A VICTORY FOR HELFAND—AND THE PUBLIC INTEREST
This is an article from the Jan. 16, 1956 issue
The triple entente which has ruled boxing—the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president), the International Boxing Guild (Charley Johnston, president) and the Syndicate (Frankie Carbo, president of boxing)—has split asunder. In less than one eventful week, a boxing commissioner who dared to use his powers of office as no predecessor ever had done has forced realignment of what had been considered an impregnable bulwark against decency in the sport. At the end of that week the wall was crumbling.
The man who did it was Julius Helfand, appointed chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission shortly after SI began its report on boxing's dirty business. His orders from Governor Averell Harriman: clean up boxing. His unique and simple weapon: the law of the state.
A few weeks ago (SI, Dec. 19) Helfand attacked a main prop of the three-legged entente. He declared that after January 15 any fight manager who belonged to the Boxing Guild of New York, an affiliate of the International, would lose his license. The Guild, he ruled and proved, was a "malevolent influence" on boxing.
The Guild's typical, predictable response was to meet in secret and to vote ("not unanimously but 100%," as Charley Johnston put it) to boycott boxing in New York. The emptiness of the threat echoed in hollow harmony with the heads of the managers, who had let themselves be organized into a state of total subjection to the entente. Very few New Yorkers attend fights in person any more. They see them on TV, like fans in every other state, and, though boxing might move elsewhere, TV sets would still operate in New York. The treasury of New York State takes only a pittance from boxing revenues. Who, then, was alarmed by the Guild threat?
Jim Norris was. He is not only the principal landlord of Madison Square Garden—and likes to keep it busy—but his Garden also makes the most efficient and popular TV fight locale. As Norris brooded on this contretemps in Miami, a modest rival promoter, the London Sporting Club (Tex Sullivan, president), announced it would fulfill TV commitments by moving its shows from New York to Baltimore. And, oddly, the Maryland boxing commission, whose Chairman J. Marshall Boone had been first to proclaim in tones as loud as his fancy vests that he would back Helfand, voted to accept the transfer, with Boone abstaining but not complaining. The Baltimore shows would be promoted locally by Benny Trotta, a draft dodger, bookmaker and friend of Carbo. Carbo had, indeed, been reported in Baltimore no less than four times during the preceding two weeks, completing arrangements for the transfer.
To this development there were simultaneous reactions from Maryland's governor, Theodore R. McKeldin, from Helfand and from Jim Norris. McKeldin ordered an investigation of boxing in his state and called the Maryland boxing commission to Annapolis for a summary report. Baltimore Police Inspector Clarence O. Forrester sped to New York to investigate and filed a confidential report to the governor. Helfand called public attention to the criminal records of Trotta and his associate, Angelo Munafo (who had kept a tavern with prostitutes as waitresses). They were, he said, henchmen of Carbo. Their records alone, he said, would endanger the New York licenses of Tex Sullivan and his partner, Willie (The Beard) Gilzenberg.
As for Jim Norris, he was suddenly asking if he couldn't please see Mr. Helfand real soon. He boarded a plane in Miami and flew to Canossa. He waited on Mr. Helfand at the commission offices and listened with downcast eye-bags as the commissioner punched home the facts of life about the boxing racket, now that the law is in command. With Norris were Truman Gibson Jr., IBC secretary, and Harry Markson, IBC's director of boxing in New York. They made a solemn little grouping. The commissioner directed his remarks to Norris, who mostly listened. Neither Gibson nor Markson had much to contribute.
As Helfand outlined to the IBC the new philosophy of boxing in New York, Governor McKeldin was duck shooting on Maryland's Eastern Shore but two of his aides were talking firmly to the state's three boxing commissioners. The commissioners returned to Baltimore and reversed themselves. The London Sporting Club would not put on fights in Maryland after all.
Jim Norris hustled from Helfand's office and into a press conference. With some $2,500,000 in TV fees at stake he had a decision to make and he made it. He announced that he would cooperate 100% with Helfand, and the Guild could take the hindmost. The IBC would continue to promote fights in New York. As to Helfand, Norris paid him tribute.
"[He] made us fish or cut bait," Norris said.
As the ship sank at the dock, the hawsers began to fill with scurrying forms. The honor of the first defection belonged strangely enough to a man named Georgie Katz, member of the Guild from Pennsylvania and manager of Gil Turner. For all that he had once declared himself a loyal Guildsman, Katz agreed to let his fighter meet Gene Fullmer at Syracuse on Friday, January 20, in a televised fight under IBC auspices. Then up spoke Al Weill, manager of Champion Rocky Marciano. "I am," he said in Los Angeles, "going along with Julius Helfand and the New York State boxing commission." Weill sent in his resignation from the Guild.
"The Guilt," as Dan Parker put it, "is kilt." For Parker's summation of the events leading up to the happy ending, see page 37.
THE RETURN OF JOHN LANDY
In the 17 months which have passed since Roger Bannister edged past him on the last turn of the Mile of the Century at Vancouver, Australia's John Landy has become a forgotten man of track—after the excitement of last year's great season, in fact, it sometimes became a little difficult to remember that his mark of 3:58, set at Turku, Finland in 1954, was still the world record. There was little reason to believe that Landy would ever run again. His father felt strongly that a man of 25 was past the age of games ("I was in business before I was that old") and the runner tended to agree with him. And Landy's pride was bruised at Vancouver; standing beneath the stadium in his disheveled green sweat clothes he said sadly, "I've had it." He meant it.
But time heals and hope springs eternal. Last September, while carrying on his duties as a teacher of agricultural science (at Timber Tops, a branch of the famed Geelong Grammar School in the rugged Whittlesea Ranges, east of Melbourne), Landy began training again. Daily for three months he ran uphill and down over rough country. Last month on a vacation at Melbourne he ran on the flat in Central Park, where he had trained for years before setting his record. Even so, he was inclined to resist the idea of trying for the Australian Olympic team. "I don't," he said rather shortly, "want to make a fool of myself." Last week he entered a half-mile race against World Record Holder Lon Spurrier of the touring U.S. track team mostly to see whether he had anything left at all.
Nobody seemed more astounded by the outcome than Landy. He had run no time trials at 880 yards. Even in his best days, he had never been noted as a sprinter. He himself expected to end up somewhere in the middle of the field. But at 550 yards, despite a fast early pace and a soggy track, he was still fresh. He tore into the lead on the last turn and held it—while 8,000 of his countrymen roared with excitement—until he was but a few yards from the tape. Though the laboring American finally caught him (Spurrier won, the judge decided, by a scant two inches), both men were clocked in 1:51.8. It was the fastest half mile of Landy's life—under the circumstances an astounding performance. Almost as soon as he had gotten his breath he announced that he would return to the wars as a miler in the Olympics.
The fans of the Lake Forest (Ill.) College basketball team were in high good humor. Lake Forest had won six games, lost none so far this season and now there was to be an evening of relaxation. The program read: Lake Forest vs. University of Paris. Not Paris, Ill., which might be a serious matter, but Paris, France. Could anything be more amusing than a team from Paris, France invading the very heartland of basketball?
As the game began, it seemed sure that this was to be an evening of comedy. For one thing, the captain of the French team was a 5-foot 9-inch, spindle-shanked little man named Bernard Planque who looked like a daguerreotype of the village barber. For another thing, the visitors played a game that looked absurdly old-fashioned. They refused to enter the frantic shoot-and-rebound American style of play; instead they concentrated on ball control, an occasional well-executed fast break and set plays off the double-pivot offense. Of course, even when they worked the ball inside, the Parisians didn't look too good as they heaved the ball flat-footed toward the basket from some off-balance stance.
But, incredibly, the shots were dropping in. With an American member of the Paris team, Martin Feinberg, doing a whale of a job off the backboards, the visitors drew away to a 6-1 lead, stretched it to 24-12 before startled Lake Forest rallied to tie it at 30-30. But, again paced by Feinberg, Paris scored three baskets in rapid succession to lead 36-34 at the half. In the second half, the old-fashioned ways of the visitors and their possession tactics carried them to a 69-64 victory with the American Feinberg scoring 20 of the visitors' points.
But Martin Feinberg actually had done a great deal more than that. Son of a onetime Cleveland cab driver and now studying at the University of Paris under the GI bill, Feinberg had dreamed up the idea of an American tour for his team. A firm believer in the value of sports in international relations, he wrote to Dan Ferris and Lyle Foster of the AAU for help in lining up a schedule of games over here. They agreed and with six games scheduled, Feinberg got the players themselves to chip in $70 apiece, the University of Paris Club to underwrite a deficit up to $500. With their share of gate receipts, the tourists are almost getting by on an austere per diem allowance of $6. Still, the deficit is certain to be more than the $500 guaranteed back in Paris.
But last week came real hope for solvency. Mr. Foster of the AAU picked up a phone and found a State Department official named Edmund Thomas on the other end.
"You're giving away billions of dollars," cried Foster, "and here's the best example of international good will I've ever seen. I want you to pick these boys up in Baltimore, take them back to Washington and give them a royal good time. And don't let 'em go back on some boat—fly 'em over on a transport so they'll have that extra time here. They haven't even seen New York yet. If you don't, you're nuts."
Mr. Thomas said he thought he was not that nuts and promised that the State Department would do exactly what Mr. Foster suggested.
THE HOCKEY CROWD
It has its finest flowering at Montreal, home of Les Canadiens of the National Hockey League. There is no crowd exactly like it anywhere. At times every member of it appears to react at the same split second so that the crowd seems to speak or roar or moan with a single voice.
It is always a capacity crowd. On the afternoon of the crucial games, thousands fill the streets outside the Montreal Forum, hoping to buy standing room. There is a waiting list of thousands for season tickets, but there is rarely one to be had. Ticket holders provide in their wills for the disposition of their precious reservations.
It is a tidy crowd. It is not permitted to smoke and so it chews gum and sucks lozenges. No vendors roam the aisles. Between periods almost everyone (except for standees who do not wish to lose their places) files out for refreshments and cigarets below the stands. No beer is sold, but there is coffee and hot chocolate and soda and hot dogs.
It is a bilingual crowd. Announcements over the loudspeaker are made first in French, then in English. In the heart of the crowd, English predominates, but the cries from high in the gallery are exclusively French. During a lull in the action, a gallery voice rings out: "Grouille toi!" which is to say, "Move!" or, translating freely, "Get the lead out!" Another voice calls, "Patine! Patine!" to a slow-moving player, urging him to "Skate! Skate!" Still another cries, "Surveille ton homme!" or "Cover your man!" Among the standees in the lower stands there is a knot of French-speaking fans, and caught and held fast by them is a red-faced little man who is the image of Jiggs of the comic strips. Unable to move, the little man is stuck for the evening with comrades he is unable to understand, and every now and then he wails: "What happened?" and "Where is everybody?" It is obvious that he has not had a drop of hot chocolate this night which happens to be New Year's Eve.
Despite the fact that it is New Year's Eve, the crowd is on its best behavior. Except for Jiggs and a few others, there is no evidence of pregame celebrating. Hockey is too serious a matter in Montreal to be blurred by too many cocktails.
Because it is New Year's Eve, there are more children than usual among the 13,000 patrons. This has been the day when French children receive their gifts and the luckiest ones have been given this extra special treat. For many, it is obviously the first hockey game they have seen. As the crowd suddenly roars, a little girl in a fur-trimmed hat, no more than 5 years old, turns to a proper-looking man in a Homburg and fur-collared great coat to ask: "What is it, Papa?" "The Rocket has the puck!" replies Papa, jumping to his feet an instant later to scream, "Le coude, le coude!" ("The elbow!") as he considers a Chicago Blackhawk to be giving the jab to the idol of all Montreal, Maurice (The Rocket) Richard. When the referee does not react, Papa joins a chorus of "Choo! Choo!" the Gallic booing form, and then cries out as an afterthought, "Achete toi des longue-vues!" This last advises the referee to invest in a pair of binoculars.
When Chicago opens the scoring in the 10th minute of the first period, a resentful murmur sweeps over the arena. Then the crowd pouts in silence. But three minutes later, Henri (The Pocket Rocket) Richard, younger brother of the incomparable Maurice, passes to the Rocket himself in front of the goal and the score is tied. The explosion lacks only a mushroom cloud. Seconds later, Kenny Mosdell scores again for Les Canadiens and in a box high in the rafters, a fur-coated woman spectator leans precariously over the edge to pound her fist against an advertisement in sheer joy. (For a report on Les Canadiens and what makes them such an engrossing team, see next week's issue.) In the stands below, men embrace each other and pretty girls laugh and let themselves be kissed. The little man who looks like Jiggs implores the French-speaking fans who have hemmed him in: "What happened, what happened?" Nobody tells him.
Now the Pocket Rocket is slammed into the fence by Allan Stanley of the Chicagoans and is carried off with a sprained ankle, and for the first time the crowd bares its fangs. "Choo, choo!" yells Papa as his little girl looks up at him anxiously, "get Stanley, get Stanley!" The gallery roars, "Assomme le!" which is to say, "Slug him!" Maurice the Rocket does not fail them. He nails the villainous Stanley with a bodycheck that sends him sprawling and the crowd goes off, happily avenged, to the concession stands below the stands.
Watching the crowd at the counters where the hot chocolate is sold, a stranger finds it difficult to believe that some part of the same kind of crowd participated in the riots of last spring. It is better not to mention the affair in Montreal now, for the city still feels the shame.
This does not mean that the crowd has become afraid to let its righteous anger boil up a little when events on the ice call for it. Thus, in the final period, when Les Canadiens break a 3-3 tie and stage a stick-whacking, body-slamming rally, the crowd lets itself go. And when this Chicago person, this Monsieur Tiny Tony Leswick, dares to make himself objectionable to Jean Beliveau and the Rocket himself and when the idiot of a referee fails to see things as clearly as the crowd can, what is there to do but roll up newspapers and programs and hurl them down on the ice and (this is a real sacrifice for it is snowing heavily outside) pull off one's overshoes and aim them as well at the dull-witted officials? Could a man who calls himself a citizen of Montreal do less?
But depend upon the Rocket, Maurice Richard, to right matters. Setting up two of the three Montreal goals in the third period (he scored the 500th goal of his career only two nights before) the Rocket sparks the 7-3 victory, and the laughing crowd streams out of the arena with backs being slapped and pretty girls being kissed. Now it is time for the other affairs of the holiday eve and surely there has been enough of hot chocolate for this night. Except, perhaps, that the man who looks like Jiggs could do with a little. The French-speaking fans who held him prisoner all evening have started out now and he finds himself suddenly free. It is too late to learn exactly what has happened, but Jiggs does the least that any friendly fellow can do on a night like this. Throwing out his arms, he raises his misty eyes to the rafters and declaims with bilingual fervor: "Happy New Year to all from Paddy O'Brien! Hinkey dinkey parley voo!"
GOLF BUSINESS, 1955
Each year about this time the Professional Golfers Association tots up a few figures on how its members performed through the previous twelvemonth. The very paucity of these statistics—such as the total earnings of the 25 leading pros, the average strokes per round of the contenders for the Vardon Cup (which is awarded to the lowest) and the somewhat incomprehensible point scores for the Ryder Cup team competition—simply tend to emphasize the thin diet of the armchair golfer. Once he has digested this small collection of numerals (and it shouldn't take him long if he has passed the fourth grade), there is little left for him to talk about until the arrival of the spring thaw.
It is in the interest of these shut-ins that SI herewith presents some simple mathematical constructions from the available data:
Julius Boros, the leading money winner with $63,121.55 took 6,090 strokes in tournament play and thus earned $10.36 every time he hit the ball.
Bob Duden, of Portland, Ore., whose total earnings in tournament play came to just $20 in 1955, stroked the ball 4,174 times. At that rate he earned five mills a stroke.
All told, the 236 official PGA money winners split a total of $803,459.98 in purses. But the median tournament earnings of all these winners was only $455 for the season. Fortunately, tournaments are only a sideline to most.
The average score per round of the leading 10 money winners (who split $307,034.16) was 70.4. The average of the last 10 (who split $301.11) was 72.26—a difference of only 1.86 strokes per round.
LOOK OUT BELOW
If a skier looks grim
As a man with a cavity,
Just where, after all,
Would he get without gravity?
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Maryland Governor Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin's prompt refusal to let discredited boxing elements regroup in his state ("I want to keep boxing 100% clean here") was blanketed by subsequent developments in the week's news (see above), but possessed a significance not lost on boxing managers who had till then been ready to defy New York's clean-up campaign by emigration. In A.D. 1956, when fights come into the home by TV, elected officials are showing signs of increasing alertness to the boxing score.
Australia's Lew Hoad threw a long-distance threat at the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association when he said out loud that he deeply doubted whether he could afford to play in U.S. tournaments this summer for the standard $15-a-day expenses. The Lawn Tennis Association's quick and probably effective response: an invitation to Hoad to bring his tennis-playing wife Jennifer along for an additional $15 per diem.
Australian Olympic officials had a budgetary problem of their own. Wage and contractor demands for overtime work on the new stands for the Melbourne games came to an unexpected $56,000 more. The officials hushed speculation that the stands might not be ready in time, went looking for more money.
Soviet women skiers gave the world a notion of what to expect in the Winter Olympics at Cortina shortly by winning the first six places against medium-strong competition in an international pre-Olympic cross-country meet at Grindelwald. No. 1 finisher and a competitor to watch was 25-year-old Rosa Erochina, a student at the Moscow Institute of Railways.
Glasgow golfers have gone on strike and are boycotting eight municipal courses. They are protesting recently doubled greens fees, which were raised to 42¢ on Sundays and 28¢ on weekdays.