SWAPS VS. NASHUA
This is an article from the Aug. 1, 1955 issue
No one in the race-track set lacked a subject once the date for the Swaps-Nashua match race was finally confirmed for August 31. The news took the old guard back, for a parallel, to the first great match race of modern times—the one between Zev and Papyrus in 1923—and the middle guard back to the last good one, between Seabiscuit and War Admiral in 1938. Ears were trained on the words of the principals—the owners, trainers and the successful impresario, Mr. Ben Lindheimer, who operates Chicago's Washington Park where the horses will meet.
Characteristically, Rex Ellsworth, Swaps's owner and breeder, kept his thoughts to himself and let Trainer Meshach Tenney do the talking. "You can say for me," Tenney told a reporter at Hollywood Park, "that so far as I am concerned Swaps is a proven horse, and our race against Nashua is not an attempt to establish his prestige. I have never been more confident that our colt will give a good account of himself."
Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, the 81-year-old patriarch of American trainers, the man who nursed and tutored a long line of champions before Nashua, had this to say: "People told me [before the Kentucky Derby] Swaps was a colt that would probably stop after a mile. Maybe he'll beat us again, but if he does he won't be as comfortable doing it this time."
As befits a man who has landed the biggest plum on the year's racing calendar, Lindheimer was full of large and generous thoughts. "Both owners represent the highest traditions in American racing," he said. "Such a match is of great value to the turf because it stimulates interest in racing as a sport and gets us away from the commercial aspects of the game, which tend to color our thinking so much these days."
SI's reader mail (see THE 19TH HOLE) was running 5-1 in favor of Swaps. Out in Tijuana, where the commercial aspects of the game are never forgotten, Promoter John Alessio (SI, May 2) promptly opened up a future book.
His first line: Swaps the favorite at 7-10, Nashua 11-10.
"We're getting letters from all over," said Alessio. "My guess is that the betting lines will be strictly drawn—East versus West."
ON WORDSWORTH'S LAKE
When we ended our story on Don Campbell and the Bluebird last week, the final moment was at hand—the final moment, that is, of Campbell's six-year effort to travel faster on water than anyone has ever traveled before. The moment arrived last Saturday on the smooth surface of Lake Ullswater. The day was clear; one of those days when, as Wordsworth says, the sky rejoices at the morning's birth. The jet-powered Bluebird floated motionless at a jetty near the Glenridding Hotel—formerly the Glenridding Temperance Hotel. Inside the hotel 34-year-old Don Campbell was playing chess.
The trouble was wind. A short distance away from where Campbell was sitting is the precise spot where the 34-year-old Wordsworth was inspired to write the poem about daffodils that every schoolboy is supposed to know. Wordsworth was wandering lonely as a cloud on the shore of Lake Ullswater when he saw his daffodils beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Winds were fluttering beside Lake Ullswater last Saturday also; in fact, they had fluttered irregularly all week. Lake Ullswater is a curious body of water, only seven and a half miles long and from a quarter of a mile to three-quarters of a mile wide, with bends making it virtually three lakes. When the air is still its surface is glassy. Wordsworth reported seeing it so quiet that dandelion seeds rolled over its surface. But even a slight breeze sets up a cross-hatching of ripples. As Campbell continued his chess, five launches cruised slowly over the lake, studying the surface.
At 11:45 a radio message came suddenly from the upper end of the lake: "Conditions favorable." Campbell jumped into his car and drove 200 yards to the boathouse. He strapped a blue life jacket around himself and climbed into the cockpit, pressed the starter button on the 4,000-hp jet engine and eased the craft along the edge of the lake, as a huge cloud of spray shot back from the stern.
In mid-lake Bluebird lined up on a marker buoy. The roar of the jet broke into a high-pitched whine. A great plume of spray arose, half hiding it from shore. It shot down the lake at a speed that reached 215.08 mph. Camp bell said it was "like driving a motor car over ice, with tremendous power under one's right foot." He did not have Bluebird wide open—"not all out by a very long way."
In a matter of seconds he was at the upper end of Lake Ullswater. He refueled and started back, reaching 189.57 mph on the return, for a two-way average of 202.32—conclusively faster than the standard powerboat record of 178.5 held by Seattle's Stanley Sayres with his Slo-Mo-Shun IV.
Campbell climbed out of the cockpit with a grimace of pain—he has twisted vertebrae that bother him. As he walked toward the boathouse he grabbed the hook of a crane and said, "I want to stretch my back," The crane operator obligingly hoisted him off the ground and let him hang a few seconds. Then Campbell led his wife and mother and the mechanics to champagne at the hotel bar.
Campbell has been trying for the record ever since 1949. In 1948 his father Sir Malcolm, died and, while the auctioneers were carrying things out of the family home, a friend told young Campbell that America's Henry Kaiser was building an aluminum speedboat to break Sir Malcolm's 1939 record of 141.74 mph.
"Why should they have everything?" young Campbell cried. Presently, in the best tradition of sporting tales, he added, "By God, they won't have that record. Not without a fight!" Last week, when he emerged from the bar after his triumphal celebration, he was pretty happy.
"The fact that one has been able to carry on my dear old skipper's work obviously causes one to feel delight," he said, or at least that is the way one reporter heard it. "I would like very much to go and show the flag in the States. It's been a long time since any British record-breaking machine made an appearance in the States.
"We were using an old engine in Bluebird, which has never been flat out. She ought to be able to go quite a bit faster."
Something else struck him: "We've been into the unknown. We've been to a point where no man has ever been before."
There was this boy and he was having this dream and, like a lot of boys' dreams, it was about baseball.
He wasn't in his home town of Ekron, Ky. any more. He was in a big ball park in a big city and the stands were filled with more than 30,000 people. They had come to see him, because he had been a champion ballplayer for a long time now, 15 years or more.
He stood there modestly, wearing a No. 1 on his uniform, while people read telegrams to him and made speeches. They called him "Mr. Shortstop" and the player who for 15 years had "done most" for his club. Among the messages were one from the governor of his home state of Kentucky, another from the Vice-President of the United States. Finally, from far away, there even came a telegram of "best wishes" from the President himself. Meanwhile, while his pretty wife and daughter and his mother stood beside him, something like $10,000 worth of gifts, including a new automobile, piled up around him. Somebody even ran a Confederate flag up on the big flagpole on the roof, which shows how silly a dream can sometimes get.
And then the game began and this boy hit two doubles and handled everything that came his way at shortstop and his team won.
The next morning this boy woke up and read in the papers all about how the grateful fans of Brooklyn had honored Harold Henry (Pee Wee) Reese in just this way the night before and then he knew it was not a dream at all. For he was Pee Wee Reese from Ekron, Ky.
SUGAR RAY'S MOMENT
He trained in iridescent purple swim trunks. He had an iridescent fuchsia Cadillac as long and shining as a summer day. He had a midget to amuse him and a barber for his iridescent hair and the iridescent smile of the man in the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel who knows he is going to be young forever and is the best man in the whole world.
But worlds change, the heroes grow old and the light doesn't shine in the same way. So it was with Sugar Ray Robinson at 35, who held two world championships and was cheated by the heat from a third, struggling upward from time-stepping in Parisian night clubs on a comeback that was viewed with melancholy and compassion by sportswriters, who are troubled by age and diminishing talents. It could come to no good end. The timing wasn't as sharp, the legs didn't move as fast.
At San Francisco's Cow Palace the other night Sugar Ray was a 2-1 underdog against Rocky Castellani, the No. 1 middleweight contender. But Ray fought off the odds-makers and his rugged contender, climbed up from a nine-count knockdown to win the fight. He wasn't the Robinson of old (nobody is the anybody of old) but the left-and right-hand combinations, for the most part, were swift and telling, the legs moved, for the most part, where and when they had to. With a champion named Bobo Olson waiting to meet him next, Sugar Ray's comeback may be just about over. But for a moment last week Sugar Ray's world seemed almost iridescent again.
All by himself in the end zone, the-star halfback drops the pass that would have won the game. With the score tied and the bases loaded, the crack infielder stops a hard-hit grounder, then lets the ball flip out of his throwing hand like wet soap. What stress will do to football and baseball players is an old story; it happens, less familiarly, with harness horses too.
At Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island the other night the best pacing horse in America, a 4-year-old named Adios Harry, and his driver, Luther Lyons, were out to set a new world record on a half-mile track. This was no long-odds possibility, but rather a strong likelihood, for Harry has recently raced the fastest mile (1:55) in harness history and set half a dozen or so other world marks. He was a 1-10 favorite to win. The night was hot, perfect weather for harness horses; there was scarcely a breeze, and the track, one of the best in the country, was fast.
One thing, conceivably, could stop Adios Harry. Any horse, regardless of breeding and harness training, may break gait and plain run when he's in too big a hurry to get someplace. Moreover, it is entirely possible that the driver may transmit his hurry through the reins and throw the horse into a break. Whatever the reason, when a horse breaks stride he must be driven to the outside of the track and pulled back on gait, by which time he is usually hopelessly behind in the race. To guard against this, harness horses are run through extensive warm-up exercises to take the edge off any impulse to "run." Adios Harry was fully "warmed up" at post time.
Then, with the great expectations of the harness world upon him, he stepped out in his powerful, side-wheeling gait, gathered speed and—on the first turn—broke gait and tried to run for it. Gone was the record attempt, the $7,000 purse, the $5,000 bonus offered by the track, the $55,000 bet on him. Adios Harry, best pacer alive, finished a poor last.
Said Driver Lyons: "We were just overeager, I guess."
Dr. George Gallup has published a poll which should interest boxing. "Do you think that any of the boxing matches you see on television are 'fixed' or not?" he asked. The replies:
Yes, some are fixed 40%
Don't watch TV fights 14
Not sure, no opinion 19
Says Gallup: "That adds up to about 41 million Americans who give the sport a questionable honesty rating."
DOIN' WHAT COMES NACHERLY
Jesse H. Brown is a Chicago lawyer, aged 54, who has been playing good golf for 40 years. His handicap is now five, but once it was down to one. Needless to say, Mr. Brown likes golf, but he doesn't like the experts who are always telling you how to improve. "As far as I can make out," Mr. Brown was saying the other day, "there are only two games where the experts won't leave you alone—golf and bridge. What other games have such literature? If a man wants to play tennis he grabs a racket and goes out and has fun with a friend."
Mr. Brown drew a deep breath and went on to his main point—fun. "The best way to get fun out of golf is for a player to stay within his own capabilities. Take a typical golfer. He is fortyish and out of condition. He has limited muscular strength and doubtful coordination. He is constantly trying to do things he is physically incapable of doing. He is trying to turn his shoulders 45° while his hips go 90°; to un-cock his wrists when his hands are hip-high in the downswing with 60% of his weight on his left foot. Why shouldn't he try to hit a golf ball as naturally and as easily as he would hit a baseball with a bat, his own way, with ease and relaxation and with pleasure? If you ask this character to hit a baseball like Ted Williams he would think you were crazy, but you couldn't stop him from trying to hit a golf ball like Sam Snead.
"Watch men in their sixties playing golf. They become accurate, they forget power and they play better. Golf is a game of numbers, and a five made with a slice will always beat a six made in the image of Gene Littler.
"The average golfer will admit it's easy to get a bogey. Eighteen bogeys on a standard course will result in a score of 90. Mix in three pars, and you've got an 87. That would make a lot of golfers happy. The important thing is consistency, and the only way you can do it the same all the time is to do it the way that is easy, natural and the least effort. Don't worry about your slice—play with it until you can put it where you want it."
Mr. Brown began to reflect on some of the golfing delinquents he has known. "I used to play summers up in Eagle River, Wis.," he recalled, "and there was a man there in his sixties who had a slice. Sliced everything—drives, pitches, chips, run-ups, putts, everything. And he had perfect control of that slice. He could put it on a handkerchief in the middle of the fairway. He was tough—38 or 40 for nine holes.
"Well, the pro up there watched him for a while, and one day came over and said, 'Mr. B., I've been studying your game. I think something could be done about your slice.' Mr. B. looked that pro right in the eye and said, 'Young man, that slice has been with me for 52 years, and if you dare lay a hand on it, I'll have your job.'
"Look at Ed Furgol, a perfect example of a man playing golf his own way," Mr. Brown continued. "If he had believed that you can only hit a golf ball with a straight left arm and all that other nonsense he would have had to quit because in a golfing sense he had no left arm.
"Putting it into baseball terms, hit singles instead of home runs. This can be done without the physical gyrations which the experts urge. You don't need a full pivot, a full swing, a hip shift lateral or otherwise, or pronation of the wrists. By standing flat-footed, taking the club back as far as it is comfortable and hitting it a smart rap in the selected direction, an amazing result can be accomplished. One warning: When and if this works, it takes a great deal of character to refrain from belting it, just once. But if you have the character....
"The fact is that in 15 minutes anybody can learn all he has to know to have fun in the game. The rest comes from playing. You can't learn consistency out of a book, or control from pictures. As you play you get better if—and only if—you are doing what is easy, relaxed and natural."
This is the way they were telling it in Chicago last week:
A North Shore couple (they mercifully leave out the names) recently took a fishing trip out West and returned with a magnificent king salmon large enough to feed a whole dinner party. Which is exactly what they decided to do with it. They invited 12 friends to share it one evening. They cooked it, glazed it, covered it with anchovies and olives and spread it as proudly across the dining-room table as if it were an orchid centerpiece.
Just before the guests arrived, the careful hostess took a quick swing through the dining room to assure herself that all was in order. When her eyes lit on the salmon, she let out a gasp; the family cat had eaten a swath the full length of the fish from head to tail. Since it was now too late to prepare something else, the only available remedy was some corrective surgery, which the housewife performed with great delicacy and a lot of additional mayonnaise. The salmon again looked good enough to eat.
In fact, the guests devoured it. They finally left around midnight, and the hostess went to the back door to let in the cat. She found the poor animal lying dead on the porch. The couple finally decided they would have to alert the guests who had eaten the same fish, so they phoned all 12 and urged them to repair immediately to the local hospital where a special crew was standing by with stomach pumps.
Between the morning hours of one and 2, the unhappy couple sat it out with their guests at the hospital, then returned drearily home. The next day they were awakened much too early by their next-door neighbor, who was looking mighty dejected. "I'm terribly sorry about your cat," he said. "I clipped him while backing out of the garage last night and must have killed him instantly. When I brought him over, I saw you were having a party, so I thought I'd better just leave him here on the porch until morning."
I trust that no one was hurt
When our lads came through to win;
It says here they trailed their foes
Till the ninth when the roof fell in.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Donald Campbell finally got a quiet spell on England's Lake Ullswater and opened up his jet-powered Bluebird in an official speed test, reclaimed the world's water-speed record for Britain with an average of 202 mph—a demonstration, he said later, he rather wished he could have made in U.S. waters.
Vic Raschi, the once-great Yankee pitcher who was dealt off at the end of the 1953 season and wound up this year with Kansas City, pitched his former teammates temporarily out of the American League lead, allowing them 10 hits but bearing down with men on base to win 3-1.
Paul Richards, Baltimore Orioles manager, has had 65 different players on his 25-man roster so far this year, but is now virtually forbidden to trade young First Baseman Gus Triandos, who has just set an alltime Baltimore record of nine home runs in one season.
New Zealand Racing Conference, the governing body for that nation's horse racing, raised the minimum weight impost for horses from 98 to 105 pounds because jockeys are getting bigger—a fact that is bothering racing officials everywhere, although nowhere else has anything been done about it.
Lt. Bob Mathias will get a three-month leave from the Marine Corps beginning September 1 to take a State Department-sponsored world tour in which he will be a kind of athletic Point Four—showing the world's youngsters how to do the decathlon.
Beverly Baker Fleitz, home in Long Beach, Calif. after a European campaign in which she won the German and Irish tennis titles and reached the Wimbledon finals, said she would spend the summer at home getting reacquainted with her husband and daughter and not return to the courts until the nationals in September.