EVENTS & DISCOVERIES

The impossible mile, Prediction without honor The wonderful world of Sovsport, Baseball park cuisine, No frankness re Frankie, Umps' heaven
June 05, 1955

DO WE HEAR 3:50?

Three men—all of them marvelous athletes, but none of them specialists and none of them keyed for superhuman sacrifice—ran a mile in less than four minutes at London's White City Stadium (see p. 28). Only 13 months ago the four-minute barrier seemed all but impregnable, and Dr. Roger Bannister did not pierce it without calling on an audacity which few men possess and experiencing depths of physical agony which few men could endure. Both Bannister and John Landy steeled themselves for their dramatic duel last August like men preparing to run through fire.

In so doing, it now seems quite obvious, they relieved the minds of other men. This is not to say that Hungary's second-string Miler Laszlo Tabori found it easy to run 3:59, nor that England's old pacer, Chris Chataway, or his teammate Brian Hewson, managed 3:59.8 without tribulation. The four-minute mile will always be a fierce test of both spirit and body. Conditions at White City Stadium were almost perfect: the air was windless, cool and winy, the track was damp and resilient, and a pacer brought the field to the half-mile mark in just a shade over two minutes.

Two years ago, after such a start, the best of milers might well have been burdened by a fear of running themselves into the ground. But though Chataway had never exceeded 4:04, and Tabori and Hewson had never broken 4:05, they battled on, unchecked. Their last quarter, run in reckless quest of victory, and with little' thought of the clock, was by far faster than any lap Bannister or Landy ran in any of their performances—56.8—and three men were astounded to discover they had joined the immortals. After hearing the time, Bannister's coach, Franz Stampfl, predicted forthwith that the mile will soon be run in 3:50.

INTERIM REPORT
Last April Jim Gallagher, business manager of the Chicago National League Baseball Club, more informally known to North Side Chicagoans as the Cubs and something of an institution since 1876, wrote us a letter which wound up with the sentence: "Congratulations on the fine job you are doing with the magazine, but don't bet your money on your baseball expert." In the previous issue, our baseball expert had described the outlook for the Cubs as follows: "Far from bright. Too many weak spots. No better than seventh, possibly the cellar." That this was a reasonable bit of speculation on the part of our expert was substantiated by the fact that Jim Gallagher, an obviously biased party, was the only man in the whole wide baseball world who raised his voice in objection. We were convinced that Gallagher had taken leave of his senses, but right now, as we flip the calendar to another month, we are not so sure. The name in second place just below the Dodgers in the National League standings is unmistakably, as any expert could tell you, that of the Cubs.

SPORTSMAN SPIES

Until the job turned his stomach, Yuri A. Rastvorov used to be a Soviet intelligence officer in Japan. In the current issue of LIFE, Ex-agent Rastvorov reveals still a further side of the Soviet approach to sport:

"In the spring of 1952 our intelligence office in Tokyo received instructions from Moscow to collect all possible information on the strengths and weaknesses of local teams and athletes and to 'report on the honesty and quality of the managers, coaches and trainers of nationally known sports teams.'

"The implications of this last instruction were obvious.... I had a conversation with the coach of the Dynamo basketball team in which he admitted that the buying of foreign officials and judges was a routine part of Soviet sport strategy."

There is no evidence so far that the Russians have succeeded in subverting non-Russian sports officials—despite their acknowledged success in other fields of subversion. After all, despite formidable tales about the Russian athletic steamroller, Soviet athletes have done about as well as might be expected of a country of 193 million, not suspiciously better.

Nonetheless, there can be little doubt of Soviet intentions in the world of sport. Ex-agent Rastvorov points out that the Soviet athletics program is under the direct control of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. And spotting corruptible officials is only one of the jobs of Moscow intelligence. Quite as important is the spotting of foreign teams the Russians can lick on the level, preferably teams which have enjoyed an international reputation. In 1954 the Russians took on and defeated several foreign countries at their own native games—"the Canadians at hockey [though the Canadians got vengeance for that last March], the British at soccer, the Norwegians at skating."

Although the Soviets boast that professional athletics does not exist in their country, various departments of the state vie with each other in recruiting athletes, who are given nominal jobs in recompense. Most successful recruiter: the secret police, which operates the Dynamo club, most famous and powerful of all sports organizations in Russia, with a membership of 500,000 throughout the country. Athletes do not lightly turn down an invitation to play for the secret police.

Rastvorov reports that bonuses of 5,000 rubles ($1,250) and a cut of the gate receipts go to members of the winning team in the All-Union Soccer Championships. The title Master of Sport entitles the athlete to a fine medal and a monthly check. A player in a slump may find himself charged with antistate activity. The famed Starostin brothers, builders of the great Spartak soccer team of the 1930s and still called "the fathers of Soviet soccer," were sent to Siberia.

"We may expect to see more and more Soviet teams abroad winning more and more victories," says Rastvorov, "These same teams of rigidly controlled and highly paid 'amateurs' will then appear at the Olympics."

FRANKFURTER LORE

The sausage, variously known as frankfurter, red hot and hot dog, is as much a symbol of baseball as bat, ball or glove. Any fool knows that, but the question is: how do you like yours—steamed or grilled?

Most eastern ball parks serve the steamed dog, take it or leave it. Chicago parks offer a choice. In Kansas City they grill them and consider steaming an abomination. Said a Kansas City fan at a mustard dispenser: "I'd just as lief eat a stewed sirloin steak as a steamed hot dog."

In Milwaukee they call them "frankfurts," grill them and steam them and also offer a king-size Bratwurst for 35¢, help yourself to barbecue sauce. Plain dogs sell for 20¢ in Milwaukee and also in New York, Cleveland, Boston and Washington. All other parks get two bits. Some franks are all veal, some all beef, some all pork, some a mixture.

Aside from the taste, it's good showmanship to grill franks, in the view of Dan Silverstein, concession manager at the Kansas City ball park. "You can't smell a steamed dog," he points out, "but the grilling franks give off a tantalizing aroma that makes a passerby's mouth water."

Dan Bauer, top dog of the Comiskey Park concessions in Chicago, agrees. "We sell both steamed and grilled, but with fans who know their franks, it's grilled two to one. I personally prefer the grilled. You can steam all the juice out of a dog on the real slow days. But if you grill, why the girl can just keep her center burner on and still warm those that are already done. This way she's prepared when a guy comes up and says, 'Gimme a black one.' In other words, a well-done one. I personally prefer black ones, cooked clear through and somewhat crusty."

All concession men can tell how the home team is doing just by watching the way the hot dogs move. During a tight game, the fans stay in their seats, even ignore the vendors. If the home team is taking a shellacking, the fans likewise have no appetite. But if the home team has a big inning, the concession people brace themselves for a rush. Usually, though, things even out: over a season, most parks average one to one and a half hot dogs per person.

As for vendors, the supersalesman is dimly viewed by Wrigley Field's Ray Kneip. "The polite, quiet type will sell more than the noisy guys," he says. "People just don't like noise. We had a guy here, a regular Gravel Gertie, yapping all the time. Had to ask him to turn in his steam box."

DIRTY BUSINESS (CONTD.)

Like the echo of an old refrain the mystical name of Prank Carbo was heard again last week at a boxing commission investigation. This time it sounded in a Philadelphia hearing room, where the Pennsylvania commission has been turning over boxing's rotting boards in an effort to find out who drugged Harold Johnson, ranked No. 1 contender in the light-heavyweight division, just before his fight with unranked Julio Mederos. Since he had previously beaten Mederos without difficulty, Johnson was a 4-1 favorite. Drugged, he lost in two rounds.

Carbo's name had been heard before in the attempt of the New York boxing commission to discover what had deprived Vince Martinez, fourth-ranking welterweight, of the boxer's right to fight. (Vince had been ranked third but was dropped to fourth last week only because of his involuntary inactivity.) It will likely be heard again during the California investigation into hoodlum infiltration of West Coast boxing.

The name's effect on witnesses is always the same. Everyone in boxing knows Carbo. No one knows what he does for a living. No one ever discusses boxing with him. They all swear to that.

It was so when Jimmy White, Mederos' manager, was asked in Philadelphia who Carbo was.

"A fellow that's around, that's all," White replied. He was a fellow, White said, he might bump into in New York or Florida.

"What does Carbo do?" Commissioner Alfred M. Klein inquired.

"You are about the 50th person who has asked that question," White answered. "No one knows what he does."

Both the Philadelphia and New York inquiries began the week in recess. Chairman Julius Helfand of the New York commission left for Paris and a meeting of the World Committee for Professional Boxing. Before leaving he announced that he would try to save boxing from "possible death" by cutting out "cancerous influences" which have moved into the sport.

"Boxing no longer is an isolated sport confined to gyms and arenas," he said. "Television has brought it into the living rooms of the nation. I won't be satisfied until it is cleaned up in our own state and returned to a game having the inherent honesty of baseball."

LOVE AND UMPIRES

Umpires are not often loved except by their wives and mothers. But every now and then something about them stirs a sentimental fan to a display of affection.

A Chicago newspaperman, the late Dempster MacMurphy of the Daily News, wanting the world to know his love, once asked his tailor to make him an umpire's suit. The tailor replied that he would rather die.

A. B. Hirschfeld of Denver, who has attended nearly every World Series since 1919, was overtaken by umpire love at one of the Giant-Indian games at the Polo Grounds last fall. "Give a thought to the boys in blue!" he suddenly cried out from his box near the Giant dugout. "Never was a breath of scandal connected with their name!" An usher hurried to the box and asked Mr. Hirschfeld if he felt ill.

Years ago, a St. Louis undertaker named Arthur Donnelly undertook to provide limousine service for umpires, who were suspicious at first but finally accepted the offer after getting an opinion from league headquarters that riding in a mortician's car did not constitute "mingling." Later Donnelly, sick with umpire love, took to having the umps down to the mortuary on the hot nights for beer, rye bread and Schmierkäse.

The most recent case of umpire love must be charged to Phil Wrigley of the Chicago Cubs. With Wrigley's consent, if not at his order, a $30,000 suite has been installed at Wrigley Field for the exclusive use of umpires. In most cities, umps are usually assigned a windowless cubicle equipped with a couple of tin lockers and a pair of kitchen chairs that wobble. In Chicago there is a lounge and a dressing room, air conditioned, with overstuffed furniture, a card table, magazine racks and bookshelves, and a writing desk soon to be supplied with special umpire stationery. There are upholstered benches, a boot bath (for cleaning umpire shoes) and a custom-made chest to hold the special dirt used to rub up baseballs before the game. Umpire Babe Pinelli took one look at the layout and choked up. He finally blubbered that the place made every other umpire room in the league look like that little house they keep moving around the farm.

But umpire love has a way of backfiring. Maybe umpires aren't meant to be loved. Maybe, laying it on the line, if a man is really lovable he's got no business being an umpire.

And maybe it was an omen, the thing that happened at Wrigley Field the other afternoon. A violent thunderstorm whirled up out of nowhere, blew out the power, flooded the umps' plush new lounge, boot bath and all, under a foot of water.

POSTMAN RINGS TWICE

One day Antonio Ascari, the Italian racing champion of his time, took his son on his knee and, behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo, let the 5-year-old take a curve at 7 mph. It was a wide curve and the boy, Alberto, turned it very well. Thereafter the father took Alberto whenever he went to the big track at Monza, outside Milan. During trial runs the boy watched from the pit with the mechanics and afterward his father would take him for a few spins around the track. Alberto saw his father win the Italian Grand Prix in 1924. A year later, leading the field in the French Grand Prix on the Montlhéry speedway near Paris, Antonio Ascari's Alfa somersaulted off the track. Alberto was 7 then.

The widow Ascari did not want her son to race but this was a boy with a compulsion for it. Though he preferred sports bull sessions to studies, one day, at 11, he said: "I'm tired of talking about others. I want others to talk about me." He borrowed a motorcycle and, without ever having ridden one before, raced in the Milan Piazza D'Ami. He played poker to win money for bike rentals and track fees. He ran away from boarding schools and threatened not to come home if he could not follow in his father's way.

Alberto Ascari became the only auto racer ever to win the world's championship two years in a row. He won on the tracks of Italy, England, Argentina, Brazil and Spain. The only track he would not race on was the Montlhéry speedway, where his father had died, and his only substantial rival was Argentina's Juan Fangio, who won the world's championship in 1954.

For all that he took the most extraordinary chances, Ascari was less the reckless man of speed than the superbly cool technician of calm and plodding temperament, round-faced, and chunky, graceful only at the wheel of a fast car. Inside, though, there was tension. He had ulcers. Sometimes he could not bear to talk to newsmen after a race. "Please let me be," he would plead. At night after a race he tossed for two to three hours before he could get to sleep. He feared black cats and the number 13.

In actual crisis, he could be bland as his ascetic diet of lean meat, salad, fruit and mineral water. On May 22, racing his Lancia in the European Grand Prix at Monte Carlo, he missed a turn and went into the harbor. He swam ashore and was lifted into an ambulance protesting: "Non e' niente (It is nothing)." Five days later he was at Monza, where his father had first put Alberto's boyish hands on the wheel of a racing car. There, standing next to a 3,000 cc sports Ferrari so new its body had not been painted, was Ascari's favorite pupil, Eugenio Castellotti.

"It's a rocket, chief," Castellotti said. "It's a rocket."

"Yes, Screwdriver," Ascari said, using the nickname he had given his pupil, "It's a fine car." Castellotti spun off on a trial run and returned to report: "It's a bullet."

"Let me try your car, Screwdriver," Ascari said, "after my experience as a driver I want to have the feel of a wheel again." It may have been his way of saying that a driver who has had an accident should try again soon in order to reestablish confidence. He waved off suggestions that his back hurt too much. Castellotti lent him his crash helmet.

After one lap Ascari came past at slow speed, 75 mph, waving at his pupil, then took the second lap a little faster, not more than 100 mph.

It was one o'clock in the afternoon, 13 hours by Italian reckoning. It was May 26 (twice 13 and Ascari hated even multiples of 13), almost 30 years after the July 26 on which his father had died at Montlhéry.

Ascari took the Lesmo Bend and came into the straight as his father had done at Montlhéry. Workmen eating their lunches in the midday sun saw the tail of Ascari's car swing left, then right.

"Then her tail went up into the air," a mechanic said, "and she turned over. She ran along the ground with her four wheels in the air, then she lifted up again, with the engine still roaring away. The engine didn't stop until the car had come to a standstill on the grass."

At the moment of death Ascari was not driving fast by racing standards for a Ferrari. The revolution counter stopped at 6,300 revs and the gearshift was engaged in fifth gear, indicating a top speed of 110 mph. Wheelmarks showed his brakes were hard on at the moment of overturning.

There was some wonder that Ascari had not shifted down to third or at least fourth gear. It may have been he was stricken by a sudden illness. Castellotti said the car had seemed to him to be in perfect working order.

To world racing his death was an irreplaceable loss. The drama of his rivalry with Fangio—Fangio the daredevil, hard driver, Ascari the artist who never strained, judged bends perfectly, sat upright and steered with two fingers—ended at a time when it seemed that the new Lancia might well win him the world championship for the third time.

On Saturday the noisy city of Milan hushed itself as 100,000 silent mourners lined the path of Ascari's funeral procession. He had been dressed in racing overalls but over them, at his wife's insistence, the body was attired in ordinary clothes. Mrs. Ascari wanted her children to last see their father "dressed like any man, not as a racing driver" so that his son would not be attracted to racing and "won't die the same way as his grandfather and father."

And, in fact, Alberto Ascari had done his best to keep his son from an interest in racing. Italian racing enthusiasts looked to Screwdriver Castellotti, raised in Ascari's school, to become his racing heir.

P.S.—THE MISMATCH
To be filed with other critiques of the Marciano-Cockell mismatch: after balancing their books, the promoters find they have wound up $70,000 in the red.

TURNABOUT

I fished all day without a bite,
No piscatorial glories.
But the fish sat up and laughed all night,
Telling people-stories.
—EDITH BLANCHARD

TWO ILLUSTRATIONS ILLUSTRATION"I told you he couldn't do it!"

CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD

A three-man conquest of the four-minute mile, run with relative casualness at London's White City Stadium, highlighted one of the most exciting sports weeks of the year:

Belair Stud's Nashua set horseplayers to wondering if his Kentucky Derby conqueror, Swaps, could beat him again; he caught flying Saratoga in the stretch and won the Preakness at Pimlico by a length in 1:54[3/5]—fastest time in the 82-year history of the race and a track record for the distance.

In Big Ten track, Northwestern's Jim Golliday again ran 100 yards in 9.3, matching the world's best time for the distance. Meanwhile, Pitt's smooth-striding Arnie Sowell (who was bumped off the track in the Coliseum Relays 880 and Fordham's big, driving Tom Courtney (who was disqualified for doing the bumping) raced shoulder to shoulder at New York's IC4A track meet through the fastest college half mile ever run. Sowell won in 1:49.1; Courtney was clocked in 1:49.2—both breaking the record of 1:49.8.

In baseball, Brooklyn and the lagging Giants battled like cats on a hot tin roof in a series that included sharp pitching, a pinch-hit home run and a triple play.

Apparently weary of defending Manager Eddie (The Brat) Stanky against the ire of fans and players, the St. Louis Cardinals' Owner August A. Busch Jr., suddenly fired him and turned over the team (in sixth place) to a quieter man, onetime Cardinal Outfielder Harry (The Hat) Walker.

A small frog named Zulu Lulu, according to straight-faced reports, hopped 18 feet 11¼ inches in Natal, South Africa to break the world "frog jumping record" by more than two feet.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)