THIS IS FRIENDSHIP?
As Reported in SI last week, Kansas City prides itself on its friendliness and outdid itself to welcome, as friends, the friendless Athletics from Philadelphia. But even friendship has its limits, and now comes the report that a fan, leaving the Municipal Stadium after the A's 29-6 defeat by the Chicago White Sox, muttered ominously: "I just hope those A's will realize that friendship is a two-way street."
ROBINSON, THE AVENGER?
Just Like the Lone Ranger and Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, Jackie Robinson of the Dodgers has appointed himself avenger of injustices, but with a new gimmick that neither the Ranger nor Mickey Spillane has thought of up to now. Robinson seeks to punish the culprit just like his fictional counterparts, but if the culprit eludes him, he is not dismayed. He simply punishes someone else.
Thus, in the fourth inning of the second game of the Dodger-Giant series, Jackie decided that Sal Maglie had deliberately thrown at several players, including Robinson. It was a reasonable inference. Roy Campanella, for instance, had had to hit the dirt. He got up to strike out. Robinson, next up, made plain his avenging strategy. He would bunt down the first-base line, draw Maglie over to field the ball and then, as Jackie Gleason says, "Powie! Right on the kisser!"
May 1, 1955
Maglie's first pitch was wide, but Robinson pushed the second one toward first according to plan. But Maglie, no fool, was buying none of that. He let Whitey Lockman field the ball while Davey Williams ran over to cover first. Williams, who weighs 165, took the throw, tagged the bag, and then—as if he were Sal Maglie himself—received the bruising force of Robinson's shoulder, with 210-pound Robinson behind it, full in the midsection. It sent Davey sprawling, knocked the wind out of him and emptied both benches as Giants and Dodgers rushed out to hate each other with everything short of blows.
In the clubhouse, Robinson innocently declared the whole thing to be an "accident," but he smiled and nodded as teammates, including Manager Alston himself, kept coming up to congratulate him. Over on the Giants' side, Leo Durocher, a study in high blood pressure, choked out: "Nothing to say—nothing to say about anything!"
It seems that pitchers facing the Dodgers in future should take warning. Dust off a Dodger and Jackie Robinson will clobber you. Or somebody.
DERBY FUTURE BOOK
Until The Bettors take over at Churchill Downs' pari-mutuel windows on the afternoon of May 7, the world's most authoritative source of odds on the Kentucky Derby is a sedate-looking citizen of Tijuana, Mexico named John Alessio. A transplanted West Virginian who favors horn-rimmed glasses and gray flannel suits, Alessio looks exactly like a prosperous Rotarian, which he is. He is also the manager of the Caliente Future Book and one of the best-known bookies in North America.
Into Alessio's mailbox, beginning in late March, come bets from the 132,000 subscribers to the weekly issues of his Future Book, which offers early, attractive odds on Derby hopefuls long before owners decide which horses will enter the race. One day's mail recently included bets from such widely scattered folk as an insurance agency manager in Alabama, an Oregon attorney and a Trenton, N.J. housewife ($6 on Trentonian). Others came from as far away as Guam and Eire. Of the mailing pieces which draw these replies, Alessio says: "Show me one place where we solicit a bet. Do you see one thing which says you must bet? I only send you a communication telling you what prices are if you want to bet."
Obviously, if one of today's favorites wins on May 7, it will cost the Book money. Alessio's first communication quoted Summer Tan at 14 to 1, Nashua 2½ to 1. But the Caliente Future Book will take its biggest bath if a horse called Trim Destiny comes in first. Originally listed at 500 to 1 in the Book, Trim Destiny attracted enough bets to require a payoff of $192,000. Then, on March 26, it romped to victory in the Arkansas Derby at the Hot Springs track. Alessio dropped the horse to 10 to 1.
After Trim Destiny, the victory of Summer Tan would hurt the Book most. Early in the year, Summer Tan was suspected of being unsound. But when the colt won a recent Jamaica purse by a startling 14 lengths, Alessio spent 35 minutes on the phone with his New York docker, getting an eye-witness report. Alessio thereupon dropped Summer Tan to 2½ to 1. Both Nashua and Summer Tan impressed Alessio in the Wood Memorial last week. Summer Tan is now 2-1, Nashua 8-5. Swaps drilled a blistering 1:36 1/5 mile in his final workout before shipping to Kentucky, and his odds dropped from 10 to 1 to 4 to 1.
John Alessio is not likely to lose his shirt. It's still a good bet the Derby Book will turn a profit, as his Winter Book on the Santa Anita Handicap has for 14 years. Moreover, his own estimated handle from the Book this year, less than $250,000, won't come up to a good Sunday's gross at the airy little Tijuana track which he also runs. On May 7, Alessio will interrupt his regular Caliente card for a stride-by-stride broadcast of the race from Louisville. Betting booths will be open and payoffs made at Churchill Downs prices. To further stimulate traffic to Tijuana, Alessio is flying in a carload of mint, will serve authentic juleps (no tequila) and allow customers to keep the cups as souvenirs.
As the Derby draws near, mail-order bets in the Future Book are falling off. They're down to 60 a day now, though there was a recent spurt when Walter Winchell switched from stock market tipstering to give his listeners a good thing: Blue Ruler at 6 to 1. Unfortunately for WW fans (but conceivably a good thing for the Book), Blue Ruler has now developed ankle trouble and won't run in the Derby. All in all, if it weren't for those early 500-to-1 odds on Trim Destiny, John Alessio wouldn't have a shadow of care.
COON STRIKES BACK
The Davy Crockett craze among small fry, ignited by the Walt Disney television program and the ballad about Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, has produced many a side effect besides throbbing headaches in parents. One is a boom in Davy Crockett coonskin hats and a resulting scarcity of coonskins. Coonhounds were never busier, but the coons themselves apparently are aware that the heat is on and are determined to sell their skins as dearly as possible.
A case in point is a coon hunt of a recent evening on the side of Elder Mountain near Chattanooga, Tenn. Five coonhounds in pursuit of a coon were lured by their quarry into the mouth of a cave. Two of the hounds were smart enough to turn back at the entrance, but three—named Rock, Beulah and Rose—could not resist the beckoning coon and plunged on in. Beulah and Rose squeezed through a crevice and Rock tried to follow but got stuck, trapping the others. The coon, now far into the cave, sat down to sweat it out, a little like Davy Crockett at the Alamo.
It was necessary to haul an air hammer, an air compressor and a bulldozer five miles up the rugged mountain trail and to work them a total of 88 man hours before two men, held by their heels, were able to reach the hounds and pull them out.
If coons could write songs (and they're much more clever than some song writers), they could do a good one about this coon who outwitted the five hounds. Might work in a line about "coon of the wild frontier."
TWO KINDS OF CANVAS
During the first Golden Age of Sport, which was the 20s, people like Gertrude Stein and Bugs Baer knew each other. Not too well, but their paths crossed. In 1927 it was not incongruous that Mickey Walker, world's middleweight champion, should be sitting on a cushion on the floor of Miss Stein's Paris apartment, listening while she read things she had written.
"She could make it sound like Shakespeare," Mickey remembers.
There were others in the room—people like Baer, Floyd Gibbons, Norma Talmadge, Fannie Brice, Jack Kearns. These are the names Mickey remembers.
"We had our crowd," he explains, "and she had hers. We all sat around on cushions on the floor. We knew we were in the intellectual group, but the crowd blended. With three drinks it became very friendly."
This year is a long way from that year. In the meantime Mickey has become a painter, good enough to warm the cocktails of Miss Stein's heart, winner of first prize in a Marshall Field exhibition in Chicago in 1946, good enough to be exhibited at the gallery of the Associated American Artists on New York's Fifth Avenue in 1955.
But 28 years ago Mickey was in Paris solely to relax with that great relaxer, Manager Jack Kearns, after stopping Tommy Milligan, European middleweight champion, in 10 rounds in London, retaining thereby his world's championship. He had been world's welterweight champion, and a few years later he was to make a gallant try against Jack Sharkey in which he held the later heavyweight champion to a 15-round draw at a time when Mickey weighed 169 pounds. They called him the "Toy Bulldog."
They were bright, golden years. It was Paris. Perhaps under the Stein influence, Mickey plunked down $500 for a painting—"an ocean scene, a boat on the ocean." He put it over his fireplace in Rumson, N.J.
"I'd come home with a couple of drinks in me," he says, "and sit in front of it for an hour or two at a time. I always kept the painting with me. We moved to Elizabeth, and the painting went along. I kept looking at it for years, couldn't get away from it, until one night I discovered what it was about the painting that attracted me. The boat wasn't sailing right. I went to the kitchen and got a can of house paint and started making the boat look right. I worked on it for three or four months, trying to fix it. The waves wouldn't break the way I wanted them. Finally, I sank the ship. I got so sore I threw the painting in an ash can. But I had had it all that time, from 1927 until 1938."
Soon after this disaster of the sea, Mickey went to a movie, The Moon and Sixpence, based on Somerset Maugham's biographical novel about Gauguin. Mickey sat through it twice and came back the next day. After the third viewing he knew that he wanted to be a painter.
He is not sentimental on this point.
"If I had it to do all over again," he says, "I'd be a prizefighter and then take up painting."
His favorite artist is Rembrandt, "who paints like a Dempsey left hook." He has reservations about Bellows.
"Great as the art is," he says of Bellows, "he has his fighters off balance when they throw a punch. The day I paint a fighter as I see him, that day I'll be an artist."
In the meantime, Mickey continues to paint and, for self-support, is returning to an old, familiar business. Like many another fighter he will open a restaurant on Broadway, not too far from Madison Square Garden.
Mickey has the name all settled: The Glove & Palette.
A Slight, quiet-spoken young man of 27 years is currently the Willie Mays of harness racing. He is Stanley Dancer, the hottest young driver to come along since the county-fair sport was first presented to big-city fans at Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island 15 years ago.
Harness racing is not overly productive of colorful competitors, but in winning 27 times, taking 14 seconds and 11 thirds in 82 starts, Dancer has displayed a daring and an aggressiveness that have won for him a personal following as warmly partisan as can be found in any baseball park. His admirers are not content to cheer him on from the grandstand; they come down to the paddock before the races and between them to lean over the rail and yell: "Hey, Dancer! You feeling' good tonight?" Or maybe, "Hey, Dancer! Win us a few, huh, Dancer?" Dancer grins as he fusses with a piece of harness, but he does not look around. If the other drivers pass some remarks, he can take notice that the fans do not holler "Hey!" to any of them. It is just "Hey, Dancer!"
Never were the advantages of early marriage more strikingly demonstrated than in the case of Stanley Dancer. He was only 20 when he proposed to Rachel Young, a childhood sweetheart. Dancer had love in his heart, but nothing in his pockets. He knew what he wanted to do with his life, though: be a harness man like his father. Rachel saw eye to eye with him on that and out of her dowry she gave Stanley $250 to buy his first horse, a stout-hearted but lame trotter named Candor.
With Rachel helping, Stanley nursed Candor tenderly, bringing him along slowly until he thought he was ready to race again. Meanwhile, Rachel bought a trailer for them to live in outside their home town of New Egypt, N.J.
What Dancer was able to accomplish with his first lame horse is the story of what he has been doing ever since. Candor repaid him by winning $13,000 in three years. Two other lame horses, Volo Chief and Titanic, won him $30,000 and $16,500, respectively. Earnings like these were put into a farm, a house and stables and today, eight years later, the Dancers have a 100-acre establishment at New Egypt with stables for 80 horses and a dormitory, cafeteria and recreation room for his winter staff of grooms and trainers. With his training fees and share of purses as a driver, Dancer's annual income is estimated all the way up to $60,000. The Dancer prefers not to say.
Admirers of Dancer say that he has a unique communication with his horses; they know the touch of his hands on the reins and he knows thoroughly the little peculiarities of each one of them.
In accounting for his brilliant performances at Roosevelt so far this season, Dancer credits the thoroughness of his training. He also concedes that perhaps his horses have an advantage at the start of the meeting because they are trained in the north all winter; Florida-trained horses, he says, require a little time to become accustomed to the change of climate. As for his technique as a driver, he says, "You have to know the horses. Some need a firm hand and expect it. Others, you have to just let go." Does he talk to his horses? "Well," he says, "I tell 'em to get up and go."
Dancer has two trotters, Something Special and Worthy Pride, eligible for the Hambletonian, and a pacer, First Discovery, eligible for the Little Brown Jug. Of more immediate concern to Dancer these weekend evenings is getting back to his farm for Sundays with his wife, their two children, Ronald, 5, and Susan, 4, and a certain aging character who acts like he owns the place: Candor, the now-retired trotter who started it all.
HYMN FOR HEROES
The Official hymn for the 1956 Olympic Games has been chosen and was written by a man who smokes cigarets and wears tortoise-shell glasses—Michal Spisak, Polish-born composer. He does not look like an athlete. More like a composer.
His hymn, chosen by a 15-man international jury, which listened to 392 scores submitted by composers of 39 nations, earned Spisak the $1,000 prize donated by Prince Pierre of Monaco, a member of the International Olympic Committee. The hymn will not make the hit parade but, when it is played next year to open the Games at Melbourne, it will lift the hearts of athletes and spectators. The words go like this:
Happy the man chosen for fame!
The palm of victory on his brow
Shows him to the crowd's acclaim.
He shall taste for his reward
The divine joys.
Let the Muses set a crown
Upon his hair.
And let an immortal song
Add to the glory of triumph
And to the beauty of youth
The victor's name!
DREAMS OF GLORY
Between bouts of office work, President Eisenhower had the kind of week that golfers lie awake through the winter nights dreaming about. First of all he was at his favorite course, Augusta. On top of that, he had a round with Cary Middlecoff and Billy Joe Patton, and it turned out to be Ike's best during his stay at Augusta.
As often happens when a middle-handicap golfer plays with the experts, Ike (handicap 18) was playing somewhat over his head and came home with an 84. Moreover, Ike was not the only hot man in the foursome. Middlecoff's 66 was one over his best round in the Masters, and Patton took himself a 70. With Middlecoff's eight birdies and Patton's five, the foursome (the fourth member was the club chairman Cliff Roberts) knocked off a best-ball of 62 and collected the $5 club pool for the day.
Ike himself was putting poorly, as he often does, and that cost him a mess of birdies. Nonetheless, he had eight pars and only two double bogeys, which any casual golfer of 64 summers is perfectly entitled to boast about.
Strictly speaking, Ike fudges a little on the Rules of Golf: he carries 16 clubs in his bag. Aside from the four regular woods, eight standard irons, a wedge and a putter, Ike takes along a five-wood (sometimes known among golfers as "grandpa's handy helper") and a 10-iron with which he is deadly on short chip shots. The reason for the five-wood is simply that Ike, like so many weekend golfers, has trouble with his long irons. He feels far more comfortable off the fairway with his woods, using anything from the two to the five.
During his round with Middlecoff, Ike played some beautiful long fairway shots. On the par four first, after a mediocre drive of about 180 yards, he hit the green with a spoon. On the 335-yard third his drive was better—out around 200—and then he hit a crisp five-iron 10 feet from the pin, missing his putt for a bird. On the next hole—a 220-yard par three—Ike stroked a humdinger of a five-wood off the tee and missed a 15-footer for his birdie. At the 190-yard sixth, he picked a three-iron and poked a tee shot 20 feet from the cup but again two-putted.
At 8, 11, 13 and 15—all except the 445-yard 11th are par fives—Ike played like the athlete he once was. A long two-wood off the fairway put him in good position for a 90-yard chip with that 10-iron at the 8th. With the help of a downhill roll, he was more than 250 yards off the 11th tee and hit the green with a two-iron, a real piece of golf. The 13th, which takes the measure of so many top pros during the Masters, was duck soup for the President. Playing short of the creek with a three-wood on his second, he put a full nine-iron only 15 feet from the cup. A long two-wood down the middle of the 505-yard 15th and a beautiful chip with his 10-iron left Ike an eight-footer for his bird. The Georgia air was blue for a few minutes after Ike missed it. But it was a round of golf that any player would be proud of, and some of the players in the Masters the previous week had worse rounds on that trying layout.
So I heard;
In the third.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Willful Nashua's last-jump victory over Summer Tan in the $111,700 Wood Memorial makes him the prime favorite in the Kentucky Derby, but his backers will still die a little when they bet him—he has now beaten Summer Tan four times but only once by more than a neck...Kansas City's newly minted baseball afficionados had only one consolation after the A's illusion-shriveling 29-6 loss to the White Sox—Boston gave the old St. Louis Browns a worse clobbering (29-4) when they set the big league scoring record in 1950...Cornell's varsity crew will break Navy's 30-race winning streak (an all-time record) on the Severn this week unless the experts (among them Navy's Coach Rusty Callow) are badly mistaken...Light-Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore was licensed to fight Heavyweight Contender Nino Valdes at Las Vegas after two Nevada physicians tested his supposedly faulty heart and pronounced him in "perfect condition"—three medical men have now okayed him, three others have warned him never to fight again...Wes Santee, slowed to 4:11.4 by wind and weather at the Kansas Relays, prepared to try again this week at the Drake Relays...Hideo Hamamura, a 26-year-old clerk from Yamaguchi, Japan (whose fellow employes took up a collection to send him to the U.S.) beat a field of 160 in the famed Boston Marathon and set a new record (2 hours, 18 minutes, 22 seconds) for the 26-mile 385-yard course...Meanwhile in Tokyo (which is bidding for the 1960 Olympics) world traveler Avery Brundage, international Olympics chairman, was made an honorary citizen of the town...Chelsea's soccer team cinched its first English League championship—a full 50 years after being founded (as the Stamford Bridge Club) in a London pub.