The clockers could hardly believe their eyes—or their watches. In the 100-yard dash at the Louisiana State-Tulane track meet last week, winner Billy Jones of LSU was caught in the magic, the unattainable time of 9.0 flat. It was a moment for history, a moment of timeless glory not only for Billy Jones but for all who saw it happen. To make everything legal the officials measured off the distance—and found it 90 yards instead of 100.
DIRTY BUSINESS (CONT.)
Suspension of boxing for 90 days—which is what Governor George M. Leader of Pennsylvania did to it in his state last week—is better than forever. It gives time to think, to evaluate and to investigate. It does not quite revert to the time when boxing was, like liquor, under Prohibition.
Boxing is headed that way, though. There has been enough dirty business in the sport to make the old-fashioned saloon look like the Vassar campus at Commencement. The dirt has begun to come out for all to see, as when boxing fans in a million homes, as well as those at Philadelphia's Arena, watched Harold Johnson stagger drunkenly, because drugged, through two fitful rounds with Julio Mederos, 1-4 underdog, and then collapse (SI, May 16). Governor Leader ordered an investigation, then issued his three-month suspension order. This week the Pennsylvania investigation began.
May 22, 1955
What Governor Leader noted was that the drugging of Johnson must have been apparent even before he stumbled up the ring steps to begin the fight. The boxer's handlers, nevertheless, let him continue until legs and arms were patently useless.
While James H. Crowley, Pennsylvania's new commission chairman, was trying to find out who drugged Johnson, Julius Helfand, New York's new boxing commission chairman, was studying some drugless surgery by which Vince Martinez, third-ranked welterweight, was cut off from his livelihood. Helfand awaited the testimony of James D. Norris, president of the International Boxing Club, and William Daly, treasurer of the International Boxing Guild, a managers' organization, to complete his inquiry.
He had heard Harry Markson, IBC's astute general manager, express a winsome wish that somehow all the power of Jim Norris, who holds exclusive contracts with all but the flyweight and bantamweight champions (both foreign) and of the IBC, which Norris controls and which in turn controls the prime TV and other boxing outlets, could have persuaded just one fight manager to give just one fight to Vince. But Vince had split with his manager, Daly, and in spite for that action, Vince was "grounded."
"He is...an excellent attraction," Markson said, contemplating a Martinez bout. But, he said, after IBC had made valiant efforts to get fights for Martinez, it began to appear that other managers had an "exalted sympathy...if I may use that expression," for Daly.
Indeed, he said, managers "have avarice and cupidity in their hearts" and would try to promote championship fights themselves, unless IBC exercised its promotional control.
As to the Martinez blacklisting, Markson thought it was "disgraceful and outrageous" that a fighter he regarded as only two fights away from a championship bout should be so treated.
These were the right things to say. They put IBC on the side of the angels. They were a refined echo of previous testimony by Billy Brown (Dominick Mordini), IBC matchmaker in New York, except that the less astute Billy had let slip Daly's good relations with Norris—so good that out of "courtesy" for Mr. Norris, Daly sometimes asked Norris's approval before he signed for a fight.
BEN HOGAN, 1955
The well-made little man in white trousers and cap and dark blue shirt stood with one foot in the sand trap, one on the grass near the 18th green. He was ringed by nearly 5,000 anxious spectators. His flat, boxer's face was expressionless as he studied the wide green expanses between himself and the pin bearing the red flag. Briskly his thick, powerful boxer's arms swished a wedge through the rough grass.
The crowd was quiet as all golf crowds are, but with a special quiet here. The little man had made his shot quickly, the ball lifting in a high, too-long trajectory past the pin and off the green on the far side. He trudged after it, his left leg slightly stiff with the suggestion of the limp he gets when he is tired. He chipped back toward the hole and the ball rolled four feet too far.
He missed his four-foot putt coming back for a bogey, tapped the ball in the cup and looked, still expressionless, down at the hole. Then he turned and marched off to the scorer's tent to turn in his card. As he left the green he grinned at someone in the crowd. He was relaxed and not unhappy.
This was Ben Hogan in the year 1955, finishing a 9-over-par 289 to wind up 11th in the Colonial Country Club Invitation Tournament at Fort Worth—a tournament that used to be considered Ben Hogan's own, since it was in Fort Worth that he started nearly 20 years ago and here that he was almost always sure to win in his great days. In those great days winning seemed almost as important to Ben Hogan as life itself, and he played every tournament with a concentration that shut out the crowd and the other golfers and left Ben alone with the ball and the cup and the problem of uniting the two.
At the peak of his career Hogan could concentrate so completely that he could drive a grievously broken body into performing miracles of golfing skill and power by simply ignoring its protests and playing as if he had never had his pelvis and one leg smashed. It seemed he could win any tournament if he wanted to badly enough. It was always Ben Hogan against the field.
Now the concentration which wrapped Hogan in solitude during his great rounds was diluted, and he could smile occasionally and trade words with friends. Being the man he is, he knows he can't do two things with the perfection he demands of himself, and Ben's major attention is presently focused on a new business enterprise through which he will launch a full arsenal of his own specially designed golf equipment. "I'm not playing serious golf any more," he explained after finishing that last round at the Colonial. "You lose some of your concentration when you quit the tournament circuit. My golf club business is a full-time job. I won't play in more than three or four tournaments a year any more."
A new generation of younger golfers is now fighting to occupy the Hogan pedestal. But lest they grow too cocky too soon, they should remember that Hogan will be in San Francisco in June for the last of his four 1955 appearances—the U.S. Open. The Colonial Invitational and last week's event at Greenbrier (where he finished sixth) simply rank as tune-ups for the Mighty Mite. He can still concentrate on the fairways when he has to, and Ben is not going to San Francisco just to enjoy the view of the bay.
AND NEVER THE TWAIN?
Ever since Swaps extended his California nose across the Kentucky Derby finish line a length and a half ahead of Nashua's New York sniffer the air over U.S. race tracks has been crackling with all the ingredients of a noisy controversy. This is the year, you'll remember, that Nashua was to have become the first horse since Citation (1948) to win the Triple Crown (Derby, Preakness, Belmont).
So what happens? Well, here comes Swaps out of the West to knock that dream smack into the bottom of a julep beaker. Does this set Swaps up as the potential Triple Crown champion? No, it doesn't, because somewhere along the line Swaps's owner, Rex Ellsworth, neglected to pay up the sum total of $250 to nominate his horse for all three events. Ellsworth went, all right, for the $100 Derby nomination fee (to which he later added $1,500 to start Swaps), but some people would have you believe that a smart man like Rex Ellsworth and a smart man like his trainer, Meshach Tenney, simply forgot all about the other two events. And on top of Swaps's very fine Derby victory comes a mess of moaning and groaning that the Derby winner can't automatically be made eligible to the Preakness and to the Belmont—where his superiority might be proven once and for all.
The truth of the matter is that Swaps was never denied an opportunity to become a Triple Crown winner. Nominations for all three events closed the same day—February 15 of this year—and by that date the owners of some 191 3-year-olds had announced their intentions of running in one or more of the stakes—125 in the Derby, 152 in the Preakness and 118 in the Belmont. Seventy-eight colts were nominated for all three. Swaps was not one of them, despite the fact that his credentials as a 2-year-old included earnings of $20,950. At Pimlico, where they run off the Preakness on May 28, supplementary nominations at $7,500 each were being accepted until last Saturday. Swaps was not a supplementary nomination last Saturday. The Belmont Stakes does not accept supplementary nominations—even from California's leading breeder. Ellsworth, of course, knew this when he said the other day, "If we could get into the Belmont, we'd stay East for the Preakness too."
"It's high time," says a Belmont Park official, "that people stop treating us as though we alone are responsible for preventing another Swaps-Nashua race in the Belmont Stakes. If owners of some 118 horses each saw fit to put up $100 in nomination fees back in February, Ellsworth could have done the same thing if he'd wanted to race in the East. Anybody with a good 3-year-old is fully aware of the opportunities for his horse."
"I talked with Ellsworth at some length last winter at Santa Anita," says New York Racing Secretary and Handicapper Jimmy Kilroe (who performs the same duties at Santa Anita). "It was common knowledge that Ellsworth was pointing Swaps for the Kentucky Derby, but he never—even when he knew Swaps was a good colt—mentioned the possibility of nominating him for the Belmont."
All this pointed up to an obvious deduction: Ellsworth and Tenney took dead aim on the Derby alone. The other two races didn't matter. They did a superb job carrying off their program with a victory for Swaps. Now they have taken their horse, their winnings and their prestige back home. From the start the Triple Crown had lost—for them—much of the significance it once enjoyed. The Kentucky Derby alone retains its over-all prestige, but California racing for a Californian like Ellsworth (who has many other horses besides Swaps to consider) can offer overall higher purse opportunities to his stable than any other area in the country. So, why should Ellsworth take the trouble and spend the money to race in the East if he doesn't want to? How many of the big eastern stables go out to California to race?
None of this discussion, of course, is getting Swaps and Nashua any closer together. "Maybe," says Nashua's owner, William Woodward, "there should be a match race—provided, that is, both these colts continue to dominate their respective areas."
We say fine—and offer a suggestion. Nashua is due in Chicago for the $100,-000 Arlington Classic July 16. Swaps is due there for the $100,000 American Derby August 20.
Between those two races there is just time for a match race—half way between East and West.
ANYONE FOR BEAGLES?
Zeke Bonura, who gained equal measures of fame in the big leagues as one of baseball's best hitters and worst fielders, has discovered down on a Louisiana farm the fountain of youth for ballplayers—raising and training beagles. The revelation came too late to help old Zeke but, with a typical big-hearted Bonura gesture, he passes it along for future generations.
Those who watched him lumber around first base for the White Sox, Senators, Giants and Cubs in half a dozen pre-World War II seasons may have a little trouble reconciling their last impression of the tanklike slugger with his present occupation. Zeke and great Danes they could understand. But not beagles. Yet Bonura has been raising the little rabbit chasers, which look strangely like foxhounds lopped off at the first joint, since about 1952 down on his St. Rose, La. farm and he booms the work which goes into training them as the best leg conditioner in the world. The onetime New Orleans banana merchant, now 45 and 240 un-svelte pounds, has a firm conviction he could still be in the majors, at least as a pinch-hitter, if he had been a beagle man all his life.
"My eyes are as good as ever," he says, "and with that ball they're using these days all you have to do is meet it and it goes rocketing off into the stands. But my legs are gone."
Zeke has an idea his once-powerful underpinnings would have lasted much longer had he been out in the woods during those early years, trailing along for endless miles after his dogs. That's what he does now, following them four or five hours a day to train them and get them ready for field trials. "You're walking or jogging and you don't get tired because you've got your mind on those dogs," Zeke says. "You're watching to see how they react when they get on the trail of a rabbit, so you cover a lot of ground and never realize it. You build up your legs without knowing it."
A young beagle is trained by first letting it run with an older dog until a rabbit is jumped. Then the pup just does what comes naturally. It's only a question of time before a good beagle will recognize the scent of a rabbit and follow it as long as he is allowed to run.
Beagle raising has been both a pleasant and profitable venture for Bonura. He won his first field trial championship last January and has two young dogs which he says are certain champions of the future. Zeke sells beagles too, getting $75 to $100 for a puppy as a result of the boom which has swept the little hound into the nation's No. 1 spot in popularity figures of the American Kennel Club. He has also been offered as much as $1,500 for a blue-ribbon winner but doesn't like to sell his older dogs. "I get too attached to them," Zeke says.
It is this attitude which keeps him from going into the dog business as a full-time financial venture. That and his still-active interest in baseball. Bonura managed various minor league teams for several years after the war and still works quietly at scouting assignments. He's hopeful, furthermore, of getting back into baseball as a manager or coach. "Baseball is my business," he says. "This beagle thing is just a sport."
BOUNCE ON THE COAST
Pepsi Cola, a beverage which endeavors to supply "more bounce to the ounce," is dedicated to the proposition that life should be led with zest. A world full of people full of Pepsi Cola would presumably bound around like tennis balls. Baseball players, however, incline more toward the sudsier drinks, and, as the Pepsi Cola people have noted, the results show it. Ballplayers are sluggish and often go about their work as if they had nothing better to do. This has been especially true in the Pacific Coast League, where night games used to be a standard treatment for insomnia.
Sensibly refraining from trying to convert the Coast League athletes to their beverage overnight, the Pepsi people thought up a clever ruse. They decided to offer the players money to stimulate the Pepsi Cola tempo, which is sometimes referred to in baseball parlance as "hustle." This year at the suggestion of Claire Goodwin, the league's new president and a former Pepsi Cola man himself, the company put up $20,000 in prizes for Coast League players and managers and coaches and umpires who showed the most hustle—i.e. bounce per ounce.
Each month Pepsi hands out $2,500 worth of these awards—$1,500 for the most hustling team, $200 apiece to each of five players who show various kinds of energy and improvement. At first, most of the eligibles were as nonplused over the prospect as Oakland Manager Lefty O'Doul, who said: "I'm not against it." Meaning the money.
When the first month's awards were announced recently no one was surprised to learn that first-place Seattle had taken the team award; or that Chesty Chester Johnson, a Sacramento pitcher who had been the league's comic relief for years, would split a prize for "contributing the most on and off the field"; or that San Francisco's hard-hitting young third baseman Joe Kirrene took the rookie award. These boys were trying. The ones who were having trouble were those lardy baseline coaches. Moving toward the dugout at their time-honored somnambulant gait, they would suddenly break into what World War II soldiers used to call a "Dixie two-step." Then some big voice in the stands was sure to say: "What's the matter, Fatty? Do you think Goodwin's watching you?"
Around the league, however, the opinion is growing that the hustle is beginning to pay off. In a recent series for instance, San Francisco and Sacramento played three consecutive games in 1:22, 1:52 and 1:31. Optimistic Claire Goodwin believes it won't be long before the Coast League's absent fans will return to the ball parks and discover that you can now watch a night game and get home in time for breakfast.
THE (TOUGH) SPORTING LIFE
Questioned recently as to the reason for his quick getaway in the slugging department this season, Brooklyn's Carl Furillo explained that he had adopted golf principles to improve his hitting technique.
"I've done two things. I've stiffened my neck so I keep my eye on the ball, and I've changed my grip. Now I hold my neck rigid..."
As the Dodgers were beating the Chicago Cubs last week, Carl Furillo was benched by a stiff neck.
ETIQUETTE OF HOME RUNS
Cross the plate
'Midst the noise
And swagger with
Shake all hands,
Pull cap's button;
Convey the thought—
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
A $75 million sports center with a 100,000-seat stadium is going up in Moscow as bait for the 1960 or 1964 Olympics—perhaps the most peace-loving news to come out of Moscow all week.
Twice in a week Texan Walt Davis high jumped a magic seven feet at local exhibitions, unofficially bettering his own world's record of 6 feet 11½ inches.
Sprinter Jim Golliday, back at Northwestern U after two years in the Army, tied Mel Patton's world record of 9.3 for 100 yards at the Big Ten Relays in Evanston. His tail wind of 3.32 mph was not enough to disqualify the mark for official acceptance.
Four-minute Miler Dr. Roger Bannister shocked Swiss alpinists by climbing the precipitous Finsteraarhorn (alt. 14,000 ft.) with two equally fearless friends but no guide. "It was close to suicide," said the amazed Swiss.
High Gun, the King Ranch's champion three-year-old of 1954, looked so good winning the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont, his first 1955 start, that Trainer Max Hirsch may send the horse to England this summer to run at Ascot.
Apartheid, South Africa's strict color segregation policy, may result in getting that nation barred from the 1956 Olympiad when the International Olympic Committee meets in Paris in June. The ban could be avoided if South Africa would permit Negroes to compete on her team, but she definitely won't.
700,000 tickets for the 1956 Olympic Games go on sale in Melbourne this week. Australians expect them to be gobbled up within a few days.