Pope Pius XII offered a counsel of caution to sports car drivers on the eve of the famed Italian road race, the Mille Miglia: "The Christian spirit may require you sometimes to curb your understandable natural impatience...should there happen to be other cars on the road."
To Romans who know the Pope's personal fondness for moving with dispatch, it was a revealing utterance. At the age of 80, His Holiness still takes a commanding interest in the manner in which he is driven between the Vatican and his summer home at Castel Gandolfo—a fairly sporty course of 17 miles or so, which the Pope likes to cover at no less than an average of 55 mph. On the way, the Pope has been known to cradle a stop watch in his hand, ticking off the landmarks and urging his chauffeur up to pace.
UP FROM OLANTA
April 29, 1956
The record books will show that the Boston Red Sox won their opener 8-1 and that in it a rookie shortstop named Buddin made two hits. After the game Donald Thomas Buddin, 18 days shy of 22, sat quietly in front of his locker.
He was sipping, with obvious unfamiliarity, on a bottle of beer and trying to appear casual. But like rookies immemorial who have passed the first test, Buddin was not succeeding.
For one thing, a photographer circled him busily, clicking his shutter. Don tried not to notice. For another, reporters were gathering for their inevitable questions. For yet another, the narcotic of nervous tension was wearing off and he was slightly jittery.
Most of all, he was just too pleased with himself to be casual. And why not? He was a big league shortstop for Boston, all the way from Olanta, S.C. to the big leagues. There never again would be a day quite like this for him, and he meant to enjoy it. He caught the cameraman out of the corner of his eye and preened, just a bit.
"Don," a man said, "it looks like you're getting the full treatment right from the start."
This broke the spell. Don laughed nervously, glad of the chance.
"I guess so," he said.
The inevitable came: "Were you nervous, Don?"
"Well, I suppose I was," he said in a small voice, and the reporters leaned in to hear. "I'm sure glad to get that first one out of my system," he added.
"How about your first time at bat?"
Don took a nervous sip of beer before he answered, then stated the rookie's classic thought:
"I did," he said proudly, "what I always dreamed I'd do—get a hit my first time up in the majors."
"I'll bet all Olanta was rooting for you today," a man ventured.
"Look," Don said, and he got up, reached into the top shelf of his locker and took down a handful of telegrams.
"All from people I know back home," he said. He opened one as a sample. It carried at the top a message of good luck, and then followed 60-odd names and nicknames. "Everybody I know back home."
"When you reported this spring," a reporter asked, "did you figure you could make this team?"
Again Don hesitated for a moment. He had his answer ready immediately, but he did not want it to sound too boastful. Finally, choosing his words carefully, he first repeated the question: "Did I think I could make it?" Donald Thomas Buddin nodded his crew-clipped head.
"That," he said, "was what I came for."
THE FOXLY THING TO DO
Hero worship of ballplayers is likely to get a bit out of hand after the long winter, but not if Miss Betty Van Housen of Chicago can help it.
Miss Van Housen is president of Fox's Mighty Mites, a Chicago fan club dedicated to the decorous adoration of White Sox Second Baseman Nellie Fox.
"Unfortunately," said Miss Van Housen in a statement prepared for the 1956 season, "many people feel that fan clubs are worthless and made up of a group of scatterbrained, man-crazy females, usually in the teen-age years. This is not true."
Pointing out that the age range of the Mighty Mites is from 7 to 35, Miss Van Housen (herself in her early 20s) submits that her club clearly "isn't a group of silly young ladies with only one object in mind." The Mites have faced up to the fact that there is a Mrs. Nellie Fox and have, in fact, elected her an honorary vice-president.
"We are very proud of our club," said Miss Van Housen. "Each Christmas we visit the Great Lakes Naval Hospital and distribute gifts and refreshments to the patients. During the season we try to attend games in a group. We take part in the annual autographing party held by the White Sox fan clubs, and each year we hold a farewell party for Nellie. Last season the Mites collected over 5,000 votes for Nellie in All-Star balloting.
"We're proud of Nellie's playing and his conduct both off the field and on, and Nellie is just as proud of his club. We have never cast a bad reflection on him, and anyone who does will be immediately removed from club rosters."
To keep members informed, the club publishes a mimeographed newspaper called Fox's Findings and an annual, Keystone Kapers, which is almost as thick as the Dubuque, Iowa telephone directory. These journals are filled with information about the club and its hero. Where do Mr. and Mrs. Nellie Fox live during the season? In a South Chicago hotel. Who is Nellie's roommate on the road? Billy Pierce, the pitcher. Who is allowed to sign correspondence with the phrase, "Foxly yours"? Any member of the Mighty Mites.
The same lofty attitude may be found in other fan clubs, according to Miss Van Housen. The Dodger Debs, say, or Minnie Minoso's Cuban Comets or the Chico Carrasquelites.
Miss Van Housen, alas, has no control over the activities of independent worshipers like Miss Alaine Brown, age 12, of Rye, N.Y. The other day Miss Brown announced to her classmates at the Milton School that she would pay 25¢ cash for a piece of paper reading, "I love you, Alaine," if it bore the authentic signature of Pitcher Robin Roberts of the Phillies. The commission was accepted by Miss Sally O'Neil, also 12, who planned to work through her father, who is acquainted with Billy Martin of the Yankees. The fact that Martin and Roberts do not play in the same league would, at first, appear to present a difficulty. Furthermore, the devious approach to Mr. Roberts might be expected to dilute his declaration of regard for Miss Brown.
Neither Miss Brown nor Miss O'Neil cares about that. All's fair, they feel, in love and the autograph game.
Fair it may be, but in Chicago it would not be considered very foxly.
RUNNYMEDE AT TUSCA LOOSA
No matter how you slice it, the 1955-56 school year has hardly been a happy one for the University of Alabama. The football team lost all 10 of its games; the five first stringers on its high-ranking basketball squad were ineligible for the national championships; and there was Miss Autherine Lucy. As any owner of a rabbit's foot knows, bad luck comes in streaks, and Alabama is no exception. Last week, as if to prove it, 92 of the 115 athletes who live for free in the dormitory provided for men on athletic scholarships packed their bags and walked out.
It all began with an auto accident at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning—well past the 12:30 weekend curfew hour for athletes who live in Friedman Hall. Roy Vickery, a tackle, was driving five fellow athletes home from a fraternity party, and while they were still five miles from Tuscaloosa he overturned the car. All of the men were injured, two seriously. Later that day Vickery was turned out of the dormitory, and an assistant football coach marched into Friedman Hall bearing a new and stricter set of rules and regulations.
By Monday evening the athletes were seething to the point where they called an indignation meeting and wrote down a series of demands: no more 11 p.m. bed check for seniors, managers and those who have completed their eligibility; only two hours of compulsory study a night for deficient students; unlimited weekend privileges for off-season athletes. When the meeting broke up, one of the young men complained: "It's a bad situation and has been. It involves more than rules. At the university the athletes are more or less segregated, looked down on by a lot of students. Sorority girls, for example, just don't generally date athletes here. You rarely hear of a university football player becoming a big man on the campus." Someone else pinned a sign over the entrance to Friedman Hall reading: DON'T TALK TO THE PRISONERS.
On Tuesday, the day after the meeting, a delegation of athletes appeared at the office of Athletic Director Hank Crisp to present their ultimatum. Coach Hank, as they call him, was away looking for a new basketball coach, but when he returned he took his time about meeting the insurgents. Toward evening the athletes sent him a message: "You'd better come over here right now or we're leaving." Crisp showed up a few minutes later, brusque and unyielding, so all the athletes (except two who had other ideas and the baseball team which was away for a game) went to their rooms, packed their bags and abandoned Friedman Hall. Most moved in with friends at nearby fraternity houses.
By Wednesday, Coach Hank had reconsidered. The way things were going the Crimson Tide would have trouble fielding a team of horses for spring plowing, so Crisp sat down with the Friedman Hall spokesmen in what may well turn out to be a Runnymede of sorts. The Magna Carta emerging from this session awarded the athletes all their demands, and Coach Hank thereupon retired to his office fortress to brood over the growing power of the barons of college sports. When someone asked him how he felt about it, Crisp just sighed: "I am statemented out."
FUN AT BERKELEY
While the heroes of the Alabama campus were battling for their rights, another set of athletes in faraway Berkeley, Calif. was behaving for all the world as if college sport is just fun. An invasion of 18 Harvard Rugby players burst on the University of California for a couple of matches over the weekend, and the way they enjoyed themselves was enough to make a high-salaried athletic director unfrock himself in disgust.
The Harvards swooped down on the Golden Gate with no heavier burden than textbooks and the striped underwear a Rugger player wears. It was the kind of day that brings coeds out in their sleeveless dresses, a sight that the men from Harvard noted with approval. Art Tichnor, president of the Harvard Rugby Club, spoke for his teammates. "I would not say," he said in an unmistakable Harvard accent, "that the California girls are prettier than the Radcliffe girls. But they are certainly a most healthy lot, and with their low-cut dresses, we all feel it has been an early spring for us."
The Harvards were soon distributed among the six fraternity houses where they were to live. Then, textbooks under their arms, they strolled up the hill to the 88,000-seat Memorial Stadium for a morning workout and a little relaxed study. Next there was a lunch sponsored by the Cal students' organization, followed by a sightseeing tour with the women's rally committee—each coed driving a Harvard or two in her own car past San Francisco's finest landmarks and retelling, as best she could remember, the story of the 1906 earthquake. Dinner that night was a pizza-and-beer shebang in San Francisco's Italian quarter.
Saturday morning was relatively quiet. Fullback James Damis had to take an exam, so he was closeted in the office of the California dean. Jim Joslin, the center half (and tailback on the football team), went for a walk and was captured by Pi Beta Phi sorority girls for a coffee party as he wandered past their house.
After lunch there was, of course, the game, and something like 4,000 Cal students sprinkled themselves throughout the huge bowl. Cal scored first with a well-executed try on a short passing rush and converted from a difficult angle to make it 5-0. A few minutes later Harvard's Charles Levine, the scrum half, kicked a 28-yard penalty, and it was 5-3. Just before half time, Cal put together a beautiful 40-yard rush in which four forwards handled the ball before Bill Vallotton scored the try. Noel Bowden again converted and it was 13-3 at the mid-game break.
Harvard looked better in the second half, but was no match for a Cal fifteen which had lost only one of its last 12 matches. The final score was 18-6, but everyone agreed it had been a whale of a game. That night the Harvard players did pretty much as they pleased. Some went dancing with the Cal coeds, some took out young ladies from nearby Mills College. As this issue of SI went to press, no defections to the West had been reported, but there was an ever-present danger.
THE INFLATED TAPE MEASURE
The knowing football fan avoids putting much faith in the weights of the players as printed in the program; too often they reflect a species of psychological warfare. Should the wise fan also learn to be a skeptic about the heights of basketball players? Well, here's the case of Tom Gola.
When Tom Gola was a mere school-boy in Philadelphia, he towered over his classmates at 6 feet 6 inches and exhibited such grace and skill and classic proficiency upon a basketball court that he was offered scholarships to 62 institutions of higher learning.
He picked La Salle, right at home in Philadelphia, and sometime during the next four years shot up to 6 feet 7¾ inches, kept on scoring points, became a three-time All-America and led the Explorers to the NIT and NCAA championships.
Tom Gola graduated from college but didn't even have to leave home to become one of the rookie stars of the National Basketball Association. The Philadelphia Warriors, not unaware of the tremendous gate appeal of this local hero, were also missing no bets in an attempt to escape from the NBA cellar—and Tom Gola looked like a good bet. He was. Listed as only 6 feet 7 for simplicity's sake, the magnificent rookie scored 732 points, rebounded, defended and set up plays like an old pro, and the Warriors, attracting three times as many spectators as the year before, won both the league championship and the postseason playoffs. And then the best team in all basketball, fortified for the years ahead with a cast of able veterans and a 23-year-old whiz kid, sat back to gloat over prospects of a lengthy command of the professional game.
But last week the United States Army, which usually has only poor basketball teams because it has to fashion its athletic squads—as well as its combat divisions—from American males less than 6 feet 6 inches in height, made two important discoveries: 1) all the tape measures in Philadelphia had, for a period of at least six years, been badly out of adjustment, and 2) Tom Gola was only 6 feet 5¾ inches tall—and 1A in the draft.
So, as Philadelphia groaned in dismay, Tom Gola went off to Fort Jackson, S.C. to shoot a basketball—or a rifle—for two years in the U.S. Army.
When it was suggested (SI, Dec. 26) that schools and colleges consider playing their soccer schedules in the springtime instead of bucking the competition of football and the World Series in the fall, opinion among the coaches and officials polled was about evenly divided. But now one coach, Jock Stewart of UCLA, who liked the idea from the start, has put it to the test and is enthusiastic about it.
Coach Stewart scheduled a home game with the University of Arizona. Against the competition of a track meet on the UCLA campus, the soccer game (Arizona won 5-3) drew 500 spectators, which is five times what a soccer game usually drew on the same field last fall.
Perhaps that's just the beginning.
Now Coach Stewart has received permission from Athletic Director Wilbur Johns to hold full-scale soccer practice during the month of May. Said Stewart to an SI correspondent:
"You fellows gave me the idea and it's a good one."
FOR THE BIRDS
Pigeon shooting has been a big thing in Monte Carlo since it was introduced, in 1872, by Prince Charles III of Monaco, who cannily noted that it was a "privileged pastime" and likely to attract the gentry. It has. Wealthy, titled and professional gunners throng into Monaco annually for the pigeon matches in February and March. Pigeon shooting, Monaco style, is, in effect, trap shooting with live birds and is held on a walled, curving range between the Casino and the Mediterranean; the shooter pays 500 francs for a pigeon, which is released from a box set 20 or 30 yards away from him, and bangs away as the feathered target flies up.
Since the object is to kill as many birds, consecutively, as possible, the sport is rough on the pigeons. Twenty thousand of them (trapped nightly during the season in the mountains of Spain) are knocked off each season—although a few wise birds have sense enough to walk, not fly, when released and are thus able to bustle out of range unharmed. Although his own kinsman started it all, all this seems to have weighed heavily upon the mind of Prince Rainier III. "The best wedding gift you can give me," he wrote in response to a letter from Aristoteles Socrates Onassis, the Greek financier who controls the gambling casino, "is to stop the sport of pigeon shooting in Monte Carlo."
Onassis has agreed—although he hedged a little in accepting full responsibility for the act last week after the Prince and Grace had sailed off on their honeymoon. "Rainier didn't ask me to stop pigeon shooting," Onassis said. "He asked the Sociétés des Bains de Mer. I'm only a stockholder. But he's our little sovereign and we'll please him. We'll lose money but we can afford it."
The coxswain knits his brow
And pushes off from shore;
Too late to tell him now
The stroke forgot his oar.
—IRWIN L. STEIN
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Monsieur Jean Dame, advance-guard of the French Olympic Committee, returned from an inspection tour of Melbourne with an intelligence report: Australian wine, he said, is too heavy for French stomachs. The French team will haul its own.
John Landy, scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles May 1 to work out leg kinks before his two big U.S. mile races, already has some competition—and some pace-makers—lined up: Bill Dellinger and Jim Bailey, the 1954 and '55 national collegiate mile champions from Oregon. Lon Spurrier, the world half-mile record holder who beat Landy at that distance in Australia last winter, remains a strong probability as well.
Meanwhile, Wes Santee, still under an AAU ban, kept right on training and mapping out a campaign of exhibitions and military meets. The Marine lieutenant recently ran a competitive mile in a slow 4:12.3, the Olympic 1,500-meter distance in an equally slow 3:52.2, and then announced plans for an all-out assault on his own American record of 4:00.5 at the Norfolk Virginia-Pilot Relays this weekend.
The Indianapolis "500" entry deadline passed with 59 cars signed up to go, but one big test remained before any of them could roar past the starting flag on Memorial Day: qualifying trials the weekends of May 19-20 and 26-27, which will cut the list to 33, the number of entries allowed in the big race.
Head Man's victory in the Wood Memorial was good news for Jockey Ted Atkinson, who wasn't even close at the finish. Without a mount for the Kentucky Derby, Atkinson will remain at Jamaica to ride Nashua in the Grey Lag Handicap, May 5, while the big bay's regular jockey, Eddie Arcaro, sticks with Head Man in hopes of riding his sixth Derby winner down at Louisville that same day.