EVENTS & DISCOVERIES

JIM FINNEGAN ON GOLF, WAS THE LADY HEAVYWEIGHT A BIT LIGHT-FINGERED?, HITTERS, SPITTERS AND LEW BURDETTE, OKLAHOMAN WITH EVERYTHIN' GOING HIS WAY, ARAGON'S ART
September 09, 1956

THF GOLF VOTE

On his political rounds last week Adlai Stevenson said, "I hope my opponent has time to face some of the realities of our diminished stature in the world and lost opportunities at home. And when I speak of 'lost opportunities,' I don't mean on the putting green, either."

Headlines bloomed across the country: STEVENSON CHIDES PRESIDENT ON GOLF; "TOO MUCH PUTTING" SAYS ADLAI; STEVENSON ON GOLF.

A man from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED asked Stevenson if he really meant to offend the country's voting-age golfers (6,300,000 of them, according to George Gallup). His reply: "I used to be something of a golfer myself, and I hope to take it up again if I find the time."

But Jim Finnegan, Adlai's campaign manager, was ready to write the golf vote off. "Listen," he said. "I got news for you. Ninety-eight percent of those people vote Republican anyway."

THE CASE OF THE FIVE BERETS

At 27, round and red-haired Nina Ponomaryova has a right arm as hard, smooth and heavily muscled as a blacksmith's; four years ago at the Olympic Games in Helsinki she became a person of consequence in the Soviet Union by throwing the discus 168 feet 8½ inches and bringing home one of Russia's two gold medals in track and field. Last week, as a result, she was privileged to drop her duties as a Soviet wife (her husband is a doctor), a Soviet mother (she has a 2-year-old son) and Soviet schoolteacher, and to travel to London, that rich and curious capital of the heathen West, with 55 other top Russian athletes.

Nina settled into London's tourist-crammed 200-room Lancaster Court Hotel, near Hyde Park, and for five days trained for a pre-Olympic meet with England, which was to be held at White City Stadium. For five days she also savored the heady foreign air of London; the Russians ate fruit by the basketful, shoveled through bowls of yogurt, gobbled chocolate bars and, in many cases, ate steak at every meal; they also went to the movies (Cinerama Holiday), went sightseeing and—equipped with ¬£5 (about $14) in pocket money—went shopping. Nina never got to White City Stadium—her battle with England took place, instead, at C. and A. Modes Limited, a cut-rate women's shop on Oxford Street.

Nina walked alone through the store's glass doors and found herself surrounded by jumbled counters full of cheap hats—fluffy wool stocking caps, feathered bands, felt flowerpots. She poked through the gaudy mass and found five cheap little berets worth a total of 12 shillings 11 pence—$4.61. Exactly what happened after that may never officially be known, but as Nina left the store with the berets in her bag, two store detectives stopped her and accused her of shoplifting. Nina speaks no English. The store manager called Scotland Yard (for an interpreter) and the Russian Embassy. With stolid British insistence on due process of law (and in what the Daily Express called "a most precipitate and clumsy manner") Nina was hustled off to a police station, charged, and released to the Russian Embassy on ¬£5 bail.

Within hours Nina and her $4.61 worth of hats became the basis of a curious and bitter international incident; Nina, in fact, all but wiped the Suez crisis out of London's newspapers. Russian officials tore off to the British Foreign Office to demand that the charges be retracted. They had a plausible story: that Nina, ignorant of Western ways, had paid for the hats but had not waited for a receipt and thus could not prove ownership. They insisted that the only money missing from her £5 was the exact price of the purchase. The Foreign Office could only explain that it had no jurisdiction and nothing could be done unless the store retracted its charges. This the store refused to do.

When Nina's case came up for trial before Magistrate Clyde Wilson the next morning, Nina failed to appear. A warrant was issued for her arrest. The Russians withdrew their team from the meet and the embassy (in the name of the athletes) issued a rashly worded statement: "A dirty provocation has taken place recently in London against a member of the Soviet's Athletics Team...this provocation was aimed at blackmailing [a] world famous sportswoman." The embassy spokesman added: "Silly frameup."

The reaction in London's press was noisy and varied. The Communist Daily Worker struck an odd attitude: "It was the obligation of the Soviet team not to allow themselves to be provoked into any form of action that would stop the match...." "Why," asked the Daily Mirror, "were the Russians so stupid?" The Daily Express criticized English officialdom: "Everybody knows the Russians are absurdly touchy."

Among the athletes themselves, however, British and Russian alike, the chief reaction seemed to be simple sorrow. Many an English athlete, including Gordon Pirie and Chris Chataway, hurried to the Lancaster Court to commiserate with the Soviet team. Said Chataway: "It's the silliest thing I ever heard." A Russian coach said, "The team has the blues. We think the newspapers were all wrong to report the case so soon. In Russia we wait for decisions before we print." The Russian athletes and trainers seemed convinced that Nina was innocent and that she was the victim of political intrigue, and showed no understanding of Western justice. Even so, Head Coach Gabriel Korobkov spoke gently. "This is a sorry blow for sports between our countries. We are not political—well, we are only a little political—and this has damaged relationships between Britain and Russia."

Meanwhile Nina was nowhere to be found. She was, it was generally felt, hidden in the Russian Embassy, although there were those who thought she had been smuggled out of England aboard a Soviet freighter. Police (who would only say that the store's detectives know their business and rarely make mistakes) watched for her at English seaports and airfields. There, at week's end, the matter stood. But no matter what happened, Nina ("Poor thing," said many an Englishwoman) would have to go home without her hats.

DOES HE OR DOESN'T HE?

When Milwaukee's 17-game winner, Lew Burdette, stands on the mound, his motions are a good imitation of St. Vitus' dance in slow motion. He fingers his cap and belt, wipes his hands, brings his arm across his face, rubs his thigh, brushes sweat off his forehead and arms. To National League managers Burdette's motions (see page 46) also suggest something else—that he is loading up a spitball. Last week, the knottiest question in the league was: Does he or doesn't he?

Four managers are convinced that he does. But neither they nor their players can convince the umpires, nor can they agree on how he does it. Jackie Robinson says: "We can't catch him at it." Mayo Smith says: "It's easy to tell when he's loaded up." One critic says he "throws eight or nine a game." Another says he "throws maybe two or three a game, not enough to matter." Another says he "gets it from the sweat on his forearm." One says he gets it "when his hand goes to the peak of his cap, or to his forehead." What does the confusion prove? If Burdette throws a spitter, he is mighty clever at it.

Last week in Milwaukee, Pirate Manager Bobby Bragan ran from the dugout wailing, bellowing and demanding that the umpires look at the ball. Several times the umpires obliged, and when Bragan and two players continued to be insistent they were thumbed out of the game. Burdette and the Braves went on to win another.

Burdette is enjoying the situation. "I don't throw a spitter," he says. "It's a sinker. But let them think I do. It's another pitch they have to worry about when they're hitting, and as long as they're worrying, I'm ahead."

With the help of his "worry" pitch, Lew last week had the lowest earned-run average in the majors (2.39). Opponents spent so much time watching Lew's every motion that there was more than a little sentiment for legalizing the old spitter again—just so everybody can relax a bit.

But does he or doesn't he? One reflection: If Lew does, and gets caught at it, Milwaukee will lose him for a 10-day suspension in the windup of the pennant race.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF 24

For Mickey mantle of the New York Yankees it was a busy and wonderful time. On Wednesday he hit No. 46 and drove in the winning run against Kansas City; on Friday came No. 47, with the President looking on (see page 28). In between, on Thursday, he romped and beamed through a square dance on Arthur Murray's TV show and expertly cast a plug for I Love Mickey, a song which is two weeks old and selling well. It was Mantle's fourth nonbaseball TV appearance of the season. Together with filmed commercials (for Viceroys, Lifebuoy soap, Charles Antell Hair Conditioner and Batter Up pancake mix) they have netted him roughly $15,000. But that's only the beginning.

On October 3, which happens to be opening day for the World Series, the Kraft Television Theatre will produce Mickey's life story. A 25-year-old actor, named James Olson, who bears a dim resemblance to Mantle, has been found and put to work observing the man he is to portray. But Mickey himself, and probably some of his family, will appear on the show too, in flashbacks.

The script is unfinished, because Mantle is still writing it, adding a detail or two every time he comes up to bat. If he breaks Ruth's record and drives in the pennant-winning run, so much the better for dramatic impact. If he doesn't, the Kraft people feel they can still find an affirmative ending for the story. As biographee, scriptwriter and Exhibit A, Mantle will collect (again roughly) another $15,000.

Then there are record royalties. I Love Mickey is a rock 'n' roll number. Since Mantle's voice is heard on it briefly he will share in the profits. For those who can't stand rock 'n' roll, there is The Mighty Mickey Mantle, which has been described as a "cowboy-type item." Its hero doesn't perform in it and will get no income from it. Both songs are expected to spurt or slump on sales charts in perfect time to Mickey's hitting. I Love Mickey may therefore bring in $10,000 more.

Finally, there is Mantle's $30,000 salary as a Yankee.

The total is $70,000. An endorsement or two, a few more television appearances and 13 home runs will put the 24-year-old Oklahoma farm boy in the same income bracket as that other object of the nation's daily regard, the President of the United States.

ART THE GREAT

As a ranking prizefighter, California's Art Aragon is only No. 5 in the welterweight lists. He never has been—and probably never will be—champion. He is constitutionally unable to escape a left jab. He throws punches with the hopeless fervor of a man swatting a fly with a Kleenex. He is one of the handsomest fighters in the ring—but only when the fight starts. When it ends he usually looks like something hanging off the cornice of a French cathedral. Most of his energies in the ring are devoted to hitching up his pants to keep them from falling off, even though he admitted, when asked if they had ever gone down, "Only when I went with them."

Despite the foregoing, Aragon rates as an outdoor evening attraction in California considerably above the Hollywood Bowl and only slightly below necking on the beach. And there were a rousing 14,000 fans on hand at Los Angeles' Wrigley Field last week to see Art take on a journeyman home-town lightweight named Cisco Andrade who had never been able to attract more than the members of his immediate family to his fights before. The 14,000 included virtually the whole membership of the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, from Mrs. Humphrey Bogart to Mike Romanoff, Spencer Tracy, Frank Sinatra and Leo Durocher.

As usual when Aragon fights, it was great theater. First, Art paddled into the ring wearing a pair of workmen's rubbers with thick red edges. He looked as though he had come to fix the plumbing. He was also wearing thick layers of collodion over his eyes, so that the net effect was that he looked as if he were made up for the Ballet Russe. His opponent, who came into the ring wearing a loud sports coat over his ring togs, screamed in protest over the collodion eyebrows, suggesting by implication he had come to cut Aragon, not to beat him. But Art haughtily refused to remove the makeup, an attitude which earned him a one-day suspension by the Athletic Commission but a net gain anyway because, by the fourth round, his eyes looked as though someone had broken a bottle of wine over them, even with the collodion.

It would be unfair to suggest Aragon can't fight a lick. He can—a lick. He has a soggy left hand and a brutish uppercut which should be avoided whenever possible. With Aragon it's usually possible, and a sportswriter once dubbed him the greatest artist since Willie Keeler at hitting 'em where they ain't. In order to land his punch, Art takes a painstaking stance, like a golfer lining up a championship putt. Most of his opponents are not friendly enough to wait and Art's punches are usually as harmless as Snead's putts—way wide and long.

The Aragon-Andrade fight was a case in point. Art has always had an extraordinary capacity for absorbing punishment, and this night he also had an extraordinary opportunity. Andrade was seven pounds lighter and just that much faster. Aragon, as usual, was swinging for the fences, and Cisco found it no trouble at all to step deftly inside the roundhouses and rock Aragon's head from side to side like a light punching bag. It wasn't until the seventh round that Aragon had sense enough to choke up his swing, but once he did that the gloves which had been soaring overhead all night began to land occasionally on the Andrade jaw. Once or twice was enough. The Holmby Hills Rat Pack, to a man behind Andrade, owned by Brother Rat Sinatra, screamed in horror as Andrade scudded to the floor in the middle of the eighth round. He got up but shouldn't have.

The fight ended in the ninth. The round was only 35 seconds old, but already Andrade had undoubtedly set the world's record for ground covered in that time. Art, whose eyes were bleeding, couldn't see him by now. But he could hear him breathing. He aimed at the noise with another left and Andrade thudded down on his face. He took a nine count, then rose slowly. Across the ring he saw Aragon dashing at him. It suddenly occurred to Andrade he wanted his gloves wiped off. Why, nobody knows. It was clear he wasn't going to be hitting Aragon with them. At any rate, he thrust them at Referee Abe Roth and the action seemed to enrage Roth almost as though it were a reflection on his professional ability. He glared at Andrade, then whirled to raise Aragon's hand in victory. Andrade couldn't believe his eyes. Aragon couldn't believe his luck. He almost ran to the corner, ducked out of the ring and into his dressing room before Roth could change his mind. When Cisco charged the referee, demanding an explanation, Roth shrugged. "You were going to lose anyway," he soothed.

As a check of the cards showed afterward (Referee Roth and one of the two judges had Aragon ahead) there was some likely truth in this observation. But members of the California Athletic Commission, at ringside, were almost as unnerved as Andrade. They suspended Roth long enough for a re-study of his call. Actually, since the blinded Aragon had been bearing down impartially on both Cisco and the referee—as if ready to kayo both of them to be sure he got the right one—Abe Roth can always plead self-defense.

In the dressing room afterward, Aragon was magnanimous. "Andrade is going to be the next lightweight champion of the world, no doubt about it," he proclaimed. What about Aragon, someone wanted to know. "I'm going to be a movie star," the winner said.

SOMETHING FISHY

Why is it fish dance
Right into his creel?
He's using, it seems,
A Virginia reel.
—RICHARD ARMOUR

ILLUSTRATION"May I help you across the street, Signora Vanucci?" TWO ILLUSTRATIONS

CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD

•Four Fine Days
President Eisenhower, delighted with his first two days of golf at Pebble Beach (SI, Sept. 3), decided to stay on for two more. Ike and his partners picked up once or twice on each round and therefore did not wind up with hard scores, but allowing for what he would have taken, Ike did each round in 90 to 93.

•Tradition for Sale
Belair Stud Farm, the 2,500-acre show place near Bowie, Md. which was Nashua's early home, will soon be offered for sale by the estate of the late William Woodward Jr. Unless another breeder buys it up, historic Belair, founded in 1747, may become another suburban housing development.

•For the Redlegs, Black Ink
Attendance at Cincinnati's Crosley Field passed the one million mark Aug. 31 for the first time in Redleg history, with six home dates still to be played. The Reds celebrated by giving away five automobiles to the five fans who best-guessed the number of paid admissions last Sunday afternoon.

•Louisiana: 67 Nays
Pleading that the state's new segregated-sports law will "doom" the Sugar Bowl and other major sports events, supporters offered the Louisiana legislature a proposal to allow unsegregated sports in cities over 100,000. The lawmakers considered it briefly, tabled it by a vote of 67 to 15.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)