THE LINE'S ON THE LINE
As far as anybody can tell, all's well enough with college basketball, but the following conversation is passed along as a matter of general intelligence:
"Hello, Harry. This is 25. What's my figure?"
"Hello, 25. This is Harry. You're down three."
January 23, 1956
"O.K. Shoot me tonight's line."
"In the East, we have Dayton 10 over Canisius; Cornell-Harvard, pick 'em; Dartmouth four over Princeton; Temple seven over Manhattan."
"Right, Harry. Give me a bill on Princeton as the dog and another bill on Dayton on top."
"Keerect, 25. Here's your action: You have Princeton plus four over Dartmouth for a bill and Dayton minus 10 over Canisius for another bill. Check?"
"If you drop the two tonight, we'll get together tomorrow at the usual place and settle the figure."
"O.K., Harry. 'Bye."
And so it goes every night throughout the basketball season. It's not doubletalk. It's merely New York's bookmakers carrying on business as usual. Not since the betting and dumping scandals of five years ago have the turnstiles and the unlisted telephones hummed so merrily.
The bookies have their own language:
Figure: amount owed to or owed by the bookie.
Line: point spread between opposing teams. In New York, as in most of the country, basketball is bet only on the point-spread system.
Vigorish: the edge which the bookie maintains by giving 6-5 odds.
In other words, your figure will change if you take the dog, concede the book his vigorish and bet a bill on the line.
For the more practical minded, the bets on Princeton and Dayton did the bettor no good. Princeton surprised both Dartmouth and the line, winning by two, but Dayton beat Canisius by only nine. The bookie, standing on his vigorish, made out fine.
HOW MANY AND HOW MUCH?
The federal government has made plain its growing concern about the great U.S. outdoors and the use that is being made of it. Said President Eisenhower in his State of the Union message:
"During the past year the areas of our National Parks have been expanded, and new wildlife refuges have been created. The visits of our people to the parks have increased much more rapidly than have the facilities to care for them. The Administration will submit recommendations to provide more adequate facilities to keep abreast of the increasing interest of our people in the great outdoors."
To get some idea of what this "increasing interest" amounts to, the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior has retained Crossley, S-D Surveys, Inc., to conduct a nationwide poll.
Doorbells already have started to ring and will go on ringing until the end of February. There will be 15,000 "screening" interviews up and down the country to start with; and from these, 5,000 hunting and fishing families will be selected for detailed interviews which, it is hoped, will help to answer these big questions: 1) How many hunters and fishermen are there? 2) How much money is spent on hunting and fishing?
It is not presently possible to estimate the total number of hunters and fishermen because of the differences in regulations. Some coastal states permit salt-water fishing without a license. In others no licenses for hunting or fishing are required by persons under 16 or over 65, by veterans or by women whose husbands are licensed.
The survey is the most widespread of its kind ever undertaken and the nation's sportsmen were urged to cooperate by Douglas McKay, Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Said Mr. McKay:
"This survey will reveal much-needed information on which to base programs to provide our hunters and fishermen with greater opportunities to enjoy their favorite sport. It is expected to provide important data for our conservation and restoration needs and prove a valuable guide for fish and game management. It will highlight the need for providing better recreational facilities to match our population growth and migration. This survey will make a major contribution to the proper evaluation of hunting and fishing in our national economy."
The interviewers, each of whom will carry a letter of identification, will not be interested in law enforcement or whether or not the interviewee fished or hunted without a license. They just want to know the time and money spent on these sports during 1955. They may listen politely to adventures of the years before that and to large plans for 1956 vacations. But they won't write it down.
What they do write down will be tabulated and analyzed and delivered in a final report to the Fish and Wildlife Service by next June. The report will be released to the public sometime after that.
MORE TROUBLE FOR THE GUILD
At least until August, when the National Boxing Association meets in annual convention at Havana, the NBA is on the side of law, order and Julius Helfand. It may even be that the NBA, made up of state boxing commissioners, some day will fulfill its function and exercise effective control over boxing throughout the U.S.
Its executive committee has taken a step in that direction with a succession of resolutions bought in a package at Chicago, where a scheduled meeting was held on the heels of Helfand's decision that the Boxing Guild of New York is off limits to fight managers (SI, Dec. 19). The NBA committee voted "full support" to the New York State boxing commissioner's ruling and "will recognize all suspensions pertaining to the same."
That portion of what eventually became a single resolution was the contribution of Lou Radzienda, member of the Illinois commission and NBA president. Radzienda had not hitherto seen eye to eye with those who feel that boxing is menaced by mob influence and monopoly seekers. And, it appeared, Radzienda was willing to let matters rest with this simple pledge of support for Helfand.
But then Jim Crowley, commissioner from Pennsylvania and onetime member of Notre Dame's Four Horsemen, added a paragraph of his own. It called for a uniform NBA requirement that promoters, managers, boxers, trainers, seconds and matchmakers be licensed in their home states before they could qualify in other states. That, explained Crowley, was to prevent a manager, for instance, from stepping across a state line to obtain a license after being refused one in his own state.
Commissioner Joseph Walker of New Jersey, brother of the great Mickey Walker, put through an addendum, too. It called for agreement that a license suspension, revocation or refusal in one state "shall be upheld in every state in the country." Like the others that one passed, also, 14 to 0.
During the luncheon break, reporters were handed copies of the combined resolution. They pointed out that under its terms Johnny Saxton, who is scheduled to fight Carmen Basilio at Chicago February 15, would be denied a license. Saxton's Pennsylvania license and that of his manager, Blinky Palermo, have expired. Crowley conceded that he would not renew Palermo's license while Blinky is in disfavor in New York.
The commissioners chewed this situation over with their lunch and then took some teeth out of the morning resolution. Commissioner Henry Lamar of Massachusetts put through a proviso that a boxer may manage himself while his manager is under suspension "and the contract between the manager and the boxer be declared null and void during any suspension...." The idea, it was explained, was to permit boxers to earn a living despite the sins of their managers. This has been tried before, of course, and customarily the rule is circumvented by an under-the-table arrangement between boxer and manager.
The resolutions have only an advisory effect until they are adopted by the entire body of the NBA at Havana. Nor did anything in them strike specifically at the International Boxing Guild, of which the New York Guild is only an influential part.
The International was being dealt with elsewhere.
In Cleveland, a federal grand jury indicted it and its Cleveland affiliate along with two officers—Charley Johnston, president, and Honest Bill Daly, treasurer. They were charged with violations of the Sherman antitrust act—boycotting of nonmember managers, price-fixing in the establishment of fees to be paid by promoters, and the forced closing of studio boxing shows put on by TV station WEWS in Cleveland.
Helfand, meanwhile, made his next move. He ordered Tex Sullivan and Willie (The Beard) Gilzenberg, operators of the London Sporting Club, to answer charges that they had consorted with criminals and had used subterfuge in their effort to transfer promotion of their fights from New York to Baltimore—a move spiked quickly by Governor Theodore R. McKeldin of Maryland, who ordered an immediate investigation.
That should be about all, except for pending action by the Pennsylvania and California investigating bodies, until the federal government brings its antitrust action against the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president) in April.
L'ASCENSION DU MONT EIFFEL
French mountain climbers have proved and re-proved their mettle on Alpine peaks and it was the French, of course, who conquered Annapurna. But few of these sporting expeditions, one would guess, ever had the rousing sense of impromptu of the one organized only a few days ago to scale the Eiffel Tower.
The tower's 984-foot summit contains a television transmitting unit and shortly before dawn a short circuit caused a hot blaze. When the first contingent of Paris firemen arrived smoke was streaming steadily from the summit. Weather conditions were abominable. It was bitter cold and a severe wind whipped the flames. The firemen did not hesitate. They climbed. They had to—the elevator operators did not come to work until 8.
Paris firemen, it should be noted, are not ordinary firemen—they are, technically, an infantry regiment organized in the days of Napoleon. They still wear the military kepi with dress uniforms, and exercise two hours daily. By the scores they rushed up the winding metal stairway with 30-pound chemical extinguishers and pails of water. They set up a base camp beside a souvenir stand at the 115-meter level; then a picked group of the more hardy went on 159 meters more—1,812 seeps from street level—to the top. They made it in less than a half hour; in two hours the fire was out, and the ancient upper girders of the tower were saved.
The climbers affected impassiveness after descending. "We have esprit de corps," said one. "We can do anything. Still," he added, "we were very hot and very cold at the same time, and I feel my legs today."
TOM AND THE BEANSTALK
When Thomas Austin Yawkey was 16, his uncle and foster father, William Hoover Yawkey, died and left him a fortune. The bulk of the Yawkey millions was not to come to Tom until he was 30, but his foster mother acted swiftly to impress upon him the responsibilities of wealth and at the same time make it clear that he did not, as a boy might think, have all the money in the world. After cutting his allowance to one dollar a week, she placed a series of saucers on a table. She poured a little heap of beans in one to represent the fortune of the Rockefellers, varying the heaps in others to indicate the riches of the Vanderbilts, the Morgans, the Fords and some others. When she came to the last saucer, she turned to Tom and said, "This is what you will have in comparison." Into the saucer she dropped a solitary bean.
It has been quite a bean. Among other things it has sprouted for Tom Yawkey is the baseball club known as the Boston Red Sox, acquired four days after Tom came into his full inheritance at age 30 in 1933. With his bean, Tom Yawkey has tried every trick of bean magic to build winners for Boston. He paid $250,000 for a single ballplayer, Joe Cronin, now his general manager. He bought stars like Lefty Grove and Jimmy Foxx, spent a total of $1 million for talent in his first three seasons. Then he invested heavily in a farm system and through his canny head man at the time, the idol of his school days, Eddie Collins, Yawkey acquired two of his greatest stars for prices that were what peanuts are to beans. He paid only $15,000 for Second Baseman Bobby Doerr and $25,000 for a gangling outfielder named Ted Williams, to whom Tom was to pay four times this purchase price in a single season.
World War II wrecked a great Sox team in the making and when the stars came back from service, they were a shoo-in for the pennant of 1946. But they could not beat the Cardinals in the World Series. The Sox have not won a pennant since; they had not won one previously since 1918.
But there have been many compensations for Tom Yawkey. Himself a frustrated athlete (he couldn't quite make the varsity at Yale), Tom Yawkey has had many a good day at Fenway Park. During his 23-year ownership, he has seen his ball club make first division 17 times, finish second six times, stage a great (if heartbreaking) drive in the stretch last year. Recently, he was elected vice-president of the American League and on the evening of February 5 another honor will come his way. The New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America will hold its annual dinner and make its annual awards. As player of the year, Duke Snider will be there; as winner of the Babe Ruth Award, Johnny Podres will be among those present. And as the 30th man to be honored by the writers for "long and meritorious service to baseball," Thomas Austin Yawkey will be asked to take a bow.
It's a safe bet that, as he looks around him that evening and stands up there with Johnny and the Duke, Tom Yawkey will consider that he has got full value from his beanstalk. And maybe there will be a gleam in his eye too, for with the Cleveland pitchers getting no younger and the Yanks an unbalanced ball club, who can say for sure that 1956 may not be the biggest year of all for Tom and his Red Sox?
SOLOIST OF THE SEA
There are in the world people who deserve to be known as soloists of the sea. Every once in a while one of them turns up. Sometimes he sails into a big city. Sometimes he is dragged in, shivering and half starved, by the Coast Guard. Usually it turns out that months or years ago he walked away from a quiet job in the city to spend his time alone in small boats at sea.
Edward Allcard, a bearded Englishman with stout English opinions, lives that way. He left his job in 1948 and has not gone back. Since 1948 he has crossed the Atlantic four times. And he has survived most of the classic hazards—storms, smashed ribs, scurvy—as well as the less expected but more interesting one of the startling appearance on deck one morning of a lady poetess who had stowed away.
Last week near Portsmouth, England, Allcard was ready to head out for the fifth time. This time he is going around the world. The trip he plans will cover 40,000 miles, and he will be alone. His 36-foot ketch Sea Wanderer, picked up as a neglected hulk on a Long Island mud flat and lovingly rebuilt, is, according to Allcard, perfect for a lone voyager. She is beamy and comfortable, shallow-draft (5 feet 3 inches) but steady, with extra iron bolted to her keel.
"I've had double coamings fitted on the hatches," he explained. "Any boat should be able to go under and come up without swamping. I've got Bermuda rigging and a fixed wheel instead of a tiller. Even the glasses and cups I've fixed on rubber pads so that if the yacht does turn over, they won't smash. I've got the galley just where I want it and the chart table where I want it. It's just the boat I want."
This month he heads for the coast of France, where he will loiter until May when the wind warms and he can sail out on the trades in comfort. Aboard he plans to have stores for 100 days: 80 gallons of fresh water in three tanks, a rig to catch rain water, 50 gallons of fuel for the diesel auxiliary. For food: "A lot of dried stuff—rice, ship's biscuits, porridge, dried beans and peas, lentils, fruits, cans of stuff. I always have steak and kidney on Sundays. And of course I carry orange juice." Some things have to be left out. "At sea I dream about them. Small green cabbages especially. And bread and butter and marmalade."
Some 350 people, 30 of them women, have written asking to go along. But to Allcard they are no more than unwelcome window gazers. "Most of them just expect me to feed them for nothing. If they had the guts, they'd do it themselves."
As for the reason men go around the world alone: "What better way is there to see things?" As he asked this interesting question, the winter wind howled across the Portsmouth flats around his boat, and Allcard shivered. "Wouldn't you get out of England if you could? The whole secret of English adventurers and explorers is that they couldn't stand the climate."
POINT OF VIEW
Televised sport is never quite the same as the real thing. The little screen cannot cover an entire baseball park. The defense is seldom shown adequately in football. These are limitations of TV which send thousands to the stadiums.
But in boxing, a fight is not seen adequately from behind, say, the 20th row. The TV camera, on the other hand, gives the illusion of the ringside seat and boxing attendance has suffered thereby more than that of any other sport.
Unfortunately, the camera can get too close. Viewer protests shrilled into the ABC network the other night after the Johnny Holman-Bob Satterfield fight, in which the first knockdown of Satterfield was missed completely and the second was obscured. Those who follow a common practice—turning off the sound so as not to be disturbed by commentators—were unaware for several meaningful seconds that Satterfield was down in the second round. All they saw was Johnny Holman's half-disbelieving downward stare at the canvas and his turning back as he walked toward a neutral corner. Something had happened, they knew, but what? Those with their sound on were distressed that the announcer was describing a knockdown and count they could not see—and the knockdown is the supreme moment in a fight.
Well, it seems that an advertising agency which had just taken over the Pabst Blue Ribbon account was experimenting with a new camera angle, one which gives a dramatic look from an aspect very like that of the ring-apron row in which the judges sit. It worked fine, except when there was a knockdown. Then Satterfield was knocked clear off the screen. The new camera's angle of view was too narrow.
A veteran of the prizefight film business sighed when he heard of the ruckus home viewers were raising.
"They don't understand," he said. "Give the camera boys an A for effort. They were trying to bring you right into the ring with a close, low-angle shot that would dramatize what was happening. Only, in boxing, things happen too fast. You can't anticipate what's going to happen and shift to a longer, wider shot just before a knockdown. Sometimes you wonder what's keeping a fighter up. He doesn't get knocked down when he should be flat on his back. Sometimes a punch comes from nowhere, and it's all over in an instant. That's what boxing is. It's a fighter trying to make the other guy think nothing's going to happen just before he throws the big punch."
HOORAY FOR HOCKEY
Hockey is snappy,
Hockey is nice.
The game is on ice.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Italian Olympic officials have the weather jitters. Long-awaited snow came to Cortina last week, only to be followed by a sirocco that caused a thaw to set in. As a strategic reserve, the worried authorities were prepared to mobilize some 200 railroad cars to bring snow into the valley from nearby frosty slopes.
San Francisco's Dons, the nation's No. 1 basketball team, suffered a blow when the NCAA voted their chief play-maker, K.C. Jones, ineligible for postseason competition (e.g., the NCAA championships) because of a single game he played in 1953 which exhausted his eligibility. The news, not altogether unexpected, was greeted philosophically by Coach Phil Woolpert: "K.C. definitely will be on the bench with us and we may not lose his leadership entirely."
Queen Mother Elizabeth is hopefully looking ahead to the Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree on March 24 when she will have two horses competing in Britain's longest and toughest race. Her best bet: Devon Loch, a 10-year-old gelding by Devonian.
Australia's John Landy, after winning a special three-mile race in the good time of 13:39 at Melbourne, indicated that he will soon be ready to make a serious bid to lower his own 3:58 world record for the mile. Landy said that his first real mile race will be in the Australian championships next March and that "I plan to run inside four minutes...I mean well inside four minutes."
Russia's men skiers, resplendent in bright blue Mackinaws and fur hats at Lauberhorn, showed they still have much to learn in the Alpine events but socially they were relaxed and at ease, mustered their small stock of English for bonhomie approaches to their American rivals. One pet phrase: "Louis Armstrong—good!"