The curious case of Wes Santee—a morality play which assumed the overtones of a Keystone Cops Comedy last weekend as Wes and officials of the AAU chased each other in and out of the New York courts—has dramatized the question "What is Amateurism?" as it has not been dramatized in a decade. The Santee dilemma made it easy to say that amateurism is a white lie and has been for years, and that an amateur is a fellow who doesn't get caught or, like 99.44% of U.S. track and field athletes, a fellow who couldn't make a nickel anyhow because nobody wants to watch him.
Last week, a file of ghostly witnesses—famous runners from the past—complained anonymously in the New York press that Santee was being jobbed. All of them said that meet directors had paid them, too, for appearing in invitational events, that the custom was known to everybody in track (as indeed it was and is) and that the AAU had not only singled out Santee unfairly, but had punished him for a practice which the AAU itself had long condoned by silence. Most of the 12,000 people, and many of the athletes, in Madison Square Garden last Saturday seemed to agree. Santee was cheered vociferously as, having gotten his "lifetime suspension" temporarily lifted in the courts, he won the otherwise meaningless Columbian Mile. The crowd booed five other runners who withdrew (for fear of losing Olympic Games eligibility) and ran a special race among themselves. Listening, it was hard not to think that there would also be laughter in Moscow.
The AAU—a loosely knit structure of autonomous regional organizations—has the faults of its own structure. It is perfectly clear that not all of the volunteer sports enthusiasts who fill the AAU's regional offices share identical concern for the letter of the amateur law. One of the top officials of the regional AAU in the Pacific Northwest, indeed, is none other than Torchy Torrance, the chief engineer of the University of Washington's booster club which has paid extracurricular salaries to football players (SI, Feb. 20). If, however, some AAU people feel that increased expenses for track athletes are excused by the pressures of modern life, the practices of other sports, such as football, and the competition of state-subsidized athletes abroad, they have still not acted openly on that assumption.
March 12, 1956
And the fact still remains that Wes Santee, while ostensibly an amateur and while bound by the existing rules, did apparently stoop to subterfuge and did receive extra money for track appearances. The great majority of U.S. runners of his era did not. Not all the ex-athletes who spoke up about the Santee case last week applauded him. A good many—like Edward T. O'Brien, who held the 400-meter national title when he ran for Syracuse University in 1935 and who was a member of the 1936 U.S. Olympic Team—referred with pride to their careers as amateur athletes, were outspoken in defending the amateur spirit.
"I ran in invitational events in the Garden too," said O'Brien, now a New Jersey insurance man. "I wasn't naive enough to believe that some of the fellows I ran against didn't get paid—I know they did. But I didn't. Neither did my teammate, Marty Glickman, and he was a good enough sprinter to go to the 1936 Olympics too. I know the fellows I ran with on European junkets didn't get anything above expenses—we were all too broke. These 'informants' who are defending Santee by saying they took money too, are creating an unfair impression. I grant that track isn't 100% pure but it certainly is not in the shape they would have you believe it is. I don't think Santee should have expected anything from running but the satisfaction of competing and the memory of it in later life—to me, and I'm sure to most track men, that's quite a bit."
The favorite sport of President Eisenhower is by no means swimming, but these days swim he does—in the dogged way a man might take pills on doctor's orders. The swimming is doctor's orders and also in line with Ike's own program, "regular amounts of exercise, recreation and rest," mentioned in the radio-TV speech which told the country why he had decided that he was well enough to continue in the presidency for another term.
But Ike's sporting ardor is more for golf, fishing and hunting than for swimming. In the warm White House pool, heated to 86°-90°, he splashes about for almost half an hour at noon each day when he cannot escape the urging of Dr. Howard McC. Snyder, who added swimming to Dr. Paul Dudley White's more general instructions that Ike take reasonable exercise—as much as he felt like without overtiring.
As to recreation, that is covered by bridge, for the most part. Rest involves a prescribed 90 minutes of off-the-feet repose at midday but Ike has sometimes whittled that to a half-hour.
So, while the President dutifully swims (he uses the sidestroke) and rests, he looks forward to golf, for which he needs no prescription. He may get in some golf at White Sulphur Springs, where he is to meet late this month with President Adolfo Ruiz Cortines of Mexico and Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent of Canada. A trip to Augusta is in sight, probably starting April 9, immediately after the Masters tournament. And the greens and fairways at Burning Tree in Washington should be in good shape very soon. As a matter of fact Ike tried them out this weekend.
SALES AND SERVICE
The opening of the San Francisco Boat Show March 2 was a promoter's dream. So many exhibitors begged for space that the show directors had to put up a huge tent covering the entire sidewalk and street outside the main exhibiting area in the Civic Auditorium. And when the gates opened, 11,000 boating fans poured in the first afternoon to point at, walk through, talk about and frequently buy whatever caught their fancy.
The first item to go was a $32,000 Chris-Craft, immediately followed by dozens of outboard motors—25- and 30-horsepower jobs with plenty of chrome trimming. Then the crowds moved on to the smaller motors, and when they had finished, they took a long look at the new plastic and aluminum hulls that dotted the floor.
This was the pattern of public interest the first day at San Francisco; and it was a pattern almost identical to the other big shows in Boston, New York and Chicago earlier in the year. It was the pattern that would set the buying trends for dealers for the coming summer, and the pattern that would go a long way toward determining manufacturers' volume of production for the next few years. As one manufacturer's representative put it, "The boat shows are where we sell the dealers. They see what they like and what the public likes, and then they buy from us. And those trends at the shows have a lot to do with planning our lines for 1957 and even 1958."
Here is what the dealers saw and did at the big shows this year: at Boston, attendance 160,000 (up 8%). Dealers' sales up 25% with outboards the hottest single item. At New York, attendance: 225,000; gross business $18 million, up 20% from last year with inboard cruisers accounting for $6 million and outboards leading all other items in unit volume. Several manufacturers sold out their entire productive capacity for 1956 before the show closed.
The most impressive statistics came from the mammoth Chicago show, where seven and a half acres of boats, motors, gadgets and accessories pulled a 10-day attendance of 240,500, including no less than 20,000 boat and sporting-goods dealers. No one cared to estimate gross sales at Chicago, but the Outboard Boating Club of America, sponsors of the show, reported that dealers had stocked up with the staggering total of $45,300,000 worth of outboard motors. In other lines, plastic boats were up 79%; outboard cruisers up 115%; inboard cruisers up 78%; aluminum hulls up 33%; and the old stand-by, the sailboat, up 36%.
From these figures the experts concluded happily that the boating industry would do one billion dollars' worth of business in 1956. They also concluded that the billion would be spent by sportsmen who knew what they wanted. A Mercury executive probably summed it up best: "The customer knows what he is talking about today. He knows more about specifics. He's less price-conscious because he already knows what to expect for his money. Almost overnight the public has become awfully discriminating."
WORKING UP A LATHER
In case you are wondering what has happened to the kind of college boys who used to swallow goldfish, here is your answer. They have been dumping liquid detergent into indoor rowing tanks when the coach isn't looking.
Twice this winter the crews of eastern colleges have thereby had a real surprise when their oars began to pick up the stroke. Once at Harvard and again last week at Syracuse the water on each side of the stationary shells has frothed into what radio announcers call "a rich lather of creamy suds." After a few dips of the oars, the athletes have been buried in the swelling bubbles, rather like Hollywood maidens taking a bath in a De Mille movie.
Coach Loren Schoel, who has just taken over the varsity at Syracuse, pretends he thinks it is a wonderful joke, but he and the other coaches aren't laughing when they try to drain the suds from the tank. "I tried to have a little fun out of it," Schoel said through a tight smile. "I threatened to start a laundry and wash my undies and the boys' sweat shirts."
There is one thing to be said for these two recent pranks. The students have come a long way in technique since the days at Cornell three years ago when the same trick was pulled on Schoel with soap flakes. Nowadays any crew coach knows enough to look for soap flakes before practice. But liquid detergent! You just can't see it.
When the California department of highways built a road fill across the middle fork of the Feather River near the town of Blairsden last year, nobody watched the work with a more admiring eye than a beaver who was inhabiting the spot when the contractor's crews arrived. The quiet of the Sierra valley was horribly disturbed by their toil but as a dam builder himself the beaver seemed fascinated by the vast pile of earth dumped across his stream. The fill, furthermore, created a pool 60 yards long and six feet deep and the beaver—thus furnished with both free entertainment and free housing facilities—reacted not unlike a man who has just won a split level home on a television program.
Just before the fill was finished, however, the beaver—who has since become known as Joe Beaver, or that blankety-blank beaver—discovered that the highway department had made a ghastly mistake. The department's dam had a hole in it—the fill was pierced by a 36-inch pipe culvert which let the water from the small stream through.
So, in one amazing night's work, Joe Beaver plugged up the pipe.
The next morning, the pond behind the fill was 15 feet deep, 50 yards wide, 100 yards long and getting bigger by the minute. Cursing amiably, the contractor's men cleaned out the pipe and carried the debris to a safe distance. The fill was duly turned over to the state.
Joe, who seemed astounded but undiscouraged by this vandalism, plugged up the pipe again. In the months which followed he became a major problem to Cecil Koenig, maintenance superintendent of highways in the district near Blairsden. Koenig's highway crew spent from 8 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon in extracting the beaver's ingeniously contrived plug of brush and mud from the pipe and had to spend the same amount of time the next day destroying and disposing of another plug. After that, Koenig ordered a fence of steel mesh installed around the upper end of the pipe to keep Joe away from it. The fence was effective for only a week—Joe tunneled beneath it.
The beaver was not in the slightest deterred by the fact that the materials he used for each succeeding dam were not only torn out but carried away to prevent his using them again. In his zeal to rectify the fill-builders' obvious mistake he not only gnawed through four-inch logs—and at one point a plank two inches thick and 12 inches wide—but lugged sections of them under the fence and stuffed them in the pipe. He wrestled rocks as big as footballs into the culvert, too, and finished his work off each time with a basket-work of willow branches, leaves and mud which blocked the water like concrete. He was stopped again, temporarily, when Maintenance Superintendent Koenig hung a leaking can of creosote on the mesh fence in such a position that it would dribble its smelly freight on the beaver as he worked. But after a few days cold weather thickened the substance and Joe went right back to work.
Finally, after 20 dams had been built and destroyed, Koenig drove a series of steel stakes into the stream bed around the steel mesh to discourage burrowing. This and perhaps the winter cold seem to have thwarted Joe during the last two months. But spring is coming. Joe, the highway department feels, has spent the winter in thought and, doubtless, in calisthenics. They know what he has been thinking.
MINNESOTA VS. U.S.S.R.
The mystery of Russia's sudden emergence as a hockey power was explained to some extent in Eveleth, Minn. a few days ago when heroes of the U.S. Olympic hockey team paraded in sub-freezing weather to the cheers of most of Eveleth's 6,800 residents. The residents of the iron-mining town stomped their feet and yelled their heads off as a 30-car motorcade carried the team through the streets.
And well they might have. At Cortina the team had won a silver medal, beat Canada 4-1 and lost only one game. That was in the finals, taken by Russia at 4-0.
That night, after the Olympians had whipped some local all-stars 11-1, Coach John Mariucci, a gruff, plain-talking man, had some words to say about the Russians.
"My God," his words went, "how they can skate. I saw a Canadian forward going past a Russian defense man in mid-ice and he was flying. But the Russian took off from a standing start and caught him at the blue line. Like that—pfft."
But how did the Russians get that way?
"They've been doing it all their lives. Sure, hockey is comparatively new in Russia but bandy has been a big sport there since 1880."
Bandy? A sprawling first cousin to hockey, played with short clubs and cloth balls. Playing area is a frozen soccer field and there are 11 men on a side, no substitutes and 45-minute periods.
"So," Mariucci says, "when the Russians get to hockey, where the rink is only a quarter the size and where they have substitutions and time-outs, they think it's a vacation. If their games at Cortina weren't long enough they'd insult you by practicing starts and stops right after the game. And the Sunday morning after they beat Canada for the championship they were out practicing some more."
Mariucci figures the American team did as well as it did because its players numbered so many Minnesotans who had either played against Canadians or had benefited by playing on Canadian teams.
"I did say once that we're like another province of Canada," he concluded. "There were 11 Minnesota boys on the squad because they were the best we could find. However, we need more Minnesotas."
THE PIEDMONT PASSES
When a hitter fouled a ball back into the stands in the Piedmont League, the owner of the home team groaned aloud. Baseballs cost money (an average club spent $2,000 a year on them) and in the Piedmont they used to figure things pretty close. So much for balls, so much for bats, seed to grow grass and a man to keep it cut—all those items added up and with a seat in the grandstand going for half a dollar (children 30¢), a ball fouled into the seats and pocketed by some fan could hurt a lot.
It was always like that, even in the old days. But in modern times, with good highways and everybody driving a car, it got real rough because there were so many more things to do in a small town than go out to the ball park. A fellow could go to the beach or the races or go fishing at the other end of the county. Night baseball came along and helped for a while, but then there were the outdoor movies, the drive-ins, and a fellow with a girl didn't care what was playing on the screen. Then there was radio and television and how could anybody persuade a fellow to take his feet down and put his shoes on and forget about the beer in the refrigerator and come out and sit on a hard seat in a bush league ball park?
Frank Lawrence, the 64-year-old owner of the Portsmouth, Va. Merrimacs, saw the handwriting on the wall last summer (SI, Aug. 1). "We can't survive without help," he said. He charged that by the unrestricted broadcasts of big league games into minor league territory, without any compensation to the minor league clubs, the majors were "eating their young." He wasn't fooling. He brought suit against the commissioner of baseball and each of the 16 major league clubs for breach of contract. He asked for $250,000 in damages.
The suit is still pending.
However, it turns out it won't help the old Piedmont now. The 36-year-old Class B league has turned up its toes. Last week Ben Campbell, the president, sent off a telegram to George M. Trautman, the head of the minor leagues, saying the seven members of the league (Portsmouth, Lynchburg and Newport News in Virginia; Sunbury, Lancaster and York in Pennsylvania, and Hagerstown in Maryland) were calling it quits.
Frank Lawrence doesn't think the old Piedmont will be the last to go: "Look at the record. In 1949 there were 59 minor leagues. This year there are only 27. Some more will fold."
It's the trend. There's not much a man can do. Except maybe drop in and see a minor league game when he can. And if a foul ball does come sailing at him, grab it and throw it back. If for nothing else, in memory of the old Piedmont.
YUK BY YOGI
Old or new, they were still laughing at this one down in Florida last week:
One hot night during spring training Yogi Berra was out for a stroll after the day's workout when he encountered Hank Soar, the American League umpire.
Yogi was dressed in a pastel shirt, white shoes and a trim white linen suit, and Soar was properly impressed.
"Yogi," said Soar in admiration, "that's a sharp outfit you have on there and you certainly look cool."
"Gee, thanks, Hank," replied Berra, "and I might say that you don't look so hot yourself."
A pack of hounds hot on the scent
Unearthed a rabbit's lair.
"Forget the fox," the leader bayed.
"Come on, let's split a hare."
—H. A. MACAN
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Bobsledders back from their thumping defeat at the Olympics report they had the worst sleds at Cortina. The sleds which finished fifth and 19th were patched-up relics of the 1932 Olympics. But Art Tyler's brand-new four-man sled finished third.
Casey Stengel, looking over his spring crop of Yankee youngsters at St. Petersburg, also looked ahead to 1957, when he will be crowding 70 and "won't be here any more." The threat: retirement at the end of the 1957 season. The promise: to leave the Yankees with a team of young, polished veterans.
Kenneth St. Oegger, racing Henry J. Kaiser's 5,400-pound hydroplane Hawaii-Kai, survived with a broken leg and mere bruises when the boat flipped at 193.6 mph. The boat, now matchwood, was certain to beat Slo-Mo-Shun IV's unlimited hydroplane record of 178.5 mph.
Iowa startled Big Ten favorite Illinois with a 96-72 victory and so took command of the conference basketball race. Winners of other major conferences decided last week: North Carolina State (Atlantic Coast), UCLA (Pacific Coast), Utah (Mountain States), Alabama (Southeastern), Houston (Missouri Valley), West Virginia (Southern), Dartmouth (Ivy). Next stop for most of them: the NCAA playoffs.
Bill Russell, University of San Francisco's All-America basketball player, has a problem. Offered $50,000 to play for the Harlem Clowns next season, Russell would prefer "legitimate" pro basketball with the NBA. But, says Russell, "$50,000 a year is exactly $50,000 more than I'm making right now."
The return bout between Sugar Ray Robinson and Bobo Olson, set for April 20, is off until May 18 because of Robinson's virus infection.