This is an article from the July 2, 1956 issue
The American wayof selecting their Olympic team is making a laughing stock of itselfagain," snorted the London Daily Mirror.
That was theBritish response to the news that the U.S.—thanks to a passing injury—might bewithout the services of Dave Sime in the 200-meter at Melbourne (see page 8).The British pick their Olympic athletes through a selection board system. Theboard is not bound by an athlete's performance on any given day: the board issimply asked, in the light of all the evidence, to pick those likely to turn inthe finest performances in Melbourne next November.
"U.S. trialsare sudden death," said Arthur Hodson, national secretary of the AustralianAmateur Athletic Union, when the Sime news reached him. "Here a topnotchman may be eliminated in trials and still be selected if his form improves, orif he had an off day."
Rough translationof a Russian sports ministry spokesman on the subject of Sime'sdisqualification: "It can't happen here."
In a rush of goodsense, the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Committee has now decided it doesn'tmatter that Dave Sime could not compete in the AAU preliminary trials. He willget a starting position in this week's final Olympic Trials at Los Angelesafter all. His leg just better be ready, though.
OXYGEN AND THEBRAVES
By the hot, Muggyafternoon of June 17, when the Milwaukee Braves showed up for their Sundaydouble-header in Brooklyn, they presented all the classic signs of a team deepin the baseball staggers. They had lost 12 of the last 17 games, had slumpedfrom first place to fifth and—most classic of all symptoms—had just droppedManager Charlie Grimm. A week later, in the most astonishing turnabout of 1956,they had won 10 straight and were back in first place. Manager Fred Haneydenies special credit. He is convincing when he says the Braves are now"riding the crest of the law of averages. The team was due, and we've beengetting the breaks."
On top of that,Haney's Braves have been sniffing pure oxygen out of tanks in their dugout.
The oxygen is theidea of the team's trainer, Dr. Charles Lacks, who has convinced a goodlynumber of players that it counteracts hot-weather fatigue. He has a lightweightportable setup that includes two tanks, mask and tube and fits into a leathertraveling case. Lacks has been carrying the gear with him all season but usedit for the first time on the day of the double-header with Brooklyn.
In the first gamePitcher Bob Buhl weakened badly in the late innings. Other Braves felt groggyfrom the effects of Brooklyn heat and humidity. Lacks set up the tanks in thedugout runway and invited trials. Buhl sampled it, thought it helped, andothers followed. Since then Pitcher Gene Conley, Outfielder Bobby Thomson,Third Baseman Eddie Mathews and others have all become enthusiastic oxygensniffers.
"On a hotday," says Lacks, "a pitcher just plain runs out of gas, so to speak.Well, here's something that will get him going again. The cause of fatigue isan oxygen deficit. A couple of whiffs of the gas combining with the hemoglobinpassing through the lungs help oxygenate the blood. Oxygen balance is restoredand fatigue disappears.
"Inaddition," says Lacks with a smile, "I think it has some psychologicalvalue."
Lacks believesthe time will come when all major league teams will keep oxygen in the dugout.For the information of the Pittsburgh Pirates and other teams who may need alittle oxygenating right away, a portable kit, similar to the one carried bythe Braves, can be had at any medical supply house for about $125. Refill tankscost about $3 and last a full hour with the valve wide open.
Belmont isconsidered one of the pleasantest of U.S. horse tracks but white-haired oldFrank Lloyd Wright, the eminent modern architect, flinched visibly when he wentto the races there one fine day last summer. In fact, as he looked out over thecrowded apron, he was seized with an indignation quite similar to that whichsent Physician Philippe Pinel marching into the bedlams of Paris in 1793 tostrike the chains off the imprisoned lunatics. Wright grandly resolved tounchain the $2 bettor from what struck him as horrifying thralldom toconvention and also, in passing, to give racing a "dignity and beauty"which he feels it has been denied.
"I was reallyshocked," he said, pacing his ornate suite at New York's Plaza Hotel lastweek. Wright, now 87, is a man of authoritative, even premier-like bearing. Hisshock of snowy hair was carefully combed; he wore a stiff collar with anold-fashioned black cravat and beautifully cut gray summer suit. "Icouldn't imagine Belmont could have been that bad," he said.
"Oh," headded with a lenient wave, "they've done the best they could—but my God!That grandstand. Even the newest racing grandstands were all designed inEngland hundreds of years ago and haven't changed a bit since.
"Posts,"he said. "The view is obscured. The seats! And if you want to bet, you haveto walk all over the place and queue up. And if you're lucky you might even getback in time to see the race you've bet on. The grandstand is set back to makeroom for that mob of shirtsleeved people all down there stepping on eachother's toes. You can't see the race properly from the grandstand and you can'tsee it properly from down below. They told me that all those fellows prefer tomill around. I can't say that I blame them if the alternative is sitting in thegrandstand. Nothing has been done for the spectator's comfort."
With this heindicated a set of sketches of what he has entitled The New Sports Pavilion."Here," he said, "is the thing that is needed at Belmont—at anyrace track. It is a thin plastic canopy suspended on a bridge—that is, bycables, by steel under tension, √† la Roebling's Brooklyn Bridge—the whole slungindependently of the great concrete slab which forms the seats. You haveunobscured vision, and since there is room for 65,000 people, the seats will beimmediately over the track and nobody will have to stand out in front.
"The plasticroof—or tent—will admit light but keep out heat. It will be two sealed layersof plastic, the top blue, the bottom yellow. The cables will be anchored inconcrete pylons at each end of the seating area, and they will be decorative inthemselves. We'll gild them—not necessarily with gold leaf. Gold leaf? Why not?The seats will be in three rising phalanxes—separated by wide concourses—andeach level will be reached by escalators. No climbing. There will be hot-andcold-water pipes under the seats themselves. On hot days the spectator—who willsit on an air cushion—can be cooled, and on cold days he can be warmed. Tunnelsrun back into the concrete slab. To bet, you can simply walk back a few stepsto one of 800 betting clerks. There will be snack bars and a restaurant insidethe slab as well. It can be built for $11,500,000—it would cost $18 million toseat 20,000 people in a conventional grandstand—and it will last for 300years."
Wright thenindicated, negligently, that he does not believe Belmont will adopt his scheme."They have an expert," he explained. "An expert is a man who hasstopped thinking. Why should he think? He's an expert. They have turned medown. I am here to make a rebuttal—but...." He smiled, gently."Nevertheless," he said patting the plans, "this is the racingpavilion of the future. It is modern. No, no—how I hate that word modern. It isorganic."
A PLEASURE OF THEMIND
Watching a raceoffers one kind of excitement, and running a race another, and in this fairlyobvious fact lies much of the magic of sport. You may bake a cherry pie, orpaint a house, or skin a cat, or write a Spenserian sonnet; and you may have awonderful time, but nobody will get' much pleasure from watching you do it. Butin sport both the man in the gallery and the man in the field find excitementand satisfaction. This ought to be enough, yet still another kind of pleasureis involved. It is known to a growing number of people and is largely apleasure of the mind.
It is based onexpertise. It comes from knowing your chosen sport and those who practice it,using precision judgment to predict the most plausible outcome of a contest,and finding your judgment confirmed.
The methods usedin this sort of operation are as subtle and elaborate as those of a scholarsifting historical evidence. Imponderables must somehow be pondered. Form mustbe analyzed and style understood. The theorist makes his choice—and whenevents-prove that he chose well, his reward is intangible and yet solid as arock.
The man (SI'sBoating writer) who looked long and thoughtfully at the dumpling-shapedFinisterre and said, "This is the boat to watch," knows this pleasure.So does the man (SI's Horse writer) who said of Needles, "The Derby and theBelmont, yes; the Preakness, no." And so perhaps, in time, will the men(SI's Boxing writers) who studied young Floyd Patterson and said, "Herecomes a champion."
It's afascinating thing, this business of knowingness. It adds the zest of livingdangerously to the enjoyment of sport, for to be wrong is to court displeasureof the mind. Yet, ah, how musical is the phrase, "I told you so."
Shotputting,hammer throwing and broad jumping all developed from extremely informalbeginnings in' the pastures of antiquity, and it seems only prudent to notethat a new field event—possibly best described as the politathlon—has now beenadded to outdoor endeavor in the U.S. Its author, one Adlai Stevenson, wasonly, improvising as he performed (and invented) it the other day at theNorthwestern Park Forest Preserve in Des Plaines, Ill., but time has a way ofgiving the oddest kind of political posturing an aura of solemnity. If thecandidate of today has to prove himself by getting an army of supporters to hopup and down with signs at the national convention, it does not seemunreasonable to suppose that the candidate of the future might also have toprove himself by personally hopping about in public.
If so, hedeserves a faithful description of the original performance. The equipmentneeded is simple enough: one large picnic ground with groves of trees, one golfclub, one golf ball, one Dachshund, two bagpipers, one set of horseshoes, oneminiature railway train and two tandem bicycles. In the future, dress may beleft to the candidate's discretion, but for the first politathlon—or whathistory may describe as the Des Plaines Politathlon—Stevenson wore a gray cordjacket, cocoa brown pants, brown wing-tipped shoes, a blue button-down shirtand blue and white linen tie.
It was a hotafternoon and the humidity was ghastly, but Stevenson was beaming as he arrivedon the grounds and began shaking hands with some of a throng who had beenrounded up for the occasion by Illinois Democrats. It was at this point thatthe Dachshund entered the proceedings. An admirer thrust it forward. Stevensonimmediately shook hands with it and said: "You ought to be sure he'sregistered." The candidate moved, forthwith, to the putting green(improvised over a miserably uneven stretch of grass) followed by photographersand mobs of the faithful.
Stevenson put theball down 12 feet (henceforth to be known as The Candidate's Distance) from thepin. The photographers insisted that the flag (which read WHITE HOUSE) be leftin the cup. "How," he asked, "can I sink it with the flag in?"Nobody answered him. As it turned out this didn't matter—he putted seven timesand never got closer than a two-inch miss. However, when a friend asked:"Want to shed your coat?" Stevenson said, "No, I'd rather not."(In politathlons of the future, points will be deducted for removal of clothingduring the putting phase.) Said Chicago Politico Jake Arvey: "His shortgame is bad. What he needs is the White House to get time to play."
After golfing,Stevenson posed between two bagpipers, moved to a picnic table and ate apopsicle. "You're tasting victory," cried a spectator. "Raspberryflavored victory," said Adlai. He seated himself in the engine of theminiature train and then—and only then—removed his tie, thus becoming, at leastin theory, more politically acceptable. Intent on a fast finish, he soonhustled to the horseshoe pits, took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves. Hethrew four horseshoes, missed each time and muttered, "Oh, hell!" afterthe fourth. He threw a fifth and scored. A cheer rose from the crowd. Adlaibeamed. Two tandem bicycles were immediately wheeled forward. Stevenson climbedon the front seat of one with Dr. Karl Meyer, head of Cook County Hospital,behind him. Chicago's beefy Mayor Richard J. Daley and Jim O'Keefe, candidatefor attorney general, mounted the other.
The mayor's cyclelurched erratically forward. Stevenson's cycle lurched after it. Both teamspedaled wildly: the crowd, astounded by their ill-controlled fervor, scatteredfor their lives and the racers, after 70 yards, disappeared whooping into agrove of trees. Panting but unbruised, Adlai shook hands for another 10 minutesand then mounted a bandstand, waved to the crowd and listened thoughtfullywhile Mrs. Juanda Higgins, a receptionist at his law firm, made the followingstatement: "I am chairman of our nature girls. My associates and Ibelieve...a great segment of voters can be reached outdoors through gardenparties, bird watching and tramps through the woods. We have recently organizedthe Cook County Stevenson Star Gazers. We believe it's Stevenson by thestars."
The politathlonwas over. Would it ever be repeated? One peripheral aspect of it would lead oneto believe so: 3,000 people paid $5 apiece—or a total of $15,000—to watchit.
Bear Bryant ofTexas A&M is a football coach and only incidentally a philosopher ofeducation. But addressing a group of Houston businessmen last week on the settopic "Football and Athletics in the Development of Businessmen," Bearfound something fresh to say.
"I believethe same qualities needed for success in business are needed to make a successof being a football player," he began. "I believe the lessons needed inbusiness are taught in football....
"But theselessons are not taught at home in more than 5% of the homes. They are just hardto teach your child.
"They'reeasier to teach on the athletic field, because on the athletic field everybodystarts even. It doesn't make any difference who you are or whether your hair iscurly or straight. You have to produce, and those who do move up. For thatreason and some others I'll give you, football and athletics are becoming moreimportant to education every year.
"Takediscipline. I don't know how to teach my own boy to respect discipline and theimportance of self-discipline—do you? But I know he'd better have it. He'dbetter know how to make a sacrifice. I'm afraid I can't impress that on himenough—can you? But I know that if he has to learn later, he's in trouble.
"On thefootball field you can teach a boy how to work, the importance of work. Ihaven't taught my own—have you?
"You knowthere's no substitute for teamwork in business. I know the value of it infootball as well. In business or football we do nothing that doesn't involveteamwork. When I hear people talk of self-made men, it makes me ill. All of ushad to be taught lessons, had to have some inspiration. There are no self-mademen.
"Can youteach your boy how to fight?" Bryant challenged. "Oh, all of us have acertain amount of physical courage, but I mean to come back, to get off thefloor, to fight the second and third and fourth time. In athletics you learnthe value of effort.... You learn to keep coming back."
His title hopes—
He is a fighter
Who knows the ropes.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Jolly Roger at Half Mast
Pittsburgh Pirate Manager Bobby Bragan, philosophizing on his team's eight-gamelosing streak, during which they dropped from first to fifth place in theNational League: "We had it coming to us—so we got it and are getting it.Every club in the league has a slump and this is our turn."
Dr. Roger Bannister, pioneer four-minute miler, speculated on track futures inMontreal, predicted that the mile time will be lowered to 3:50, then "leveloff; that England's Chris Chataway and Australia's John Landy will win Olympic5,000- and 1,500-meter gold medals.
California's wonder horse, Swaps, conqueror of Nashua in the 1955 KentuckyDerby, hauled 130 pounds effortlessly over a mile and sixteenth at HollywoodPark in 1:39 for new world record—his third this year—solidified his claim toHorse-of-the-Year honors.
•Wait till Next Year
Sammy Snead, "the best golfer never to have won the U.S. Open," nettledover good-natured kidding during an exhibition round at Pawtucket, R.I.,promised: "I'll tell you this: starting right now Pm going to work towardnext year's Open."