Amateur sport has attracted more dissimilar types than the wharves of Algiers and has produced more divergence of thought than the old League of Nations, but its fanciers do not lack a common bond: there is hardly one of them who has not sent an irate telegram to Avery Brundage. During his four years as president of the International Olympic Committee, Brundage has always operated as though the abstract Olympic Ideal was an absolutely realistic code of operation and as though professionalism was a skid road to hell; he is a stiff-backed fellow and a stickler for rules, and his broad, upright figure is continually illumined by a St. Elmo's fire of controversy.
Last week, however, Avery suddenly began getting hit by chain lightning. The world discovered (with the tardy publication of the rule book for the 1956 Games) that Brundage's committee, meeting last January at Cortina, Italy, had redefined amateurism—and had decided that an Olympic athlete must not only spurn pay before and during the Games but must pledge never to turn professional in the future.
The waves of protest which followed washed in from every point of the compass. "For 30 years," said Director Lyman Bingham of the U.S. Olympic Committee, "I have never disagreed with Brundage. But he's all wrong this time. As far as the U.S. is concerned he's shooting bullets at us and blanks at the rest of the world." Said Franz Stampfl, who coached Roger Bannister: "Absolutely unrealistic." Sports Editor R. G. Lynch of the Milwaukee Journal wrote: "This Cotton Mather of sport...would revive the scarlet letter as a P instead of an A." Sprinter Bobby Morrow announced that he would refuse to sign.
August 12, 1956
Brundage seemed genuinely astounded by all this uproar, but he did not back down an inch. "The new pledge," he said stiffly, "involves no change in Olympic rules whatsoever. Those who intend to capitalize on their athletic fame have never been eligible for Olympic competition. That the pledge should come as a 'bombshell' merely indicates how far we have deviated from true amateur principles."
Despite this stubborn stand, Brundage did finally seem to realize that the haphazard and tardy way in which the pledge came to the world's attention was unfortunate, to say the least, and he considered a loophole—delaying its actual application until after the Melbourne Games. The International Olympic Committee (which will vote on this point) would be very badly advised to take any other course, if only in fairness to the U.S. Olympic team, which was picked without knowledge of the new rule, and which would unquestionably suffer more damage than its competitors if the pledge were enforced this year.
A niggling matter of two pounds was all that kept Nashua out of the Brooklyn Handicap at Jamaica, and a lot of racing fans were hard put to understand why such a trifle should deprive them of the chance to see their favorite Thoroughbred in action. Everyone knows by now that Nashua's new owners mean what they say about refusing to let him carry more than 130 pounds in a race. So what was the point in Handicapper Jimmy Kilroe's virtually throwing Nashua out of the Brooklyn by assigning him 132?
The answer goes right to the heart of handicap racing which, lacking a cut-and-dried formula for measuring a horse's speed and stamina, must lean on the handicapper's judgment, to say nothing of his integrity. Handicappers must step in where even an electronic computer might fear to tread.
When Leslie B. Combs II announced the ceiling on Nashua's imposts last spring, it was unusual indeed. In fact, it amounted to an ultimatum to handicappers: if they wanted this great gate attraction to run at their tracks they knew the terms in advance. Combs reasoned that excessive weights could break down a Thoroughbred—a question on which horsemen are far from agreed. Nevertheless, no one can fault the syndicate for looking after the best interest of their horse, as they see it.
Jimmy Kilroe, on the other hand, had to think of other horses besides Nashua. In other words, he had to weight the big 4-year-old on past performance, and that is just what he did. Nashua, who had won his last two starts with 128 and 129 pounds respectively, was due for an extra load.
It is a feather in Kilroe's hat that he refused to be stampeded by Combs's ultimatum. Racing is much the better for such men, who call them as they see them and put the integrity of their trade ahead of the box office.
PAYMENT IN FULL
The snowy peak of Mt. Hood rising 11,245 feet in the Cascade Range of Oregon is a fair challenge for an average mountaineer. A thousand or more accept the challenge every summer. Sunday of last week a rope chain of 18 novice boys and girls, led by one guide, had by early afternoon won the top and were working back down. A few minutes after 3 o'clock someone in the middle of the chain lost his footing, pulling another and another climber down with him. In one terrible moment the whole line was scrambling, falling, sliding on an ice-slick chute. In another moment all 19 were gone from the mountain face. They lay in a bloody pile at the bottom of a 30-foot crevasse. Some moaned; some lay quiet. One died.
Why did it happen? Few in the string had ever worked a glacial mountain before. Less than half carried ice axes with which they might have halted their wild slide. The 19 had been strung close on a 120-foot line where sound mountain sense dictates a maximum ot five or six. It was tragedy compounded of these several errors. A lodge manager, Richard Kohnstamm, who had seen them off and been among the first to the rescue, offered another reason. "The lodge and the highway make Mt. Hood so accessible, people just forget where they are."
In this same week it seemed that another realm had also become too accessible. Within a few days after two competent sports divers had gone down 160 feet to the high side of the sunken Andrea Doria (SI, Aug. 6) three larger expeditions were following suit. In 12 feet of water, 200 yards off the Nantucket Coast Guard station, the largest of these expeditions was checking out its equipment. They were using standard, proven makes of breathing units of the demand regulator type, but there was available one experimental breathing apparatus of a different sort, known generally as a "rebreather."
The most expert diver, using any one of a variety of rebreathers, must be constantly on guard against one or more hazards. The essential theory of rebreathers violates a basic rule for sports equipment: safety based on simplicity of operation.
Two of the divers on this Andrea Doria expedition declined trying the rebreather that had been brought aboard. Twenty-three-year-old Bill Edgerton, as good a diver as any of them, thought it was worth at least a shallow water test. After one successful dive with his instructor, Dr. Christian Lambertsen, he went down for a second try. Lambertsen followed, but as he now relates: "...he swam away from me." After trying to contact Edgerton by underwater megaphone, the other divers began an all-out search. Within a half hour of Edgerton's first descent they found him lying 12 feet down, less than 40 yards from the boat.
What had happened? Using non-sports equipment that exposed him to unwarranted hazards, and unwittingly or purposely leaving his swimming mate, Edgerton had died of anoxia, lapsing into unconsciousness for lack of oxygen without knowing he needed any. He doubtless died, as Dr. Lambertsen informed the local medical examiner, "like a man dropping off to sleep."
Any man is free to try for the top of a mountain and equally free to do what he will in 12 feet of water. There are only unwritten, common-sense laws grounded on such sobering experiences as those last week. These unwritten laws are enforced by a terrible, freakish justice. A dozen violators may be let off free. The next one may pay in full.
THE GREAT PIGEON CHASE
It is doubtful that any U.S. cops-even those who shagged Pretty Boy Floyd and John Dillinger around the Midwest back in the days when gangsters were gangsters—ever got, or even imagined, the kind of indignant cooperation which the burghers of Gelsenkirchen, Germany (pop. 370,000) rendered the law last week in tracking down what can only be described as a stool pigeon. A homing stool pigeon, that is. Germans are nuts for pigeons. Ninety thousand of them breed the birds and there are 2,500,000 registered ringed racing pigeons in the country. Pigeon fever burns hottest among Ruhr coal miners and Gelsenkirchen is in the heart of the Ruhr—people would as likely eat roast pigeon in Gelsenkirchen as people would eat roast Thoroughbred in Maryland. As for stealing a racing pigeon—Um Gottes Willen!
Nevertheless, one Willi Sch√§fer, a respected mine messenger and pigeon breeder, came home one day last month and discovered that a fiend had broken into his tool shed, entered his loft and had made off with six prize birds he valued at $240. Sch√§fer went to the police, choking back his tears, and reported the incident, but two weeks passed before it became evident that the crime was not simple theft but a case of pigeon-naping. Then a boy called at Sch√§fer's home and handed him a box. Inside the box was a strange gray pigeon and a note which read: "If you release this pigeon immediately with 50 marks attached to its foot, I will turn your pigeons loose. Unless my pigeon returns before 10 o'clock tomorrow morning, I will butcher yours immediately."
After that all H√∂lle broke loose in Gelsenkirchen. The town pigeon breeding society held special meetings and the cops prepared for action as though someone had snatched the mayor's daughter. It was decided to attach long colored ribbons to the gray pigeon's legs, shut up every other bird in town and track the fiend's bird to wherever it might fly when released. When the details of this scheme were published in the newspapers, a second note arrived from the fiend, reducing the ransom to 20 marks and pleading with Owner Sch√§fer to call off the manhunt to "spare my family from disgrace." It was ignored. Shortly thereafter, the stolen pigeons—obviously released by the frightened thief—flew back to Sch√§fer's home.
The law, however, was not to be bilked. On the appointed day two airplanes circled over Sch√§fer's house to track the beribboned pigeon, while 14 police cars stood by to chase it on the ground and 100,000 excited citizens perched on their rooftops or jammed the streets to chart the direction of its flight. It flew into a loft only four blocks from Sch√§fer's home. The loft's owner, an unemployed construction worker named Johann Schonhoff, was arrested. He denied all at first, but last week broke into tears and confessed. The Gelsenkirchen police predicted that the culprit will be shown scant mercy by the court. "Where," puffed Karl Kiehne, director of criminal police, "would we get if this sort of thing became a habit?"
The Towering gray dams which stand athwart the rivers of the Pacific Northwest have blessed the region with torrents of hydroelectric power, with new industry, new people and a lively new prosperity. But in so doing they have blocked, river by river, the runs of salmon, steelhead and sea-run cutthroat trout which make the country a sportsman's paradise. The difficulty has not lain in getting adult fish up over the dams and on to wilderness spawning beds in the mountain creeks beyond; fish ladders which provide them with easy ascent have been in operation for decades. But their progeny, bound downstream for the sea as little fingerlings, are killed by the millions annually in turbine blades or in thunderous drops over high spillways.
As a result, the dam-proud, salmon-loving people of the Northwest have been gripped by a curious schizophrenia. When the city of Tacoma proposed 10 years ago to build two high dams on the Cowlitz River, it encountered heavy opposition from citizens rallying to the defense of the stream's wonderful salmon and steelhead runs. Four years ago the city—with the aid of fish biologists and engineers—began trying to evolve a method of snatching millions of slippery little fish out of a river above a dam and putting them gently back into it below. Last week the city was able to boast that the awful problem was apparently licked.
Though it took years of effort and cost a small fortune, the solution seems simple enough. It is based on the discovery of two traits of sea-bound fingerlings: they tend to swim near the surface of the water and they tend to follow strong currents. Thus it was reasonable to assume that they could be kept out of the turbine blades by locating the intakes to a powerhouse below the strata of water in which they swim; that they could be "skimmed" off the water above the dam by creating a strong artificial surface current, and could then be funneled into a long, gradually inclined pipe and washed down into the lower river. A scale model of the device, tested at the University of Washington Fish Biology Laboratories, has convinced biologists that the method is eminently feasible. If so, the Northwest's armies of anglers may be able to go on baking fresh-caught salmon in their electric stoves for a long, long time.
With virtually the entire horse racing fraternity speculating over the prospects of another meeting of Nashua and Swaps, it was good to see the owners of the two fine champions officially get in the act—as they did last week. From Lexington, where he had just finished playing host to Rex Ellsworth during the Keeneland yearling sales, Leslie Combs II, front man for the Nashua syndicate, announced the eastern champion's late summer and fall racing schedule, and just to make sure that all hands understood what he was talking about Combs topped off the announcement with an obvious challenge to his departed house guest: Here's our schedule, gentlemen. If you want Nashua, come and get us. The schedule calls for four races: the Atlantic City Handicap this week, the Saratoga Handicap Aug. 25, the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Sept. 29 and the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Oct. 13.
Informed of Nashua's racing schedule, Ellsworth issued a few comments of his own from Chicago's Washington Park. He said Swaps was being pointed for the Washington Park Handicap Sept. 3 and the United Nations Handicap at Atlantic City Sept. 15. However, Ellsworth, in his first public reference to another match race, had this to add: "...there will be ample time...this fall, aside from these two events, should Nashua and his interests care to meet Swaps in a special race."
This sort of cross-country talking is all very well, but with Ellsworth and Combs feinting for position SPORTS ILLUSTRATED still maintains that the ideal race in which to bring Nashua and Swaps together—along with the leading 3-year-olds Needles and Fabius and any other deserving runners-would be a special mile-and-a-half invitation event at Belmont some time this fall. In other words, the "Dream Race" (SI, July 30).
This much is apparent: Combs is openly challenging Ellsworth. Ellsworth is challenging Combs. Since both have admitted that they would like to match their colts in a rubber event, it is to be hoped they will get together and agree on a date and place (if not Belmont, why not Garden State?). What an announcement that would be for the racing fan!
GOLF ON THE ROCKS
His game becomes
Every time his
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Floyd Patterson's mending metacarpal may turn out to be the luckiest break ever for Middleweight Champ Ray Robinson. With the Patterson-Archie Moore fight postponed until October or even next spring, the IBC may have to substitute a Robinson-Gene Fullmer title fight for the now-vacated Sept. 18 booking at Yankee Stadium.
•A Minor Rescue
After agreeing that minor league baseball should get $500,000 assist for the 1957 season, major league magnates considered Brooklyn Dodger proposal that money be raised by sending 20 major league teams to minor league towns to play the locals on a day designated "National Baseball Day."
Shanty I, Ted Jones's newest hydroplane design, took top money at Seattle's $25,000 Seafair in record time of 109.99 mph. Since Slo-Mo-Shun IV is still considered fastest of class, credit for-victory went largely to Novice Driver Russ Schleeh, Air Force jet pilot, who made his debut in 1955 Gold Cup.
Smarting over Egypt's grab of the Suez Canal, Britain's Billy Butlin banned Egyptian swimmers from competing in his international cross-Channel race from Cap Gris Nez to Folkestone. Action caused Cairo newspaper Al Kahira to taunt: "Britain is scared of Egypt, even in the field of sports."