NEWS OF COSMIC IMPORT
IKE AND ADLAI IN BROOKLYN
THE DODGER WITH DECORUM
CHARMING BIRDS OUT OF THE AIR
SWEET SIXTEEN, FIFTY YEARS LATER
OLD FOXES, YOUNG RATS
This is an article from the Oct. 15, 1956 issue
A lecture at New York's Hayden Planetarium the other afternoon, busy conducting his listeners through a tour of outer space, felt duty bound to interrupt himself for a brief, mundane dispatch: "Ladies and gentlemen," he told them, "the Dodgers just beat the Yankees 13-8."
SITE OF DISTRACTION
The election took a pause, too. As it must in October of every election year, there came the period when the U.S. grows stone-deaf to political utterance between the hours of 1 and 4 (Eastern Daylight Saving Time) in the afternoon; last week, aware that the time had come again, three presidential candidates—two big ones and a little one—surrendered with a smile and made a pilgrimage to the site of distraction, Brooklyn's Ebbets Field. It must be confessed that almost nobody noticed Henry Krajewski, a Secaucus, N.J. pig farmer who is the presidential candidate of the Poor Man's Party, although it was nice to know that he was out there, somewhere in the bleachers, when the first ball was pitched. But both Ike and Adlai, each of whom picked a fine, sunny autumn day for his appearance—contributed nicely to the all-America excitement and all-round interest of the 1956 World Series.
It was love at first sight with Ike and the Dodgers. He was the first President to attend a World Series in 20 years (F.D.R. was at the Polo Grounds in 1936), and he got a warm and noisy ovation as he was driven into the ball park and trundled slowly past bleachers and box seats. He stood, waving, in his bubble-topped limousine, got out, hat less and smiling, at home plate, and shook hands with the players of both teams who were lined up to receive him. He made no secret of his partisanship after he had thrown out the first ball (a looping, 20-foot lob to Brooklyn Catcher Roy Campanella who received it, negligently, with a bare hand) or of his admiration as Dodger Pitcher Sal Maglie cunningly set the Yankees down, inning after inning.
The President, who had a bet (amount undisclosed) on the game with Press Secretary and Yankee Fan Jim Hagerty, came to his feet as Mickey Mantle hit a booming first-inning home run over the right-field screen but barely patted his hands as Mickey crossed home plate. The Yankee batter who stirred him most, as a matter of fact, was Yogi Berra, who hit a foul tip toward the President's box in the first inning. A Secret Service man, stationed near Ike with a glove (borrowed from Pee Wee Reese) to protect him from being inadvertently skulled, got the ball and handed it to the President, who took it with a grin, doubtless as a gift for his grandson David.
It was the Dodger hitters, however, whom the President applauded. He stood in the Dodger seventh inning and, after Brooklyn had won, turned to President Walter O'Malley and said, "I wish you would tell Sal that I thought he pitched one hell of a ball game." The Dodger fans reciprocated; not a soul left his seat before the President's departure, and as he was driven away—with Dodger Organist Gladys Gooding whanging out Hail to the Chief over the Ebbets Field public address system—34,000 fans stood and filled the stadium with roaring applause.
Adlai Stevenson's visit to the Series, two days later, was considerably quieter. He sat, between Mrs. Averell Harriman and New York's Mayor Bob Wagner, in the same area, near the Dodger dugout, which Ike had occupied, but he entered the park conventionally from the street and was cheered only by crowds in the vicinity of his seat. He was also carefully nonpartisan. "I am," he said, "for the Chicago White Sox," and was forthwith photographed wearing a Yankee cap and a Dodger cap, simultaneously. Nonetheless, he may have delivered one of the best lines of the whole Series. It was his luck to see that second game—the one in which the Dodgers utterly routed the proud Yankees 13-8, in which Casey had to use seven pitchers (a record) over three hours and 26 minutes (another record). "This," Adlai is credited with saying, "could never have happened under a Democratic Administration."
THE DIGNIFIED BUM
Before one of the series games, Casey Stengel pleaded with a mob of sportswriters surrounding him in the dugout to stand a little to one side so he could keep his eye on the Dodgers as they took batting practice. At no time during the Series was Casey's opposite number, the manager of the Brooklyn Bums, Walter Alston, ever denied an unobstructed view in any direction he chose to look. Casey draws interviewers like a puddle of beer draws flies; Alston repels them like Flit.
Walter O'Malley, president of the Bums, put his finger on it before the television cameras in the clubhouse right after the Dodgers had clinched the National League pennant. As the Brooklyn Sym-Phoney band blared away and the photographers yelled and the players sang and cheered on cue, Mr. O'Malley blurted what apparently was the first thought to pop into his head on such a happy, delirious occasion: he complimented his head Bum on his dignity.
Walter Alston is not only dignified, he is so self-effacing that he can leave a group of four or five persons without anyone noticing that he has gone. Once, during the Series, some photographers wanted a picture of the Dodgers' starting lineup posed in front of the dugout. Only at the last moment did someone realize that Alston himself had vanished. He was up at home plate, leaning against the batting cage. It had not occurred to him that the manager of the team might be an interesting addition to the picture.
Another time, in the Series, a ragged old man somehow got on the field without press credentials. Feeling no pain, he staggered up to Alston, shook a finger under his nose and cried: "Let's not have any humbug from you, Mr. Walter Alston!"
A less dignified man might have called for the cops. Walter Alston merely said: "You a newspaper man?" The old man's mouth dropped open and all he could say was, "No, I ain't." And stagger into the arms of a ball park guard.
Talk to Walter Alston before and after a game won or lost and you get the same courteous, soft-spoken answers. But you also carry the conversational ball. Ask the most searching questions—what kind of pitch did Slaughter blast out of the park, why did Furillo go on to third, what's with Newcombe—and you get the facts straight. Run out of questions, and you run out of gas.
After the third game, Alston was asked how he felt about things now. Stengel would have been hard to stop after a question like that. Alston wrapped it up with: "Better than last year at this time."
What it is is dignity, just as Walter O'Malley said it was. It's not the most prized characteristic in the Borough of Brooklyn, but a man can be forgiven it—if he can keep those Bums winning pennants.
A wild goose is a wary bird—old hunters swear that only the crow, among all feathered creatures, is wilier. Luring one down within shotgun range calls for a curious and demanding sort of land-air communication. The hunter's instrument of audio contact is the goose call, a reed horn which simulates the language of his prey and allows him to coax the target earthward. Just blowing the darned thing, however, is a waste of breath. Goose calling demands musicianship. The goose must be charmed, as the fakir charms the snake; he must be cajoled, be reassured. A perfect call needs "lots of wind, lots of throat and lots of luck," and it must be muted as carefully as Louis Armstrong mutes Honeysuckle Rose.
Last week, as a result, 8,500 people sat in a baseball park at Missouri Valley, Iowa (normal population 4,000), staring at a hunting blind of willow branches which sat, incongruously, in short center field. One by one, for two days, goose callers from all over the U.S. hid in the blind. Then, while five judges in identical checkered caps and hunting jackets crouched on stools nearby and the crowd maintained a deathly silence, each contestant imitated the calls of the snow goose, the blue goose, the Canada honker and the speckle-bellied goose in hopes of winning the World's Goose Calling Championship.
The world's championship goose calling contest is only five years old. It began in 1951 in the high school gymnasium; four contestants and 75 spectators attended. But Missouri Valley lies within the boundaries of the central fly way; the country for hundreds of miles around is full of goose hunters, and the town quickly became Mecca to thousands and thousands of people who admire "real goose calling." The goose call makes a sound something like a bicycle horn with a squeeze bulb; this sound, however, must be varied between a low-pitched "h-a-a-a-r-r" and a high, raucous "w-a-a-a-arp." The goose caller starts with the "highball" to arrest the attention of his prey, then emits a "walking call" as the leader moves in, and switches to a reassuring murmur and finally, a "ha-wump."
This year's big crowd was as obediently silent during the calling as spectators at a chess tournament; those unable to contain their excitement spoke in bated whispers: "That one was terrific—not too high-pitched. Some like them high, but not me," and, ecstatically, "Did you hear that hawump?" Not until the last of the 10 finalists finished his murmur did the crowd applaud. The 1956 champion was Angus B. McCain, a 204-pound, 6-foot 4-inch oil refinery worker from Lake Charles, La. McCain, who won $1,000 as well as the title, explained afterward that he gets his artistic effects by tucking his chin back into his neck and holding his duck call against his chest, thus utilizing his rib cage as a sounding board.
No geese, of course, showed up during the contest, although a flock of rather bewildered pelicans flew over the grandstand at one point; Missouri Valley would be shocked and ashamed if a goose was ever stupid enough to fly near a crowd of thousands of people, even to hear the world's goose calling champion.
In the waiting room of the National Airport in Washington, D.C. two men of mature years and dignified deportment stood chatting. Suddenly one of them assumed the position of a quarterback, took the imaginary ball as it was snapped, dropped back as if to pass and held the ball aloft until a teammate took it from him and headed around end. His performance froze all other movements in the crowded lobby for a few moments. Then a flight for Dallas was announced, and the two men went out to their plane, sedate and dignified once more, leaving a small, spellbound crowd to wonder who they were.
Well, they were Willis Tate, president of SMU, and William C. Martin, Methodist bishop of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Dr. Tate was demonstrating for the bishop the old Statue of Liberty play that SMU had used a few days before in defeating Notre Dame.
50 YEARS LATER
Old 16, a gray ghost from America's tumultuous motoring past, stood silent on a Long Island byway one day last week. Sure hands adjusted the throttle, retarded the spark and pumped up the fuel pressure. A twist of the crank, and the enormous motor of Old 16 came to life—with the sound of a herd of elephants coughing in sequence. Then the last survivor of the renowned Vanderbilt Cup road races set out over the historic trail on which it once brought supreme racing glory to the United States.
Fifty years before, to the day, this four-cylinder Locomobile achieved the fastest lap and ran third in the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup race. Two years later it ended foreign domination of the Cup races with a breakneck victory through throngs as insensitive to danger as those which court death in the running of the bulls at Pamplona or the racing cars in Italy's Mille Miglia.
Old No. 16 came out of retirement at the invitation of the Long Island Old Car Club, which also provided 20 antique Packards, Cadillacs, Stanley Steamers, Stevens-Duryeas and the like for the anniversary run.
Wiry Joe Tracy, 84 now but still as peppery as when he wrestled the big Locomobile through the 1906 race, was present; he said his driving days were over and he declined to take the wheel. But Al Poole, 75, Joe Tracy's old racing mechanic, climbed aboard. So did Artist Peter Helck, the current owner, and his son Jerry. Jerry drove the first leg of the trip, up Jericho Turnpike and Oyster Bay road into East Norwich. Then Peter Helck took over for the rest of the eye-popping journey-in all, 21 miles of the old 30-mile Vanderbilt Cup route. Old 16 was doing 50 and eager for more (50 mph in this car, for a feeling of sheer velocity, is worth 150 in a modern racing car, as a wind-burned SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reporter can attest). The exhaust roar from its 1,100-cubic-inch motor fretted the chill October air; the clatter of drive chains added to the sweet, ear-splitting cacophony which swiveled the heads of passing motorists. The Helcks had 120 horses under the blunt, battleship-gray hood of their mount, and they weren't really letting her out, hard-pressed though they were at times by a Stutz Bearcat and a Simplex.
There was also a 1904 Stanley Steamer in the run, and Bob Smith, its driver, didn't have to resort to the water bucket even once.
"She steamed good, by gravy," said Smith. But Old 16, by gravy, steamed best of all.
Chicago's a very Brundage finally lost his battle to enforce a new and hotly controversial Olympic oath, under which athletes were required to state not only that they were amateurs but that they "intended to remain" so. The executive board of the International Olympic Committee—although sympathetic with Brundage's attempt to keep the Games from becoming a "platform for professionalism"—voted at Lausanne, Switzerland last week to suspend the oath, at least for 1956. Eligibility for the Melbourne Games will be based on the old formula which simply requires an athlete to declare "on his honor" that he is an amateur while participating in the Olympics.
General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps exists no longer, except in the minds of its veterans. They held a reunion not long ago in D√ºsseldorf, and one of its features was a soccer game. From the balding, fattening ranks of Rommel's soldiers a team of sorts—the Desert Foxes—was put together. The opposition? Why, the Desert Rats of the British Seventh Armored Division, the very outfit that defeated Rommel in Africa.
But these Desert Rats had never seen Africa; they were the lightfoot lads of today's Seventh Division, now stationed in Germany. Agile as goats, they kept the oldtimers puffing vainly while they scored six goals to the Foxes' none.
In the stands a corpulent type in an Afrika Korps cap fell straight into the mood of 1944. "You're as bad as the Italians," he shouted at his comrades, and thereafter addressed them jeeringly in Italian: "Avanti! Avanti!" But the Foxes went on losing.
Goalie G√ºnter Troester, 34, sagged on a dressing-room bench after the game. "Soccer," he said wearily, "is not an old man's game." A reporter asked him where he had fought in Africa-Tobruk? El Alamein? The goalie thought, and grinned, and said: "I never fought in Africa at all. I spent all my time on the Russian front. The Kamaraden needed help today, so I played." The grin faded. "It is hard now," he said, "to put together a team of men who fought in the last one."
CALL OF THE WILD
Best pheasant hunter
That ever was born;
He can make a noise
Like an ear of corn.
—F. E. WHITE
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Dwight Davis, Meet Cecil Rhodes
U.S. Davis Cup plans shifted again with USLTA announcement that Rhodes Scholar Ham Richardson will not be a member of the team. Richardson must spend 42 nights in residence at Oxford to get credit for the term, can do so only by passing up Australia. His replacement: California's Herbie Flam.
•Principles and Practices
Harvard, with an all-white varsity basketball team and a preference for making its own eligibility rules, canceled plans for a southern tour because Georgia and Louisiana laws would bar Negro players if Harvard had any. Said a spokesman: "Harvard alone must decide...on eligibility."
John Landy, forced by sore Achilles' tendons to lighten pre-Olympic workouts, canceled one altogether when soreness shifted to his thighs. "This could be the end," he said, then added, "Who knows? I may be right again tomorrow."
•Two Minuses Make a Plus
Kansas Shotputter Bill Nieder found that a plaster cast may have a silver lining. Nieder made U.S. Olympic team June 29 with his right knee stiff from an old injury, later fell and reinjured the knee. Second recovery left him able to bend knee normally. Now up to 59 feet 4 inches, he expects soon to be matching heaves of 60 feet and up with Parry O'Brien in San Francisco.