Pride, the sayinghas it, goeth before a fall. But not always.
The pride ofyouth and strength and the pride of age and wisdom and the pride of theunjustly disdained were rampant at Griffith Stadium in the All-Star Game lastweek, and not since an athlete named Horatius stopped an army at a bridge along time ago has the just pride of man in his ability been so luxuriouslyvindicated.
The NationalLeague, the better team in educated opinion, won, and it was a proud team. Theyouth and strength of Ken Boyer and Willie Mays and Roy McMillan and JohnnyTemple was beautiful to watch (for a guest poet's impressions, see page 51),and the men from Cincinnati played magnificently, to confute the sectarians whothought there were too many Red-legs on the squad.
July 22, 1956
If you saw it,you'll always remember the reaching line of Boyer's body as he flung himself athard-hit balls and miraculously stopped them; Mays catching a ball in rightfield and throwing almost casually, the ball streaming in a flat trajectory tothird, leagues ahead of the base runner, who wisely decided not to run; andTemple and McMillan weaving a tight, wonderful leather net in the NationalLeague infield to cut off American League hits.
Maybe you'llremember better the duel of two of the great ones, still great in the firstshadows of the dusk of their careers. That's Ted Williams of the Americans,futile twice at the bat, swinging with his cleanly articulated motion to drivethe ball on a high, doubtful-to-the-last-minute arc into the center-fieldbullpen to tie Stan Musial for the lead in All-Star home runs and put theAmericans back in the game. And Musial answering that with one of his own totake the lead back. Or, if you prefer, Musial coming in hard from left field,watching Ken Boyer move back, then catching Williams' drooping fly and dodgingBoyer in nearly the same motion. He came close to injury, but got the ball.
And there wasMickey Mantle playing the full game in robustious pride of youth despite thehurt and limping leg, and whipping his bat around in a shimmering, solid circleto get his homer. It was a game for Horatio Alger to write about, and nearlyeveryone went home happy.
The Nationals, ofcourse, won 7-3. But nobody lost.
VOICE FROM THEPAST
The big guypitching for the National League rared back and threw with the beautiful,liquid motion he had, and the ball was a dim white streak, waist high in thestrike zone.
The batter swungviciously, topping the ball a little and driving it back at the pitcher in aheartbeat of time, and the ball bounced off the big guy's toe and caromedcrazily toward second base. Billy Herman grabbed it and threw to first base andthe American League's Earl Averill was out, and the big pitcher was sitting onthe ground both hands cradling a shoe full of pain.
That was 19 yearsago, at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., where another All-Star Game washeld last week, and the big pitcher sitting on the ground nursing a broken toewas Dizzy Dean. The pitch he threw Averill was the last he was ever to throwwith that easy, whiplash motion.
Dean was in hissixth year in the majors and he was 13-1 going into that Ail-Star Game. In theyears just before, he had won 30, 28 and 24 games for the St. Louis Cardinals:he was 26 years old and just moving into the summer of what might have been thegreatest pitching career of all time.
"I didn'twant to go to that All-Star Game," Diz said the other day. "I had goneto St. Louis and figured on gettin' a few days' rest and Mr. Sam Breaden talkedme into goin' on to Washinton. I never did think much of All-Star Games, an' Iplayed in four of them."
Averill was thethird out in the third inning of the 1937 Ail-Star Game, and Diz had finishedhis three-inning stint. He had finished a great career, too, but he didn't knowit.
"I figured Iwas hurt," Diz said. "I got kinda sick at the stomach the way you getwhen somethin' hurts real bad, but I had my spikes laced real tight an' Ididn't know how bad hurt I was until I took off the spikes in the clubhouse an'the toe started throbbin'. By the time we got on the train it had turned blackand was all swole up and X-rays showed it was busted."
Diz rested 10days before he tried to pitch again.
"I was headedfor my greatest year," he said. "I won my 13th game on the Fourth ofJuly and I was feelin' great. I was just 26 an' I had the best years of mypitchin' ahead. Way I figure, a pitcher's best years in the majors is from 26to 32 and I was just gettin' into mine. Well, I tried to pitch in Bostonagainst the Braves 10 days after the All-Star Game, wearin' a sprint on my leftbig toe. I couldn't step natural and I was off balance, an' that's when Iruined my arm for good. Never won another game that year and I didn't win toomany from then on."
Dean had won 133games before the accident to his toe. He won 16 after. Diz brooded a minute,thinking.
"Take MickeyMantle," he said. "Why, he was crazy to play in that game. He could'vewrecked that knee an' for what? A $200 pension a month. He needs rest more thananything. Me, I wasn't eligible for the pension when I got hurt. Not that Ineed it. But all I got out of the All-Star Game was the end of my pitchin'career just when I was goin' best.
"Here I was,feelin' great. Used to be I could throw to a batter's strength if I wanted to.You got natural ability and speed, and you don't have to pitch at spots. Youjust fire 'em in and you'll get 'em out. That's what I was doin' up until I gothit by that ball."
Diz stretched alittle and flexed big hands, remembering the feel of blowing that fast ball bythe batters.
"Take MickeyMantle," he said again. "I'd pitch him tight an' inside an' I'd strikehim out a lot."
Diz hesitated asecond then and thought and some of the excitement went out of his voice."That's what I threw Averill. Waist-high fast ball inside. An' he hit itright back at me."
In the firstmonth of summer the bays and rivers of America, where yachtsmen retreat fromthe danger of crowded highways, seemed to take on all the worst aspects of adowntown traffic tangle.
Item: in New Yorkharbor the motor cruiser Escape II unaccountably veered across the bow of atanker, was rammed and sunk. One person drowned. Shocked by the event, the NewYork City Council began discussion of tough speed laws and licensing forpleasure boats, a matter since taken over by the state legislature.
Item: at LongBeach, Calif. two out-boards collided with such force that one hurtled clearover the other. Injuries were only minor, but Commander Davidson of the 11thCoast Guard District thought it was high time some safely measures were taken."Every American," he said, "is convinced he can drive a motorboatand ride a horse. We don't let people drive cars until they take a drivingtest. But anyone can go out in an outboard."
Item: a reportfrom Idaho grimly claimed the nation's highest percentage of boating accidents,and the Lucky Peak Boat Club of Boise formed a posse of powerboaters to drillmore sense into the careening tangle of water skiers, racing inboards andtrolling fishermen on Lucky Peak Reservoir.
Item: in Detroitan auto traffic judge was slapping fines on water-borne speeders and orderingthem off the Detroit River.
On July 2, forthe first time since passage of the vague and now antiquated Motor Boat Act of1940, the Federal Government stepped into the picture to try to bring somesensible order to a dangerous situation, and perhaps to head off anyoverstringent local regulations in areas where counties and states are alreadycracking down.
In response to aletter from Ralph Klieforth, president of the National Association of Engineand Boat Manufacturers, Rep. Herbert Bonner (D.N.C.) called the first witnessbefore a Congressional committee. The witness, Vice Admiral Alfred C. Richmond,commandant of the Coast Guard, echoed the complaint of Commander Davidson."There is now no law," he said, "forbidding someone who doesn'tknow the first thing about boat operation from walking down to the Potomac andtaking out a boat." He went on to say there were many people on the water"with only the sketchiest information concerning the...rules of theroad...lights, safety equipment, effects of weather and so on."
Then Klieforthtook the stand and recommended a law requiring "the numbering foridentification purposes only of all pleasure boats powered by engine ormotor."
With this kind oftestimony in hand the committee packed up the hearings and prepared to head outon a tour of the principal yachting centers. So far they had no definitelegislation in mind, but 25 million boating Americans hoped that by spring theywould produce what Klieforth described as a "simple, nonrestrictive federalstatute...which...will set a pattern for similar and uniform state statutes tofollow."
WelterweightChampion Johnny Saxton and his manager (is he or isn't he?) Frank (Blinky)Palermo sat down with the New York Boxing Writers at a midtown restaurant theother day for fruit cup, salad supreme, steak, coffee and a little plaintalk.
The idea was toclear up some uncertainties about the Saxton-Carmen Basilio title fight plannedfor Syracuse in September. By the time they got through clearing things up witha little plain talk, the confusion was as supreme as the salad.
Saxton spoke forhimself—as boxing commission Chairman Julius Helfand has ruled he must in NewYork, where Palermo is unlicensed. Johnny said he had not signed a contract tofight Basilio in Syracuse or anywhere else, yet:
"I might havea date with Mr. Jim Norris next week. My manager, Frank Palermo, will sit downwith Mr. Norris, and we'll negotiate these plans for the fight with me andCarmen. Like to fight Carmen. No doubt in my mind. Think it will be a goodfight, and I think that's what the public wants. I'm working on the basis ofgiving the public what they want. And that's my pure thought about it."
Saxton had somepure thoughts against fighting Basilio in New York State, but none of themtouched on the fact that Manager Palermo cannot sign for Johnny there.
"I'll tellyou one thing why I object to Syracuse," said Saxton. "I've boxed oncebefore in Syracuse, but I feel this way: a man gets into the ring there, hefeels...you learn you got the whole nation against him. I've always beenknocked. Let's face it. Saxton's always been a bad guy. I haven't been on thegood side of nobody. My ability stands for itself. I wouldn't be champion if Ididn't have ability. But the Syracuse point is that I don't like to box therebecause I feel I'm not wanted. Don't want to go where I'm not wanted."
At this point awriter asked Saxton: "According to your statement over here, am I correctin stating you'll do nothing unless you're guided by your manager in thesenegotiations? Is that correct?"
"That'sright," said Johnny, shooting a quick look toward Blinky, "he's beenwith me that long. He took me through to be a world's champion."
Another writerpursued the point: "You say, in effect, Johnny, that you'll not defend yourtitle in New York if you have to sign your own contract?"
"Well, yeah,I'll make it that way."
Here Blinky, whohad been shifting uneasily in his chair, jumped to his feet and took thefloor.
"The questionthat Johnny Saxton is trying to bring out is this: that the business is too biga business for him to handle.... For me to tell you people again that Johnny isgoing to negotiate a big business which is going to involve an awful lot ofmoney, the biggest payday that he's ever received, I'd be telling youse a lie.Norris has to negotiate with me.... Then, after I negotiate with Norris,[Norman] Rothchild [promoter at Syracuse] will negotiate with the fighter andthe fighter will sign his own contract, after I tell the fighter."
A writer brokein:
"Blinky, Idon't know. This doesn't make sense to us because Helfand says that you, BlinkyPalermo, cannot sit down with Norris and negotiate for a fight in New York. Onthe other hand, you say you may fight in Syracuse."
"Now wait aminute," said Blinky. "We're not defying Helfand in this matter. Don'tget me wrong. We're not defying Helfand. It's not a question, like I saidbefore, that the license has anything to do with this matter. I said to youpeople that the money involved is too big for the boy to negotiate himself, andfor him to tell people that he did it himself, you know he'd be lying. So,therefore, we want to put the cards on the table, that's all.
"I engaged alawyer to negotiate for me and Johnny with our personal business. We'll do thebusiness. Well, I'll do the business. But it's gotta be to the satisfaction ofJohnny Saxton and to the benefit of Johnny Saxton and also to mybenefit."
Saxton, by thistime as bewildered as the rest, turned to a writer and asked: "Is he gonnasanction the fight up at Syracuse—Helfand?"
The writer said:"Of course he's gonna sanction the fight at Syracuse. Syracuse is in NewYork State, Johnny."
Helfand wasn'tsaying yes, and he wasn't saying no. But at week's end he had cleared up atleast one point which has been bothering the boxing writers when heexplained:
"When I madethat decision [to allow Saxton to sign for his own bouts in New York] I wasvery careful that there was nothing in there stating that Palermo or anyoneelse could not negotiate for Saxton—negotiate his contract for a fight withBasilio. I realize someone has to handle the business end. All I said Saxtonmust do is sign for himself.
"I took a lotof criticism trying to get Basilio a fair shot at regaining his crown. That wasthe whole idea behind my ruling on Saxton signing for himself. I thoughtBasilio deserved this break. Now someone has to complete the business detailsfor this fight. I can't say any more than that, though, until contracts aresigned and certified through my office, understand?"
We understandperfectly. Let's not blink at the fact, then, that Blinky is Johnny's manager,even in New York.
THE ARM AND THECAST
At sunrise on thebanks of Lake Texoma, in the clear and motionless Texas air, a man stoodcasting, retrieving, casting again. A crow's call scratched through thedaybreak quiet; the plug thumped into the water with a rich and heavy sound. Itwas a picture to lift a fisherman's heart, except that it wasn't quite what itseemed.
There were nohooks on the practice plug and no fish in the water, for the man stood beside aswimming pool instead of the nearby lake. A companion sat handy with a pocketclicker and a blackboard, counting casts. Bill Carter, 43, a Dallas fishingequipment salesman with a strong wrist and a flair for obscure knowledge, wasout to see how many times a fisherman casts in a full day's fishing.
He kept pluggingfrom sunup to sundown, a matter of 14 hours 14 minutes. After six hours at theswimming pool he stepped over to the lake and resumed casting there. Part ofthe time he worked from a straight-backed chair. Spectators came and gawked andwandered away; some of them said, "Well, I never" and some of themasked, "Any luck?" Carter took a five-minute break to gulp a lunch offried shrimp and iced tea, and that was his only pause.
At sundown heheld what was described as "the first world record for casts in a singleday"—3,453 of them, each of 50 feet or more, without a single backlash.
Next day, Carteradmitted, "it was difficult even to lift a pencil." But someone liftedone for him to figure out that he had cast the plug once every 15 seconds,sending it out a total of about 35 miles and reeling it back 35 more.
Daddy's home fromfishing,
Get out the frying pan;
And fix a stack of buckwheats,
He's a very hungry man.
—F. E. WHITE
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Quotes of the Week
California Governor Goodie Knight, after Southern Cal and California werepenalized for overdiligent football practices: "This whole ivory-towerbusiness raises the hackles on my red-blooded neck." He proposed that thefour California schools in the conference set up their own league. RetortedOregon Governor Elmo Smith: "If California standards are incompatible withours, maybe they should pull out."
Boston left-hander Mel Parnell beat Walt Dropo in a race to first base atFenway Park to make the final putout in his 4-0 no-hitter against the WhiteSox, kept running right into the arms of General Manager Joe Cronin, waiting inthe clubhouse with a $500 bonus, reward for first Boston no-hitter since1923.
One of the world's great sport car "races, the grinding Pan-American, whichtwisted 2,000 tortuous miles from Mexico's southern border at Guatemala to theTexas border on the north and sometimes caused headline casualties, was"suspended indefinitely" by the Mexican government for "purposes ofsafety."
Nashua and Swaps, running at opposite ends of the country, scored romping winsin the Monmouth Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup, increased public hopes foranother meeting of the two in the East this fall.