WORDS OF THE WEEK
An old friend of football stood up before the Downtown Rotary Club of Houston and prepared to speak. The luncheon guests pushed back their dessert plates and got ready for the kind of football gags and stories that make Bobby Dodd of Georgia Tech one of the blue-ribbon orators on the rubber-chicken circuit.
But Coach Dodd was in no laughing mood. College football, he told the Rotarians, is in trouble, and not only the coaches but educators, fans and sportswriters must share the blame. "If we can't keep college football in its place," he said, "I'm for giving it up. If we go on for five more years like this, I believe we're going to ruin the game. Football has gotten so big, so complicated that there's no such thing as staying in the middle. You've got to win—or else."
With the Rotarians still open-mouthed at this surprise attack, Dodd went on with his indictment. "There's too much praise heaped on coaches who intentionally violate rules of their profession." He challenged sports-writers to desist from "building up men as successful coaches" when they have built their records with a hand-picked squad of subsidized athletes. "If you think coaches like this care anything about these boys they recruit illegally, you're crazy," he went on. "They'd cut the boy's throat in a minute if it served their purpose. As long as these culprits are placed on a pedestal, how can you expect lots of others not to follow suit in bribing, in spoiling 17-and 18-year-old high school boys?"
March 11, 1957
Finally, Dodd pointed an angry finger at colleges whose blatant recruiting practices take them far afield of their own territory to build winning teams. "I know of at least two cases where whole teams have been recruited from an entirely different section of the country," he said. "When you do that you're getting mighty close to professional sports." He cited the case of the present University of North Carolina basketball team, now ranked first in the country by most sports-writers' polls. "All five of the starters are from New York," he said. He also mentioned North Carolina State, which, he said, has imported 14 of its 15 basketball players from northern and eastern states.
Same week, a few days later, President William Clyde Friday, new 36-year-old headman of the Consolidated University of North Carolina—and as such responsible for both the university at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State at Raleigh—set forth the doctrine that will govern athletics in his administration. President Friday offered his Board of Trustees a brisk seven-point statement of principles: henceforth all admission and academic standards will be set by the faculties alone; the chancellor of each institution will be responsible to the board for the proper administration of his athletic programs; only the scholarship committee of each will be allowed to award athletic grants-in-aid; detailed reports on the athletic programs must be made periodically by the chancellors to both their faculties and the Board of Trustees.
President Friday's trustees promptly endorsed his program by a vote of 81 to 0. Cheers for the new president could be heard throughout most of North Carolina.
The blunt words—both of Bobby Dodd and President Friday—seem to have come just at the right time.
MEETING IN ST. LOUIS
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's call for an investigation of rumors that a Missouri Valley Conference referee had been fixing basketball games for gamblers was answered this week. The MVC's Officials Committee will meet in St. Louis Sunday and, among other things, study movies of games refereed by the suspended John K. Fraser. Colleges were asked to send such films to St. Louis in time for the meeting.
The Rev. Charles L. Sanderson, S.J. of St. Louis University, conference president, made it clear that the MVC was not "accusing" Fraser.
The conference action conforms to the recommendation of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Previously there had been an inclination on the part of the MVC to sweep the matter under the rug. A neck ailment had been given as the reason for Fraser's withdrawal for the rest of the season, and all might have been allowed to rest there. As this magazine said, "The policy of acting on rumors in private but ignoring them in public is not the right one."
As to Fraser, he had taken to expressing disregard for self and concern for basketball. The Chicago American bannered FORGET ME, WORRY ABOUT SPORT over his name and under it printed an article in which he makes the following deduction:
"Since the player scandals hit college basketball several years ago everyone has known that gamblers were trying to influence the game. If I am ruined as a basketball official, I figure the gamblers will have really taken over the sport."
The government of Nepal, which is the custodian of the most famed and deadly of Himalayan peaks, has generally taken an attitude of tolerant resignation toward mountain climbers; if it did not pretend to wholly understand men who insisted on frying in burning jungles to reach heights on which they could 1) freeze to death, 2) run out of oxygen, 3) be killed in avalanches, 4) become lost in snowstorms or 5) fall off cliffs and into crevasses, it nevertheless allowed them to do so with impunity. A few days ago, however, it became apparent that Nepal, too, has become aware at last of the fiendish possibilities of the real-estate tax. Climbers will henceforth be assessed a fee for the use of Nepalese mountains. Novices who want to practice on small peaks—under 25,000 feet, that is—will have to pay only 1,000 rupees ($210) but those who plan to risk their necks on something more dangerous will have to dig up more. The fee for Everest, Annapurna, unclimbed Dhaulagiri and four other mountains over 26,000 feet: $630.
The government, ahem, would appreciate payment before the neck-risking begins.
DOWN THE MISSISSIPPI
Twenty-three years ago this winter a fellow named Harold Theiston—who was, and still is, athletic director at the St. Paul (Minn.) Athletic Club—cast about for some method Of luring members into the club's indoor pool during the cold months. To rouse their competitive spirit he arranged a simple sort of contest with the Minneapolis AC—the men, women and children of each organization, he announced, would set out to see which could swim the longest total distance in two weeks. He called his competition the "Down the Mississippi Swim" and hopefully awaited developments. The results were startling; as the swim (which St. Paul won by 305,000 yards) progressed, members turned up by the hundreds to do their bit.
Other athletic clubs around the nation began getting into the contest the next year. In the 23 years since its inception, the Down the Mississippi Swim has probably extracted more footpounds of energy from more people than any project since the building of the pyramids. The members of San Diego's Town & Country Club, however, exceeded all previous displays of sheer, fiendish application in winning it from 14 other clubs (with St. Paul seventh) this year. San Diego, it is true, has a mild winter climate, and its members use an outdoor rather than an indoor pool; to the casual eye, nevertheless, it seemed that every man, woman and child in the club was immersed, night and day, rain or shine for the whole two weeks from February 9 to Washington's Birthday.
Swimming began at 6 in the morning, and on opening day 173 swimmers were on hand to begin churning up and down the 71-yard pool. Congestion grew as the day—and most following days—wore on. To further its members' sense of patriotism the club gave free breakfasts to early swimmers and ladled out gallons of free soup and hot chocolate to those who arrived later. Friends and parents of swimmers kept track of the number of laps swum, but the daily collection of reports was so complex that they had to be run through an electric brain at a local aircraft factory in the interests of an accurate record. Five hundred and thirty-eight swimmers won club trophies by their efforts—65 of them for swimming 25 miles or more. Total distance covered: 12,522,065 yards, or more than 7,000 miles—about three and one-third times the length of the Mississippi itself.
SAGE AT THE CAGE
The Pittsburgh pirates had hardly gathered for spring training at Fort Myers, Fla. last week before Branch Rickey, a man who can pop out of retirement as authoritatively as a whistling marmot, was hard at work preparing them for the National League pennant. Mr. Rickey assumed his role of "available consultant" by hustling out to the batting cage, costumed in dark blue suit, dark blue hat, black tie, black socks, black shoes and a big black cigar, and by climbing to a platform which had been hastily constructed for him behind the netting. The Pirates' regular batting coach, George Harold Sisler, had been laid low by an abdominal operation and Mr. Rickey was taking over for him. He sat down on a chair placed upon the perch and got down to business.
"Come here, boy, and shake my hand," he called to Catcher Danny Kravitz. Then he summoned First Baseman John Powers and Outfielder Howard Goss. "How are you?" he said to each. "I'm glad to see you." He beamed. "Everybody comfortable?" His auditors nodded. "All right, all right," said Mr. Rickey, pointing at Kravitz. "Jump in there now. I want you to hit 10. Hit everything. Don't let anything get past you. That's fine. Slow that pitching machine down a little. And will somebody find more ball shaggers. We need help. Every minute is valuable. Fine, Danny, fine. All right, Howie, now it's your turn.
"Perfect stride," he said, approvingly. "Perfect stance. Look at that swing. Son, it's a shame for you to hit .265. Just concentrate on getting the fat part of the bat on the ball." He nodded to Powers. "All right, John," he said. "Watch out for blisters. Are you wearing that glove, John?" Powers held out his hand to demonstrate a light golfer's glove. "That's right," said Mr. Rickey. "Take care of those gloves, now. We only have 10 or 12 pair. Now, John—hit everything to left field."
Mr. Rickey turned to Goss. "Now you watch this. He used to hit everything down the right field line. He must have hit 300 home run balls in one year—all foul. But see there—" The pitching machine belched forth another ball and Powers dropped his left foot back and sent it whistling into left. "You see? Watch that back foot. He makes it look easy, doesn't he, Howie?"
"Yes, sir," said Goss. "Real easy."
"Well, you can too," said Mr. Rickey. "He used to be worse than you. You know why he can do it now? Tell Howie what that word is, John."
Powers looked around and grinned. "Intent," he said.
"That's right. Intent. How do you spell it, John?"
"Darned if I know," said Powers, hitting another one to left.
"Well," said Mr. Rickey, "I want you to learn to spell it, too."
Powers was replaced by Goss and Goss by Kravitz, and Kravitz by Shortstop Dick Groat, until all had hit 100 balls. "Get Thomas and Long," ordered Mr. Rickey. "They can use some of this, too."
At this point, however, he was interrupted. "It's time to eat, Mr. Rickey."
"Judas Priest," cried Mr. Rickey, jumping out of his chair. "I knew I was getting hungry. Well, let's go eat. We'll get on with this later." And, coattails flapping, Mr. Rickey hurried off to the clubhouse, a legend on its way to lunch.
Comes now the Kansas Turnpike Authority, a strictly nonathletic organization, to enter an opinion on certain financial aspects of Kansas University's nationally famous sophomore basketball star, Wilt Chamberlain. The turnpike officials make no pretense of knowing how much money Wilt will get for playing amateur basketball at K.U. but have announced—and only half jokingly—that he is worth every penny of it. By checking the number of automobiles which have passed through the eastern and western turnpike exits at Lawrence, Kans. on Saturdays when Wilt is playing in a home game and on Saturdays when he is not, they conclude that he pulls 1,665 extra cars over the road at an average rate of 97¢ per car, or $1,615.05 every time he trots out on the court.
Since the road is 236 miles long, he is worth $6.84 per mile per Saturday, and $16,150.50 a year. If K.U. continues playing 10 games per season at Lawrence he can be expected to produce $48,451.50 in extra revenue for the turnpike before he graduates.
"If there's any justice in the world," wrote Sports Editor Joe Gilmartin of the Wichita Beacon, "our grandchildren will one day refer to the stretch of four-lane road between Kansas City and Wellington as the Wilton Chamberlain Memorial Highway."
OFFICERS AND GENTLEMEN
For years, officials at West Point and Annapolis agreed that football took care of all the needs for body contact sports between the service rivals. Wrestling in particular was held unwise. It was feared that overenthusiasm so deeply rooted in the tradition of academy rivalry might cause damage to the athletes.
"There was a feeling that it just wouldn't be good," said John Cox, Navy's athletic publicist.
His West Point counterpart, Joe Cahill, agreed. "We've always felt," he said, "that there was too much of the man-to-man in wrestling."
But somehow last week both academies threw prudence to the winds and gave wrestling a cautious try for the first time in the history of the Army-Navy rivalry.
Manners were perfect on the mat. After the final match between Tony Stremic, 205 pounds, a guard on the Navy football team last year, and Loren Reid, 198 pounds, who played tackle for Army, the two shook hands and congratulated each other.
"You wrestled a very good match," said Stremic, the winner on a close decision. "So did you," answered Reid politely.
In the stands cadets from both academies behaved like perfect gentlemen too, perhaps because of the presence of a generally civilizing force: a goodly quota of young ladies, present as dates.
The only person who got out of hand, and then only slightly, was a fellow named William R. Smedberg III, an admiral, who, by the way, is superintendent of the Naval Academy. He bounded out of his seat at every stirring moment, bounced a few feet forward to the mat edge and shouted encouragement to the Navy wrestlers a few feet away. At times he resembled a cheerleader (which Army had, but Navy did not), turning to the stands and shouting encouragement to his friends.
His enthusiasm was understandable. He was a 115-pound wrestling champ in his Annapolis days but never got a crack at Army. The admiral had done as much as any man to bring the meeting about, and he went away happy. Navy won 17-8.
THE TRUTH ABOUT UMPIRES
In off-season public appearances around the country, Dusty Boggess, the National League umpire, is telling a story in defense of his profession, giving it a local setting wherever he happens to be. As he told it in Tulsa recently:
"You Tulsa people are awful hard on umpires and one time I decided to try and find out just why you hate us so. I sat up in the stands along first base and listened to your comments, then I sat behind home plate, then along the third base line and finally way out near the outfield.
"Everywhere I sat I heard essentially the same thing. And I can tell you now, folks, you've got us all wrong."
Dusty pauses for dramatic effect and then delivers his punch line:
"We umpires have got mothers and fathers just like everybody else!"
When playing squash racquets
He's lousy. But, gosh,
No wonder—his racquet,
You see, is a squash!
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Economy in Ohio
Look for Guatemala City to land the 1959 Pan-American Games, already awarded to Cleveland, at a meeting of the Pan-American Executive Committee in Caracas March 16. Reason: On economy grounds, Ohio's Senator Frank Lausche has opposed a $5 million federal appropriation that would have helped Cleveland play host.
•Uproar in Maryland
The proposed merger of Baltimore's historic old race track, Pimlico, home of the Preakness, with the more modern plant at Laurel continues unresolved. The Maryland Racing Commission is ducking recommendations on the merger—which would turn Pimlico into a shopping development—and has passed the whole problem to the legislature, where it may become a broiling issue this month.
Poland's efforts to throw off the trappings of Soviet techniques have hit the world of sport. Polish soccer authorities have decided to end their "pseudo amateur system," encourage pro and amateur soccer separately.
•The Las Vegas Line
The Las Vegas sum-up of the season's baseball odds: Brooklyn and Milwaukee 6 to 5, Cincinnati 2½ to 1, St. Louis 10 to 1, Philadelphia 80 to 1, other National League clubs 100 to 1. In the American League: New York 1 to 2, Detroit 2½ to 1, Chicago and Cleveland 4 to 1, Boston 8 to 1, the others 100 to 1.