At Marble-head, old-timers looked at the rock-ripped hull and warned: "Never say the Mohawk won't sail again."
And there was George Sarant, of Freeport, L.I., 1949-1950 winner of the Harwood Trophy, who all his life wanted to experiment with an Elco cruiser, redesigning it from the hull up.
Sarant owned an Elco "but you can't take an expensive boat and knock it apart," he pointed out. A while back, still wishing he could afford to redesign the boat, he sold it to a doctor friend. Then Carol sank her. Sarant looked it over, still on the bottom, and found that the hull and keel could be salvaged even though the superstructure, which he wanted to remove anyhow, was completely demolished.
The insurance company has written the boat off and Sarant will be able to pick up his dream Elco, or just what the doctor ordered, for about $1,000.