College football, that most illogical of sporting organisms, was aleapin' and ahoppin' last week with the schizoid energy which seizes it annually in golden October. It was the time of year when there seems to be no rhyme nor reason at all to the far-flung pattern of conflict in the nation's stadiums, when football seems to be played not to determine the best team, but to demonstrate that such a conclusion is completely impossible. U.C.L.A., having been all but stopped (21-20) by Washington a fortnight ago, massacred Stanford 72-0; good old Brown beat Princeton 21-20; Alabama beat Tennessee 27-0; thrice-beaten Pitt licked Navy 21-19. It was, in a word, a normal year.
•That heavy-eyed and irascible old debbil, Baseball, kept punching at the pillows and yanking at the covers and trying to settle down for a long winter's nap, but sleep refused to come—baseball clubs persisted in shuffling paper and managers all week, and Philadelphia made a last-minute grab and kept the A's just as Kansas City was picking them up to carry them away.
•Basketball yawned and stretched. Hockey yawned and tongued the first loose tooth of the year. Track & Field snored peacefully, whistled a bit and smiled dreamily at a pleasant, far-off tinkle—the sound of thousands of coins being dropped into slotted tin cans by football fans donating much-needed funds to finance the next U.S. Olympic team.
October 25, 1954
While pleading nolo contendere in the political row over Defense Secretary Charles E. Wilson's remarks on unemployment, SI feels duty bound to point out that he has definitely maligned bird dogs, one of which can be seen hard at work on the cover of this issue. The Secretary described them as a type of animal "who'll get out and hunt for food rather than sit on his fanny [like a "kennel-fed" dog] and yell." But no self-respecting bird dog worthy of appearing on the cover of a self-respecting magazine ever eats a bird. He retrieves it politely, and waits for dinner until he gets back to the kennel—where, Mr. Wilson notwithstanding, he is as apt as not to yell like a banshee for his kibbled chow.
It is difficult to share the view that the Athletics have been really saved with the eleventh-hour purchase of the team by a syndicate of Philadelphia patriots. It certainly seems that baseball would have been better served if the Athletics had been sold to Arnold Johnson of Chicago and moved to baseball-hungry Kansas City. The well-meaning syndicate which bought out Connie Mack for $604,000, Earle Mack for $450,000, and included Roy Mack in the purchasing group may have only postponed the rites for the impotent A's.
Meanwhile, the sorely disappointed Arnold Johnson can comfort himself with a rare—if immediately useless—baseball honor. The American League had placed its official approval on him as a man worthy to operate one of its ball clubs. This is a distinction not lightly conferred and it was won by Johnson only after the league had asked some sharp questions about his business connections. Did his part ownership of Yankee Stadium raise a threat of "syndicate" baseball? Did his Chicago hockey interests indicate he was "fronting" for the Norris hockey and boxing empire? In short, would he be good for baseball? The A.L. decided he would, and so baseball would do well to file a folder on this man the game may be hearing from—and needing—a little later on. A few facts for baseball's file:
Arnold Johnson is 47, tall, robust, dark-haired, a White Sox fan since his boyhood on Chicago's South Side. Married, father of two small children, a boy and a girl, he graduated from the University of Chicago ('28) and served a four-year hitch in the Navy during World War II. Chances are you've done business with him, for Arnold Johnson is—among many other things—the big wheel of a vending-machine empire that annually swallows up $70 million in nickels and dimes while coughing out hot coffee, milk, candy bars, soft drinks and change for a quarter if you've got it coming.
Johnson is what Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson would call a bird dog. He's got himself more jobs than you can count (his titles alone include president, director, chairman, treasurer, vice-president), and his companies publish books, operate hotels, sell hotels, buy hotels, play hockey (via the Chicago Black Hawks), own Yankee Stadium and the ball park at Kansas City. But what Johnson likes most is a deal, and the dickering for the Athletics had been right down his alley. Previously, he had made the sports pages with a complicated baseball transaction in which he bought Yankee Stadium and the Kansas City ball park from Dan Topping and Del Webb. Then he sold the land under the Yankee Stadium to the Knights of Columbus who thereupon rented it back to Topping and Webb. Somehow, the three-way $6,500,000 deal apparently made money for everybody concerned.
And it did more than that. It put another bee in the Johnson bonnet. Now that he owned the Kansas City ball park, he began to think of the town as a major league candidate.
"I was inspired by the success of the Braves in Milwaukee," Johnson says, "and a little investigation convinced me that Kansas City could become an even better baseball town. It's a prosperous, industrious, growing city with a great civic spirit."
Johnson's confidence in Kansas City was equaled only by the town's confidence in him. On the strength of Johnson's bid for the A's, Kansas City voted a bond issue to enlarge the baseball stadium to major league proportions (35,000 seats) and then pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars for tickets to see a ball club that was only a gleam in Johnson's eye.
Last week, seated in his plush, paneled, thickly carpeted office in Chicago's Merchandise Mart, Johnson looked a man big-league baseball could use. Although he appeared completely relaxed and nerveless as he twirled his horn-rimmed glasses and chatted easily, a visitor could not fail to get the impression that deep thinking processes were in motion behind the composed Johnson facade. This impression is confirmed by those visitors who take note of the big window in the office. It is so placed as to command a spectacular view of the skyline across the Chicago River. It would, too, except that Johnson has had it frosted over. It is his theory that you don't dream up big deals by staring out of windows.
Baseball may hear again from the man behind the frosted window.
What football means
Anyone who was at the Yale football dinner of February, 1951 will be interested to know what ever became of Kilborn Church. They called him "Killer" but he was the least ept football player the Ivy League ever saw—at Yale, anyhow, if not at Harvard.
Well, Church is now a methods supervisor for the Reliance Electric and Engineering Company of Cleveland. He has a wife—a New Haven girl he married two days after graduation—and a boy coming up to two months old. He is 29 and hasn't filled out any, still a skinny man with pipestem legs, 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing 155 pounds, which is about what he was when he went out for football.
"All I needed," he says today, "was 40 more pounds and I would have been murder."
He carried this idea with him through college, going out for the varsity every fall and never coming close to making it. After a couple of years of that nonsense coaches and players developed a liking for him. They kidded his every awkward move but they also put him in the 1950 Harvard game in his senior year—for two plays—so that he could make his letter.
Came the football dinner in February. It was held in the heavily paneled English Tudor dining room of the St. Elmo fraternity house. The varsity, the junior varsity, Head Coach Herman Hickman and about 100 select others were there. Church sat at the head table with the varsity.
Football dinners generally fall into one of two types. The team has had a good season and all the players are in for florid praise, or a bum season and the speeches run on about next year. But in 1950 Yale had won some and lost some and it was all fairly indecisive. No reason to cheer or to weep.
Neither was there any reason to expect that, when players were called on to say a few words, any one of them would utter anything memorable. Church might have been passed over in this speechmaking, but because he was so liked, he was called upon.
"They laughed when I got up," he remembers. "I was supposed to be the clown of the team and they thought this was going to be funny."
About all he had to say, as he recalls it, was to enlarge upon a letter he had received from his uncle, Kortright Church, who had been a Yale tackle in the 1910-11 season. Kilborn's father, Heyliger Church, had been an end on the Yale teams of 1914-16. Now here was Kilborn, Yale '51 and nothing much in football, remembering a family tradition and four years of failure at it and trying to say something rousing about it.
The letter from his uncle, expressing congratulations that a Church had again won his Y, said, "Football is one of the worthwhile things in life, like your hitch in the Marines." That gave Kilborn a take-off point.
"I know what he meant," he told his ready-to-chuckle audience. "The lesson of football is something one seldom gets from other experiences. Football leaves its mark not only physically but on one's character. It is not natural for a man to run his head into a stone wall, to hurt and be hurt and come back for more...[but] it is a way of finding the courage to meet a challenge and come back.
"Life is always a challenge and a struggle, and football seems to be a way of condensing the training for it in a short period. In meeting a challenge, man-finds within himself strength and weakness he never before knew."
This was by no means eloquence, but in simple words it fitted the occasion better than anyone had ever done it before at a Yale football dinner. Furthermore, it was a little like when the audience finds that Shakespeare has been putting wise words into the mouth of Henry's fool. The ordinary response to a speech is a burst of applause, fervent or perfunctory but in any case immediate. When Kilborn sat down there was only silence in St. Elmo's, a silence which those who were there remember as so prolonged it seemed to last for minutes. Then there came the applause, a roaring wave of sound. It lasted much longer than the silence. And afterward Kilborn Church was a legend around Yale. They still talk about him there.
Easel does it
Skin divers, swimming under the surface of clear, warm, rock-bound coves around the Spanish island of Majorca, have lately been encountering a startling underwater apparition—a painter, perched before an easel at the bottom of the sea. The artist, a black-haired, 35-year-old Majorcan radio repair man named Jorge Morey-Gil, began skin diving years ago and developed a passion for submarine photography. A few weeks ago, in an effort to capture the elusive colors of the depths more accurately, he began waterproofing canvases with linseed oil and painting below the surface. He wears flippers and an Aqua-lung, uses an easel weighted with ten pounds of lead, fastens his brushes to his bathing suit to keep them from floating away when they are not in use and carries a knife (with which he recently stabbed an inquisitive octopus) strapped to one leg. He is the soul of hospitality when a fellow skin diver glides near, and invariably nods and invites inspection of his work. Nevertheless, the sight of him, bubbling away, palette in hand, amid a school of nosy fish, tends to unnerve casual passers-by. "He scared the hell out of me the first time I saw him," said one skin diver. "I looked at his painting all right when he waved me over, but I swam right ashore and had a drink."
Bean of Maine
There are times when a man may burnish his soul by fighting progress tooth and nail—ah, for the day when it was fashionable to stifle a telephone by ripping the damnable thing off the wall and heaving it through the window, amidst a cathartic tinkling of glass. If L. L. Bean of Freeport, Maine is not a stout, white-haired old gent who wears black sateen sleeve guards and steel-rimmed spectacles, keeps his money in a wooden drawer and has a few skunk and muskrat pelts drying in the back room, he should be, and the world would do well to ignore all contrary evidence.
The L. L. Bean Catalog, which L.L. Bean has been mailing out to hunters and fishermen ever since 1902, contains, it is true, disquieting suggestions that modern efficiency, and perhaps even electric lights, have crept into his establishment. "We are located," reads the issue for fall, 1954, "19 miles east of Portland on U.S. 1 Business Highway. Plenty of free parking near salesroom entrance." Parking! Obviously a typographical error. The catalog is a fascinating work. Because its prose contains innumerable clues to the character of L. L. Bean. He does not sound like a man who would permit horseless carriages to stink up his store.
There is obviously little nonsense about him. Of Bean's 1954 Maine Hunting Shoe the catalog says, "The Maine Hunting Shoe was developed in 1914 by Mr. Bean. He returned from hunting wearing a pair of all-leather woodsman shoes, the type in common use in 1914, with sore feet. As a result of this experience, Mr. Bean developed the Maine Hunting Shoe—a leather top with rubber bottom. The average hunting shoe weighs about four ounces more than ours. As big-game hunters walk about seven miles (or 18,480 steps) a day they lift 2,310 pounds more than necessary." No false modesty creeps in. Of Bean's Combination Compass, Match Case and Whistle, it says, "The whistle is loud enough to be heard a long distance."
The page devoted to Bean's Improved Double L Fly Rod Outfit, however, seems to present the proprietor. "Our improved LL rod ($18.80 postpaid) is one of the finest rods we have ever offered," it says, in part. "With this rod Mr. Bean landed an 18-pound Atlantic Salmon while fishing on the Tobique River, New Brunswick.
Obviously Mr. Bean spent little time disposing of that Atlantic Salmon. He simply waded (stiffly but sturdily) out into some handy pool with a set of Bean's Over-the-Shoe Boots (with chain tread sole, $12.55) yanked up over his rusty business suit, made a few false casts with a Bean LL fly line (Sizes C and D, $2.35) and then, face thoughtful, high starched collar gleaming in the sun, let his fly settle softly on the water.
The 18-pound Atlantic Salmon in question struck instantly, doubtless aware that Mr. Bean is a busy man, made a few accommodating runs and came splashing to the net—which, of course, was wielded by a small boy of Mr. Bean's acquaintance. "Get him, Bub?" asked Mr. Bean. Then, ascertaining that the fish was indeed captured, he added, absently, "You can have him—take him home for dinner." He was already wading ashore. "This rod," he said thoughtfully, squinting with satisfaction at its high-grade Tonkin Cane construction, "will do for the L.L. Bean Catalog."
JOHNNY: What is an atheist, Pop?
POP: An atheist is a man who doesn't care who wins the Notre Dame-S.M.U. game.
Epizootic, stay home
In all but four English counties, in every Welsh county, in 21 Scottish counties, rabbits are dying of myxomatosis—just as they have died in the past few years in Australia, France, Belgium, Spain, The Netherlands and Germany. Man, trifling with the balance of nature, has stirred up another fuss and he doesn't know what to do about it.
Myxomatosis was introduced into Australia in an effort to control that country's scourge of rabbits, which were introduced there for what must have seemed an adequate reason. The myxomatosis worked fine. Rabbits died by the millions, the grass grew greener, the sheep grew fat and produced more wool per sheep.
A couple of years ago an octogenarian French professor, Paul Armand-Delille, decided to get rid of rabbit pests in his garden. A Swiss scientist friend sent him some myxomatosis virus, the professor sickened a couple of rabbits with it and pretty soon Europe was going through a zoological version of the Black Death.
English farmers think of the rabbit as a pest, too, and pretty soon infected rabbits were being black-marketed in England for as much as five pounds per sick rabbit. Clergymen denounced the practice as un-Christian, because the rabbits die in agony, but their influence was not noticeably strong.
The rabbit is not a pest to everyone. Those who follow beagling admire the rabbit, and many shotgunners regard him as sporting quarry. Now the beaglers of America, particularly, are worried that myxomatosis may cross the Atlantic. A shotgunner can shoot almost anything, but a beagler needs his rabbit.
Myxomatosis need not be introduced to a country deliberately, as in Europe and Australia, the beaglers say. It would be a very simple matter, apparently, for some tourist to take his car to Europe, run over a diseased rabbit and bring back the virus on the tires. Or he could pick it up on his shoes.
So the beaglers watch, wait and pray. There is a ray of hope from Australia, however. Surviving rabbits appear to be breeding a strain resistant to the disease. If so, beaglers may relax. All they need do, should myxomatosis strike, is import a few resistant Australians and let the rabbit's natural proficiency take over.
The mechanical man
Last spring the University of Kansas hired a high school coach to guide its Big Seven football team. He was Chuck Mather, who has a prep school record of 111 victories against 18 defeats and five ties. He coached Washington High of Massillon, Ohio to 57 victories in 60 games, and six championships in the last six years.
Any helmsman with a record like that must have a "system." Mather's centers around two electronic gadgets—a closed-circuit television receiver on the bench and an IBM machine. The sideline TV set gives him and his staff a better look at the swirl of action than the bench position allows. But it's the garnishment of IBM index cards to rate his athletes and to determine who plays what position when that made Mather (often referred to as the Mechanical Man of Massillon) shape up as the most formidable figure to invade big-time football this season.
He discovered in prep school coaching that in order to achieve victory in any single game it is necessary that his players end up with punched cards showing a minimum of 60 percent correct technique and execution.
In practice and during games K.U. players, giving their all as the Mechanical Age came to the banks of the Kaw, are graded up to five points on technique and five on execution for every football fundamental. Under blocking technique, for example, Mather has 1) Stance; 2) Moving on the count; 3) Lunge to block; 4) Position to contact; and 5) Contact. Under blocking execution 1) Throw a block; 2) Good attempt; 3) Get some contact; 4) Run over opponent; 5) Take Two. Each type of block has a code number, as have the various types of running, faking, passing, receiving and tackling maneuvers.
Under line and backfield defensive actions there are 31 code numbers and an equal number of subdivisions. Bonus points, up to five, can be awarded for the degree and intensity with which a given play is carried out by the player.
Since the average game has about 150 plays, Mather uses about 150 cards for each player. This comes to about 1,650 index cards per game or, over a 10-game season, some 16,500 cards. He also uses 150 cards per game for scouting statistics. The end result of this bizarre system is a huge tabulation sheet in triplicate which provides the formula for Saturday's strategy, according to the gospel of mathematics.
And what has all this meant to good old K.U. this year? Read the scores: Texas Christian 27-K.U. 6; U.C.L.A. 32-K.U. 7; Colorado 27-K.U. 0; Iowa State 33-K.U.6; and Oklahoma 65-K.U. 0.
Pondering the world of cybernetics last week, Coach Mather said: "You gotta have football players to win."