Saliva test for cars?
Stock car racing, a fairly new sport but running in high gear financially, with $1,800,000 distributed in prizes last year by the National Association for Stock Car Racing alone, has come up against a problem which annually, continually and recurrently confronts horse racing.
The problem is cheating. The presumption on which horse racing is based is that the thoroughbreds are running without the aid of artificial stimulation. To guard against dope the race tracks have instituted a system of saliva testing which has at least the advantage of being simple, though its effectiveness is questioned.
But there is no simple test for the doctored car. The presumption on which stock car racing is based is that the cars are pretty much what any motorist would drive away from his dealer's, equipped with only such parts as are listed in the manufacturer's catalog and without benefit of hopped-up engine, racing-rigged suspension or bastard gear-axle ratios. In some respects, even the most minute modifications are forbidden. An entrant has been disqualified merely because he had soldered four grub screws holding the butterfly valve on his carburetor as a precaution against their shaking loose.
It is not easy to detect such violations. Without a simple test NASCAR has done the next best thing. It has adopted a complicated and time-consuming test, one which may postpone knowledge of who won for a full day. After the 160-mile Grand National at Daytona Beach the first five cars were stripped down, nut by nut and bolt by bolt. And, as in the year before, the supposed winner, Glenn (Fireball) Roberts, was disqualified because his 1955 Buick Century had been tampered with (SI, March 7). The winner was declared to be Tim Flock, driving a Chrysler 300—which recalled that in 1954's race Tim Flock had won and then been disqualified for a mechanical violation.
Precautions against cheating are a commonplace necessity in many sports. Boxers' gloves and hand-taping are examined before a match. The loaded bat has turned up from time to time in baseball. And, oddly enough, when sly advantage is taken in these sports no one becomes too indignant. No one has become much exercised about stock car tampering, either.
In the days when tennis was despised as a sissy game because players wore white flannels and unblushingly used the word "love," there was a pleasant little convention seldom seen nowadays. A player who thought the umpire had made a mistake in his favor would throw away the next point. The idea was that a sportsman would not take unfair advantage of an opponent, even legally. The idea must still be lying around somewhere.
Latest governor to decide that boxing could do with a close shave and a hot shower is Goodwin J. Knight of California. Close on similar decisions by the governors of New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, Knight announced he was investigating attempts to intimidate his boxing commission chairman, Anthony P. Entenza.
A succession of visitors to Entenza's hospital bedside, where he was seriously ill of anemia, cost the commission chairman four pounds in weight. Objective: to persuade him to let the Chamrern Songkitrat-Raton Macias bout go on as a 15-rounder for the bantamweight championship of the world, as billed by the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, President). Result: Entenza left his sickbed just long enough to cast a deciding vote against the billing and reduce the fight to a 12-round, nonchampionship size.
The governor said he would investigate reports that "gangsters and mobsters" were trying to control the sport in California and that "the boxing trust" was moving in.
Thought for IBC
In the world of coast-to-coast headlines there are two Billy Grahams—Evangelist Billy from North Carolina and Welterweight Billy from Manhattan's East Side. By chance they followed each other in Madison Square Garden on successive nights, and comparative attendance figures may give the International Boxing Club something to think about. For his losing fight to Chico Vejar, Welterweight Billy drew 4,800. For a good, clean wrestle with the forces of universal delinquency, Evangelist Billy drew 22,000, with another 5,000 packed around loudspeakers in the street.
The golden marble
Blonde and uninhibited Norah Lady Docker has let neither expense nor wagging tongues impede her attempts to prove that ostentation and frivolity are still possible in England. When Britain was in the toils of the austerity program Lady Docker and Sir Bernard, her wealthy industrialist husband, lolled aboard their yacht Shemara off the Riviera; in the years since, Lady Docker has been thrown out of the casino at Monte Carlo (after slapping an employee's face), ridden through London in a gold-plated Daimler (chromium, she explained, was scarce at the time), started a newspaper column, descended into a coal mine and given scandalously lavish parties at the Royal Thames Yacht Club.
But has Lady Docker materially aided marbles playing in Britain? A prickly question! It would be safe to state, however, that Lady Docker has formally embraced the game, has been photographed at practice on hands and knees aboard the yacht and that she has been publicly acclaimed—at least in the Yorkshire industrial town of Castleford—as the "world's woman marble-playing champion." If the championship, won at Castleford's Reight Neet Aht (Right Night Out)—an annual shindig for Britain's Cancer Relief Fund—is suspect, so is the professional wrestling championship.
It would be impossible to deny, however, that Lady Docker is the game's best-dressed player. She arrived in Castleford for the big contest (played against 10 Yorkshire factory girls) in her gold-plated car, was received with cheers (Sir Bernard contributed ¬£1,000 to the cancer fund) and knelt on a gold cushion, wearing a ballerina-length blue sequin dress, blue mascaraed eyelashes and a pint of diamonds when the marbles contest began. Her opponents had, it is true, been carefully coached against winning—Castleford had already prepared a golden marble on a golden stand as first prize and fully intended to present it to her. When one teen-age factory girl showed signs of beating Lady Docker, beefy Sid Colclough, the shindig's organizer, roared: "Hey, none of that. That's fullacking!" (She was, he implied, throwing her marble instead of "filliping" it.)
Nevertheless, Lady Docker did win. She did claim to have raised a callus on her index finger. She did say: "I play marbles because I like the game." Afterward she danced and drank with Castleford citizens until 3 in the morning. Officials of the British Marbles Board of Control at Tinsley Green, Sussex were incensed when they received word of the contest. "Lady Docker," said Secretary George Burbridge bitterly, "knows nothing of marbles and she never will." But nobody seemed to be listening. "A proper lady," said her Castleford fans. "Not stook oop, like some."
The Harvard drum
In a day when college bands have grown almost as big as Army divisions and when college bandsmen maneuver at half time like zombies in the toils of some master hypnotist, Harvard still maintains a hearteningly old-fashioned and informal attitude toward football music. The Harvard band is usually larded put with ringers from the Cambridge fire department (student bandsmen reciprocate by switching uniforms and playing for the fire department when the need arises), and during the past decade a Harvard janitor named Stanley De Pinto has been Harvard's drum major. Harvard, however, has long boasted a source of half-time entertainment unavailable to more splendiferous musical organizations: the biggest "playable" bass drum in the world (except, perhaps, for one in Japan and a University of Chicago drum which Toscanini could not get into Carnegie Hall back in 1938).
The drum, which is six feet in diameter and mounted on bicycle wheels, has been proudly exhibited—perhaps flaunted is the word—at football games ever since it was presented to the band by the Associated Harvard Clubs 28 years ago. It has been thumped in various ways. In its youth it was clobbered by a drummer who galloped along beside as it was whirled around the field by volunteer coolies. Later a 13-year-old fireman's son rode on top of it, whacking it with one hand while hanging on with the other. But in the last three years the drum has gone unbeaten—it was obvious that age was finally undermining it. The end came in January. One of the drumheads, strained by a change of weather, suddenly split wide open.
The fact, duly noted in the Alumni Bulletin ("War Drum Throbs No Longer"), disturbed Harvard men from coast to coast—the more because the University of Florida cheekily acquired a drum of similar size last year. None, however, offered to buy a new one (although one California alumnus suggested that the old drumheads be cut up into bookmarks and sold, and that the funds thus raised be used for a replacement). Drum manufacturers protested, moreover, that it would be exceedingly difficult to find two cows with hides big enough to make new drumheads and that properly tanning and curing them would be harder yet.
Harvard students themselves, however, rallied sternly and started a "dimes for the drum" campaign. Band Manager Arnold Aronson found a manufacturer, The Slingerland Drum Company of Chicago, willing to build a new drum six feet in diameter and 24 inches wide for $800. The new instrument will be strongly built. It must be if tradition is to be satisfied. Harvard men still happily remember the Yale undergraduate who ran out on the field in 1947, dove head first at the old drum in an attempt to sail clean through it—and simply bounced off, knocking himself cold as a salt herring in the process.
Armed Forces T.T.
Members of the Armed Forces Track Team wear white uniforms with the inscription "Armed Forces T.T." between double bars running diagonally across the chest. It is an attractive uniform but one that was, at the start of this indoor track season, entirely unfamiliar to track fans. They took to wondering about it, particularly since it appeared on a succession of superb competitors who won their full share of glory at the big eastern meets this season: Miler Fred Dwyer, Shot-putter Parry O'Brien, Sprinter Rod Richard, High Jumper Herman Wyatt and a host of other accomplished track men.
Just what is this team that boasts such stars? Where did it come from? How did it start? What is it for?
It was conceived last fall when the realization that Russia might very well run off with the 1956 Olympics began to get widespread attention in the U.S. What could be done to strengthen America's chances? Kenneth L. (Tug) Wilson, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, had an idea. Most of America's strength in the key Olympic sport of track and field (and in other sports, too) lies in the colleges. But athletes graduating from college nowadays usually enter one or another of the armed services for a year or two of military training. This means that some of the nation's best athletes are retiring from competition just at the peak of their ability, a severe drain on U.S. Olympic resources.
Wilson wrote to Defense Secretary Charles E. Wilson and asked for help. Secretary Wilson sent the letter on to the Defense Department's interservice sports council, and there was shortly set up a Committee on International Sports Competition. After due chin-stroking, this committee recommended: 1) that the Armed Forces work jointly on a program of international sports competition, with the first target the 1955 Pan-American Games, and 2) that the Air Force take charge of basketball, the Navy of swimming, the Marines of baseball, and the Army of track and field and pentathlon, with the further proviso that men from any branch could compete for a place on any of the international teams.
The various branches of the service combed their rosters, discovered the top track-and-field performers and sent them to Maryland on temporary assignment for 45 to 60 days of intensive training before the Pan-American Games. A total of 47 went to Maryland but only the very best—about 25 in all—were kept in training. They were billeted at the Forest Glen annex of Walter Reed Hospital and assigned to light duties. They worked out twice daily at the University of Maryland under Maryland's track coach, Jim Kehoe, competed in the big indoor meets each week and pointed for the Pan-American Games.
When the 33-man Pan-American squad was selected three weeks ago, 12 members of the Armed Forces Track Team found places on it. They were then reassigned to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio where they underwent final training for the games, which begin this Saturday in Mexico City.
After the games end, on March 26, they will all return to regular duty (which their less-successful teammates have already done). The uniforms will be packed away and track fans won't see them again until the next big international competition—the 1956 Olympic—is in the offing.
The spirit of camaraderie
The International Boxing Managers Guild met in convention at Miami Beach, looked at the world of boxing through a cigar-blue haze and arrived at some decisions.
Newsmen were barred from the business meetings, but the decisions were announced by Murray Frank, legal adviser to the Guild, who identified himself to the one reporter who hung around to hear them.
"I am Murray Frank, the prominent labor lawyer from New York," he said.
"The Genius," broke in Jack (Doc) Kearns, promoter and onetime manager of Jack Dempsey.
Lawyer Frank smiled.
"They call me The Genius," he admitted, "but I don't want my clients to find out. They'll figure I'm too expensive."
He told them of the Guild's desire to limit the granting of managers licenses (38 managers attended the convention) and to establish a welfare fund for "just about everybody connected with boxing," including managers.
"It was all very gentlemanly, and a spirit of camaraderie pervaded the atmosphere," The Genius said.
The convention was held at the impressive Algiers Hotel, through which strolled mink coats, Bikinis and purple su√®de shoes. But the managers, indoor types all, wore solid-color suits, white-on-white shirts and ties in the evening. They spent most of their time in compact groups in their rooms—gabbing and making matches, renewing acquaintances—and in the business meetings. These were held in a tiny room contiguous to the swimming pool and normally the office of the hotel's social director, public relations director and catering department manager. Whenever a delegate entered or left a meeting the thumpety-thump of a small rumba band, playing for the cabana set, clamored into the room. Young women looking for the social director went up to the door, stared at the managers in a bewildered way and went away.
The big event was the dinner, at which Miami Mayor Abe Aronovitz, a slim little man with a crew cut and strong convictions, spoke out for himself and other boxing fans.
He welcomed the delegates, then took aim at the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, President) and Al Weill, manager of Heavyweight Champion Rocky Marciano. Weill was not present. Waiting a bit before pulling the trigger, Aronovitz told of seeing a crowd of Miamians watching two roaches in a store window.
"I am reminded of the incident," he said, "by what is going to take place in California next May. It seems to me that it is the wrong fight in the wrong place at the wrong time—and about as good an attraction as those roaches. Instead of Rocky Marciano fighting Don Cockell, I urge the newspaper men present to see what they can do about bringing Marciano to Miami to fight a worthy challenger-Nino Valdes."
There was applause, and the huge Valdes, sitting in the back of the room, rose, grinned toothily and clasped hands above his head. The Cuban fighter understands little English, but whenever a speaker mentioned his name he rose hastily and waved to the crowd.
Bobby Gleason, Valdes' tiny, balding manager, nodded his head vigorously at the mayor's statement, but Charley Johnston, Guild president, did not. He commandeered the microphone to say:
"That's a very fine idea the mayor has, but there's one thing wrong with it. The right fight is Marciano and a fighter of mine named Archie Moore, who already has whipped Valdes."
Gleason spoke bitterly about Weill, but Johnston, for all his ready defense of the principle of the thing, then took a strangely pragmatic view, quite at odds with the vigorous, independent lecture tour that Moore has waged around the country in an effort to win public support for a Marciano-Moore bout.
"I don't blame Al," Johnston said generously. "If I owned Marciano I'd take Cockell, too. Why fight a guy like Archie where he [Marciano] can get killed when there's a Cockell available?"
No one answered that because it is managerial logic and unassailable, and Doc Kearns said he was trying to close a match between Valdes and Moore for Las Vegas in May (SI, March 7).
"I think it's the best fight available in the world," he said, "especially when you consider the bad match Marciano's got. It'll draw a fortune."
"Kearns'll bill it as for the heavyweight championship of the world," he explained. "You can get away with stuff like that in Nevada."
The expert has a fancy reel;
I use a simple line.
His fish go in a wicker creel;
A gunny sack holds mine.
The flies he ties are joys to see;
Mine look like shredded fuzz.
But does he catch more fish than me?
You're doggone right he does!
—Irwin L. Stein