BREAK OUT THE BEECH-NUT
This is an article from the July 25, 1955 issue
Preacher Roe's confession in SI (July 4) that he threw the illegal spitball for seven years now seems likely to become one of the events for which the 1955 baseball season will be remembered. In letters and porch-chair arguments, fans have continued to hassle over Roe's testimony in tones ranging from cheerful approval to indignation and tears. Baseball writers have kept up their strange and essentially intramural dispute as to whether the public should ever have been told about such questionable matters. In short, as Sports Editor Dan Parker headed his column in the New York Mirror the other day, PREACHER'S SPITTER YARN STARTS JOHNSTOWN FLOOD.
The "wet pitch" was Topic A among major leaguers themselves and the sum of their talk was: The Preacher wasn't the only one throwing it—nor will he be the last.
Down in Florida last spring, long before Roe's revelations, there were training-camp arguments about returning the spitball to the game. Into the midst of one of these discussions one day walked little Phil Rizzuto, who has been swinging at major league pitching since 1941. "Bring back the spitter?" Scooter said. "I didn't know it had been away."
And Ellis Kinder, Boston's ancient marvel, merely grinned: "I hope they do. I've got a dandy one already."
Red Schoendienst of the St. Louis Cardinals says, sure, the Preach was throwing the spitter. Roe told him about it once during an off-season hunting trip. But "that still didn't help you hit it." Stan Musial says that he used to do his best to keep Roe from getting two strikes on him, knowing the next one would surely be Preach's "wet curve."
The Preacher's teammates, more or less implicated in his slickery, just shrug the thing off. Pee Wee Reese says, "I hit against Preach in batting practice and he didn't throw a spitball then. So, as far as I know, he never did throw it." Catcher Roy Campanella takes a less cautious tack. "All I know," says Campanella, "is I swung at a lot more of them than I ever caught."
Exactly who is throwing the spitter and who used it in the past are questions difficult to answer for no one has really been accused, just as no one has been seriously condemned for sliding viciously into second base, spikes flashing, to break up a double play or for intentionally throwing just a little bit at a tough batsman's head, these too being illegal—and accepted—baseball practices.
This acceptance of the situation has convinced Manager Mayo Smith of the Phillies that officially or unofficially, the spitter is going to be used more than ever. Preparedness, he believes, is the next step. "As soon as we get a chance after the All-Star Game," he said last week, "I want my young pitchers to start brushing up on it. As you know, it's a difficult pitch to control, so it's high time we started practicing."
The Mirror's Dan Parker saved some of his best irony for colleagues who invoke an "unwritten law" as a reason for failing to report the use of the spitter. "I don't know who unwrites those unwritten rules," Parker said, "but offhand I'd say he would be more likely to be a club owner than a newspaperman. If a pitcher is violating a rule and a baseball writer has proof of it, he's a poor newspaperman if he doesn't break the story. One of the faults of sports writing is that it has too many unwritten rules for the protection of cheaters and not enough for the protection of the sport itself and the public."
Same day Parker's column went to press, Pitcher Ned Garver of the Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees in a well-pitched game that was marked by a fascinating incident. In the eighth inning, with the count 2-2 on Mickey Mantle, Pitcher Garver seemed to be making unusually thoughtful preparations for his next pitch. Yankee players rushed to the edge of the dugout and shouted to Mantle. Radio Sportscaster Mel Allen reported their warning: "Look out, Mickey, he's wetting one!" Plate Umpire Nestor Chylak called down to Garver on the pitcher's mound to show him the ball.
In the immemorial defensive gesture of a spitballer caught with a dampened ball, Ned Garver rolled the ball to the plate across the blotting grass.
Next day no New York or Detroit sportswriter mentioned the incident in his seemingly detailed account of the game.
The unwritten law was still in force.
"VIVE LA DIFFERENCE"
The United States Golf Association, tired of having its golfers use the National Amateur Championship as a stepping stone into the pro ranks, issued an ultimatum: If you're going to remain an amateur, welcome to the tournament. If not, please go away.
The USGA said it meant no criticism of Arnold Palmer (1954) and Gene Littler (1953) who wasted little time turning pro after winning the U.S. amateur title. The association is merely afraid it's getting to be a fad, pointing out that before World War II only one champion in 47 years had quickly jumped to the pros: Lawson Little. Understandably enough, the USGA believes that an amateur champion should be able to turn up the following year to defend his championship.
A message from USGA President Isaac Grainger is being sent to entrants in both the September men's amateur at Richmond, Va. and the women's amateur at Charlotte, N.C. next month (top women players who have turned pro include Jackie Pung, Beverly Hanson, Louise Suggs, Betty Jameson and Patty Berg). President Grainger spells it out: "If you intend to become a professional within the next year, please inform us immediately so that your entry may be withdrawn...There is a proper place for professionalism. But the line between amateur and professional must be clearly drawn, in fairness to both.
"The code of amateurism has helped golf to thrive. The game is in the keeping of the players. Your help in upholding golf's standards will be most welcome."
AN AUSSIE AT EASE
Australia's peppery tennis master, Davis Cup Captain Harry Hopman, has mellowed. Striding impeccably around the courts of Chicago's Saddle and Cycle Club last week (where his youngsters polished off Mexico 5 matches to 0), Hopman told newsmen he had only a few minor problems. None of these, including matches with five nations on the road to meeting the U.S. in the Challenge Round at Forest Hills August 26-28, were enough even to furrow the brow of the outspoken, sometimes irascible man who has been called tennis's greatest tactician and toughest taskmaster.
The role of invader is not new to Hopman but, in recent years, it has been a rare one. Not since 1950 has he had to bring a team to the U.S. to recapture the treasured cup, an unwieldy silver soup bowl of American parentage but of fanatic Australian adoption. This year Hopman has taken on another role—road-show manager of a cross-country tour which will present to a large group of North Americans their first real international tennis. This weekend in Louisville the Aussies play Brazil (which beat Cuba). Next week they meet Canada (conqueror of the British West Indies) in Montreal; then take on Japan (winner over the Philippines) in Glen Cove, Long Island. The interzone final against Europe's champion is scheduled for Philadelphia, August 2-14. Two weeks later, waiting at Forest Hills, will be the Americans—and the Cup.
Hopman talks to his boys about the "very real possibility of an upset" before the Challenge Round but this is both for psychological purposes and to be polite. No one in tennis expects the Australian Big Three of Ken Rose-wall, Lew Hoad and Rex Hartwig, with occasional spot play from the Aussie spares, Neale Fraser and Ashley Cooper, to have any trouble munching its way through the appetizers ahead. Only Sweden's Sven Davidson appears capable of taking a match from the Aussies, and Hopman personally believes the Swede will never get the chance—he predicts an Italian team victory in the European zone finals.
Hopman's cheerfulness is a switch from the strain he exhibited last winter while under attack in Australia for losing the Cup, or during the days he was molding his youngsters, with a Cromwellian hand, into future tennis greats. For one thing, young Hoad, overdue to fulfill his promise of some day becoming the world's best amateur, has solved a problem common to many young bachelors. In Europe last month, Hoad married his tennis-playing sweetheart Jennifer Staley who, under Australian rules against traveling wives, was packed off home. The boys have also learned to conduct themselves as befits members of the international tennis set, e.g., ties and jackets at dinner. And Hopman claims good results from a game he has invented in which all squad members, including the team captain, are fined for advanced profanity. "Hell and damn are all right," he explains. "The point is, when you get a group of boys traveling around together months at a time, every other word may become a swear word. Actually, I have a harder time remembering than they do."
JUST BREATHE DEEPLY
The reflexes a man acquires to help him earn his daily bread are more highly developed in some professions than in others. Consider the case of Raul (Raton) Macias of Mexico City, as reported in the British press:
About to undergo surgery for repair of a broken jaw, Macias began to breathe deeply as the anesthetic was administered. "One," intoned the anesthetist, starting his count. "Two-three-four...." All went well until the count reached nine, at which point the NBA's world bantamweight champion made desperate efforts to get to his feet.
A CODE FOR PENNSYLVANIA
For a sick sport, strong medicine has now been mixed and this week the Pennsylvania state legislature will consider whether to order the patient to hold still, take it and be cured. The sport is boxing, which has been running a high fever in the wake of scandals involving the prefight doping of Heavyweight Harold Johnson and the devious doings of promoters and managers. The medicine: a new code drawn up by the State Athletic Commission under orders from Governor George Leader.
The Governor's instructions to the Commission were simple: "If we can't clean up boxing, we'd better be rid of it." And indications are the Commission took the Governor seriously. Among other things, the code provides for compulsory fingerprinting of all licensees (including out-of-state co-promoters); rigid prefight mental and physical examinations under the direction of a board of medical specialists; liability insurance for all fighters paid by the promoter, up to $500 for injury and $5,000 for death; designation of the state police as the law enforcement agency in direct control of the sport under the Commission's supervision. In addition, the state would increase its take from boxing through a 5% gross receipts tax on all admissions to closed-circuit televised bouts and a similar levy on fees paid to promoters for television, radio and motion picture rights.
Reaction from the International Boxing Club came fast. IBC Secretary Truman Gibson blasted one of the code's provisions which would allow the Pennsylvania Commission to suspend licenses before a full-scale "hearing"—a clause which would let the Commission act like lightning, on evidence of dirty business, right up to the hour of a fight. "We have no plans to schedule fights in Pennsylvania" was Gibson's meaningful conclusion.
The IBC's attitude amounted to a threat of a boycott, but the question of who will boycott whom is presently academic, since Governor Leader has indicated he will continue to ban boxing in Pennsylvania until the code is enacted by the legislature. If that body agrees, the showdown will be at hand.
When a bolt of lightning struck only a few yards from the royal box at Ascot, Britain's most fashionable race meeting, Queen Elizabeth was fortunately attending a garden party at Buckingham Palace. Others weren't so lucky. One spectator was killed, 30 injured and scores hurled to the ground as the electric shock sizzled along a wire fence. Then came torrential rains which ruined flowered dresses and picture hats and sent more race-goers to the ground during a near-stampede to reach shelter.
Which prompted the senior steward at Ascot, Bernard Marmaduke Fitz-Alan-Howard, K.G., P.C., G.C.V.O., Duke of Norfolk, Premier Duke and Earl and Earl Marshal and Chief Butler of England, to caution the press: "I hope nothing sensational will be made of this incident."
There is a special sadness that surrounds accidents involving children, and such an accident has now cost the lives of seven boys in the Canadian Rockies. Of the 11 youngsters in the party, one was 12 years old, five were 13, and the oldest was 16. The avalanche that swept down upon them on 11,636-foot Mount Temple killed one instantly. Six died of injuries and exposure. Two were seriously injured.
The glistening peak of Matterhorn, pictured elsewhere in this issue, may dimly suggest what a magnetic attraction a wilderness mountain exercises on the imagination, and it may be that there is no place on earth where the attraction is stronger than where the boys started their lighthearted climb. It was not even a climb, but "a sort of happy-go-lucky hike up the mountain." The boys were part of a group of 22 in a summer camping expedition on Lake Moraine near Banff, sponsored by a Philadelphia outdoor group. They were not mountain climbers. But even veteran climbers say there is a powerful fascination to the Canadian Rockies, though they are not high, as mountains go, and lack the famous and familiar challenge of the Alps and the Himalayas. They extend in a gigantic wall, running a thousand miles from the United States border to the Arctic, a wall a hundred miles wide and two miles high. They are not so much challenging as strange: the late great Frank Smythe said their appeal lay in their remoteness, the extraordinary beauty of the forests on their slopes, the ceaseless interest of their wild life—bears, big horn sheep, cougars—all nonmountain-climbing matters, to which, nevertheless, mountain climbers respond. The flaw in their mystery is that they are a young range, still weathering, so the rocks are loose, and a good deal of experience in climbing is necessary to know how dangerous they are.
Campers are forbidden to go more than a mile from the highways in Banff National Park without a permit, but the regulation cannot be enforced. There is a $500 fine for failing to register a climbing expedition, but if campers start up one of the peaks on an impulse, there is no way to stop them. One of the two adult leaders of the boys with climbing experience was away on the day of the climb, buying groceries. The other, an eastern schoolteacher named William Oeser, accompanied the boys to the 8,500-foot level. There he stopped with a blister on his foot. A few of the boys dropped out also. It was still early. Eleven boys wanted to go higher. They started casually up a slope which a Swiss guide in Banff later said was a natural avalanche slope. They had no equipment. They were wearing track shoes, baseball shoes, or smooth-soled scampers, where veteran climbers wear special boots with climbing nails. All 11 boys wore light summer clothing. Only one boy had an ice ax. When they saw small avalanches starting in the vicinity, they turned around. They tied themselves to a rope and started down. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon the big avalanche thundered down on them. The lead boy plunged his ice ax into the snow and held on. The rope broke. The others were swept as much as 300 feet down the slope under the snow. The second boy on the rope rode the crest of the avalanche and was uninjured. A freezing rain and hail descended on the mountain, and though rescue crews came fast, and most of the bodies had been recovered by 11 o'clock that night, only one of the seven who died was still alive when help came.
RESHEVSKY VS. HOLLYWOOD
Hollywood Chess circles, not a very large group, were more than ordinarily interested in Sammy Reshevsky's victory over World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik (SI, July 18) because Reshevsky has tested his skill against the best chess players the movie colony can produce. Reshevsky, who rarely praises the games of his opponents, even had a good word to say about Humphrey Bogart. He said—one of the few compliments ever recorded of him—that Bogart played a nice game.
The Bogart-Reshevsky match took place in the Crown Room of Romanoff's Restaurant, and Reshevsky never sat down: he was playing 29 other opponents at the time. "The thing was," Bogart says, "when Reshevsky would go by me on the rounds, he would only take one quick look and make his move. I begged him to stop just once for a moment and think about it. Make me look good, for once." Actually, Bogart lasted for two hours—a terrific record against so relentless a player as Reshevsky.
Bogart learned to play chess when he was a 21-year-old unemployed actor, whiling away the time in penny arcades on Sixth Avenue in New York. In Hollywood, his favorite opponent is Mike (The Last of the Romanoffs) Romanoff, who says he learned chess "at Oxford, old boy—I'm an Oxford graduate, you know—everything about me is questionable, but there you are." The Romanoff-Bogart matches have been going on for years. They began in the restaurant in the afternoons because, as Bogart says, "he had to stay around the place and I didn't have anything to do between pictures." The results are confused because, as Bogart also says, "you can't really play when you're drinking."
When Reshevsky first opened in Hollywood, Romanoff was in the hospital. He played from his hospital bed and drew against Reshevsky. Romanoff is an old-fashioned player who deplores modern chess as too mathematical, and prefers the old game of surprise, daring, imagination—"the brilliant game," he says, "the surprise game." On Reshevsky's second Hollywood appearance, Romanoff pulled a big enough surprise and beat Reshevsky. "Bogey?" says Romanoff. "Bogey wouldn't have a chance."
Playing with his pretty arrows
Pleases happy little Harry.
Wait until his dad discovers
That he dips them in curare!
—IRWIN L. STEIN
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
The match race is on: Swaps and Nashua will meet at Chicago's Washington Park on August 31 for $100,000 and a gold cup, each carrying 126 pounds, (see page 24).
Nashua, meanwhile, scared and enriched his backers by gaining, losing, and regaining the lead in the Arlington Classic at Chicago, thus adding another $91,675 to his earnings. Owner William Woodward forthwith shipped his handsome three-year-old colt to Saratoga, saying: "He has earned a vacation."
Charles E. Wilson, 65-year-old Secretary of Defense, admitting he had taken a spill while aquaplaning at 35 mph on a lake in Michigan during the Fourth of July weekend and broken three or four ribs, said: "I think I have to learn to act my age."
Casey Stengel, contemplating his slumping New York Yankees, who had lost eight out of their last 12 games, blamed it all on his pitchers: "They pitch good for a while and then for a while they don't pitch good at all."
Spain, having beaten Belgium 2-0 for the European baseball championship, was preparing for the Amateur "world series" in Milwaukee Sept. 23-28, when the competition will be Japan, Canada, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Hawaii and the U.S.
Guy Lombardo, back in big-time speedboat racing with his brand-new Tempo VII, which has been clocked as high as 175 mph, started tuning up in Canada for the Gold Cup races at Seattle in August.
Don Budge, carrot-topped tennis immortal, was announced as the new coach of the junior Davis Cup group, after Jack Kramer, who thought up the idea and first coached the boys, angered the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association by publishing an article on how he had once been a "paid amateur."