It did not make the headlines but word has just arrived of a Long Island couple with a 10-year-old named Peter whose principal subject of conversation this summer has been the American League pennant race. They were pleased and even sentimentally touched the other day when he began to ask questions about something else, in fact, about his parents' first meeting, their courtship, engagement and so on. He took the answers in relaxed fashion until he learned that mummy and daddy got married in 1941.
"Why, that's wonderful!" exclaimed Peter.
"Why, particularly, Peter?"
August 14, 1955
"Do you realize," Peter said, stressing every word, "that 1941 was the very year Ted Williams hit .406?"
A CODDLED U.S.A.?
The statistical insult implicit in the Kraus-Prudden report on physical fitness (see page 30) used to start fist fights. It calls us a nation of mollycoddles. And it may be significant that mollycoddle is an old-fashioned word, that modern slang has no term for the slack-muscled, pampered youngster connoted by these figures. Is he now too commonplace to be singled out for ridicule?
Perhaps the statistics distort the situation, for with other figures one may prove that Americans are among the world's healthiest peoples because we live so long. But longevity statistics, taken by themselves, distort the situation, too. That we live longer is due largely to preventive medicine's victory over most childhood diseases, to Schick tests and antibiotics, to sewage disposal and milk control, none of which ever put an inch on a biceps.
But after a child has been vaccinated, inoculated and trained to accept chlorinated tap water as a normal beverage, little is done to encourage the muscular development which is his birthright and in cruder times resulted from doing what came naturally. The playpen and a plastic toy keep him sanitarily quiescent. The puny trees of most city and suburban backyards are seldom fit for him to climb. Their stand-ins, the pipe-rack "jungle bars" of the playground, are neither challenging nor especially useful to his muscular growth. The school bus gives him portal-to-portal service, making it unnecessary for him even to run hard in order not to be late for school. If he trips in the playground he skins his knees on brick or concrete, a simple deterrent to hard play. And if he isn't good enough to make a school team he is not likely to play hard at anything.
Europeans have whipped us in the physical fitness tests partly because they tolerate exercise for its own sake—gymnastics and physical jerks—partly because their best-loved game, soccer, can be played by the very young as well as by the fully developed. It is not all done with black bread and shanks' mare.
Our national sports are baseball, basketball and football. Baseball is fine but it is not the ideal conditioning sport. Football is fine but it is not for the very young. Basketball is fine but it has become a sport of the very tall.
It is unlikely Americans ever will take up physical jerks. There is something about exercise en masse that runs against our individualistic national grain. Soccer must compete with our brand of football, too fine a spectator sport to give way to its predecessor.
The problem is not with spectator sports, of which we have a plethora of the finest, or with those who are athlete enough to play them. It is with the idea that athletes are specially gifted persons able to make teams and that all the rest of us must be content to be their flabby admirers, exercising only our lungs.
Jimmy Jemail's interviews with a cross section of well-known people (page 32) are an indication that a lot of informed Americans are concerned about the subject. The recommendations of these qualified witnesses differ—indeed, perhaps the two things they have in common are that they used to be children themselves and that they would like to see effective action.
SI is also concerned and for that reason has devoted a good deal of space to it in this issue. SI expects to return to the subject. It hopes that the press and other leaders of community action will keep on it too.
THE NEW HURRICANE
The fight between Tommy (Hurricane) Jackson and Ezzard Charles was supposed to put an end to the Hurricane's bid for serious recognition as a heavyweight contender. Instead, as a nationwide television audience learned, it didn't put an end to Jackson's bid, outlandish as it might have seemed at times. The Hurricane won a unanimous decision. The decision was a surprise to most boxing fans, but it wasn't to Whitey Bimstein who, along with Freddie Brown, trains Jackson. The reason: The New Hurricane.
"He's behavin' himself, that's what," says Whitey. "Me and Freddie took him down to Ehsan's for trainin'. We kept him outta the city. He was on the road every mornin'.
"The other guy thought he had a pushover—that Jackson couldn't think. But between Freddie and myself, we got him to thinkin'. Jackson did a lotta jabbin' and slippin'. Charles thought Jackson was goin' in. After the first round, Jackson's stickin' him, feintin' him and throwin' Charles off balance. The last two rounds we let him loose with two hands, and he throws that uppercut. Jackson could have gone 40. Jackson, he don't worry about nobody.
"Tommy's learnin' a lot. He's gettin' ring wise. When he was down in camp, he was flyin' a couple of kites. One day he took a walk with his sparrin' partner, and he comes back with the kite. Every day a new kite. When the kite wouldn't go up fast enough, he'd tear the kite apart. If he behaves himself he'll go a long way."
It would be difficult for a man with two heads to be admitted as a member of some country clubs. It isn't easy, either, to enter a boat with two hulls in some sailboat races. Take the recent Los Angeles to Honolulu race which is, in a way, the apex of yachting on the Pacific Coast. There were 53 official entries this year, all handsome, deep-water keel boats that everyone knew and recognized, if not by name at least by their highly traditional and highly acceptable bearing.
Then one day not long before the race a catamaran, a strange-looking something with not one but two hulls built separately and fastened together by a kind of bridge set between them, sailed into Los Angeles; and its crew said how about them entering it in the race?
The race committee, a committee in the fine old sense, thought at first that this wouldn't do at all; and the committee spent two days ignoring the two-hulled monster, hoping it would go away. Had it been a proper catamaran, it would have gone away. Cats just don't enter ocean races. For one thing, their tricky, twin-hull construction is supposed to be unsafe for long trips across open water. The fact that this particular cat, 40 feet long and called the Waikiki Surf, had just crossed swiftly and safely from Honolulu was a point in its favor, but not one you necessarily had to accept. More important were the Cruising Club of America rules, which occupy 22 pages and govern every American ocean race that anyone cares about. The Cruising Club rules give time allowances to smaller, slower boats, and hence make all men more or less equal. But nowhere, even in fine print, does a boat with more than one hull have any status at all.
Ira Fulmor, chairman of the Transpacific race committee and skipper of the eventual winner, a fine old ketch named Staghound, brushed off the catamaran with a kind of salt logic. "Racing cats against conventional yachts," he said, "is like throwing a fashion show and then having one person enter it nude, doing handsprings." A crewman on another entry thought it would be "like entering a kangaroo at Santa Anita."
Marsupial or nude, the catamaran failed to go away; and on the third day the committee magnanimously offered her a courtesy start, i.e., a timed start and a timed finish, but no official place and no awards. Skipper Ernest Nowell, a Honolulu realtor, turned down the offer; and his regular crew, willing to settle for this half a loaf, walked off the cat for good. Nowell thereupon pulled out himself and appointed 24-year-old Richard Muirhead skipper.
Muirhead rounded up four amateurs—Buzzy Trent, 26, a Santa Monica lifeguard; John Honl, 26, a Honolulu student; Pete Brinkman, 23, a Los Angeles student, and Dave Rochlen, 30, a Santa Monica teacher—none of whom had ever had anything to do with catamarans. They accepted the courtesy start, and on July 4 headed into the Pacific an hour after the rest of the fleet.
For seven days they set a pace that would have brought them to Hawaii in eight and a half days—two days faster than the existing record and a full day ahead of this year's record-setting first finisher, the 98-foot Morning Star. During an 18-hour stretch, planing dizzily down the Pacific swells as their speed indicator spun up to 30 knots, they covered 310 nautical miles.
"At those speeds," said Brinkman, "you get punchy. You feel like you're headed for a brick wall, or you start imagining a log lying in the water ahead."
"She'd start to sing," said Trent. "If you were in your bunk you could feel the waves banging against the hull right through your mattress." But hardly anyone went to his bunk. Usually it was more restful to crouch on a cushion laid down on the hull-joining wing; and for meals they ate beans, canned stew, and, when provisions ran low, mustard sandwiches.
On the seventh day a narrow, five-foot-long crack opened in the port hull. There was no immediate danger of sinking, but to be safe the cat slowed for two days, waiting for another sail to give them company just in case. When another racer finally hove in sight, the catamaran piled the canvas back on and aimed for the finish.
After 10 days and 15 hours, they reached Honolulu. The crew, bearded, tanned, barefoot and having lost an average of 14 pounds to the man, looked like something out of Typee. Their time, however, was quite respectable: 2 days 8 hours faster than the over-all winner Staghound, 1 day 10 hours faster than the Class C winner, 19 hours ahead of the Class B winner, and only 10 hours behind the Class A winner, which was 35 feet longer than the cat.
None of this made the keelboatmen any happier. While most were willing to concede the cat a place, that place was not necessarily full in the sun.
Said Chairman Ira Fulmor: "I don't think the cat should horn in on organized racing."
Said Class A Winner Frank Hooykaas: "There should be a class only for catamarans, and a separate award."
Said Class C Winner Peter Grant: "I wish they hadn't started this."
VOICES OF SPORT
The lean, or post-McGraw, Giant fan husbands his memories; now that the wine of victory has begun to taste of wormwood with a Brooklyn bouquet, he reflects often on the vintage years 1951 and 1954. So it is that while followers of sport generally will find much to savor in Columbia's Greatest Moments in Sports, a 12-inch LP now in record shops, addicts of the Giants should be transported beyond compare. For on this disk, along with the voices of many superstars (and a supergoat or two) of the last three decades, is preserved that quintessential fragment of Giant drama, the pennant-winning Bobby Thomson home run as described in happy delirium by Broadcaster Russ Hodges.
The Thomson nugget is a fractional part of a 40-minute record whose emphasis is on baseball and boxing, with excursions into football, horse racing, track and tennis. Here are Babe Ruth, speaking with lighthearted zest in his prime, with humility and aching difficulty when near death; Lou Gehrig in his famous farewell; Knute Rockne in a locker-room fight talk to end them all; Roger Bannister, still panting from the exertions of the first four-minute mile, gracious in victory; Roy Riegels, courageously facing the music after that wrong-way run. Here, too, are Dempsey and Tunney and Louis and a mixed bag of the Bomber's foes. The voices of these and others are linked by a running narration.
That the Thomson incident was preserved only by lucky accident (by a boy fiddling at home with a tape recorder, then thoughtfully selling the tape to Hodges' sponsor) was typical of the 13-month search for material by the producers, Bud Greenspan, former sports broadcaster, and James Hammerstein, stage manager of that other sporting venture, Broadway's Damn Yankees, and son of Oscar Hammerstein II. A sports motion picture team now, Greenspan and Hammerstein prowled network and newsreel vaults (and discovered that some potentially rich collections had been destroyed), appealed to sports personalities for leads, beamed newspaper ads at private collectors, dodged purveyors of phony re-creations. "We skipped the sound of Man o' War's hoofbeats," Greenspan said, "because people might say it could be any old dobbin."
On Manhattan's Seventh Avenue, the Columbia people are as happy as a contented Giant fan. Selling at a thousand copies a day, the record is second only to a collection of Viennese waltzes on the firm's LP bestseller list.
Evanston, Ill. July 16, 1932 (AP): Miss Mildred (Babe) Didrikson of Dallas, Texas...today won single-handedly the National AAU track and field championship for her club, and reserved for herself three places on the Olympic squad. Incidental to her big day's work, in which she raced from one event to another, changing shoes between times, were five first places, a tie for another and a fourth place. One world record went to her credit, and she shared another.
Los ANGELES, July 31, 1932 (New York Times): Miss Mildred (Babe) Didrikson sent the universal record for the javelin throw into the discard when she launched the long spear for a winning toss of 143 feet 4 inches, the great throng in the stadium making the welkin ring with the most vociferous demonstration of the day...
Los ANGELES, August 4, 1932: The only fruits accruing to the United States after the harvest of yesterday was the eyelash victory of the versatile Miss Mildred (Babe) Didrikson...in the 80-meter hurdle...The Texas girl is all fight from the tip of her toes to the top of her straight black hair.
Twenty-odd years ago, newspaper stories on Babe Didrikson's latest records were almost commonplace—if the feats that inspired them were not. To the Boston Transcript, Babe Didrikson NOW RANKS FIRST IN WOMEN'S TRACK; to the New York Times, she was simply "the greatest all-around star in the history of women's athletics." At the time these encomiums were heaped upon her, Babe was a thin, nervous, twangy-voiced 18-year-old girl who had grown up in Beaumont in the midst of six brothers and sisters. She looked a little like Bonnie Parker, a celebrated gun moll of the period, but she was actually a respectable typist (100 words a minute) employed by a Dallas insurance company. She led the company basketball team to the national championships and was three times an All-American herself. All this, of course, was before the equally astounding golf career—82 tournaments won in 18 years, including 17 straight. And before the equally astounding comeback last year after her operation for cancer, when she won three major tournaments, including the Women's National Open, although as she said, "I haven't quite as much stamina as I used to." Nonetheless, she found plenty of energy to support good causes, to help in cancer-research drives. One of her latest messages appears on page 72 of this issue of SI.
But a story from Texas last week made poignant any recollection of Babe Didrikson's great days, her victories and her courage. In Galveston, her husband, George Zaharias, disclosed that the cancer ailment has come back. She will receive X-ray and radiation treatment. "Whatever comes after that—we just don't know."
ATTENTION, SKIN DIVERS
With Americans taking to the underwater in ever-increasing numbers, a series of fatal and near-fatal accidents has occurred in coastal and inland waters, demonstrating that skin diving has its hazards as well as its joys.
As in driving an automobile, handling mask, flippers and self-contained breathing device calls for a qualified, skilled human as well as good mechanical equipment, and practically all accidents have been caused by failure of the man rather than the apparatus. Some divers—incredibly—have been poor swimmers to begin with, evidently donning diving gear in the belief that it would transform them, magically, into human fish—which, of course, it won't. In addition to learning to swim well, here are some rules to follow if you plan to try this extremely rewarding sport:
Always dive in pairs. The time-honored "buddy" system saves lives.
Don't use ear plugs; they tend to cause ear ruptures from the inside out. You can learn to clear your ears naturally.
Always use a float. Inner tubes or paddleboards can be used to rest gear and to stretch out stricken divers for all-important respiration exercises.
Avoid homemade breathing tanks; some have been shown to contain carbon monoxide.
Handle spear guns with the same care you would other deadly weapons.
Use quick-release buckles on all weight belts. Be ready to jettison equipment; nothing should hinder a fast ascent when necessary.
Plan some effective method of two-way communication between divers and watchers.
Look up before surfacing. Jagged rock ledges and masses of kelp can loom up unexpectedly.
Let the air out of your lungs steadily as you ascend. If you hold your breath, the air expands in your lungs.
Dress simply; you're not auditioning for a frogman movie. All the novice really needs is trunks, a float, flippers and a mask.
ROAD JAM ON ROUTE 22
You take the high road and I'll take the low road,
You take the byroad and I'll take the toll road,
And lucky if either gets home by Monday
Sic transit gloria Sunday.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Scott Frost repaid the confidence of the handicappers by trotting to victory in the Hambletonian with two consecutive near-record heats. Then his owner sent a rose from the winner's wreath to Swaps, a fellow California 3-year-old.
Duke Snider, whose 38th home run put him seven games ahead of Babe Ruth's all-time home run pace, hoped out loud that he wouldn't beat the Babe's record of 60 in one season. "His record should stand forever," the Duke conceded. "He made this game great for the kids. He made it great for us. We are benefiting because of him."
Ernie Banks, the stringy Chicago Cub shortstop who is almost matching homers with Snider, attributed his new power to a 31-ounce bat—so light he can whip it at a speed faster than the flight of the pitch.
Sir Edmund Hillary interrupted a lecture tour and hurried home to New Zealand to head his country's forthcoming Antarctic expedition. The co-conqueror of Everest balked, however, at a recommended precaution: removal of his perfectly healthy appendix before departure. "Actually," he said, "I'm rather fond of it."
Germany showed signs of athletic unification as West Germany awaited a reply from East Germany to an invitation to meet on August 27 and work out plans for an all-Germany Olympic team in 1956.
The American Automobile Association withdrew its 53-year sponsorship of automobile racing, partly because of tragedies like Le Mans, partly because it questioned racing's contribution to modern cars.
San Quentin Prison, starting its second year of football, looked to Delaware Kelley and Knuckles O'Neal to help win the Ball & Chain Trophy in its September classic with San Francisco State at the Rock Bowl.