A FINAL VISIT
One of the fascinating, not-so-grim sidelights to the Andrea Doria's sinking last week was a final call, paid on her by two sportsmen. The ocean holds some awesome sights for those who plumb the depths, but the chance to examine this lovely, sad vessel in her grave was like a skin-diver's dream.
The men for whom the dream came true were Peter R. Gimbel, 26-year-old son of the New York department store executive and sportsman, Bernard Gimbel; and Peter's friend, Joseph M. Fox, 29. Chartering a cabin cruiser from Nantucket the day after the disaster, they anchored off the yellow buoy marking the sunken ship. Both experienced divers, they put on masks and rubber suits, and each strapped a pair of compressed-air tanks on his back. Then they dove.
"The Andrea Doria is a stirring, unbelievable thing to see," Gimbel recounted later. "She makes an unbelievable impression because she seems so completely out of place. She seems almost alive.
August 5, 1956
"She is lying on her starboard side, and her port side seems in excellent condition. Her paint isn't even blemished. The portholes are unbroken. Even the lights along the promenade deck are unbroken.
"The only thing out of place that is apparent at first glance is a lot of loose rope which, I suppose, would be used to let passengers slide off the ship. Some blankets are piled against the portholes, and you can see some furniture floating about inside. The vessel has a great deal of air. The whole stretch of water in the area is seething with bubbles that make the water a very light blue."
After about a half hour on the ship's hull, Fox was overcome by carbon dioxide poisoning. "It was a little touchy getting him up," Gimbel explained. "I inflated a rescue pack and hung onto him until we surfaced. We shot up pretty fast from 160 feet down." Fortunately, neither was the worse for this sudden ascent and both were able to take home a memory few can share: the first—and possibly last—visit to a great ship in her grave.
Until this year the personality of Jackie Burke, the golfer, was far more winning than his tournament play. His affability and boyish charm made him a favorite of fans and fellow pros, but the top championships always eluded him. Then, in April he won the Masters. Last week, with a rare display of chipping and putting in the clutch, Jackie added the Professional Golfers Association championship to his honors (see page 46), thus giving him two of the pros' Big Three titles. Gene Sarazen, who was PGA champion in 1923, the year Jack Burke was born, spoke for many when he said, "A nicer player couldn't have won, and few could wear the crown so well."
The approval that surrounded Burke did not extend to the tournament itself. Five days of play at the Blue Hill Country Club in Canton, Mass. drew fewer than 10,000 paying spectators, and the host club, which had put up a $42,500 guarantee for the tournament, lost money. Although there was some criticism of the condition of the course, the "slow greens" and the poorly handled crowd, the real trouble with the PGA lay deeper than the immediate problems at Blue Hill. It is a chronic trouble: too many top pros either pass up the event or lack the seniority to enter. This absence of big names has cost the PGA dearly in prestige and interest in recent years.
Sportswriters and the pros themselves have long fought the rule against eligibility until a player has been a PGA member for five years. "If they're qualified for membership," says Sarazen, who this year reached the semifinals at the age of 54, "they should be qualified for the tournament." He then pointed out that the five-year rule deprived this year's tournament of such young stars as Gene Littler, Mike Souchak, Dow Finsterwald and Arnold Palmer.
Sarazen also suggested the PGA change the tournament from match to medal play. "Match play is antiquated," he said. "Medal play is more exciting to the public. It would draw bigger crowds, even attract a television sponsor. This would bring in more revenue and provide bigger prizes to attract the professionals with a record of accomplishment." Many good players do not like match play because of the possibility of elimination in an early round, he added. "You see, we have many good players today, but few great ones."
While PGA officials refuse to admit openly that their championship has suffered a loss of public interest and prestige, there are indications they know it and plan to act. One of the clearest signs was the appointment last week of J. Edwin Carter as PGA tournament bureau manager.
Burly Ed Carter was a small-town newspaper owner and golf enthusiast when the National Open was scheduled for his home club, Baltusrol, in 1954. Appointed program committee chairman, he put club members and wives to work soliciting ads, and their work was so effective the program grossed $106,000, some $29,000 more than for any previous Open. Impressed by his success, the San Francisco Olympic Club hired him as an adviser for the 1955 National Open, where he got the program gross up to $97,000, almost double the expectations.
In his new role as a golf tournament specialist, Carter followed the pro circuit and discovered that many of their events were badly managed, scheduled and promoted. The fan who was fortunate enough to have a tournament in his area usually had to fight an unruly herd of other fans, only to get to a surly golfer who treated him like a freak. Now at an annual salary of $21,000, Carter will act as advance man and handle the promotion not only for the PGA championship itself but for the entire pro schedule throughout the year. A man of unbounded optimism, he expects to double the gross in his first year.
Carter doesn't agree that match play is dead and intends to keep it for the PGA championship. "I believe this year's PGA, in format, was very successful. Since 98% of the amateur golfers in the world play only match, this type of head-on play is best understood and best loved by the golfing public. If there was a fault with this year's PGA, it was not the type of play, it was the absence of so many top golfers." (Cary Middlecoff, the current Open champion, along with former champions Lloyd Mangrum and Julius Boros, was among those who passed up Blue Hill last week.)
Larger purses would bring in the old pros, Carter feels, but it will also be necessary to soften the five-year rule barring younger players. Another of the thoughts turning over in Carter's fertile mind is a consolation bracket for the PGA tournament. Loser would meet loser, and prizes would be offered for the top eight places. On the day of the semifinals, there would be four matches instead of the present two, and two final matches in one of which the two semifinal losers would meet for the third-place money.
"Personally," says one golfing buff, "I'd rather watch my favorite golfer in the loser playoffs than a couple of colorless guys hacking it out for first. I think enough of the public feels this way to split the gallery."
These are just a few of the ideas taking form in Carter's thoughts, and he has yet to assume office. Once he does, the PGA may soon be looking back on its troubles.
GAME OF MONARCHS
The first American intercollegiate court tennis invasion of England is now history. As James Van Alen, the American organizer of the trip (and donor of the new Van Alen Challenge Trophy to go to the winner each year), said when Ambassador Winthrop Aldrich handed over the trophy to the English victors at a dinner at the Guards' Club in London: it is probably better that we lost. Van Alen wants to see court tennis courts built in American colleges, and, he said, if the Americans had won, people would no doubt ask, "Why do you want courts at Princeton and Yale?" As it is, Van Alen pointed out, amid laughter, "they will now know why."
Winning their first three warmup matches against obscure provincial clubs like Hayling Island and Holy-port, the Americans finally scored quite an upset when they beat both Oxford and Cambridge. Van Alen said his boys barely scraped through, but English court tennis circles were aghast. By the time the Americans came up against Marylebone Cricket Club in the old court behind the pavilion at Lords in London, the galleries were crowded despite the competing attraction of the annual Oxford-Cambridge cricket match outside. Near the heavily upholstered chairs in the gallery there is a sign on the wall—SILENCE PLEASE—but the ivy-covered building resounded all afternoon with English cries of "Good heavens!" or "Good Lord!" as the young Americans, almost all beginners at this ancient and picturesque sport, went on to win for the sixth time in a row. But that was the end of their string of victories.
On the first day of the three-day match against a combined Oxford-Cambridge team, the real goal of the trip, the best the Americans could do was win one match out of five. Yet the victor's one-sidedness in court tennis works both ways. The defeated not only wants revenge, nothing can stop him from trying for it. At the end of the second day, with the final doubles match lasting nearly three hours, the score stood five matches for the British to the Americans' three.
With three matches to play on the last day, there was still a chance for an American victory. Randy Hackett of Harvard (who played his first court tennis last December) and Princeton's George Reindel beat Mark Collins of Oxford and Oliver Colman of Cambridge (4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2) to make it five for the British and four for the Americans.
Bill Van Alen of Pennsylvania, nephew of the organizer of the tour, came on the court for his decisive match with Oxford's Michael Coulman, tense and nervous. He had not been able to sleep, worrying about his game, and breakfast had been another tough period for him. Coulman, a casual, lanky, 23-year-old veteran, was calm and relaxed as he let Van Alen wear himself down and won the first set 6-5. In the second set, Van Alen tried so hard that his racket shot from his hand and flew with a clatter across the court as Coulman calmly went on to win the set and the match 6-2. In the final match, Oxford's Roddy Bloomfield smoothly erased James Van Alen of Yale, Bill's brother, 6-0, 6-2, leaving the final score: English Universities, seven matches, American Universities, four matches. Court tennis being the sort of game it is, the defeated and dark-browed American invaders are already brooding about their revenge next year.
WORDS FROM THE SEA
The noon whistles were blowing as the sloop Spray left Boston, bearing only Captain Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail alone around the world. The day was perfect, the sunlight clear and strong. The Captain reported that the pulse beat high in his aging veins, and his stiffening step was light on the deck in the crisp air. The Spray shot ahead under full sail, every drop of water flung from her bow sparkling like a gem, and the old man contemplated his handiwork with wonder and affection. He built the Spray himself from an abandoned North Banks fishing boat, at a cost of $533.62 and 13 months' labor.
As the Spray carried him on gently over 46,000 miles of ocean, the old man talked to himself, sang over all the songs he knew, fished, dreamed, remembered, read, wrote, prepared elaborate meals, suffered hallucinations, and once, in mid-ocean, thought he heard human voices close at hand. He did; a sailing vessel was passing. He was chased by Moorish pirates in a squall which broke the main boom of the Spray. While he drifted helplessly, the mainmast of the Moorish felucca was swept off.
To make the natives of Tierra del Fuego think that he had a crew, he ducked into his cabin, changed his clothes and reappeared carrying his rifle. When he slept at night near hostile islanders, he scattered carpet tacks on the deck of the Spray, for, as he said, a pretty good Christian will whistle when he steps on a carpet tack, and a savage will howl and claw the air, which is just what happened. In a little over three years the Captain got back to New England, in one of the greatest feats of seamanship on record. But his achievements were not ended. The Captain was a great writer. He turned out Sailing Alone Around the World, a moderate success at the time, which has gradually come to be recognized as an American classic, the nautical equivalent of Thoreau's Walden.
Now Walter Magnes Teller, with an ironic gesture toward The Search for Bridey Murphy, has published The Search for Captain Slocum (Scribners, $3.95), in which he has framed Slocum's story with his family history, contemporary newspaper accounts, scandals and tragedies. A fine, readable job, despite 401 scholarly footnotes and page references, The Search for Captain Slocum tells of the Captain's decline from his younger glory as the master of fine sailing vessels to his last grimy years, when he turned into an irascible old crank, charging admission to the Spray and selling souvenirs. Finally, after a visit to President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House, Captain Slocum sailed alone on the Spray for South America in November 1907, planning to explore the Amazon, and was never heard of again, supposedly run down by a steamer at night.
But The Search for Captain Slocum lacks the one great quality of Slocum's own book—the sense of the immensity of the ocean, the waves forever telling "their never-ending story of the sea." Sailing Alone Around the World is one of the most readable books in the whole library of adventure. The old Captain had no fear of the sea, though he never even learned to swim; he believed wrecks came from overconfidence; he thought the ocean was friendly, but maligned. He watched great whales swimming in circles, to create whirlpools that pulled together schools of herring, devouring them at leisure, and he faced the storms in the Straits of Magellan ("compressed gales of wind handed down over the hills in chunks") with the same sense of interest and wonder. In good weather he heard the waves gossiping while he read Drake, Stevenson, Darwin, Frobisher and Hakluyt, and the Spray steered herself across the Pacific before the trade wind. During such days, "A feeling of awe crept over me. My memory worked with startling power. The ominous, the insignificant, the great, the small, the wonderful, the commonplace—all appeared before my mental vision in magical succession." The world of affairs receded into the distance; he did not know the Spanish-American War had begun until he met the Oregon racing along the South American coast. The Oregon's captain cautiously asked if any Spanish warships were about, and Captain Slocum suggested in reply that they travel together for mutual protection.
LADIES INSIDE AND OUT
This week, but by no means for the first time, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED adds to the pictorial evidence of the delightful change in the living pattern of U.S. women. For example, take a look at the pretty cover girl, Jeanne Stunyo. Jeanne is 20 years old, likes slow dance music, Bermuda shorts and is nicknamed Gee Gee. She is, in a word, a girl who is asked to dances—even though she is a dedicated woman diver with an excellent chance of making the U.S. Olympic team.
Jeanne and her sister athletes crowding the inside pages are no longer invaders of an alien masculine world; sport, in fact, is now almost as much a part of feminine life as nylons, detergents and the rites of the beauty parlor. That is why the pages contain so many handsome young women this week—not through any particular editorial planning but simply because young women have recently made so much big-time sports news. (The only exception this week—and deliver us from having to report same again—is the account, on page 32, of the two who lost their ladylike way and wound up in the Tijuana bull ring.) It is nice to think that the lady champions represent hundreds of thousands of other graceful, comely and healthy girls—young women who will never make an Olympic team but who grew up with tennis, golf, skiing or camping as an accepted part of their background, and lost no whit of femininity in the process.
At steeplechases I have been,
Yet never seen a steeple,
Much less a steeple being chased
Or steeple chasing people.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Slower and Safer
Look for new engines and new tires at next year's Indianapolis "500." Speedway Owner Anton Hulman has just reduced maximum piston displacement from 274 cu. in. to 256 cu. in., while Firestone has been running successful high-speed (up to 145 mph) tests with waffle-treaded tires.
Unlimited Hydroplanes, the hot-rods of speedboating, open their season at Seattle Seafair on Lake Washington, Aug. 5. Boats to watch: Burnett Bartley Jr.'s Wildcatter, formerly Tempo VII, Guy Lombardo's 1955 national champion; Miss Wahoo, designed by Ted Jones; Gale V, 1955 Gold Cup champ; Slo-Mo-Shun IV, Stan Sayres' Allison-powered perennial.
•Too Many Too Fast
Baseball writers attending the 1956 Hall of Fame ceremonies complained that the Cooperstown museum was becoming too crowded too fast, decided to stem influx by voting in newcomers every two years instead of annually.
After hush-hush talks with British, New York Yacht Club will ask courts to change deed of gift for America's Cup so it may be raced for in 12-meters instead of vastly expensive 135-foot J-boats. Several U.S. syndicates have shown interest in building defenders. Cost for one boat and accessories: about $200,000.