SCOUTING REPORT FOR '56
This is an article from the Jan. 2, 1956 issue
For the reason that Americans are a sports-loving people, it is considered a good idea for a presidential candidate to show active interest in sport and thus perhaps win to his cause millions of fishermen, golfers and whatnot. This is indeed sound political thinking, for, as President Eisenhower has remarked, sport is our national common denominator. There are, furthermore, lessons in democracy to be learned from sport. Former President Hoover has noted, for instance, that all men are equal before fish.
This winter, with a presidential election coming up, potential candidates of the two parties—avowed, unavowed and dark horse—have been sitting assiduously in duckblinds, polishing their putters to a silvery gleam and testing the tautness of racket heads, not unconscious of that November day when the American people will draw the curtains on the voting machines and make their inscrutable choice between, perhaps, a Republican low-handicap golfer and a Democratic dry-fly fisherman. As a service to its readers, SI has prepared a scouting report on the sporting backgrounds of several who, for one reason or another, have been mentioned as possible nominees of the two parties.
It is not known, of course, whether President Eisenhower will decide to run again but, in any case, his accomplishments in sport are well known. He is a golfer, a fisherman, a hunter and fan. Here is the rundown on half a dozen others (more later if necessary):
Adlai Stevenson: Likes all kinds of hunting, especially quail, pheasant and duck. Pretty good shot with 12-gauge Ithaca pump. Missed a North Carolina buck last year. A fly-fisherman for trout and salmon but also plugs for bass. Fond of tennis, still plays a good game. Former 18-handicap golfer. Used to maintain three horses but gave them up because of constant travel and now borrows rides from a neighbor.
Governor Averell Harriman: Likes to hunt, and shot first deer at age of 8 in the Adirondacks, has hunted in West and in Austria. Particularly enjoys pheasant and has two favorite guns, both double-barreled 12-gauge Purdys. Once raised Labrador retrievers, one of which made the cover of LIFE (Dec. 12,1938) before Harriman made a recent TIME cover (Nov. 14, 1955). Used to bowl close to 200, was an eight-goal polo player and college oarsman. Ardent baseball fan and Dodger rooter, with fine mind for statistics. Topnotch bridge player, skier, bass fisherman.
Senator Estes Kefauver: Made University of Tennessee varsity football team in sophomore year and during senior year was All-Southern Conference tackle. Captain of track team as shotputter and discus thrower, with a throw of 142 feet standing for a time as conference record. Coached high school football at Hot Springs, Arkansas. Now shoots skeet, ice skates, swims in the Senate pool. Good fly-fisherman and rifle shot. Bagged Texas deer with first shot. Used to shoot around 90 before giving up golf. Likes to ride bicycle with children and owns motorbike.
Governor Frank J. Lausche: Played sandlot baseball (third base) in teens, then pro ball with Duluth, where he made record books with 14 assists, two putouts and an error in single game. Was with Lawrence, Massachusetts when World War I broke out. Played at Camp Gordon, Georgia but after war turned down offer from Atlanta club in order to study law. Years later, as Ohio governor at $13,000 a year, was one of four considered for baseball commissioner at $65,000, but rejected opportunity. One of top bowlers in Middle West in early 1930s. Frequently attends Ohio State football games. Plays high-class billiards and has posted some flashy 69s on 72-par Columbus (Ohio) Golf Club course. Cold weather golfing gear: long woolen underwear, high lace boots and sizable tarn o'shanter which he shifts from ear to ear as one or the other gets numb.
Vice-president Richard M. Nixon: Principal outdoor recreation is swimming and he also uses the Senate pool. Prefers salt water. Took up golf just before vice-presidential nomination. Has fished and hunted. Fan of the Washington Redskins and Senators and attends games whenever he's not too busy. Was a game volunteer at Whittier College, went out for practice but never made any teams. He gets most of his exercise in fast walks around Washington.
Chief Justice Earl Warren: One of official Washington's most ardent football and baseball fans, has attended half a dozen Redskin games, one Baltimore Colts game and a Maryland game this fall. Seldom misses a Rose Bowl game. Threw out first ball at annual Congressional baseball game. Met wife in swimming pool at party. Son Robert is center on California Aggies. Likes to fish and hunt birds, went Chesapeake Bay fishing a few weeks ago. Has played golf. Boxed some in college. California's most distinguished nocturnal grunion grabber.
Senator William F. Knowland: Attends couple of football games a year, swims occasionally in Senate pool, but principal recreation is walking, at exhaustingly fast pace, through Capitol and Senate corridors, bounding up staircases because cannot wait for elevators. In recent years has made a point of attending annual California-Stanford game but missed it this year.
Governor Goodwin J. Knight: In grade school teamed with Jimmy Doolittle as doubles handball champion. High school cheerleader. Made the Stanford Rugby team and broke nose against Santa Clara in 1917. Refers to daily staff conference as "skull practice." Once made two hits in boys' reformatory baseball game (but Mrs. Knight got three hits). Health-juice drinker (coconut and carrot cocktails, cabbage juice). When courting Mrs. Knight he challenged her to 100-yard race. She won. Does setting-up exercises and shadow boxes around governor's mansion. Does fine buck and wing and often leaves staff meetings with off-to-Buffalo shuffle.
SPORTLER DES JAHRES
A respected German sports publication named Internationalen Sport-Korrespondenz has named Sandor Iharos, the superb Hungarian runner, its athlete of the year, or Sportier des Jahres, to give it the German. An American Baseballspieler named Johnny Podres finished well down in the voting, although Internationalen Sport-Korrespondenz noted that while "Podres is relatively unknown outside America...he is highly thought of in the United States."
SI thought highly enough of Podres to salute him this week as its second annual Sportsman of the Year, to succeed the memorable Roger Bannister. It also thinks highly enough of the game of baseball to feel that in not too many years a baseball player of stature and significance may enjoy the international reputation of, say, a track-and-field athlete. Because just as modern track and field, primarily an Anglo-Irish-American sport, has spread all around the world, so may baseball, which is becoming a highly popular American export. It is extremely popular in Latin America and, as the Yankees' tour of Japan last fall proved, in the Far East as well. It is even being played more and more in Europe, too, which is becoming receptive to peculiarly American sports: for instance, a football game between two U.S. Navy teams in Lisbon, Portugal early in the autumn drew a crowd of 45,000 people.
So, maybe in a few Jahren an American Baseballspieler might yet be the voters' choice for Internationalen Sport-Korrespondenz' Sportier of the year. Till then, turn to page 19.
The release the other day of the 1955 tennis rankings gave U.S. tennis buffs a fine chance to kick around a remark tossed off last summer by Harry Hopman, the Australian Davis Cup captain. "As a group," said Harry, "the American top 10 is better than the Australian top 10." Fortunately for Hopman—and unfortunately for his American counterpart Billy Talbert—the Davis Cup is not contested between 10-man teams but between two or three of the best from each nation.
Now that Tony Trabert has turned professional, the U.S. has little to offer in the form of a threat to Australia's Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall. Most of the old familiar names are back again, but some of them belong to men such as Vic Seixas, 32 and over the hill as a singles player, and Art Larsen, the veteran temperamentalist. Even Ham Richardson, once regarded as the logical successor to Trabert, may not make it. Now that he's become a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, Ham admits his tennis must play second string to his studies.
Where all this will leave the U.S. team won't be known until the summer when they start playing the big international tournaments. However, a preview of things to come may take place in Brisbane this month when the Australians run off their National Championships (January 20-30). America was invited to send "two leading men players." There were acceptances from two: 27-year-old Herbie Flam and 27-year-old Gil Shea. Shea has experienced a few wonderful moments on a tennis court, but so far they have been too few and too far between. Flam is known in the trade as a great spoiler, and at one time or another during the last half a dozen years he has knocked off virtually every big name in amateur tennis.
If Flam and Shea play respectably in Brisbane this month, the USLTA brass may be able to smile again. If not, they might do worse than to consider a Davis Cup rule change. For instance: the U.S. top 10 against the Australian top 10. On those terms even Harry Hopman would give us a chance.
THE WRESTLING CROWD
Awaiting the entrance of the wrestiers for the next feature match, the crowd is strangely silent. The men chew their cigars, the women, most of them middle-aged, sit thoughtfully. A reverend in a clerical collar walks down the aisle and takes a seat in what would be the press section if the press attended wrestling matches.
The hawkers yell out their wares confidently, addressing the spectators as equals, not deferentially as at the tennis matches or the horse show. There are soldiers and sailors here and there in the crowd. It is an adult crowd; the law of this state says that boys and girls under 16 may not attend professional boxing or wrestling matches.
In one of the $5 seats sits an astonishingly thin man with a face like the edge of a knife and a wisp of a mustache that he keeps trying to brush away. He listens to a question and shakes his head.
"I will not give you my name," he says, "but I will give you my philosophy. I have paid $5 to attend a program of professional wrestling because I consider the wrestling arena to be the natural refuge of the thinking man. Outside is the great absurd world in which traffic signs flash 'Don't Walk' in all directions at once and television commercials show men lathering half their faces with a recommended shaving cream and half with Brand X."
He shudders and draws the back of his hand rapidly back and forth across his knifelike face as if honing himself.
"When I left home this evening," he continues, "my brother-in-law lay fast asleep on the hide-a-bed sofa in the living room reeking of after-shave lotion. If I were a man instead of a mouse, I would throw him out, but my wife is a strong woman and would break me in two.
"Here a man can speak his mind, take his stand, applaud virtue and denounce evil."
Suddenly, there is a great roar from the wrestling crowd and the thin man jumps to his feet with the others, brandishing his fist and screaming unintelligibly. Down the aisle, lifting his feet high as if he were stepping in something unpleasant, comes a wrestler wearing a cap and gown, as for a college commencement exercise. He is attended by a lackey who wears long hair tied in the back with a small ribbon, a style reminiscent of George Washington as a young man. The wrestler is clearly Professor Shire, described in a program note as a graduate of Northwestern University and thus, in wrestling values, entitled to professorial rank. As the Professor enters the ring, he doffs his mortar board, revealing his bleached blond hair, and the booing mounts in volume. An unescorted young woman, wearing her hair in a ponytail, cups her hands to her mouth and yells, "G'wan home, ya bum, ya." A fat woman in a white hat and green sweater races to ringside as if to attack the Professor, but instead she holds out an autograph book, which he signs with an evil smile. Another fat lady, wearing a flowered black dress, scurries down the aisle and stops to aim a Brownie Hawkeye flash camera at the Professor, who is now mincing around the ring, lifting his feet high in the manner that infuriates the crowd.
The crowd boos are shut off as if someone had turned a switch. Then, almost at once, the crowd erupts again, but this time into applause and cheers. Down the aisle comes one of the heroes of the evening, Cowboy Carlson, a tall, gangling man wearing green calico chaps and a broad-brimmed hat. He, too, has bleached blond hair, but the crowd does not find it offensive. He walks with a rolling gait like a man who has just swung down from a horse. The thin man is on his feet applauding, and the autograph seeker and the Brownie camerawoman rush to their ringside stations. A distinguished-looking man in gray keeps jumping up from his seat and his wife (presumably) keeps pulling him down by the coat-tail. As the referee enters the ring, the boos mix with the cheers and the girl in the ponytail hairdo cries out with splendid impartiality: "G'wan home, ya bum, ya!"
The pattern is repeated all evening. The villains enrage the crowd with an assortment of remarkable dramatic skills. Lord Carlton of England looks at the crowd as if it were dirt. Fritz Wallick of Germany, with his monocle and Prussian haircut, compounds his hatefulness by facing the crowd and giving it a Fascist salute. The crowd becomes a lynch mob shooting blanks.
Everything is orderly, logical and proceeds according to plan. By the time the big match of the evening is announced, the thin man looks relaxed and happy, the girl in the ponytail is composed and quietly smiling. But a man leaving early passes the wrestlers' dressing room and catches a glimpse of Professor Shire sitting on a bench, cap and gown lying at his feet. He holds his bleached head in his hands. He does not look like a man who has suffered physical injury in the ring. What he looks like is a man who has been happy in the evening's charade and now dreads to face the great, absurd world outside.
CANNONADE AT CHRISTCHURCH
Few Americans can watch cricket being played without concluding that a bunch of baseball players—the auditors often visualize themselves in the starring roles—could step in and reduce the game to shambles. This, alas, is not quite so, as a good many ex-second basemen have discovered over the years. But there are exceptions to prove every rule, and it is difficult not to suggest a short cheer in reporting that the crew of U.S. Navy Tanker Y.O.G. 70 (which is operating in the South Pacific as an adjunct of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition) went ashore recently at Christchurch, New Zealand, 1) observed cricket being played, 2) concluded that they could do better and 3) astounded and-delighted the local cricket fans by defeating the White Swan Wanderers, a team of first-class players, by three runs.
The game was an unusual one in several ways. For one thing the sailors were oddly garbed; some of them wore borrowed cream-colored flannels, but most showed up in blue Navy pants and T shirts. They set out to hit home runs rather than to guard the wicket and demonstrated a native tendency to dust the New Zealand batters off when it was their turn to bowl. Both teams drank New Zealand beer after the fall of every third wicket, and the White Swan Wanderers seemed to alternate between fear of their lives and helpless laughter as the fray progressed. Even so, one of the country's ablest cricket writers, Richard T. Brittenden, was unable to repress a note of genuine awe in his account of the invaders' muscular play.
"The Christchurch team," he wrote, "batted first and scored 178. This total would have been much more modest had it not been for the refusal of the American wicket keeper, Bosun Burnett, to wear pads or more than one glove, and the insistence of most of the bowlers on throwing the ball at fearful velocity on the concrete pitch. The spectators were delighted with this cannonade...and with the long throwing of the visitors [a reference to outfielding] but appalled to find that from time to time they seemed to have abandoned shots at the wickets for the excitement of human prey. They threw fast and straight and tremendous distances and it may be that the fielding was responsible, indirectly, for the alacrity with which some of the batsmen got themselves out.
"The American batsmen refused to accept the rites of padding up. Almost every one of them retreated to a position perhaps a foot outside the leg stump, held the bat out straight-armed, like a golf club, and then raised it to the ready with an air of expectancy. The Americans...had no Washington to lead them...but they did have Bosun Williams and Bosun Trowbridge and they were obviously equal to...any...cricketing occasion. One awed spectator said he had not in 30 years of cricket seen such a variety of strokes and some sort of reverence is certainly due a batsman who can make a vicious right hook at a ball outside his off stump and score six at very fine leg. There was, too, Williams' running between the wickets; he made his ground with tremendous energy, but insisted on doing a right turn round the back of the stumps before setting off on the return journey.
"...Last evening the Americans had their success as compensation for stiff limbs and sore hands. The Americans won, and won with a final flourish worthy of one of their own films."
DILEMMA WITH HORNS
Old treaties allow many of Canada's native tribesmen a more liberal use of wild game than the paleface, but the laws still frown on market hunting. So the Province of Ontario has decided that a 26-year-old Indian named Howard Stevens went too far when he used a dead moose as down payment on a Chevrolet. A provincial court fined Stevens $100 and fined an auto dealer $200. The moose was confiscated by the Crown. Stevens drove his automobile back to the used car lot, and his fellow Goulais Reserve Indians sadly canceled plans for shooting more down payments.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
In the final moments of the Arsenal-Blackpool soccer game, with Arsenal leading 4-0, a whistle sounded. Dennis Evans, Arsenal left back, thinking the game was over, gleefully booted the ball toward his own goal. Con Sullivan, Arsenal goalie, reaching down to pick up his cap, grinned and let the ball go by. Players shook hands and started off the field. The referee called them back. Seems no official had blown the whistle, but some spectator had.
Arsenal won anyway, 4-1, with all hands agreeing that a chap should never take anything for granted.
ROSE BOWL GAME
Our gridders are playing today.
At last they can smell the roses
Because of those cowcatcher things
They wear to protect their noses.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Spring baseball training begins March 1, and ordinarily the air would now be full of winter trades. One reason for the relative quiet in the American League: instead of flying back from Japan with the Yankees last month, Casey Stengel took Mrs. Stengel on a leisurely tour of India, the Middle East and Europe. When he gets back to his desk after the holidays, look for signs of action, including a trade to bring the Yankees added pitching in exchange for surplus outfield strength.
National League trading has also been on the quiet side. A reason: the world champion Brooklyn Dodgers have trades in mind but are unwilling to block out their moves until they learn the draft status of Pitcher Johnny Podres, star of the World Series (see page 18). The Surgeon General's office, which was asked to review the medical findings on Johnny's bad back, has now returned his file to local officials, who should soon announce their verdict.
Australian track fans have just enjoyed the heady sight of a 25-year-old Australian milkman named Dave Stephens outrunning Hungary's famed Sandor Iharos twice, once at 5,000 meters, once at three miles. Now it appears that Iharos has been running in Australia with strained ligaments, due to a dislocated ankle bone. A Sydney specialist has ordered him to take three months off for complete rest or risk danger to his great career.
The U.S. indoor track season gets a boost with the announcement that Britain's Brian Hewson, one of the select five who have run a mile in less than four minutes, will arrive for two New York meets in February, the New York A.C. games and the National A.A.U. championships.
Harness racing in 1955 drew 10,242,678 customers who bet $476,728,009, both record figures. The 12 states involved collected more than $34 million in tax revenue.