THE FALL DENOMINATOR
As usual last Saturday the big silver airliners spun their transcontinental webs across the U.S.—and as usual the intercoms broke into occasional cracklings of pilot-to-passenger talk. Dull talk at first about altitude, air speed and weather conditions ahead, but with exciting climaxes like this:
"UCLA is leading Southern Cal 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.... Ohio State still leads Michigan 3-0, going into the final period.... We have now picked up a final score on the Harvard-Yale game: Yale 21, Harvard 7."
The same kind of information was buzzing out to drivers on U.S. high-ways and to ships at sea, instantly to become American conversation. For last Saturday was part of that season, from September to Thanksgiving or so, when Democrats and Republicans, highbrows and lowbrows, possibly even stray Guelphs and Ghibellines, find a common denominator, if not common agreement, in the football season.
November 28, 1955
This one had now worked its way from shirt-sleeves to earmuffs, and in its natural course had proved or disproved hundreds of fascinating September propositions.
Herman Hickman, whose now-celebrated hunches last year were 162 right, 62 wrong, 9 ties, after this fateful Saturday, stood at 180 right, 61 wrong, 9 ties at the same moment this year.
It had been a season when any good team (accent on the good) could apparently beat any other on a given day. For example, Michigan beat Michigan State which beat Illinois which beat Michigan. Mississippi beat LSU which beat Kentucky which beat Mississippi. Only two major teams—Oklahoma and Maryland—were left undefeated, and one of those would pretty certainly beat the other in the Orange Bowl.
Each section had its great team, some more than one: UCLA on the Pacific Coast; Ohio State and Michigan State and Notre Dame in the Midwest; Oklahoma and TCU and Texas A&M in the Southwest; Maryland, Georgia Tech and Auburn in the South. Navy emerged as the best of a wobbly crop in the un-deemphasized East, and Princeton stood out among the Ivy Leaguers, who were playing the game for fun, although an occasional bare knuckle was still visible.
Some of the stars (all praise to the modern university publicity department) were super stars. The mere mention of a select few leaves one conscious of omission. But how is it possible not to talk about Hopalong Cassady of Ohio State and Ron Beagle of Navy and Jim Swink of Texas Christian; Paul Hornung of Notre Dame and Tommy McDonald of Oklahoma; Maryland's terrific twosome, Ed Vereb and Bob Pellegrini, or the pair of dazzling tailbacks from UCLA, Ronnie Knox and Sam Brown? And to mention Ronnie again, how could it go unrecorded that, whereas the fates let his now famous stepfather Harvey off unscathed, he (Ronnie) wound up with a broken leg?
The surprise team of the year was Coach Bear Bryant's almost unbelievable bunch of sophomores at Texas A&M, who came up two years ahead of schedule to dominate the Southwest Conference. Or maybe Michigan State, which handed Notre Dame its only loss and earned a Rose Bowl bid by finishing second in the strongest conference in the land.
The big play? It was made by a sophomore named Frank Riepl, from oft-beaten Pennsylvania, who ran back 108 yards with the opening kickoff to put Penn ahead of mighty Notre Dame—temporarily. Or perhaps it was the field goal kicked by UCLA's Jim Decker in the last 18 seconds of play to beat Washington 19-17. Or maybe it was not one play at all but three—all in the last four minutes and each good for a touchdown, as Texas A&M came from behind to beat Rice 20-12.
Winning was still pretty important. Hung in effigy because their teams had disappointing seasons were Pappy Waldorf of California, Jess Hill of Southern Cal and Al Kircher of Washington State. Also hanged by the figurative neck until figuratively dead was a sportswriter named Jack Murphy, who dared to defend them. Down in the Southwest no one proposed a necktie party for Coach Ed Price of Texas, but he still had his troubles. Football-mad alumni were so indignant when the Longhorns lost four of their first five games they organized a move to fire Price at year's end—and then were furious when he won his next three to foil their plans.
More and more players accepted the new look—plastic face masks—and thus became the nearest thing to knights in full armor since the Middle Ages. As for the rules, coaches appeared so pleased that no one even talked of a major change.
Attendance was on the upswing—except possibly in the rain-and-snow-spattered East. Michigan consistently played before crowds of better than 90,000 and ended its season before an alltime record Ann Arbor crowd of 97,369. On the same day, UCLA and Southern California played to 95,878 in Los Angeles' Memorial Coliseum. Although more than 100,000 tickets had been sold, it was the scalpers who got scalped when thousands stayed home to watch the game free on TV.
It isn't over yet. Next Saturday more than 100,000—the year's biggest crowd—will watch Army meet Navy for the 56th time (see page 21).
Unless you have your ticket, you better get settled beside your TV set or your radio. Or, loftier still, get an airplane and consult your fly boy.
The deer season is on, and herewith are early bulletins from several fronts:
The paramedics of the 49th Air Rescue Squadron at Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan are accustomed, every year, to make a practice jump into heavily wooded country. The jumpers deliberately land in trees and then cut their way to the ground as part of their realistic training. This month, with the approval of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Huron National Forest near Mio, Mich. was selected for the maneuvers. Forest rangers and state police were alerted, and the paramedics took off for the jump area. They were scarcely airborne when a state trooper had a sudden, horrible thought: Wouldn't paramedics crashing through tree branches sound exactly like 10-point bucks breaking through underbrush? And, with deer hunters swarming through the forest, wouldn't there be some of the trigger-happy who would shoot first and look later?
A frantic phone call was put through to Selfridge Air Base and relayed to the paramedics' plane just in time for the jump to be called off. The paramedics were saved, but before the day was over, Michigan deer hunters had nonetheless killed one of their fellow hunters, wounded seven others.
In Vermont, meanwhile, Earl Sanborin, 38, of Springfield refused to pass up the season's opening despite a broken leg. He went hunting with his father, who placed him comfortably in a rocking chair at the edge of a field. As Sanborin rocked himself and his father went looking for deer, a buck came out into the field. Sanborin stopped rocking and brought down the buck. Then he used the ejected shell as a whistle to summon his father.
Final bulletin: in Manitowoc, Wis., Hunter Melvin O. Berninger held up a big bird and called out to a passing stranger: "How do you like the snow goose I got?"
The stranger, a game warden, fined Berninger $25 for shooting a swan.
BLUEBIRD IN THE NEW WORLD
Lake Mead, Nevada made a glistening stage for Donald Campbell's assault on his own world water-speed record. It also furnished fascinating contrasts with his summertime attempts in the English Lake Country.
When Campbell hit his record 202.3 mph last July, he did it in the rural privacy of England's Lake Ullswater. His laboratory was a converted hangar. His sponsors were almost nonexistent—a fact which Campbell noted with some acerbity; and he had to take an alarmingly large bite from family resources to get the boat in the water.
This time it was different. When Donald announced he was looking for smoother water to try to go even faster, American sponsors rose like trout. The Mobiloil people were proud and happy to help back the attempt if he would let their engineers poke at Bluebird from time to time. And the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas—which at other times has pulled customers by displaying Marlene Dietrich in a transparent evening dress—thought Bluebird would look fine in the hotel lobby, especially if it set a new record.
Campbell and Bluebird went to Nevada. The first try at a new mark October 16 was observed by pleasure boats and a national TV audience. The pleasure boats stirred up the lake so much that Bluebird sank while being towed, with the record unassaulted and the TV audience unrewarded.
Raised and refurbished, Bluebird made a series of warmup runs and by November 16 was again ready to go.
Campbell was up at 4 a.m. The weather, which had been blustery for three days, was perfect. Crew Chief Leo Villa, after a final check, pronounced the boat perfect. The apparatus used to time the run, however, was less than perfect. Someone had stolen several thousand feet of the special timing cable. The situation was retrieved by forest rangers, who rode to the rescue with telephone cable.
At 10 a.m. Campbell judged the moment just right. He ran to the boat shouting, "Let's go! Let's go!" And off he went down the course, with the roar of his jet engine echoing off the Nevada hills, the big Bluebird up and skimming on her tiny planing surfaces.
At the end of the first run Campbell barked crisply into his radiophone: "About 235!" His guess was 4.5 mph short of his actual speed. On the required return run the wind began to blow, and Bluebird smashed into a long swell.
"I bounced around like a cockle-shell," he said. "If one had not been wearing a harness one would have been thrown through the canopy."
The return was clocked at 193.1 mph. Average time for both runs: 216.2 mph, another new world record. Shutting off the power, Campbell paddled his two-ton jet boat ashore.
"That's enough for the time being," he said. "We've learned everything we wanted to know. We knew the boat would go a lot faster. There'll be no more immediate runs."
Then Campbell was hoisted onto the shoulders of admirers and carried off in the direction of a victory party at the Sahara, where he was presented with a cake 3 feet tall and a life membership in the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. Bluebird, in her turn, was hoisted onto a truck and carted into the lobby. A sign over the Sahara now reads: HOME OF DONALD CAMPBELL AND THE BLUEBIRD.
THE BUTCHER'S HORSE
In France, it must be understood, the horsemeat is highly regarded. It is cheaper than the best cuts of beef, and, moreover, many Frenchmen consider it to be superior in taste and texture. Thus, it follows that the dealer in horsemeat is a citizen of substance, respected and honored in his community.
Such is Monsieur Marius Auteroche, purchasing agent of an abattoir in the town of Arcueil (pop. 16,000), which lies just south of Paris. A barrel-shaped little man of 52, dressed in his blue trousers, yellow turtle-neck sweater, blue smock and blue fedora, Monsieur Auteroche may be seen any day inspecting the beasts that are brought to him, appraising them with an expert eye, rapidly calculating the price that may be paid for them and still insure a profit on the butchered and dressed meat. But if one looks at Monsieur Auteroche and sees only the buyer of horsemeat, he does not see all. For, as anyone in Arcueil will attest, Monsieur Auteroche is a connoisseur of horses that are bred to run and jump and trot. Indeed, he himself was a driver of trotters for a while after World War II, winning a dozen races and the nickname of "Little Giant" from the sportswriters. So it will be evident that when Monsieur Auteroche looks at a horse brought to the abattoir, he sees more, sometimes, than hamburger. More than once he has spotted a thoroughbred still able to run again.
For instance, there was this certain horse named Fanfaron IV. Only 18 months old, Fanfaron was a member of a stable whose owner suddenly became disgusted with its inability to win races. "Sell off the older ones," he cried. "Let the younger ones be butchered for meat!" Thus it happened that one day, little more than a year ago, Fanfaron joined the procession that paraded before Monsieur Auteroche.
But what a parade for Fanfaron! Such a kicking and screaming and bucking and snorting and the lashing out with a hoof that nearly brained a poor butcher, respected citizen of France though he was! Other butchers rushed to help, but before they could attack Fanfaron the voice of Monsieur Auteroche was heard loud and clear: "Attendez! Such spirit is not for hamburger! Nor yet for meat loaf! I take this one for myself! This one I shall race!"
Monsieur Auteroche was as good as his word. He sent Fanfaron to a stable near Chantilly and put him into training as a steeplechaser. Last April, Fanfaron's big test came. He was entered in Prix des Landes at Enghein. How did he run? As from a butcher, galloping (some say looking back fearfully over his shoulder) to an easy victory. Monsieur Auteroche entered him again and again, and in eight starts Fanfaron won four times, placed second twice, won a total of 4 million francs. The newspaper headlines screamed: FANFARON DOMINATES FIELD, FANFARON LOOKS STRONG CONTENDER, and soon Fanfaron became a national favorite, especially delighted his fans by winning a flat race at Longchamp, a thing most unusual for a horse trained to jump. More recently, Fanfaron won at the Auteuil track in Paris, the purse amounting to 1.5 million francs, which is not hay, nor yet hamburger.
"He will win many times more," said Monsieur Auteroche the other day as he stood in the courtyard of the abattoir, dressed as usual in his blue smock and blue fedora and watching the parade of the old and tired horses without the strength to kick and snort and win a reprieve like Fanfaron.
As for Fanfaron, he was taking no chances. Last Sunday afternoon he was entered in the Prix Georges Brinquant at the Auteuil track in Paris. And, as usual, one would have thought the butchers were after him. He won by 2½ lengths, bringing Monsieur Auteroche another 2 million francs.
DODGERS' DOME (CONT.)
The day could scarcely have been better for the purpose. Outside, the snow fell thickly on Princeton's Palmer Stadium and ushers carried snow shovels to clear seats for early arrivals at the Princeton-Dartmouth game. But inside the laboratory of the School of Architecture, the men were snug and warm as they inspected a model of a new kind of stadium that might put sports events (specifically the ball games of the Brooklyn Dodgers) beyond the reach of the worst of weather.
The men in the laboratory included R. Buckminster Fuller, distinguished designer of geodesic, igloo-like structures and a visiting professor at Princeton and other universities, and Walter O'Malley, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who, months ago, had proposed that Mr. Fuller design a domed stadium that would be practical for baseball. Mr. Fuller not only agreed, but invited the graduate students of architecture at Princeton to construct a model from his plans.
Now the big moment was at hand. Mr. O'Malley had driven down from Brooklyn in his big black Buick and was getting his first look at the handiwork of the students and Mr. Fuller. As Mr. Fuller watched anxiously, Mr. O'Malley peered through the open spaces of the model where dome and grandstand meet. He looked down on the playing field painted within the model (see page 30). Finally, Mr. O'Malley turned and pointed to the snow outside. "Could we have a better day to prove the point?" he asked. Then he looked at Mr. Fuller. "Bucky," he said, "this is just great. I'm just thrilled with it. I'm absolutely delighted. Let's slip off our coats."
Everybody took off his coat and Mr. O'Malley walked to a table and sat down. The others followed: Mr. Fuller; Arthur (Red) Patterson, Mr. O'Malley's public relations man; Robert W. McLaughlin, director of the School of Architecture; Professor Jean Labatut and Billy Kleinsasser, one of the graduate students.
Mr. O'Malley put a fresh cigar in a fresh paper holder and began to speak:
"Let's look at some practical considerations. The average ball club will lose $200,000 a year because of weather—attendance reduced and games postponed. An average of $20,000 will be spent for nylon field covering. A crew of 21 men will be employed to take up the field cover and put it back on. It will cost 50¢ a year to paint each seat in the conventional ball park. Now the advantages of Mr. Fuller's design are numerous—no revenue lost because of weather, no field protection necessary. The seats would not have to be painted or repaired so frequently, and we might even have theater-type seats. The lighting for night games would be better since it would be directed up toward the dome and not down into the eyes of players and spectators. There would be no shadows of trusses on the playing field."
Mr. Fuller spoke up:
"There would be no shadows of any kind, Walter; and another thing, the burning effect of the sun would be eliminated by the translucent dome and yet spectators would be able to get a tan—without the burn. The grass would grow greener, too; that has been proved."
Mr. O'Malley nodded. "That's an important point, Bucky. As I see it, your design would create a sort of greenhouse atmosphere with the blue skies visible through the openings at the back of the stands. That's extremely important psychologically because baseball is traditionally an outdoor game. Bucky, what seating capacity does your model suggest?"
"Walter," said Bucky, "we thought of 100,000."
Mr. O'Malley shook his head. "I think 52,000 would be more practical, Bucky."
Mr. Fuller nodded: "It could be 52,000 just as easily."
Mr. O'Malley looked at his cigar.
"Oh," he said, "the advantages are endless. No posts or pillars anywhere. Every seat would have an unobstructed view. Well, now. Where do we go from here? Can we purchase the land we need for a stadium? Well, the City of New York has appropriated $100,000 for a study of the Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue area in Brooklyn. Perhaps, in the solving of many problems that must be solved in that area, perhaps as an incident in the rehabilitation of that area, some land will be made available for purchase by the Brooklyn Dodgers. In the meantime, I could not be more pleased with what has been accomplished by Mr. Fuller and the students here at Princeton. When we build our stadium, I surely hope it will be an enclosed stadium, and the Fuller dome seems to me to be practical and economical."
"This stadium would be tremendous from the air," said Mr. Patterson. "It would be a landmark of New York."
Mr. O'Malley nodded and tossed away his cigar.
"It would be big enough to enclose St. Peter's in Rome," he said, looking around at the others. Then, raising his voice as if he hoped the politicians could hear him at Borough Hall in Brooklyn, he solemnly declared:
"It would be one of the wonders of the world."
DOOR OIL GORY MAYOR
Odor oil gory mayor, shay ant washy oyster bay,
Ant washy oyster bay,
Ant washy oyster bay!
Odor oil gory mayor, shay ant washy oyster bay
Money lung yares a gore!
—H. L. CHACE
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Wes Santee, who has done everything but run a four-minute mile, was given a chance to do just that—and go after the Olympic 1,500-meter crown as well—when his three-week-old suspension, for accepting excessive expense money last spring in three California meets, was lifted by the AAU.
Phog Allen, never at a loss for words in 38 years of coaching Kansas basketball teams, was stopped by a 7-foot freshman named Wilt (The Stilt) Chamberlain. Along with 14,000 fans, Allen watched his 19-year-old phenomenon score 42 points and lead the Kansas freshmen to an 81-71 victory over the Kansas varsity. Said Allen finally, "He's just like putting hot grease on lettuce. He makes you wilt."
Le Mans' famed 24-hour race, its future threatened by the death of some 80 persons there this year, is back on the 1956 program—but not the same big 170-mph Mercedes-Benzes, Jaguars and Ferraris. The French have decided on a cylinder-displacement limit of 2,500 cc (roughly that of a production Austin-Healey) on all prototype models as part of a new safety program.
New York State's 1955 racing season came to an end last week at both flat racing and harness tracks and all that was left were some big round figures: 9,582,236 bettors poured enough money into the parimutuels for the state to emerge with a tax share of $63 million. The biggest factor in a multi-million-dollar increase since parimutuel betting was legalized 15 years ago: attendance at the trotting tracks was up from 126,239 in 1940 to more than 5 million this year.
Five football teams were all set for a big day on Jan. 2: Oklahoma and Maryland (Orange Bowl), UCLA and Michigan State (Rose Bowl), TCU (Cotton Bowl). Sugar and Cotton Bowl officials expect to complete the lineup after this week's games.