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EVENTS & DISCOVERIES

Nov. 21, 1955
Nov. 21, 1955

Table of Contents
Nov. 21, 1955

Events & Discoveries
Spectacle
The Wonderful World Of Sport
Fabulous Hungarians
Skeeter
Mountaineer Football
Acknowledgments

EVENTS & DISCOVERIES

IKE PUTTERS WITH A PUTTER, YALE'S NASSAU NEMESIS, RUNDOWN ON A NEW BOSS, THE LEARNED ECONOMIST VIEW OF SPORT, AND HOW AN OLD COACH SEES IT, TOM WATSON RECALLS A PITCH, FIGHTING GAR

LESSON ON THE LAWN

This is an article from the Nov. 21, 1955 issue Original Layout

Back in Washington for a few days before moving on to Gettysburg, President Eisenhower turned his hand to a few official chores, lunched and then stepped out onto the White House putting green with his son, Major John S. Eisenhower. He watched with critical eye while the major putted a few and then, for the first time since his heart attack on September 24, Ike Eisenhower reached for a golf club (see page 28). He hefted it and it felt good. The Presidential grin broke and spread wide. He tried a few putts, then surrendered the club back to his son, watching from a lawn chair in the bright sunshine while Major Eisenhower practiced.

Thereafter, for 45 minutes, the major had the benefit of a putting lesson from the nation's No. 1 golfer, who in turn had the benefit of a pleasant sojourn in the sun as close as doctors would let him get to the game he loves best.

ROYCE ROLLS AGAIN

Hard-running halfbacks—men like Ohio State's Hopalong Cassady, TCU's Jim Swink and Oklahoma's Tommy McDonald—monopolized the football news last Saturday, but none of them provided quite the same drama as a 180-pound, freckle-faced Princeton senior whose name is Royce Flippin. Royce will never make All-America because he was hurt and played only three downs in the season's first seven games, but, as he has every fall since he entered the halls of Old Nassau, he stole the show against Yale.

As a Tiger Cub three years ago, the future Princeton captain from Montclair, N.J. scored three touchdowns and passed for a fourth to beat the Yale freshmen. As a sophomore in 1953 he scored two more and passed for a third touchdown as Princeton lost a heart-breaker 26-24.

And last year, after spending the previous three weeks on the bench with a broken wrist, Flippin proved that Yale wasn't the only school with a Frank Merriwell. He raced across the goal line three times, once in the final 16 seconds, to upend favored Eli 21-14.

Yale was again the choice last Saturday, but even old Blues were expressing doubts before the game. For one thing, it was almost too much to expect a team to gain the heights for a second straight week, and only seven days earlier they had upset rugged Army. Also, there were reports that Rolls Royce, as Flippin was inevitably nicknamed, would finally be ready to play a sizable part of the game despite the trick knee that had kept him on the bench all season.

The premonitions felt by the old grads must have filtered down to the undergrads as well. After a good first quarter, Yale folded its tents and refused to look anything like the furious-hitting, ball-hawking aggregation of a week before. In the third quarter Flippin came off the bench to administer the coup de gr√¢ce.

He set up the first touchdown with a nine-yard pass to Bill Agnew and then scored it himself from the four. Late in the game Teammate Joe DiRenzo intercepted a desperation Eli pass and ran it back 18 yards for another Princeton touchdown, and that was the only thing that prevented Flippin from having a hand in every one of his team's eight touchdowns against Yale in his three varsity seasons. By that time no one really minded; the Tigers won 13-0, and Flippin Day had been properly observed once again.

MEET BOBBY BRAGAN

Something drastic had to happen in Pittsburgh, and it has. A sometime Sunday-school teacher named Bobby Bragan, protégé of another former Sunday-school teacher named Branch Rickey, is the new manager of the Pirates. Onetime light-hitting catcher for Rickey in Brooklyn (1943-44, 1947-48), Bragan, at the age of 37, is moving up from Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League where he would have won no gold stars for good conduct if umpires awarded them as Sunday-school teachers do.

As a matter of fact, as manager of the Hollywood Stars, Bragan was a chronic pain in the neck to umpires. Once he sent eight pinch hitters up to bat for the same man in protest over a call. Another time, he sent his batboy out to coach at third base. Two years ago, thumbed out of a game he was catching, Bragan did a strip tease on the way to the bench, dropping his mitt, his shin guards, his mask and his chest protector as provocatively as a Minsky ecdysiast.

In a game in 1954, Bragan became so irritated at an umpire's ruling that he lay down in the middle of the infield, crossed his legs and gazed serenely into the sky. As Umpire Al Mutart leaned over him, one arm extended toward the showers, a photographer was at hand and the scene later appeared in LIFE as Picture of the Week. When, a few weeks later, Mutart again threw Bragan out of a game, Bobby protested: "Is this the thanks I get after I get you a full page in LIFE?"

Such shenanigans are lumped by Branch Rickey under the general heading of aggressiveness, a quality he has admired in ballplayers ever since he assembled the celebrated Gas House Gang for the St. Louis Cardinals. "One cannot say," says Rickey, "that Bobby lacks aggressiveness. Perhaps he has too much. But a manager must be unafraid. He must know his rights, but not be offensive in exercising them. Perhaps Bobby sometimes says things to umpires. Our game must have umpires, and we must respect their integrity. But I always know that Bobby is honest in his dealings with umpires. He believes he is right."

Rickey gave Bragan his first chance as manager at Fort Worth (it was there that Bobby taught Sunday school) and his protégé showed his appreciation by winning two Texas League pennants, twice finishing second and once ending up fifth.

This brought him promotion to Hollywood where, as at Pittsburgh, he succeeded Fred Haney. Bragan won the Pacific Coast League pennant his first year, finished in a tie in 1954, then lost to San Diego in the playoff. This year, Bragan's club dropped to third.

Although Rickey-trained, Bragan is the official managerial choice of Joe L. Brown, who became general manager of the Pirates when Rickey retired to his newly created role of "advisor." But no one doubts that the Rickey influence will be strong at Forbes Field next season which means, quite incidentally, that Bobby Bragan will not be so foolish as to imagine that National League umpires will hold still for the guff that got by in California. Bragan will still be Bragan, but probably a little more refined—say, a sort of early Leo Durocher.

FOOTBALL AND VEBLEN

The CBS-radio program Invitation to Learning took up Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class on a recent Sunday and made brief reference to that derisive economist's views of sport. Eric Larrabee, an associate editor of Harper's, remarked that while driving back from a vacation trip he had observed hunters everywhere, "out in full force."

"Now," Larrabee said judicially, "this is, in some ways...an admirable activity. But in others nothing could be more archaic, be more related to the predatory habits that Veblen imputed to the master class of the money, and nothing, in many senses of the word, could be more wasteful."

No one rose to dispute this view of the archaic, predatory sport of hunting which, as any hunter knows, is economically indefensible in terms of the food it provides. Instead of a defense of hunters and sportsmen, there was the mild, inconclusive comment of Richard Hofstadter, professor of history at Columbia University, that Veblen hated sports. Hofstadter recalled "his particularly sardonic observations on college football...that football bore the same relation to physical culture as a bullfight does to agriculture."

Veblen, a man who could write an entire chapter on sports without ever thinking of the word "fun," held that sportsmen have "essentially a boyish temperament," and then in making his comparison between football and bullfighting, he observed darkly that adult sports share the make-believe of children's games.

"Serviceability for these lusory institutions [football and bullfighting]," Veblen wrote, "requires sedulous training or breeding. The material used, whether brute or human, is subjected to careful selection and discipline, in order to secure and accentuate certain aptitudes and propensities which are characteristic of the ferine state, and which tend to obsolescence under domestication.... The culture bestowed in football gives a product of exotic ferocity and cunning. It is a rehabilitation of the early barbarian temperament, together with a suppression of those details of temperament which, as seen from the standpoint of the social and economic exigencies, are the redeeming features of the savage character."

These are harsh words, and must have been written with outthrust tongue and a good deal of heavy breathing. They come from the humorless pen of a man who inspired the witless technocracy movement of the '30s. They may be contrasted with some recent words on sports by Pope Pius XII (SI, Oct. 24) and some more recent words by Adam Walsh (see below).

Veblen is by no means forgotten, and there are people loose in the world today who, now that technocracy is a dead issue, would convert the algae of the sea into rich, nutritious protein for human consumption and never mind the absence of pressed duck or stewed venison.

They are a continuing breed but fortunately, not so prolific as hunters and football fans.

OLD MULE WALSH

Adam Walsh is a man who likes to win. Once, some time ago, he was captain of a team where the backfield was called the Four Horsemen, the line was called the Seven Mules, and they almost always won. Now Adam Walsh (Rockne called him the best center he had ever coached) stood dead in the middle of a battered, bruised and humiliated squad—his team—which had just lost its 14th game in 15 Saturdays. The last game of the season was over and Bowdoin College had been drubbed by the University of Maine 54-8.

There was neither defeat nor resignation in the strident Walsh voice that cut through the yelps of celebration from the adjoining locker room.

"Now see here...see here. Steve, come here. In the won and lost column we had a lousy average. But I want you to know that I am the proudest coach in the country. You never quit trying this year...and, Steve [Captain Steve McCabe], I want to say, out of my 28 years of coaching, you led and acted like a winner, Steve.

"Just one more thing.... Nobody, nobody leaves this room with a chin drooping. When you go out of here, walk to that other room and shake hands with the Maine football team and their coach, Hal Westerman. But nobody is ashamed, remember. Nobody's ashamed. You don't ever have to be when Bowdoin is your college. That's all."

There was a noticeable straightening of backs. Bowdoin players who had sat despondent got busy and stripped themselves for the showers.

Coach Walsh turned to the small crowd at the door of the locker room. "We were champions of Maine, and four years ago we were one of the leading small colleges in the country," he said. "Two good freshman classes in a row, and they'll feel our sting again.

"You know the thing I'm really worried about? The few youngsters who love bodily contact...they're coming in fewer numbers every year. The competition to get those boys has increased unbelievably. Why are there fewer youngsters who love to compete in body-contact sports? Why?

"I'll tell you why. A good share of the blame must be placed right on the shoulders of the physical education curriculum at the teacher-training institutions. Particularly at those institutions where the philosophy is: 'If the activity has no carry-over value into a man's later exercise, it has no place in the educational system.'

"This terrible approach is drilled into them. They go out and teach, and the philosophy rubs off onto their pupils, both the teacher and pupils become parents in time and what happens to their youngsters?

"All youngsters like a little rugged activity, but too many of them are guided or weaned away from it from kindergarten right on up. To get into good physical condition without the added incentive of participation in some contact sport is just no fun."

A couple of University of Maine players, with raw skin gleaming from their noses, stopped by and congratulated Adam Walsh on Bowdoin's play, not in mock but in good faith.

"There's what I mean," said Old Mule Walsh. "Two finely conditioned boys—gentlemen—credits to their school. The kind of kids you'd want to join you at home Saturday night and help you work on a pot of baked beans. A few of our educators should get down off the 50-yard lines and see some of these fine kids standing in the raw: bruised, bleeding, and their hearts aching, but always gentlemen." He paused a moment, then went on:

"I'll tell you, tell you this: in any field of endeavor the difference between the good and the great is that voluntary willingness to make that little extra effort that is not demanded by the boss or the coach. That little extra which comes from within oneself. That was ingrained into me by Rockne.

"God love him...and may I never lose it."

CURVE BALL NO. 1

Thomas J. Watson Sr., a white-haired man of erect carriage and commanding presence in spite of his 81 years, presented 251 sports trophies (see page SO) to employees of his International Business Machines Corporation and their offspring the other day for achievements in just about everything from quoits to volleyball. In the course of doing so he casually let drop that he knew who pitched the first curve ball.

The occasion was IBM's 40th semiannual sports trophy dinner, held in the gymnasium of the employee-run Country Club's new $750,000 field house near Endicott, New York. Before efficiently passing out the trophies in 14 minutes flat, Watson summed up the benefits of industry's recreational programs: "People who play well together, work well together." And then he told about the curve ball pitcher, John B. Stanch-field of Amherst College (1872-76), who later became a director of IBM.

"While practicing with his battery mate one day," Watson said, "Stanch-field accidentally gripped the ball with his fingers a certain way and let go a curve. All winter he and his catcher practiced the pitch and in the spring played Princeton. Stanchfield struck out every Princeton man as fast as he picked up a bat.

"The scientists challenged young Mr. Stanchfield—said a curve ball could not be thrown. The argument got rather hot and one of the scientists wrote to the president of Amherst and suggested that an end be put to this ridiculous claim. The president called Stanchfield into his office and said, 'See here, young man, you will have to stop making these ridiculous claims about a curve ball. Now will you please apologize and stop this nonsense?' "

But Stanchfield asked the president to step out to a tobacco barn nearby.

"He threw the ball," Watson related, "and it disappeared around the corner of the barn and the president of Amherst was astounded."

And to the young people gathered at the dinner, Watson suggested that a lesson might be drawn from this.

"Never get discouraged by textbooks and scientists," he said. "Go ahead on your own."

TROUBLE IN ARKANSAS

Chester Robertson is a Chicago oilman and sportsman who long ago concluded that tarpon on light tackle are the ultimate in game fishing, which is a reasonable conclusion. Then Robertson encountered a 202-pound alligator gar a couple of months ago in the White River of Arkansas. By the time he reached home he was still bubbling over the experience, and when he encountered Jack R. Griffin, conductor of the Chicago Sun-Times column The Great Outdoors, he had this to say:

"Honest, I didn't think there was that kind of animal left since the dinosaur went out of fashion.

"I floated the White River out of DeWitt. It's like another land—geese blotting out the sky, deer like cattle and wild turkey.

"In time, we pulled into a sand bar. I put a two-pound chunk of meat on a treble hook and threw it out in the water.

"In a little while, the reel started clicking and the guide said it was a big one.

"I couldn't see where this was going to be so much. But that was before I picked up the rod. When I did, that thing took off like a coyote scaled with a hot iron.

"No tarpon I ever saw ever raised half as much rumpus. That evil thing made a leap clean out of the water, snapping like a mad dog.

"When one of those critters opens its mouth, it's like looking down the throat of an alligator. I wanted to drop everything and run, but there was no place to go.

"We wrestled up and down that sand bar for two hours, him leaping and snarling, and me sweating and shaking.

"When I did slide him up on the bar he still was ready to chew on anything in sight with those fangs, and that included me.

"The guide shot him with a pistol and I never was so glad to see a critter give up the ghost."

AS THEY TELL IT

Going the rounds in the Midwest just now is the following piece of unevaluated weather intelligence based on a report by that time-honored source, the wise old Indian guide who has just returned to his tribe after a tour of northern territory: it will be a cold winter with heavy snows.

How does the wise old Indian know?

"Because white man is building high snow fences."

END OF THE SEASON

Our alumni are hot-tempered,
They take the strong approach,
They forget about the effigy
And simply hang the coach.
—BARNEY HUTCHISON

THREE ILLUSTRATIONS

CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD

While Oklahoma and TCU marched jauntily toward bowl dates, some others had trouble. West Virginia, for one, which fell from the unbeaten ranks by losing to Pittsburgh 26-7. Maryland, for another, which had to overcome a two-touchdown deficit to beat Clemson 25-12. And UCLA, which needed a field goal in the last 18 seconds to shade Washington 19-17 and lost star Tailback Ronnie Knox in the process. But the broken bone in Knox's right leg could be worse: "He'll be ready for the Rose Bowl," said the UCLA doctor.

Jack Kramer, worried about his own ability to go full speed on the forthcoming world professional tennis tour, withdrew from the playing cast and hired another old pro: Richard (Pancho) Gonzales. The final lineup, after some juggling worthy of Casey Stengel, will open in New York's Madison Square Garden Dec. 12 with Gonzales playing Tony Trabert in the feature match.

El Chama and Prendase, a pair of stretch-running neighbors from Venezuela, continued a private duel of their own in the Laurel International. They finished one-two in the $65,000 invitational affair while horses from Ireland, England, France, Germany, Canada and the U.S. trailed along behind.

Leo Durocher put an end to conjecture he might return to baseball next year. Contacted by phone about a Pacific Coast League managerial vacancy at Seattle, Leo brought his caller up short: "You know that room you're standing in right now?" he asked. "Well, it won't hold enough money to get me back in baseball."

Arnold Jonnson, who brought big league baseball to Kansas City, may entice pro football there as well. Although the Chicago Cardinals deny they will sell their NFL franchise, Johnson has been told the deal might be worked out—and he's interested in trying once the season is over.

"...and now, Mrs. Whistler, for $64,000 what is your answer?"

"Well, let's see, Mr. March. It was October 15 in Boston, a cloudy afternoon. Devore had led off with a single, then Doyle hit a little blooper over Yerkes' head, and Snodgrass came through with a double scoring Devore and Doyle. But Murray flied out to Speaker, and Merkle, who was playing first base, got another hit scoring Snodgrass. And the game was just about all over before it started. Wood went to the showers and Hall came in, and Tesreau, who was pitching for the Giants..."