ON THE FUTURE OF FOOTBALL
It has been a little as if a deep fissure were slowly splitting a handsome wall—at first an almost imperceptible crack but gradually building into an ugly and dangerous scar.
The original incidents were somewhat isolated and infrequent enough to form no definite pattern. A year ago it was Texas A&M: a two-year probation for tampering with high school athletes in violation of the Southwest Conference rules on recruiting. Last fall it was Alabama: a $1,000 fine after some overeager alumni had showered gifts on a prospective back. Early this year it was Auburn: an indefinite suspension in the Southeast Conference for paying $500 each to a pair of twins who looked like fine football prospects.
By February, a player revolt at the University of Washington had led to an absurd situation in which half the friends of Washington's unsuccessful football team were name-calling the other half—and revealing the existence of an illegal if well-intentioned slush fund to support college athletes (SI, Feb. 20). On the heels of this came the testimony of a onetime UCLA player that he and his teammates had drawn illegal salaries. Last month Alabama reappeared with a player revolt of its own (SI, April 30) which, although it involved no conference irregularities, underscored the growing problem of maintaining subsidized athletes.
May 6, 1956
Intercollegiate football started as part of the recreational sports program at most good-sized universities, developed into their most popular spectator attraction and soon became the financial backbone of the collegiate athletic system. Everyone enjoys the football season immensely, but the question keeps intruding: Is the great bear hug of national enthusiasm stifling the most engrossing of all college games?
And now comes the news about Ohio State. Of course, most people know that masses of fleet halfbacks and beefy guards do not arrive on a given campus through sheer luck. Most everyone also knows that Ohio State is favored to win its third straight Big Ten title this year along with an invitation to the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. And those who read SI's Oct. 24 issue learned, among more striking matters, that Coach Woody Hayes sometimes lends money from his own pocket to players who are financially strapped. But it was generally assumed that this great football power of the Middle West remained within the rather liberal bounds of Big Ten regulations.
Not so, apparently. After a three-month investigation, Kenneth L. (Tug) Wilson, Commissioner of the Western Conference, announced from Chicago that he was putting OSU "in a state of probationary membership in the intercollegiate conference for a period of no less than one year"; that the university "shall under no circumstances be considered...eligible to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl football game"; and that "none of the athletes who were beneficiaries of the irregularities...shall be presented for eligibility until I have approved satisfactory evidence."
Tug Wilson had traveled to Columbus to find out about Hayes's personal loans to his athletes. Hayes would give him no accounting and simply admitted that during the past five years he had lent about $400 a year to various players in need of help. Wilson looked further and discovered "a serious irregularity" in the off-campus work program which provides OSU athletes, particularly football players, with salaries up to $100 a month and occasionally higher. Most of these jobs are with the state—things like paging for the legislature or clerking for the highway department; but some of the more rabid fans, including prominent Columbus businessmen, also hire athletes. The trouble was that in numerous instances the athletes seemed to have collected their wages in advance, without anybody notably concerned if they ever performed the work for which they had been paid. Naming no names, Wilson declared such players ineligible until they catch up with their back work.
Most of the Ohio State campus and downtown Columbus was in a rage over Wilson's edict. Not that they pleaded innocent. One player summed up the feeling when he said: "If they think we're bad, they should look around at a few other schools." Coach Hayes thought about the punishment and then roared: "No, I don't think it is a bit fair." As an analogy he explained that they pinch a motorist for speeding, "but they don't send him to the gallows, do they?"
In this case, the gallows consists of depriving Ohio State of a postseason excursion to Pasadena (assuming they earn it on the gridiron). But is there anything in the punishment to prevent Hayes and his players from having a whopping good time playing out their 1956 schedule with other colleges, just as the basic idea of a college sports program intends? If the fissure that is working its way through college football is to be repaired, not just patched over, Ohio's penalty will be a small price to pay for the boon to sport.
YALE 3, CORNELL 2
Like television and southern cooking, college baseball can be pretty awful and pretty good. Brown University, to take a case, looked pretty awful the other day in losing (with the help of nine errors) to Navy by a score of 16-3. At the same time Yale and Cornell were providing an afternoon of baseball that had high entertainment value, some good pitching, some stylish fielding and one catch that an old Yale man named Frank Merriwell would have been glad to claim. Yale, as it usually did in Frank's day, won, 3-2, for its 14th in a row in two seasons.
The game was played before a crowd of about 200 at Yale Field, which is complete with such major league comforts as a public-address system, a big electric scoreboard, printed score cards and a hot dog and soda pop salesman alert enough to switch to hot coffee when the sun vanishes into the clouds.
From this knowing crowd, a casual visitor could pick up all sorts of interesting information. For instance, Frank McGowan, scout for the Baltimore Orioles, was on hand. The Yale team had had the benefit this spring of a Florida training trip. Bill DeGraaf, the Cornell pitcher, was also Bill DeGraaf, the Cornell quarterback. Don Pruett, in right field for Yale, was the son of Dr. Hubert Pruett of St. Louis who, as Shucks Pruett of the old Browns, used to strike out Babe Ruth with (to the Babe) infuriating regularity. Ethan Allen, Yale coach, was the same Ethan Allen who played the outfield in both big leagues, wrote several baseball books, invented a parlor game called All-Star Baseball.
As for this game, it got off in big league style. Ken MacKenzie, the Yale left-hander and captain, forced the first three men who faced him to pop up feebly. He walked Nick Schiff to open the second inning, but a double play nullified that, and then MacKenzie went on to allow only two scratch hits until the ninth. In the fourth he was saved from some bad trouble when Jim Brown went after John Simek's long fly to left and dived into the bleacher seats for it. Brown managed to rise up and show that he had caught the ball, then collapsed. He was carried off on a stretcher but was able to start walking around before the game was over.
Ray Lamontagne, Yale center fielder, hitting in the cleanup position, was the principal offender against Cornell's DeGraaf. Lamontagne accounted for three of Yale's seven hits and sent a long fly to center to score Hassler with the winning run in the seventh. Without him in there, Bill DeGraaf—who pitched the full game for Cornell—certainly would have had a more pleasurable afternoon.
Yale's MacKenzie got in trouble in the ninth. After fanning Dick Meade, he walked DeGraaf (who hits No. 3). Nick Schiff thereupon singled to left, and after John Simek popped up, Cornell's John Anderluh singled to center for his first hit of the afternoon, scoring DeGraaf. Earl Taylor then relieved MacKenzie and walked John Marchell, hitting for Mott, to fill the bases. The hitter was now Clayton Haviland who had replaced Flynn at second base. Earl Taylor looked him in the eye, hitched up his pants like a pro and forced him to fly out to center. Totals: for Cornell, two runs, five hits, two errors. For Yale, three runs, seven hits, one error—and a firm hold on first place in the Eastern Intercollegiate League.
ON YOUR MARK
Down in Tía Juana, where the laws of Mexico look kindly on book-making, the Alessio brothers John and Tony closed their Kentucky Derby future book (SI, May 2, '55) and are now sitting back with a veteran air. Needles (2 to 1) is the favorite in their book, closely followed by Career Boy (5 to 2) and Head Man (4 to 1). After that come Count Chic, Pintor Lea and Terrang (all 6 to 1), Fabius (8 to 1), Ben A. Jones and Countermand (10 to 1), No Regrets (15 to 1), Besomer and High King (30 to 1).
The four "bad" horses, from the book's standpoint, are Count Chic, Terrang, Reaping Right and Ben A. Jones—the latter a 3-year-old chestnut not to be confused with Calumet Trainer Ben A. Jones, who may saddle a horse or two of his own in the big race. Count Chic, Terrang, et al. would be "bad" winners from the book's standpoint because of their relatively low esteem early in the winter season, when Count Chic, for instance, was rated 30 to 1. Not long after, Count Chic went to Florida and ran a smashing second to Needles, and the wagers poured in.
"The money on Ben A. Jones came from Calgary, Canada," confides Tony Alessio. "You know, when Kefauver closed the 'action' in Chicago, all of what we call 'hot stuff' moved to Calgary. Ben A. Jones was originally 80 to 1 and we got a lot of action on him." Tony calls the Calgary wagers "informed money," and the mere fact that Ben A. Jones has trained up through the winter and spring and is likely to be among those present in the starting gate at Churchill Downs worries Tony a bit.
Needles, on the other hand, would be a "good" winner for the Alessios. "I was routed out of bed at 8 a.m. the other morning," says Tony. "A guy is on the phone wants to know if he can bet $20,000 on Needles—$10,000 to win, $10,000 to place. I tell him 'sure.' There is a very good friend of mine sitting right alongside him as he makes the call, and I tell him my friend will tell him how to make the bet. He seems stunned we will take the action and says he will call me back. He hasn't called back. Needles will be a good winner for us; we were on to him early. Fabius would be even better. If he wins, we'll have champagne."
Tony is planning to break away from Tía Juana long enough to see the Derby in person. His personal inclination: Head Man.
VISITORS' DAY AT PENN
Dressed in traditional gray flannels, natty blue blazers and the skimmer straws which Englishmen wear to disguise the fact that Englishmen simply do not believe in patronizing a barbershop more than half a dozen times a year, a quartet of runners from Oxford University "popped" into Philadelphia for the 62nd running of the Penn Relays. Ian Boyd, Donald Gorrie, Alan Gordon and the British half-mile champion Derek Johnson came over to scout the American talent (in particular, Pitt's fleet-footed Arnie Sowell, "a positive menace—unless you've got 30 yards on him") and at the same time to pick up a few trophies to add to the two rather faded 1914 and 1923 Penn Relay banners which hang in Oxford's ancient and dilapidated pavilion at Iffley Road track.
On Philadelphia's Municipal Stadium track which was pounded to beachsand consistency by 3,000 other athletes, the boys from Oxford did not disappoint. Under the watchful eyes of Arnold Strode-Jackson, anchor man of the Oxford team which won the four-mile relay back in 1914, and of 35,000 strenuously cheering fans, the Oxonians ran away from the field in the four-mile, came back an hour later with Johnson—his jet black hair streaming in the wind—making up a 10-yard deficit and thrusting on to win the two-mile event by 20 yards.
But the lads came a cropper in their other event, the distance medley. And wouldn't you know it was an Irishman who spoiled the Englishmen's show? Villanova's Ronald Delany from Dublin, undefeated throughout the indoor season, took over the baton for the running of the anchor mile with a two-yard deficit to Ian Boyd, Oxford's hope. It was just the position Delany wanted: for three and a half laps he hung at Boyd's shoulder and let the wispy 130-pound Englishman fight the wind and pace the race. When he had had enough of this dilly-dally pace, Delany spurted past Boyd on the back-stretch as though the Oxonian were treading water and went on to finish 20 yards in front, a grin the size of Baile √Åtha Cliath itself on his face.
Sportingly, the Oxonians offered no excuses, could find no reason for defeat other than the fact that they had "run very badly" and "weren't quite as good as we thought we were." But perhaps Mr. Delany inadvertently gave the reason for Oxford's defeat. Shaking hands with congratulators, he paused to listen to a Canadian who turned out to be not quite au courant in regard to the situation abroad.
"Mr. Delany," blurted the Canadian, "I hadn't realized you were from Ireland! How wonderful, you'll be running for us at the Olympics!" Removing his hand gently but abruptly from the Canadian's clasp, Mr. Delany stepped back an inch or so, and not in his usual self-effacing and gentle manner observed, "Ireland is not a part of the British Empire." And with that Mr. Delany turned sharply on his heel and sprinted off.
CRACK AND CRUNCH
Lacrosse is a state institution in Maryland, like crab cakes and the late H. L. Mencken. Kids play it on the streets of Baltimore and Annapolis the way they play corkball in St. Louis and stickball in New York. In all the bigger colleges and most of the high schools it is a major sport, often the major sport.
Last Saturday, in sticky, unseasonable 87¬∫ weather, 11,500 passionate fans turned out for the Navy-University of Maryland game at College Park. At the same time, only 12 miles away in Washington, a major league game between the locally favorite Orioles and the Senators drew 3,800.
While the game's grip on Marylanders can hardly be explained rationally, it is a fact even the casual visitor cannot escape. On the sprawling, hilly College Park campus, lacrosse-men often carry their sticks with them and toss the ball back and forth as they walk between classes. This is more than just fun; constant practice is necessary to acquire sure control of passing and catching the small, solid-rubber ball with the shallow net attached to the end of a slender hickory stick, and stick handling is by all odds the most important element in the game. Aside from this, lacrosse is simple enough, the object being to pass and carry the ball downfield and fling it past the defending team into a low net that resembles the goal in ice hockey. Much of the playmaking is like basketball: give-and-go, pivot, cut-feed-and-shoot. But lacrosse's standout distinction is the constant vigorous body blocking and checking permissible under the rules. This and the freedom to whack opposing players' sticks when the ball is being passed or carried, gives the game its own sound effects also: the sharp crack of hickory, the dull crunch of shoulders digging into ribs.
Before Saturday's game, Navy's All-America football end (and lacrosse midfielder) Ron Beagle explained why he would risk another season of hard body-contact sport, especially since he still wore a cast from elbow to wrist on his right arm, the result of a football injury: "In the first place, lacrosse is a big thing at Annapolis. This Maryland game means the same to us as Army-Navy in football. It's a game that demands top physical condition; the constant running back and forth is so different from stop-and-go football. I've seen football men complete spring practice and then have to start getting in shape to play lacrosse. I guess you could say it's a challenge."
Minutes later, Beagle was himself demonstrating the accuracy of his remarks. As soon as the game began, it was clear that part of Navy's strategy was for Beagle to fall off his own man and help his teammate carry the Maryland ball carrier, a form of double teaming common enough in other sports. Beagle ran and ran but unfortunately for Navy, the tactic was sadly ineffective. Maryland quickly proved far more skillful at stick handling; their short, crisp passing often bewildered Navy, whose own passes resembled long, soft lobs that were regularly intercepted. At half time, the score (Maryland 5, Navy 3) was no indication of the Terrapins' superiority. The statistics were. Maryland had taken 35 shots at the Navy goal; Navy had possession of the ball only often enough to take 14. Navy's goalie, Cliff Eley, had managed some remarkable saves to keep the score down, but even he must have wondered how long he could check the law of averages.
Between halves, both the coaches guessed wrong, luckily, as it turned out, for Maryland, not so for Navy. Maryland's Jack Faber had only one bit of advice for his men: "The first five minutes of the second half are going to be the most important in the game. Those guys will be coming back all hopped up. Keep the pressure on."
In the Navy dressing room, Coach "Dinty" Moore was saying: "Just stay with 'em for the first five or ten minutes. Pretty soon that heat out there will slow them down, and then we'll go."
Moore was banking on the Navy team's traditional fitness to counter Maryland's skill. It didn't work. The Terrapins refused to wilt; instead they outran Navy the rest of the way. As one Middie bench warmer put it gloomily: "Every time there's a loose ball, three of them are after it to one of our guys." The final score: 10-5, Maryland.
Few Midshipmen of the 1,100 who asked to attend the game on their own time and at their own expense were inclined to take this particular defeat philosophically, but not just because Maryland would now almost surely go on to the national championship. There was another reason, a symptom of the statewide lacrosse fever. Said First Classman Charles Vickery: "Our rivalry with Army is a friendly thing. With Maryland, it's serious."
FAREWELL TO SPORT
When an actor retires he makes a dramatic farewell appearance, preferably before crowned heads; a retiring politician calls a press conference; a retiring soldier calls on the Veterans Administration. But an athlete? Last week Rocky Marciano, having notified the world that he is abdicating his title (see page 24), visited Grossinger's, a spa in the Catskills where he did all his training, and nailed up the entrance to his dressing room.
UP, BIG GREEN
The town of Winchester, Mass. has just resolved the question of whether to paint its new parking meters red or green. It took a decision of the five-man Board of Selectmen to settle the matter and the vote was 3 to 2 for green. The board consists of three Dartmouth men and two Harvards.
He favors his father,
Some say, but I see,
Since his toe caught that hurdle,
He favors his knee.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Don't expect Nashua and Swaps to meet again in the proposed $200,000 match race on the West Coast. There is, however, a very strong possibility that the two great Thoroughbreds will wind up on the same Kentucky stud farm, if Ellsworth & Co. decide to cash in on their champion's breeding promise.
Harvey Kuenn, Detroit's 25-year-old slugging shortstop, learned from his wife that his draft board wanted to see him on May 11. Later, Casey Stengel was asked if Kuenn's absence would hurt the Tigers. "The Tigers might be hurt," said the Yankee manager, "but the pitching all over the league will improve."
John Landy, Australia's and the world's supreme miler, sounded unduly pessimistic as he left Australia for his U.S. debut on May 5 in California, where he will be paced by Lon Spurrier, world record holder in the 880. "The true potential of any athlete never is fully realized," he observed. "I know that I am 20 yards better in time than when I created the world record [3 min. 58 sec.]. Despite this, I cannot get that time on the board."
Australia's Olympic officials were meanwhile gloating over an advance sale of 60,000 tickets, of which 45,000 were orders from schools whose pupils will attend in huge blocs. Nearly all lower-priced seats have been sold for November 28, the sixth day of the Games, when Landy, the national idol, will probably appear in the 5,000 meter race.
Oregon's Supreme Court ruled that a baseball fan must assume the risk of being hit by a foul ball. In an historic obiter dictum, the justices pointed out—while setting aside a judgment of $2,400 for William Hunt-that the plaintiff could have ducked out of the way if he had been paying attention to the game at the Portland Beavers' ball park.