AH, THERE, DR. BENNETT
Just as the major league baseball season got officially under way, bad news emanated from Baltimore. Dr. George Bennett of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, widely known for his ministrations to the arms of ailing pitchers, issued a pronouncement:
"Pitching is a most unnatural motion. The shoulder was not constructed to throw a baseball."
Sixteen big league pitchers, stretching in readiness to throw their first deliveries of the 1956 season, paused and turned their heads, like the brontosauruses in Disney's Fantasia when, during The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky's music warned of the coming of the dread Tyrannosaurus rex.
April 23, 1956
"There are any number of things that can happen to an elbow or shoulder," Dr. Bennett went on. "The common phrase for an elbow injury is 'bone chips.' There is no such thing. There is a flaking off of cartilage in the elbow. Deposits form in the shoulder, too. The unnatural motion causes it."
Unnatural motion, indeed. Dr. Bennett may not realize what he has done, but he has attacked the foundations of the Republic. George Washington was not throwing underhand when he pitched that dollar across the Rappahannock, you know. And what about Eisenhower and the first ball in Washington? These were cold words indeed on the eve of the pennant race.
Fortunately for baseball (and the Republic), player and fan alike are used to hardship. Now, in April, it is cold in the shadows of the grandstand—coffee and hot chocolate sell better than beer and pop—but the spectators tend to group together, sharing warmth, in seats that are in the sun. On the field, the batter hits a pitched ball with the handle of his bat and curses and shakes his stinging fingers in pain, but when it's his turn to bat again he's up there, ready for the pitch.
Last weekend the players of the 16 major league teams came grumbling down out of the tortured hills of spring training and into the major league towns. They played a last exhibition game or two, took a hot shower, shaved and waited for Tuesday, Opening Day of the regular season. The fans blew on their fingers, wore sweaters under their overcoats and looked for seats in the sun.
And the pitchers looked down again at the batter—away from Tyrannosaurus rex—and prepared with their unnatural motions to throw the ball.
The story began when an airplane jockey peered down at a barren snow-covered saddle of rock in Colorado's continental-divide country one day last February and saw unexpected signs of life. There, marooned at 13,000 feet, unable to descend from the drift-blocked saddle, were two stray pack horses, a gray and a bay. The airplane jockey headed back to his base at Gunnison, Col., loaded on a bale of hay and hightailed it back to the saddle with emergency rations. The gray was nowhere to be seen (and is still unaccounted for), but the bay—a shaggy, slightly woebegone but obviously sturdy character—went gratefully to work on the hay bale dropped from the plane.
That was February 28. Since that date the haylift has continued, the stranded pack horse has been universally dubbed Elijah—after the Old Testament prophet fed by ravens—and the story has become as engrossing, nay more engrossing to the U.S. West than any day-to-day horse story out of Hialeah or Santa Anita. And it's not over yet.
At first, it was almost a private story. Mayor Ben Jorgenson of Gunnison, a humane man and the first political figure in Colorado to hear Pilot Wallace Powell's account, gave the right instructions at once. "Keep flying hay in, boys," he said. "I'll foot the bill." Each airborne hay delivery cost about $12 a shot, but Mayor Jorgenson kept it coming. Nobody in Gunnison, including Mayor Jorgenson, thought of bragging about Operation Haylift, and it was weeks before the news got across the mountains to Denver. There, the Denver Post, which "knows a story when it sees one, elbowed Grace Kelly and Monaco to one side and told the whole Rocky Mountains about Elijah.
After that, Mayor Jorgenson had help with his hay bill. So many checks and pennies poured in that Elijah is very likely assured of provender for life.
Children wrote offering the horse a home when he could be brought down the mountain. ("Oh, please, Mr. Mayor, I love Elijah and I have a saddle and bridle and blanket and I want him so bad.") Songwriters went to work:
'Lijah, Old Elijah, up on the mountainside;
'Lijah, Old Elijah, king of the Great Divide...
Innumerable schemes were considered—and rejected—for getting Elijah down off the saddle. Lifting him off by helicopter was judged too hazardous both for Elijah and airmen because of turbulence among the peaks. Drugging Elijah and lashing him to a big sled was also ruled out; so was the idea of leading him out over the 50-foot drifts on specially contrived snowshoes.
Indeed, the final rescue of Elijah will probably have to wait for late May when the snows have melted. But by last week, groups of climbers fought through to the ledge for a first-hand look at the outdoor boy. One group included a pair of horse wranglers named Bill and Al Turner. As soon as they got to the summit, Elijah whinnied over to them and began munching oats out of their sack. The Turner brand on Elijah's left shoulder (Heart 2-Bar) confirmed what Bill and Al Turner had been sure of all along; Elijah is not Elijah but a temperamental character from the Turner corral named Bugs. Moreover, the Turners knew him well enough to know why he had wandered off to the winter solitudes of a two-acre saddle 13,000 feet high in the Rocky Mountains:
"Bugs hates parked cars and women in skirts...motive enough for heading for the high country."
CINDERS AND POUSSE-CAFÉ
Now that John Landy, Australia's superb miler, has hurdled all the barriers of athletic protocol and established a clear track to California next month, the air is full of surmise on how he will travel over two of the fastest running surfaces anywhere—those at the Los Angeles Coliseum and Fresno's Ratcliffe Stadium. Landy is obviously in superb condition these days. Twice in recent weeks he has broken through the four-minute barrier at Melbourne's Olympic Park under anything but ideal conditions. On the second occasion, when Landy was clocked in 3:58.6, the track had been soaked by an overnight rain. A pig would have loved it for wallowing, but it was scarcely right for running that day. Or so it seemed until Landy set forth.
In California, Landy will be in a land where the concentration is on faster and faster tracks, and the old-fashioned cinder path is as obsolete as the bunny hop. Take the new track at Bakersfield College's Memorial Stadium, scene of the coming AAU outdoor championships in June. Several weeks ago little Mike Agostini of Trinidad ran the 220-yard dash there in 20.1 to break Mel Patton's world record, and other trackmen concede the Bakersfield track may have the finest surface yet. At its base is a layer of decomposed granite covered by four inches of gravel. Then comes a layer of rock powder with the consistency of cement but without its hardening tendencies. All this is topped off with a surface containing 60% crushed brick, 20% clay, 14% river-bottom loam and 6% calcium. The pousse-café itself is poured with no more loving care.
The purpose of such alchemy is quite elementary. In dry weather the calcium absorbs moisture from the air. The brick holds the moisture without hardening. The clay binds the brick together into a semisolid surface. The loam keeps the clay from solidifying into hardpan. The result, if the Bakersfield theory works, is the kind of springy track that helps the distance runners and yet provides the firm surface favored by sprinters.
The genesis of these experiments with new running surfaces dates back to the 1948 Olympics when the British were looking for the best available surface for Wembley Stadium. They finally decided to crush up a few hundred thousand old bricks, of which they had a plentiful supply through the courtesy of Hitler's bombers. The Finns were so impressed that they copied the brick-dust formula for their Helsinki track in the 1952 Games, and now everyone is taking up the idea.
One exception is Fresno, where Landy makes the second of his California appearances. Throughout its 31 years, the Fresno track has been resurfaced annually with a new layer of red clay composition, the same as that used in making bricks; but instead of crushing brick, they use the brick powder in its natural state. The most eloquent tributes to this surface are the many world records which have been set at Fresno, including Mel Patton's 09.3 hundred and Dick Attlesey's 13.5 in the 120-yard hurdles.
The Coliseum, on the other hand, is a compromise of two theories. The 120-yard straightaway for sprints is modeled after Helsinki's brick-dust idea, while the rest of the quarter-mile oval is packed with a native Los Angeles clay of just the right consistency for the distance men but a bit too spongy for sprinters. If the California weather holds up for May—that is, not too damp in Los Angeles and not too hot in Fresno—Landy indeed has everything in his favor. That 3:58 record he set in Finland in 1954 is by no means safe.
TIP FROM THE TOP
The stage was set for a triumphant homecoming for young Ken Venturi after his great performance in the Masters golf tournament. All his family were at the San Francisco airport to meet him, along with several dozen friends and reporters. The arms of his proud city were open wide. To be sure, Ken had taken a disastrous 80 on the final day at Augusta and finished second to Jack Burke Jr., but no amateur had ever given the pros a worse scare under more difficult conditions on one of the world's most nerve-racking courses.
As Ken stepped off the plane the questions began to fly. "What happened on the 80?" his father asked. Ken, the overnight hero, was seized by an attack of automatic talking. They had changed the pairings on him, he said, and wouldn't let him play that last round with his pal, Byron Nelson; Sam Snead, his playing partner, hardly spoke to him; Jackie Burke had been helped all through the last round by his partner, Mike Souchak. On Ken spun, out of control, and when his remarks hit the headlines they shocked the golf world.
Almost immediately, and while Ken was still trying to recover from the effects of his verbositis, a telegram arrived from Bob Jones and Cliff Roberts, the men who run the Masters. Would he inform them by return wire, they asked, of "any actions by Masters tournament officials which you consider to be contrary to the Rules of Golf or unfair to you as a contestant?"
Venturi sat himself down in the office of the automobile agency where he works and tried to explain to himself and others. "When I read the stories about what I had said," he told SI's Charles Mohr, "I felt sick. I mean physically sick.... My father always taught me that you have to be a good loser. It's the main thing. Because no matter who you are you're going to lose. Now I've torn down everything I built up in the Masters. This has got back to Bobby Jones and the Augusta National and all the sportswriters I got to know and everybody. I'm so nervous I can hardly sit still." He also told of the difficulties of putting in writing the proper apology to Jones and Roberts, but write it he did:
MY STATEMENTS FROM THE HEART WERE MADE AT CEREMONIES AFTER THE FINAL ROUND, he wired. I WOULD APPRECIATE HAVING THESE STAND. NAMELY, QUOTE I WAS DISAPPOINTED AT LOSING. JACKIE BURKE'S VICTORY WAS A WONDERFUL ACHIEVEMENT. THE GALLERIES AND AUGUSTA NATIONAL MEMBERS WERE VERY FRIENDLY TO ME AND I HOPE TO BE BACK NEXT YEAR UNQUOTE. I HAVE LEARNED A VALUABLE LESSON. I WISH TO GO ON RECORD AS HAVING NO EXCUSES FOR LOSING.
At the age of 24, Ken Venturi had possibly learned the most important golf lesson of his life: never pop off.
VIVE LES HABITANTS!
The night before the fifth game of the Stanley Cup hockey finals a 12-year-old named Jean Deschamps pitched camp in front of the general admission window of the Montreal Forum. "Je vais tester ici jusqu'√† demain soir, m√™me si je manque l'école" ("I'm going to stay right here till tomorrow night, even if it means missing school"), he said. Young Deschamps' nervous enthusiasm has been shared since October by a million or so of his compatriots, who have been counting time until the glorious night. THE night, as everybody knew perfectly well, would be the one on which the Canadiens would finally dethrone the Detroit Red Wings as kings of the Stanley Cup.
The final series was a best-of-seven affair, and Les Canadiens got off to a great start by winning the first two 6-4 and 5-1 in Montreal. Then the two squads, bitter and determined, moved to Detroit, where the mighty Red Wings had not lost a playoff game in two years. On the way, the Wings heard a fierce growl from the front office. Said fiery General Manager Jack Adams: "Some of our guys have lost their desire." The next night, their desire apparently back and well harnessed, the Red Wings won 3-1. But it was their last victory; Montreal took the fourth game in Detroit 3-0, and then it was THE night. Before young Jean Deschamps and 14,151 other fans at the Forum, Les Canadiens smashed Detroit 3-1 for the Cup.
To hockey fans who have been following the progress of Les Canadiens this season their success came as no phenomenal surprise. In Maurice (Rocket) Richard, Jean Beliveau and Boom Boom Geoffrion, Montreal has assembled an offensive threat as powerful as any in the history of the game. Beliveau's 12 goals in the playoffs (added to his 47 in the regular season) marked the big, handsome center (SI, Jan. 23) as one of the greatest players ever to lace on a pair of skates. But much of the Montreal credit rightfully belongs to Les Canadiens' rookie coach, Toe Blake, a former Montreal captain who managed, throughout the long season, to give his great squad the right mixture of praise and prods.
When it was all over and the Red Wings had left for home, far from disgraced by their loss to a clearly superior team, Montreal honored its dream team with a 30-mile parade through the streets. THE night and THE moment had finally arrived, the city of hockey fans echoed with jubilant cries of "Vive Les Habitants!" And for the moment, like young Deschamps, they didn't care if l'école kept.
As surely as there are horses at-race tracks, there will be stoopers. Right now, the stoopers are out in force at Jamaica's spring meeting—perhaps in more force than usual, following the announcement by George M. Bragalini, president of the New York State Tax Commission, that horse players neglected to cash $263,835 in winning pari-mutuel tickets at the harness and flat tracks during 1955.
That is what stooping is all about. A stooper figures that a profitable percentage of those holding winning tickets will discard them in error, in absent-mindedness or perhaps even because of eyesight blurred by too long a time at the clubhouse bar. Acting on this judgment, the stooper turns his back on the racing and darts through the crowd, head down, looking for gold in the pasteboards.
Although stoopers, to a man, refuse to discuss their art (or anything else), their techniques may be observed by anyone who will take the trouble to follow one through the crowd. The first thing to be learned is that the last thing a stooper does is stoop. What he does first of all is to memorize (or write on a card) the winning numbers of races already run. Then he lopes along, flipping over upside-down tickets with his shoe tips, swiftly reading those right side up, sometimes using both feet to buckle and flip the stubborn ones. Only when a winning number is clearly spotted does the stooper, with the swiftness and sureness of a chicken hawk, stoop.
How much will an average day's stooping pay? No stooper will say. But there is a legendary Californian, for example, said to have stooped to the tune of $1,500 in a single afternoon at Santa Anita.
Not only does the stooper refuse to discuss his art with strangers, he will not even pass the time of day with another stooper. Stooping is rugged individualism at full flowering. At Jamaica, however, one stooper was cornered and forced to listen to detailed questions as to how he got into stooping, what tracks he worked, how much he averaged over a year, was it a full-time affair with him or did he spend the winter trying to fish coins through the grating of subway ventilation areas or what? The stooper looked his questioner in the eye, said, "I'm bothering you, Mac?" and was off at a dogtrot, half crouching like Groucho Marx, ready on a split second's notice to stoop.
Now that spring has begun to ripen the hills and vales of the Northeast, a New York City radio station has felt impelled—as pure public service—to supplement its Saturday and Sunday weather and news reports three times a morning with dispatches like this: "Split Rock, one hour and over, steady; Pelham, two and a half hours, increasing; Kissena, two hours, slow."
Initiates translate WNYC's morning line with ease. There are 10 municipal golf courses in Greater New York, and from April to October the lines form early. "Split Rock, one hour and over, steady" means that now, at 8 a.m., golfers can expect more than an hour's delay between signing the waiting list and starting to play—but also that bottlenecks and traffic snarls on the fairways are—for the moment—at a minimum.
The courses open their waiting lists at 5:30 a.m. on weekends, and play starts at 6. Mosholu in The Bronx and Dyker Beach in Brooklyn (SI, Aug. 22) have the longest delays—up to four hours—because they are closest to the subway stops. But all the courses are patronized by citizens who will do astonishing things in order to get in a round of golf.
A man who lives just across the street from the Clearview course set himself the goal, early in 1955, of managing just once that year to be the first to tee off on a Saturday morning. He never made it. No matter how early he got up, a few golfers were always there before him, ready to sign the waiting list at 5:30. They were night-shift workers who got off their jobs at midnight, breakfasted on scrambled eggs and coffee in a diner and lined up at the clubhouse around 2:30 a.m.
His arms stretch back and overhead,
Legs thrash like a machine;
Indifferent to what lies ahead,
He's watching where he's been
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
The "Admirals," Navy's 1952 Olympic champion crew, back in training for the '56 Games, lowered themselves into a shell on the Severn, swept into a quick lead, then wearied and finished three lengths behind Princeton in their first comeback race. Diagnosis by Coach Rusty Callow: too little training, too much weight. Prognosis: still plenty of time to get back in form before the Olympic trials, June 28 to 30.
The Dodgers and Yankees headed into the 1956 season solid favorites to meet once again in the World Series—which shows just how lightly regarded are the results of spring training games. The Grapefruit League leaders: St. Louis (21-11), Pittsburgh (21-13), Milwaukee (19-13).
Mexico's military equestrian team, winner of the 1948 Olympics and a strong threat to win again this year, was disbanded in the midst of a fund-raising drive. Semiofficial explanations remained well clear of the reason advanced most frequently for the breakup: temperamental outbursts of General Humberto Mariles, team leader and famed horseman now scheduled for duty in a diplomatic post abroad.
Russian hockey players beat Canada last January in the Cortina Olympics and thus became the best amateurs on ice. Honor enough? Not for a nation seeking perfection. Last week Russia requested—and will receive—films of an even better hockey team in action: the Montreal Canadiens as they won the Stanley Cup from Detroit.
Dick Savitt, who gave up tennis for the oil business after winning the Wimbledon championship in 1951, is getting the full persuasion treatment from Davis Cup Captain Bill Talbert to help regain the Cup this year. Back in top form, Savitt must first work out details for a leave of absence from the D. D. Feldman Oil & Gas Co., where he is a fast-rising young Texas executive.