Footballs are sometimes made with rubber skins nowadays; cotton sails seem to be giving way to Dacron; even in the games department, technology never stands still. This is by way of introducing a report from a 10-year-old young lady who attended a St. Valentine's Day party in Texas.
"What did you do at the party?" she was asked. "Oh," she said, "we played a nice game. It's called 'Spin the Container.' "
IMPRESSIONS OF A MILE RUN
February 25, 1957
Burr Grim is a 23-year-old University of Maryland senior who doesn't get his name into the papers very often, but he has been traveling the indoor track circuit this winter and competing against the well-known stars who do, men like Ron Delany and Fred Dwyer and Laszlo Tabori. His idea is to run as well as he can, waiting for the inevitable moment when the stars decide it is time to take over, and then try to hold on for a third or fourth place. Last week, in the 46th running of the New York AC's Baxter Mile, the race once more followed the reliable pattern. Delany won and Dwyer finished second. But let Grim tell his story:
"Just before the starting gun my race strategy came to me in a flash. Get out in front with the leaders this time. Get a real fast start, but if someone goes by too fast, then let them set the pace for the first quarter."
(At the start of the 11-lap race Grim settled into third place behind Jim Beatty of North Carolina and the NYAC's George King.)
"With nine laps to go I began to figure the pace was too slow, so I moved up into first. It's a funny thing, but at this point I wasn't even aware of what was going on around me—couldn't hear the band, the crowd or even the other runners in the race.
"I was thinking about form now, trying to keep my steps short, my arms in tight. When I went into the lead I got a good feeling about how nice and short my steps were. I got in front, and then something told me I was slowing down, and I really thought I was, so I ran faster."
(With six laps to go Grim stretched his lead to five yards, and with five to go had opened a gap of more than 15 yards. Delany and Dwyer, running together, were well back.)
"At about this time I heard the announcer say, 'Two minutes four seconds at the half,' and the way I felt—good but not very good—made me realize I wasn't going to have any finishing sprint. In my mind I imagined that Phil Coleman, or King, or Beatty, was right behind me with Delany and Dwyer just behind him. I was beginning to wonder why someone didn't come by me. Now, with five laps to go, I suddenly thought of John Landy and how he said that after you've reached the 1,000-yard mark you should start going all out. Just like that, suddenly I'd thought of Landy. So I went all out."
(Delany and Dwyer, pulled along by his surge, moved up and, with three laps remaining, were running third and fifth.)
"With three laps to go, just for a fast moment, I thought I might just win it. But then I suddenly began to tire, and when you're tired you start thinking of all the reasons why you shouldn't run faster. I thought of Coleman. Why hadn't he come by to take the lead as he usually does at this point in the race? I needed a pacemaker real bad by then. I thought about Delany and Dwyer, probably right behind me. They must be about ready to come by me, why didn't they? With two laps to go I could suddenly hear everything around me, mainly because I was getting real tired.
"I heard a voice shout, 'They're comin' up! They're comin' up!' When they didn't go by me right away, it dawned on me how far ahead I must have been, but still they didn't pass.
"Then what I was expecting all during the race happened. When they came by me they were going so fast I gave up all hope. I thought, 'Here comes another of my 4:11 miles, so why not relax?' If they'd come by a little slower I would have taken after them, but they were going so fast. They got about 10 yards out ahead of me and I said to myself, 'You've run a good race and there are still others to beat.' I was surprised that the others hadn't come by me too, and I picked up again.
"Beatty's passing me on the last turn was kind of discouraging, but when I looked back and saw King gaining on me I had enough left to hold him off for fourth."
His time was another good 4:11.4.
The vocabulary of sport, which has enriched the language with such all-purpose words as "team" and "goal" and "score" and even "houn' dawg," has just given us a useful new French noun with great possibilities. The word is rep√™chage, and since even the recent dictionaries have not caught up with it, perhaps it should be defined just for the record. It means a re-fishing, or a chance to fish again, or, more loosely, a second chance. Of course, anyone who followed the fortunes of the Yale crew at the Melbourne Olympics will recall the word. After losing its first heat, Yale was given a rep√™chage which it magnificently exploited to win the rest of its races and the gold medal for eight-oared crews.
At a banquet honoring these same Yale athletes the other night, the university chaplain opened up one of the limitless new avenues available to this word by adapting it to theology. As he spoke grace for the 2,000 diners at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, the Rev. Burton MacLean said: "Bless, O God, this company gathered for the love and honor of young men of Yale. Grant to us joyful hearts for their victories...gratitude for their high courage, good humor, sportsmanship, and good coaching. Most especially do we thank Thee for the rep√™chage; for the second chance whenever and wherever it comes to us in life."
DRY WIT AND WET TOWELS
While Coach Pete Newell munched happily on a series of wet towels one night last week, his University of California basketball team demolished Idaho to remain well ahead in the Pacific Coast Conference basketball campaign. Newell is a slim, likable gentleman with a strong taste for wet towels and practical jokes and a penchant for developing fine basketball teams. He started at the University of San Francisco, moved on to Michigan State, and since 1954 he has been responsible for the rise of California as a coast basketball power. Until Newell came along, the Pacific Coast championship shuttled about between USC, UCLA, Washington and Oregon State.
The victories over Idaho Friday and Saturday nights put Cal's conference record at 10-0 and nearly insured Newell an opportunity to demonstrate his towel-chewing ability in the NCAA regional tournaments.
While Newell is—in common with nearly all basketball coaches—a high-strung, nervous spectator at his team's games, he is a relaxed, casual type between times, with an elfin, wry sense of humor which finds its outlet in rather elaborate practical jokes. Despite his success at California, he has not been completely comfortable there. When he was at Michigan State he gave free rein to his japery. Nearly all of his jokes turn on the same situation—the absence of the victim at a critical time, repeated again and again. Newell, of course, provides the critical time, to wit:
Steve Sebo was an assistant coach at Michigan State during Newell's tenure, and he had the misfortune to occupy an office visible from Newell's. Newell spotted Sebo leaving his office one morning and picked up his phone.
"This is Dr. Hannah [John A. Hannah, president of Michigan State]," he told Sebo's secretary. "Is Mr. Sebo there?"
"No, he just stepped out for a minute," she replied. "May I have him call you?"
"No, thank you," the pseudo Dr. Hannah said. "I'll call him later when I have time."
Newell settled back happily to watch Sebo stick within earshot of his phone for a while. Then, when Sebo left for a few moments, he called back.
"Not there?" he asked, aggrievedly. "Well, I'll just have to call again. No, no...don't ask him to call me. I'll call him."
Sebo returned to find he had missed a second call from the supposed Dr. Hannah and stuck doggedly to his desk for a long time before he ventured away. No sooner had he left than Newell called again, exasperation in his voice: "Doesn't Mr. Sebo ever work?"
After two more hurried absences by Sebo and two more irritable phone calls by Newell-Hannah, Sebo camped by his phone to stay, until he discovered the joke.
"They were a loose bunch of guys at Michigan State," Pete says now, explaining why he has not tried any of his jokes at California. "It just seemed to happen naturally. The Cal people are wonderful, but different. I just couldn't see myself pulling a stunt on Brutus Hamilton or Pappy Waldorf—though you may have given me an idea."
Newell is a meticulous coach, who analyzes his team thoroughly and pays close attention to defense and the need of individuals to move well even without the ball on offense. Against Idaho last week, his team moved well and Newell, who uses his wet towels to talk to as well as to chew on, had very little to complain about. He chewed and chewed and once in a while he threw the towel in the air as a signal of delight. When a victory is won, Newell has been known to throw a towel some 20 feet in the air.
Once, the other night, he sent a towel soaring, but not in token of victory. No doubt Steve Sebo will be happy to learn that Newell, in the excitement of the moment, picked up the wrong towel to chew on. "Salty," he grumbled and tossed it aside.
His California team had just passed it around to mop off perspiration.
A RIGHT-HANDER SWITCHES
Nobody," said Al Rosen, "would turn down the kind of money I can make in baseball because he got booed. Leaving baseball was a matter of economics." He was sitting in the board room of Bache & Co. at 36 Wall Street, a place of heavy carpets and dignified quiet. Most ballplayers could hardly expect to feel at home there, but Rosen was at ease. Last season he was third baseman for the Cleveland Indians. This season he is a registered representative of the New York Stock Exchange, working in Bache & Co.'s Cleveland office.
Rosen wore his new uniform—dark suit, black shoes and white shirt with a button-down collar—as if he had never known any other. Perhaps in anticipation of his second career, his hair has turned banker's gray. He is 32.
He is also a first-class example of a quiet baseball change. Just about extinct now is the old-style baseball has-been with nothing left but clippings and a lifetime pass to the old ball park. Players nowadays seem to know better than their predecessors ever did how sharply the returns can diminish for a man in his 30s. They are learning to build careers that resemble a two-stage rocket: business takes over when baseball's momentum dies.
No player has planned the change more carefully, or made it more neatly, than Al Rosen. In 1953 he was voted the most valuable player in the American League. It was a unanimous vote, the first one in American League history. Rosen might well have felt then that the future was the last and least of his problems. But that fall he took an off-season job with a Cleveland bond house, and in subsequent off seasons he has worked for Bache & Co. (In 1947, when he was still in the minors, Rosen took the precaution of obtaining a degree in economics at the University of Miami.)
"I have a name, contacts and experience. Baseball has done all this for me. We ballplayers—I guess I have to call myself an ex-ballplayer now—never liked to hear the oldtimers criticize modern baseball, and I don't want to be that kind of oldtimer. But I think it's right to say that baseball is not such a swell life as people think. For seven months a year you don't do anything but wait to go out to the ball park.
"I don't want to be packing a suitcase every two weeks. I want to live in a home. I want to see my children grow up. I look at men 50, 60, 70 years old, and the older I get the younger they seem. I want to work now toward the time when the difference between their age and mine has disappeared."
These views are common, nowadays, in both leagues. Every bench has enough businessmen to stock a Rotary Club luncheon. There are liquor store proprietors, insurance salesmen, bankers, restaurateurs, bowling alley operators and at least one designer of sports clothes. They don't plan to endure the long letdown through the minors; they don't even figure on scraping through, somehow, to age 50 when the rich new pension plan begins to pay off; they mean to go right on supporting themselves as nearly as possible in the manner to which baseball has made them accustomed. They mean to be men of property, not living relics.
"We have built a new house in Cleveland," Rosen said. "We'll be moving in in about a month."
"Ranch style?" someone asked.
"No," said Al. "Family style."
VOTE FOR WRESTLING
The Redhead must have weighed all of 50 pounds. He was struggling mightily to unseat his dark-haired opponent, same size, who was clamped cowboy-style on his back, hanging on for dear life. They were tumbling on the red vinyl mat in the wrestling room at the Haverford School's Ryan Gym, grunting and groaning, obviously having a grand time and hopeful that the noise of their struggle would attract the attention of the man sitting on the bench. It did.
"See those kids on the mat?" asked the man. "That's the age to get them interested in wrestling...interested enough to talk about it at home. Then, by the time they're old enough to wrestle in high school, the parents are conditioned to the idea that wrestling is a sport instead of the freak exhibition you see on TV all the time. They don't object."
The man was Neil Buckley, coach at Haverford and probably one of the most successful prep school wrestling coaches in the business. Since 1951 his teams have won 88, lost 6, tied one and have been perennial winners of the Philadelphia Inter-Academic League wrestling title.
But for a while before wrestling became widely accepted as a prep sport in the Philadelphia area, Buckley had his troubles.
"You'd be surprised at the opposition I used to get from parents," he said. "They would get TV wrestling mixed up with the legitimate sport and refuse to let their sons participate. We had a hard time for a few years, until people found out what wrestling was all about."
Though Haverford has 725 boys enrolled, only about 240 are in the Senior School and eligible to go out for wresttling. Of these about 50 go out for the varsity, 12 finally make the team.
"I'm glad I don't get any more than 50 coming out," said Buckley. "I hate to cut a man."
The Haverford coach said schools are showing less and less reluctance to form wrestling teams: "A lot of schools used to claim that wrestling cut into basketball and robbed this sport of material. Well, in wrestling we have a 95-pound division, and I never saw any 95-pound basketball players. We have an unlimited heavyweight division, too, and have room for the beefy boys that basketball shuns for lack of speed."
In his 10 years at Haverford, Neil Buckley has in many ways done more to popularize wrestling than did Strangler Lewis in a lifetime. Pennsylvania alone now has wrestling in 165 high schools, 25 prep schools and 21 junior high schools, and the figure grows each year.
And if Neil Buckley's pupils are any criterion, President Eisenhower's physical fitness program is in for a big boost from wrestling. Invariably, Buckley's wrestlers come to him gawky, gangling and shapeless and leave the team three or four years later relative Atlases.
But of all his accomplishments, the one which stands head and shoulders above the rest in Buckley's mind is the fact that Dr. Leslie Severinghaus, Haverford's headmaster and an ardent bird watcher, is now so interested in wrestling that the other day he passed up a field trip to catch an afternoon of Lawrenceville-Haverford wrestling (see page 48).
He stroked his wobbly cue with all
The power he was able
And sank the number seven ball
On each adjacent table.
—IRWIN L. STEIN
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Busch's Strong Brew
As major leaguers headed for the sun-country, none had a more pointed send-off than St. Louis' Frank (Trader) Lane. Said Owner August Busch Jr., off the cuff at a dinner: "I expect the Cardinals to come damn close to a pennant in 1957, and 1958 is going to be a sure thing or Frank Lane will be out on his rump." He smiled when he said it, but it still sounded like an ultimatum.
•Old Prose for Old Pros
As the memory of the All-America professional football league and its $5 million loss fades, the thought of a new pro league becomes more enticing. Millard T. Lang, soccer enthusiast from Baltimore, last week proposed a 16-club league, canvassed mayors, stirred no fear in the NFL.
Caught in the eddies of NCAA football recruiting penalties, the University of Washington crew is becalmed. One of 14 schools prohibited from NCAA competition, Washington must visit its football penalties on its other, presumably innocent teams. Another innocent awash: Ohio State's fine swimming team.
•Man Bites Dog...Again
Southern Methodist University, following a precedent set by Wyoming (SI, Feb. 18), has bound new Coach Bill Meek with an iron-clad contract. Meek must coach at SMU five years; only escape provided is ill health.