THE ART OF THE MILE
The art of running the mile consists, in essence, of reaching the threshold of unconsciousness at the instant of breasting the tape. It is not an easy process, even in a setpiece race against time, for the body rebels against such agonizing usage and must be disciplined by the spirit and the mind. It is infinitely more difficult in the amphitheater of competition, for then the runner must remain alert and cunning despite the fogs of fatigue and pain; his instinctive calculation of pace must encompass maneuver for position, and he must harbor strength to answer the moves of other men before expending his last reserves in the war of the homestretch.
Few events in sport offer so ultimate a test of human courage and human will and human ability to dare and endure for the simple sake of struggle—classically run, it is a heart-stirring, throat-tightening spectacle. But the world of track has never seen anything quite to equal the Mile of the Century which England's Dr. Roger Gilbert Bannister—the tall, pale-skinned explorer of human exhaustion who first crashed the four-minute barrier—won here last Saturday from Australia's world-record holder, John Michael Landy. It will probably not see the like again for a long, long time.
PAUL O'NEIL, AUGUST 16
MAN AND THE AMOEBA
August 14, 1955
Both man and the amoeba have a common, overriding problem—control of their environment. The amoeba has kept his problem minor by being easily satisfied. Almost any old wet place will do for him and he takes such food as comes along, never sending anything back to the kitchen. His reproductive method works fine. Everything comes out even. You divide one by two and you get two. The amoeba does not have to prove to himself that he is a good amoeba, good at controlling his environment.
But men do have to prove that they are good. They do not reproduce by splitting themselves in two. Theirs is a more complicated arrangement, involving partnership deals and provision for proper rearing of the young. Very often the world environment, as the afternoon papers are quick to point out, is not suited to this purpose. The business of living is likely to raise doubts, fears and anxieties in the higher animals, whereas the amoeba is always supremely confident of his ability to handle any situation. He is suited to his way of life and he is immortal.
But move up the evolutionary scale a bit and you find that there is constant need for reassurance. A dog requires a bit of applause when he has done a good job of bringing in the bird. To another animal this might be a poor reward for giving up a duck dinner, but a dog understands glory.
It is an artificial arrangement, this business of a man shooting a bird and a dog retrieving it, and that is what makes it a sport. A sport is a design for living in an artificial environment, hedged with self-imposed disciplines and filled with the fear of failure and the hope of success.
While the chancelleries strive to control the world environment of man, individual man can make a world of his own—in the shape of a baseball diamond, a football field, a tennis court or a golf course. There he observes the special rules of artificial life and death. He lives to glory if he breaks par and then, refreshed with intimations of immortality, returns to his desk and the problems of the real world, purged for a little while of doubt and fear, pleasantly aware that there are areas where he is master of his fate and captain of his soul.
This is all based on the assumption that the greens committee is not a pack of idiots.
EVENTS & DISCOVERIES, AUGUST 16
Connie Mack is very old now—91—and as fragile and delicate as a cloisonné vase. He sees and he hears, but sometimes not so quickly as he did years ago when the Philadelphia Athletics were a baseball team and he managed them to nine pennants and five world championships.
He came into the dugout long after the rest of the old-timers and sat down alone on the dugout bench, his hard straw hat in his lap. The old-timers were posing for pictures along the front of the dugout, their big meaty backs to the old man. He sat all alone, very old and all alone.
Then the old ballplayers began to notice him and one by one they came over to greet him. He would put out his shrunken arm to shake hands, and peer inquiringly into each face. And the old stars, accustomed to being recognized and hailed by name, shook hands and gently introduced themselves.
"Rogers Hornsby, Mr. Mack. It's good to see you again."
"Joe DiMaggio, Mr. Mack. It's good to see you."
"Paul Waner, Mr. Mack."
"Bill Dickey, Mr. Mack."
"Frank Frisch, Mr. Mack. How are you, sir?"
Al Simmons, big and heavy and gray and not well enough to play in the game, shook hands.
"It's Al Simmons, Mr. Mack," he said. "Gee, it's good to see you again, Mr. Mack."
When Mack was introduced on the public address system, Al Simmons took his arm and helped him as he walked out into the bright sunlight. Halfway to home plate Mack stopped, turned to the crowd and waved his hard straw hat, holding it high.
He sat in the dugout during the game, talking to old Cy Young and to Casey Stengel. When white-haired Lefty Grove came into the dugout after the first inning he crooked his left arm at Mack and said, "Give me a rub-down, Connie." And the two old men, Mack and Young, delightedly kneaded Grove's arm for a moment or two.
Before the old-timers' game was over Mack's chauffeur came for him. Al Simmons helped the old man to his feet and said goodbye. "It certainly was good to see you again, Mr. Mack," he said.
Mack nodded and said goodbye. The chauffeur began to lead him along the dugout floor toward the steps, but Mack paused to shake hands with two or three players sitting on the bench. Joe DiMaggio saw Mack approaching and sat up straight. He took off his cap before he shook hands with the old man.
"Goodbye, Mr. Mack," he said.
He did not put his cap back on until the old man had gone.
EVENTS & DISCOVERIES, AUGUST 23
SO YOU'RE A FOOTBALL PLAYER
You have to be ready for a hard time first. This is about the second week of practice...You're up at the crack of dawn, your muscles stiff and sore. You get an hour's skull practice first, with your group coach. If you're a lineman, you meet with the "men," known as the "lunkheads," or "those big, dumb oxen." You, in turn, refer to the backfield as "the boys," or the "artists."
Morning practice comes next, when your breakfast has digested. Your pants and pads are clammy and cold as you climb into them. Stiff-legged, you trot to the practice field. The first order of business is calisthenics. For psychological reasons they call them "conditioning exercises," but by any name you hate them. Then comes an hour and a half of hitting the sled, blocking dummies, three-on-one drills, tackling, work on assignments. Pound, pound, pound. At the other end of the field the "artists" just seem to be having fun, throwing the ball around....
After a heavy noonday meal there's a lecture by the head coach for the entire squad. You're so sleepy you can't hold your head up—until a hotfoot, applied no doubt by an "artist," wakes you up with a yell. The head coach seems to notice you for the first time.
Back to-the dressing room after that, for afternoon practice. Two more hours of fundamentals. Drill, drill, drill. When you're finally dismissed the coach warns that everybody should be in bed by 10:30. That's the most useless speech of the season. By 8 o'clock you're all in the sack, except maybe those dancing girls in the backfield.
Then, suddenly, school starts. Only one practice a day! Next week you open with State. Gone are the aches and pains. Here come the headlines!
HERMAN HICKMAN, SEPTEMBER 13
The delicate mechanism that controls human emotions, one of the eternal mysteries, was revealed for a moment last week but, as usual, the mystery remained. After Ham Richardson's grueling upset victory over Lew Hoad in the quarter-finals of the National Tennis Championship, his mother, Mrs. Roger Richardson, who had watched every minute of the match from the marquee, was dissolved in tears. "I was all prepared," she sniffled, "to smile in defeat."
EVENTS & DISCOVERIES, SEPTEMBER 13
GENTLE ART OF SWORDPLAY
Steel is a man's weapon. It has always been the great equalizer. Little men have brought big men crashing like storm-stricken oaks by sliding six inches of it gently into their bodies. Speed and guile offset brawn and size; trickery can take the measure of knowledge.
PAUL GALLICO, SEPTEMBER 20
THE WONDERFUL MOMENT
At one o'clock E.S.T. next Wednesday afternoon millions of Americans will fall as one into a state of semihypnosis so profound in many cases as to be broken only by flood, fire, earthquake—or a burned-out electrical fuse. Radios of parked cars will speak loudly to gathering knots of people in dusty western wheat towns and shaded southern villages. Nothing—not even a Presidential election—grips the U.S. people in quite the same fashion as the World Series. It is a herald of the balmy advent of autumn, an excuse for office pools, a source of black, exciting but delightfully harmless headlines. It raises wondrous ghosts—Tinker, Evers and Chance, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson (who can remember how they looked?) and Babe Ruth (ah, who can forget?). And it elevates with high drama those eternal American folk figures, the pitcher and the batter.
What attitudes from the American past are not wrapped up in the man on the mound as he stands, stolid, cunning, contemptuous—and on the brink of awful ridicule—awaiting the catcher's sign. He is rifleman, cardsharp, horse trader, all wrapped up in one. Sometimes he is Dewey at Manila Bay, as well, and sometimes he is the farmer who lost his money to a dip at the county fair. And the man with the bat who faces him? Why none other than Mighty Casey, of course. As it listens to the oft-told tale of their adventures next week the U.S., as always, will be able to like itself a little better.
PAUL O'NEIL, SEPTEMBER 27
SPIRIT OF NOTRE DAME
The fundamental difference between intercollegiate and professional athletics is that in college the players are supposed to be students first and foremost. This does not mean that they should all be Phi Beta Kappas or physics majors, but neither should they be subnormal students majoring in ping-pong.
THE REV. THEODORE M. HESBURGH, SEPTEMBER 27
OF FISH AND FISHERMEN
Here is no sentiment, no contest, no grandeur, no economics. From the sanctity of this occupation, a man may emerge refreshed and in control of his own soul. He is not idle. He is fishing, alone with himself in dignity and peace. It seems a very precious thing to me.
JOHN STEINBECK, OCTOBER 4
SPORT OR DIRTY BUSINESS?
The Gavilan-Saxton turkey trot deserves a thorough airing. In fact, it may be time to ask again, as responsible sportswriters have been asking so long, whether boxing is going to be a legitimate sport or a dirty business? Jim Norris, the personable president of the IBC, as an honorable man and a true fight fan should welcome an investigation of the dark underside of boxing. It can destroy the sport as the Black Sox conspiracy might have ruined baseball if an effective commission had not been set up to protect our pastime from its inside jobbers. To say this is not to attack boxing but to attack the boxing racket.
BUDD SCHULBERG, NOVEMBER 1
ONLY THE BRAVE
He is the enemy. He is a bull—big, perhaps 1,000 pounds of lightning speed and smashing power. The whole top of his neck is a tossing muscle capable of flinging a horse into the air. The muscle flexes and humps tight when he is angry. He comes trotting out of his dark box into the bright sunlight of the ring, head up, looking nervously about. He charges and the sand sings under his feet.
JOHN STANTON, JANUARY 17
WHAT IKE DID FOR GOLF
Golf has been good for the President, and the converse is no less true: he has been extremely good for golf. Since 1913, or ever since Francis Ouimet's surprising triumph in the Open championship started to take the curse off the game as the affected importation of the upper crust, golf has steadily become a more and more democratic and popular pastime. Today it is as all-strata in its following as fishing, and if anything, the driving range may have even replaced the poolroom. At the same time, until President Eisenhower took office, wearing his scorecard on his sleeve, golfers remained somewhat suspect in the eyes of many of their countrymen who persisted in viewing the breed as die-hard Tories who, if you didn't keep a watchful eye on them, would ask for a finger bowl at a hamburg stand, and in French. "Before Ike came in," a New York enthusiast recently confessed, "every time I carried my golf bag down to Grand Central and boarded a train for a golfing weekend, I could count on running into disapproving faces and at least one slur carefully delivered so that I could hear it—you know, something like, 'Don't strain yourself, Reginald.' Now it's all changed. Strangers look at me as if I were a member of the 4-H Club. And when they speak to me, they give me the warm smile and a cheery word like, 'Looks like a grand weekend to get out of doors.' All of a sudden, I'm on the same level with the Fourth of July and Mom's apple pie, and I like it."
HERBERT WARREN WIND, JANUARY 24
AN INNOCENT AT RINKSIDE
To the innocent, who had never seen hockey before, it seemed discorded and inconsequent, bizarre and paradoxical, like the frantic darting of the weightless bugs which run on the surface of stagnant pools. Then it would break, coalesce through a kind of kaleidoscopic whirl, like a child's toy, into a pattern, a design almost beautiful, as if an inspired choreographer had drilled a willing and patient and hard-working troupe of dancers.
WILLIAM FAULKNER, JANUARY 24
THE WINTER OF THE GOLFER
For most golfers—excepting always the fortunate herd which heads for the South—wintertime is a tough passage. They drive by their home courses and their eyes meet the bleakness of snow, slush or frozen ground, everything drably white and black and gray, not one green blade of grass, not one lousy buttercup. It is enough to drive a man to brooding. The golfer, a talented brooder at any time, begins to dwell, as he never does in the heat of a summer round, on the variegated beauty of the natural settings in which he pursues his game: the soft, green, breeze-swept courses along the edge of the sea; the rolling meadowland courses, with bright seasonal flowers busting out along the borders of the holes; mountain courses, where the best line off the first tee is a yard to the left of that topmost pine; tropical courses; lakeside courses, and that plain course down the road that becomes extraordinarily beautiful when spring or autumn touches it. Several more weeks of long, hard waiting still lie ahead until, as Geoffrey Chaucer, an early outdoor man, put it, the sweet showers of April have pierced the drought of March to the root, and once again the majority of our golf courses are ready to handle the traffic.
HERBERT WARREN WIND, FEBRUARY 28
BRANCH RICKEY'S RIDE
Rickey was the first to reach the sidewalk. He paced up and down, flapping his arms against the cold. In a moment Mrs. Rickey came out and the ride downtown in Rickey's Lincoln began. As the car pulled away from the curb, Rickey, a notorious back-seat driver, began a series of barked directions: "Right here, Guido! Left at the next corner, Guido! Red light, Guido!"
Guido, smiling and unperturbed, drove smoothly along. As the car reached the downtown business district, Rickey, peering this way and that, shouted, "Slow down, Guido!"
Guido slowed down and then Rickey whispered hoarsely: "There it is, Mother! Look!"
"What?" smiled Mrs. Rickey.
"The largest lamp store in the world! Right there! I inquired about the best place to buy a lamp and I was told that this place is the largest in the whole wide world! Right there!"
"We only want a two-way bed lamp," said Mrs. Rickey.
"I know," said Rickey. "But there's the place to get it. You could go all over the world and not find a bigger lamp store. Right turn here, Guido!"
"One way, Mr. Rickey," said Guido, cheerfully.
That was the signal for a whole comedy of errors, with Rickey directing and traffic cops vetoing a series of attempts to penetrate one-way streets and to execute left turns. Rickey grew more excited, Mrs. Rickey more calm, Guido more desperate as the Duquesne Club loomed and faded as a seemingly unattainable goal.
"Judas Priest!" Rickey finally exclaimed. "It's a perfectly simple problem! We want to go to the Duquesne Club!"
"I know how!" Guido protested, "I know the way!"
"Then turn, man, turn!"
"Get out of here!" yelled a traffic cop.
"For crying out loud!" roared Rickey. "Let's get out and walk."
"I'm not going to walk," said Mrs. Rickey mildly. "We have a car. Let Guido go his way."
"Oh, all right," Rickey pouted. "But you'd think I'd never been downtown before!"
In a moment the car pulled up at the Duquesne Club and Rickey, serene again, jumped out and helped Mrs. Rickey from the car.
"Take the car home, Guido," he said pleasantly. "We'll call you later."
"Yes, Mr. Rickey," said Guido, mopping his brow.
GERALD HOLLAND, MARCH 7
Leo Durocher loves Jim Hearn, a pitcher whom he formerly regarded with repugnance. The romance has ripened just in time, for the Giants need pitching.
The awesome might of the Dodgers has wrung tribute from their former manager, Charley Dressen, who would almost rather cut his tongue out than put a successor on the spot. "Unless they get all their arms broke," he has said, "they gotta win." So exuberant is the resident manager, Walter Alston, that on sunny days he pronounces both syllables of "hello."
Busloads of Milwaukee's cheerful burghers, bringing the conventional gifts of Liederkranz, cheesecake, Braunschweiger, frankincense and myrrh, trooped into the training grounds in Bradenton, Fla. to touch the hem of Bobby Thomson's sweatsock, just over the bandage. They discerned no clay in or near his repaired ankle.
When Gussie Busch and that beer baron's retinue didn't need the St. Petersburg practice field for their exercise, some of the most promising rookies in baseball worked out there in uniforms of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Relaxing in the shade of Ted Kluszewski's biceps, Birdie Tebbetts has conceded that life could be beautiful in Cincinnati, provided the right people were to pitch well enough.
Chicago and Philadelphia also have teams in the league.
In short, it is spring, Ford Frick's in his swivel chair, and practically all is for the best in this nearly best of all possible leagues, almost.
RED SMITH, APRIL 11
THE SUMMIT OF EVEREST
A little below the summit Hillary and I stopped. We looked up. Then we went on.... We went on slowly, steadily. And then we were there. Hillary stepped on top first. And I stepped up after him.... What we did first was what all climbers do when they reach the top of their mountain. We shook hands. But this was not enough for Everest. I waved my arms in the air and then threw them around Hillary, and we thumped each other on the back.... It was 11:30 in the morning, the sun was shining, and the sky was the deepest blue I have ever seen. Only a gentle breeze was blowing, coming from the direction of Tibet, and the plume of snow that always blows from Everest's summit was very small.
TENZING NORGAY AND JAMES RAMSEY ULLMAN, MAY 9
4:29 P.M. AT LOUISVILLE
Only a little over two minutes: one simultaneous metallic clash as the gates spring. Though you do not really know what it was you heard: whether it was that metallic crash, or the simultaneous thunder of the hoofs in that first leap or the massed voices, the gasp, the exhalation—whatever it was, the clump of horses indistinguishable yet, like a brown wave dotted with the bright silks of the riders like chips flowing toward us along the rail until, approaching, we can begin to distinguish individuals, streaming past us now as individual horses—horses which (including the rider) once stood about eight feet tall and 10 feet long, now look like arrows twice that length and less than half that thickness, shooting past and bunching again as perspective diminishes, then becoming individual horses once more around the turn into the backstretch, streaming on, to bunch for the last time into the homestretch itself, then again individuals, individual horses, the individual horse, the Horse: 2:01[4/5] minutes....
WILLIAM FAULKNER, MAY 16
THE JOY OF RUNNING
I remember a moment when I stood barefoot on firm dry sand by the sea. The air had a special quality as if it had a life of its own. The sound of breakers on the shore shut out all others. I looked up at the great clouds, like white-sailed galleons, chasing proudly inland. I looked down at the regular ripples on the sand, and could not absorb so much beauty. I was taken aback—each of the myriad particles of sand was as perfect in its way. I looked more closely, hoping perhaps that my eyes might detect some flaw. But for once there was nothing to detract from all this beauty.
In this supreme moment I leapt in sheer joy. I was startled and frightened by the tremendous excitement that so few steps could create. I glanced round uneasily to see if anyone was watching. A few more steps—more self-consciously and now firmly gripping the original excitement. The earth seemed almost to move with me.
I was almost running now, and a fresh rhythm entered my body. No longer conscious of my movement, I discovered a new unity with nature. I had found a new source of power and beauty, a source I never dreamt existed. From intense moments like this, love of running can grow....
ROGER BANNISTER, JUNE 20
BLAISE D' ANTONI SPEAKS
"Boxin' is great in New Orleans. At my first fight, they booed. But I climbed into the ring and offered any bum a thousand bucks to come on down. No one did. Let 'em boo. I'm havin' a party next Tuesday. If you don't have invitations, consider this as them. Everybody will be there. I guess it'll cost me $5,000 at least. But what's money? You gotta have a good time. Don't bother to ask where the party will be in the hotel—the hotel will know. I'm gonna have Eddie Condon's band and Wild Bill Hickok's [sic]. The only one had anything like it was the King of Siam.
"I'm gonna wear my $250 cashmere jacket, my $100 blue cashmere pants and my new $85 shoes. Eighty-five dollar shoes. And my $250 cashmere jacket. And those $100 pants, they're blue. Bring a photographer. Bring anyone you want. And don't forget to come down to New Orleans, champs. And after I treat you all all right—four motorcycle escorts, not one—you'll stand back and say, 'Jeez, he wasn't exaggeratin'.' "
ROBERT H. BOYLE, JUNE 27
HOGAN GETS THE NEWS
In the locker room, Ben Hogan sank heavily on a bench and took a Scotch and water from somebody's hand. It seemed certain that his 287 had clinched his fifth championship. He sipped his drink, shook his head and said slowly: "Boys, if I win it, I'll never work at this again."
Someone asked if his leg had bothered him. "Only my knee," said Ben. "The more I walked, the more it hurt:"...An attendant shouted: "Jack Fleck is on 16 and he needs one birdie on the last three to tie!" Hogan sipped his drink, then smiled thinly: "Good for him."...
Then it came: a tremendous roar of the gallery at the 18th. A reporter whispered hoarsely: "The kid's sunk it!"
Ben Hogan's head went down and he cursed softly. "I was wishing he'd either make it a two or a five," he said. "I was wishing it was over—all over." He turned to an attendant.... "Well, we might as well git those things back in the locker. Gotta play tomorrow, looks like."
JAMES MURRAY, JUNE 27