One lady guitar player from Mexico, a trickle of fans and possibly some of the players' close relatives watched the U.S. Davis Cup team beat Mexico at Rye, N.Y. a couple of weeks ago. A 400-seat temporary grandstand at the Westchester Country Club was more than ample for this little knot of customers. Considering that it was the finals of the American Zone eliminations, this was a pretty paltry turnout for one of the world's largest metropolitan areas, even allowing that the tennis was not quite top-grade.
Maybe the fathers of the staid U.S. Lawn Tennis Association should take a look at major league baseball. When interest died out in the old, empty ball parks of the East, the majors started moving into unjaded western cities and found a whole new batch of wildly enthusiastic supporters.
In southern California for several decades and, more recently, in Texas, tennis interest has been high. In Dallas, for instance, 2,000 fans watched four days of tennis in the Dallas Country Club Invitational tournament; Houston has pulled in over 5,000 at its River Oaks tournament. It seems to be time for the USLTA to examine these figures and start playing some of its big events—not only the Davis Cup but also the Nationals—somewhere west or south of Boston, New York and Philadelphia. After all, golf has been doing just that for years with happy results, and the old argument about staging these matches on grass is as outdated as "twenty-three skidoo."
August 19, 1956
The prospect of an American Zone Davis Cup final—to say nothing of a national championship—would no doubt bulge the seams of a man-sized stadium in Houston, Dallas or Los Angeles. With lady guitar players there is no telling where the enthusiasm might soar. So, why not?
$833 A POUND
First baseman Steve Bilko of the Los Angeles Angels and Sergeant Ernie Bilko, USA (TV), have little in common aside from the fact that both are brand-new celebrities. Sergeant Bilko is played by a feverish comic named Phil Silvers. First Baseman Bilko is played by a lethargic 27-year-old named Steve Thomas Bilko.
The 240-pound Steve, now in his second year with the Angels, is batting .370, threatening the Pacific Coast League record of 60 home runs in a season, and has just had the glamorous price tag of $200,000 pinned on him by Angel President John Holland. That rates as a new high for minor league beef on the spike, amounting, as it does, to $833 a pound. To those who remember Steve's three futile attempts to stick with the majors (twice with the Cardinals and once with the Cubs) all this may come as quite a surprise.
But this is a new Steve—more relaxed, more obese and completely resigned to the fickleness of fate. "When I hit 'em I hit 'em," he grunts, "and when I miss 'em I miss 'em. I usually strike out a hundred times a year and this year should be no exception." He credits the Angels' heavy schedule of daytime games with part of his success, explaining: "I think the ball goes farther in daylight." The proof: as of last Sunday he had already driven 47 homers out of Coast League parks with 37 games still to play. They were still whooping it up in the ball park the other day after the game in which Bilko hit Homer No. 46. Then somebody noticed that the hero of the hour was no longer around. The mighty muscle man had rushed home, having volunteered to baby-sit his three children while Mrs. Bilko had a night out.
With the irrepressible Silvers bouncing across the nation's TV screens every week, it was inevitable that Steve Bilko would acquire the nickname Sarge. There are a great many Angel fans who will tell you that before the current season is finished they'll be calling that TV character Steve.
THE EATONS AND McCOYS
The cynic's chronic sneer was leveled at Governor Goodwin J. Knight a year ago when he created a committee to investigate boxing's dirty business in California. Nothing would come of it, the cynics said, because Cal (Alvah) Eaton's son was married to the governor's daughter, and Cal (Alvah) Eaton had long thrown his promotional weight around southern California. For years the boxing commission had been browbeaten by Eaton's match-maker sidekick, Babe (Harry Rudolph) McCoy, a corpulent onetime stolen-car fence and dinner companion of Frankie Carbo (SI, June 11).
Now the committee's report is in, and it gives no nourishment to cynics, no sop to nepotism. There is a new boxing commission in California and the early liquidation of Eaton, McCoy and a slimy slew of associates seems at hand. The governor's committee found that boxing in California was a mess of fixed fights, cheated boxers, indiscriminate licensing of criminals, hoodlum influence, poor and sometimes criminally dishonest officiating, and monopoly.
McCoy's name soiled page after page. "All of us who worked on this project," the committee said, "have had experience in law enforcement and in the course of such employment have known criminals. McCoy is as vicious as any of us have encountered." And Eaton, the report continued, "has been fully aware of and has approved of McCoy's methods of operation."
There was evidence, according to the report, that Eaton "bet large sums of money on the 'sure things' at the Olympic Auditorium," and that he had dealt directly with Frankie Carbo, paying him $10,000 for the services of then Lightweight Champion Jimmy Carter, supposedly managed by Willie (The Undertaker) Ketchum.
Eaton, once so quick to defy honest boxing officials, was equally quick to deny that he had ever bet on "any sport" or had done business with underworld characters. And, from long and profitable habit, he was quick to refer to his association "with Governor Knight himself." He hired Hollywood's favorite mouthpiece, Jerry Giesler, who was a boxing commission chairman himself once, to file a $300,000 suit against James E. Cox, special counsel for the governor's committee and the man most responsible for the success of the governor's crusade to make boxing decent.
As for Cox, he had established that he was not interested in mere legalistics. He had a fine chance, for instance, to skewer Sid Flaherty, the northern California overlord who openly functioned as both promoter and manager, though this duality is expressly unlawful. He could have called for revocation of Flaherty's license, as he had done for Eaton and McCoy. But Flaherty told the simple, direct truth under oath, admitted his illegalities and was, furthermore, disclosed as a manager who treated his fighters with fairness and solicitude. The committee recommended only that Flaherty be fined substantially and make up his mind as to whether he was a promoter or manager.
The success of Cox is, of course, a success only up to the moment, but the future of boxing in California is much brighter. Governor Knight has appointed a whole new boxing commission and has given it a highly competent executive secretary, David L. Luce, who previously had charge of criminal investigation as a section chief in the Department of Justice. Luce is described as a dogged man and not likely to be hindered by cynical evaluations of what can and cannot be done to political relatives.
A quiet beer garden, hard by a wide sweep of pleasantly green turf, opened in Washington last week. The management charges a modest cover, but provides a two-hour-plus floor show. The garden occupies Griffith Stadium's new lower left-field bleachers, installed this year to shorten the outfield and thus encourage more home runs. But when the lackluster Senators failed to attract customers enough for these new seats, the management jettisoned a 55-year ban on beer at the park, leaving Pittsburgh and Philadelphia as the only dry stadiums.
Since District of Columbia law requires drinkers to be seated and to put the mug on a table when not drinking, the Senators installed tables in front of the seats. Anyone seeking a peaceful environment for a spot of refreshment will find Washington's new beer garden ideal, even though the entertainment frequently lacks foam.
TALE OF A WAYSIDE INN
The lonely wayside inn—particularly one with a corpse in a closet—is one of the hoariest of fictional devices, and it is a stubborn author who has not marooned a set of antagonistic characters in one and let them rub nerve-ends and bate breaths for at least a chapter or so. It is doubtful, however, that literature has ever provided a setting quite as cramped as the six-room (one bath) Fairview Inn at Talkeetna (pop. 85), Alaska, or a ghost quite as lively as that of the late explorer, Dr. Frederick A. Cook, or an atmosphere as intimately charged as that which prevailed last month when Cook's most fervent modern defenders and detractors found themselves—to their mutual dismay—eating three meals a day together around Fair-view's single dining room table.
Cook died in 1940, twice damned as one of the most flamboyant frauds in history for claiming to have been the first to climb Mount McKinley back in 1906 and also to have beaten Admiral Robert Peary to the North Pole in 1908. He eventually managed to get himself a federal prison rap in the 1920s for questionable promotion of Texas "oil" lands, but this year his daughter—a plump, middle-aged Buffalo housewife, Mrs. Helene Cook Vetter—decided to rescue his reputation as a mountaineer. It seemed like an awful task. Cook was drummed out of the Explorers Club 47 years ago for his Mount McKinley tale and most climbers agree that it is completely implausible. Yet Mrs. Vetter found an unexpected ally—a big, rawboned mining geologist from the state of Washington named Walter L. (Moose) Gonnason.
The Moose, who had climbed Mount McKinley in 1948, was stubbornly convinced that Cook had made the top and offered to lead a party of three others up the doctor's purported route to prove it. Mrs. Vetter staked him to $1,500. This was too much for famed Mountaineer Bradford Washburn, who is director of Boston's Museum of Science and acknowledged as the world's leading authority on Mount McKinley. As Gonnason set out to attack the heights, Washburn—who was also planning a trip to the great (20,270 feet) mountain—announced with some heat that he would devote part of his time to proving once and for all that Cook's photograph of the peak was a fraud, and that other landmarks described in his book, To the Top of the Continent, were miles away from the mountain and 10,000 feet lower than he had claimed.
Thus resolved, Washburn duly arrived with two companions at the Fair-view Inn. It took him only seconds to discover that Mrs. Vetter was already there, attended by a press agent, and proudly awaiting Moose Gonnason's return. Talkeetna is the gateway to the mountain chiefly because a flier named Don Sheldon bases there for flights to Ruth Glacier; so Washburn & Co. had nowhere else to go. The two groups settled down, cheek by jowl, in an atmosphere of horrible cordiality. It did not last.
"How many black balls do you need after all these years to keep this man down?" the press agent cried angrily to Washburn one day on the road outside the inn. "Why are you going out of your way after all these years to continue to stick knives in Cook?"
"My ulterior motive," said Washburn, standing chin to chin with his adversary, "is to find out the truth and my only real regret about this thing is what you guys are doing to that poor lady over there in the inn. You're taking her for a ride!"
The situation grew even steamier when Moose Gonnason was flown down from the mountain to announce that his party had failed by 10,000 feet to reach the top. At this point the weather closed in, marooning Gonnason, Washburn & party at the inn. The Moose was not a man to take Washburn's criticism lying down.
"Hell," he bawled, "the man was there. Why should there be an argument? There's no argument. I base it on the summit picture."
"Mount McKinley's summit," rasped Washburn in his clipped Bostonian accent, "is covered constantly with 40 or 50 feet of snow. That peak [in Cook's picture] is solid granite with maybe two or three inches of snow, and I'll bet $10,000 that any competent geologist will back me up on that."
Said Geologist Gonnason: "I say that's shadowed, packed snow."
"Rubbish," muttered Washburn.
"I think I can make it with a stronger party," Gonnason persisted. "After that I intend to try for the North Pole."
The weather finally broke. The antagonists bade each other relieved and civilized farewells. But it was hard not to imagine the shade of the doctor—a man who always enjoyed the clangor of public attention—standing by in disappointment as the party came to an end.
TOO LATE TO SAVE
Lady wrestlers, whose place in the world of sport has always been questionable, were finally banned from the state of Oregon last week. After years of legal ping-pong the state supreme court upheld a law forbidding public wrestling matches between women, and Justice Walter L. Tooze explained why in words loaded with male frustration:
"It seems to us that [the statute] intended that there should be at least one island on the sea of life reserved for men that would be impregnable to the assault of women.... In the field of sports she has taken up—among other games—baseball, basketball, golf, etc., in all of which she has become more or less proficient and in some has excelled. In the business and industrial fields, as an employee or as an executive, in the professions, in politics, as well as in almost every other line of endeavor, she has matched her wits and prowess with those of mere man and, we are frank to concede, in many instances has outdone him. In those circumstances is it any wonder that the legislative assembly took advantage of the police power of the state in its decision to halt this ever-increasing feminine encroachment upon what for ages had been considered strictly manly arts and privileges? Was the act an unjust and unconstitutional discrimination against women? Under the circumstances, we think not."
Justice Tooze's sentiments are pardonably masculine, but they came a little too late to save male professional wrestling from the feminine influence. It seems that nowadays an exhibitionist can scarcely make a living in the racket without a permanent wave, blondined hair, French perfume, a flowing satin kimono and a set of gestures more appropriate in milady's boudoir than the prize ring.
CASING ADDER BET
Among the discoveries of this magazine in its first issue two years ago was a story about Little Red Riding Hood, written in a tortured vocabulary invented by Professor Howard Chace of Oxford, Ohio. This week a collection of Professor Chace's versions of classic tales is being published by Prentice-Hall Inc. under the title Anguish Languish. In celebration of this event and its own second birthday, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED happily offers Professor Chace's translation of a baseball epic. For full enjoyment, it must, of course, be read aloud.
Heresy borsch boil starry a boarder borsch boil gam plate lung, lung a gore inner ladle wan hearse torn coiled Mutt-fill.
Mutt-fill worsen mush offer torn, butted hatter putty gut borsch boil tame, an off oiler pliers honor tame door moist cerebrated worse Casing. Casing worsted sickened basement, any hatter betting orphanage off .526 (punt fife toe sex).
Casing worse gut lurking, an furry poplar—spatially wetter gull coiled Any-belly. Any-belly worse Casing's sweat hard, any harpy cobble wandered toe gat merit, bought Casing worse toe pore toe becalm Any-belly's horsebarn. (Boil pliers honor Mutt-fill tame dint gat mush offer celery; infect, day gut nosing atoll.)
Bought less gat earn wetter starry.
Wan dare, inner Mutt-fill borsch boil pork, door scar stud lack disk inner lest in ink:
UDDER TAME 4
Water disgorging saturation! Oiler Mutt-fill rotors, setting inner grin-stench, war failing furry darn inner mouse.
Bought watcher thank hopping? Soddenly wan offer Mutt-fill pliers hitter shingle, an an udder plier gutter gnats toe beggar! Soda war ptomaine earn basis. Bust off oil, Casing ham shelf, Mutt-fill's cerebrated better, worse combing ope toe bet!
Whinny kraut inner grin-stench sore Casing combing, day stuttered toe clabber hens an yowl, "Dare's Casing! Attar bore, Casing!" An whinny hansom sickened basement sundered confidentially ope tutor plat, oiler Mutt-fill rotors shorted: "Casing roar! Casing roar! Roar, roar, Casing!"
Putty ladle Any-belly, setting oil buyer shelf inner grin-stench, worse furry prod offer gut lurking loafer. Lack oiler udder pimple, Any-belly worse shore debt Casing worse garner winner boil gam fur Mutt-fill.
Casing weaved tutor kraut an castor sweat glands add Any-belly, den retched darn tutor grunt an robbed dart honors hens, an warped haze hens honors pence.
"Ply boil!" shorted door empire, gadding impassioned.
Casing pecked upper bet an locked adder patcher, any set tomb shelf:
"Latter comb! Arm garner smirk disk boil rat offer defense!"
Zombie! Door boil short pest Casing lacquer canning boil. Casing dint peony tension turret.
"Stork warn!" crater empire.
Door kraut inner grin-stench stuttered shorting an coursing.
"Wart inhale's madder wet debt empire's ice? Hazy gun bland?"
"Lessen, empire—Java heifer ice exempted? Batter goiter seeder obstetrician!"
"Boor! Boor! B-o-o-r!"
"O water bag bomb!"
Door patcher warn dope akin, any boil short pest Casing lacquer bullock firmer raffle.
"Stork toe!" setter empire, lurking unctuously adder kraut.
Oiler Mutt-fill fens an rotors war hurling wet anchor. Servile bear bordels an corker cooler bordels cam firmer grin-stench an fail honor grunt, nut fur firmer pore empire's fate.
Inner grin-stench, ladle Any-belly, hoe dint lacquer seer loafer mucker bag foal otter ham shelf, bay gander wiper ice wetter tawny ladle lazy hanker sniff.
Wants akin, Casing locked adder patcher, disk term wetter lock off gram razor lotion honors phase.
"Jest locket Casing!" whiskered door kraut. "Disk term, Casing manes baseness. Badger Casing's garner smirk debt borsch boil rat offer defense!"
Swash! Casing swank adder boil wet oilers farce! Water swank! Wart anomalous farce! Wart gram razor lotion!
Water sham debt Casing dint hitter boil!
"Stork tree—yore art!" whiskered door empire, trampling, an gadding ratty toe dock corker cooler bordels an bear bordels.
Door kraut worse stunt.
Any-belly worse sopping historically inner tawny ladle lazy hanker sniff.
Wail, yawl nor debt putty pacer pottery coiled Casing Adder Bet—spatially doze lest melon colic versus:
O, psalm war an disk fevered lend
door soreness shunning brat;
Door benders plying psalm war, an
psalm war hurts alite,
An psalm war manor luffing, an psalm
war chaldron short;
Butter ash nor jarring Mutt-fill—
muddy Casing hast stork art!
Bought lessen, forks! Wander nor wart rally hopping? Wail, doze putty versus becalm cerebrated—an Casing becalm cerebrated,toe!Suturebagkraut off pimple cam toe Mutt-fill toe shag hens wetter hansom borsch boil plier debt Casing win enter parlor tricks, an gut retch. An whinny gut retch (conjure gas?), Casing becalm door diverted horsebarn off putty ladle Any-belly.
Tennis victor leaped the net,
He wanted to be jolly—
He met his rival's final swing
And found himself a volley.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
New Jersey took note of the ever-increasing small boat traffic problem (SI, July 23), stationed a uniformed inspector of the State Department of Navigation at crowded Lake Hopatcong to ticket reckless speedsters. Result: Jersey Navigation Court fined 59 persons for boating violations.
E. Roland Harriman, honorary chairman of the U.S. Trotting Association, president of the Hambletonian Society and older brother of New York's Governor Ave, fired a salvo in the battle between the USTA and N.Y. Harness Commissioner George Monaghan, awarded the Hambletonian to Du Quoin, 111., beginning next year or 1958. Reason: "Unsatisfactory conditions...in New York."
Middleweight Champ Ray Robinson says he has broken with Jim Norris and the IBC and will defend title against Gene Fullmer in Los Angeles or San Francisco Sept. 24 or 25 under other promotion. Robinson, under exclusive contract to Norris for title fights, says agreement "wouldn't stand up in court."
•Half a Loaf
PCC presidents last week halved penalties imposed earlier on seniors at UCLA and USC by restoring their grid eligibility for five consecutive games this year. Juniors and sophs are still ineligible for a year; players who took illegal loans may return to grace by repaying them before September 1.