Message for Dulles
General' Manager Frank Lane, brain-in-chief of the Chicago White Sox, allows that we are handling the Russian problem all wrong. "There's nothing to it," Lane has informed a friend of his. "All you have to do is sit Molotov down between Branch Rickey and Casey Stengel, and in four years Russia will have nothing left but Siberia and a couple of left-handed pitchers."
Track, field and theater
Like rowing, baseball and the utilization of canoes in courtship, track meets are traditionally associated with blue and balmy days when the turf is soft and trees beyond the stadium are in lacy leaf. But most of New York's dedicated track fans—and many of those in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington—wouldn't take a five-minute bus ride to watch runners compete after the ground has thawed. The big winter indoor meets, which have been a phenomenon of sport on the Eastern seaboard for almost a half century and had their beginnings long before that, afford the New Yorker his track season, and when they are done he yawns and waits for the next winter.
February 14, 1955
But though he sustains his enthusiasm for little more than five weeks, it burns bright and hot when it is at its peak. Madison Square Garden was jammed to the rafters last week (at prices ranging from $1.50 to $4.50 a seat) for the famed Millrose Games, first event of Manhattan's indoor season, and it will be jammed once a week henceforth until the Garden meets end. There is good reason for this midwinter habit: the big indoor meets are wonderful theater and, excepting perhaps a big day at the Olympic Games, tend to be more exciting than outdoor competition on quarter-mile tracks.
Almost all events are invitational affairs; famous men from the world of track are shipped in by the squad, the laggards are sternly culled and resultant races are apt to be fast and thrilling. The Millrose crowd not only saw Wes Santee upset by Denmark's Gunnar Nielsen in a riotous (and indoor world-record) Wanamaker Mile last week, but was privileged to watch the incredible Harrison Dillard flash over the hurdles, to gasp as the Rev. Bob Richards vaulted 15 feet 2 inches, and cheer a hatful of ex-Olympic sprinters and middle-distance men and the best of Eastern college relay teams.
Instead of occupying a lonely seat in an all-but-empty stadium, furthermore, the spectators sat jammed into a big crowd amid noise and band music and looked directly down upon almost all the action—the Garden's little 12-laps-to-the-mile board track with its sharp banked turns and short straight-ways gives foot racing an immediacy and sense of conflict lacking out of doors. All of this, despite the strangeness of the season, seemed logical enough; the first track meet of any kind in the U.S. was held when summer was long past (Nov. 11, 1868) and it was held indoors in New York.
It was, in retrospect, an extremely odd affair. To stage it, the fledgling New York Athletic Club took over a half-completed skating rink, closed its unfinished roof with a huge tarpaulin, and laid out an eighth-of-a-mile track on the soft infloored clay, between its foundations. When the competitors assembled, William B. Curtis, a NYAC founder, proudly unwrapped two articles he had just brought back from England—the first pair of spiked shoes ever seen in the U.S. Five different men wore them (they were large and loose) with varying results before the meet was over.
The winter indoor track meet has been a part of sport in the East ever since. Many of the early ones were held (as a good many club meets are still) on the flat hardwood floors of big armories. Often bicycle races and gymnastic contests were a part of the program and the track athletes engaged in events long since outmoded and forgotten: pole-vaulting for distance, shot-putting for height, and the standing long jump with dumbbell weights swung in each hand for added distance.
The advent of the invitational event (the NYAC's Baxter Mile, to be run this week, dates from 1910) and finally of the banked wooden track and of the very short, extremely sharp spikes which runners wear on them brought modern indoor meets to maturity. The Garden's present track, constructed of spruce boards six inches wide and one and one half inches thick, is only 12 feet wide and is built in eighty 15-foot sections which are bolted together to make an oval. It is springy and as fast as cinders—although splintered boards nevertheless must be replaced after every meet, and a man who falls on it is lucky not to lose some hide.
To hundreds of Manhattan's knowledgeable track addicts, who clearly remember big races and big names dating far back toward the turn of the century, the Garden track is almost, if not quite, a shrine. "Gosh," said one white-haired fan after last week's Wanamaker Mile. "I've seen these ever since I ran myself in the old Garden and I've never seen a mile as fast as that. If they're going to replace any of these boards I'd almost feel like getting one and taking it home."
Long wrong line
A new Columbia motion picture devised for the wide screen contains breath-taking views of West Point in brilliant color, throat-tightening scenes of the Cadets on parade and an old canard about football's first forward pass which will be nailed here.
But first, as the razor blade man says before the fights start on television, a word about the picture itself. It is the biography of a famous West Point sergeant, Marty Maher, who served as coach and trainer at the military academy for 50 years and now lives near the Point in retirement. The film is called The Long Gray Line and it is based on Maher's book, Bringing Up the Brass. As brought to the screen, the story is a real weeper, but one of the lighter sequences re-enacts the Army-Notre Dame game of 1913 in which Gus Dorais and Knute Rockne completed 13 forward passes. "Men," the Army coach is made to say after the game, "today you have seen something new in football."
Not so. The first forward pass was completed on the first Wednesday in September 1906, by St. Louis University in a game with Carroll College at Waukesha, Wis. The play was the brain child of Eddie Cochems, the St. Louis coach, and it was executed by a back named Brad Robinson who tossed to Jack Schneider for a gain of 20 yards. Both Rockne (in his autobiography) and Dorais (in many an interview) gave Cochems the credit.
Aside from this error, The Long Gray Line is probably the best picture ever made at West Point. Sgt. Maher himself was not unmoved after seeing it. Asked for comment, he paid it the ultimate tribute. "Have you," he said to the press agent, wiping his eyes, "any Irish whisky in the house?"
Farewell to the Chief
Coolness in the clutch is the baseball pitcher's special form of courage, the quality he needs above all others. Along with it he needs judgment, the ability to assay the situation, the batter and most of all himself, so that he will know what pitch to serve. One who had these abilities to a superlative degree was Allie Pierce Reynolds, who last week dropped a note to the Yankees to say he won't be around any more.
A wrenched back, the result of a bus accident in 1953, and the prospect that another season in baseball would lead to an operation were the reasons Reynolds gave for his decision. But as long ago as last June the Chief was studying what his next season's pitch would be. His massive shoulders submerged in the Yankees' whirlpool bath, a towel wrapped around his head, Reynolds considered the situation.
"When you work for a long time in a profession," he said, picking his words as carefully as he would choose between a fast ball and a curve, "and you about reach the ultimate, it's hard to quit. Pride is part of that, I suppose. As long as I can pitch well, I'm going to want to pitch."
There was a suggestion that Reynolds, highest paid pitcher in baseball at $50,000 a year, didn't really need the money.
"I don't like to talk about the business," he said, "but I do have oil interests back around Oklahoma City. I make more money outside of baseball than I do in it.
"I'm not just pitching for kicks. A lot of the money I make here I've been using for capital in the business. But mostly I'm not pitching for money. I'm pitching because I put so much time into learning baseball that I don't want to quit while I'm still at the top."
He was at the top in the opinion of many a baseball man. There were, for instance, the measured words of Casey Stengel: "Reynolds is two ways great which is starting and relieving which no one else can do like him...Reynolds works all day and longer and relieves and he is a tree-mendous competitor and he has guts and his courage is simply splendid and tree-mendous."
You could look it up, as Casey has often said. Reynolds has won seven World Series games and lost only two. He had two no-hit games on his record, both in 1951. One of them, against the Boston Red Sox, clinched the pennant for the Yanks. In the ninth inning of that game, with two out, Ted Williams came to bat like a character out of a storybook and Reynolds had to put all his pride and all his courage into every pitch. He could have walked Williams and, by playing that percentage, have made his no-hitter a more promising prospect. He decided to pitch to him.
Williams hit a curving foul and Yogi Berra dropped it. Williams hit another foul. Berra caught that one and the record books welcomed, in their dull way, another pitching immortal. Only three have pitched two no-hitters in the same season—Johnny Vander Meer in 1938 (in successive games), Virgil Trucks in 1952.
"I know myself as a pitcher," Reynolds said above the sound of swirling water in the whirlpool bath, "and I'm still learning more about pitching. I won't quit until I start to go back. When I lose it, I won't hang around. I'll be the first to know."
Gloom over Havre
Some of the boys were sitting around the office of Sheriff Roscoe Timmons up in Havre, Montana when George Bowery, a retired surveyor, dropped in. Someone asked George when he was planning to go over the hump into the Flathead country to see his relatives and get in a little steel-headin'. That sort of led the conversation around to hunting, and George said he hadn't done much lately, what with the cost of ammunition being so high for a fellow who was retired.
"Well, sir," Sheriff Timmons recalled afterward, "the more we thought about that, the more it came to us what a cryin' shame it is that the cost of hunting stands in the way of a lot of hard-working fellas just at the time of life when they've really got time to enjoy it. There was one sure way to get this terrible problem to public attention. The bunch of us sat down and drafted this bill. We figured we could get [Senator] Jess Angstman to give it all his support."
The bill drawn up by the boys that day was as refreshing as a zephyr in a Turkish bath. After due regard for legislative preamble it went to the heart of the matter:
"That from and after the passage and approval of this Act, it shall be the duty of the Fish and Game Commission to issue, free and without cost, fishing and hunting licenses to all residents of the State of Montana above the age of sixty (60) years. It shall likewise be the duty of the Board of Examiners of the State of Montana to indemnify all such persons for the cost of all ammunition used by such persons above the age of sixty (60) years, it being the intention that such persons shall be furnished free ammunition so long as the ammunition is used for hunting such predators as wolverines, cougars, coyotes, jack rabbits, tax collectors and legislators.
"It shall be unlawful for any person over the age of eighty-five (85) years to possess, carry or use firearms, unless accompanied by their grandparents, but they shall be furnished with bows and arrows, providing they are first issued a hunting license, but this shall be free of charge to them also."
This bit of prairie whimsey has its serious side. Already more than a dozen states have provided free hunting and/or fishing licenses for either the overage or the physically handicapped and, in some cases, veterans. Unfortunately, however, most states are stingy with such gratuities because federal aid for fish and wildlife conservation is doled out according to what a state takes in from its sales of hunting and fishing permits. It's a rare politician who can pass up even a fraction of a federal grant.
Except perhaps for Jess Angstman, Montana politicians are no exception to this rule. In less time than it takes to tell it, the Montana legislature's Fish and Game Committee killed Angstman's bill, leaving Montana's sporting oldsters right where they started and casting a heavy blanket of gloom over the sheriff, his friends at Havre—and SI.
Old Mr. Young
The post office at Peoli, Ohio occupies a corner of the grocery store and it's a big week when Postmistress Annetta Mathews has a hundred letters to handle. And usually 25 to 50 of these letters are addressed to one certain party, old Mr. Young, who lives about a mile down the road.
Here recently the post office department decided Peoli didn't need a post office to handle the piddling amount of mail that came through. Mrs. Mathews felt bad and she mentioned the fact to old Mr. Young next time he dropped in.
Old Mr. Young (who's 87 now) shook his head and agreed with Mrs. Mathews that this was no way for the post office people to do. He said it wasn't only a black eye for the town, but furthermore it would be unfair to all the kids who wrote to him for autographs and advice. Old Mr. Young said, by golly, he had a mind to take it up with his congressman, Frank Bow, there in Washington, D.C.
And he did, too. And in no time at all the word came back that Peoli's post office was going to stay right where it was, in the corner of the grocery store, if only to handle old Mr. Young's mail.
A drummer standing around the store when the word came asked, "Who's this old Mr. Young that rates so much attention from a congressman down in Washington?"
"Oh," said Mrs. Mathews, "he just happens to be Cy Young, the pitcher. He just won 511 games pitching in the big leagues. More'n any other pitcher ever won. That's all he is."
Things were popping in the world of curling last week. Sixteen women curlers from the U.S. and Canada were touring Scotland and playing before television cameras over there. At the same time, a men's team of 20 Scottish curlers was nearing the end of a U.S. tour that took in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, New York and Boston. Last Sunday morning a group of players sat around the St. Andrews Golf Club in Yonkers, N.Y., where a series of matches were played, and speculated on the wonder and the meaning of it all.
"There are two opinions about the game of curling," said Rene Clarke, a gray-haired New York advertising man and member of the Caledonian team. "One opinion is that curling is the most fascinating game in the world and the other opinion is that it's the silliest. And you must take one view or the other—there's nothing in between."
Mr. Clarke, who counts himself among the fascinated, turned to Bob Grierson of Loch Connel, Scotland, a chunky, pink-cheeked young man.
"What do you say, Bob?"
"I will say this," replied Bob Grierson, a dairy farmer in the old country, "it's the silliest game to watch. I couldn't sit and watch two ends of it myself. But there's no better game to play."
There was a lull in the conversation, for it was that time of morning.
"Did you know," said Mr. Clarke, "that Ford Frick, the high commissioner of baseball, is a member of the curling team here?"
"I did not," said Bob Grierson.
"Ice water, gentlemen?" asked a waiter, passing by.
Mr. Grierson threw up both hands. Slumped in a chair near by, Charles Carnegie, another member of the Scottish team, a nurseryman from the town of Ayr, also declined. "Water," he said, "will rot your boots."
There had been a party for the visiting curlers the night before. Indeed, there had been a party every night since they arrived in Chicago to begin their tour on Jan. 9th. Parties and curling go together, for it is above all a sociable game. In fact, the international motto of the curling fraternity is: "We're Brithers A'." And when a curler gets britherly, he goes all the way. For instance, the Scottish players were quartered at the homes of their American hosts. And it was understood that on the night table beside the bed of each man there was always to be a bottle of Scotch. This is no passing fancy with the curlers; it is an article of faith. In one of the first sets of bylaws drawn up in Scotland, it was stated clearly: "Whisky punch to be the usual drink...to encourage the growth of barley."
The game itself (confirmed curlers do not like the comparison) is a kind of shuffleboard played on the ice. Forty-pound stones with handles on them are sent sliding along the ice toward a painted bull's-eye, called "The House." Players are able to make the stones curve in or out, like a golfer's slice or hook. As the stone moves toward the target the other members of the team or "rink" run alongside with short mincing sidesteps, sweeping furiously with brooms (the Scots prefer long-handle brushes) to clear the ice of particles and also to create what curlers fondly believe to be a "vacuum" just ahead of the stone. This sweeping, curlers swear, will add up to 12 feet to a stone's distance.
Maybe somebody smart enough could give the curlers an argument about the vacuum. But nobody can deny that the curlers seem to have more fun than almost anybody—on and off the ice. And the beauty of it, say the curlers, is that the game can be played as long as a man is able to stand—and is truly interested in encouraging the growth of barley.
If spring comes...
From Dallas, Texas last week came a reliable sign of fall (yes, fall): the Southern Methodist football squad began spring training.
The starter's gun
Ran out of blanks;
The race was run
With thinned-out ranks.
—Irwin L. Stein