HEAT AT HALF TIME
The baseball season is now half over and—except for the American and National League All-Stars, who had work to do in Milwaukee—major leaguers took a three-day, or half-time, vacation this week. The breather came just in time for a lot of overheated performers, including Manager Birdie Tebbetts, 40, of Cincinnati and Manager Harry (The Hat) Walker, 35, of St. Louis, who so far forgot their years and dignity the other day as to rassle and pummel each other (inconclusively except for $100 fines) all over the turf of Crosley Field in an argument over delays in the game.
It was hot in Boston too, but the hottest of all were the Red Sox of Fenway Park, and Bostonians hoped devoutly that nothing would happen over the major league holiday to cool them off. From early June until this week, Manager Mike Higgins' ball club has won 29 of its last 36 games and has suddenly begun acting like a pennant contender. Indeed, if the baseball season had started in June instead of in April, the Red Sox would now be leading the league some seven games ahead of the New York Yankees.
The city of Boston had an unmistakable case of pennant fever, most clearly symptomatized by a Globe columnist who proclaimed: "Commissioner Ford Frick has not announced World Series details as yet, but this is the outlook: to open in Boston, Wednesday, September 28. First two games at Fenway Park, next three at Ebbets Field, the final two—if necessary—at Fenway Park. Frank Sullivan vs. Don Newcombe in the opener."
July 17, 1955
While those late wranglers, Birdie Tebbetts and Harry Walker, went to the All-Star Game to forget their troubles, Boston's Mike Higgins decided not to make the trip, turned down an invitation to go fishing, just sat at home and smiled.
WHITE HOUSE LUNCH
Football was Dwight Eisenhower's big sport as a boy in Kansas and at West Point, until a knee injury sidelined him permanently, and throughout a busy career in public service he has found time for fishing, hunting, golf and bridge, among others. This week, as world events crowded his schedule, he found the time to encourage such activity among other Americans.
To the White House for a luncheon meeting with the President came more than a score of athletes, coaches, officials and prominent sportsmen. Invitees included Army and Navy Football Coaches Earl Blaik and Eddie Erdelatz, boxing's Gene Tunney, baseball's Ford Frick and Willie Mays, golf's Bobby Jones and Jack Fleck and Horseman William Woodward Jr., owner of the famous Nashua. Their purpose: to help Ike draft plans to inspire youth to be sports participants rather than merely passive spectators.
A minor problem this, compared, for example, to the nettle of international disarmament, yet an area of general welfare worthy of the attention of the President of the United States. As he flew later in the week to another meeting, in Geneva, he could look back with satisfaction on having set in motion a program designed to help youngsters all over the country lead better-rounded lives.
Preacher Roe's cheerful admission that he indeed used the outlawed spitball during his major league career (SI, July 4) has raised a clatter in baseball circles as remarkable in its own way as Roe's confession.
Take the way Sportswriter Gayle Talbot of the Associated Press attempted to summarize professional reaction: "Baseball men...feel the veteran spoke out of turn and say they would not have violated such a sacred pledge.... Baseball writers, many of whom knew all along that Roe was dipping into the old saliva, are aggrieved that they permitted themselves to be scooped. There is a sort of unwritten law within the profession that certain things, such as a player's drinking habits and cheating on the field, are not discussed in print."
Now this is, at first superficial glance, a commendably moral attitude, but it has a cynical ring like the 11th commandment ("Thou shall not get caught"). The fact that Roe broke the letter of baseball law does not seem to disturb such professionals so much as the fact that he talked about it.
Perhaps the unwritten law, if written, would read: Thou shall see and hear but thou shall not report. It's safer that way. And easier.
SHAGGY HORSE STORIES
Of course, the headline racing news of the weekend is that Swaps had another breeze victory in the $57,750 Westerner at Hollywood Park while High Gun romped home in the $56,000 Brooklyn Handicap at Aqueduct. We should be the last to wish to detract from the lustre of these victories—triumphs of the favorites, witnessed by tight-packed audiences, read about by millions and thoughtfully pondered by the hundreds of thousands of serious mathematicians who try to figure out some way of winning on horse races. But three of our favorite horse stories of the week involve thoroughbreds you never heard of.
The first begins with a long-shot bettor named Mrs. Titus Haffa, the wife of a millionaire Chicago appliance manufacturer. Mrs. Haffa generally goes to the Arlington Park track on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There, on a sweltering weekday afternoon, she observed in the fourth race a horse which struck her as having no chance at all, an undersized 6-year-old mare named My Red Geflen. "When she came out on the track," said Mrs. Haffa, "I decided that the poor skinny little thing didn't have a chance." She accordingly bet $100 on My Red Geflen. As if inspired, the animal came from nowhere in the stretch to win her first race in two years. She paid 140-1. This earned $14,000 for sympathetic Mrs. Haffa and, she explained, made her "just about even for the season."
The second incident concerns Trainer Holley Hughes and an 8-year-old gelding named Fulton. Fulton had won one race in three starts this year (and won only $740 last year) before being entered in an event appropriately titled the Forget Hurdle Handicap at Aqueduct. Hughes tried to scratch Fulton. But he had forgotten that the Forget Hurdle was no longer a stakes race (in which a horse can be pulled out of the lineup 45 minutes before post time) but a handicap race requiring 8:30 a.m. notice and reasons for scratching. So the stewards refused to listen to Hughes's reasons, and demanded that Fulton run. Run he did, like a steamboat round the bend, a terrific race, with the favorite tossing his rider, the whip knocked from Fulton's jockey's hand and Fulton winning by a neck to earn $6,880.
The next day, in the fourth race at Aqueduct, a trainer tried to scratch an oldster named Coriantumr. Coriantumr received his unlikely name because his owner wanted one that would reflect the names of his five grandchildren. In five starts this year Coriantumr had not received enough attention to get his name spelled right. Perhaps because Fulton's victory had gone to their heads, the stewards insisted this animal likewise at least circle the track with the others. It would be pleasant to report that Coriantumr won. In fact, he did, prancing out of his stall, waltzing around before taking off and whizzing around the track to beat a field of favored 3-year-olds by three lengths, paying $9.10.
WAY DOWN YONDER
Three weeks ago, Mr. Blaise D'Antoni, that millionaire New Orleans promoter, provided one of the high spots in boxing's social season when he made a gala New York debut before such celebrated sportsmen as James D. Norris, president of the International Boxing Club, and Mr. Frankie Carbo, president of boxing.
Now, returning the call, Mr. Carbo has been in New Orleans making his debut, and, from all accounts, it too has been a gala one. In the course of making his bow, Mr. Carbo appeared at a soiree marking the unveiling of Mr. D'Antoni's $40,000 saloon, the Neutral Corner, and at an impromptu levee in a gym featuring Mr. D'Antoni, Mr. Frank Costello and the Brothers Geigerman, Dudley and Bonnie, men of consequence. At both the soiree and levee all went well, save that at the former Mr. Carbo threw a number of guests into a mild tizzy by reverting to his old Broadway habit of retiring to a distant table where he could keep 1) his back against the wall and 2) his eye on everyone in the joint.
However, the pi√®ce de résistance came when an alert reporter caught Mr. Carbo alone in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel. Mr. Carbo, raffishly clad in a blue jacket, gray trousers, black and white wing-tip shoes and a white shirt open at the throat, was reading a billet-doux when the reporter asked, "Aren't you Frankie Carbo? I think I recognize you from your pictures."
Carbo eyed the reporter coldly. "I don't speak to strangers," he said.
The reporter explained that he only had a few questions.
"I'm sorry," said Carbo. "I don't have any comment."
"We wanted to know whom you've been seeing and what you've been doing," persisted the reporter. "Do you plan to bring some fights down here?"
"Look," Carbo said, "I'm not an actor. I'm not a politician."
"Well," said the reporter, "you've become a public figure. You're going to be written about anyway."
"They've been writing about me without talking to me. Let them go ahead that way. I wouldn't bother you, violate your privacy," Carbo said before plunging into a rare philosophical mood. "If an FBI man walked up to me, he'd say, 'I've got a few questions to ask you.' But before he'd ask them, he'd say, 'What you say can be held against you.' Newspapermen, they're different. They hide in the bushes and take your picture and things like that. Do you think that's fair?"
"I'm leveling with you," the reporter said. "I've told you who I am and what I want to know. I heard you were buying a house down here. Is that right?"
Carbo shrugged. "Do you know Mr. D'Antoni?" he asked.
"No," answered the reporter.
"Well," Carbo said as he took the reporter's hand and shook it, "look him up. Maybe we can all have coffee together."
MOPPETS AND MUFFETS
If your youngster suddenly takes a liking to certain cereals of the Quaker Oats Co. in the next few weeks, chances are he has more than crunchy goodness and a gnawing stomach on his mind. Quaker has begun packing general admission baseball tickets in cereal boxes in a $1.5 million promotion that may result in turning the Davy Crockett set into hot-eyed ball park regulars.
The blue ticket in each cereal box admits the holder (if under 12 and accompanied by a paying adult relative) to most any ball park in organized baseball free of charge. Of all major league teams, only the prosperous Yankees have refused to go along—and even George Weiss and the Yankees must have been sorely tempted, considering the obvious risk of turning thousands of Bronx cereal eaters into Dodger and Giant fans.
In general, tickets admit the Quaker cereal consumer to any weekday afternoon game in the majors and to night games in 212 of 216 minor league parks. Five major league clubs (Brooklyn, Boston, Milwaukee, Detroit and Kansas City) restrict the tickets to certain days. The campaign began July 1, timed so kids would be out of school and not tempted to play hookey to see a game. As yet, not all stores have boxes with tickets. Some boxes feature an offer of an ounce of genuine prospecting land from Canada's Klondike for 25 cents.
Baseball in general welcomes the plan as a promising gimmick for filling empty seats, especially in the minor leagues. Quaker Oats? Well, they'll be pleased, naturally, if it helps save the minors, but frankly their big idea is just to sell more cereal.
For almost a year, Americans and Canadians facing each other across the Strait of Juan de Fuca looked on with cheerful confidence as swimmer after swimmer attempted to conquer the 18.3-mile-wide channel which splits western British Columbia from the state of Washington. The chilling, tide-ripped strait was supreme, citizens told themselves; it was a sort of Niagara Falls turned sideways. And to a man they felt certain that it would spit back all challengers like so many watermelon seeds.
One of those challengers was a logger from Tacoma named Bert Thomas, who looked more like a watermelon than its seed. A heavy-hipped 250-pounder, Bert showed up in Victoria, B.C. last March set on swimming the strait. He failed in his first attempt (SI, April 25) after four hours and 10 minutes in the water. But ex-Marine Thomas didn't give up. He tried three more times, but the relentless tide kept spitting him back on the Canadian shore.
Then Bert had an idea. He would start out from the U.S. side and head for Victoria. At 6:50 p.m. last Thursday the strait was flat and windless when Bert plunged in at Port Angeles, Wash. His big worry was the unpredictable tides, but before Bert had too much time to fret about them a flood tide gave him a boost toward the Canadian shore.
From then on Bert Thomas was a confident man, despite a left shoulder rubbed raw from the friction of his sidestroke. Each hour Bert would rest while a crew member aboard the work boat fed him orange juice through a plastic tube attached to a fishing pole. As Bert neared the lights of Victoria, radios aboard two other boats rocked with the exhorting strains of The Marine Hymn.
At 6:08 a.m. Bert sprinted the remaining 25 yards to the beach, where he was met by 2,000 enthusiastic early risers. After pocketing $2,800 in prize money, Bert Thomas announced he was looking for "a smart agent" to look after his interests while he got ready to swim back the "other way."
The most dedicated joint detective job in U.S.-Canadian history—ornithological division, that is—has been the postwar search for the nesting grounds of the tall, beautiful and all-but-vanished whooping crane. If Grus americana's nesting area can be found, the region can be made an inviolate sanctuary and a number of other thoughtful measures attempted to save the species—once a sky-filling race but now reduced to hardly two dozen birds. From Canada's remote Northwest Territories now comes a dispatch from John O'Reilly, SI's nature writer, which should thrill bird fans and conservationists roughly as much as the conquest of Everest and the four-minute mile thrilled adventurers, mountain climbers and track fans: the whooping cranes' nesting grounds have been found and North America's greatest ornithological puzzle has been solved. Using airplanes and helicopters, members of a joint U.S. and Canadian team scoured thousands of square miles of northern wasteland, on May 18 spotted two adult cranes beside a nest some 50 miles south of Great Slave Lake. Then a ground expedition headed into the crane country. "For five weeks," reports O'Reilly, "they fought mosquitoes and assorted biting flies, camped amid bears, buffalo and moose and finally were rewarded by the sight of whoopers."
Twenty-one cranes left their winter refuge in Texas last spring. Robert P. Allen of the National Audubon Society, leader in the 10-year search, now estimates that only six or seven pairs of these birds are mating, but he has been making further aerial searches. The condition of Robert Allen and his fellow experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service? "Worn out but triumphant."
FRIEND OF SPORT
Sportswriters, it has been said, are simply sports fans with typewriters. No one knew this better than Arch Ward, who died in his sleep last week at the age of 58. Like all good sports fans Ward was a hero-worshiper at heart. His idea of a perfect day's entertainment was to watch the greatest performers in any given sport assembled in the same contest. Thus it was that back in 1933, as part of the Chicago World's Fair, he conceived and staged the first All-Star baseball game, which he would have covered for the 22nd time if he had lived four more days. The next year he thought up and promoted the All-Star football game between the college stars and the professional champions.
Ward's professional title was sports editor of the Chicago Tribune. As such he bossed the country's biggest staff of sportswriters (42) and drew a salary estimated as high as $75,000. Yet Ward's fame as a journalist was only secondary; his daily column, "In the Wake of the News," was largely ghostwritten. It had known far more distinguished days under the by-line of predecessors like Ring Lardner.
The world of sport will remember Ward principally for his promotions, through whose proceeds the Tribune gave more than $5 million to charity in the Chicago area alone. The biggest of these by far was the Golden Gloves, which Ward developed into the largest and finest boxing event of any year, the incubator of such champions as Joe Louis, Barney Ross, Ray Robinson and Rocky Marciano. Ward was certainly a good friend to boxing—one of its best—as he proved back in 1939 when he spent some months trying (unsuccessfully) to break the Harry Thomas-Max Schmeling fight scandal (SI, Dec. 13).
This slight, bespectacled man who looked far more like a church deacon than a lion of journalism was indeed a friend to all sports. His epitaph will be the All-Star baseball and football games, the Golden Gloves, the All-Star bowling tournament, the Silver Skates, the CYO boxing program (which his Tribune charities did much to support) and, of course, the great tradition of Notre Dame football, for which Arch Ward was the first publicity director in the early days of Knute Rockne. That's as much as any sports fan could ask.
Our crew sure pulled a neat surprise.
Look at how they grin.
By using brooms instead of oars
They swept on to win.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Swaps, stretching his unbeaten string to eight—seven as a 3-year-old—and his earnings to $349,900 (Nashua has won $690,000) came within 4/5 second of the Hollywood Park track record for 1¼ miles in winning the Westerner Handicap with Jockey Willie Shoemaker pulling on the reins throughout the race.
Peter Thomson, the handsome young Australian, followed his so-so winter showing on the American professional circuit with his second straight British Open against the best (but still relatively undistinguished) European golfers and a handful of Americans including Ed Furgol.
Lawn Tennis opened the umpteenth Sports Hall of Fame at Newport, R.I. and probed the gaslight era for its first selectees, among whom were such former national singles champions as Richard Sears, Henry Slocum Jr., Oliver Campbell, Robert Wrenn and Malcolm Whitman.
The cry of another Joe Louis was again being sounded around 21-year-old light-heavyweight Floyd Patterson following his sixth-round knockout of Archie McBride, causing Floyd's manager, Cus D'Amato, to yelp, "He is going to be the youngest heavyweight champion of all time." Louis was 23 when he took the title.
In view of Vic Seixas' continuing sore shoulder, Davis Cup optimism was running high in the Australian camp as its youthful five-man team invaded Chicago for matches with the Mexican Cup team, first of several pre-Challenge Rounds in the U.S.
Their hot streak continuing on the crest of Ted Williams' amazing slugging, the Boston Red Sox were looking forward to playing the annual Cooperstown Hall of Fame game against the Milwaukee Braves on July 25, a meeting hopefully regarded by ardent partisans of the two teams as a World Series preview.