Events & Discoveries

AUTOMATION SUFFERS A SETBACK; CARDBOARD COMPUTER FOR BATTERS; DON NEWCOMBE AND MAN'S INGRATITUDE; FIGHT NIGHT AT CBS'S PLAYHOUSE; SERIES WITS; SHADOWS IN WATKINS GLEN
October 21, 1956

INTERCEPTION!

AS WAS POINTED OUT a long time ago, he who lives by the sword is very apt to die by the sword. Paul Brown, the scholarly coach of the Cleveland Browns, discovered last Sunday that this is true even in the rousing days of modern science. His electronic version of pro football (SI, Oct. 8) fell afoul of an electronic answer, as the New York Giants tuned in Brown's broadcast to his quarterback and cried appropriate warnings to the Giant defense. Brown finally gave up his sending in disgust and went back to the old-fashioned system of relaying plays to the team via messenger-boy guards, who are not susceptible to interception. Whether this marks a reversal of the worldwide trend to automation or not remains to be seen, but it has certainly set back science as applied to football. However, as always, it may be expected that the scientists will come up with an answer. Indeed, Giant General Manager Ray Walsh was probably right when he said: "If this trend continues, the No. 1draft choice of the Giants next year will be the valedictorian of MIT."

THE SOUND OF BOOING

DON NEWCOMBE, the Brooklyn Dodgers' huge, shambling fast-ball pitcher, is a man born with an awful passion, the thirst for greatness. He is not a cunning man or a cautious man; he is, for all his size and outward impassivity, a sensitive and emotional fellow who rages blindly in moments of self-doubt. He went into the 1956 Series a defendant. In his 10 years in organized baseball he has performed awesome feats: in the last days of the nerve-racking 1951 pennant race he beat the Phillies one night, pitched six innings of winning relief against them the next day. This year he led all big league pitchers with 27 victories. But he had never won a Series game. "Newk," the Dodger fans muttered, "loses the big ones."

The muttering grew to the proportions of accusation after he was knocked out of the box in the second game of the Series at Ebbets Field. The first human who spoke to him after he left the mound—an incautious parking lot attendant near the ball park—jeered at him. The bedeviled giant swung at his tormentor and was charged, amid a wash of publicity, with assault. When he faced the Yankees again, in the last and deciding game of the Series, he was as cruelly trapped by the tricks of fate and his own pride as a bull beset by the picadors.

Stress and the burning drama of the moment and the babble of the banks of humanity stacked up around him, however, seemed to inspire him. He had control. He had tremendous speed. "I don't think I ever saw Newk have more stuff," said Catcher Roy Campanella after the game was over. Twice, with a man on base, he threw the ball past Mickey Mantle and sent him down swinging on third strikes. He threw as well to the Yankees' amazing Yogi Berra. But Berra, one of the most uncanny hitters in baseball, stroked two home runs on two successive times at bat. Both were pitches that the average batter would have almost certainly ignored. The first was a waste pitch, chin high. The second a fast ball below the knees. On each occasion Newcombe had thrown two strikes before being hit. But once more he was relieved; this time as he walked to the dugout the stands booed him. Newcombe plunged out of sight—and wept.

Nobody said what should have been said, afterward, better than the Yankees' Whitey Ford. "Why? Why should they boo a fellow who did so much for the Dodgers this year? If it hadn't been for Newcombe they wouldn't even have been in the Series. It was awful. They have accused Don of being a choke-up pitcher. That's unfair. He won 27 games and no one could do that and be a choke-up. Even today he pitched well. He was overpowering our guys. It's great we won but I feel sorry for Newcombe. He deserved better treatment from the fans. Those who booed should be ashamed."

And so they should.

AT THE PLATE, IN THE CLUTCH

THE BASEBALL FAN'S estimate of a player may range from a mental note in shorthand ("That bum") to a string of batting averages and RBIs admiringly learned by heart. Now and then some deep-dedicated fan goes beyond the newspaper's daily statistics and constructs a rating system of his own, as elaborate as his skill or his fancy can manage.

More than a dozen of these systems have turned up in the offices of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in the past season. The most entertaining of the lot is one devised by a 29-year-old Milwaukeean named Charles F. Mullen. Mr. Mullen is district manager of a water-softener company. He bats over .300 as second baseman in a suburban softball league, and he yields to no man in loyalty to the Braves. His rating system is not concerned with pitching or fielding or the relative cleverness of managers; it is made solely to evaluate a player at bat in the clutch.

"A single, hit late in a tight game, is worth a lot more than a grand-slam homer when the game is already won," says Mullen. By his criterion some players with high batting averages and RBIs contribute very little to victory because they hit when hits are not needed, and don't hit when they are.

Wrestling with National League statistics covering three full seasons, Mullen reduced them to a series of logarithmic graphs and then to a cardboard dial and pointer which sells for a dollar. With these, the fan can set up every situation in which a player can come up to bat: the score, the inning, the number of men on base and the bases they're on, and the number of outs—and do it with just two twirls of the cardboard disks. Then he takes a reading which indicates the seriousness of the situation the batter faces. (In the "10th inning of the sixth Series game, with two out and men on first and second, Jackie Robinson faced a maximum, or 100% serious, situation.)

One step remains: on a second dial the situation-gravity reading is matched against what the player did to meet the situation. The indicator then shows the player's rating as a clutch hitter for that particular trip to the plate. (Robinson singled, driving Gilliam in for the winning run, and so received a handsome 450. If he had struck out, he would have scored minus 220; if there had been only one out and he had hit into a double play, he would have scored minus 500.)

Mullen, as you might expect, rated the performances of the regular players in the World Series, and then worked out their over-all averages. Take Mickey Mantle in the first game. His two-run homer in the first inning earned him 317 points. Next time up he struck out (-118). After that he walked (86), walked again (80) and, finally, with Slaughter on first in the ninth and the Dodgers ahead 6-3, hit into a double play that ended the game (-264).

Added together, these plusses and minuses come out to 101; and this figure divided by five (for Mantle's five appearances at plate) gives 20 1/5 Mullen points as Mickey's average for each trip to the plate in the first game. Carried on and averaged out for all seven games the figures give Mantle a clutch-hit rating of 3.

Hodges was the golden boy in the clutches of that first game. His second-inning single netted him 114, his three-run homer in the third (which gave the Dodgers a 5-2 lead) 613. His day's average was 171. Hodges finished the Series with a 32 rating. The only Dodger who did better was Snider, with 33. The two top Dodgers were topped in turn, however, by Berra and Slaughter with 54 each—which means (see below) that the big hitters were also the clutch hitters in the 1956 World Series:

[originallink:10471596:46181]

YANKEES

 

Mullen Avg.

AB

R

H

Bat. Avg.

Berra

54

25

5

9

.360

Slaughter

54

20

6

7

.350

Mantle

3

24

6

6

.250

Martin

2

27

5

8

.296

Collins

1

21

2

5

.238

Bauer

-8

32

3

9

.281

McDougald

-11

21

0

3

.143

Carey

-23

19

2

3

.158

DODGERS

 

Mullen Avg.

AB

R

H

Bat. Avg.

Snider

33

23

5

7

.304

Hodges

32

23

5

7

.304

Furillo

13

25

2

6

.240

Robinson

12

24

5

6

.250

Reese

-2

27

3

6

.222

Campanella

-3

22

2

4

.182

Gilliam

-14

24

2

2

.083

Amoros

-23

19

1

1

.053

And what did the Mullen system show for the Dodgers in Don Larsen's perfect game? That score sheet is a classic of consistency—nothing but minuses from first to last. It begins with a -36 for Gilliam when, as first man up for the day, he struck out. As the innings go by and the situation worsens, the minus quantities grow larger and larger until Dale Mitchell, pinch-hitting for Maglie, strikes out, ends the game and racks up a minus 119—the top Dodger debit of the day.

FOOTNOTES TO HISTORY

MANY WORDS, were spoken during the drama that was the 1956 World Series, and the principals, besieged by reporters, said many more in the sown epilogues. Somehow a week of insulation between the last act and a round of recall gives the best and most telling of those utterances a certain interest as footnotes to history.

Casey Stengel led off and set the tone with this pre-Series profundity: "I expect to win every day, but we may have to play more than four days." To which Walter Alston, the Brooks' quiet bard, replied: "I'm counting on momentum to carry us through. We have the psychological edge." With those pistols hung on the wall, the first act began, and when it was over, Dodger Duke Snider vouchsafed, "The Yankees are no better than either the Braves or the Redlegs." After the 13-8 rout, Casey Stengel first cracked, "We needed another touchdown," then muttered, "My Yanks were never worse." But a ray of Italian happiness was provided by Frank Crosetti who said, "We got beat, but the sun will come up tomorrow morning as usual I guess."

Meanwhile, back at the Stadium, Billy Martin was telling them that the "Dodgers don't make me see blood, but they do make me mad." And Enos Slaughter indignantly denied he took vitamin pills: "What do you think, I'm old or something?" Mickey Mantle, working two shifts, one as ballplayer and one as journalist, held off questioning newsmen by saying, "I can't talk too much, since I'll scoop myself." A day later, with the Series at two-all, Casey observed: "The Series is more even now than it was."

Then there was an omen. A happy Swede predicted: "I'm gonna beat those guys tomorrow, and I'm just liable to pitch a no-hitter doing so." That Don Larsen did. Empathy from Sal Maglie: "Gee, I felt sorry for you in the ninth." The chorus cried: "Perfect...unbelievable...terrific...man!...he really had it!"

Now the Dodgers turned to humor. Don Zimmer was looking for bats the day following the no-hitter and could find none. "Hell," he yelled, "what do we use to hit with?" Joe Becker, Dodger coach, hollered back, "Use the same things you did yesterday."

The declining action followed. "When I hit the ball," said Jackie Robinson of his game-winning single, "I was rooting for it to sink." It didn't, but on the next day the Dodgers themselves sank 9-0, and a separate drama involving Don Newcombe (reported elsewhere in this section) developed. Cantankerous Casey, grudgingly happy with victory, said, "Our pitchers finally came through." New York City's Mayor Wagner, a man running for office, said he was "proud of both teams."

THREE-DIMENSIONAL SCRIPT

IN THE 19TH CENTURY, Alice stepped through a looking glass into a world of make-believe. In the 20th, you don't have to step through; you just turn the knob and a flimsy, pale-gray wonderland jumps right at you. On rare occasions, though, the television audience feels itself drawn through its looking glass, past the everyday shoddy, and into the realm of the genuine.

This happened last Thursday night when CBS offered its audience a 90-minute play called Requiem for a Heavyweight. It was a story about a boxer who never quite made it; about the things that 14 years and 111 fights did to his body and his life; and about the dead end of hopelessness and humiliation he reached when the 14 years were over.

Several of the people involved in the making of Requiem for a Heavyweight were working from experience. Rod Serling, who wrote the script, and Jack Palance, who played the part of the fighter, are both ex-boxers who used to know a broken nose when they had one. Max Baer and Maxie Rosen-bloom were in the cast. Others—Ed Wynn, Keenan Wynn, Kim Hunter—were simply actors of ability and taste.

Scene after scene went straight at the truth: an old doctor, hard-shelled and compassionate, talking as he sewed up a cut; a down-and-out fighter in an employment office, with nothing to put on the application blanks; the wretchedness of a manager squeezed by his own weakness into betraying his fighter; ex-boxers in a tavern, going over and over the treadmill of the past.

As Harlan McClintock, the heavy-weight who "was No. 5 in Ring magazine in 1948," Jack Palance achieved a genuineness that most actors would hesitate even to try for. Makeup gave his face the pits and scars and shapelessness of a has-been boxer's; but under the makeup lay the actor's skill, and beyond that the playwright's understanding. The result was something that seemed to give television screens what they don't ordinarily have: the color, breadth and three dimensions of life. And television—which must bear heavy responsibility for the ills and aches of boxing—earned itself a credit mark for a constructive gesture. Let's have Requiem for a Heavyweight again, and more on the same order.

EXTRA POINT OF NO RETURN

THE HAMILTON (Ont.) Tiger Cats, contemplating the loss of 10 footballs in one game when they sailed over the end zone and into the crowd, lately have revised their extra point procedure: instead of kicking over the goal post toward the stands, they boot from behind the goal post toward midfield.

HOPE FOR THE GLEN

WATKINS GLEN is a hallowed name in U.S. motor racing—the place where the postwar renaissance of American road racing began, the place where aficionados and appleknockers congregate in droves each fall to ogle the shiniest and swiftest sports cars.

Lately, though, the little hamlet in the Finger Lakes region of New York has been catching barbs as well as bouquets. "In view of extremely hazardous conditions at the Watkins Glen course, because racing at this site under present circumstances places all organized motor sport in jeopardy," says the Sports Car Club of America, it is banning to its members all races at the Glen until further notice. The Road Racing Drivers Club has taken the same action.

Several months ago the SCCA refused to sanction the 1956 races because of a disagreement over financial arrangements. The Watkins Glen Grand Prix Corporation laid down a new 2.3-mile macadam course (which was completed only an hour before practice for the September races) and held the race meeting anyway. Eleventh-hour warnings by the SCCA and RRDC, after an uneasy practice period, advising members not to compete had little effect. The new surface was slippery and loose; road shoulders were mushy; spectators were unnecessarily exposed. One holder of a novice license raced, crashed and luckily escaped from his burning vehicle. Windshields and goggles were peppered with stones flung backward by churning wheels.

Granted the course was green in September, says Henry Valent, president of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Corporation, but 'tain't so now.

"We feel we have a circuit second to none," Valent says. "The course has seasoned down. There are no soft spots and no loose stones. We want no quarrel with the SCCA. We've been talking with them, and I think we'll get together very soon."

Racing enthusiasts with a feeling for racing's traditions were hoping so; the sooner the better.

CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD

•15 Rounds in Chicago
The long-delayed heavyweight championship fight between Archie Moore and Floyd Patterson will be held in Chicago Stadium Nov. 30. Ticket prices will be scaled for a $471,000 gate—with radio and television money added. The IBC will announce terms when contracts are signed this week.

•Dollars from Heaven
The major leagues, looking forward to $3,500,000 a year in World Series and All-Star Game television contracts, allocated $500,000 to the ailing minors for their "aid and betterment." The money will come from the majors' reserve fund, will go only to leagues classified AA or lower.

•Guilty and Gone
Nina Ponomaryeva, Russian discus thrower charged with shoplifting five hats in London, emerged from six weeks' seclusion in Russian Embassy and pleaded not guilty in court. Found guilty on testimony of store detectives, she paid a three guinea fine, caught the Vyacheslav Molotov for Leningrad.

•Eleven Below
Gary Middlecoff again jolted fellow golfers of the Memphis Country Club. A few weeks ago (SI, Oct. 1) they pronounced his 59 (11 under par) the ultimate low score for the club course. The other day Cary shot another 59 which, but for a putt that was two inches short, would have been 58.

HAY DAY
He has the speed,
He's willing and able
To pace the team
To the training table.
—FRANK O'BRIEN

THREE ILLUSTRATIONS

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)