This is an article from the April 8, 1957 issue
Judges, housewives, burglars and nursery school tots have been borrowing from the abrasive lexicon of sport for lo these many years, but last week a leather-lunged baseball fan in Los Angeles was impelled to borrow a phrase from U.S. Senate Room 318. As Red Sox Outfielder Jimmy Piersall wheeled to glare at a set of noisy critics in the center field bleachers, a countercry rose from the box seats. "Don't answer 'em, Jimmy," the voice implored. "Stand on the Fifth Amendment!" Dave Beck's sprained treasury was no doubt of greater concern to the country last week than Mickey Mantle's sprained foot, but some of the reaction to Beck took an oddly revealing form. Dave was hanged in effigy, just like a losing football coach.
From West Texas up along the Great Plains to Canada the great spring blizzard of 1957 was the dominant topic of conversation. Judge John A. Mullen of Manhattan General Sessions stubbornly insisted, amid a gale of argument from psychiatrists, that New York's Mad Bomber (a fellow who spent 16 years leaving dynamite in railroad stations and theaters) wasn't mad at all and should stand trial for his crimes. Texas had an insurance scandal. It was a big week in the big world outside the ball parks and gyms and golf courses, all right. But the pervading influence of sport in American life was curiously dramatized as a result—amid the rumble of larger events, millions went right on reacting to spring training, hockey, horse racing and even curling.
As San Francisco swept up after the biggest earthquake since 1906, its citizenry could not refrain from noting, with a certain pleased incredulousness, that 20,000 of them had crowded Seals' Stadium on the very night of the big shake to watch Ted Williams swing a bat in a preseason baseball game. President Eisenhower seemed closer to his personal flash point last week than at any time since the campaign when Reporter William McGaffin suggested, at the weekly White House press conference, that Ike was preparing to use Air Force helicopters for trips to the golf course—as why shouldn't he? The astounding influence of high school basketball everywhere was reflected in Indianapolis when Athletic Commissioner L.V. Phillips reported that 1,225,966 people had attended championship games in his Indiana alone.
Two Princeton freshmen resolved to dribble a soccer ball one hundred miles from Nassau Hall to the Biltmore Hotel in New York and back in May. And, in Chicago, Elvis Presley—tastefully garbed in brown with 24-carat gold shoes—confided to reporters that he has always wanted to play end for Ole Miss. "I used to eat and sleep football," he said. "I love it. Oh, every minute of it." Shortly thereafter at the International Amphitheater 13,000 teen-agers screamed happily at him—called him, one might say, for having his backfield in motion.
A GAME OF POST OFFICE
The Irish, they say, are impractical. On their green island, under their gray sky, they do little but cling to their old ways, talk incessantly, drink stout and dream. Well, that's what some people say; but this view fails to account for the Irish Sweepstakes, a wonderfully practical device by which the Irish sell dreams to the rest of the world for some $30 million a year.
A great deal of this money—perhaps as much as 65% of it—comes from the U.S. (Only the sweepstakes people themselves know the actual figure, and they won't tell.) Since our postal laws bar the use of the mails for lotteries, it is very clever of the Irish to get so many sweepstakes tickets into, and so many dollars out of, the country every year. But they do it; and, while they do some of it with the help of travelers and merchant seamen who smuggle the tickets in among their possessions, they do most of it by mail.
When the post office suspects that a letter contains a book of sweepstakes tickets, they stamp the envelope "Supposed to Contain Matter Prohibited Importation" and invite the addressee to come in and open it in the presence of a postal inspector. If the letter does contain tickets, the addressee can raise his eyes piously to the ceiling and declare that he never ordered any tickets and can't think what this total stranger meant by sending them to him. And that's that, as far as the addressee is concerned.
But the post office can confiscate the tickets and with them the message which invites the addressee to keep two tickets, sell 10 and send the money to a certain person in Ireland. The name and address of this Certain Person go on the post office fraud list, and any mail addressed to him thereafter is returned to the sender.
There are a great many of these Certain Persons in Ireland, and each of them is responsible for receiving the money from the sale of thousands of books of tickets. The post office doesn't know whether the Persons are real or merely mailboxes set up by the sweepstakes people for their own convenience. In any case they change rapidly—as soon as the post office stops the flow of money to one Person, another one is appointed (or invented), and people over here begin to get new tickets and invitations to send their money to him.
So it goes; and everybody has fun except the United States Post Office, which is rueful but resigned. An official admits that the post office efforts amount to little more than shoveling water upstream. Still, "If we were not as successful as we are," he says, "I think we'd almost be overrun with those books of tickets."
The people who have the most fun are those who win. In New York last Friday, a 35-year-old telephone company clerk named Mary Lyons trembled with excitement as she waited for the Grand National to be run in Aintree, England. She held a $3 ticket which, in Dublin a week earlier, had been drawn on a 20-to-1 shot named Sundew. Sundew, of course, won the Grand National, and Miss Lyons won $140,000 and 13 marriage proposals. "I'm walking on air," she said. "I'm numb." In Pittsfield, Mass., Lawrence E. Palmer, 42, who owns a variety store and bought a sweepstakes ticket just to keep a customer's good will, won $28,000 with it. In Los Angeles, three employees of the Cotton Belt Railroad who had pooled their money to buy a single ticket won $2,569. And that is why, of course, the Irish are so successful at selling moonbeams. Some of them turn out to be thunderbolts.
DOWN THE REBELS
Eight-oared crews at Oxford and Cambridge have rowed with an exaggerated layback—as boat crews of the Royal Navy did in the days of fixed seats—for more than a hundred years. It is a dramatic but exhausting style—the shoulders of the oarsmen seem almost to touch the legs of the men behind them at the end of each stroke, and they must then raise the weight of their upper bodies back to a sitting position and lean far forward to dip their oars again. The sliding seat has long since eliminated the need for this man-killing motion, since it allows the stroke to be finished by driving the legs rather than using the back. But, though U.S. college crews have been almost upright at the end of the stroke for decades, the English stubbornly refused to tamper with tradition. This spring, however, amid cries of horror from Old Blues, the Oxford crew began rowing "like the damned Americans."
The rowing revolution at Oxford, like most revolts, did not occur without a background of privation—in the 25 years between 1931 and 1956, Oxford lost the annual boat race to Cambridge 20 times, two years ago by a degrading 16 lengths. Neither did it occur without the appearance of a George Washington—in this case a big, irascible Australian student named Rod Carnegie. As president of the Oxford University Boat Club, Carnegie was in full command of rowing, and he made sweeping changes. "The English," he brashly announced, "Look on rowing as an art, but I believe there are some scientific principles you must use." He ordered a new boat with long slides, new, shorter oars with bigger blades, and, with the fascinated approval of his mates on the crew, converted to the style which had made the U.S. and Australia so powerful in the Olympic Games. Two coaches quit; one day Oxford's oarsmen had to row 17 miles up the Thames to meet an Old Blue who would consent to work with them. But they rowed splendid time trials.
By the eve of last week's race with Cambridge, the Oxford eight was overwhelmingly favored. The most indignant of the traditionalists seemed subdued, and experts predicted a complete revolution of English rowing would follow the innovators' certain victory. At the start of the race, watched by an enormous crowd along the Thames, Oxford ran true to form and had a lead of almost a length at the mile. But then—a disaster. Oxford's No. 5 oar, a 196-pound powerhouse named Peter Barnard, stiffened up until he could not pull, until he could barely move back and forth to preserve the rhythm in the boat.
Cambridge went ahead and stayed there, although they won by but two lengths in 19:1. Said Carnegie fiercely: "We had the race in the bag." But he was scarcely heard amidst the clamor of the traditionalists. The most curious quote of the day came from an American—ex-Harvard Coxswain Bob Milton who steered the Cambridge boat: "Today's race was a vindication of orthodox British rowing methods against the new American style."
When the East All-Stars ended the college basketball season by whipping the West 73-63 in Madison Square Garden the other day, they demonstrated again an old adage and a fairly recent basketball problem: a good big man is better than a good little man. In the case of East vs. West, the East used two good big men and three good little men in the second half while the West stuck stubbornly to a 1-to-4 ratio, and the East came from far behind to win easily.
A week earlier, a small, immensely industrious Memphis State team lost to tall Bradley (83-84) in the finals of the National Invitation Tournament. "The kids jumped two inches higher than they can," said the Memphis State coach, Bob Vanatta, in explaining how his terriers stayed close. Only North Carolina's national champions found an answer to the high and the mighty, and that by only one point in three overtimes as they beat Kansas and 7-foot Wilt Chamberlain for the NCAA championship.
The basketball coaches tried once more, as the season ended, to inhibit by rules the tremendous advantage of the supertall man, but it seems unlikely, unless they legislate the 7-footer off the court entirely, that they can ever overcome the advantage implicit in a Chamberlain.
Somewhere a coach suggested that the game be changed so that each team would circle the basket at its own end of the court and shoot steadily throughout the game with an adding machine to keep score. This would undoubtedly cancel the advantage of height, though the resulting game could hardly be called old-fashioned basketball. Another solution offered was the classification of teams by height, much as boxers are classified by weight—6-foot-and-unders, 6-foot-4s, 6-foot-6s, etc. Such thoughts, naturally, only deepened the gloom of basketball's heavy thinkers.
Meanwhile, in Columbus, Ohio a young man named Jerry Lucas has turned up to prove that the problem will be a continuing one. Lucas, a 17-year-old junior, scored 28 points as Middletown High School won the Class AA Ohio championship. He was a 6-foot-7 sophomore last year, a 6-foot-9 junior this, and doctors have advised the family he has some growing left. He will be a college sophomore the year after Chamberlain graduates and, if he continues to grow at the same rate (two inches a year for the last three years), he will be 7 feet 3 inches tall.
In a world straining with all sorts of problems, it is a disturbing thought—until you remember how North Carolina took Wilt the Stilt & Co.
FORMERLY WITH THE YANKEES
Joe Collixs, playing right field in an intersquad game at the Yankees' training camp in St. Petersburg, was the first to recognize the slight figure of the man leaning against the wire fence.
"Hey, Casey," Joe called to Manager Stengel, sprawled in the grass along the foul line, "isn't that Phil Rizzuto over there?"
Casey turned and squinted briefly at the former Yankee shortstop, released as an active player last year and rehired as a radio and television announcer this spring. "Yeah," said Casey, "I guess it is, at that."
"Hey, Phil," Collins yelled. "How's the family?"
Phil's answer was partially lost in the breeze blowing his way, but there was something in it about his children having the measles.
Just then, a hitter sent a high fly to right, and Collins let it fall safely.
"I just misjudged it, Case," he called to the reclining figure on the foul line.
"No, you didn't," Casey barked. "You were too busy jawin' to Rizzuto about his kids havin' the measles. Pay attention to the game and don't be worryin' about who's got measles."
Rizzuto must have heard that, for he turned and walked all the way around the wire fence to left field. Later, he showed up in the clubhouse for his first visit with his old teammates. He stopped in front of Jerry Lumpe, one of the several candidates for Phil's old job at short.
"How you doing, Jerry?" Phil asked. "I suppose you got my old locker and all the rest of my stuff."
Lumpe smiled, and Phil went down the line, slapping this fellow on the back, trading mild insults with that fellow. It was friendly, all of it, and yet the visitor was pressing just a little, like a man coming back to an office after retiring and suddenly realizing that he is an outsider.
Phil made his way back to the door and turned to wave goodby.
"Hey, Phil," Mickey Mantle called to him. "Where you staying?"
"Why," said Phil, "at a motel. Down the street from where the team is."
"How come you're not staying with the team?" asked Mickey.
"The hotel said they didn't have a room." Phil waved again and started out the door, then turned once more.
"I guess," he said, "I guess a year makes a big difference."
On page 37 begins an account of the coast-to-coast Freedom Tour just completed by three dozen members of the Hungarian Olympic team who chose a new life in America after the Melbourne Olympics, and who are now settling down to school and jobs in the U.S. By coincidence, as their tour ended, there arrived in this country another member of the Hungarian Olympic team, one who originally chose to return to Budapest. He is Dezso Gyarmati, captain of the water polo team at Melbourne, who went back with his wife because the Communists held their 2-year-old daughter as a hostage.
This winter Dezso and his wife managed to recross the Hungarian frontier to the West with their daughter. What was it like to go back—for an athlete the Communists distrusted? Here is Gyarmati's testimony:
"I was placed under surveillance by the secret police. I was followed by an agent everywhere I went. [Finally] I was waylaid. They gagged and bound me, and I was taken to an empty house in Buda by Russian-speaking thugs. I was beaten and left there unconscious."
Gyarmati sent a message to fellow Hungarian Olympians just finishing the Freedom Tour:
"Uprooted and exiled as we are, we are free. We must cherish this freedom, not for any ulterior or personal sake, but for the sake of those who look to us for encouragement and support.
"At home, the cowards rule in the shadow of Russian tanks. Many of our friends have been deported to Russia. Our fellow champion, Geza Kadas, the swimmer, has just been sentenced to 15 years for a minor part he played during the revolution. Others are kept in prisons and camps without the pretext of a charge or the formality of a trial.
"The Free World is our first line of defense, our bastion and faith, our foothold, our beachhead...."
He loves fishing through the ice,
But his taste in fishing varies;
Sometimes he thinks the olives nice,
At other times, it's cherries.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Happy Duke, Sad Knight
Calumet Farm's one-two team of Gen. Duke and Iron Liege established themselves as the entry to beat in the Kentucky Derby when Gen. Duke outran Bold Ruler in the Florida Derby stretch, with Iron Liege third. The Kentucky Derby field, meanwhile, was diminished by one when the Santa Anita Derby winner, the Washington State colt Sir William, broke down in a sprint.
•Game Called Taxes?
The Kansas City A's will either have to move or quit rebuilding, said Owner Arnold Johnson when threatened with a 5% city tax on admissions. As the city council considered, indignant citizens backed Johnson's stand.
•Revolution in Massachusetts
The University of Massachusetts is starting a program of athletic re-emphasis, says President J. Paul Mather, adding, "I have had all the apathy I can stomach." Elsewhere, Harvard President Dr. Nathan Pusey expressed a somewhat cooler viewpoint: "If they [athletes] can qualify for a scholarship scholastically, we certainly won't penalize them because they can play football."
•Faded Red Menace
Alf Rubin, a knowledgeable Cockney who handicaps races for the London Daily Worker as Cayton (SI, April 25, 1955), missed badly on the Grand National. His choice, Red Menace (33 to 1), fell at the 10th jump.