In boxing's fuzzy ethic, the apt retort to a clean left hook can be a thumb in the other man's eye. Art Aragon, the Golden Boy, was raised by this standard. His intimates and mentors were men like Babe McCoy, the matchmaker-fixer, and Frankie Carbo, the fixer-gambler. If custom determines morals, Art Aragon was a moral young welterweight. As he understood it, the fix was part of the game. It was a considerable part of his career, which drew $1 million into the box office.
It was a great shock to Art Aragon to discover the other day that the law against the fix is taken seriously in some circles, so seriously that he was sentenced" to a prison term of one to five years. He pleaded for probation. Probation was refused, and Art Aragon burst into tears. The tears, however, did not wash away the habit of years.
"I told the truth," he lied once more, "and I'm going to prison."
April 1, 1957
Aragon did not expect any sophisticated person to believe he had told the truth. He was just going through the same old motions, following the pattern that had been successfully set in so many newspaper interviews. It would not occur to an Aragon to tell the truth at last, in extremity, and throw himself on the mercy of the court.
This had been noted by Superior Judge Herbert V. Walker. When he came to pronounce sentence on Aragon for trying to fix a fight with Dick Goldstein, the judge had before him nothing that would warrant mercy. Neither penitence nor a seemly pretense of penitence.
"There is not one scintilla of evidence," the judge said, "that he recognizes he may have committed a wrong...[but] the verdict was fairly and properly tried.
"We have a man before us who has attained an enviable position in the boxing world—third-ranking welterweight—a man who is supposed to be looked to as a clean sportsman in what at least should be a clean sport.
"Crimes of this nature are not small crimes in the court's opinion."
There can be no denying that—well, that the government of Czechoslovakia has decided you can't be against romance and has just given away its only Olympic gold medal winner, pretty Discus Thrower Olga Fikotova, to prove it. Harold Connolly, the U.S. hammer thrower who fell in love with Olga at Melbourne and who has been camping in Vienna and staring wistfully at the Iron Curtain, has been allowed to proceed to Prague, marry the girl and carry her triumphantly away toward Boston. But does that make it spring?
Take baseball. The Cincinnatis took their bats and gave the Yankees 20 whacks, including six hits off Don Larsen, last October's perfect pitcher. Actress Jayne Mansfield went to Wrigley Field in Los Angeles in an astoundingly low-cut dress, took a deep breath, and threw out—the first pitch in a game between the Cubs and the Orioles. But spring is a state of mind. No genuine baseball fan will admit that it is here until the major league clubs have left Florida, where it is always summer, and have played their first game at home before audiences muffled in overcoats. And how does a crocus feel when it hears that Ronnie Delany has just won yet another indoor mile?
There could be little doubt, on the other hand, that it was spring in Yakima, Wash. In what other season would Dr. Robert W. Mather, a local physician, await the offspring of two caged female wildcats, or so eagerly plan their future? By treating the kittens with growth hormones, tranquilizer pills and affection, he hopes to produce eminently lovable house pets. One could only wonder, also, if the Yale Bulldog was not being subjected to some similar process. It is never spring football practice time at Yale because the Ivy League does not have spring practice. The Yale Rugby team, however, was in balmy Los Angeles last week to play UCLA, and a good many football players on the team thus got a great deal of healthful exercise.
There was spring skiing at Squaw Valley—but as long as the snow was solid enough for sport and speed, what skier could admit that it was really spring? And what golfer could admit that the season had arrived when his favorite course looked (as did scores in the path of a midwestern snowstorm) exactly like a cross-country ski course? It is not spring for trout fishermen until opening day, no matter what the weather, and meanwhile most of them could only endure that period of feverish inactivity in which anglers annually varnish rods, oil reels, tie flies, patch waders, and pant.
But if the season was, as yet, relatively unacceptable, spring fever was, nonetheless, rampant: in Detroit, 50 members of the Wayne County Medical Society have subscribed to radio paging service and have been equipped with wireless receivers no bigger than cigaret packages—gadgets which will allow them to play any golf course within 35 miles with no fear at all of missing important calls. And the sun is now duty bound to get warmer; winter (blast this sneezing) ended on March 20 by ukase of the U.S. Weather Bureau.
Big league scouts from Kansas City, Baltimore and Washington were in the stands, and it was obvious that their interest was focused on the 6-foot 2½-inch, 190-pound right fielder for the home team whose white and blue uniform bore a Blue Devil on the sleeve, No. 24 on the back and the legend DUKE printed across the chest.
It was the scouts' first opportunity to see this particular prospect as a member of the Duke varsity. Although eligible to play last year (he came to Duke on a baseball scholarship), he had decided to concentrate on another of his talents and, as a sprinter, had twice broken the world record for the 220-yard dash.
The right fielder was, of course, 20-year-old Dave Sime, and, in this game against Elon College at Duke Park in Durham, N.C., he gave the scouts something to write home offices about. Although he had no chances in the field, he had opportunities to show both speed and power at the plate. Hitting (he's a right-hander) in the No. 3 spot, he met the ball squarely in the third for what looked like a single but turned into a double as he rounded first smartly and slid into second well ahead of the throw from the outfield.
In the ninth, with Duke trailing 7-5, Sime came up with one out. Coach Ace Parker called for a bunt, and Dave dragged one down the third base line and beat it out easily. Then Cockrell walked. Domhoff struck out, but as he did, Sime and Cockrell worked a double steal and both scored on Dunleavy's double. In the 10th, with men on first and second, Sime grounded to the first baseman, advancing the runners, and then Elon beat itself by passing Cockrell (intentionally) and Pinch Hitter Morris (unintentionally) to force over the winning run. Final: Duke 8, Elon 7.
What the scouts thought of Sime's performance for the afternoon they kept to themselves. But Dave Sime's coach, Ace Parker, was glad to speak out for the record.
"Dave is definitely a big league prospect," he said. "He has blinding speed, a terrific throwing arm and great power at the plate. I'd play him in center except that I've got a senior, Blaney, there. Dave has the desire and determination of Dick Groat [another Duke product now with the Pittsburgh Pirates] and better physical equipment. The question is: Will he continue to develop or stand still? Some boys come this far and stop. If Dave continues to develop, as I believe he will, he can't miss."
In his next appearance, against the University of Delaware at Duke Park, Dave Sime gave both his coach and the big league scouts impressive evidence that he had no intention of standing still. He started two rallies with long doubles, made a running one-hand catch to lead Duke to a 6-4 victory.
Next stop for the scouts was Tallahassee, Fla., where Duke will play a round robin of games with Michigan State, Yale and Florida. The scouts will be looking hard at all prospects, but—on the strength of his performance in his first two games—they are likely to be looking hardest at Outfielder Dave Sime.
FREEDOM FOR SMALL BOYS
Have committees been formed, has Congress debated? The answer is no on both counts.
So let a word be said here in defense of a fundamental American freedom now under attack in the state of Michigan. Getting to the heart of the matter, what is happening is this: the Michigan Bait Dealers' Association is trying to stop small boys from selling worms to fishermen.
Harold Hetherington of Flint, the spokesman for the association, recently appeared before the State Conservation Commission and proposed that dealers in all baits, including worms, be required to take out a license. He said that the state was losing a great deal of revenue by not broadening its bait-selling regulations. He added that the boys, who don't have to pay a sales tax, are thus defrauding the state of a legitimate levy. There were rumors that Hetherington and his associates were more immediately alarmed by the prices charged by the boys: 15¢ a dozen worms as against 30¢ charged by the association members.
Mr. Hetherington, to be fair, emphasized that small boys were only an incidental target of the legislation proposed by his association. The real offenders, he said, were "bait bootleggers" who bring in minnows, worms and other kinds of bait from outside the state and then create traffic hazards by setting up unlicensed roadside stands. As for the small boys, Mr. Hetherington said, "Why should they have to stand out in the hot sun all day to sell their worms? We'll buy all they can dig up."
A spokesman for the conservation commission said it was unlikely that anything would be done about the association's proposals. For the time being, boys will continue to remain free to dig and sell worms and enjoy another precious freedom which is, of course, to stand out in the hot sun as long as they feel like it.
For readers possibly anxious about the four Midway Island gooney birds released over Puget Sound the other day in a Navy resettlement experiment (SI, March 25), there is now semireassuring news; semireassuring to lovers of gooney birds, that is, if not to the Navy. Two of the four birds, navigating the unfamiliar air spaces over 3,000 miles of Pacific Ocean, have managed to locate their native isle and now are reunited with kin not far from the main runway at Midway. A third, either lacking in homing instinct or more deeply endowed with the pioneer spirit, has turned up in Port Kells, British Columbia. No word from the fourth yet, but it wouldn't surprise Midway to see him come gliding in any day now with the sun glinting back from the shocking-pink head dye which the Navy applied to the little squadron before, hopefully, packing them off forever.
LONG VOYAGE HOME
Ten times in the last 10 years, Antonio Abertondo, a muscular real estate salesman from Buenos Aires, has leaped into the Paranà River at the city of Rosario and headed downstream with a brisk crawl stroke for Buenos Aires, 240 miles away. Each time he was hauled out a day or two later, chilled, exhausted, sleepy and miles short of his goal. But he kept trying; and last week, at the age of 37, Antonio Abertondo made it: he swam all the way home to Buenos Aires.
Nobody ever did it before, though people have tried for 25 years. The first 200 miles are easy enough as such things go, because the Paranà's current affords a two-or three-mile-an-hour boost. But then the river empties into an estuary known as La Plata and the swimmer, beginning—understandably—to tire after 60 hours or so of effort, faces unfavorable currents and choppy waters. Several swimmers, after fighting their way down La Plata, have succumbed to cold and fatigue and been fished out of the water at the very entrance of Buenos Aires harbor.
For his 11th attempt Abertondo made careful plans; as he swam, he consumed chicken soup and vitamin pills for energy, coffee to keep him awake, and mate, the high-powered tea of the pampas, for his morale. These items were handed him by aides who traveled beside him in a motor launch. Occasionally some friend would dive in and swim along with him for a while, chatting sociably; an attendant on the launch played phonograph records by the hour.
Once he treaded water for three hours in La Plata, waiting for a favorable tide. It came, and Abertondo was under way once more. As word spread in Buenos Aires that he and his boatload of attendants were approaching the harbor, crowds began to line the shore. Some enthusiasts swam out to greet him, and motorboats, filled with photographers, circled the bay like sharks.
When Abertondo reached the landing ladder he climbed from the water (where he had been for 80 hours) without help. Then he took six steps on shore and passed out cold. But after a three-hour nap he was up and celebrating at a party in his own suburban house. Reporters, who had been waiting while he slept, crowded in, and someone asked him how he felt. "Fresh as a lettuce," said Antonio Abertondo, with the air of a man who, after 10 years and 11 tries, has done what he set out to do. "Bring on more beer!" he called.
HOLLYWOOD GETS HOLD OF ONE
Fear strikes out," a motion picture which Paramount is now releasing around the country, is a rarity among Hollywood films on several counts. Based on the story of Jim Pier-sail, Red Sox outfielder, and the mental breakdown which almost cut off his baseball career before it began, Fear Strikes Out is what is known as "a good little picture" as opposed to a multi-star, multicolor epic. It contains no first-magnitude stars, is filmed in black and white, has the word "sleeper" practically stamped across its credits.
Among its remarkable qualities is a purely negative one: at no point does the hero stride to the plate in the ninth inning of a tie ball game with the bases loaded and hit a home run. In fact, one gets only fleeting glimpses of Piersall in flannels—which is probably just as well, for Actor Anthony Perkins doesn't really look ready for the majors. The treatment of Piersall's mental illness is in the same honest vein. His psychiatrist is neither miracle worker nor modern witch doctor muttering weird incantations to effect a cure in time for the big game. As played by Adam Williams, he is a fumbling, groping human being, fighting quietly, with the comparatively limited means at hand, to save another's sanity. In the end, of course, he succeeds—but in believable, almost undramatic fashion.
The heart of Piersall's troubles (as readers of his book, on which the movie was based, know) was the determination of his father to make junior into a big league ballplayer—something the father had wanted for himself but never attained. He imparted skills to Jim, and his own determination—and also a terrible fear of failure. The movie necessarily foreshortens some of this material, but by and large Fear Strikes Out represents adaptation without vulgarization—which is rare enough.
According to Hollywood folklore, baseball movies are poison at the box office. But young Anthony Perkins, off this performance, should soon have a teen-age groundswell running for him, and the producers of Fear Strikes Out may be about to demonstrate that baseball has as much appeal on the screen as it does in life, when the moviemakers forget about false heroics and stick to humanity.
The judges halted to bestow
A ribbon on my pup;
A cat appeared and stole the show—
My dog was runner-up.
—HARRY L. CARTER
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Mickey Mantle, already nursing a bruised thumb, gave Yankees and Yankee fans a near heart-stopper when he stepped in a hole during pregame exercise in Miami Stadium, painfully sprained his left foot. Prospect: a week of rest and bench duty.
•Favorites for the Future
The glistening victories of the 4.5-liter and 3-liter Maseratis, which finished 1-2 at Sebring (see page 14), established them as favorites for the rest of the season. Next tests: Italy's Mille Miglia (May 12) and France's Le Mans (June 22). Said Juan Fangio in praise of the 4.5-liter: "I have never had less trouble."
•Caution Signal, Followed by Green Light
The IBC, treading softly after conviction as antitrust conspiracy, held up negotiations for Archie Moore's defense of his light heavyweight championship "for fear of appearing to flout" Judge Sylvester J. Ryan's decision. But Judge Ryan said IBC could go ahead, and the bout with winner of Tony Anthony-Chuck Spieser elimination seems likely now for June, as planned.
•Little Leaguers: Players, Not Workers
Sponsors of Little League baseball teams all over the U.S. had cause to relax after the New York State Workmen's Compensation Board set a precedent: sandlot baseball players, it ruled, are not employees of the sponsoring groups, are not entitled to compensation from sponsors for injuries received in play.