Otto Graham explained the reason for the rather extensive amount of yardage he had gained by running this year by saying, "When a pro quarterback goes back to pass and can't find anyone open, he runs for his life. I have a wonderful wife and three children and I want to live."
Nobody watched Russia's entries in the World Championship Shooting Matches at Caracas, Venezuela last month with quite so intent an eye as Major General (U.S.M.C. Ret.) Merritt A. Edson, a hero of Guadalcanal who is currently executive director of the National Rifle Association. Nobody was less surprised or more pained by the outcome: Russia first, with 78 unofficial points; Sweden second; the U.S. third, with 34 points. "We just aren't a nation of shooters any more," the general says. "Only two percent of our male population is really familiar with firearms. The Swiss can still shoot. The Swedes can. And now the Russians can. So we get drubbed.
"The Russians have organized their whole country since the war. They started town and village shooting clubs and gave them all the ammo and instruction they wanted. When a local boy started to nail bull's-eyes they asked him to join a city team and paid him whatever he'd have gotten back on the farm. The best of city shooters went to republic teams and the best of these ended up at Caracas.
January 3, 1955
"A lot of men on their team looked as though they had come right off the farm. They were young—about 25. Their equipment was no better than ours—in fact they used some American equipment and ammunition. They all shot exactly the same. For instance, when our men shoot from the kneeling position, some fold their right leg under them and sit on the side of their shoe and others squat back and sit on the heel of the right foot. The Russians all sit on the heel. They all wear the same sort of leather shooting jacket. They all wear high boots when they're on the line. Most of our shooters wear low shoes, but I think the Russians have figured it out that boots give more support for long matches.
"They sure could shoot. And they had teamwork—no Russian ever fired on the line without having his coach at his elbow. The shooter and coach had worked together for months. Some of our shooters had never worked with their coaches before they hit Caracas. We had a group of experts, but the Russians were a team of experts. And, frankly, we don't have the reservoir of talent the Russians have now."
The cure? General Edson (who harbors the stubborn conviction that the next war will be won by riflemen, H-bomb or no H-bomb) intends to ask the Army for almost $2 million to subsidize civilian marksmanship, mainly through purchase of ammunition. The framework for such rifle training already exists—there are over 8,000 gun clubs affiliated with the NRA.
"I want to see the Russians shoot as a team under pressure some day," the general said almost wistfully. "At Caracas they were ahead all the time. But I wonder what would happen if they started to lose. They just aren't supposed to lose—I think a few of them might crack."
City of the angles
Every now and then an accumulation of pressure blows the sleek hood right off the top of the high-powered engine of professional golf and one can look inside and see all the miniscule machinery whirring around. The 1955 Los Angeles Open has provided such an explosion and a superb view of the mechanism.
Over the past 30 years the Los Angeles Open, staged the first full weekend in January, has traditionally been the lead-off event of the new golfing year. Since its inauguration, it has been entrepreneured by the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce whose main idea has been to remind the nation that golf is a year-round activity in sunny southern Cal. The LAJC has not always been sweet reasonableness in its arbitrary demands for running its tournament with a minimum of "cosponsorship" from the Professional Golfers Association, and the PGA, for its part, has frequently exposed itself as a faction-split organization with no coordinated philosophy of its function. In 1949, for instance, the LAJC decided to pare the unwieldy tournament field by reducing the exempt list—players who were automatically qualified—from the low 30 to the low 20 scorers in the preceding National Open. Since this forced a star PGA circuiteer like Dr. Cary Middlecoff to undergo the ignominy of qualifying like a common hacker, the touring pros sought to revise the procedure. They charged, among other things, that the bulky field was populated with local boys who made good by falsifying their scores. The LAJC countercharged with equal nicety that this attack was only a ruse by which the circuit pros were attempting to freeze out newcomers. There were other passages-at-arms, and some years the tournament was staged without the formality of a signed contract.
Last February the LAJC, feeling that it had had its fill of dickering and bickering, undertook to sign up with the PGA for the coming three years. It was not as easy as all that, for the PGA was smarting over a number of things. First, the LAJC had allied itself with a new organization called the Winter Golf Sponsors Association, which the PGA considered a distinct threat to its program for controlling the circuit tournaments and the conditions under which these tournaments would be run. Second, and at least as important, the major golf equipment manufacturers had suspended their annual donation of $25,000 to the PGA Tournament Committee in favor of employing this sum in a drive for more and better golf courses. However, it was finally agreed verbally by LAJC and the PGA that the 1955 L.A. Open would be held on Jan. 7 through Jan. 10 for a purse of $20,000 (an increase of $5,000) with a payment of $2,000 (an increase of $1,250) to the PGA Tournament Committee for supplying the talent, putting on the clinic, etc. It was furthermore agreed that the purse for the '56 and '57 Opens would be "at least" $15,000.
The LAJC was rudely jolted in June by the receipt of a letter from Robert Leacox, a Kansas City tire distributor who had in the interim been appointed Coordinator of Schedules for the PGA. Leacox teed off with a new set of demands: a $25,000 minimum purse for '56 and '57 plus the additional payment of $2,500 to the Tournament Committee. Failure to comply with these terms, Leacox said, would result in the L.A. Open's being sponsored by a "friend" of the PGA, a Battle Creek trailer manufacturer named William B. MacDonald, who operates two plants in the suburbs of Los Angeles, is the new-type golf sponsor who treats golf pros like visiting royalty and who was ready, willing, and able to meet the PGA's asking price. The LAJC reacted violently. It questioned Leacox's credentials and MacDonald's right in daring to horn in on a civic institution three decades old.
In August, MacDonald summoned a press conference and announced that at the behest of his good friends in the PGA he would stage a tournament in the Los Angeles area to be called the Pan-American Open. The site: the Inglewood Country Club, a rather rundown, oil-derrick-backgrounded course next to the Hollywood race track. The dates: Jan. 6 through Jan. 9, or the same weekend the L.A. Open was scheduled. The press conference grew stormy when Paul Zimmerman, the sports editor of the Los Angeles Times, hurled insults at MacDonald and accused him, "You're not a friend of the golfers. You're out here for the publicity." MacDonald countered by stating that any PGA member who played in any other tournament within a 100-mile radius of his own shindig would be fined $1,000 by the PGA.
The LAJC elected to proceed with its own tournament nonetheless. The L.A. Open, it declared, would be held, as previously announced, at the city-owned Rancho Municipal Golf Course—like Inglewood, hardly a test of championship golf. The purse would be upped to $25,000 and, moreover, the LAJC would pay the legal fees of any PGA member who tested the validity of the threat of fine by playing in the L.A. Open.
The hassle then entered its baroque period. The LAJC announced it would turn over all tournament profits to the Olympic Fund, with the obvious implication that anyone who interfered with this worthwhile venture—putting the Russians in their place and all that—was hardly patriotic. MacDonald then approached the Olympic Committee with a similar proposal. Next, the LAJC, hoping to lure sizable crowds by offering up the likes of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, et al., authorized a special 30-player exempt list for golfing celebrities. MacDonald counterannounced that the Pan-American Open would be preceded by a one-day pro-amateur celebrities tournament to be presided over by Dean Martin and Nicky Hilton—proceeds to go to the Motion Picture Relief Fund. Shortly after this, wearying of the acrimony and the unfavorable publicity, MacDonald volunteered to merge the two tournaments and turn his over to the LAJC to police and co-superintend. The LAJC haughtily told him that its members could hardly be expected to help out in a tournament that was basically a publicity promotion for MacDonald's trailer business.
The first full weekend in January should give Los Angeles its fill of golf. At last advice from the coast, both Opens will go on, the Pan-American with a representative field of PGA luminaries, the L.A. with the most unorthodox collection of golfers ever to compete for $25,000—public links champs, motion picture officials, prominent second vice presidents of local business firms, TV actors and so on. This drastic change in line-up prompted a new development: the LAJC revised its descriptive tag line for the L.A. Open from Golf's Golden Tournament to The Community Classic Where Good Sports Will Meet.
Who's kissing whom?
At one time or another, Adolph Rupp, who coaches winning basketball teams at the University of Kentucky, has been described as "brash," "ambitious," "arrogant," "ruthless" and "overbearing."
After a Kentucky team defeated Georgia last year for the umpteenth straight time, Rupp announced that the victory had been devoid of pleasure. "Beating Georgia," he complained, "is as ridiculous as kissing your sister."
When the basketball scandal first broke in New York, Rupp compared New York City, roughly, to Gomorrah. "Gamblers," he declared, "couldn't touch my Kentucky boys with a 10-foot pole." Almost a year passed before three Kentucky stars were arrested for fixing games.
Asked last season about his squad, which went unbeaten but did not compete in the NCAA tournament because several of its players were ineligible, Rupp confessed that he had "the greatest team ever assembled in the United States." Ask Rupp why any Kentucky team is great and he answers tartly: "Great coaching."
Perhaps Rupp exaggerates, but not much. Over 25 seasons his teams have won more than 85% of their games, and it was hardly a surprise last week to see Kentucky defeat strong teams like La Salle and Utah. It wasn't even a shock to learn that the Utah triumph was Rupp's 500th, a total with few precedents. What is a surprise is the new facet of Rupp's personality that last week's victories revealed.
Before the basketball season started, Rupp wrote a letter outlining the basketball scene as he saw it.
"Top teams nationally," he wrote, "will be La Salle, Duquesne, Dayton, Iowa, Niagara and Alabama."
Kentucky? Sorry, but three great stars had graduated. "To replace one would be difficult," Rupp's letter explained. "To replace all three is impossible. This will be a year when Kentucky must rebuild."
Kentucky has rebuilt so well that it was ranked No. 1 in last week's A.P. poll of college basketball teams. The new Rupp, humble in November, is winning games like the old Rupp in December. But one wonders about the deeper effects of humility. How do the victories feel now, coach—even the victories over Georgia?
Must be as pleasant as kissing a total stranger, pale, blonde and willowy.
The question of who are the best tennis players in the United States is usually answered convincingly enough during the hundreds of big and little tournaments which seem to run on, indoors and out, the full 12 months of every year. Just to give the matter a sort of Social Register officialdom, however, the United States Lawn Tennis Association annually brings out its own approved Who's Who—a numerical ranking in all divisions, which in the past has not only managed to solve a few seeding problems for tournament committees but has also swelled many a tennis head to full-bounce proportions.
There is, before these rankings become absolute net gospel, some rather intricate paper work to be done by the dozen or so members of the Ranking Committee appointed by the USLTA president. Sitting around in a conference room each fall, the committee straightway asks for the facts. The facts brought forward this year comprised some 70 pages of tabulations, listing, among other things, the complete records of all players who in 1954 competed in tournaments sanctioned or approved by the USLTA.
The fat ledger, drawn up in October by the USLTA Executive Secretary, Edwin S. Baker, on the 36th floor of New York's Equitable Building, lists purely the won-lost record of every man and woman. Thus, a youngster who distinguished himself on the Martini circuit while failing to last out the second round of any tournament from June through September need not fear that Baker's statisticians will find time to write a warning letter to the folks back home. "The rankings," says Baker, "are based on records, not personal opinions." The record last year, for instance, showed that National Champion Vic Seixas (through September) had marked up some 57 wins around the tournament trail, while losing 17 matches. His over-all record was not appreciably better than that of his Davis Cup teammate Tony Trabert, but his triumph at Forest Hills rightfully earned him (according to the vote of the committee) the No. 1 position. The winner of our national title, if he is an American, almost automatically gets top billing.
There was actually little the Ranking Committee had to argue over this time. The list of names in the top 10 is a familiar one—and shouldn't throw too much fear into anyone. The old names are still around: Art Larsen, Gardnar Mulloy, Tom Brown, Bill Talbert and Herbie Flam. Ham Richardson as befits a Rhodes Scholar and a Davis Cupper, jumped from No. 6 to No. 3. Eddie Moylan jumped from nowhere to No. 7 (not as big a jump as Pancho Gonzales' rise from No. 17 to No. 1 in 1948). In the second 10 there is no startling newcomer, and it isn't until the third 10 that you'll meet members of Jack Kramer's special Davis Cup training squad, such as Gerald Moss (No. 23) and Mike Green (No. 28).
The women's ranking showed only one big surprise: San Diego's chunky Maureen Connolly, the best female tennis player in the world, failed to make the first 20. She failed even to make the following category, known as Class A. Instead, she was brushed off, along with three others (including former three-time U.S. Champion Mrs. Margaret Osborne duPont), into a classification headed "Insufficient Data." All this despite having won in 1954 the French and Wimbledon crowns as well as the U.S. Clay Court title. Little Mo, as everyone knows, missed the Nationals after she and her horse had a brush with a delivery truck. She failed to play in the Eastern grass events—which the Ranking Committee consider second in importance only to the nationals—and thus had to forfeit her No. 1 ranking to Doris Hart, a fine tennis player, to be sure, but no Connolly. "This may sound to some people a little unfair to Maureen," says Edwin Baker,"but regulations are regulations, you know."
The moment of truth
Because bullfighting is so formal and stylized it usually does not have much appeal for Americans, with certain rather well-known exceptions. Americans are more at home in the casual, informal atmosphere of the baseball field, the fight club, the football stadium. In America the unorthodox is deified: the 12th man, drunk, who runs out on the football field at a Princeton-Dartmouth game to play end, the Danny Gardella who forgetfully tucks his glove under his arm just as a fly ball is hit his way, the Tony Galento who nearly knocks out a perfectly conditioned Joe Louis.
It is logical, then, to assume that the following news items from the bull ring will appeal to the American sport fan. In Alcalà, de Henares, Spain, a particularly fierce bull sent matadores and peones scurrying behind the burladeros. Matadores and peones and burladeros are Spanish words that mean, in this instance, that nobody wanted to mess around with this bull. But over the barrera leaped an espontàneo who grabbed a cape as he crossed the callejón. For backward members of the class, this means a man sitting in the stands decided he would fight the bull.
Dressed in an ordinary business suit, he raced to the middle of the arena, dropped to his knees and brought the rushing bull past him with a glorious swirl of the big cape. Three times he passed the beast before the professional bullfighters surrounded him, screaming for him to get out of the way. He refused, and somebody grabbed the cape from him. Undaunted, he yanked off his suit coat and passed the bull with that. On the second try with the coat, he was tossed high in the air. While the professionals got and held the bull's attention, our hero rose to his feet, clasped his hands over his head in triumph and was hustled over the wall and into the hands of the police, who promptly arrested him for "spontaneous bullfighting."
We are told that things like this happen several times a season, but last week in Seville, Spain, there was a rare sight indeed—a lady espontànea. She was a husky peasant girl of 20 who leaped into the ring to confront the bull but who was intercepted and escorted out of the arena before she made her first pass. As the police led her away, she was shouting defiantly the Spanish equivalent of "I can fight bulls better than them bums."
The final note has to do with the un-orthodoxy of the bull, rather than the human. In Bogotà, Colombia, a bull tossed and wounded a matador whose job it was to kill him. The other matador took over and was also wounded. This left it up to the sobresaliente—an understudy kept in reserve for just such occasions. He entered the ring proudly, did a commendable job with the muleta and then sent the bull down with one expertly placed thrust of the sword. The crowd cheered, and the understudy was awarded one of the bull's ears—a signal honor—for his performance. But as the understudy was graciously taking the plaudits of the crowd, the "dead" bull rose from the sand, charged the triumphant bullfighter and sent him to the infirmary. It was, you might say, the bull's day. Since there were no more matadores in reserve, he was finally dispatched by a bullet from a soldier's rifle. The story unhappily failed to say whether the bull's ear had yet been cut off before he revived.