WRESTLING: THE NEW MAN
This is an article from the March 26, 1956 issue
The new man wore a plain white towel over his shoulders in lieu of a robe. His weight was announced at 240 pounds, his opponent's at 323. The referee, Joe Walcott, a former heavyweight boxing champion, called both men to the center of the ring and, after a moment's talk, the bell rang and the action started.
The 323-pounder, billed as Cowboy Rocky Lee, reached for the new man's shoulders. The new man fell back, held up his fists like a boxer and the fat cowboy stopped dead in his tracks in apparent terror. The crowd of 4,200 in the Washington, D.C. arena laughed and cheered.
The new man was awkward. When he went down, he fell heavily as though he were not used to falling.
The cowboy pounced on the new man, grabbed his leg and twisted it. Ringsiders heard the cowboy whispering in the new man's ear. It sounded like "Hold on, hold on now!" The new man looked like he wanted to yawn.
It went on that way. The cowboy persisted in mean tricks, villainous ways, but always retreated in terror when the new man held up his fists like a boxer. And always the crowd cheered and laughed at the fat cowboy's terror.
Then the cowboy went too far. While Referee Walcott's back was turned, he rubbed his bandaged hand across the new man's eyes. Then he dropped the new man with an arm twist and punched him in the stomach while he was down. Walcott tried to intervene and the cowboy gave him a hard shove. Again the new man put up his fists like a boxer. He hit th e cowboy full in the midsection. Not hard, but hard enough to put the cowboy down for the count of 10. It was all over. Time: 11 minutes. The crowd cheered and laughed.
Later, the new man talked to reporters in his dressing room. They asked him what he thought of wrestling after his first match.
"It's an honest living," said Joe Louis, boxing's greatest champion since Dempsey. "It's not stealing."
The promoter said he could make Joe $100,000 a year if he would agree to wrestle three times a week. Joe couldn't promise. He would have to think it over, he said, and talk it all over with his wife.
In How the Reds Pay a Champion (see page 36), the Czech figure skater Miroslava Nàchodskà tells why she fled from her country rather than be "treated as a prized pig" of Communist-dominated Czechoslovakia. Her experiences as a coddled and well-paid ward of the state are by no means unique. Ever since the Reds began to wrap up the countries of eastern and central Europe there have been athletes who have slipped through the Iron Curtain with testimony on Communist amateurism.
When Avery Brundage, president of the International Olympic Committee, visited Moscow in 1954 he waved a handful of testimony at the Russian Minister of Sport, Nikolai Romanov, describing the special training camps, special social privileges and the yearly salaries top amateurs receive in the Communist world. Romanov brushed the evidence aside with an exclamation: "Traitors, deserters! Would you attach any truth to their statements if they had been Americans and turned against your country?"
Such a devious dismissal is hardly shared by Arpàd Csanàdy, secretary of the Hungarian Olympic Committee, who on a recent visit to Australia explained genially: "In Hungary a runner like Dave Stephens would not have to work as a milkman during the night or in the early hours. John Landy would also get a post somewhere in Budapest where his training would be easier. I am sure that sooner or later people in Australia also will realize the importance and significance of success in sport and give top athletes the same encouragement we give ours."
The Polish boxer Henryk Tyczynski, who recently escaped to the West, is more explicit in his denunciation of the Communist amateur. Speaking over a Radio Free Europe program he said, "Communist athletes are nothing but subsidized professionals.... We who are so-called 'amateur athletes' receive extra food, hold dummy jobs for which we are highly paid.... My job in Warsaw was physical instructor of the employees of the Ministry of Security. I worked only about two hours a day. The rest of the time I was able to train.... I received as much as $110 extra a month for 'food' in spite of food allowances. Before a match I was sent to special training camps for as long as a month—on full salary."
But perhaps the most telling note about Red "amateurism" is the trend to fewer and fewer athletic refugees. Just before the 1952 Olympic Games a group of these stateless athletes petitioned the International Olympic Committee to be allowed to compete at Helsinki. Their request was turned down because of a long-standing rule that "only nationals of a country are eligible to represent that country" and that a competitor once having competed for one country is ineligible "to represent another country on a future occasion except where his former country or place of birth has been incorporated in another state." Today, most of these original stateless athletes have either turned pro or are past their competitive peak, and there are so few new candidates that there is little point in bringing up the matter of their Olympic competition again.
Miroslava explains the thin trickle of athletes to the West when she says, "Younger people have been out of touch with the West. They don't know the languages, they are afraid and they don't know what to believe any more. But mostly, the life of an athlete is good, too good. My running away was a hard decision for me to make—and I knew about the West."
In recent years, visiting types who might be characterized as the Drinker, the Invalid and the Shabby Equipment Hack have become familiar on almost all U.S. golf courses. In this week's issue LIFE warns golfers to be on guard. Beware, for example, the Drinker who swigs from a bottle of Scotch (actually tea), lurches through the first nine, hiccupingly suggests that all bets be doubled and then takes the back nine with a 10-foot putt. Along with the Invalid who limps but shoots in the 70s and the Shabby Equipment Hack who can disembowel par with only a rickety four-iron, the Drinker belongs to a genus of con men known as golf hustlers.
Some hustlers are not as obvious as the foregoing types but all have one characteristic in common: a deep, uniform tan. Among themselves, hustlers joke about being "too tan" for one another and, in turn, call a victim a "paleface," especially at southern winter resorts. Hustlers can well afford to go South for the winter; a hustler who cannot average at least $50 a day blushes through his tan.
The hustlers drew unwelcome attention to themselves by winning too often in some of last year's big Calcutta tournaments. Since the uproar at Long Island's famous Deepdale (SI, Nov. 14), the U.S. Golf Association has been conducting an anti-Calcutta crusade. Bing Crosby was among the first to back up the USGA by eliminating the Calcutta in his tournament. This month a Greenbrier official announced that from now on there will be no organized gambling in any Greenbrier tournament.
Nonetheless, writes LIFE'S Marshall Smith, "The efforts at reform have left the practitioners of the confidence game relatively unmoved. Their main source of income would not be affected even if all Calcuttas suddenly vanished. The links are still crowded with potential [palefaces], all flush with money and". willing to go along...."
THE FURROWED ENGLISH BROW
Spring, the season of hope and daffodils, seemed to have plunged English sports authorities and a good many English sportswriters into a mood of stiff-spined irascibility; to a man they seemed to find sporting mores in a state of disintegration, the sporting spirit softening to a gruellike consistency, and attitudes in the colonies beyond any gentleman's power of description. Though Englishmen differed among themselves somewhat, verbal canings were definitely the order of the day.
English professional soccer (football) players—who average ¬£416 or about $1,164 a year—demand extra fees for appearing in night games and before television cameras and an abolition of a $42-a-week maximum wage limit. Then, to give the Players' Union some leverage in the matter, members of the Wolverhampton Wanderers refused to play a scheduled night game with a championship Spanish team from Bilbao. When a player from Tottenham innocently suggested that more money would not necessarily ruin team spirit—and added, "Look at American baseball"—he only seemed to fan the indignation of professional league magnates. "This day will go down in the annals of professional football as Black Wednesday," thundered William McKeag, onetime Lord Mayor of Newcastle. "We herald the era of Big Brother in soccer. The next thing will be 'dressing-room stewards' and they will be able to tell their captains where to get off!"
Meanwhile, cricket officials and cricket writers were in a state of fulminating indignation over the performance, on field and off, of the Marylebone Cricket Club's Young England A Team during an invasion of Pakistan. The Marylebone players not only lost three straight games in Peshawar and two (to one victory) in Karachi, but threw the Pakistanis into an unconscionable uproar by 1) playfully kidnaping one Mr. Idris Begh, an umpire, after a formal dinner; 2) carrying him off to their hotel in a tonga; and 3) pouring water on him. Mr. Begh appeared next day with his arm in a sling and the crowd roared "Shame! Shame!" and "Go home, MCC!" In Karachi, furthermore, Pakistan's wicket keeper, Imtiaz Ahmad, stopped the game and protested that the Marylebone players were using "abusive language" while he was batting.
The English players seemed astounded by all this uproar and charged plaintively that the Pakistanis were abusing them too and, worse, doing it in a language they couldn't understand. Nevertheless they were chided unmercifully by their countrymen at home. "The MCC...must bring the culprits home as soon as this Test finishes on Wednesday," trumpeted London's Daily Herald. "We lost games and we lost face!"
Simultaneously, Jack Crump, secretary of the British Amateur Athletic Board, which regulates track-and-field in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, was in a state approximating that of a truant officer who has caught a covey of high school boys under the marquee of a burlesque theater.
The source of Crump's high blood pressure was (of all places) the University of Idaho—whose track coach, Joseph H. B. Glander, wrote early this year to Britain's Athletics Weekly to announce that his school will give scholarships to deserving and "sensible" British athletes, preferably middle-distance runners. Gerald Carr, 20, a shotputter and discus thrower, and Ray Hatton, 24, an 8:57.4 two-miler, showed interest. So did four half-milers: Richard Mackay, 22, who has run 1:52.4; Norman Lloyd, 23, 1:52.6; Donald Gorrie, 22 (an Oxford undergraduate), 1:50.0; and Michael Rawson, 21, 1:52.6.
The scholarships which Idaho offered were not exactly princely—each runner would get tuition ($260) and a chance to wait on table in a fraternity house, if he could qualify scholastically. But all would need a British Amateur Athletic Board certificate of amateur status and permission to compete abroad. "This," snapped Crump, "is a bad thing for amateur athletics. If an exodus like this is not nipped in the bud, American universities will finally walk off with all our best athletes.... We should need to examine carefully the offer made by Idaho University." Editor Jimmy Green of Athletics Weekly was blunter: "I believe the American scholarship system is just as much legalized professionalism as any thing in Eastern Europe."
But meanwhile British sportswrit-ers seemed bent on defending Wes Santee to the hilt. "America's athletic bosses," wrote Jack Peart of London's Sunday Pictorial, "are on a witch hunt over expenses." "America bans miler Wes Santee because he gets a few dollars too much in expenses," protested the Daily Mirror's Peter Wilson. "It seems you have to check up on the race (ethnic), religion, creed and financial standing of the runner's grandmothers' aunts before you can share the cinders with some cad who might pollute the track by having accepted five shillings as a prize in the mixed three-legged race when he was at his kindergarten. It is all so infernally stupid."
But then, perhaps all concerned would feel better when the sun grew a mite warmer and the Brussels sprouts turned green.
COURT TENNIS, ANYBODY?
America's third annual intercollegiate court tennis tournament got under way at the Racquet and Tennis Club in New York last week and was quickly marked by the impressive play of the Harvards, who started out by banging what are known as railroad serves in the general direction of their opponents from Yale.
In the railroad serve the ball skitters along a sloping roof, slightly more than head high, on the left-hand side of the court from the server. It rolls off the sloping roof, hits the wall at the far end from the server and, thanks to the strong spin on the ball, must be virtually scraped off the floor for the return. The railroad requires not only natural ability but lots of practice, and it was evident that Harvard had somehow acquired both. The Harvard team not only won the tournament, it dominated the affair with 13 winning matches to six for Yale and two for Princeton.
Court tennis was the sport of kings in the Middle Ages, and there is still something hauntingly regal, or regally tense, about it. Watching the grim-faced Yale and Harvard players, it was easy to understand that a few centuries ago an Earl of Essex bashed a Prince of Wales with his racquet during a close game. Matches take place in near silence. The ball makes a subdued bowling-alley rumble as it moves, very fast, along the slope; then there is a sharp snapping sound as the racquet hits it, or almost as frequently, a wooden clatter as the racquet hits the composition floor or the wall in getting behind the ball. The court, which looks like a huge drained swimming pool, is a stylized version of a medieval courtyard. Various openings at the ends and under the slanting roof are stylized survivals of doorways and windows that provided hazards in the days when kings played court tennis in their own courtyards.
The game is fast, like tennis, and is scored the same way, but the tempo constantly changes. Long volleys are suddenly interrupted while the ball rolls lazily along the slope, as in the childhood game of ante-i-over (or Anthony Over). In the intervals of waiting for the ball to drop, players plot their strategy—to drive it into one of the openings, to send it ricocheting off the "tambour" (symbolic buttress) or in any case to do something that will leave the opponent swinging at the empty air. Court tennis enthusiasts say that their game is like chess because of the infinite possibilities of every shot.
Kings never liked to appear ridiculous, and a tennis-playing monarch who found himself swinging at a ball that was dead at his feet usually kept on with the game, trying to pay somebody back as long as his kingdom endured. James I of Scotland was even assassinated on his tennis court. He tried to escape through an opening in the wall, forgetting he had previously blocked it up because he lost so many tennis balls through it. All these portentous historical reflections came readily to mind last week in the intercollegiate court-tennis tournament. The men of Harvard were composed and completely at ease, with a control that even the most untutored spectator could appreciate, but over all court-tennis players there occasionally come expressions which suggest how kings must have looked when they ordered someone beheaded.
Harvard was left out of the first intercollegiate tournament. In an effort to popularize the game, James Van Alen, a three-time U.S. champion, improvised the affair with six undergraduates from Yale and Princeton, only one of whom had ever been on a court tennis court before. There are only seven courts in the United States and less than 500 players, and while individual college students occasionally take up the game, there were then no college teams. Somewhat miffed at having been ignored, Harvard scraped together a team, challenged the tournament winner, Yale, and lost.
Last week Harvard was amply revenged. One of the seven American courts is in Boston, and the Harvard teams had been making good use of it while Yale and Princeton players had to practice in New York or Philadelphia. An American universities team has been invited to play in England in July, against the best of the Oxford-Cambridge racqueteers, and Harvard players are obvious first choices for places on the U.S. squad. The debacle of Yale and Princeton, however, may have been a little too complete. Court tennis rousing the concentration it does, the victory looks like the beginning of a rivalry destined to last for centuries. It's that kind of a game.
This, obviously, is not Nashua," reads the caption over a drawing of a sad-eyed, sway-backed plug in the March issue of Jesuit Missions. The announcement goes on to explain that Father Bernard O'Leary, S.J., of the Jamshedpur Mission in northeastern India, doesn't really want Nashua but does need a horse for the regular visits he makes to 10 or 12 outlying villages without roads. In India a suitable mount costs $200. Jesuit Missions asked for contributions.
The other day a letter arrived with a message for Father O'Leary. "I am sorry I am not in a position to send Nashua himself," it ran, "but I do hope the enclosed check will enable you to procure a horse that will serve your purpose as well." The check was for $200. Like the letter, it was signed by James E. Fitzsimmons, the bent, gentle, 81-year-old trainer of Nashua.
This boxer's hands are cut and raw;
How did it come to pass?
He didn't know his victim's jaw
Was really, truly, glass.
—IRWIN L. STEIN
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Nashua lost a horse race, in fact came in fifth in the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap, but the big bay ($1,040,515 in earnings) will have plenty of chances to pass Citation's alltime record ($1,085,760). With the current stud season all but over, Nashua's owners have planned an active running career for the months ahead.
Squaw Valley, caught up for weeks in the storm of a $4 million appropriation needed to save the 1960 Winter Olympics from being blown off to Innsbruck, Austria, passed the eye of the hurricane when the California assembly approved the request by a 63-11 vote and sent it along to the senate. Forecast there: squally but clearing.
Leo Durocher, flying high in TV circles, began to orbit an old familiar field—one all marked off in the shape of a diamond. "I had 32 years of baseball, and that's enough," he repeated once more for the record, but this time Leo had something to add: "Unless," he amended thoughtfully, "something should occur whereby I could be in the front office."
The Chicago Cubs may not be going anywhere in the National League pennant race but their fans surely are; right to the top, in fact, via a set of moving ramps which will glide customers effortlessly to the upper decks of Wrigley Field. Glorious new vistas, says Cub Owner Phil Wrigley, will now open to the older fans who previously passed up a chance to climb the heights.
With the storm tides of Pacific Coast football investigation now pounding the shores of California (SI, March 19), the once-scandalous waves upon Lake Washington have settled to a gentle ripple. Said Washington's No. 1 booster, Torchy Torrance: "There is no more Greater Seattle Advertising Fund as far as I am concerned."