RACE WELL RUN
Watching theNational League pennant race was a little like watching a fast game of tennis:heads swung from Braves to Dodgers and back in a steady, hypnotic rhythm thathad the whole country spellbound. If Milwaukee had played baseball in Septemberas well as the sixth-place Giants played it (17 won, 13 lost; .567) the Braveswould have won the pennant. But Milwaukee didn't (14 won, 13 lost; .519). Inthe same period Brooklyn, with many a creak and rattle, did very well indeed(18 won, 10 lost; .643).
Down in St Louis,the Cardinals' efficient two-out-of-three clobbering of the Braves was atriumph of craftsmanship over self-interest. As fourth-place finishers, St.Louis players stood to profit more from Series receipts in Milwaukee's CountyStadium (capacity 43,117) than in Brooklyn's Ebbets Field (capacity32,111).
But such mattersare only for the connoisseurs of statistics. For those to whom baseball is pureexcitement, the last week of the pennant race offered plenty: Maglie'sno-hitter capped by yet another victory; Amoros' dropped fly redeemed by threesubsequent homers. In St. Louis, the Saturday-night dead heat into extrainnings was a classic of tension, too. All things considered, the countryneeded a pre-World Series rest almost as much as the aging, tired, triumphantBrooklyn Dodgers.
October 7, 1956
In the last weeksof her life, at the end of a three-year struggle against cancer, MildredDidrikson Zaharias weighed less than 90 pounds. Doctors described her conditionas cachectic, which meant that her weakness had reached the stage where lifecould hardly continue. They found no medical term for her courage, though; thebest they could do was to depart one day from the dry formula of hospitalbulletins and pay her a doctor's tribute: "She is one of the world'sindomitable spirits."
And Mrs. Zahariaswent serenely from day to day proving that this was so. A month ago she plannedand gave—and enjoyed—a birthday party for her sister. A few days later sheannounced, "I am going to win this battle yet. I am determined to get upfrom this bed."
Tributes from allover the world came to John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, sent by the friendsshe made everywhere throughout her extraordinary life. (For an account of thatlife, see page 66.) Honors and awards, telegrams, phone calls, visits, flowersand gifts kept pouring in. When she died, Mildred Zaharias had seen, as perhapsno other public figure of her time had ever seen, an overwhelming evidence ofthe world's affection and respect.
In the bed room ofJoseph Skokan, 12, of Valley Stream, Long Island, two baseballs are on display.Both of them are shellacked, and under the shellac are the autographs of Joe'steammates, coaches, family and various friends. The balls were used in the twono-hit games Joe has pitched in the Valley Stream Mail Baseball League.
On a chair acrossthe room is football equipment of a size to fit a 106-pound quarterback. Itincludes sneakers with rubber cleats, shoulder pads and plastic face guard. The106-pound quarterback that it fits, of course, is Joe. Like several million ofhis contemporaries, Joe is making the seasonal shift from baseball tofootball.
The parents often-to twelve-year-old boys find this change has some unexpected side effects.Joe's mother, for instance, has to learn a new vocabulary. "When he firststarted playing baseball, I didn't even know what an error was. He would tellme about something that happened around second base and I would say, 'Was thatbad?' and he would be shocked. So I learned about baseball. Now it's football,and I'm starting pretty much at the beginning again."
Mr. Skokan, who isa Yankee fan, works for the Sperry Gyroscope Co. He used to come home on summerafternoons and find his son waiting for him with a catcher's mitt, and therewould be pitching practice in the driveway. That is over now, of course, whichis fortunate, as it gives Mr. Skokan a few spare moments in which to teach hiswife the elements of midget football.
The team Joe playson is called the Green Dragons. It belongs to the Pop Warner FootballConference, an organization which has firm rules about the ages and weights ofplayers and a forthright approach to their enthusiasms and needs. In a bookletcalled Midget Football Fundamentals which the conference puts out there is alist of training hints. One of them reads, "Don't drink too much milk atthe noon meal (before practice)."
A Green Dragonmust weigh between 80 and 108 pounds. Three weeks ago Joe Skokan was fivepounds over the limit and announced that he was going on a diet. "It wasamazing," his mother relates. "Ice cream just stayed in the freezer,and cookies just stayed on the plate." (Joe has two teen-age sisters buttheir combined ice cream and cookie consumption is only a fraction of hisnormal, nondieting input.) The ordeal ended last Saturday when the newquarterback weighed in at 106, two pounds under the limit. The night before,just to make sure, Joe had limited himself to a cup of broth for dinner and apear at bedtime.
Mrs. Skokan findsthat setting a training table for a 12-year-old athlete is no great problem,unless you want to consider sheer quantity a problem. Joe drinks two quarts ofmilk a day, for example, spaced out so that he doesn't get too much of it atthe noon meal, before practice. He skips potatoes because the conference rulesallow a weight gain of only a few pounds during the season. With a view tomaking sure that this gain is pure muscle, he recently spent $18 in lawn-mowingmoney for a set of junior-grade weights, which he lifts morning and night.
The Skokan family,like families everywhere, has adjusted to the new practice schedules, gametimes and conversational ground rules with no trouble and only an occasionalmoment of pure astonishment at what their 12-year-old is up to now. There isjust one thing, Joe's mother says, though she doesn't really mean to complain.In the summer the baseball uniform could go through the washing machine withthe week's laundry. Now she is learning to remove the pads from football pantsbefore washing them and the jersey by hand.
The FCC requiresall radio stations to broadcast their call numbers from time to time. Accordingto the rules, therefore, Paul Brown, coach of the Cleveland Browns, must pickup the microphone of his four-watt transmitter sometime during pregame warmupsand announce to George Ratterman, his quarterback and only listener: "Thisis Station 19A1661." For the Browns' four-watter is licensed by the FCC,and 19A1661 is its call number. The station operates in the Citizens' Band, thesame portion of the spectrum (460 to 470 megacycles) used by people who opentheir garage doors by remote control from their cars.
Ratterman can hearBrown's instructions but cannot reply, for he is not wired to transmit. Areceiver which weighs less than a pound is embedded in various parts of hisfootball helmet, with a tiny earphone in the left earpiece. The contraption wasbuilt by a Cleveland resident named George A. Sarles, in his basement workshop.Sarles has applied for patents, set lawyers to work arranging for themanufacture of the device and has begun to receive inquiries from colleges andpro teams.
Actually, thecolleges are wasting their time. Fritz Crisler of the University of Michigan,who is chairman of the football rules committee of the NCAA, points to Rule 9,Section 3, which deals with unsportsmanlike conduct and specifies, "Thereshall be no coaching from the sidelines." In college football, the 12-manhuddle is out.
But Coach PaulBrown's gadget is a lively frontier for the pros. The Chicago Cardinals dealtthe Browns a surprise—and a defeat, 9-7—Sunday when they fielded not one butseveral radio-equipped players. The Cardinals made it with three field goals,though, which wouldn't seem to be traceable to electronic improvements.
The idea ofgridiron radio seems to appeal to everybody. The irreverent have asked if timeout will be allowed for changing tubes, or if jamming and signal interceptionby rival coaches will come into vogue. Realists familiar with professionalfootball predict that broadcasts will be jammed in the most direct way, with akick applied to the quarterback's head. Visionaries speculate on ideologicalwarfare (eventually) among the colleges, with Radio Free Notre Dame beamingappeals through the Gridiron Curtain to the subjects of a rival power.
But while othersplay with Mr. Sarles's idea, the Cleveland Browns are working with it. SoonCoach Brown expects to hook up on shortwave with his observers high in thestadium (now available to him only on a telephone circuit), so that he canhandle incoming intelligence and outgoing operational orders on the same wavelength.
This suggests thatthe coach may eventually be replaced by a complex superelectronic gadgetlocated on the 50-yard line. Spotters will feed coded information into thecoach gadget from on high, and it will emit instantaneous decisions—also incode—to the quarterback. Still, the coach needn't fear technologicalunemployment. He will have to take over at half time, to make the locker roomspeech.
It would bedifficult to say just what got into the heads of a flight of mallards whichbegan buzzing the skating rink at Sun Valley, Idaho the other day—unless theyhad seen jet planes making carrier landings somewhere along their route andwanted to try the stunt themselves. Though the rectangle of ice was dotted withskaters, the ducks came whistling resolutely in out of the sun, lowered theirflaps, cut their engines and quacked loudly for a clear flight deck beforegunning skyward at the last second. They made two more passes, but, though thehumans involved had all taken cover by the time they settled down for the thirdtime, their flight leader apparently decided that the game just wasn't worththe glory.
The flight pulledoff—all but one intrepid fellow who just couldn't seem to resist thefascination of the moment. He gritted his bill, lowered his undercarriage andmade a perfect landing. But—oops—no arresting gear! He skidded the length ofthe rink and fetched up against the barrier with an awful thud. Hisembarrassment had only begun. Since there were no skates his size and nocatapult capable of getting him airborne, he had to try running on the slipperyice in an attempt to get flying speed. He took six runs before he finally madeit.
After he joined upagain, the ducks landed conventionally at a small lake near by. There seemed tobe an awful fuss going on after they got down—it was hard to decide whether thehero was being decorated for valor above and beyond the call of duty or beingdrummed out of the squadron for breaking formation. But one way or another heacted as though his feet needed a retread job.
One of the reasonsthat horse racing enjoys such universal appeal is that form runs true onlyabout one-third of the time. Three pretty good examples of this phenomenon tookplace at Belmont Park last week and, although this sort of thing takes placeevery day at every track in America, specific mention is made here of theBelmont happenings because they show to a certain degree why the wind-up of aracing season can be the most unpredictable and therefore exciting phase of thewhole year.
Earlier thissummer, just to backtrack for a moment, nearly everybody figured the 2-year-oldchampionship would develop into a nifty little duel between Bold Ruler and KingHairan, with some possible competition from the likes of Cohoes, California Kidand Greek Game. So what happened at Belmont last week? When Greek Game, thesensation of the Chicago season, hooked up for the first time with Bold Ruler,they were both soundly whipped by Liz Whitney Lunn's Nashville. Five days laterGreek Game gave it another try, this time against the Hopeful winner, KingHairan, the pride of Florida, in the six-and-a-half furlong Cowdin. Once againform went out the window as King Hairan finished fourth, Greek Game dead lastbehind a Canadian invader by the name of Mister Jive. All this pointed up anobvious fact: next week's Futurity and the not-too-far-off Garden State mightbe two of the most wide-open and thrilling races of 1956. Bold Ruler cannot bedismissed, but some new names to remember during the immediate weeks ahead arenames of what the trade calls late developers. Some of them sound like this:Prince Khaled, Iron Liege, Miquelet and Special Look. And Nashville just mightbe the best of the lot.
Nobody gave toomuch advance thought to the four-horse Woodward Stakes at Belmont last week; itwas a foregone conclusion that Nashua would walk all over his chief rivals,Mister Gus and Jet Action, when all of them shouldered equal weight of 126pounds for the mile-and-a-quarter run. Well, Nashua just wasn't up to it. Itmay have been that he was suffering from what Bill Corum called a middle-agespread, or from an occasional habit to run, as Eddie Arcaro puts it, "likea common slob," but in any case, Mister Gus licked him fair and square bytwo and a half lengths in the mediocre time of 2:03. Mister Gus, by any and allstandards, deserves a pat on his bay backside for being the year's mostunderrated horse. After spending a good part of the season in California, firstchasing Bobby Brocato and later Swaps, the horse shipped to Chicago to win theArlington Handicap before coming to Belmont by way of two races in AtlanticCity. He'll now stick around for next week's two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cupwhere he'll get another crack at Nashua if the champ isn't permanently retiredbefore then. "Mister Gus is ready for Nashua or anybody else," saysOwner Liz Lunn. "He's a pistol, he is. He's my favorite, and I wouldn'ttrade him for Nashua or Swaps. What's more—he's got guts."
Lineman made ashoe-string tackle;
Ended up in a debacle;
Though the tackler got the shoe
Barefoot halfback ran right through.
A NEW KIND OF ALL-AMERICA
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is interested in Americans not onlyas sportsmen, but also as citizens; not only in their most active years, butthroughout their lives. From this interest has come a decision to select eachyear an honor group of athletes unlike any other: the Silver AnniversaryAll-America.
The method is simple: SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is askingAmerican colleges to nominate a senior letterman of the 1931 football season asa candidate, in 1956, for Silver Anniversary recognition. With the assistanceof a panel of distinguished Americans, the magazine will then choose the SilverAnniversary All-America.
The men recognized need not have been All-Americas incollege—though some who were may well be chosen. Primarily they should be thosewho, 25 years later, have made the most distinguished records in their chosenfields and in their communities. Their names will be announced in a late fallissue as men who have done high honor to their colleges, to their communitiesand to the world of sport.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
The Indianapolis Indians of the American Association took the Little WorldSeries in four straight games from the Rochester Red Wings of the InternationalLeague. Indian Manager Kerby Farrell, a pennant winner in three leagues, isbeing mentioned as possible successor to Al Lopez in Cleveland.
•Blind Love in Kansas City
Kansas City and surrounding territory, smitten deeply with major leaguebaseball, produced over a million paid admissions at Municipal Stadium thoughthe Athletics have wallowed in last place since June 26.
•Raw Ingenuity in Baltimore
In Baltimore, attendance wound up at a creditable 900,000 plus, but the 900,000mark was passed, on a raw day, thanks to the determined ingenuity of gamblerswho bought up $2,000 worth of last-day tickets, sent kids through turnstilesrepeatedly with them, won $20,000 in bets.
Swaps is again set to run on an eastern track, in the $100,000 WashingtonInternational at Laurel, Md. Nov. 12 ("Barring unforeseen mishaps,"Meshach Tenney adds). Also entered are France's Macip, Australia's PrinceCortauld. Nashua, Swaps's old rival, would have been invited but will probablybe retired to stud after the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 13.