Russia is asking for a licking. The U.S.S.R. has invited the United States to send a 70-man track and field team to Moscow for a three-day meet next July, and the AAU is now considering its reply.
It would be very agreeable to read in Pravda next summer how the Bobby Morrows, Parson Richardses, Parry O'Briens and Hal Connollys ran off with all the marbles in front of 100,000 Muscovites in Lenin Stadium. And that is almost surely what would happen. The U.S. would do a jig around the Russian Bear in his own front yard and walk away laughing. Such a gambit would be agreeable but costly, for there is also the question of who would laugh last.
Russia knows she cannot beat the U.S. in track and field. As at Melbourne, she would be certain of victories only in the distance events. Almost without exception, the U.S. would sweep the sprints and field events. So why is Russia so eager to lose?
April 22, 1957
To compete, U.S. athletes would have to ignore the moral boycott that much of the free world has applied to Russia since the rape of Hungary. What public opinion has been unwilling to approve is not competition with the Russians—that was made clear at Melbourne—but junkets to Soviet territory where the visitors' very presence would allow the Kremlin to say to its own citizens: "Look, they've already forgotten what we did to the Hungarians last year."
Let's hope the Russians, by their immediate actions in the community of nations, make it possible to lift this moral boycott. Otherwise, the AAU would do well to tell Moscow, "Thanks, but no thanks."
THE LADY HORSEPLAYER
The management of Laurel race track in Maryland has undertaken a brave campaign designed to put order and logic into the mental processes of women—not all their mental processes, to be sure, but at least those functioning when they bet on horses.
Feeling that women rely much too heavily on intuition in selecting the horses they bet on, Laurel has arranged a series of four educational lectures. The first was given before 60 more or less attentive ladies in the clubhouse lounge by Raleigh S. Burroughs, the dignified, spectacled editor of Turf and Sport Digest.
"I say study the horses and know their records," Mr. Burroughs began, "and then you won't make any foolish bets. The average person isn't emotionally adjusted to be a horseplayer. The thrill of the race is too much for him or her; the thrill of the long shot is too much. People make a lot of foolish bets without providing themselves with adequate information."
Some of the ladies nodded and some wrote in their notebooks; some kept reading the racing literature they had brought along.
"Don't try to bet every race," Mr. Burroughs went on. "The handicapper has to make a selection, but you don't. When you bet, think of the reasons why a horse is a favorite. Don't think you have to make a lot of money on every race. If you bet a favorite $5 to show and he pays $2.80 for $2, then you've made $2. If you do the same in the next race, you've made a total of $4."
Mr. Burroughs went on in that vein and then answered a few questions from the audience.
All in all, it seemed like a most satisfactory session, and as Laurel officials congratulated Mr. Burroughs and each other, the lady bettors gathered in little groups and compared notes.
"I was at Bowie the other day," said a middle-aged lady from Washington, "and it was a beautiful sunny day. I sat in the sun and read my program, and there it was: a horse named Noble Sun was running. Naturally I bet on him. He paid $19."
Another woman nodded. "The other day at Bowie," she said, "I decided to bet on horses with white forefeet. I had five winners. Today I'm going to bet on My Boots." She looked around and then explained: "One time I had a dog named Boots."
Suddenly there was a whole chorus of voices:
"I bet black horses. They always look so strong."
"I go down in the paddock and look at the owner. Then, somehow, I always feel I can tell whether his horse has been doing well or not."
"I bet horses with nautical names, because my son is in the Navy."
"But what," someone asked, "would you do if there were two horses with nautical names in the same race?"
"Oh, then," said the nautical bettor promptly, "I'd flip a coin."
The second lecturer in Laurel's lecture series was Walter Haight, racing writer for The Washington Post. Wearing baggy pants and a sports jacket, he peered over his horn-rimmed glasses and saw what he was up against. After speaking briefly on the subject of scientific betting, he dropped all pretense when one of the ladies asked him his choice in the daily double.
"I always play six and three," said Mr. Haight promptly, "because when my son was 8 years old he had a football uniform with the number 63 on the back."
The ladies hurried out to the betting windows and a little later those who had followed Mr. Haight's hunch collected $97 for $2 after Extra Easy, No. 6, had won the first race and Knockabout, who was No. 3, had taken the second.
Which, if it is not scientific, is likewise not hay.
Rather Glumly, a Seattle golfer named S. D. Cochran read a short piece about himself in this section of the March 18 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. It told how, in the Trans-Mississippi Seniors Tournament at Las Vegas, Mr. Cochran (who is in his 70s) fired 12 tee shots in succession into the water on the 16th hole, then hit one to the edge of the green and three-putted for a 28.
Cochran did not renounce the game. In the same issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in which he read about himself he also read "The Second Lesson" by Ben Hogan—taking special note of Hogan's admonition to keep the elbows close together.
"I gave it a try," Cochran writes, "and it gave me a shankless swing." (Shanking is hitting the ball more with the shaft of a golf club than the head. It is roughly the equivalent of hitting a handball with the wrist instead of the palm.) Cochran had been shanking for six months—a spell which reached its climax on that 16th hole at Las Vegas—and suddenly he stopped. "In a dozen games since applying the idea," he says, "I have not been guilty of a single shank.
"A few days ago," he continues happily, "I watched a fellow club member shank the ball on six holes in a row. I finally took pity on him and revealed my secret. My subsequent financial loss was greatly overshadowed by his unbounded pleasure."
PREVIEW OF A THRILLER
When Toni Sailer hit the finish line of the North American downhill skiing championships at Squaw Valley, chosen site for the 1960 Winter Olympics, he was, as usual, miles ahead of everyone else and not even breathing hard. Pushing back his goggles, he passed judgment on the course in this, its first official racing test.
"It is not the world's best downhill course," he said. "It's not long enough, not steep enough and it is too straight." Thus spoke Toni Sailer, but in Squaw Valley, for the first time in his skiing life, Toni was only a bit player, a voice from the wings in what may become the most popular western thriller of the next three years. The title of the serial is "Will Squaw Valley Lose the Games?" or "How Can You Build All Those Facilities in the High Sierra by 1960?" Herewith the plot:
Wayne Poulsen, a retired Pan-American pilot who owns most of the land in Squaw Valley, is indulging in a bitter feud with Alex Cushing, the man who got the Olympics for the valley (SI, July 11, '55). Cushing controls 600 acres, and owns outright the existing ski facilities, namely a lodge, a few outbuildings and one ski lift. Poulsen and Cushing used to be partners in the corporation that built the valley into a ski resort. But somewhere along the line Poulsen lost a proxy fight to Cushing and got tossed out of the corporation. Now Poulsen is crying foul play, and claiming that Cushing is likely to make a one-man killing on the Olympics.
Cushing, at the moment, isn't saying anything. He has turned over his holdings to the California Olympic Commission with the understanding that he gets them all back—plus, perhaps, benefits, from whatever sewage disposal, flood control and parking facilities the commission may build. Poulsen, however, is battling to get the sewers, drainage system and parking lot built farther from Cushing's lodge and closer to a shopping center that Poulsen plans to build sometime between now and 1960. To swing the fight his way, Poulsen is threatening to sit on 32 key acres that the commission feels it must have to build a proper Olympic Village.
That is where matters stood until two weeks ago when California State Senator Harold Johnson, fed up with the sounds of mountain warfare, introduced into the legislature an omnibus bill granting $2,990,000 for Olympic construction (the commission already has $5 million in the till) but also allowing the state to take over Poulsen's 32 acres if Poulsen doesn't play ball.
Nobody really wants to use the eminent-domain clause, because of possible legal delays. But it gives the state a sword to use in the fencing match with Poulsen.
The big questions now are, how long will it take for Poulsen to give in, and how far will he give? Possibly the only man in California who doesn't care about the answer is Avery Brundage, chief of the International Olympic Committee. Sitting in the sun on a Santa Barbara vacation, Brundage, a veteran of umpteen of these pre-Olympic hassles, quietly assured a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reporter that the Games would be held in Squaw Valley, come Cushing, come Poulsen or come the application of the right of eminent domain.
"We have a firm agreement with the organizing committee here in California," said Brundage, "as to what facilities will be provided at Squaw Valley, and we have no reason to believe that this agreement is not going to be kept. Moreover, the government of California promised that the resources of this great state would be pledged to the job of providing those facilities."
Yes, but how can ski jumps, a bobsled run, two ice-skating rinks, new ski lifts, not to mention the sewers and parking lots, possibly be built in remote Squaw Valley by 1960?
"You can," said Brundage calmly, "get any job done if you just spend the money."
Baseball fans in Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Venezuela, Greenland and other unlikely places listened to the opening-day game on their radios Monday, though they didn't get the word quite as fast as followers in the motherland. For the overseas audience, which was served by the vast shortwave facilities of the Armed Forces Radio Service, there was a seven-second delay.
Using transmitters on both the East and West coasts of the U.S., the AFRS beams nearly five hours of radio a day to American troops and sailors almost anywhere on earth. Civilians are welcome to listen, too—and they do. Fan mail comes in regularly from missionaries, merchant seamen and oil-company employees, as well as from servicemen.
A recent AFRS offer to send major league baseball schedules to anyone who wrote in for them drew an unexpectedly heavy response. From Ikot Ibiok in the Calabar Province of Nigeria, West Africa, the Rev. Philip N. Ernst wrote, "Kindly send the Major League baseball schedule referred to on your sports program tonight." In the Mediterranean, where his ship forms part of the Sixth Fleet, a gunner's mate modeled his letter on the best military style: "It is requested," he wrote, "that I be furnished the 1957 National and American League Baseball Schedules...."
It was, in fact, requested by so many hundreds of listeners that the New York office of the AFRS quickly used up its modest supply of printed schedules and had to send mimeographed ones instead. The overseas fans know that a total of 136 regular-season games will be broadcast this year, and they want to be ready.
Armed Forces Radio doesn't limit itself to sports, of course; it sends music, news, Bob Hope, The $64,000 Question and other commercial shows out to the rest of the world, where anyone with a short-wave receiver and a knowledge of English can listen and marvel. In football season it broadcasts two college games on Saturdays and two pro games on Sundays. And it is generous with the time it gives to basketball, golf tournaments, track meets, the Indianapolis "500" and even the Soap Box Derby.
The puzzling seven-second delay of live broadcasts is effected not by the use of a time machine or the fourth dimension, but simply by recording an incoming show on tape and broadcasting the playback only moments later. As soon as the words "base hit," for example, enter the control room (over a direct line from the ball park) they go onto the continuously moving tape. Seconds later they enter another machine, and the words come off the tape and are broadcast. Thus—and here is the real reason for the time lag—when the first rasp of a commercial is heard, the engineer has time in which to tune the tape out and tune in a live announcer who reads off a few items of sports news or gives some out-of-town scores. It seems like a lot of trouble, but the Department of Defense, which has problems enough on its hands preparing to deal with enemies from without, doesn't want to rile up enemies from within by giving free worldwide publicity to one company's razor blades or beer while another company's product gets none.
Any broadcast that covers so much of the world is bound to reach many listeners at a rather awkward hour of the day or night. Members of the AFRS sports staff have been mystified by the number of requests from GIs in Europe and the Middle East for broadcasts of night baseball. Such a demand from Newfoundland, the Caribbean or the Canal Zone is to be expected—in those areas the game would be over at a reasonable hour. But the last inning of a night game in Yankee Stadium or any other East Coast ball park would reach Germany at around 5 a.m. and Saudi Arabia well after daylight.
It takes a fairly enthusiastic fan to sit up that late with a baseball game. But of course such occasions would be exceptional: most of this year's scheduled broadcasts are day games. They will be over well before midnight in Germany, and even in Saudi Arabia the fans can hear them and still be in bed by 2 a.m.
HOME RUN STUART
In the Pittsburgh Pirates' training camp this spring, Manager Bobby Bragan sometimes felt like a man who would have a pearl if only he could open the oyster. The pearl was the batting performance of a 24-year-old rookie named Dick Stuart—and the oyster was his performance in the field. Last year in Lincoln, Nebraska, Stuart hit 66 home runs, and he kept right on hitting them in Florida this spring. But Bragan admitted, sadly, that Dick Stuart was perhaps the worst outfielder he had ever seen, and reluctantly farmed him out to the Hollywood Stars.
This didn't bother Stuart at all. A man of sublime self-confidence, he has never been known to speak a word of anything but praise for himself. "I'll be back," he told Bragan in farewell. Moreover, he promised that if the Pirates call him back soon enough he will lead the National League in home runs this year.
On this buoyant note Dick Stuart left for Hollywood. There, in the first four games of the season, he promptly hit five homers and ran up a .437 batting average. And while the dispatches from the West Coast didn't exactly glow with accounts of his brilliant fielding, they didn't say, either, that a fly ball had hit him on the head.
His caddie was new,
His game was a fright;
He called for a sand wedge—
Got roast beef on white.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Thunderbirds to Le Mans?
Work has halted on two super racing Thunderbirds which the veteran Pete De Paolo has been developing for Ford. But there is still a possibility of a Thunderbird-Corvette duel at Le Mans next June: Le Mans admits that two Thunderbird entries are in but, "by request," declines to name the owner-sponsors. Two Corvettes have been entered by Sportsman Briggs Cunningham.
•Chicago Speaks Up
With Cleveland apparently ready to give up as host for 1959's Pan-American Games, Chicago's Mayor Richard J. Daley has bounced into the picture with the confident proclamation that Chicago has all the facilities needed except a velodrome for bicycle racing, and Chicago could build that.
•For the Record
Sportswriters' picks in preseason Associated Press poll: Braves (260 votes) to win in the National League, Dodgers 157, Redlegs 130. In the American League: the Yankees 512 to 51. Verdicts last year: Yanks and Dodgers.
Rep. Kenneth B. Keating of New York is offering a significant bill for baseball, football, hockey and basketball. Main points: 1) "business aspects" such as television contracts to come under the antitrust laws, 2) playing aspects, including the reserve clause, to be exempt, 3) collective bargaining guaranteed to the athletes.