The afternoon-shadow-lengthening season finally got under way again in dead earnest all over the country; hundreds of big shadows, which had allowed themselves to get a bit frowsy around the edges while lengthening, month after month, in stadiums populated solely by pigeons and ground-keepers, policed themselves up and slid down across their respective goal lines as nicely as hair oil on a barbershop floor. They caught all sorts of young men of distinction warring violently at football.
•Notre Dame's boy wonder, 26-year-old Coach Terence Patrick Brennan, began his career with grimly adult assurance; the Fighting Irish, led by Quarterback Ralph Guglielmi, got the Brennan regime off to a racing start by shutting out the tough University of Texas Longhorns, 21-0, while 57,594 cheered at South Bend (see pp. 58, 59). Other even more decisive thrashings were administered: Wisconsin beat Marquette 52-14; U.C.L.A. invaded the midwest and clobbered Kansas 32-7, and Duke beat the very scrapple out of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia's Franklin Field in a game which ended with the score 52-0.
•The surprise of the week was worked by the University of South Carolina Gamecocks—a team modestly characterized by its press agent as one involved in a period of growth and hope for the future. The Gamecocks, using two separate, distinct and equally ferocious backfields, upset Army 34-20 at West Point and seemed completely unastounded as they did so. Penn State bottled up Illinois' backfield flash, J. C. Caroline, and edged out the favored Illini, 14-12. Florida dumped Georgia Tech, 13-12. But the most genuinely amazing development prevented rather than instituted an upset; Texas Christian attempted a pass into the University of Oklahoma's end zone and was credited with a touchdown, but T.C.U. Captain Johnny Crouch honestly confessed that the ball had bounced before it was gathered in—thus, in the end, enabling Oklahoma to win, 21-16.
October 4, 1954
•On the eve of the World Series, the Cleveland Indians beat the Detroit Tigers, 11-1 and, in so doing, set an American League record of 111 victories in one season. The previous record: 110 games, set by the 1927 Yankees.
•Wes Santee, the verbose miler, wrote officials of New Orleans' Sugar Bowl that he proposes to break John Landy's 3:58 world record there on the afternoon of Dec. 31, 1954.
Closed: gone to game
La Vega High School in Bellmead, Texas, just outside Waco, has a student body of 427 this year. Of this number, 29 students play team football, 30 play B team ball and 28 ninth-graders play junior high football. That gives La Vega 87 boys playing inter-scholastic football and in addition the school has a band of 87 let-us-say musicians (boys and girls) and a girls' pep squad of 80. Thus, more than half the students of La Vega High, 254 out of 427, are active in some aspect of football.
Enough of figures. This town is football happy. It is the football-happiest town in the football-happy state of Texas.
When La Vega students change classes they march to the rhythm of "beat 'em black and blue" rhymes. The Lions Club devotes most of its fall meetings to football talk. There is a Quarterbacks Club. There are a couple of old geezers who wait every day for Coach Paul Smith to come into the drugstore for his morning coffee and when he does they tell him how to run the team. Fifty or 60 cars line up for practice every afternoon. On Friday nights, which are game nights, the whole town closes down tight. Signs in store windows read: "Gone to game."
The football team is well fed, both at a special training table where roast beef and steaks are served on the afternoon before a game, and at Coach Smith's house. Early Saturday morning the players storm his home, eat his wife's cookies and cake, drink milk and play the previous night's game over again. If Coach Smith is still asleep when they arrive they tear him out of bed.
The student body hangs out at a soda-hamburger dispensary called "The Pirates' Den" because the La Vega team's nickname is "The Pirates." The proprietor sets up free malts for every touchdown.
The school principal, Carroll Wood, is an old football coach. He is a big, florid man with a deep voice which he uses to see to it that between-class periods are filled with football spirit. As the students are changing classes, Wood grabs a mike, and public address system speakers throughout the building sound his bellow: "Who we going to beat Friday?" The kids roar back the name of the next victim and march into class chanting "Beat Mexia" (bitter neighborhood rival) or Rosebud, or Marlin, McGregor or whoever the next opponent may be.
"You can see the windows rattle," Coach Smith says. "You can hear 'em for a mile."
"You can hear 'em for a mile," Principal Wood repeats. "It creates enthusiasm."
Armed with another team's program, Wood will go up to one of the La Vega players and show him a picture of a rival.
"Look at him, son," he tells the player. "That's your boy. You take care of him Friday. Take care of him good. I'll be watching you."
Coach Smith, a short, stocky, pleasant man who played fullback at Texas Christian U. in the late '30s, works in the knowledge that La Vega has an unbroken string of District Double A (250 to 500 students) championships running back to 1948. He is in the tall clover. Just so he keeps on winning. He got off to a good start this season, beating Gatesville 34-0 at Gatesville, Mexia 7-0 in the home opener and last week Rosebud 45-0.
Overemphasis? Why, the word hasn't got to La Vega yet.
Large remarks passed on historic occasions are always carefully noted, but the small talk is rarely recorded. The other day at a boxing festival in Buenos Aires, Jack Dempsey and Luis Angel Firpo met for the first time since Luis knocked Jack out of the ring and Jack responded by knocking Luis down three times and out in the second round. Brought together 31 years later, both Dempsey and Firpo had glowing compliments for each other in their public appearances. But what did the great men have to say to each other privately when they met for the first time since 1923? The SI man at the scene jotted it down and here, for the record, is the complete transcript:
DEMPSEY: Well, I always wanted to see Argentina and here I am.
FIRPO (after a loud silence): Do you like the climate?
DEMPSEY: It's about the same as New York this time of year.
FIRPO (after a minute): What about those reporters who nicknamed me "The Wild Bull of the Pampas"? How are they?
DEMPSEY (promptly): They're dead.
Somewhere East of Suez
It would be hard to find a more Oriental city than Bangkok, which is called Bangkok, old boy, because of all the Kok trees. It is to the deep East what Charleston, S.C. is to the deep South. Golden-robed priests? Check. Tinkling bells? Check. Temples? E-e-e-e-yah! Elephants? Sure nuff! And damned good eastern cooking. It is the last place in the world you might expect to find armies of fight fans, but when France's Algerian-born Robert Cohen and Thailand's Chamroen Song-kitrat fought there a few days ago for the world's bantamweight championship, little old Bangkok yielded up a crowd calculated to make the International Boxing Club turn treasury-green with covetousness.
Thailand has actually been cauliflower crazy for centuries. In Thai-style boxing—a type of mayhem supposedly developed by early warriors who fought on the ground after being toppled from their elephants—the fighters kick as well as punch and use their elbows and heads at will, although a quaint Thai custom of dipping the fists in glue and ground glass has lately been abolished. The true Bangkok fight fan, as a result, finds international-style boxing a bit tame. Nevertheless, when Songkitrat and Cohen were matched for the title (abandoned five months ago by Jimmy Carruthers of Australia) tickets sold like hot rice cakes.
Rain fell in sheets on the day of the fight and the police, in the interests of guaranteeing visibility for all, banned umbrellas. But long before noon bedraggled thousands began surging into Bangkok's huge, concrete National Stadium to crouch under ponchos and long strips of white cloth. The crowd grew steadily all afternoon, although there was nothing to do but get wetter—and to stare at a gigantic, brooding billboard, which had been erected atop the stadium to advertise a U.S. movie, The Egyptian. By 5 o'clock 70,000 people were jammed into seats, aisles and every cranny of space around the ring.
Even the King and Queen of Thailand joined the crowd—which rose in the mist and rain and roared happily as they stepped into the royal box. (Due to the fact that nobody may sit higher than they, the royal pair had seats 100 yards from the action and had to watch through binoculars.) By the time Cohen and Songkitrat were in the ring the noise was deafening. The crowd was splendidly partisan. "Use your right! Use your right!" it shrieked at Songkitrat in unison after the fight began. "Songkitrat," called the loudspeakers after the fourth round, "is not at all tired!"
Unfortunately, however, Songkitrat was quite tired—and, after the sixth round, when Cohen broke his nose, was bleeding as well. But he was cheered deafeningly until the end of the fight. The whole stadium rocked with whoops of laughter before the 10th—Cohen misplaced his mouthpiece and the inspired announcer cried: "They are looking for his false teeth." Songkitrat dissolved in tears after Cohen's hand was raised but the dripping 70,000 still seemed happy, excited and full of national pride as they departed—after all Songkitrat hadn't been allowed one kick to the mid-section and had obviously missed the title only because of the curious customs of the baffling and inscrutable West.
Béisbol's Mel Allen
During the baseball season some 12 to 15 million Latin Americans, béisbol lovers all, tune in their radio sets several times a week to hear a toro-voiced Norteamericano broadcast major league games in Spanish. These millions will be joined during the World Series by many of New York's 800,000 Spanish-speaking residents who follow the game best in their native tongue.
The game is big news south of the border, and interest in recent years has risen sharply as so many Latin American players have come up to the big leagues. There have been 79 Latin American major leaguers, starting with Cuban William Bellan, who played third base for Troy and New York in the American League back in 1871-73.
The announcer who keeps Spanish-speaking America al día with big-league baseball is broad-shouldered Buck Canel, a swivel-tongued, fortyish man with a slender black moustache. If you can imagine Mel Allen talking Spanish, that's Canel, who speaks English too, because he was born on Staten Island, a short sea voyage south of Manhattan. His Spanish father and Scottish-American mother (a MacAllister) made him bilingual from toddlerhood, the Staten Island Advance put him into the news business, and in 1936, after seasoning with the Associated Press and Havas, he started broadcasting for NBC's new Latin American division.
Canel broadcasts with respect for their sophistication to some of the hemisphere's fiercest fans, most of them ardent followers of the Chicago White Sox, whose roster includes Alfonso Carrasquel of Venezuela, Saturnino Orestes Minoso of Cuba, Sandalio Consuegra of Cuba and Manuel Rivera, born in New York of Puerto Rican ancestry. Thus, though his program is billed as The Game of the Day, 90% of the time it is a White Sox game.
The problem of whether to root for the Cleveland Indians, because of Al (Alfonso Ramon) Lopez, a Floridian whose father, like Canel's, came from Asturias, Spain, or for the Giants, who have a Puerto Rican pitcher in Ruben Gomez, is not one for Buck Canel to resolve. He walks a tight line to preserve a neutrality the Swiss would envy. One reason may be that he goes south every year to cover the Winter League in Latin America and is then within easy reaching distance of whoever might wish to criticize him personally. He has, furthermore, a deep regard for his audience's right to its own opinions.
"They know the game and the players," Canel booms, "and maybe a little bit better than the average fan up here. Naturally, they're most interested in Latin American players but more than 40 percent of all major leaguers have barnstormed down there at one time or another. I figure I have 12 to 15 million listeners, though it's impossible to be sure because anyone can pick up short wave. About 50 stations rebroadcast me."
The language makes for confusion at times. Canel has had to answer such questions as: "Is George Kell a brother of Carrasquel?"
In addition to baseball he handles other sports. He described 22 Joe Louis fights for Latin America but Kid Gavilan pulls a bigger audience. During the off season he has covered everything from winter-league baseball to presidential inaugurals and track meets in Mexico, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, Argentina, Uruguay, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. All year around he writes a daily sports column for France-Presse, a news agency which distributes in Latin America among other places.
Canel's ambition is to persuade Al Lopez to go to Spain with him and hold baseball clinics there. He feels that Spain, already showing signs of interest, would take up baseball on a broader scale, though it won't ever rival bullfighting. But Al Lopez, these days, is thinking mostly of trips between the Polo Grounds and Municipal Stadium, Cleveland.
State amateurs (cont'd)
Fresh testimony in the continuing debate over the amateur standing of athletics in countries behind the Iron Curtain was on the record last week as Hery Tycznski, Polish featherweight boxer who escaped into West Germany, did a series of broadcasts for the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. Excerpts from the interviews:
Q. Tell us something of the life of sportsmen in Poland.
A. Good athletes have all the time they need for training, very good jobs, too, where they earn more than the average man. All firms employing leading athletes must free them for training.
Q. As far as living conditions are concerned, are all athletes equally privileged?
A. No. Athletes who belong to the Gwardia or CWKS [army sport club] are always in a better position. An athlete in CWKS is usually given a lieutenant's commission and pay and a flat to live in while he merely goes on practicing his sport. He has nothing else to do.
Q. What was your job while you boxed for Gwardia?
A. I worked as a physical training instructor for the employees of the Ministry of Public Security. I was supposed to give tests for the physical fitness badge, but to be quite frank, the employees only came along to put in an appearance. They didn't even undress, let alone run or jump. It was enough that I signed the list stating that they attended. Top athletes most of the time have fictitious jobs. There are cases where men appear only once a month to sign the payroll and collect their salary. That is a normal situation. That is how things are done, as in Russia. There the top athletes do not work—they only practice sport.
Q. That means then that there is in Poland no amateur sport at present?
A. One can frankly say there is really none.
Once upon a time—Oops!
The newest Pakistan delegate to the U.N., Princess Abida Sultan, 41, daughter of the Nawab or ruling prince of the Moslem state of Bhopal, has recently arrived in New York for duty and will be largely engaged in problems involving the status of women throughout the world. Without going into the subject formally it seems quite possible that a few conclusions as to 1) Pakistan, 2) Moslem royal houses and 3) even the status of women evolve quite naturally from a simple listing of Princess Abida's hobbies.
She enjoys swimming, field hockey, polo and cricket. She is an expert flyer with a passion for aerial acrobatics. In a recent Karachi squash tournament she won 16 matches, all against men. She drives sports cars with heavy-footed abandon, and recently suggested that a Karachi automobile dealer ought to dramatize his product's ruggedness by driving it off an inclined ramp at high speed. He agreed, but could find nobody with nerve enough to do the stunt. The princess did it herself and cried, "Great sport," afterward. She has also shot 73 tigers. Perhaps it should be added that she speaks English, Persian, Arabic, French and Urdu, plays the sitar or Indian lute, and is the mother of a 20-year-old son.
THE DAYS OF REAL SPORT
A couple of bobsledders, their minds fixed by no means dreamily on the winning of the Olympics, have been seen lately sitting in a sled in a wind tunnel and trailing bits of string in the airstream. Their idea, not altogether new, is to apply aerodynamic principles to the sport of coasting downhill.
A man who once held the belly-bumps championship of Hill Crossing, a peril-laden descent which required the sledder to streak across the right of way of the Boston & Maine railroad and onto a strip of road encumbered by snorting Model Ts and sometimes, it seemed, between the legs of plunging, rearing horses, was asked what he thought of bobsledding, slip streams and air turbulence. The word "bobsled-ding" caught his ear.
"Used to call them double-runners," he said. "You took a two-by-eight plank and set it up high on top of two low-slung sleds, rigged up a steering gear and there you were. Go like 60, especially if you ran a blowtorch over the runners on a nice, icy night. I can still hear them girls screaming."
They used to take girls along for the ride, it seems, everybody hanging onto the one in front of him. The nearest they got to science was for everybody to lean forward on the steepest part of the downgrade and to try to achieve lateral stability while going around a curve. Very often the girls couldn't manage this maneuver and there would be spills, bodies crashing into the snow and each other. Well, that was all part of the game.
The two sportsmen who are giving bobsledding the scientific treatment are an engineer and a physicist. Edgar Seymour, the engineer, and Dr. Arthur Tyler, the physicist, brought their 360-pound bobsled down from Rochester, N.Y. the other day and set it up in the wind tunnel at the Guggenheim School of Aeronautics, College of Engineering, New York University. They put on their plastic helmets, goggles and zippered windbreakers and sat in the sled, Tyler at the wheel, Seymour at the brakes. Then the propeller was turned on and a 60-mile wind moaned through the tunnel.
Seymour took out a foot-long piece of string and held it in the air between himself and the driver's back. It quivered straight out before him, but the free end was pointing at the driver's back, not at Seymour. The two bobsledders looked at each other and shook their heads, conveying that something was not quite right with the aerodynamics. The bobsled cowling may, therefore, be altered so that when they are streaking downhill at Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, during the 1956 winter Olympics a piece of string held between them will point in the proper aerodynamic direction, which is backward.
The old belly-bumps master was told about this curious behavior of a piece of string and he shook his head.
"Used to wear stocking caps with long tassels," he said. "Get going good and they'd stand out straight all right and sometimes your hair'd stand on end."