THE DODGERS, ETC.
This is an article from the Sept. 19, 1955 issue
Courtesy of the Milwaukee Braves, who accepted a 10-2 defeat on their home grounds, the Brooklyn Dodgers clinched their 11th National League pennant on the earliest date (Sept. 8) in league history. Thus was completed a runaway race that began with the Dodgers winning 10 straight at the start of the season. They were 17 full games ahead when they nailed the championship at Milwaukee.
On the very day the Dodgers were making it official, representatives of four American League teams assembled in the Chicago office of Will Harridge, league president, and began flipping coins like crazy against the possibilities of two-, three- and four-way ties that conceivably (at that time) could snarl up the frantic stretch drive of the Cleveland Indians, the New York Yankees, the Chicago White Sox and the Boston Red Sox. The coin flipping was in accord with an Einsteinian formula worked out by Ford C. Frick, commissioner of baseball. The significant point of Mr. Frick's calculations was that the World Series would open on Sept. 28 in the park of the American League winner if one had been determined at the conclusion of the regular schedule. If a playoff was necessary, the Series would start Sept. 29.
The Brooklyn front office was frankly hopeful that the Yanks would win. Otherwise, the Dodgers would be then required to face the tremendous New York demand for tickets all alone—with only 31,443 salable seats for each game at Ebbets Field. Yankee Stadium, with seats for 67,000, would take the pressure off.
Joe DiMaggio, interviewed in Rome, had some reassuring words for the front office, but could give Walt Alston and his nine nothing more than his condolences. The Yanks would win, said Joe (thereby settling the ticket problem), but the Dodgers would be licked before they started. It's kind of a psychological whammy the Yanks have on the Dodgers, according to Joe. Brooklyn might take Boston, Chicago or Cleveland, Joe said, but never the Yanks.
"They can't even say Yankees," Joe said. "It's always those blank lucky Yankees. To put it politely."
Meanwhile, the rest of the American League, in a purely inadvertent way, was doing its best to relieve Brooklyn of all need to meet the Yankees. Would it be Cleveland? Chicago? Ford Frick was reassuring: There will be a World Series.
International Tennis is a game seldom taken lightly by those who excel at it. One has only to backtrack two weeks for a recollection of the nervous tension in the air over Forest Hills, N.Y. while the young Australian Davis Cup team soundly whacked the defending Americans, 5-0. "Now that we've regained the Cup," said Australia's Lew Hoad, "we'll have to try not to let down during your Nationals." Said America's Tony Trabert, who lost to Hoad after a competitive lay-off: "I know that I need steady competition to be at my best."
Last week the two internationalists, along with their fellow travelers, Ken Rosewall and Vic Seixas, returned to the worn turf of Forest Hills to battle for what turned out to be just the consolation prize this year: the historic U.S. singles title. The competition Trabert wanted was there, but somehow the Australian Davis Cup spirit had spirited itself out of sight.
It seems a shame to have to make excuses for such fine young tennis players as Hoad and Rosewall, but the fact remains that neither of them seems able to muster their best tennis unless the Davis Cup is at stake. At Wimbledon this summer neither could get to the finals, and Trabert became the first man since Don Budge to walk off with the title without losing a set. Trabert did it again last week at Forest Hills. In seven matches he won 21 consecutive sets and finished off the week's work by thumping Hoad 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals and by beating Rosewall 9-7, 6-3, 6-3 for the crown next day.
To be sure, Trabert's game was better last week than it had been during the Challenge Round. At times, especially in his match with Hoad, he may have been playing the best tennis of his life. His services were deadly accurate, and his volleying, which had lacked authority against the same player two weeks before, was completely effective. It cannot be said that Hoad did not try. He must have tried, for he led 3-0 in the first set. But it must be said that when Trabert squared the score and went ahead, Hoad was a most indifferent player. "My boy just didn't fight," said Harry Hopman later. "Don't ask me why." Rosewall, a fine tactician with superb ground strokes, finished off Vic Seixas in the semifinals, and against Trabert went down fighting. He left the impression that if his game was "down" it was chiefly because Trabert was "up" in every department.
If it were not for the immovable evidence of his Davis Cup defeat, Tony Trabert, as the French champion, Wimbledon champion and U.S. champion could lay full claim to the title of best amateur around. But the season isn't over yet. This week the amateur tour moves to California for the Pacific Southwest championships, where the Cup rivals can expect to meet again. The Pacific Southwest title lacks the importance of the Davis Cup and the prestige of the Nationals, but it might produce a good rubber match or two.
Jack Kramer, the old pro, will be watching. "I've got something cooking," he said, "but I'm not ready to talk about it yet."
WORD OF CAUTION
There are few men who do not long to stun their fellows with some burst of fiendish ingenuity—the man who first dyed an elephant pink was firmly in the grip of this desire and so, of course, was the fellow who first filled a hotel-room bathtub to the brim with lemon Jell-O. It seems inevitable that a good many bird hunters will emerge from their local movie palaces in coming months aglow with this same emotion, and that they will obtain, or at any rate try to obtain, a Basenji (pronounced bass-EN-gee) as a gun dog and companion in the field.
At first impact this could seem like a capital idea. A motion picture entitled Goodbye My Lady, adapted from a novel of the same name by the late James Street, is currently being filmed at Albany, Ga., and when it is done the silver screen will suggest that a Basenji can locate quail as easily as a bloodhound can trail a wet goat. This is a fascinating thesis, for the Basenji is a canine curio; it originated in Central Africa during the dawn of civilization (it is depicted on stone carvings dating back to 4 000 B.C.) and was a companion of the pharaohs in Egypt. It is relatively rare—there are less than 1,000 in the U.S.
It is a handsome little dog—males stand 17 inches, females 16 inches at the shoulders—with sharp ears, a sharp muzzle, a tightly curled tail and a short, silky, lustrous coat of red and white, or black, white and tan. But the Basenji's peculiar charm stems from the fact that he is genuinely different from most dogs. He does not bark, although he can scream with terror, chortle with happiness, snarl and occasionally emit something which sounds like a yodel. He keeps clean by licking himself like a cat. He has no canine odor. And, when unhappy, a Basenji is reputed to shed real tears. A hunter equipped with a four-footed sideshow of these proportions would obviously never lack a gallery.
There is, furthermore, no real reason to doubt that a Basenji can be used in quail hunting. A California veterinary student named Dick Willett owned a Basenji (now unfortunately defunct) which he describes as the only quail-hunting dog of its breed in North America. Historically, the dog has been a hunter of small game, and it has a fine nose. But the facility with which Lady, heroine of the forthcoming movie, hunts quail should not be used as a yardstick by eager bird hunters. Lady is not one dog, in fact, but 12—some male, some female, and all made up with grease paint to look relatively alike. Only one of them, a dog named Mecca which had some preliminary training in the quail business in Mexico, has even the remotest aptitude for hunting. Mecca, however, is not very hot. The rest do not know a bird from a pizza pie. One of them does achieve a sort of point—it has been trained to raise one foot when a trainer taps its leg with a stick. Another engages in a fight with three hounds (all the dogs have their mouths taped shut), and others are on hand to record the various odd Basenji vocal effects for the sound track.
By dividing the chores and training each dog to perform one small function of the action demanded in the script the moviemakers feel certain they can deliver a quail-hunting Basenji to the screen—although there is now some doubt that Lady will, as the scenario demands, weep on parting from a small boy who finds her wandering in the woods. Despite the urging of five trainers, not one of the 12 Basenjis has shed one tear, and Albany is full of a rumor that the make-up department will resort to glycerine to achieve the necessary effect. A bird hunter, of course, might not mind a dry-eyed dog—one which wept at the sight of game, in fact, could be downright embarrassing. But all in all it seems only fair to suggest that any hunter who takes the field with a Basenji would do well to keep a setter in reserve, just in case.
SHAGGY MANAGER STORY
As the baseball season in Philadelphia draws toward its inevitable, fated close the town's more euphoric fans are maintaining good cheer with a tale which in the past has made the rounds of other losing ball parks.
It has to do with Mayo Smith, shorn of substitutes by the vicissitudes of a tight game and looking desperately down the bench for someone to put in at third. There was but one choice open to him, a horse named Charley who had come up from the minors with quite a reputation as a fielder and hitter. Charley had done extremely well in practice, too, but for some reason Smith had not elected to try him. Prejudice, perhaps.
Charley was sensational at third. In his first inning of major league play he accepted two chances. One was a screaming hot liner which he caught for an out. In the other he assisted in a double play.
In the next inning, Smith had to shift him to the outfield. There Charley distinguished himself again by hauling down a ball that seemed certain to be a hit and in one motion flinging it to the plate to cut off a runner from third. It seemed to Smith that no finer throwing arm had ever been seen in the major leagues.
Charley came to bat in the next inning, after three of his mates, now inspired, had loaded the bases. He hit the first pitch for what looked like a sure inside-the-park home run but as his teammates ran home Charley just stood there leaning on his bat. The ball was fielded to first. Charley was out without even trying, and Smith came charging out of the dugout, as the saying goes.
"Why," he demanded, "didn't you run?"
Charley looked at him coldly.
"If I could run" he said, "I wouldn't be fooling around with baseball. I'd be up at Aqueduct hauling Eddie Arcaro around the track."
THE SENATORS' SENATOR
A massive heart attack is not only a shattering, but intensely disconcerting experience, for the man who survives one must begin adopting new concepts of living almost instantly. It is pleasant to report that Lyndon Johnson of Texas, the Senate majority leader, has made the transition with little apparent strain—in part, at least, simply by applying his zest for conflict and his fascination with detail to the processes of recovery. By keeping a minute, daily record of his diet, for instance (he staples each report of calorie consumption into a file folder), he has reduced his waistline from 44 to 37 inches. Lyndon Johnson has also discovered a new and relaxing delight: baseball.
Though he is now up and around—in fact, he has been permitted to take a trip home to Texas—the Senator still spends a great deal of time in a big air-conditioned bedroom on the second floor of his white colonial home when he is in Washington. The magnets which hold him there are 1) a television set with a 24-inch screen and 2) a comfortable lounge chair set before it. He has seen virtually every televised home game played by the Washington Senators since he suffered his near-fatal attack last July. He even watches them play the Boston Red Sox—a trying, if delightful, experience for him—since he roots for both clubs.
The Senator's original interest in baseball, in fact, began when Texan Michael (Pinky) Higgins became manager at Boston. "I'd never been much of a sports fan," he says. "I never felt I had the time for it. But Pinky's brother Ox was one of my closest friends. I used to go to football games with him. And one day early this summer, when Boston was playing here, I dropped by to say hello to Pinky."
From this pale beginning the Senator, in the last two months, has flowered into a dedicated baseball fan. When SI printed an article about Higgins recently, the Senator had it reprinted in the Congressional Record. Simultaneously, to keep his loyalties from growing lopsided, he laid plans to honor another Texan, Washington's second baseman, Pete Runnels. "I'm going to give him a luncheon up on the Hill next year," he said. "It'll be a big affair." Meanwhile, to keep from unnecessarily missing a single pitch he bought a vest pocket radio set with an earplug—a device which allows him, or so he asserts, to listen to his wife and to baseball broadcasts at the same time.
Senator Johnson, who will undergo a series of rigid checks this winter at the Mayo Clinic, firmly believes he will be able to go on serving in the Senate for many years. But he does not intend to abandon baseball. "If I had gone to ball games instead of working nights," he says, "I might not have had the attack at all. And when I leave the Senate I think I'd like to get hold of Pinky and Runnels and maybe buy a ball club in Texas. We could stay there and run the team until we were old men."
Boxing's undercover men, who once made Pennsylvania their very own when it came to fixing fights, shrugged it off when Governor George M. Leader put his boxing reform bill to the legislature a few weeks ago (SI, July 25). There were, they implied, 47 other states. The International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president) was not so bland about it, however, and for a while made noises to the effect that the IBC might boycott Pennsylvania.
The legislature passed the bill though, and now the Council of State Governments has started a project which may leave the shady characters no place to hide and give the IBC no preference among the states so far as laws are concerned. The Council, set up and paid for by the states, has as one of its functions the preparation of model legislation on problems of common interest among the states. On the heels of Governor Leader's action it has appointed a three-man committee to prepare a boxing bill to be presented to the various legislatures. Chances are the bill will be patterned after the Pennsylvania law, whose provisions include compulsory fingerprinting, state police enforcement and the right of the boxing commission to suspend licenses in-stanter, even just before a fight.
The ideal method of meeting Jim Lindsley of Bell, Calif.—at least the method best calculated to arouse a sense of incredulity and thus to dramatize Jim's particular message to the world—is to watch him climb out of his homemade automobile. The process itself is fascinating, for Jim's machine has an engine fore and an engine aft and a hole in the center from which his head protrudes not unlike that of a man in a steam cabinet. Jim looks as though he probably shouldn't have wedged himself into the contraption in the first place; he is 38 years old and his hair is graying. He is an electrician, has three children, is slightly overweight and likes to be in bed by 11.
But for all of this Jim is a dedicated hot rodder—a member of the exclusive 200 Miles Per Hour Club which had only 15 members when the trials began, and admitted three more by the time they were over. Furthermore, he is not—as most of his fellow citizens instantly conclude on seeing him—unusual at all in age, weight or temperament. Most of the 250 hot rodders who have been howling across Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in the seventh annual national speed trials were over 30, and one driver admitted to 52. "People," says Jim Lindsley, "don't understand what hot rodding is all about.
"We're sportsmen and competitors. Hot rodders are all sorts: mechanics, service station operators, carpenters, doctors, magazine publishers. We spend a year and from $1,000 to $10,000 working on a car that suits our special fancy. We tinker. We put a piece of a Chrysler, a piece of a Mercury, a piece of a Ford and several pieces of junk together and somehow wind up with a hot rod. Sometimes we do things the car manufacturers say can't be done and they come around and ask us how we do it. We'd rather spend our vacations here on the salt flats than in Bermuda or fishing or playing golf, just because to us there's something about a car—something about an engine. We'd rather work a year, spend all our spare cash, travel 1,000, 2,000, even 3,000 miles to race against the clock for a minute and 35 seconds.
"I think that a fellow who does that must have something pretty important in mind. If a kid is a hot rodder let him go to it. That way he's got something in mind that he's going to do tomorrow. The result is his and his alone. No one can say this isn't a sport. We come up here to win but if our chief rival has a breakdown, hell, we'll give him the parts he needs, even help him with repairs. I can't say what hot rodding all adds up to, but it seems to me that when you get 250 men, all with different backgrounds and different financial status, who live in different parts of the country, yet are all alike in creating something that'll streak across these flats, you've got more than just a society for the preservation of a neighborhood nuisance."
At 81 I could have fun
At sports of yesterday,
If I could get an old coquette
With whom to play croquet!
—HARVEY L. CARTER
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Rocky Marciano, tapering off training for his Tuesday title defense against Archie Moore at Yankee Stadium, was a better than 3-1 favorite to remain World Heavyweight Champion. In the bookmakers' odds you must bet $16 to win $5 on Marciano, $5 to win $14 if you like Moore. Capsule preview by SI's Budd Schulberg: Marciano in seven or eight rounds.
The Brooklyn Dodgers, who virtually won the National League pennant in the first month of the season, made it official by sweeping two games with the second-place Braves, showed themselves to be almost too-old pros by failing to register excitement over their record feat.
The American League's up-and-down pennant race and the heavyweight championship fight continued to preoccupy the sports pages, but a new story was coming along fast: the 1955 collegiate football season. Opening weekends are sometimes slow but there's nothing wrong with this one: UCLA, ranked No. 1 in the AP's pre-season poll, plays Texas A&M Friday night; the next day will bring Georgia Tech-Miami, Texas-Texas Tech, Mississippi-Georgia, Maryland-Missouri, Pittsburgh-California.
Tony Trabert, playing as if his Davis Cup performance had been just a creaky warm-up, disposed of Australia's Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall in straight sets on consecutive days at Forest Hills, regained the national tennis title he lost last year.
President Eisenhower, following up his July initiative on physical fitness for the nation's youth, set a further conference for Lowry Air Force Base near Denver, Sept. 27-28, to continue a study of the problem. After two days of discussion, representative sportsmen and citizens from all parts of the U.S. will be guests of the President at a dinner at which he will address them and receive their recommendations.