THE RECORD BUSINESS
In Boston last Wednesday Mickey Mantle dropped behind Babe Ruth's 1927 home run pace for the first time this year, and 60 homers began to seem beyond reach. People all over the country were a little sad—and at the same time a little glad to think that if the Everest God made has fallen, the one Ruth made is safe for another year.
Well, safe in the big leagues, that is. Ken Guettler of the Shreveport Sports wound up the Texas League season the other day with 62 home runs, breaking the league record of 55 (set in 1924). Dick Stuart of the Lincoln (Neb.) Chiefs got 61 homers by August and then slumped uninterruptedly through the final month of the Western League season. He wound up with a mere 66, half a dozen short of the alltime minor league record of 72, set by Joe Bauman of Roswell, N. Mex. in the now defunct Longhorn League in 1954.
These Mantles of the minors have almost nothing in common except their crisp performances at bat. Both are in their 20s, yet the hard facts of physiology are such that one of them has a major league future in baseball and the other will be lucky to have another season as good as this one.
September 16, 1956
At 23, Stuart is on the way up. He will tell you he expects to be playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates next year unless some (in his opinion) wise baseball executive from another major league club buys him first.
Guettler, on the other hand, describes himself as a 29-year-old outfielder with a crooked right arm, poor vision and 11 years of minor league baseball behind him. He doesn't expect to make the majors ever, because of his injuries and long years of batting against second-and third-rate pitching.
No major league club has even inquired about Guettler. He has a short right arm which he can't bend more than 45°, a result of an ice hockey injury. He can't even throw like an outfielder, and his vision is so bad that he had to sit out a series of games in Houston last May when his glasses disappeared from his locker. Texas League baseball writers recently named him Player of the Year. Having done that, they noted that Guettler is a newcomer from the Piedmont League (which folded after the 1955 season) and voted him Rookie of the Year as well.
In contrast, Stuart is cocky, handsome, powerful (6 feet 3 inches, 210 pounds). His one purpose is to hit home runs. "They pay for home runs in baseball," he explains.
His teammates call him Donkey, as a tactful hint that his fielding might be better. Indeed, they are fond of reminding him that, as a movie extra, he recently played the part of a dead soldier in D-day, the Sixth of June—swearing that he plays his outfield role the same way. At bat, though, Stuart comes to life. One of his homers (hit in Pueblo, Col.) measured 610 feet, and several of his drives at Lincoln Park have cleared the 60-foot light tower at the 375-foot marker. A good many Nebraskans have found that, for suspense and excitement, a real-life Dick Stuart compares favorably with an electronic Mickey Mantle.
It's the same down in Shreveport. There, when some stranger asks a local fan, "Do you think Mickey Mantle still has a chance to break the record this year?" he gets another question right back: "Which record—Ruth's or Guettler's?"
OUR FAVORITE UMPIRE
For connoisseurs of umpiring the National League this year offers an encouraging phenomenon. He is Freshman Umpire Henry C. (Shag) Crawford, 36, who never walks when he can run, who already has established a Shag style of umpiring easily recognizable at any ball park.
When Crawford umpires behind the plate he dashes after foul balls and pop flies with catchers and infielders. He skims from plate to base, even to the edge of the outfield, often arriving at a play in a dead heat with players and other umpires. Between innings he stands 10 feet down the first-base line, and when the pitcher has completed his preliminary throws he sails in to the plate with his whisk broom. His method of throwing new balls to the pitcher is beyond criticism. After a hop, skip and modified leg kick his sidearm fast balls land in the pitcher's glove with a resounding smack.
When not the umpire-in-chief behind the plate Shag, of course, officiates on the bases and knows enough not to be poking his sharp-chinned jaw into another umpire's territory. But he's what the pros call a good backer-upper. When another umpire has more than one play to call in his area Shag will be right on the spot. At the Polo Grounds the other day he made consecutive back-up calls at first and third, operating, of course, as roving plate umpire.
Crawford has been wearing an umpire's cap on his head for only six years. During World War II he wore a sailor hat, served on a destroyer that unsuccessfully tried to shag away from a Kamikaze in the Battle of Luzon. After the war he hustled milk bottles to South Philadelphia housewives, became an umpire after the semipro baseball team on which he played (all positions) disbanded. Shag worked his way up to the big time by officiating in the Canadian American League (Class C), the Eastern League (Class A) and the American Association (Class AAA). Last year he umpired in the Little World Series.
Major leaguers seem pretty much in favor of the tall, slim (6 feet one inch, 170 pounds) hustler. Says one veteran umpire: "He's the best young umpire to come up in a long time." Shortstop Roy McMillan of Cincinnati says: "He's a good one. He keeps on top of the plays, and he hasn't gotten into any fights with us yet. I like that."
Shag Crawford doesn't run off at the mouth about himself. He just says: "The closer I get to the plays, the better I can call them. Oh, yes, there's another reason. I want to speed up the game."
The Russians weren't ready to send tennis players to Forest Hills this year. But give them time. Strollers in Washington's Rock Creek Park this summer have been surprised by the appearance twice each week of 10 to 20 members of the Soviet Embassy staff, filling two fenced-in public courts to the bursting point with flying rackets, balls and outcries in English and Russian. As many as 10 Russians have lined up on each side of the net at one time, lobbing, driving and smashing balls across the net at an opposing 10 on the other side.
This resolute Russian determination to master an unfamiliar sport began in July when the Embassy Volleyball League season ended. The Russians (who won the tournament) asked the District of Columbia recreation department for tennis instruction. The department lent balls and rackets and also provided an instructor at $5 for 10 lessons. Since recent reports indicate that Russia intends to enter the 1957 Davis Cup competition and Soviet sports journals periodically blast Russian apathy about tennis, the embassy's sudden enthusiasm could be more for the party line than for the game. But the embassy set deprecates this view.
"Why do we want to play tennis?" asked Third Secretary Ivan Rostov, who arrived at the court with blue shorts under his gray business suit and carrying his tennis shoes in a paper bag. "We just wanted to play, so we played. I myself have always preferred chess. Is it as popular here as well? I do not believe it is. But you can't stay inside all the time, so we decided to play tennis."
He stepped out on the court, exhibited an amazingly sound forehand and grinned broadly after a good smash that bounded past his opponent. Men and women in shorts and sneakers concentrated for an hour and a half on backhand and forehand drives (they have not yet learned to serve). Three little girls in pigtails patrolled the backcourt area with cardboard boxes collecting stray balls. Their parents never let up banging and lobbing balls for a moment. The instructor, Claude Kilday from Maryland's Kenwood Country Club, says he has never seen anything like their earnestness. "Nice, Bukarin!" Kilday shouted when Diplomat Alexander Bukarin displayed a stylish backhand. "I do not know if I play well or not," said Lev Ilyin. "The only time I have ever played is here. This is my third lesson. I specialized in gymnastics. Mr. Rostov specialized in chess. That is a sport, too."
Russia has not claimed the invention of tennis, but their historians insist it was played there as early as 1880. Under Stalin tennis was officially pronounced frivolous. A swift reversal was signaled when Pravda demanded that clubs stop turning courts into volleyball stadia and get busy turning out players. Now 2,000 coaches are trained each year. Judging by this Washington example, reports of assiduous tennis activity behind the Iron Curtain are not exaggerated. "For people who have never played before," said Kilday, "and remember some of these people are pretty hefty, I've never seen a harder-working bunch in my life. You talk to them and tell them to do something, and they look you right in the eye and listen. Then, by golly they go ahead and do what you told them."
Junie Buxbaum, 40, the Memphis insurance salesman who won this year's USGA Public Links Championship, has supplied the USGA, at its request, with one of the golf balls he used in his victory over Bill Scarbrough. Could he also furnish one of the clubs for a USGA display?
Excerpt from Junie's answer: "I wish I could.... However, the clubs I was using were borrowed, and I hardly think the boy would go for the idea of my breaking up his set."
LUCK OF THE DRAW
The international Boxing Club's Chicago store (Truman K. Gibson Jr., panjandrum) has made very little news lately, what with attention centered on the embarrassment of the Illinois boxing commission in the jailing of one of its judges, Ed Hintz, now doing a stretch at Joliet for conspiring to defraud the state of $637,000. But one has only to wait. This week the IBC came through, though in a halfhearted sort of way.
Issy Kline, IBC's matchmaker for the Chicago Stadium, got himself pinched in a North Clark Street gambling den raid, charged with being an inmate. This is not, perhaps, as serious a misdemeanor as some of the bouts Issy has matched, but it has its interesting aspects. Issy and friends were playing no such prosy game as poker or bridge or snipsnapsnorem. They were engaged in an exotic pastime—panguingue.
Panguingue is a multihanded variant of conquian, a Mexican card game for two players only. In the Philippine Islands the Tagalogs play a game called panguingui, and it might even be the same as the one Issy was playing. Webster's unabridged does not make this clear.
To play panguingue requires some heavy shuffling, for it uses eight decks of cards from which only the 8s, 9s and 10s have been removed. Sometimes, to liven things up a bit, extra 3s, 5s and 7s of spades are added to the mess. The 3s, 5s and 7s of any suit are voile (value) cards and pay one chip to the holder, but spades pay two chips. That is to say, the holder of a valle combination collects one or two chips from each of the other players. There were nine others caught in the raid with Issy, so it must have been quite a game.
Panguingue has some of the fascinations of rummy in that the players try to form certain combinations or sets of not less than three cards. Its history is obscure, but presumably it entered the United States from Mexico. Conquian has long been played in southern border states and in the panguingue form eventually made its way to Chicago, where Issy found it.
DEATH AND TRANSFIGURATION
The literature of the seas is linked to technology and the two change together, so that Ulysses and Ahab and Queeg, meeting across the centuries, would understand each other's doings as men but not as ships' captains. Men recently discovered that the surface of the ocean itself is a frontier and (with the help of technology) crossed it to explore a new world of beauty and danger. From this world comes the newest kind of writing about the sea.
An expedition of trained divers set out not long ago to find the sunken liner Andrea Doria where it lies in the Atlantic and to explore its rooms and passages. The buoy which had marked the ship was gone, and for many miles the water was equally strewn with oil slicks and debris. After days of search the men located the wreck from the air by picking out an oil slick whose form showed that it was not drifting at random, but was fed by the invisible ship.
They worked at depths from 185 to 220 feet, where nitrogen narcosis, which resembles drunkenness, affected their minds and where their oxygen supply was good for only 10 or 15 minutes. Keeping always in pairs, they made photographs, explored some of the ship's interior and brought back a few curious souvenirs. The whole story is told in LIFE this week by one of the magazine's editors, Kenneth MacLeish, who was also one of the divers. Here is a brief sample, taken from MacLeish's story, of the new literature of the sea:
"At first [the diver] moves through a zone of pale water, warm to the touch, in which many jellyfish drift. The light is almost that of day. But as he drives downward the light fades swiftly. At 50 feet the water turns sharply colder. The fragile creatures of the sunlit levels vanish. There is no more motion, no color but a deep blue-green.
"It is at this level that the diver enters that peculiar realm which gives ocean diving its most stirring quality—and, to some, its terror. Here there is neither surface nor bottom. The earth-ling diver, accustomed to living in a place of planes and surfaces, becomes [as a fellow-diver put it] 'the center of a sphere bounded by the limits of his vision.' Free of gravity, he can move freely in three dimensions. Only the reassuring roughness of the descent line in his hands and the graceful plumes of bubbles from the men below give him spatial reference.
"The metallic gasping of his air regulator echoes in his ears. The luminous dial of his depth indicator reads 100 feet, then 130, then 150. The sound of his regulator grows shrill under the mounting pressure and his air bubbles tinkle like small glass balls. His watch shows him that he is 45 seconds down. And now his probing eyes sight a vague white expanse. He leaves the descent line, angles down to the wreck and takes hold of her....
"The ship seems immense, resembling a sunken city rather than a vehicle. She is forbidding and austere. But she is also pathetic and full of a loneliness that chills the diver's heart. ('She's not pretty any more. It's sad to see her.') Her ports are clean and unbroken, their brass rims bright, but they are dark and lifeless. Behind them, in the glare of the diver's light, drowned curtains and mattresses and elegant furniture float in strange suspension.
"Above all, the terrible incongruity of her situation strikes the diver's senses. Perfect (to his eyes), unscarred, seemingly impregnable, still equipped with every appurtenance of her impressive calling, this vast, intricate, luxurious human habitation lies empty and abandoned outside the world of men."
The divers went wherever they could in the little time allowed them. Some worked along the boat deck; others examined the flying bridge. One man left his partner briefly to enter the swimming pools and so reached the mid-line of the ship, 220 feet down. Others swam through the dim, discolored water of the interiors.
"There are documents and charts upon which the ink is still fresh and clear. There are delicate fabrics which show neither stain nor tear. Shoes retain form and color, and even their shine. Metal trinkets glitter as before."
But men may never look again at these human things at the bottom of the sea. The brief visits are ended, and they are so costly and dangerous that there may be no more. The sea change, MacLeish says, has begun: "Silt will gradually fill the lower portions of the hull and, as currents undercut the sandy bottom beneath her, the ship will shift and settle deeper and deeper into the ocean floor...."
He hurled the javelin through the air:
So mighty was his lob
It fell and pierced a relay team
Like so much shish kebab
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Muddy but Unbowed
Scandal-struck and penalized, the Pacific Coast Conference sends Southern Cal to first major intersectional game (with Texas) on Sept. 22. USC Coach Jess Hill, with 40 men eligible for only half the season, is now devising a two-platoon system—one for first, one for second half of season.
•Swaps and Trades
Pittsburgh enjoyed news that Pirate President John Galbreath has acquired an interest in Swaps, speculated on where he would fit in Pirate plans. But dead-serious Rex Ellsworth (who bought 41 mares from Aga Khan, wants to build world's best breeding farm in California) purposefully traded half his title to Swaps for a number of Galbreath's choice brood mares.
•Late to School
Cincinnati Redlegs ruled out winter baseball for Rookie Frank Robinson, who may enter Xavier University. Father Paul O'Connor, Xavier's president, has okayed late registration: "He'll be in the World Series, you know."
•Man with a New Job
The President's Council on Youth Fitness got an executive director: Shane MacCarthy, 48, formerly of the CIA, a sportsman (golf, handball, cycling) who knows the young (five sons). Next step: appointment of 100 private citizens to a nationwide advisory committee.