It's the rule
Bing Crosby aired a fine idea the other day. Bing took off from Don Canham's article in SI (Oct. 25), "Russia Will Win the 1956 Olympics"—which points out that while Russia state-supports its athletes all the way, the U.S. Olympic Committee has to shake the tin cup. Bing's suggestion was both logical and simple: To help raise the million or so dollars the Olympic Committee needs to send U.S. athletes to Melbourne, why not arrange for UCLA and Oklahoma—both unbeaten, untied and uninvited to regular Bowl games—to play a special post-season game?
Chancellor Raymond B. Allen of UCLA promptly put the crusher to that idea: both UCLA and Oklahoma are parties to tidy conference agreements which rule out Bowl games two years in a row for the same team—and UCLA and Oklahoma played in Bowl games last year. The rule works to share the Bowl-game gravy, even when it means second-rung football.
We say too bad on two counts: 1) the Olympic Committee could have used the money and 2) Bowl games ought to pit champions against champions.
December 6, 1954
Clair Bee, president and coach of the Baltimore Bullets of the National Basketball Association, had a premonition before the 1954 season began that the path ahead would be almost as rough as it was last year for his cellar-dwelling club. So he wrote to friends around the country in the hopes that some hidden talent could be shipped off to Baltimore. From one of his friends, the head of a West Coast AAU team, he received this reply:
I have no one on my team who could help you.
I have no one on my team who can help me.
I have no one on my team who can help themselves, let alone anyone else.
I do know of someone who can help you. Get down on your knees, brother, and pray.
Coach Bee's prayers were not answered. A few weeks ago he threw in the towel and resigned. But the Bullets staggered on for a few more games. The end came late last week when the Bullets, dead-last in the eastern division and winners of only three of their 14 games, suspended operations for the rest of the season in the hope of cutting losses and establishing solid financial footing for next year.
Baltimore (and would-be angels) seem to have just two assets in the uncertain months ahead: 1) an NBA franchise and 2) title to a squad that includes Rookie Frank Selvy (see pages 26-27). For the remainder of the season the Baltimore squad will be on loan to other NBA teams. Home for Selvy, who has been leading the league in scoring in his first pro year, will be Milwaukee. There he'll try to boost another cellar club—the Hawks—up a notch in the NBA's western division. Rookie Selvy just might do it, too.
Some time ago, while in an indulgent mood, England's distinguished 85-year-old actor, A. E. Matthews, began allowing his Kerry blue terrier, Charley the Bastard, to share his bed. At first the dog seemed appreciative in the extreme. As time wore on, however, Charley the Bastard began insisting on a middle position on the mattress and rights to about two-thirds of the covers. Finally, the dog made it plain that he wanted the whole bed to himself, and expressed a growing sense of annoyance by biting Matthews if the actor so much as turned over during the night.
Like many another Englishman with an animal problem, Actor Matthews lost no time in communicating with a tall, wind-blown, Richmansworth housewife named Barbara Woodhouse. And though Mrs. Woodhouse writes, keeps house for a husband and three children, personally cares for two horses and three cows, one of which wears a rug on its back, conducts five dog-training classes a week, and takes no pay for advice on wayward beasts, she was quick to answer his S O S. The actor, in fact, was hardly prepared when she got briskly out of her car in the drive before his house in the London suburbs. "Don't come near," he cried, grabbing the leash of his lunging Kerry blue. "Bastard will bite you."
"Nonsense, "said Mrs. Woodhouse. She advanced resolutely, whacked the dog smartly about the head, spoke to it severely, and then scratched its chest. Charley the Bastard leaped up and licked her face. "I get dozens of letters," she cried. "All from people who want to know how to stop their dog from biting. They don't mind if it bites the postman or the grocer, but they want help when it starts biting them. Silly asses! Most of them sound so dull I'd bite them myself. Why can't they understand that all a dog wants is firm commands, leadership and a little fun and games?"
When she departed, Actor Matthews seemed rather dazed. This is a common reaction on the part of Mrs. Wood-house's widening circle of devotees—she is most famous as the woman who tames wild horses by breathing up their noses, and until meeting her a good many people are inclined to doubt that she is real. After meeting her a good many slump into chairs—comfortable wicker chairs if any are handy.
Perhaps this is to be expected. One has only to listen to Mrs. Woodhouse describe her horse-taming methods—borrowed, she says, from an old Guarani Indian during a visit to Argentina—to realize she is a remarkable woman. "The Indian told me his tribe did not have to break their horses," she says. "They would just lasso them and then stand near them with their hands behind their backs and blow gently up their nostrils. The horse understands this as 'How do you do?' From then on it is simply a matter of showing it what you want done. I promptly went home and tried this trick on a killer horse. Three men had died trying to break her and I bought her for a song. I stood quite still in a corral where she had been penned and blew down my nostrils. She came slowly up to me. She raised her head until her nose touched mine. I blew gently up her nose and she never moved as I fondled her ears. She stood quite still as I saddled her and mounted and away we went. I'll never want a more glorious creature."
Recently, Mrs. Woodhouse tamed a horse by her snuffing method in full view of a BBC television audience. "He wasn't really a wild horse," she says, "but he was difficult and bit several people when they brought him in. I breathed down my nose at him and he quieted immediately. Before the show was over I had him taking carrots out of my mouth." Mrs. Woodhouse, however, grows quite impatient with people who complain that they have been bitten while trying to breathe into dogs' noses. "Dogs," she says, "speak an entirely different language." She is quite impatient, as a matter of fact, with all "silly soft dog owners," and makes no bones about it at her dog training classes.
"You're bungling, Mr. Airdale, "she called, last week, to one owner. "Dogs are like their masters and if you wobble your dog will wobble." She swung about and cried: "Dear Mrs. Frisky, your voice is like a flatiron. You must sound as if you are terribly keen to do your work and then Frisky will be keen, too." Later, she reflected again on Actor Matthews' problem. "We had Charley the Bastard here for lessons and he loved it. Nothing wrong with him that a firm tone won't cure. I'd like to get Matthews' other dog, Sir Norman Birkeet, over here too—he tells me Sir Norman won't eat unless he's fed in a car with the engine running."
The brave bullfighter
The utmost wish of the aficionado is that bullfighting will know another Manolete, a Joselito, a Belmonte—just as baseball fans dream of a latter-day Babe Ruth, preferably on the home team. This year the ascending star of Willie Mays created far less furor in North American ball parks than did the continued rise of César Girón in the plazas de toros of Spain and South America.
Matador Girón, who used to be a baseball player himself once—in high school days in Caracas—has been tempting the critics of bullfighting to hail him as one of the greats. So far, most of the experts have held themselves in check, but bullfight crowds have been far less restrained. The crowd's frenzy determines whether the matador is awarded an ear, or two ears—or a tail as well. In Europe this year Girón fought in 54 corridas (about 108 bulls) and cut 109ears, 39 tails and 10 hoofs, an extraordinary record.
Back from his triumphs in Spain, Girón was awarded six ears, three tails and a hoof in two fights at Lima. The hoof award is both rare and illegal in Peru, where framers of bullfight regulations have condemned it as bad taste. But at the Plaza de Acho, the director of the bullfight, hearing that President Odria in his ringside seat had joined the clamor for a hoof, succumbed to what the newspaper El Comercio described as "general insanity."
Girón's triumph at Lima moved Horacio Parodi, critic for the respected Madrid weekly Dígame, to proclaim: "Today there was realized in the historic Plaza of Lima the definitive consecration of one of the greatest figures of bullfighting of all time. César Girón performed a miracle." To Parodi, the 20-year-old Girón was a "new messiah" and "an authentic figure who knows all the secrets of the fight better than anyone, and, without engaging in cheap tricks or showy passes, delights and moves deeply with the truth and serenity of his performance."
Girón's typical performance includes placing banderillas himself—a job usually done for the matador by a banderillero. These are three pairs of sharp-pointed harpoons to be jabbed into the bull's neck muscles to goad him and bring his head down. In this phase, Girón works with straight body, close to the horns, arms high and feet off the ground at the moment of thrust—a picture of airborne grace. His bravery is exceptional. Repeatedly in the Lima fight, he turned his back on the bull and bowed to the audience, trusting his ears to tell when the bull would start the next rush. Most good bullfighters do this, but Girón does it early, while the animal is fresh.
Most important in bullfighting is the degree of control the matador shows over the bull. Girón's control of a truly brave bull is complete. His passes include the classic repertory, executed with artistry, and one of his own invention which may yet be named the gironina, as Gaona was honored for his gaonera and Chicuelo for the chicuelina. And he excels in the kill, which Spaniards call "the moment of truth." It is a dangerous moment because the bull is beginning to understand that not the moving muleta but the bullfighter is his enemy and the muleta must be used to bring the animal into a position in which his front feet are close together. This position opens the shoulder blades for the sword thrust into an area about the size of a man's fist. Ordinarily, a matador draws the bull into proper position with a slow movement of the muleta and then, at the precise instant, goes in over the horns for the thrust. But Girón adds his own touch. He will show defiance, though not ridicule, of the bull and his superb control by using the muleta to turn the bull's head four times, not just once. During any of these turns a gust of wind could disrupt the muleta and the bull could give his attention to the man himself.
Girón has been gored, and severely, but he has persisted in mounting artistry upon courage. Late last month he came home to a hero's welcome in Caracas and dispatched two bulls before President Marco Perez Jiminez and 13,000 other spectators. The aficionados presented him with an ornate cape and cheered him repeatedly during the opening parade.
Unfortunately, Girón's bulls were not of the bravest, a situation which makes it difficult for the matador to show his best work. The crowd acknowledged the difficulty under which Girón was forced to perform and saw to it that he was awarded two ears for the second. If the crowd had had its way he would have won a tail as well. Critics condemned the bulls' tameness but applauded Girón. He had earned his ears, they agreed.
To an athlete
Leon Patterson had an unpromising start. His family left the dust bowl when he was three, only to be caught up in the insecure human tide that follows the harvests up and down California's sun-baked San Joaquin Valley. Leon went to 42 different grammar schools before he started high school in Taft (pop. 3,707), a hot, derrick-bordered oil town in the valley's southern reaches. But for all his set backs Leon grew into a likely youth—blond, husky, level-eyed and ambitious.
As a high school boy, he stood over six feet, weighed better than 200 pounds and moved with spring-legged grace. The first time he ever picked up a 12-pound shot he threw it more than 60 feet, farther than any U.S. high school boy had thrown it before. He habitually heaved the discus more than 160 feet. He ran the 100-yard dash in 10.1, and was a sensational high school fullback. He was one of the great natural athletes of his time; he was also one of the most dedicated, for to Leon Patterson athletics was the path of aspiration, of hope, of happiness.
He knew all three for a short time. An admiring and sympathetic high school teacher extracted him from edge-of-town poverty, took him home, treated him like a son. In an art class (where he painted startlingly competent murals) he fell in love with a teen-age girl named Dixie Kenny. He was promised an athletic scholarship by the University of Southern California—the New York Yankees of the world of track. But the summer he was 17 he took a physical examination and learned that he had Bright's disease. In his case, the doctors told him, he could live perhaps ten years if he gave up strenuous sports.
That autumn he did not report for high school football. "I don't have the time," he told his puzzled teammates. He did not talk about his trouble to anyone for a long time. But Dixie wanted to marry. So did he, and finally he told her his secret. Dixie was shaken—but unawed. They were married, and Leon accepted the scholarship at USC. As a sophomore last year, he threw the discus 178 feet, 8 inches—farther than any college sophomore in history and within two feet of the Olympic record. Dixie gave birth to a baby boy. The Pattersons lived in a Quonset hut on the campus. They had $75 a month, and the first real security and happiness Leon had ever known.
Leon worked unstintingly with the discus. His life—all of it that meant anything to him—was composed of Dixie, the baby and track, and his hours on the field were the price he paid for all three. After all, he repeated stubbornly, the doctors might be wrong. They were—by six years. Week by week his discus throws shortened—he slumped below 170 feet, below 160. At the NCAA meet at Ann Arbor this spring he had headaches and his vision blurred. For all that, he somehow managed a throw of 169 feet,¾ inch, and third place.
Then, with his wife and baby to think of, he went back to Taft and got a summer job loading boxcars in the furnace heat; sometimes he worked 17 hours a day. One day in class this fall his sight failed "just as if somebody had turned off a light." After that it was only a question of time. He voiced no regrets. He was, as his wife said proudly, "a very remarkable person with a kind of inner strength." Leon Patterson died last week. He was 21 years old.
Galahad with a slide rule
At Carnegie Tech this fall, it was almost like the good old days, but with a difference. Tech not only had a good football team, but its strength was as the strength of 1938 because its heart was pure.
In 1938 Carnegie Tech was at the peak of a long, victory-filled football career which began in the 20s under the coaching of Wally Steffen, a commuting Chicago magistrate who did not hesitate to take on the biggest and best in the land even though Tech lacked size in its student body. That year Tech went to the Sugar Bowl, where it lost to Texas Christian. Even so, and despite a regular-season loss to Notre Dame, the year was one for the annals. Indeed it was the best Tech would have for many more years, because Dr. Robert E. Doherty had just become president of the college in 1937. He stared hard at a football debt of $150,000 and ordered de-emphasis. More and more thereafter Tech began to play schools of its own size and in 1943, because of the war, dropped football.
It took up the game again in 1946, a year that Edgar Allan Poe would have described as "most immemorial." Tech did not score a single point all season. Nor could it win a game in 1947, and in 1948 it lost all but its last game, which was against Grove City.
It was the sort of thing that leads to the hanging of college presidents in effigy and this happened to Dr. Doherty. Dr. Doherty is now dead but his memory around Tech has become, over the years, a proud one, and he is honored today as the man who established a principle of academic and athletic integrity and made it stick. After that victory over Grove City, Tech football began slowly to improve, until this year the team had an undefeated season, tied only by Lehigh (13-13) in the final game.
This undefeated season was achieved on a total athletic budget of $50,000, which has to do for intramural sports, too. There are athletic scholarships but money for them is raised by alumni, who last year spread a mere $15,000 over 19 scholarships, ranging from $340 to $680 (full tuition) per year. The only other aid a Tech athlete gets is the football training table, in season. He must pass an entrance exam and meet the same scholastic requirements as any other student. And even though he fails to make the team he retains his scholarship for the four years, provided he keeps trying.
The players and Coach Eddie Baker, a dentist, like the arrangement. Eddie Miller, star halfback, had offers from other schools but choose Tech because he wanted a degree in civil engineering. He feels that, while Tech likes victory, the pressure to win is not excessive. As for Coach Baker:
"This is a coach's dream...Everyone is happy at Tech."
WITH AUSTRIAN INSTRUCTION, WE SKI!
(See p. 56 et seq.)
When snowtime blows around each year,
And we gay skiers sip our beer
We should recall what experts said
On how to NOT ASTRAY BE LED!
"Keep skis togezzer! Bend ze knees!
"Ach! No! It's not the time to sneeze!"
If we forget those thoughts divine...
With cast on leg—we sip hot wine!
"The rear keep close, nice, neat tucked in,
"Don't sway it like a fishees fin!"
If we forget those helpful words...
Our futures may belong to birds.
"More forward, please, the weight we keep!
"To make the Christy and the leap!"
If this schmart learning we don't do...
We fall behind! Skis yump thru blue!
"A turn around now quick we take,
Swing knees, then shoulders!
Smooth! Don't shake!"
Should we forget what hath been said,
Quick! Pinch ourselves, we might be daid!
"When schussing swift, yell loudly, 'Track!' "
Or everyone may HIT! WHAM! SMACK!
They'll pieces pick from tallest tree
As we go skiing...HEAVENLY! YAH!
By heart we should instruction know
Then, skiing o'er the snow we'll go!
And all our cares we'll zoom without
Down steepest, highest mountain route!