By the time the clocks at Churchill Downs pointed to 4:35 last Saturday afternoon, every man, woman and child in the U.S. and at least 10 horses knew who had won the Kentucky Derby. This statement is a downright lie—it just seemed as though every man, woman and child in the U.S. knew who had won—but for purposes of this essay, since it has a fine, authoritative ring, it will be presumed to be the hope-to-die, boil-me-in-hot-lard-and-throw-me-to-the-catfish truth. A good many careless readers will probably swear it is the truth, 10 years from now, and this dramatizes the fact that the Derby is one of those wonderful phenomena which are recorded differently in millions of different minds and stay that way until the reaper or the keeper steps in and lugs the recipient away.
Since only 100,000 people crowded into the track at Louisville most of the Derby audience drew their impressions by electronics or word of mouth. The televiewers got a good look at the race itself but fell prey to one startling illusion: it rained lightly for but two or three minutes before the start, but the cameras created the impression that the whole place—crowds, horses, judges and band—was drenched by a torrential downpour and that the track just had to be muddy no matter what the newspapers said. And both televiewers and radio listeners were subject to mental aberration which varied from time zone to time zone.
When it was 4:35 in Louisville it was 5:35 in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Bangor, Atlanta and Wilmington, Del.; alcohol, it is needless to remark, had by that time of a Saturday afternoon worked its marvels on the ganglia, gray matter and perhaps even the eyeballs of some citizenry of the Eastern Seaboard. But it was only 2:35 in Los Angeles—where tens of thousands have become addicted to gardening, and through this pastime to the practice of spading a local potion concocted of powdered sheep's manure into the soil. There is no benefit to be had by further reflection upon the fact that environment is apt to influence the memory.
May 15, 1955
But what of those lucky, if rumpled, thousands who were actually within the storied confines of Churchill Downs?
If they were penned in the infield a lot of them couldn't see the race at all—although somebody told them what somebody else thought had happened rather quickly. It must also be reported that Commander Edward Whitehead—the ginger-bearded Briton who has raised himself to near-eminence in the U.S. by appearing in advertisements for tonic water—picked the right horse. The Commander stood in line before the $5 window when the race was over and was seen and heard by scores. In five years, ask any of them if they remember who won the Derby in '55. "Remember? Of course, I remember. It was Schweppes!"
SUNNY JIM'S DARK DAY
Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, Nashua's stooped and ancient trainer, looked surprised just once on Derby Day. The time: 5:15, a full 15 minutes before the field was off at Churchill Downs. The place: the doorway of Belmont Park's Jockey Club offices to which the 80-year-old Mr. Fitz—who did not quite feel up to the jostling crowds in Louisville—repaired to watch the race in quiet on television. Quiet! The room was a tangle of floodlights; cameras and wires, and squads of television photographers, engineers, announcers, news cameramen and reporters were packed in tight as anchovies. But after just one amazed stare, Sunny Jim grinned. "Hi boys," he said. "This is some setup you have here. Where do you want me to sit?"
The question was academic for there was only one spot left, a soft chair right in front of the television set. During the 15 minutes preceding post time Mr. Fitz moved back and forth according to photographers' wishes ("No, no, don't mind at all; just whatever you boys want") and briefly but politely answered all questions (Yes, he had talked to son John down at Louisville earlier in the afternoon and everything was all right.... No, the prospect of a heavy track wasn't bothering them. The horse was a good mudder). During the actual running of the race itself, Mr. Fitz was the calmest person in the room.
Afterward, refusing to make any excuses, he said the better horse, at least on that day, had won, and that it had been a very good race. When asked if he had been excited he said, "No, not excited. A little anxious, though." And how did he feel? "Well, I lost a race I wanted to win very much." The only sign of rebellion came when photographers asked him to pull out his handkerchief. "Now, boys, don't expect me to cry for you," he smiled. "You're not going to make me look like a bad loser." Instead he mopped his forehead, which didn't need mopping, while the flashbulbs popped. Then, good loser Mr. Fitz, still sunny even in defeat, put away his handkerchief, picked up his seat-type walking stick and shuffled out to a waiting car.
DIRTY BUSINESS (CONT.)
Boxing's devious paths turned last week in three directions:
Item: Julius Helfand, New York's new boxing commission chairman, poked a pointed finger into the affairs of the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president) and the International Boxing Guild (Honest Bill Daly, treasurer). He had heard, he said, allegations that there were "irregularities in the handling of boxers by certain managers and promoting interests." He received immediate testimony to that effect (see page 32).
Item: Another boxing commission chairman, James H. Crowley of Pennsylvania and once of Notre Dame's Four Horsemen, ordered another kind of investigation. Under gubernatorial instructions, like Helfand, to clean up boxing's dirty business in his state, Crowley studied the strange fight in which Harold Johnson, light-heavyweight contender and 4-1 favorite, seemingly was drugged to defeat in his Philadelphia bout with Julio Mederos.
Item: Eddie Coco, once manager of Rocky Graziano and old friend of Jim Norris, surrendered sullenly to begin a life sentence for murder in Florida.
HOT TIME AT BURNING TREE
When Thailand's Premier Pibul Songgram, 58, made his official visit to Washington President Eisenhower not only presented him with the Legion of Merit but asked him out to Burning Tree Country Club for a round of golf—a privilege never before accorded a head of state. Songgram, as a result, found himself the focus of intense curiosity the next day when he spoke at the National Press Club. He had hardly finished, as a matter of fact, before Club President Lucian C. Warren rose and asked: "Who won that golf game between you and the President?"
Premier Songgram recognized a diplomatic dilemma when he saw one and met it instantly: He chuckled. His English, he said, was "very poor" and "not correct to the grammar." He chuckled again. "Yes," he said. "Well. When I saw my club I like to play very much and specially with his excellency the President. I start by practice with five iron club. I drove it a very long distance. I feel I win. I won. I try my wooden club, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4. I drove many balls and nearly hit the caddy. Even that time I feel I won. I feel younger, sometime 57. The second round my partner he did a written score. He is the president of the golf committee. He play well. Sometimes he putt very long putts. I don't know. I win about 12 and 13 holes. But he told me he lose. He said the President win."
It seemed like a masterly handling of a difficult subject. No U.S. citizen could possibly feel that the President had not won, no Siamese could assume that his premier had been beaten, and the world's golfers simply had to conclude that something new was being added to their game in the Orient.
DUCK MARKET BULLISH
When Robert Winthrop, sitting in his office 34 floors above Wall Street in New York, is not thinking about stocks and bonds, as becomes a partner in the investment firm of Robert Winthrop and Company, he is likely to be thinking about ducks. This also becomes Mr. Winthrop, for he is the new president of the organization founded in 1937 to encourage serious thinking about wildfowl: Ducks Unlimited.
Upon taking office, Broker Winthrop was able to speak bullishly of prospects for waterfowl in 1955, thanks to 18 years of effort by Ducks Unlimited and the spending of more than $4 million in reclaiming dried-up breeding areas of waterfowl in the Canadian prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. D.U. has spent its money, contributed by wildfowlers and conservationists, in constructing more than 600 dams and water gates, more than a hundred miles of canals and ditches, 75 miles of barbed-wire fences, and in dealing sternly with such enemies of ducklings as crows and magpies.
"Altogether," said Mr. Winthrop, a tall, rangy man of 51 who looks like he might have been a good prospect for the crew at Harvard (he was), "there have been 425 projects since D.U. was founded. There are 20 to 30 new ones undertaken every year, and right now 381 are operating. Here's the way a typical project gets started. In 1953, the 'moccasin telegraph' brought out word that the Hay Lakes area in Alberta was largely dried up. D.U. flew in an expedition and took a survey, then, with the cooperation of the Canadian Water Stabilization Board, started a dam-building program that is now bringing back most of the area as a duck-producing region."
Mr. Winthrop got interested in Ducks Unlimited as a contributor, then began to take a more active part in its activities; he served as secretary before his election as president. "I believe," he says, "that if it had not been for Ducks Unlimited, we would not be shooting ducks today."
As it is, millions of ducks will be starting south along the four great flyways this fall, and seated in a duck blind on the north shore of Lake Erie will be Robert Winthrop, who believes, too, that it is better for a duckling to grow up and be shot down than never to grow up at all.
When the opposing pitcher has just shut out his team, it is somewhat unusual for a manager to say: "I hope he wins 50 games this year." Yet that is what Casey Stengel said—and meant—after Kansas City's Bobby Shantz held the Yankees to three hits recently as K.C. won 6-0. And Manager Stengel's sentiment was echoed by players and club officials all around the major league circuit.
Robert Clayton Shantz, the object of all this bipartisan rooting, is a balding, 29-year-old southpaw from Pottstown, Pa., who stands just five and a half feet tall and weighs a scant 138 pounds. Through years of remarkable achievement and bitter failure, his quiet, self-effacing behavior and dogged determination to succeed in competition with athletes his physical superior, have earned him a special place of affection among baseball fans. Shantz was the standout performer of the 1952 season, when he posted a 24-7 record, won the American League's Most Valuable Player award and struck out the side (Lockman, Robinson, Musial) in his one-inning stint during that year's All Star game. No less remarkable was his hitting, fielding and base-running; in all three he was considered one of the most capable among big league pitchers. Then, in the last month of the '52 season, he was hit by a fast ball thrown by Washington's Walt Masterson and suffered a broken bone in his left arm. Though the bone healed satisfactorily, Shantz was never the same pitcher. Each time he threw, during '53 and '54, he seemed to tear some tissues or pull another muscle in his arm. Expert observers claimed he was compensating, unconsciously, for the wrist injury and straining his arm by throwing unnaturally. Whatever the reason, Shantz spent those two years with a pitching arm so sore he could scarcely lift it, taking every treatment doctors recommended, including cortisone shots. "My arm," he said at the time, "feels like a pincushion from those needles they're giving me. I feel plain lousy all over." Last year he pitched just eight innings, five of them in the opening game, then sat out the rest of the season.
"When I went to spring training this year," says Shantz, "I figured it was my last chance. I was full of hope, but I was also thinking about the two or three job offers I had. I want to play baseball more than anything else, but if I couldn't I had to think of my family's future. (He's married, has a 19-month-old son.) Spring drills did nothing to bolster Bobby's hopes. He pitched and the sore arm returned, with the pain localized in the deltoid (high shoulder) muscle. As Shantz debated quitting, K. C. Trainer Jim Ewell offered his own "last chance" plan to rehabilitate the arm, and the pitcher accepted. Ewell started with weeks of diathermy, then stretched the arm by manipulation to loosen it. A special pulsating machine was used on the ailing deltoid to improve its tone. Finally, the trainer applied a liniment of his own concoction to Shantz' body from the waist up, to keep the whole area a few degrees above normal temperature. Results seemed encouraging.
On the big night against the Yankees, the above described routine was closely followed; five minutes before Bobby walked out to the mound, the treatment ended. Two hours and 22 minutes later, he had completed the sports year's most heart-warming comeback, limiting the New Yorkers to three singles.
"I'm throwing as hard now as I did back in my big year," Shantz says. "My arm doesn't hurt. I'm happy."
To a man, the baseball fraternity hopes this plucky little man stays happy all season.
If the Brooklyn dodgers continue winning games at their current rate, they will finish the season with 140 victories, breaking the record of 116 set by Chicago in the National League in 1906.
If they continue producing home runs at their current rate, they will finish the season with 245, breaking the record of 221 set by the Giants in 1947. If attendance at Dodger home games continues at its current rate (averaging less than 15,000 including night games), Brooklyn club officials will not care very much whether the above two statistical forecasts come true.
Dave Kuhn, the big right-handed pitcher for Virginia Tech, was having one of his good days. Breezing into the sixth inning against William and Mary, Dave had a comfortable 4-2 lead and no particular worries on his mind when the W. & M. hitter stepped out of the batter's box and called time. "Hey ump," he said, turning to Umpire Joe Peverall. "I can't hit against this guy. Every time I look for the ball, all I can see is that danged bubble instead." Umpire Peverall decided to have a little talk with Dave and hiked out to the mound. "All right," he warned, "either keep that gum in your mouth or spit it out. Park it or keep it in your mouth, but don't blow any more bubbles."
Not since the Official Rules Committee outlawed Dazzy Vance's flapping sleeve (Div. 8.02, Sec. d) has a pitcher come up with a more critical ocular distraction for opposing batsmen than Dave Kuhn's bubble gum. Although there is yet no rule to cover the situation, apparently an umpire's authority contains the power to exorcise such unconventional assistance. Anyway, Dave did as the umpire told him to, tucking the gum behind a convenient molar. And just to show he was pitcher enough to get along without it, he fanned three more batters before winning his game 6-4.
FRANKIE ON FRISCH
The Fordham flash, Frankie Frisch, has had as exciting a baseball career, both as player and manager, as anybody. But it's doubtful that he ever had as much fun as he's having right now as an elder statesman of baseball conducting a television interview program after the Giants' home games. Theoretically, Frankie presents a guest star for the purpose of adding a few colorful footnotes to the day's game. But that's just theory, and the guests themselves quickly get the idea that Frankie prefers them as straight men for his own reminiscences.
Among Frankie's recent guests to sit and listen have been Don Mueller (he learned that one season Frankie Frisch struck out only 12 times), Marv Grissom (who heard about the time Frank went to the beach, got a sore arm and was rebuked by John McGraw with: "Did you come to Florida to swim or play ball?"), Monte Irvin (he got a full-blown lecture on hitting), and finally Frank Shellenbach, the Giants' pitching coach, who almost wrecked the program's format by talking up.
"You ask me what qualifications a pitcher should have, Frank," said Shellenbach. "All right, I'll tell you."
Frisch looked at him in alarm.
"First," he said, "just let me slip a word in here!"
"A pitcher, Frank," Shellenbach ran on, "should have, No. 1, control."
"True, true," said Frisch, "but if I can just get a word in here!"
"A pitcher," said Shellenbach, ignoring Frankie, "should have that old determination."
"Just a word!" Frisch pleaded. "A word!"
"A pitcher," Shellenbach said slowly, "should have that old desire to go out there and win that ball game."
"Give me a word in here!" Frisch cried.
"Three things," said Shellenbach, looking up and half closing his eyes. "Three things. Control. Determination. That old desire to get in there and win that ball game. Do you get me, Frankie? Do I make myself clear?"
"Courage!" exploded Frisch. "Courage!"
"What, Frankie?" asked Shellenbach mildly.
"A pitcher should have courage," exclaimed the Flash.
"Oh," said Shellenbach, "certainly. Courage, determination—it's the same thing."
Frisch looked him in the eye.
"It's been nice having you, Frank Shellenbach," he said evenly, "and now a word from our announcer about a truly magnificent glass of beer."
"It's been nice talking to you, Frankie," said Shellenbach, one of the few guest stars who ever has.
A wave to the bullpen,
The bases are full,
There's nary a pitcher—
Here comes the bull.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
California-bred Swaps beat Nashua and won the Derby, but failed to surprise Winning Jockey Willie Shoemaker—"When Nashua came up on us I knew we were going to win," said Willie the Shoe afterward. "Swaps was pricking up his ears. He wanted to loaf, so I hit him and he flattened out his ears." ...Resentment against Britain's stiff-necked ban on soccer substitutions came to a boil as Newcastle United beat Manchester City, 3-1, before 100,000 people in the English Cup Finals—Manchester lost a back through injuries after 19 minutes and was forced to play 10 men against 11 through the rest of the game...Pitt's amazing Arnie Sowell (who will eventually try for the four-minute mile) ran a quarter-mile relay lap (with a running start) in 0:45.4—undercutting the 46-second world record...Navy's three-year, 31-race winning streak—longest in rowing history—was finally ended as Pennsylvania's high-speed varsity crew won the Adams Cup by a length-and-a-half (with Harvard third) in a mile-and-three-quarters sprint at Cambridge...Madrid's bullfight weekly, El Ruedo, cheered the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for its laudable animosity—"If the U.S. imports bullfighting," it explained, "the sport will never recover"...The Rampaging Dodgers won their 21st game, thereby obscuring an almost equally astounding phenomenon—a six-game winning streak by the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates...Heavyweight Roland La Starza (a victim of both Rocky Marciano and Don Cockell) warned the tender-nosed champ that the Englishman's left jab is damaging—but London's unimpassioned bookies offered 7-1 to anyone who would bet on Cockell by a decision, 16-1 on Cockell by a knockout in 11 to 15 rounds, 20-1 on Cockell by a knockout in 6 to 10 rounds, and 25 to 1 on Cockell by a knockout in the first five.