OCT. 20: Johnny Saxton takes the world welterweight championship from Kid Gavilan in an odoriferous waltz in Philadelphia, as the ringside press lets out headline screams and the screenside television audience holds its nose.
OCT. 28: SI demands Boxing's Dirty Business Must Be Cleaned Up Now.
OCT. 28: New York District Attorney Hogan subpoenas IBG records to start investigation into boxing's dirty business.
November 15, 1954
NOV. 4: SI announces it will print a "no-progress" report of New York Boxing Commissioner Christenberry's two years in office in its issue which will appear Nov. 11.
NOV. 5: Commissioner Christenberry orders an assortment of a dozen fight managers, promoters, matchmakers and others to explain their possible connection with boxing's dirty business. Sets the hearings for Nov. 12.
It wouldn't take the sharpest intellect ever honed to guess what the boxing world has been reading lately. But the principals involved in the mess would have to have been brewed yesterday to think that they can get by with a few late-round headline flurries.
The Philadelphia Athletics were sold again last week and it can only be hoped that the deed was marked "all sales final." Arnold Johnson, the Chicago nickel-in-the-slot tycoon, bought the team just as he had appeared to do a month ago and, of course, he plans to move it to Kansas City.
Although 91-year-old Connie Mack was quite ill, Johnson announced that Connie would be honorary president of the new club. There were, the announcement indicated, jobs available for the rest of the Mack family, too. They were good jobs. Roy Mack, one of Connie's sons, jumped at one. Earle, another son, did not.
"Dad was in the league 54 years," Earle said, "and only one time did he ask for a favor. He asked the other owners at the meeting in New York to keep the club in Philadelphia. He didn't care who owned the club as long as it stayed in Philadelphia. They turned him down. Fifty-four years in the league and they turned him down. That's what put Dad to bed."
Earle talked some more about persons and places and then a man mentioned pictures—the pictures that hung in the office of the Philadelphia Athletics, pictures of Lefty Grove and George Earnshaw, Home Run Baker and Chief Bender, Mickey Cochrane and Jimmy Foxx.
"Will the pictures go to Kansas City if the franchise goes?" Earle was asked.
He paused, and it was a long hard pause. Each picture and each name was a reminder of a day when the Philadelphia Athletics were a great team.
"The pictures," Earle Mack said finally. "Well...well. We'll distribute them amongst the family, I guess."
Walnut Ridge, Ark. (pop. 3,106) was the scene last week of an election which collapsed a pillar of political campaign theory. The voters of Walnut Ridge elected John Sain, the Yankee pitcher, as alderman. That's the same Sain named John the Silent by frustrated reporters. It's the same John Sain who hoards his monosyllables so passionately that Casey Stengel, an old verbophile, felt forced to apologize early last season. "John don't talk much," Stengel said, "but that don't matter, 'cause when you're out there on the mound you got no friends to talk to."
What sort of a campaign did Sain the Silent conduct? The reports from Walnut Ridge are sketchy, but it is likely that he was elected without making a single speech. Possibly he was elected without having to utter a word. It is a small trend, but for candidates thinking ahead toward 1956, it has its points.
Sob of the week
On a football field at Wilberforce, Ohio last Saturday, Kentucky State lined up for the opening kickoff and sent it soaring downfield. Standing on his own goal line, Quarterback Don Carter of Central State gathered it in—and raced 100 yards for the longest touchdown run of the day. Then the referee called him back. "I hadn't blown my whistle to start the game," the referee said.
Man on horseback
By Judiciously fueling a middle-aged mare named Halla with sugar lumps, 28-year-old Hans Winkler of Frankfurt, Germany has traveled a long way. In the eight years since he set out, amid the cheerless wreckage of the Third Reich, to become a gentleman rider, Winkler has seen and conquered Madrid, Paris and Rome; last week, having crossed the Atlantic in style, he emerged as the bright particular star of the international jumping events in New York's glittering National Horse Show.
Riding Halla and a second horse named Alpenjager, Winkler won four of the first individual international jumping events for the West German team, thus dramatizing a surprising renascence of German horses (the Spanish team brought 5 German horses to New York, too; the Mexicans 2) and German horsemanship.
Winkler, a short, dark-haired, thick-wristed fellow, wears horn-rimmed spectacles that give him—in conjunction with his pink coat and velvet huntsman's cap—an air of jaunty intentness as he takes his straining chargers over the jumps. But when he dismounts, pulls his glasses off his nose and slips them into a pocket, he suddenly looks and sounds like a college boy on an unexpected vacation—one which in his case has brought him applause and admiration everywhere he has gone. They were the last things he expected when he was mustered out of the Wehrmacht, at 20, after V-E Day.
Winkler's father, a career officer in the Germany Army, was killed during the war, and the son was set adrift in a world of grimy ruins. He was rescued almost immediately, however, by an old family friend, the stablemaster at Castle Friedrichshof, which became for a while a U.S. Army country club. With his horses providentially guarded and fed, the stablemaster was able to go on training them, and with them young Winkler, in the arts of dressage, the difficult and subtle exercises by which mounts are conditioned and taught perfect communion with a rider.
Winkler discovered a talent for horses almost immediately and became a dressage rider par excellence. He began jumping, was discovered by Dr. Gustav Rau, paramount chieftain of German equestrianism, and, almost before he knew it, found himself becoming a figure of some eminence.
"For two and a half years," said Winkler happily last week, "I have had a job with the Bayer Aspirin Company. It is not a job where I have an office. I meet people—I meet the mayor, the big shots wherever I go—so it is good for the business. For jumping I do not get paid, of course—I am an amateur—but I am not married and I can afford it now."
In talking about jumping, Winkler immediately makes the point that it is the horse, and not he, that jumps, and speaks of himself only as a sort of disembodied influence. "My horse is a good horse," he says, "because she wants to jump. She enjoys it. To make her want to jump you must be like the man who trains your American sprinters. When Zatopek comes out to run he frowns, he keeps his jaws together. But when your Jesse Owens comes out to run he smiles. That is the way the horse must feel. You must know when the horse has worked enough and never work her one minute more. You must control her, but you must not fight with her. Of course, I must fight with her once in a while. When I do, I stay away from her for two or three days until she is not angry any more. I feed her sugar when she is good. I let her know I think she has done well. With the horse it is best to put this"—and here Winkler made a fist and held it before him—"in your pocket."
Dr. Rau, who is in New York as a nonriding captain of the German team, spoke more pointedly when asked what, in his opinion, was responsible for Winkler's success as a jumper. He thumped his forehead with his knuckles and said, "He has a good head. Germans have the best heads." And, after a pause: "So do German horses."
Mud, worms, birds, fog
As they looked back on their first season last week, the new-born Vancouver (B.C.) Lions of Canada's professional Western Interprovincial Football League could look back (and not without a certain dogged pride) on one of the most stirringly disastrous campaigns in sports history. The Lions won but one out of 16 games, had to keep their expensive star, ex-N.Y. Giant Arnie Weinmeister, benched with injuries most of the year, and ended up hopelessly out of the Grey Cup Playoffs. But this was as nothing to their defeats at the hands of malevolent nature. Rains and improper drainage facilities turned the field in Vancouver's brand-new 25,500-seat Empire Stadium (built for last summer's British Empire Games) into a quagmire by midseason.
The Lions attacked the mud with giant vacuum cleaners. This failed. They installed wind machines. They failed too. They bored holes in the ground. No soap. They scraped off the turf and laid a new field, three inches higher. This proved so gluey that they bought a huge transparent plastic cover which was calculated to 1) keep off the water but 2) allow the grass to keep growing. Unfortunately, worms rose to the surface and wriggled in plain sight just beneath the cover—hundreds of birds descended and pecked the plastic full of holes in pursuit of the worms and the field stayed muddy as ever. A high, spiral punt sank so deep in a recent game that the safety man could barely wrench it out of the ground. To cap all this, fog settled so heavily in the sunken stadium during the final night game with the Regina Rough Riders that play had to be halted in the fourth quarter, just as the Lions seemed to be on the verge of overcoming Regina's 15-9 lead.
The Lion management did its best to improve conditions. The floodlights were turned off, on the theory that the heat they generated had caused the impenetrable mist—the rest of the city, curiously, was clear. Then the crowd was asked to light matches in the hopes of burning the fog away. But after an hour of this the soup was as thick as ever and the game had to be called off. But did Vancouver's citizens let the Lions down? Indeed not—they seemed as fascinated by this continual atmosphere of catastrophe as silent-picture fans gripped by a Pearl White serial. The Lions drew home crowds virtually as big as the league leaders and finished the year with a tidy profit of $60,000.
Last Summer Judge Curtis Bok of Philadelphia and a crew of four sailed the 40-foot ketch "Alphard" from Camden, Me. to England, a passage which was remarkably uneventful except for squalls and some of the minor mishaps incident to most long cruises. Skipper Bok, who is President Judge of Philadelphia's Common Pleas Court No. 6 and author of a novel (I Too, Nicodemus) which won critics' praise, has written and privately printed a brief account of the voyage. In it he notes that "thousands of land stories have been written, but perceptive literature of the sea is scarce."
But in Transatlantic Passage, 1954, Judge Bok has contributed at least a couple of paragraphs of perceptive sea writing: "It is wrong to think of the sea as water only. It is wind and light and water together that form its many faces and raise man's imagination: the milk of a pre-easterly calm; the jade or sapphire walls of the ground swell; the lace of breaking seas and the old gristle of a storm; the running brook of light clear weather. They draw the threads of dawns and sunsets and weather into one great arras which led Conrad to say that the purpose of creation is not ethical but spectacular, engaging only man's conscience to remain emotionally faithful to a spectacle that is a moral end in itself.
"Man may not love the sea alone but the spectacle, and he must love it with an Old Testament fear, a combined fear and love of the Lord and His works that is neither love nor fear, but wonderment. He must flee before it, but to no harbor save his own self-sufficiency, for Nature may at any time with indifferent unconcern lay her great paw on him, and the shadow of the paw is always upon the face of the deep. Man needs the sea for his commerce, his food, and much of his inspiration, and because life came from the salt water he carries the memory of this early communion in his blood. He cannot, however, write his record upon it as he can upon the land, and his voyages are as evanescent as music, experienced in a vital moment and gone, with no evidence but his boat and the testimony of his fellows. The sea has no memory, as it has no compassion and no age and, alone and complete in itself, no need for man.
"To become whole with it man needs his boat and a friend or two to help him work it. These together can compete with the spectacle he has challenged, and it is not strange that his boat should become a loved and almost living thing."
If not horses, why people?
It is considered ethically indecent to dope race horses and there was much tsk-tsking during the 1932 Olympics at Los Angeles because the Japanese swimming team sniffed oxygen before going into the water.
Now C. E. Taylor, high school basketball coach, has been forced to resign by the Ashland, Ohio school board because for years he had been serving dexedrine sulphate tablets to key players. Other coaches do it, too. The tablets are known as "pep-up pills" and during World War II were used by fliers and ground troops to offset fatigue. Most doctors believe they are quite harmless and many prescribe them to suppress appetite in patients who want to lose weight without gaining will power. Some people use the drugs to keep going beyond the limits of fatigue and occasionally this leads to collapse, not from the effects of the drug but from an unfelt fatigue.
Another drug which has this effect (suppression of feelings of hunger and fatigue) is cocaine, which was used by the ancient Incas to keep their mine slaves working long and arduously with little food. Peruvian Indians chew the coca leaf for the same purpose today. Dexedrine sulphate is not habit forming, as cocaine is, and cocaine in turn, though habit forming, does not lead to true addiction, in the sense that heroin and morphine do.
Tennis players commonly take caffeine, usually in the form of tea or coffee, to sustain them during long, hard matches. One doctor gives massive doses of vitamin B-12 to a prominent welterweight boxer a few days before each match but other doctors say there is no reason to suppose the vitamin has more than a psychological effect.
Coach Taylor's use of "pep-up pills" to give his athletes stamina, real or spurious, was by no means unusual. They have been used by coaches and trainers in football, both college and professional, and are quite commonly employed in basketball. But a nervous breakdown suffered by a former Ashland basketball player after he enrolled at Ohio Wesleyan University this fall upset the Ashland school board. There was no evidence that the breakdown was more than coincidence and Coach Taylor protested that four doctors had assured him that dexedrine sulphate would have no harmful effect on his players. Other Ashland players could recall no ill effects from the pills, though some said they found it difficult to sleep after games. This symptom, however, could have been a natural reaction from the excitement of the game.
Amid general agreement of physicians that the pills are physically harmless, one doctor raised a question:
Should young players be taught to believe that victory is so precious it is worth the use of artificial stimulants to achieve it?
This, in turn, raised other questions, like:
Are artificial stimulants cricket? Is tea, commonly consumed with meals, an artificial stimulant when taken between sets at a tennis match? Would caffeine pills, obtainable at drugstores without prescription, be considered an artificial stimulant? Where should athletes and coaches draw the line, if any, between tea and cocaine? At dexedrine sulphate, perhaps? Would it be all right for a runner with a sore ankle to take a shot of novocain before an event, even though many consider it dirty pool, and it is actually illegal, when this is done for lame horses? (Track law says that only physically fit horses may run.) What about those Japanese swimmers? What about the fact that it has been suggested that American swimmers use oxygen when they compete at the Pan-American games in Mexico this year?
Of Jockey Arcaro
I fondly speak—
Was his nag's nose first
Or Eddie's beak?