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JIM BREWER, 18: HIGH ON A MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION

April 15, 1957
April 15, 1957

Table of Contents
April 15, 1957

Doug Ford And The Masters
Events & Discoveries
Scouting Reports
American League
  • Seven times in the past eight years the Yankees have won the pennant; in '56 they could have started to print their World Series tickets in July. Yet Casey Stengel now comes up with a ball club he says is better than any of the others. Unless you are a Yankee fan, it looks like a long season ahead

  • The Indians have been in a second-place rut for five of the past six years. Although most major league cities would happily settle for much less, in Cleveland the frustration of always being the runner-up has come to a head. A new manager has been added, but once again it looks like second best

  • For five straight years the Sox have finished third. Now they have a new manager and some promising rookies but all else is the same: with one hand they must claw their way up toward the Yankees and Indians, with the other hold off the Tigers and Red Sox from below. That's asking too much of two hands

  • The Boston Red Sox are New England's pride and despair. Annually hope rises that this year the Sox will finally unseat those top-dog New York Yankees, and annually there is frustration. But, even so, hope rides high again on such as Ted Williams, Jim Piersail, Tom Brewer and a dozen bright young men

  • This is the team they said last winter might shake up the Yankees—but that was last winter and now no one is quite so sure. The Tigers are good, only there aren't enough of them; where Casey Stengel experiments to find out which player is best, Jack Tighe must experiment to find a player good enough

  • The Baltimore Orioles have improved steadily in their three seasons in the American League. There has been a continuous flow of ballplayers, coming and going, as Manager Paul Richards has tried to field a winning club. This year the team has a more permanent look, but there is still a lot to be done

  • The Senators finished seventh a year ago which, on the record, may have been an even greater miracle than the pennant triumphs of the 1914 Braves and the 1951 Giants. They had the worst fielding in the league and by far the worst pitching. Only a couple of big sluggers saved them from the bottom

  • This will be Kansas City's third season in the major leagues. The first year was one grand party: a lively, eager team fought for victories all year long. But last season was quite different: the team was listless, as well as bad, and finished a dull, dreary last. Kansas City fans expect something a good deal better in 1957

National League
  • The old, old Dodgers have been the class team of the National League for a decade. Cracks have appeared in their armor, but it is fondly hoped in Brooklyn (and Los Angeles) that bright young players will fill such gaps. In the most unlikely event that they do there'll be yet another Yankee-Dodger World Series

  • Now it is next year. With a superb pitching staff built around the great trio of Spahn, Burdette and Buhl, and boasting some of the league's best ballplayers in Aaron, Mathews, Adcock and Logan, the Braves are prepared to make a strong bid for the pennant they missed by the narrowest of margins last September

  • The personable, colorful, lively Redlegs are the most popular ball club in the National League. Last season strong hitting, brilliant fielding, shrewd managing and an astute front office combined to lift them to third place after 11 dismal years buried in the second division. Now they have their eyes on the pennant

  • Improved by trades and boasting one of the most impressive starting lineups in the league, the Cardinals are hungry for a pennant. Yet the bench is weak, their pitching can hardly equal the Dodgers or Braves, and the Redlegs have more power. It may be a long, tough climb from fourth place first

  • It's seven years now since the youthful Philadelphia "Whiz Kids" stole the National League pennant. They have grown old in the interval, and none too gracefully at that. A slowly dwindling band of truly topflight players has heretofore saved the club from utter disgrace, but who knows if they can do it again

  • The Giants looked better toward the end of 1956, moving from the cellar to sixth in the last five weeks of the season. Then the armed forces took regulars Jackie Brandt and Bill White, and regular Catcher Bill Sarni had a heart attack during spring training. Yet despite all the team still shows plenty of spirit

  • Last year the Pirates spent nine glorious and dizzy days atop the National League. This, however, was in June, and at season's end they were seventh. They may not spend even one day in first place in '57, but the Pirates are a young ball club on the way up and they aren't going to finish seventh either

  • After 10 years of bitter frustration in the depths of the second division, Owner Phil Wrigley swept the club clean during the winter and reorganized from front office down. Despite this broom treatment of last year's cellar team, the Cubs' tenure in the bleak second division is assured for another year

Sport In Art
Fame Is For Winners
Figuring It Out
Fisherman's Calendar
Acknowledgments
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

JIM BREWER, 18: HIGH ON A MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION

At an age when Cornelius Warmerdam and the Rev. Bob Richards were under 13 feet, Brewer pushes 15

As the brusque winds of spring chased winter into the north, America's track and field athletes moved happily into the open air. At the Texas Relays in Austin, four of Texas' hardy sprinting perennials whisked to a new world record in the 880-yard relay (see page 116). Joe Rose of Arizona State trundled quickly down a short runway, lifted briefly and won the pole vault with a jump of 14 feet 3¾ inches, a meet record. In California, in the same event, Occidental's Bob Gutowski vaulted 15 feet 4 inches and set a new NCAA record. Everywhere, as spring moved swiftly across the face of the land, the outdoor track meets followed as swiftly in its path.

This is an article from the April 15, 1957 issue Original Layout

But while the college meets monopolized newsprint, connoisseurs last week spared attention for a high school meet—yes, high school—between North Phoenix and Camel-back High in Phoenix, Ariz. For it was here that one of the most interesting stories in the long continued story of the athlete's struggle against the limitations of time, distance and height was beginning to be told.

The Phoenix meet drew a typical high school crowd—some 200 students half lost in a combination football and track arena. The day was warm and bedeviled by a frisky wind which switched capriciously around the points of the compass and played hob with performances. Since the performances, as is usual in high school meets, were mostly routine, the wind really made small difference except to one lean, fine-drawn youngster with the clear look of the great athlete in beautifully muscled arms and shoulders and trim, long legs.

Jim Brewer is a remarkably unremarkable young man. He wears his blond hair in a flat-top crew cut, likes sports, ice cream sodas, jazz (not rock 'n' roll), movies and a pretty, blonde girl named Marabah Wilson who also attends North Phoenix High School. He has not considered seriously what he would like to do for a living, although he leans a bit toward engineering. He wears the uniform of his kind in Phoenix, when he is not on the practice field—faded, beltless blue jeans which hang precariously on lean hips, and a white T shirt. He is a quiet, popular youngster, indistinguishable from any number of quiet youngsters in a thousand high schools in America, except for one thing.

Jim Brewer, equipped with the quick, sure coordination of a hunting cat and a spare, strong body, has, too, the one thing which separates the great athletes from the good ones—an obsession. For Brewer, the obsession is pole vaulting. He started in the sixth grade, built himself a vaulting pit in his backyard in the seventh, climbed awkwardly over 12 feet, clad in Levis, in the eighth. Since then, dressed more conventionally in a track suit, he has vaulted higher than anyone his age has ever done in the history of track and field.

At an age when Cornelius Warmerdam, holder of the world record at 15 feet 8½ inches, had cleared only 12-3, Brewer has vaulted an incredible 14 feet 9‚Öú inches. Bob Richards, who has vaulted above 15 feet more often than any man who ever lived, reached only 12 feet in high school and Don Bragg, a vaulter who bids seriously for 16 feet, went 13-6 in high school. Gutowski, who set the NCAA record in California, made 12-3½ at La Jolla High.

So it is not surprising that track connoisseurs everywhere watch with interest when young Brewer competes. And on this warm, windy afternoon, before 200 mildly interested high school students, Brewer vaulted as well as only he has ever vaulted so young.

He had strained a belly muscle three days before the meet taking some of the endless exercises he takes to strengthen himself for his obsession. The wind, too, was a hazard to him and he changed runways to have it at his back. He cleared 13 feet 6 inches on the south runway, doing it easily; the wind skittered into the north and he moved to the north runway and worked his way up to 14 feet one inch. He cleared that and moved up to 14-6 and, with the few kids on hand drifting away as the meet ended, he tried three times and missed each time. He had won the event long since and his winning height would be 14-1, but he moved slowly back to the end of the runway again.

Vernon Wolfe, his coach, trickled sawdust through his fingers to test the wind. When it fell straight down, he motioned to Brewer and the youngster started down the runway again. He starts slowly but he runs smoothly, and he swept gracefully off the ground, the long, lean body trailing down from his hand grip briefly, then swinging up and twisting and going up again until he hung still and high against the late evening sky for a moment, the pole beginning to drop back and away, his hands oddly graceful in the final push-off, then his body beginning to drop, the crossbar still there and the jump made.

"Did you see him push off the pole with his lower hand?" Wolfe asked. "No coach would believe a man could go that high and give up the six or eight inches a good thrust from the top [right] hand gives."

Wolfe is sure Brewer can go 16 feet. "He could hit 15-6 almost any day—any time he holds the pole at 12-3 and gets his thrust right."

Brewer is not so sure. He doubts his speed. "It will take a 9.6 sprinter," he says, thinking of his own 11 flat. Wolfe points out Brewer starts slow but finishes a hundred at the clip of a 10.3 sprinter. Warmerdam, who obviously hopes Brewer will come to him at Fresno State next year, is more optimistic than Wolfe. "Brewer has no ceiling as far as I'm concerned," he says.

PHOTOUNSMILING JIM BREWER AIMS FOR 16 FEETPHOTOGOING UP against the Arizona sky, Brewer gets a final lift from his hands as he quits the pole to scrape over the bar at 14½ feet.PHOTOCOMING DOWN after clean vault, Brewer releases the pole with a wrist thrust and looks for a safe landing in the sawdust below.