THE HUNTER AND THE HUNTED
This is an article from the March 25, 1957 issue
Things get a little topsy-turvy now and then in spring training baseball games. Pitchers named Grpstlk strike out batters named Mantle, and batters named Schmbbdl hit home runs off pitchers named Maglie. It really doesn't matter, since Mantle and Maglie are merely working themselves into playing condition and since Grpstlk and Schmbbdl will have to produce a good deal more than one strikeout or one home run to prove to their bosses that they deserve a place on the major league roster.
Occasionally, though, the mock battle between unknown rookie and established star becomes brilliantly real, if only for an electric moment or two, and then, as they say, class will tell. Rookie Pitcher Mark Freeman of the New York Yankees, a big, rangy righthander with high hopes for the future, was pitching against Stan Musial, the marvelous St. Louis Cardinal hitter, who includes among his most valuable assets burning competitive fire and considerable pride. Young Freeman threw a good fast ball, and Musial swung hard and missed cleanly. The crowd stirred. You don't see Musial actually swing and miss very often.
Freeman threw again, a similar pitch, and again Musial swung hard and missed. The reaction was stronger now: two swinging strikes on Musial! In the Cardinals' dugout the players sitting along the bench were more amused than distressed, since it is axiomatic in the National League that it doesn't do to get two strikes on Musial, because that's when he's most dangerous: when his pride and competitive fire are stirred to action.
"You got two strikes on him," old Walker Cooper yelled out to Freeman. "What in the world are you going to do now?"
Freeman pawed the mound, set himself and threw a waste pitch for ball one. The Cardinals on the bench watched him, an almost evil amusement in their eyes. Suddenly it seemed apparent that the hunter, Freeman, was now the hunted, and with no place to hide. Too smart to try another fast ball, the young pitcher tried a change-up curve, a half-speed pitch designed to throw Musial's timing off. Against a weaker batter it could have been a most effective maneuver. But Musial, uncoiling his remarkably lithe body, whipped his bat around and sent the ball far over the right-field fence for a home run. The crowd roared its appreciation, and the Cardinal bench glowed with pride.
On the mound young Mark Freeman turned away and punched his glove in anger and disappointment. Old Cooper was still watching him.
"Don't you fret," he called out comfortingly. "An $8,000 pitcher isn't supposed to strike out an $80,000 hitter."
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
The Laysan Albatross—better known as the gooney bird—began using Midway Island as a nesting site long before the U.S. Navy planes began using it for the same purpose. The gooney has remained completely unperturbed by the metal interlopers; goonies, in fact, will perform their mating dance—a coy sort of rock 'n' roll in which the dancers alternately clack their long, ugly beaks and hide their heads beneath their wings—in the very path of an oncoming airplane. The Navy, however, grows more exasperated with the goonies—which average six or seven pounds, have five-foot wingspreads and could cause horrendous consequences if sucked into the intake of a jet airplane—with every passing month.
Unlike the Japanese, who cleared millions of goonies from their Pacific islands in the 1930s by the simple process of slaughtering them, the Navy is reluctant to take violent action against its feathered squatters. Navy men, it is true, tried to drive goonies off the island at one point by stealing their eggs. Eggless goonies proved worse than nesting goonies; they not only remained, but hopped back out to the runways, performed long, frustrated dances and wailed like banshees as they did so. Recently, in the hopes that Midway goonies might be tricked into getting lost somewhere, the Navy has been taking selected birds on long airplane trips.
But although the Pacific is full of islands, the Midway goonies are proving more than ever that they like Midway best—and also that they can go without food for 47 days, can navigate as unerringly as if they had their own radio beacons and can fly as tirelessly as atomic airplanes. Goonies were taken to northern Japan, to Guam and to Kwajalein. They flew right back to Midway, and, once landed, waddled to the very nesting spots from which they had been removed. The other day, tired but game, the Navy bundled up four more, dyed their heads shocking pink for identification, and flew them all the way across the Pacific to Whidbey Island near Seattle.
The goonies were prepared for the trip by being shoved, wings furled, into cardboard boxes with tops of wire netting. They did not seem to mind. They spent 2½ days in a Navy P5M seaplane en route to Puget Sound. They rode silently, apparently lost in thought. When released at the air station on Whidbey Island they showed no concern at all at their strange surroundings. They simply stretched their wings, stumbled clumsily for 60 feet along the concrete ramp and took off. They headed due west, paying no attention to each other.
"They only got 3,000 miles to go," said a Navy chief, glumly. "They'll be back at Midway in a couple of weeks."
Fourth of July tree-felling and woodcutting contests have been a part of our national heritage from the day of the first logging camp, and still persist, but wood chewing, or the art of cutting saplings with the teeth, has been completely ignored as a U.S. folk sport. The beaver, known to every early settler, is quite probably the reason for this omission. Eating through a sapling, of course, is not the most pleasant occupation in the world, but neither is running the mile. Beavers are so adept and efficient at it, however, that humans just haven't thought of emulating them. Who, we have asked, could eat wood like a beaver?
It is high time we cease such defeatist thinking, and remember that the 15-foot pole vault, only a few years ago, seemed equally impossible. Last week on Staten Island, N.Y., one Augustus M. Pynn, 48, a bank manager, took one of those bold, improbable steps by which man is continually extending his own horizons and abolishing his own limitations. Mr. Pynn was set upon by three thugs, robbed of a billfold containing the combinations for the bank's safes and then handcuffed to a sapling in the woods.
How to escape? Mr. Pynn could neither break the sapling (which was an inch thick) nor slide the handcuffs off. He did what he had to do to spread the alarm. He chewed his way through the sapling. Took him two hours, but he got word to the cops and the bank was left unscathed.
It is true that any beaver worthy of his bark could go through a sapling of that sort much quicker, but Mr. Pynn had never chewed wood before, and therefore must be considered a rank amateur, even though an innovator. Practice and new techniques and competition by younger men would almost certainly bring about a reduction of his time for the one-inch sapling. And in his case the time recording is probably unfair in the first place. Mr. Pynn wears an upper plate.
Q. & A.
The U.S. Lawn Tennis Association took another step toward a businesslike study of the question of open tournaments. President Renville H. McMann named a five-man group to dig into the subject and report in September: Edward A. Turville, St. Petersburg, Fla., lawyer, chairman; Victor Denny, Seattle investment banker; George E. Barnes, president, Midwest Stock Exchange, Chicago; Alan D. Herrington, Los Angeles building executive, and Allison Danzig, New York sportswriter.
President McMann gave committeemen a list of fundamental questions to think about and bade them talk to "club officials, club members, players, interscholastic and intercollegiate officials, the general public, the press and, as a matter of fact, to anybody who is even remotely interested in tennis and the problems which a tournament open to both amateurs and professionals would involve." Here are President McMann's fundamental questions and—in short version—SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S own answers:
Q: Will an open strengthen tennis?
Q: What will an open do to Davis Cup competition?
A: Anything that strengthens tennis will strengthen Davis Cup competition.
Q: What effect will an open have on developing interest in tennis on the part of American youth?
A: It would increase that interest.
THIS TIME WITH HORSES
Children are interested in polo, though nobody knows why. Probably the best explanation is that children are interested in everything—a fact that has led the television show Let's Take a Trip (CBS, 12 to 12:30 EST on Sundays) to investigate an odd assortment of subjects: a rope walk, a track meet, a tugboat, a rodeo—and so on, helter-skelter, at the rate of one subject a Sunday, back to the show's beginning in April of 1955. Last Sunday Let's Take a Trip got around to polo.
The show involves a lanky and amiable adult named Sonny Fox and two children, a boy named Pud Flanagan, 12, and a girl of 11 named Ginger Mac-Manus. Their technique is simple—they go to an interesting place and ask questions, and it's up to the people they find there to answer them.
On Saturday afternoon they went to the Squadron A Armory in New York to rehearse the next day's show. Pud was absent, busy with another acting job, so Ginger played his part as well as her own. She wore blue jeans, a red jacket and a ponytail. Sonny wore a rumpled blue suit and no tie. As the rehearsal scene opened, both were drinking ginger ale. The production supervisor was marking off a place in the tanbark where a hole would be dug to receive a TV camera and its cameraman, and so provide a fallen rider's view of the onrushing horses. Six members of the Squadron A Polo Club were playing polo, and the director was studying the script.
"At one point," said Sonny Fox to Ginger, "someone will hand you a polo ball, the hollow indoor kind, and you can say something like 'Oh, it's light.' "
"Oh, it's light," said Ginger.
"Try to sound surprised," said Sonny.
"Oh! It's light!" said Ginger, wide-eyed and sounding surprised indeed.
"Great," said Sonny. "Who will win the National League pennant this year?"
"Milwaukee," said Ginger, after a moment's thought.
"Take a break," roared the director to the six polo players, and they dismounted. Ginger hiccuped. She had drunk her ginger ale too fast.
Mr. Fred Zeller appeared. He is a veteran of 20 years of polo and a member of the Squadron A club. His assignment was to explain the game to Sonny, Ginger, Pud and the television audience. Standing in a corner of the field, in front of an imaginary camera, Sonny and Ginger practiced asking questions, and Mr. Zeller practiced answering them. He explained that a polo game is played in four 7½-minute periods, that the ponies' tails are braided so they won't get tangled in the mallets and that the mounts are chosen for speed, quick reactions and boldness.
"Now," said the director, "this is where they come charging by." Everybody paused and watched two bold imaginary horses charge past. Ginger hiccuped.
"What about the ball?" asked Sonny, and Zeller picked one up from the ground. It is made like a basketball, he said, but is only 4½ inches in diameter. He handed it to Ginger.
"Oh! It's light!" she said, surprised.
The audience for Let's Take a Trip is one of the strangest mixtures in all television. According to fan mail and other indicators, it is made up half of children, mostly around eight and nine years old, and half of adults, mostly old enough to be grandparents. Both age groups like shows about animals and sports, so polo was a natural.
"Now," said the director finally, "let's do it with horses," and the six players came out and began to play. Presently the game was halted and Ginger mounted a pony, gripped a mallet and took several swipes at a ball. Then the rehearsal ended. "Everybody be here at 6 o'clock in the morning," shouted the director.
When the show appeared on people's TV screens the next day, Pud was on hand as well as Ginger. Both wore polo outfits (Ginger's ponytail was tucked up inside her helmet). Sonny Fox had put on a tie, and nobody looked as if he had been up rehearsing since 6 a.m. The horses galloped handsomely, and the mallets hit the ball with a sound like a cannon shot. Pud and Ginger asked their questions and got their answers. By the end of the show several million small-fry knew all about polo and were set to ask a question of their own: "Daddy, can I have a polo pony?"
MYSTERY OF THE WEEK
Four thousand spectators at an indoor track meet in Manchester, England yelled themselves hoarse last week as three top British distance men, Ken Wood, Derek Ibbotson and Brian Hewson, raced neck and neck down the stretch in the mile. They fell into a hornswoggled silence, however, when Winner Wood's time was announced as 3:37.4—some 20 seconds faster than John Landy's world record. "You may think this remarkable," added the announcer, "but, of course, there might be something wrong with the stop watches."
Well, the watches were correct, as it turned out, but a slight mistake had nevertheless been made—the finish line had been set up short of the mile. But nobody seemed to be sure just how short—one 128-yard lap, a lap plus 96 yards, or just 70 yards. If the last estimate was correct, the runners had covered 1,690 yards and had run far faster than the pace for a four-minute mile. Wood felt that he may have been running under Landy's record, despite the sharp turns of the banked wooden track. But neither he, nor the crowd, nor the officials, it seemed quite certain, would ever know for sure.
FULL COURT PRESS
A secret defense
That had him reeling:
For an 8-foot center,
A 7-foot ceiling.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Federal agents are looking into what appears to be a bustling business in football, basketball and baseball parlay cards at a large Midwest industrial plant. At least one of the lottery hustlers, it has been testified under oath, is a major league baseball player who works in the plant in the oil season.
•Three for the Money
With Trainer Jimmy Jones planning to run Gen. Duke, Iron Liege and Barbizon in the Florida Derby next week, colt-rich Calumet Farm has a mathematical chance to finish 1-2-3 in the last big race of the Florida season. Don't count on such a finish, however: Wheatley Stable and Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons are sending Bold Ruler too.
•'Need' in the Big Ten
Rumbles and grumbles still come from some sectors of the Big Ten, where the "aid according to need" policy for football scholarships recently won a split decision (SI, March 4). Latest plaint is that of Coach Forest Evashevski of Iowa, who fears competition from nearby Big Seven schools. Cracked Evashevski: "Maybe we ought to send the next team to the Rose Bowl on the basis of need."
•On Deck: Bill Veeck
Bill Veeck is edging back into major league baseball again on behalf of the Cleveland Indians—by setting up a public-relations firm with the Indians as the key account. Alarmed by a drop in attendance, Cleveland has turned back to the man whose touch was magic at the box office 10 years ago.