This is an article from the Oct. 29, 1956 issue
The big ten's tentative new guide to football survival (see page 17) is naturally gratifying to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED since the conference has arrived at conclusions remarkably similar to those which this magazine reached several months ago (see page 16).
We believe that the Big Ten is to be congratulated on the seriousness of its recent statement and are sure that something good for football will result. The Big Ten Conference is in a position of prestige and leadership. Other schools will surely take notice, and, surely, some of them ought to take notice.
The set of the tide in public and academic opinion now seems to be against hypocrisy, double-think and some other long prevailing winds of amateur sport. The sea will be a little choppy for a while but the resulting seasickness in some conferences will be hygienic.
Modern rules governing the ancient Greek sport of javelin throwing insist only (except for a welter of technicalities concerning proper weights and measurements) that the javelin be held by its grip, which is near its center of balance, that it be thrown with such control that it lands point first, that the javelineer throw the spear from behind a specified line (actually a shallow arc) and that he approach that line along an indicated corridor 13 feet wide.
Fine and good. For these many years man has picked up his javelin, cocked his arm, run like a thief and flung. But recently in Spain, a 49-year-old, 242-pound enthusiast named Felix Erauzquin, a Basque, took hold of the grip of his javelin as you might take hold of the handle of a pail of milk, lifted it thigh high, ran a little way, then spun around and around and eventually, with his arm outstretched and the javelin describing a circle around him, let go.
When it landed, point first, it had traveled within 10 inches of the listed world record. It was sensational.
Next thing anyone realized, this new Barra Vasca technique—after the traditional old Basque (vasca) sport of throwing an iron bar (barra)—had reached Finland, where a stalwart young man named Antti Seppala, a good but not sensational javelin thrower, tried the spinning style, having first lubricated the palm of his throwing hand with soap in order that the shaft of the spear might slip easily out at the proper moment. Seppala threw it 270 feet 7.2 inches—two feet farther than the listed world record. A few days later Egil Danielson of Norway, one of the world's best, got out his soap to try the new method and sent the spear 304 feet 1.7 inches.
Track purists were stunned. Dana Zatopekova of Czechoslovakia, women's javelin champion at the 1952 Olympics, said, "If this new method is accepted I will personally break my javelin and use it as a support for tomato plants." D.T.P. Pain of Great Britain, honorary secretary of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, announced, "I shall put forward a proposal [at the Nov. 18 meeting in Melbourne] to alter the rules so we shall be able to preserve the traditional style of javelin throwing. Twirling around three times like a ballet dancer doesn't seem to me to be the point of javelin throwing, particularly when you don't know where the thing is going to land."
Pain's objections seemed sound, particularly when later word from Finland revealed that one near-record toss had slipped out of a soapy hand at the wrong angle and had gone flying over the stadium fence.
In New York, Dan Ferris of the AAU was asked what he thought about it.
"Well," Dan said genially, "I don't know anything about it, except what I've read in the papers. I haven't seen it. But from the explanations I've read, it would seem to be perfectly legal. The trouble is, they don't seem to be able to control the direction. That could be pretty dangerous. Might even kill a couple of officials.
"Though," he went on, "the hammer throw can be dangerous, too. That's why at most meets in this country they hold the hammer throw outside the stadium. Maybe they could do the same thing with this new javelin throw. Hold it out in the lots someplace."
If the Barra Vasca style captures the sporting imagination of the world, out in the lots may well be the only solution. And, of course, if the IAAF has the courage to experiment with this modern challenge, they could not pick a better laboratory than Australia.
There, in 3 million square miles, live only 9 million people, or an average of just three per square mile. An errant javelin there wouldn't be likely to pink anything more than an occasional jack rabbit.
GREECE HAD A GOLDBERG
The most nationalistic of U.S. turfmen will not deny that the horse, the saddle, the track and even bookies are foreign inventions, but they claim the starting gate (introduced in rudimentary form at Bowie, Md. in 1922) as their own. Dr. Oscar Broneer, a Swedish-born professor of classical archaeology at the University of Chicago, has news for them—he has discovered (with an assist from the playwright Aristophanes) that the darned thing was invented by the ancient Greeks and used 2,300 years ago, to get human foot racers off their marks at the Isthmian Games. He did not arrive at this conclusion, however, without deciding that ancient Greece must also have had an inventor with a Rube Goldberg flair.
The doctor ran across evidence of the ancient starting gate by sheer chance last summer, while digging around old temples near Corinth. In the process of sifting away the accumulated topsoil of 20 centuries, he came upon a stone pavement into which a curious pattern had been chiseled. Sixteen deep grooves radiated from a pit in the paving to a long, straight line which traversed it. At first he wrote the discovery off as some sort of illustration of a problem in mathematics. Then he found lead-lined holes sunk every three and a half feet along the long line and near them bronze staples set in lead.
At this point Aristophanes came to his aid. A footnote to the playwright's work, The Knights, reads: "The 'balbis' is the name of a piece of wood lying transversely at the start of the race course...after the runners are ready to go, they [the man or men in the pit] let down the balbis and let the runners start." Dr. Broneer realized that he had stumbled upon the ruins of an ancient stadium, that his paving was part of a running track and that the long, straight mark across it was the starting line. He put upright stakes in the lead-lined holes and, with this beginning, went on to reconstruct the starting device.
Greek sprinters—who usually raced 606 feet, a distance known as a "stadium"—set off from a standing start. Dr. Broneer hinged a crossbar to each pole at a little above waist level. He ran cords along the grooves, through the bronze staples, up the poles and out to the free ends of the crossbars. When he crouched in the pit behind the starting line, he could raise the crossbars like semaphores by pulling on the cords and could make the bars drop simultaneously simply by releasing them. "But," he was asked last week in Chicago, "wasn't a runner in danger of bumping the end of the bar as it fell?" Greek runners, he said, grinning, seldom tried to jump the gun. If they were caught they were not just set back a yard; they had to erect a statue of Zeus outside the stadium as penance.
HAPPY HUNTING GROUND
Football squad rosters do not often make entertaining reading but there is something about the rosters of the Atlantic Coast Conference teams which, when read in a kind of Vachel Lindsay rhythm, can wake a man up instead of putting him to sleep. Like the beat, beat, beat of a Cole Porter tom-tom there recurs throughout these listings one incessant note—Pa., Pa., Pa.
The eight-team ACC lists no fewer than 102 Pennsylvanians—35 of them at North Carolina State. The N.C. State squad, in fact, carries more Pennsylvanians than the University of Pennsylvania, which has a mere 22. For comparison in a similar geographical area, the Southeast Conference lists only 13 Pennsylvania players and, in fact, only 55 players from north of the Mason-Dixon line. The ACC, a third smaller, has three times as many—172 Yankees.
An SEC coach explains it:
"We just cull our home territory well. Those guys in the Coast conference refuse to realize there are good boys at home. They're all trooping to Pennsylvania. Well, I'll tell you. Those coal miners up there may be big and strong but we found that so many of them were numbskulls that even our colleges were too rugged for them academically. We find we do much better at home."
The explanation of an ACC coach does not differ much. It goes like this:
"I still think that Pennsylvania boys are good, and besides we've got to have them. For one thing, Jim Tatum started importing these Pennsylvania boys to our league and got too strong for the rest of the conference. This is bad for both morale and gate receipts. So we had no choice but to try to beat him at his own game. There just aren't enough good boys in the Carolinas and Virginia to stock all our rosters and the SEC has got Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi sewed up."
The ACC rosters break down like this:
Clemson: 8 Pennsylvanians, 11 Northerners all told, 18 out-of-state Southerners.
Duke: 10 Pennsylvanians, 24 total from the North, 15 out-of-state Southerners.
Maryland: 20 Pennsylvanians among 34 Northerners, 6 out-of-state Southerners.
North Carolina: 15 Pennsylvanians, 19 Northerners, 14 out-of-state Southerners. North Carolina State: 35 Pennsylvanians, a total of 45 Northerners, 5 out-of-state Southerners.
South Carolina: 5 Pennsylvanians, 12 from the North, 15 out-of-state Southerners.
Wake Forest: 5 Pennsylvanians, a total of 11 from the North, 10 out-of-state Southerners.
Virginia: 4 Pennsylvanians, 10 from the North, 5 out-of-state Southerners, 1 Iranian.
It looks as if the trend might continue. A glance at a few freshman squad lists shows North Carolina with 16 Pennsylvanians out of 24 Yankees on its 58-man frosh squad; Wake Forest with 24 Yankees, including 12 Pennsylvanians (and three Canadians) on its 43-man squad; and North Carolina State has 16 Northerners on its 33-man squad, including 12 from, naturally, Pennsylvania.
DEMAND AND SUPPLY
In Washington, Conn., The Gunnery, a boys' school, was playing football host to its old rival, Canterbury, and was on its way to a 35-13 defeat. A Gunnery cheerleader, sensing that the time had come for all-out student support, called for the school's "long yell."
"Give me a G!" he exhorted, and the students roared out a heartening response. The aim, of course, is to roar through all the letters it takes to spell out "Gunnery"—but this cheerleader, having got his G, threw everyone into confusion by next demanding: "Give me an E!"
Well, the startled students gave him nothing much, our special correspondent reports, but a Gunnery English teacher could be heard for rows around, ruling in a clear voice. "In spelling," he proclaimed, "I give you F."
THE PURE ICY UNKNOWN
When the famed Slo-Mo-Skun V of Seattle became airborne, flipped end over end and all but killed Driver Lou Fageol in the Gold Cup trials two years ago, speedboat men began to wonder whether propeller-driven hydroplanes were not being pushed to the ultimate fringes of controllable speed. The suspicion deepened when Henry Kaiser's Hawaii Kai shattered into kindling wood at 193 mph last winter. But Detroit's devil-may-care Danny Foster, a hawk-faced, wonderfully articulate ex-fighter pilot, did not share it; Foster has a feel for high-speed boats which amounts to genius, and when he tried Canada's awesome Miss Supertest last spring he began itching to explore the unknown with her.
The oversize (three and a half tons), overpowered (with a 2,500 hp Rolls Royce-Griffon engine), mahogany-hulled Miss Supertest failed in the task for which she was built—to bring the Harmsworth Cup to Canada. She broke a quill shaft before the Gold Cup and did not compete. But hydroplanes must be tuned like fine watches; neither Foster nor Owner Jim Thompson despaired. This month, on Lake Ontario's Bay of Quinte, they babied the big boat to bellowing perfection; in one experimental burst Foster pushed her up to 200 mph. Then they waited. One afternoon last week they got perfect water—miles and miles of surface patterned with delicate one-inch ripples. Foster climbed jubilantly aboard and set off to break the late Stanley Sayres' world record of 178.497 mph set in Slo-Mo-Shun IV in 1952.
He had seven miles of water to run before he reached the buoys marking the measured mile. He built his speed to 175. "I wanted to see what she had. So I laid it to her. She was just alive. We were going so fast just like that I had to back her off. I figure we were going about 220." Had he opened her all the way? Not at all. "I wouldn't even guess how much more she has," he said. He throttled back to 200 and Miss Supertest flashed into the mile with a towering hissing rooster tail of white water flung into the sky behind her. On shore, Owner Thompson watched in awe. "She wasn't hollering or bellowing or roaring—she was just humming—just going like hell. I've never seen anything like it."
Out in the flying boat, Foster sat in a sort of ecstasy. "I didn't have to move the wheel a sixteenth of an inch. I just relaxed and let her go. She never moved up, down or sideways. I felt like we were sliding on a big sheet of ice-just gliding along like we didn't weigh anything. The wind was beating at my clothes and the water was just shooting by. There was a buoy halfway up the course, and it shot past me so fast it looked like a sea gull. But there really wasn't much noise. I just sat there and looked up the lake three or four miles to keep her straight."
Then Foster saw the innocent-looking face of death—a seven-inch wave—apparently left by a cabin cruiser which had passed near the course six minutes before. "All I could do was brace my arms against the wheel, and we hit it. I was afraid we'd lift up and take off the way Fageol did in Slo-Mo V. We didn't. She lifted but she came down on her left sponson. The water sheared off that sponson just like you ran it through a band saw. From then on it was all stop."
In a twinkling the boat jolted from 200 mph to 50. Foster was flung forward so hard that his body bent the spring steering wheel into a lopsided pretzel; his head hit the rim, his goggles cracked, his nose and forehead were cut. The boat, incredibly, "didn't waver an inch." But the record had been snatched away. A run of 20 seconds for the measured mile would have meant an average of 180 miles an hour. Miss Supertest had used up only 17 when she hit the wave and had only 150 yards to go.
"The boat is fantastic," said Foster as he brought her to shore. "I had it robbed right out from under me."
There is a new order of things in Detroit baseball: new owners, a new manager and hope. Hope is predicated on the belief that the brilliant young Tiger cubs need only the ministrations of a volatile manager to growl their way into pennant contention. There is no intention here to decry that hope, only a word of caution. The new Detroit manager, Jack Tighe (rhymes with fly), who considers himself "fiery and aggressive," is a vegetarian.
The second half will be delayed,
The timer caused it all;
Some quick repairs are being made,
His shot went through the ball.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Goodby to All That
The Age of Electronics in pro football ended not with a whimper but a bang as NFL Commissioner Bert Bell "by unanimous consent of the 12 member clubs" outlawed coach-to-quarterback radio communications. Public reaction was bad, Bell said. Other headaches: poor reception, monitoring by rival team.
John Landy asked, and got, from the selection committee for Australia's Olympic track and field squad, 10 days in which to decide if he will be able to compete in the Games. Rest has helped Landy's sore leg tendons; he will resume hard training this week, and if trouble recurs will give up his place on the team.
•Around the World in 12 Furlongs
Even with Swaps and Macip out, the field to date for the $100,000 Washington International (Laurel, Md., Nov. 12) looks promising: L'Inconnue (Brazil), Chanteclair (Sweden), Prince Cortauld (Australia), and Hindu Wand (Canada)—plus C. V. Whitney's Career Boy and Sir Winston Churchill's Le Pretendant.
•3,000 Miles by Ship, 500 by Car
In next May's Indianapolis "500" look for more European drivers and more specially designed European cars. Exchange agreement worked out through the International Automobile Federation also provides for 10 Indianapolis drivers and cars to compete in 500-mile race at Monza, Italy next June.