BUTTERFLIES & OLD FRIENDS
This is an article from the Sept. 26, 1955 issue
Fate, the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians have decreed that Marty Marion will not be a World Series manager in 1955. But the onetime Mr. Shortstop of the St. Louis Cardinals was in the Series four times as a ball player and he still remembers what that means.
"Playing in a World Series," he says, "is your greatest thrill in baseball—the highlight of your career and the one thing you battle for all year.
"There's a lot of glamor and glory attached to it but if you win, your first problem starts off after you get into the Series—with tickets. You know more people—old long-lost friends, relatives, cronies, schoolmates, acquaintances you haven't heard from in years. I don't see how a player gets to the park sometimes to play the game, he's so busy with requests for tickets.
"If he manages to lick that problem, which isn't easy, then the next thing he must overcome is the glamor of the World Series. Try to treat it like just another ball game—and most players do. Even so, you get butterflies in your stomach before the first pitch. Every play you make, every time you go to bat, everything you do, you feel like this: if I play real bad I'll be a goat and they'll write about me in baseball history for years to come. I was lucky. I was never the goat, but you feel the responsibility of trying to be a winner."
That was the way Shortstop Marion used to feel, and very likely the way 18 other fellows will feel next week.
CHALLENGE FROM CHINA
The sagging paunch, the creaking joint, the spreading seat and the panting breath—all of them marks of our high culture—recently have come under global attack in Formosa, Denver, Washington and Germany. They are symptoms of a world-wide disease for which the Germans have a word: unternehmerkrankheit.
In this country unternehmerkrankheit ("executive sickness") has hit the Air Force with specially impressive severity. In the last few months three brigadier generals (and some lesser officers) have died of heart attacks. The Air Force, therefore, has ordered its "chair-borne corps" of officers to exercise. In Denver, later this month, President Eisenhower will address a two-day conference on physical fitness for youth, aimed at giving the next generation at least a chance to forestall, by exercise, the fate of the older, wiser citizenry. And the German doctor who named the disease believes it can be alleviated with a very old pill—exercise—taken with plenty of sleep and moderation.
To the Chinese, who invented gunpowder and a number of other ideas, it will be no surprise to discover that they are out in front again. In the mid '30s, when the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek was at its zenith on the mainland, bureaucrats kept in shape with tennis, basketball, soccer and an occasional exhibition of calisthenics in the gymnasium of Nanking's Central University. Then the Japanese took Nanking in 1937, Chiang was driven to Formosa and thereafter there was very little of organized exercise for the Nationalist Chinese.
The idea, however, did not die with the government's retreat to Formosa. Chiang is a most persistent man. Three years ago the Generalissimo suggested the reinstatement of his all-but-forgotten calisthenics program for civil employees—to keep them fit for the defense of Formosa and eventual return to the mainland. There was little enthusiasm for the suggestion. Last autumn Chiang revived it, with more pointed phrasing, and since January all but a few of his able-bodied public servants under 45 have been taking part in group calisthenics at the beginning or end of their working day. The other day Chiang beamed to see 7,653 of his civil workers, clad entirely in white—baseball caps, T-shirts, duck trousers, socks and sneakers—wind up a two-day track and field meet with 14 minutes of competitive bending and hopping by 3,000 of them. Winner: the Tainan County government. What county government in the U.S.A. can do hop-to-side straddles, bends and lunges, or even breathe deeply for 14 minutes?
It is now apparent that SI's Jimmy Jemail started something when he asked: "In a free-for-all between Rocky Marciano, heavyweight boxing champion, and Lou Thesz, wrestling champion, who would win?" Jimmy Jemail got Rocky's word for it that he would bat Lou's brains out—and Lou's word that he would beat Rocky or, by implication, any other fist fighter.
SI now has a descent of mail from readers (see 19TH HOLE) and it is clear that the question stirs people to elemental positions. The Texas promoter, Morris P. Sigel, even wires in an offer to stage such a match. Ah, there, now! If you succeed, Mr. Sigel, expect us at ringside. But wouldn't it be a shame to shut off such a good philosophical discussion with something as blunt and final as a showdown?
A youngster with an eye on posterity and a talent for the right sport gets a pretty good crack at immortality nowadays. As everyone knows, there is a Hall of Fame for baseball players at Cooperstown, a hall for tennis at Newport, for basketball at Springfield, Mass., for golf at Augusta, Ga., for soccer at Philadelphia. Not to be left in the ruck, football has a hall going for itself on the Rutgers campus at New Brunswick, N.J., and although its progress has been rather fitful it has already installed (up to the start of this season) 88 players and 39 coaches, making the venerable Cooperstown shrine with its mere 73 immortals look like a sleepy slowpoke. And the football hall is just getting into high gear: more than a score of names have been added to its honor roll this year.
The only trouble with the football Hall of Fame right now is that it doesn't have any hall. Just a couple of offices in New Brunswick where a staff of four works on big plans for the future. One of these plans, naturally enough, is a permanent hall, one that will cost something like $500,000 and house plaques to the immortals, a museum of football mementos like historic balls and uniforms and a library full of football lore. That's the materialistic side of the enterprise.
On a loftier plane, the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame, as it is called, intends to do something for football as a game. "Our purpose is to defend, honor and preserve the game of amateur football," says Vice Admiral John H. (Babe) Brown, a Hall of Famer himself who once played an All-America guard for Navy and now operates as president of the Foundation and Hall. "We hope to influence the thinking of educators and participants so that they will all realize the great values inherent in the game. It is a mobilization of the constructive forces of football. It is a cooperative effort manned by men with respect for facts who are determined to measure that which is good and see that it is better understood; to analyze that which is harmful and to do their part to wipe it out."
What mainly worries Babe Brown is that some college presidents and high school principals have been saying that football is getting too commercialized or too expensive or too rough, and since World War II a number of them have been lopping it off the curriculum. The Foundation hopes to reverse the trend by convincing inimical educators as well as the public that "the playing of well-supervised, highly competitive football by amateurs for pleasure and glory is of immeasurable value to the individuals participating and, through them, to the nation."
So the Foundation is out for members who will carry the torch. The nucleus of the membership is 52 directors: some of the better-known college coaches, sportswriters and broadcasters plus an impressive list of businessmen, many of them great players in their day. Heading the list as chairman is Chester LaRoche, once a star at Yale and now a big-time ad man in New York. In an attempt to define the kind of member it expects to enroll, a prospectus says: "Chances are, he played on his high school or college team for a year or two, reads the sports pages industriously and returns to watch his alma mater play a few games each year. Maybe he has no real connection with the game but just loves to watch it..." Already 75 of these fellows have signed up for the $100 life memberships and another 3,000 are paying $5 a year for charter memberships.
The income from the memberships is the only steady money the Foundation now has to pay its staff. However, every year the Honors Court—a group of 12 regional representatives—will name a new set of immortals. Framed scrolls will be presented in appropriate ceremonies at some home game of their former college, and the college will gratefully turn over a percentage of the gate for that day to the Foundation and Hall.
The first of some 20 of these "award games" scheduled for this fall was the California-Pitt game of last Saturday. If few of the 34,976 spectators at Pittsburgh ever heard of the day's honor man, he happened to be a man worth hearing about. His name was Robert Peck, and he made Walter Camp's All-America as center in 1915 and 1916, helping to break a virtual Ivy League and eastern monopoly of Camp's dream team up to that time.
Bob Peck never weighed more than 179, but he was a scrappy extrovert who liked to advise an opposing lineman: "Fellow, this time we're going right through you for 30 yards." He called it more often than not. In practice sessions at Forbes Field, he liked to face the empty stands and declaim: "Fellows, tomorrow 60,000 eyes will be on Peck!"
Bob Peck became football coach of Culver Military Academy after graduation and 11 members of the first team he coached there were on hand for the ceremonies honoring him between halves of the California game. Peck himself was not there. He died in 1932 as he played a round of golf.
If he had been there, he would have enjoyed himself. Peck was getting his due and so was Pitt. California took a 27-7 beating.
Bonanzas of big trout are few and far between in the era of concrete highways and hatchery-raised fish; their hiding places are almost as hard to discover and as hard to reach as the untapped gold pockets of the Yukon. Colorado's Cherry Lake is a good example. It is an oblong of deep blue water which nestles under the peaks at 11,000 feet in the high Rockies southeast of Salida. It is inhabited by a fighting breed of big cutthroat trout. But reaching it from Denver during even a three-day weekend is difficult; a fishing party needs jeeps to reach 7,800 feet, a pack train to get up the sheer mountain walls to the lake.
But fishermen, like prospectors, develop a feverish talent for logistics when contemplating the possibility of hitting it rich in the wilderness. The Forest Service refuses to allow float planes on small lakes at high altitude, but a Denver masonry contractor named Dean Robinson was struck by an even better idea. He telephoned Denver's newly organized Young Helicopter Service. At dawn on Friday, Robinson and ten friends were at the end of a road at 7,800 feet, watching Pilot Frank Horn easing a Bell bubble job down to pick them up.
Fifteen minutes later Robinson had been lifted over a 12,000-foot ridge and lowered gently to a 20-foot ledge of rock beside the lake. By 9 a.m. the whole party, their sleeping bags and fishing gear and three pup tents had been delivered; they had eaten a breakfast of bacon, eggs and coffee and were fishing. When they walked out Sunday afternoon, they had 62 trout. Not one weighed less than a pound. Their expenses, they were delighted to discover, ran $29 a man—compared to the $50 or so which they would have paid if they had used a pack string to labor up the trail.
DERRING-DO IN DALLAS
At Lakewood Country Club in Dallas, the fairways are long and narrow, the traps are cunning and deep, the greens are tricky and mean. In short, Lakewood is a fair enough test of golf to have been the scene of a number of major tournaments and to provide the weekend golfer who breaks a hundred with sufficient spring to his step and joy in his heart to last until the following Saturday.
Which is all the more reason why a hush suddenly falls over Lakewood's clubhouse when a lanky, loose-jointed youngster enters.
It's not just the fact that Lee Jordan, at 18, is almost six feet, two inches tall, weighs only one hundred and forty pounds—and still can belt that little ball down the middle and far away.
Or that he shoots Lakewood consistently in the middle 70s.
Lee Jordan does it with a putter.
From tee to tee, from trap to trap, he uses nothing but a putter.
Lee's drives average 200 to 220 yards. His fairway shots are long and true, his chipping is adequate and his putting (clearly a redundance) is superb. Obviously, a lad of these talents has no need to load himself down with needless bric-a-brac or hire a caddy. While the rest of his foursome debates whether to hack with a three-iron or a four-wood, Lee stands by with his entire assortment of weapons—his putter—balanced lightly on his shoulder.
Before the Jordan family moved to Dallas from Kansas City about three months ago, Lee explains, he tried a round of one-club golf as a gag, shot in the middle 80s and has been improving ever since.
"The driving and the putting are no sweat," he says modestly, "but sometimes I have trouble gauging my chip shots."
That's what he calls it. Trouble.
After the Don Cockell-Rocky Marciano fight many a British sports-writer encouraged the folks at home to believe that Cockell was a fighter of competence who had been ruthlessly jobbed out of the world heavyweight championship. After Cockell met seventh-ranked Nino Valdes in London and was unable to come out for the fourth round, British boxing experts understated it this way:
"We must write off Don Cockell as a future contender for world title honors."—Tom Phillips, Daily Herald.
"This fight at the White City ended any ideas that Cockell can figure again among boxers of real world class."—Steve Fagan, Daily Sketch.
It is widely conceded that baseball's minor leagues have been permanently spavined and that their most frantic efforts can do no more than put off an inevitable rendezvous at the glue factory. But the state of baseball in the Pacific Northwest, an area where the game has had its tribulations, would suggest that there is more life in the old carcass than anyone had imagined. Since last spring, in fact, a lot of Northwest clubs have been so involved in highly competitive baseball that they have forgotten all about being sick.
By actively recruiting up-and-coming youngsters, the new Class B Northwest League (which has sprung up from the ruins of the Western International League in Washington, Oregon and Idaho) has not only drawn spectators but big-league scouts to its parks. The new order is probably best exemplified by the Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds. Baseball flopped terribly in Eugene (a college and lumbering town of 36,000) in 1950 and 1951. It was rescued by 28 well-to-do Eugene businessmen. They bought the Emeralds, remodeled the baseball park, sternly resolved to plow back profits and successfully shopped the big leagues for young players in need of development. This summer the Emeralds not only played winning baseball (they won the second half of the league's divided pennant race) but drew 84,000 paying customers, paid all their bills and had a profit of $4,500.
The northern end of the Pacific Coast League showed similar signs of renewed health. The Portland (Ore.) Beavers were purchased by their fans early this year, raised their attendance from 135,000 to 200,000 despite 15 rainouts, contracted to play in city-owned Multnomah Stadium, and then got $200,000 (to be spent for new ballplayers) by selling the decrepit park in which the team had been incarcerated for 55 years. Vancouver, British Columbia, a town almost as baseball-hungry as Milwaukee, gave sanctuary to the dispirited Oakland Oaks (who lost $500,000 in the last three years) and seemed hardly able to wait for baseball to begin next year.
Meanwhile the Seattle Rainiers won the Pacific Coast League pennant (by three games in a nerve-racking finish), outdrew all other Coast clubs with 342,000 customers (despite the fact that California teams have access to much bigger centers of population) and made a profit of $40,000 after taking heavy losses for three years. The Rainiers, owned by Millionaire Brewer Emil Sick, have an excellent modern ball park, and they were not above promotion stunts—$100,000 was offered to the player who could hit one through a baseball-sized hole in the centerfield fence, and a lucky woman got a mink stole on the final ladies' night. But they had the same park and tried similar stunts last year and often sold only a few hundred tickets.
The real difference was simply baseball. Last year the Rainiers finished last. This year under the guidance of ex-Detroit Manager Fred Hutchinson—who is remembered as a boy wonder who won 25 games for Seattle at the age of 19—the Rainiers gimped their way to victory in a thrilling race. They hired a photographer to rush news pictures of their diamond feats to the local newspapers, televised every home game to keep themselves in the public eye and packed their ballpark repeatedly. When the season ended, Seattle's venerable Sports Columnist Royal Brougham could not resist giving some free editorial advice to the owners of California clubs: they ought, he suggested, to quit trying to get big-league franchises and recognize the business opportunities at hand. "It's no wonder your parks have been as empty as haunted houses.... Let's forget the big leagues and sell our own baseball to our own fans."
Our shortstop wears a screw-on cap
With metal in every seam;
Oh, he's not afraid of getting beaned,
He's the sparkplug of the team.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
The New York Yankees clubbed their way to three straight over the sinking Boston Red Sox and—short of a Cleveland miracle this week—to an almost certain American League pennant.
Harvie Ward, good-looking young golfing Tarheel from Tarboro, N.C., low amateur in both the Masters and National Open, rounded out a brilliant season by winning the National Amateur at Richmond, 9 and 8.
Ronnie Knox, 1954's most celebrated non-playing football player (his switch from California to UCLA cost him a year's eligibility), made a sensational varsity debut by passing for all three UCLA touchdowns against Texas A&M, clearly established his No. 18 as a number to watch this season.
Lynn Waldorf's California team demonstrated next day that it could indeed have used Ronnie by losing to Pitt 27-7 in the week's leading intersectional game. Pitt, with a new chancellor who candidly admits he likes winning football, is nursing a husky youth movement.
Swaps had his operation—a paring down of the hoof to remove his famous sore spot—and is now standing at ease in his California stall. Prognosis: he should be romping again in time for the winter season at Santa Anita.
California racing fans, meanwhile, fastened their attention on a 2-year-old hopeful: a big, strong colt named Bold Bazooka, who has already equaled the world record for 5½ furlongs (1:03 1/5) at Hollywood Park and may be shipped east for October's Garden State Futurity, richest horse race in the world (gross value: $275,000). Bold Bazooka's happy owner: Comedian Lou Costello.
Sixty-three countries have signed up for the 1956 Olympics. The Russians will send a team of 400-450 athletes, about 100 more than they sent to Helsinki in 1952.