WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR
This is an article from the Sept. 5, 1955 issue
I've always felt" said Vic Seixas after participating in three of five U.S. Davis Cup losses to Australia last weekend, "that if you can't do anything else in tennis, you can fight. But I've felt that I was fighting with a toothpick this week, and that the other fellows were fighting with clubs." It was an accurate explanation, not only of Australia's overwhelming victory, but of the emotional climate in which the 1955 matches were played. It was an exciting tennis tournament, for all the lopsided outcome; time and again Seixas, Tony Trabert and their teammate Ham Richardson seemed on the point of damming the torrent of speed and precision which the Australians brought to bear at Forest Hills, but the torrent was never quite contained. Instead, the dam burst.
Only eight months had elapsed since the same Trabert and the same Seixas wrested the Davis Cup from the same Australians and brought it back to the U.S. Pew would have believed, before play began, that a clean sweep by Australia was possible—or that it could come from anything but a series of flukes. Australia's triumph, however, was no fluke at all—in retrospect it was possible to conclude that the U.S. had been much more fortunate (although this does not mean lucky) in winning last year than was generally believed until the two teams faced each other for the Cup once more.
Though veterans, Australia's Lew Hoad (of the cannonball service) and Ken Rosewall (of the deadly backhand) are but 20 years old. They were not only closer to maturity than last year, but last week were brought to Forest Hills in supreme form. Seixas (who is 32) and Trabert (who is 25) were suddenly—only slightly—but tellingly outclassed. But it is probably wrong to predict that Australia's 20-year-olds are certain to reign for years. For one thing both are sure to be courted by professionalism. For another, U.S. tennis has a way of producing talented youth too. And the game's faint, fascinating margins of superiority will be as important in the future as they were last week.
THE COMMON DENOMINATOR
Dwight Eisenhower is on vacation in Colorado, but as usual one morning last week there was work to be done. He went over the top mail, spent a couple of conference hours on reclamation and western water-resources problems, signed an order making federal funds available for defense plants damaged in the New England floods, and heard a back-from-London report by Ambassador Winthrop Aid-rich. Then the President of the United States picked up his vacation again.
Waiting for him at Denver's Cherry Hills Country Club stood a group of other well-known Americans. Ike singled out a bulging, graying fellow named Dizzy Dean, once of the St. Louis Cardinals' Gas House Gang, now a TV grammarian.
"Diz," said the President, shaking his hand, "for a man that plays golf as well as you do, how can you permit yourself to get so overweight?" "Well, Mr. President," said Dean, "I'll tellya. I was on a diet for 25 years and now that I'm making some money I'm gonna eat good."
It was Bob Hope's turn. Ike Eisenhower watched critically as he shanked a practice drive far off to the right. "Let me have that club, Bob," he said. "I'll show you how to hit the ball. Play it off your left foot, see, and keep your weight steady." Ike wheeled into his backswing, unwound and socked the ball 225 yards down the fairway.
Thereafter, that day, the President of the United States had troubles of his own with golf, but before heading back to his desk at the Summer White House he took time for a serious, strictly non-kidding remark.
"As far as I'm concerned the greatest common denominator in our country is sports. There's nothing I enjoy more."
COMMON DENOMINATOR (CONT.)
In Germany a couple of days later came more evidence of the sort of thing Ike Eisenhower had been talking about. Sports officials from West Germany met with their opposite numbers from East Germany and agreed to the unification of their country—something that has baffled statesmen since 1945. West Germany and East Germany will get together, the sportsmen decided, and send a unified German team to the 1956 Olympics.
Saratoga's August racing season has been bringing a wager-minded set to the historic old New York spa for generations—and for generations the town's soberer year-round set has watched the goings-on with a mixture of wonderment and resignation. All of which comes to mind because of the experience of an elderly aunt of one of this magazine's correspondents. She owns a house outside Saratoga with an expanse of lawn, and when the young fellows in the fancy new convertible offered her $500 for the use of her place for just two weeks of the racing season, it was more than her New England background could resist. She accepted advance payment and arranged to move in with a niece.
But her conscience bothered her in the days that followed, when she thought of the outrageous rent and the young fellows with nothing to do when they were not at the track. She went to a hardware store and bought the second most expensive croquet set in the place. She left it conspicuously on a chair in the kitchen, and felt better about the whole thing.
Occasionally she drove past her house late in the morning. Every time, there were four men in sports shirts, carrying mallets, out on her lawn. They looked like large healthy children to her, and her heart was glad.
On the afternoon of her guests' departure, she drove over to see them off, and to see that the furniture was un-marred and the crockery intact. She found the young man who had first talked to her busy stowing luggage in the rear of the convertible.
"I'm glad to see that you enjoyed the croquet set," she ventured.
"Some of us enjoyed it," the young man said darkly.
"Some of you? Seems to me you were all playing when I drove past."
"Some of us enjoyed it," the young man said again. "I lost over $700 at your silly game."
SIX NIGHTS ON THE NEEDLE
The great peak of Mont Blanc looms in its cold white grandeur above uncounted bristling granite spires, among them the aiguilles (needles) of Chamonix. There are scores of routes to the summit of Mont Blanc, just as there is an "easy" way to the peak of Aiguille du Dru (sharp needle), but the wall face of the Dru is the sheerest in the Alps. Until a couple of weeks ago it never had been climbed.
Walter Bonatti, a blue-eyed Alpine guide who last year was the youngest member (24) of the Italian expedition that conquered K-2 in the Western Himalayas (SI, Aug. 16, 1954), set out to climb it alone. He made it, at the cost of skinless hands and nights of enshrouding fear.
"On Dru," he said, "I knew fear as I have never known it before. There were many moments in which the whole of the thoughts which filled my brain cried to me, 'Go back, go down, go back!' It was fear of the mountains' solitude as much as of physical difficulties. But at night sleep mercifully came."
Sleep meant sitting for most of the six nights in a loop of rope to which he lashed himself to hang in a sleeping bag over black void. One night he was lucky. He found a ledge he could sit on, legs dangling over a precipice.
"The first night," he went on, "I bivouacked at the foot of the direttissima (the most direct route).
"Next morning at dawn, I threw up a loop to a projection and it caught hold. Without resting I was then able to lift myself 150 meters up the wall's face. Then night came. I regretted my earlier decision to leave my small transmitting radio behind so as to lighten my load. Silence and solitude suddenly loomed immense. They were broken only by the deep voice of the glacier beneath me and the whistling wind. Some stones every now and then dropped from the wall face down into the pit below. They frightened me, too. But then dawn came.
"But day also brought me trouble: a sort of chimney covered with ice into which I couldn't get the point of a nail. Therefore I could make no use of the rope. I embraced that chimney with all my strength—it projected outward over a precipice—and I pressed against it with all I had, including my nose, and gradually edged up. When I reached the top of the chimney I realized with terror that I would never be able to climb down it. Once I started sliding down I would inevitably slither into the abyss. I was beyond the point of no return, and though the actual amount of the face I had climbed was short, night was upon me. But then, after another night, I saw the sun.
"And so it was on the following days. On the last day, the whole of the skin on my hands had gone, left on the wall face or on the rope. I grew terribly thirsty. Below I had quenched my thirst with snow; but there was no snow on the wall's smooth face now.
"Then, suddenly looking up, I saw the sun on Dru's peak. It was only 100 meters higher than me. I said to myself 'I have won;' and I loved Dru and I loved all mountains in that moment."
At the top he met friends who had traveled the "easy" way: "I hardly saw them. I threw myself on a water flask they had brought. Then I ate two chickens."
Bonatti will rest at his home in the Piedmontese Alps until the skin heals on his hands. He says:
"They call me a conqueror of mountains. I am no conqueror...I must confess that the sentiment which mountains inspire in me might well be called fear. It is a sentiment of preoccupation, of uncertainty, or—let us be honest and use the right word—of fear of the unknown.
"I am not happy till I have conquered this fear. I manage to overcome it but it is still there."
THE GLORIOUS GROUSE
Half the grouse moors of Scotland are peopled with Americans. A party of Chicago insurance men is at Blairfindy Lodge in Glenlivet, the most expensive and exclusive shoot in Scotland. The National Cash Register Company has its own grouse moor near Dunkeld. There are Americans at Invercauld, with its 300,000 acres; more Americans at Ewan Ormiston's moors in the west; at Beaufort Castle near Inverness. Crouching in the butts while a horseshoe of beaters drives the birds forward, these rather self-conscious sportsmen are learning that grouse shooting is "the finest form of sport with the gun obtainable in the British Isles."
The self-consciousness comes from the chronic uneasiness of the paying guest, coupled with the likelihood of breaking some august tradition of the sport: remembering to fix one's eyes on a spot about 40 yards straight ahead and never to glance at another man's bird, which is very bad form; braving the contemptuous silence of the gamekeeper worrying about the liquor problem, since everything is included in the weekly bill except whisky, and getting a drink involves accounting for it in a ledger. But at rates that run from $300 to $700 a week, American visitors are coming in greater numbers each year.
The magnet is the red grouse, or moorfowl (Lagopus scoticus), a fast, quick-thinking, dipping, swerving, jinking fowl, entirely unlike the steady-flying grouse of the New World. On August 12, when the season opens—"the Glorious Twelfth"—grouse can be driven without trouble over the butts where the shooters are waiting. Later in the season, especially in high winds, they will fly back over the beaters' heads rather than face the guns.
The Twelfth began to assume an almost mystic significance in English social and sporting life in Victorian days. The royal family moved to Balmoral; the stately homes were evacuated for shooting boxes and Parliament rose. "It was unthinkable that Parliament should rise before there was something to shoot at," says an authority, "or remain seated a day after August 12, when the grouse were ready for the pellets."
But the sport was always scandalously expensive. A typical six-gun shoot required 10 full-time, all-year stalkers and gamekeepers to trap eagles and hawks and exterminate varmints. The Scotch themselves could not afford it. A century ago they began renting uncultivated and uncultivable land to the English gentry. The visiting English in turn paid the costs of beaters and loaders and all other expenses during the then three-month season. Bags were enormous. More than 2,900 grouse were brought down in one day on an eight-gun shoot. By 1910 each bird shot cost at least three shillings.
Now the economic problem works out like this: the moor owner gets perhaps ¬£4,000 in rent, turns over ¬£1,000 to the county in taxes, and pays ¬£2,000 of the remainder to his skeleton staff (half prewar size) of year-round keepers and stalkers. The moor renter pays roughly another ¬£3,000 for the expense of maintaining a six-gun shoot for six weeks as follows: 20 beaters at ¬£1 a day (usually university students on vacation); 6 loaders; 6 pony men; 6 pannier ponies; 6 riding ponies; one bus to transport the beaters; one estate car; two jeeps; household help; food; supplies. So the total is apt to be around ¬£7,000 or $20,000 in American money.
Thanks to visiting Americans who pay from ¬£100 to ¬£250 a week for the privilege of joining the shoots, some of the old moor-leasing gentry may nearly manage to balance their budgets this season. But it is doubtful whether Lagopus scoticus has ever been paid a more glistening economic compliment. His cost to the shooter—not counting the whisky to wash him down—may come as high as $30 a dish, eaten at breakfast, lunch and supper. Broiled and basted in his own juice, of course, Lagopus scoticus is a glorious bird.
BASEBALL IN A HURRY
On the theory that baseball is not the fastest game but need not be the slowest, the Louisville [Ky.] City Recreation Department organized four of its teen-age teams into an Experimental League, had them test 21 ideas designed to speed up ball games. After seven weeks of play they now offer these to Commissioner Ford Frick:
1) Every batter, even the pitcher, should be in the on-deck circle while the preceding batter is at the plate.
2) Once in the box, the batter ought to stay there. He should not step out to rub dirt on his hands, to look for signals from coaches or regain composure.
3) No more tossing the ball around the infield after an out.
4) The pitcher should take no more than 15 seconds or less than 10 (to guard the batter against sneak pitches) to deliver the ball.
5) On intentional walks, wave the batter to first. Forget about those four pitches.
The league tried and rejected some other ideas, like allowing two strikes instead of three, three balls instead of four; permitting the manager only one visit to the mound before removing his pitcher.
Commissioner Frick has heard some rumbles in his poll about the excruciating length of today's games. Now he has the voice of experience to listen to.
Nicholas Rossolimo, the new American chess champion who finished ahead of Samuel Reshevsky in the Open at Long Beach, Calif., began his drive for the American title in 1952. He arrived in New York from Paris, bringing with him his French motorcycle, on which he planned to travel inexpensively from chess tournament to chess tournament, and also Mme. Rossolimo, a plump, pretty Frenchwoman, fortunately gifted with humor.
"Right away," said Rossolimo last week, "I see professional chess does not exist in the United States. I should start looking for a job." First, however,, he had a match with Arthur Bisguier at the Manhattan Chess Club (winning two and drawing two) and entered the masters' tournament in Havana that year, where he lost to both Reshevsky and the subsequent U.S. champion, Larry Evans. A volatile Frenchman of Greek and Russian descent, Rossolimo gave up college to play chess, became champion of Paris, champion of France and, finally, insofar as there is such a title, champion of non-Communist Europe.
In the U.S., after trials that would have appalled Horatio Alger, Rossolimo got a job as a bus boy at the Waldorf-Astoria. Mrs. Rossolimo became a waitress at a bar and grill. The only use Rossolimo could find for the motorcycle was to ride around dark Manhattan when the night's work at the hotel was over.
Now comes the hard part of the story. It is particularly difficult for people who do not know (or like) chess and will hardly be believed except by those who do. Rossolimo is a romantic. He plays an intuitive, imaginative game, as opposed to the cold, almost mathematical modern game at which logicians like Reshevsky excel. In Europe, Rossolimo was famous for his variations and his renovations of the old openings that modernists say have been discredited. His admirers consider him the greatest artist among living chess masters. Well, as Rossolimo packed trays of dirty dishes downstairs at the Waldorf, he concluded that the time had come for him to change his style. He decided to work out a simple, direct game with none of the fireworks that had won him 20 prizes in Europe.
His game suffered. We will skip over the tournaments he lost and also his chess club in Great Neck, Long Island. A prominent mail-box manufacturer, Nathan Hammer, backed him in the club, but there wasn't much interest in chess in Great Neck. Using the experience of his nocturnal motorcycle rides, Rossolimo became a New York cab driver. By the time the Long Beach Open started, Rossolimo had his new style under control. He had also gained 20 pounds.
In winning the American Open championship, Rossolimo won a new Buick. He sold it at once. He keeps his hack license (No. 40789) on the mantel of his Greenwich Village apartment, beside one of his father's paintings. Rossolimo's father was a pretty good artist, and his mother was an author and war correspondent. Her last book, written shortly before her death in 1952, was an account (in Russian) of the Russo-Japanese War. Rossolimo himself last week was straightening out the record of his games. A European paper printed a garbled account of his showing against the members of the American chess team who played in Moscow (Rossolimo himself was passed over in picking the squad). Adding them up, he found he had played 23 games with the members of the American team. He won 11, drew nine and lost three.
He is thinking of giving up taxi driving and going back to France.
BIRD IN HAND
His putt was purposely missed,
Absurd but strictly legal.
He is a conservationist
And will not shoot an eagle.
—IRWIN L. STEIN
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
The Brooklyn Dodgers discovered a brand-new pitching resource on their own bench when they sent 19-year-old Sandy Koufax, a bonus rookie ($14,000) without minor-league experience, out to start a game against Cincinnati. In a two-hit victory, Koufax struck out 14, more than any other National League pitcher this year.
Needles, handsome Florida-bred son of the 1949 Kentucky Derby winner, Ponder, identified himself as a two-year-old to remember by beating Polly's Jet and others in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, a race won in their own day by Man o' War, Whirlaway, Native Dancer and Nashua.
Joey Giambra, 24-year-old Army private from Buffalo, took a furlough from Camp Hood to meet Middleweight Champion Carl (Bobo) Olson in a non-title fight. Though he lost the decision, Private Giambra threw so much hard and fast leather that he marked himself as a coming man, went back to Camp Hood with the promise of a middleweight title match in February.
Bandleader Guy Lombardo injected a new note into the old score between the Gold Cup champion Gale V (SI, Aug. 15) and the speedy, Ted Jones-designed Seattle boat Miss Thriftway in the Silver Cup Regatta on the Detroit River. Lombardo, a sometime racing driver himself, sat back and watched his Tempo VII, driven by Danny Foster, easily beat both the Gold Cup stars, among many others.
Pat Lesser, 22-year-old Brooklyn-born daughter of a retired Army colonel, smashed past such strong contenders as Mary Ann Downey and Polly Riley, then trounced an Indianapolis schoolteacher, Jane Nelson, 7 and 6, to become U.S.'s national women's golf champion of 1955, at the Myers Park Country Club in Charlotte, N.C.