The green fields of September are football fields, and the time has come to map them. This issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is given over largely to charts and guides and helpful hints for use on that tricky, white-striped terrain. Eyes have appraised the brawn of tackles and the speed of backs; ears have listened for the telltale notes of confidence (or bravado) in the voices of coaches. Estimates have been compiled, revised, made final. And it is all here, a football banquet at the beginning of the season instead of at the end.
We hope that the reader, once the banquet is digested, will feel the same way as the editors. We can't wait to see a football game.
September 23, 1956
The good burghers of Milwaukee are a steady lot, generally speaking, and not given to neuroses, but the other night the whole town seemed to be gripped by a curious kind of frustration. Milwaukeeans feel that they can personally do something about the hot National League pennant race—that if everybody in town hustles out to the ball park and yells for nine innings they can, by a process of spiritual osmosis, make the Braves win. But the night that Sal Maglie beat their heroes in Brooklyn last week they could do nothing but listen (no television) to their radios, heads cocked to one side like the Victor talking-machine dog, and mutter and clench their hands and gradually realize that Brooklyn was beating the Braves.
How Milwaukee listened! Erwin C. Uihlein, president of the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company, did not mind at all the fact that the broadcast was sponsored by Miller High Life beer—he concentrated instead on a sort of mental telepathy calculated to make Manager Fred Haney remove pitchers as soon as trouble reared its head. He felt that Haney was not listening and said so. At a sea food restaurant named Eugene's Juneau, Morris Friedman, the manager, stood at the entrance to the dining room, with the earphone plug of a transistor radio stuck in one ear, and disengaged himself from it with a sort of despairing jerk only when it was absolutely necessary to seat guests.
A walk down any street made it obvious that almost every radio in town was tuned to the ball game—in fact, a good many people, including Robert S. Stevenson, president of Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., carried a portable from room to room at home to prevent getting out of earshot of the play-by-play for an instant. But it was primary election night, and some people were moved to vote. Poll workers at city hall were not permitted radios (on the ground that they might—unrealistic though the idea might have been—tune in on a political speech and thus illegally tout a candidate). But they got the news anyhow—an elevator operator had a portable in his car and passed on the news between trips.
Scores of young couples spooned as usual in their automobiles at the Victory Drive-in Theater and watched the double bill—Pardners and Earth vs. Flying Saucers. But they turned down the gadgets bringing them the movie sound and listened to the game on their car radios. Mayor Frank Zeidler attended a seminar at the University of Wisconsin in Madison but managed to hear the early part of the broadcast in a dormitory room. He was so disconcerted that he shut off the radio, went to the observatory and looked at Mars. Refreshed, he went back to the broadcast and was shaken all over again. "It was really sickening in the eighth...."
Milwaukee listened even harder and with greater difficulty the next day—the game began before the lunch hour and ran on after it—but the city listened. Mayor Zeidler had to go home for lunch (to baby-sit while Mrs. Zeidler was judging a doll contest), but happily the radio was working. Dignified bankers of the First Wisconsin National Bank huddled around a cigar stand where the proprietor had his set tuned in. At the instant the game was over and won and Milwaukee back in the lead, the horns of hundreds of automobiles let go downtown. "That," said Mayor Zeidler, a well man again for a while, "was more like it."
THE TROTTING FIX
Latest support for our belief that harness racing needs a cleanup (SI, Sept. 10) comes in the disclosure of race fixing at Northville Downs, one of Detroit's three large trotting tracks. Posing as a would-be horse owner, a state investigator recorded a conversation with a trotting driver named Duane Hoose, in which Hoose blueprinted fixing tactics and documented this magazine's report that the winning driver in a fixed race often does not know the race is set up for him. (In such races, the conspiring drivers bet heavily on the sure, unsuspecting winner.)
Said Hoose: "They [the drivers] can arrange it so anyone they want will win.... You don't have to get in with many. All you have to do is contact the boys you figure will be ahead of you.... When it's done [setting up a fix] everybody concerned knows it in the middle of the afternoon. They know you've got a can't-miss horse.... Any horse I won with [at the recent meeting], I was a cinch." In answer to the question, "Can you always do it?" Hoose said, "Yes. Every time. Straight down the line."
One of Hoose's statements has prompted an investigation of all three Detroit tracks. Said he: "There is not so much fix at Hazel Park as there is at Northville and MRA [Wolverine]. I guess the boys at Hazel Park aren't smart enough."
BLINKY SWITCHES STYLE
The tart coolness which has obtained between SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and the tough guys of boxing has been thoroughly satisfying to live with. It has given a tang to the editorial chore. It has been a mountain breeze to sweating writers and balm to the sore feet of reporters. Fundamentally, it has been reassuring.
Now this agreeable modus vivendi seems threatened. On three occasions at the Basilio-Saxton fight (see page 19), Blinky Palermo committed acts of courtesy. His first breach of the code was to press a soft pink hand into that of a startled writer for this magazine and apologize for having snubbed him in Boston. The need for apology was disavowed but Blinky was insistent. "A man," he said, "can be big enough to apologize."
Next day he apologized for having contended that Referee Al Berl had stopped the fight too soon (not too soon for Saxton, though) and he complimented his most insistent enemy, Julius Helfand, for his fairness in assigning New York City officials to an upstate fight in order to guard against a home town decision for Basilio.
Blinky, who had just lost control of the welterweight championship, was emitting words of sweetness and beams of haloed light when he might more appropriately have been nursing a sore head. He was changing his natural fighting style, just as Saxton had done, and it was very confusing to those who must evaluate the way of the world. How explain such a change?
He may, of course, have taken on a public relations counsel of the old Ivy Lee school, but it seemed more likely that Blinky's euphoric gentleness had another source. He had, to be sure, lost the welterweight championship, but he looked to be on his way to the lightweight championship.
For Blinky had just taken over Larry Boardman, a tough little nutmeg from Marlborough, Conn. who the night before in Boston had knocked out Jimmy Carter, the former lightweight champion and protégé of Frankie Carbo. (The fight had overtones which brought boos from the Boston crowd.) Previously Boardman had won over-the-weight fights with Featherweight Champion Sandy Saddler, Lightweight Champion Bud Smith and Frankie Ryff.
A week before, Sam Boardman, who had been managing his son, denied that there was any Palermo deal. When he finally admitted the truth, Sam said that, well, it was only a 10% piece for Blinky as insurance that Larry would get proper matches and a shot at the championship. Blinky, however, would not stand for this degrading 10% version. "I own the boy," he said flatly. "He's mine."
He is indeed Blinky's, and that means that, with Blinky's influence with the wrong people in the right places, Larry Boardman is on his way to fame, fortune and, almost certainly, the lightweight championship. Julius Helfand's reaction to the news:
"I am very unhappy. I do not believe it is necessary for Boardman or anyone in Boardman's position to transfer 10% over to Palermo or any of his sort. If and when Boardman is to fight in New York there will be a thorough investigation of the matter...."
One of the most ingenious promotions of the summer of 1956, launched around the Fourth of July, was soup on the rocks. "Take a roomy glass—short or tall," the instructions read, "fill it up with ice cubes, pour Campbell's Beef Broth on the ice cubes just as it comes from the can. That's Soup on the Rocks...."
Here, as the prescription made clear, was a good, nourishing summer cooler. A temperance drink, too.
But the ads went on to suggest: "Take it straight—or experiment a bit."
This is to report that by end of summer the bright new drink out on the eastern tip of Long Island and elsewhere is the result of just such mixtures of bouillon and imagination: the Bullshot—a roomy glass, ice cubes, beef broth and vodka to taste.
The democrats have addressed themselves to the golf vote after all. A campaign sticker that appeared in Fort Worth last week blazons (in big letters) VOTE FOR BEN HOGAN. In small letters it adds: "If you're going to elect a golfer, elect a good one."
In an era whose sports figures included a Galloping Ghost, a Manassa Mauler and a Sultan of Swat, Jean Borotra was known as the Bounding Basque. Together with Henri Cochet, René Lacoste and Jacques Brugnon, he dominated international tennis for France from 1927 to 1933. The Frenchmen won the Davis Cup and kept it six years; they won the men's singles at Wimbledon six times running and they took three outdoor and five indoor singles titles in the U.S. Their championship days passed, finally, and no other young Frenchmen rose to replace them.
Meanwhile, the Sultan of Swat and others abode their destined hours and went their ways, and the Bounding Basque went right on playing tennis. He plays it still and is almost as resilient as ever. In the recent U.S. championships at Forest Hills, M. Borotra, now a lean and lively 58, reached the semifinals in the senior men's singles, where the top-seeded Phil Hanna beat him. A little earlier, in Brookline, Mass., Borotra and Harry Hopman of Australia won the senior men's doubles.
"I hadn't planned to play," Borotra explained the other day, "but friends in the USLTA heard that I would be here on business about the middle of September. They wrote and asked me to come earlier and play in the Nationals. They said, 'Jean, you played here for our 50th anniversary in 1931, and now we want you for our 75th.'"
Someone suggested that Borotra might still be playing on the USLTA's 100th anniversary in 1981 (he would then be 83). But Borotra says no. "Absolutely not. That would be too much to ask of the good Lord. He has been very generous with me already."
Borotra credits his 30 years of top-grade tennis to the fact that he has taken care of the faculties nature gave him. "I haven't been out of training since 1920.I live in Paris, and every day but Sunday I get up at 7:30, put on a pair of shorts and do a series of exercises in my bedroom. Then I step out on my balcony (I can see both the Arch of Triumph and the Sacré Coeur from it) and do another series. Even in rain or snow—even at zero degrees! Fahrenheit!
"After the exercises a shower and a big American breakfast: dry cereal perhaps, grapefruit with lots of sugar, bacon and eggs, toast with butter and marmalade. My friends say, 'How can you do it?' To them breakfast still means nothing more than a croissant and café au lait. The routine is the same on Sundays, except that I get up at 8.
"I eat nothing between meals. At 11 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon my secretary brings me a big glass of water, which I drink. Three days a week I play tennis for an hour, and that's about all there is to it. I gave up smoking in World War I on the day I joined the army, and I never drink anything alcoholic but good French wines.
"Of course," he shrugged, "if your hostess offers you a hundred-year-old brandy, it would be foolish to refuse. That is one of life's experiences and is not to be missed. But I only take a little."
This is Borotra's 40th trip to the United States, and on every one of them he has played some tennis. (In 1948, at the age of 50, he played so well that he and Marcel Bernard won the U.S. indoor doubles championship from William Talbert and Frank Shields.) Most of his visits, however, were primarily business trips. His business, he says, is "gasoline pumps, the same as always. When I first came here, back in the 1920s, I looked around and saw filling stations everywhere. There were not many in France then, so I went home and entered the pump business. (I had a degree in engineering from the Ecole Poly technique.) We made good pumps, and I have sold them all over the world. My business has let me travel, and it has let me play tennis. I don't let tennis interfere with business, or business with tennis; I attend to both. People think of me as an athlete, but I am not, really. I am a businessman."
OLD MAN OF THE SKY
Almost as Jean Borotra was speaking, another senior Frenchman was making news back home. He is Georges Cormier, who, for most of his life, has nurtured a great if almost forgotten French tradition. He is a free balloonist. The first two humans ever to ascend in a balloon (Nov. 21, 1783) were Frenchmen; when Paris was besieged during the Franco-Prussian War, Minister of the Interior Leon Gambetta sailed over the heads of encircling German troops in a balloon to rally new armies in the provinces. Tales like this were fresher when Cormier, a tailor, made his first ascent 55 years ago, and though the airplane has made him a kind of human curio he has never lost his enthusiasm—in his half century of ballooning he has made 500 ascents, has floated over the Pyrenees to Spain, over the Channel to England, has landed in Holland, Italy and Africa.
Georges is now 82 years old, his eye has dimmed, he can no longer work at his trade, and he lives alone among the poor people of Paris. Nevertheless he still keeps two balloons in storage, and a few days ago he hauled one of them to the town of Angers, where, once a year for 35 years, he has ascended as part of a festival for indigent old people. Neat, spry, sparsely mustached, he climbed into his basket. The tugging balloon was cast off. He rose into the sky. He had promised to make only a short flight, but the balloon went up, up, up until it was only a spot in the clouds. Then it vanished. "Georges," worried people in his audience, "has probably been stricken ill, and his balloon is drifting aimlessly." The local police sent out the alarm; people sat up all night waiting for word, although most believed they had seen the last of him. Georges, however, telephoned the next morning. He had descended at twilight in a pasture 60 miles away and had spent the night with a hospitable farmer.
"I knew exactly what I was doing," he said testily. "I intended to come down in 10 miles, but I ran into a 35-knot wind and there was nothing to do but ride it out until I could maneuver into a quieter air current." Later he attempted to describe the things that keep him in the sky at his age—he talked of seeing the sunset glinting on the Seine, of trains rushing noiselessly across the countryside far below, of tiny cows trooping at evening toward lonely farmhouses.
"There is no future in ballooning for anyone but me, "he said, "but from every flight I come back content. It's a pleasure, always a pleasure."
The half-time band appears upset,
They're leaving in a muddle;
They've somehow lost their majorette,
She's back there in the huddle.
—F. E. WHITE
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Back in the Saddle
Cowboy Johnny Cherberg, booted out of his job as football coach at the University of Washington last January, rode back into the headlines in a manner to arrest the full attention of the regents: in last week's primaries he won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor of the state.
In another grudge match, Seattle's Miss Thriftway outpointed Detroit's Miss Pepsi to win the President's Cup race on the Potomac—thus duplicating the result of Detroit's Gold Cup race before Miss Thriftway's disqualification (SI, Sept. 10).
•Eye Unerring, Ear Unhearing
Busy sewing up his victory in the National Amateur Golf tournament 5 and 4, Harvie Ward, 30, was unmoved by a bit of banter from Finalist Chuck Kocsis, 43. Said Kocsis: "Take it easy on an old man, Harvie." Said Ward: "I can see your lips moving but I've turned my hearing aid off."
•Iron Hand in a Leather Glove
Six doctors examined Floyd Patterson's right hand, pronounced the fractured metacarpal bone safely healed, okayed training for early heavyweight championship bout with Archie Moore (date and place unsettled). A couple of days earlier, Floyd satisfied himself about his fist—by driving a right into a heavy punching bag and rocking it loose from its moorings.