CASEY ON OPENERS
Of the 30,000 and more persons who watched the opening of the 1957 baseball season at Yankee Stadium, no one was less impressed with the crackling excitement and festive air than the gnarled little man with the white hair and bowlegs sitting in the dugout of the World Champions. For many among the thousands, it was their first opening day. For others, it was their second or seventh or 17th. For Casey Stengel, it was his 47th—and he doesn't think too much of them.
"Your first opener was 1910, wasn't it, Case?" a writer asked the Yankee manager.
April 28, 1957
"This is No. 48, huh, Casey?" the man asked.
Stengel shook his head. "Forty-seven," he growled.
The man was puzzled. "First was 1910, this is 1957, that's...oh, you missed one."
"You were sick?" the man suggested.
Casey shook his head. "Now you're guessing," he said. "I'm not gonna tell you."
He walked two steps down the dugout and whirled around. "That was the year the Dodgers paid me not to manage." A delighted grin spread over the wrinkled face as he thought of 1937. "Nicest year I ever spent. No problems and those checks kept coming in anyway."
"Well, Casey," another asked, "which opener did you like best?"
"Which one did I like best?" Casey growled. He looked around. "Well, I kinda like this one. It's warmer than it was last year."
"No," the man said patiently, "I mean which one do you remember best?"
"I don't remember much about openers," Stengel said, heading out for the batting cage where Mickey Mantle was hitting left-handed against Bob Turley. "Ask me sometime about the closers. I can tell you where I was every year on the last day of the season. That's what counts."
And off he went, anxious to get his 47th opening day under way in the direction of his 47th closing day—which is what counts.
AFTERNOON AT THE POINT
The green, sun-splashed campus at West Point crawled with tourists over Easter weekend. Saturday was one of those balmy, shirtsleeves-and-convertible days that attracted twice the normal complement of pretty girls and beaming cadets, not to mention automobile loads of citizen tourists on pilgrimage to historic ground. The enlisted men on a cleanup detail eyed the activity with a stoicism born of years of Mondays spent spearing crackerjack boxes and empty cigaret packets, and began sharpening their pointed sticks.
Despite the overflow traffic, the baseball bleachers which seat close to 3,000 were near-deserted as the Army jayvees lost to Danbury State 7-0. There was similar apathy down on the track where the Army thinclads were running a losing cause to the University of Maryland. Instead, the crowds flocked to see Army play Princeton in one of the least-played, least-understood, yet most American game in college sports—lacrosse.
West Point lost this one, too, 5-4, but the disappointment of losing somehow vanished in the thrill of the play.
"This is a sport that creeps up on you," said Morris Touchstone, Army coach. He sat cross-legged on the players' bench by the side of the 120-yard playing field. His hands fingered a piece of chalk, and he drew plays on the bench as he talked.
"We don't get lacrosse players at the academy. They come to me raw, green. Most of them never saw a stick before. It is a handicap. I have to teach them to play against men who have had lacrosse sticks in their hands since they were old enough to walk. I can't develop a 'stick game' in four years, so we have to play a hard-running, hard-checking game. We have to rely on conditioning to wear the other fellow down."
At the end of the first quarter, Princeton was leading Army 1-0. A solemn Coach Touchstone joined the huddle of panting, exhausted Army players sprawled on the field. "They're going to whip you. They're playing to win and they're going to whip you," he said.
Moon Mullins, an Army mid-fielder who would score two goals before the afternoon was over, pleaded:
"Coach, you're leaving us in too long. You got to send in a new mid-field line more often, Coach. They're killing us when we get tired."
Touchstone eyed Mullins coldly. "No alibis, Mullins. Princeton is outplaying you."
Bill Yates, a big Army defenseman, tried to fire the team. "We're not mad enough, guys. Get mad. We can take 'em. We got to watch our passing, we got to press them. We're just letting them bring the ball up without pressing them."
Army caught fire for a while and tied the score. Art Johnson, a defenseman who played first-string end on the West Point football team, hit Princeton's Cheston Morris so hard that Morris was brought up in mid-stride in midair, a dazed, surprised look on his face. Army got the ball and scored again. It was an agonizingly even game. The score went 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4. And then in the last period Princeton went ahead. Just before the Tigers got their winning score, Army called a time-out. The West Pointers lay gasping despite the fact that each man was in the peak of physical condition. Princeton's superior stick game had kept them running, running, running until there was very little left in any one of them. Art Johnson turned to a man next to him. "I don't know what's the matter," he said. He gazed down at his bruised and purpling legs, red-welted from stick checks. Moon Mullins was gasping, too tired to wipe the river of sweat that trickled down his forehead into his eyes. A small stream of blood ran along his jawbone from a gash on his right cheek. The Army men wanted to win badly. They had won three straight and Princeton had lost four straight. But they just did not have it any more.
Johnson knew it. During one of the last time-outs he gazed off the field toward the stands and toward a young lady in a pink sweater and dark glasses. "Thirty-five days," he said. "Thirty-five days, we're going to be married. Three-thirty in the afternoon." Then they went back to lacrosse.
SAVAGES IN THE SIERRA
The weather was nasty in the high Sierra north of Truckee, Calif. last week; there was snow, rain or sleet every day, and the temperature often went down to 15° at night. But 234 teen-age (14 to 17) Explorer Scouts from California and Nevada, who spent most of the week scattered—in parties of nine or 10—around the pine-forested mountain wilderness near Rice Canyon, proved they were capable of coping very well with nature in the raw. As participants in the sixth annual survival training school held for Boy Scouts by Stead Air Force Base at Carson City, Nev., each gang had only the equipment allowed air combat crews undergoing the same training—pocket knives, compasses, matches, sleeping bags, two or three parachutes (for shelter), a couple of axes and shovels and a very meager supply of C rations.
Each group was commanded and shepherded by an Air Force survival training instructor, and before starting out the whole force of boys was given two days of instruction. But after they were trucked into the mountains they led the sort of half-savage existence which is, historically speaking, the birthright of American boys but which few ever have a chance to try.
State game laws prevented their hunting most forest animals, but the hungriest and hardiest killed, skinned and stewed porcupines and pronounced them edible. The rest were taught how to kill, skin and cook rabbits, provided by the Air Force; a good many boys were reluctant to kill their rabbits (they were taught to hit the animals across the neck with one hand) and afterward had certain qualms about eating them. One fast-talking youngster, in fact, persuaded his instructor to let him keep his rabbit as a pet and brought it back to civilization in his jacket. But in general they took to the rugged and difficult life; they lived in tepees made of parachutes, kept fires going despite the weather, learned to track without any lights in the pitch-darkness by crawling on hands and knees and groping for footprints in the snow, and endured cold and relative hunger without complaint. One boy, indeed, had to be talked out of trying to walk back to San Francisco when the week was over.
Back at the air base (where the rabbit owner instantly requisitioned lettuce leaves for his pet) the tired and smoke-stained pioneers spoke rhapsodically of central heating and hot water—and ate and ate and ate. But they also felt confident of their ability to exist in the wilderness if the need ever came. "We may not be as good as Jim Bridger [famed mountain man of the 1840s] yet," said one 16-year-old, "but we sure feel we could take care of ourselves."
ECONOMICS AT JAMAICA
He was a rather small man, and he wore a shiny blue suit, an anxious expression and a wisp of a mustache which recalled a dictator of infamous memory. But what he really looked like was a horseplayer of the nonscientific, mystical daily-double type, the type which still believes that you only have to hit it once and quit.
He hit the first leg, with a $10 ticket on the 30-to-1 shot, Prideful. This preliminary success understandably unnerved our hero, who wisely decided to retire to Jamaica's sleazy clubhouse bar and think the whole thing over. During the 27 minutes which separated the "official" on the first race and post time on the second, he imbibed in rapid succession some score of Scotch and sodas. He didn't care to watch his horse in the second race, who was called O.K. Bud and who won at 60 to 1. A friend rushed into the bar to give him this welcome news. Our hero (whose name is available neither to our readers nor to income tax inspectors) weaved a perilous path to the cashier's window and collected his 17-thousand-and-some dollars, mostly in $100 bills. Then, like some refugee from George Orwell's 1984, he instinctively looked for a uniform of authority to which to turn. The nearest was filled by a genial representative of Pinkertons National Detective Agency, and this Big Brother showed no surprise when his lapels were gripped by the fabulous winner who pleaded, "Take me home, take me home." No sooner pleaded than done. A Carey Cadillac was commandeered and the darling of fortune whisked away.
THE VIEW IS WORTH THE CLIMB
The ambitious young man—the one who works hard, lives frugally and plans his advancement with care—is an American folk figure. He is also a reality that can be seen at every bus stop. People usually associate him with a business enterprise; it seems odd, somehow, that there are young men who work hard and live frugally in the hope that some day they will become umpires in major league baseball and, like Bill Summers (see page 20), the almost legendary targets of civic abuse.
But such young fellows do exist. Major league umpires come from the minors, just as the players do. All over the country young umpires are sweating out apprenticeships in the bushes, dreaming of better ball parks and bigger pay checks.
Lou Isert of the Florida State League (Class D) is a good example of those who sweat and dream. He is 33, a bachelor, a onetime catcher in the minors. He takes his job very seriously. ("I try to work the game without taking a drink of water. If the umpire is always going to the dugout for a drink, he can be asking for trouble.") He lives frugally. ("I make 300 bucks a month and it's pretty closely budgeted. We get free lodging in the city where the game is played. The home team pays for it. But everything else is on us.") And he plans his future carefully. ("I've had offers from Class C and even Class B leagues. But I felt I needed more experience. I'm working on my timing, especially on plays at bases. You've got to make that call just at the right split second, you know.")
In his 1954 Ford, Lou drives back and forth across the southern part of Florida, from St. Petersburg to Cocoa to Palatka, and to the other towns on the circuit. He drives by day (often with another umpire who shares the cost of gas and oil) and does his work at night.
"I spend about $4.50 a day for food. No filet mignons, you understand. More of hamburgers, medium rare. But we try to tip well enough to indicate we're at least Class A umpires." When Saturday afternoon comes, he sits at the feet of the masters. "I watch the major league Game of the Week on television, concentrating on the umpires. It's my only chance to see how the big fellows do it."
It may be that umpires think of themselves as the final guardians of the essences of baseball, as the priests who keep the ritual pure. Nobody really knows whether they do or not. But they would seem to need some such attitude to sustain them through a season. Fans rarely speak to them except in anger, and perhaps rarely think of them as having any human qualities other than defective vision and stubbornness. The audience for which they perform is no bigger than that of a theoretical physicist or a scholar in medieval law: practically nobody can appreciate the fine points of their work except other umpires. It sounds like a tough life.
"Sure, it's tough," says Lou Isert. "But," he adds, and his deep-set eyes spark with ambition, just like those of a young department store executive or a lieutenant j.g., "if I can make it to the big leagues, it will be worth it."
A FABLE FROM THE LAB
One by one, and sponsored by science, the old-fashioned virtues are coming back into style. Right now the vogue is for exercise. It is no longer merely something the old family doctor used to speak well of. Nowadays, exercise is the handy means by which well-fed executives may keep the cholesterol level low in their blood, and thus avoid coronary attacks.
Coronary attacks (according to many, but not all, investigators) are caused by diets too rich in certain fats. Somewhat changed in form, the fats collect in the arteries and tend to clog them. When the heart's own arteries become clogged, the result is fatal. In a land like the United States, which flows not only with milk and honey but with butter and cream and gravy as well, it is difficult to avoid eating too many fats.
But it is beginning to appear that Americans may keep their luxurious diet—the richest in the world—and yet cut down their annual quota of coronary attacks, which is the highest in the world.
In Washington, D.C., Dr. Harry Wong of Howard University and Dr. Frank Johnson of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology obtained a flock of baby chicks and fed them a high-fat diet of starter mash fortified with cottonseed oil and cholesterol. Some of the chicks were simply fed and left alone. The others—and this wasn't easy to do—were put through a brisk 30-minute workout twice a day.
How do you make a baby chick take exercise? Well, Dr. Wong and Dr. Johnson put them in a treadmill, a circular wire cage roughly the size of an oil drum, which revolved at about 18 rpm. Two chicks out of three refused flatly to cooperate and so were assigned to other duties, but every third chick trotted busily along in the treadmill as if someone had told him the skies were falling, and kept going until the thing stopped turning.
The procedure—30 minutes of exercise, morning and afternoon—was kept up for seven weeks. Then the two biologists examined the blood and organs of both groups of chicks. Last week in Chicago, members of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology learned what the two men had found: the treadmill chicks showed lower levels of cholesterol in the blood, and less clogging of coronary arteries, than the sedentary chicks—and by huge margins.
There was also, of course, a control group of chicks which had no extra fats added to their mash and took no exercise. They had just lived like chickens, not like the richly nourished citizens of the wealthiest country in the world, and they had no coronary problems whatever. Possibly the best course of all, then, is to follow a human diet equivalent to plain, unfortified starter mash. But for those of us who would find such a regimen either unpalatable or impossible, the moral of the experiment may be: he who eats and runs away, lives to eat another day.
They never win regattas
Nor take a racing cup,
For every time the chips are down
They find their bottom's up.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Long Count on Chickens
In Miami last week, an alumnus of the University of Oklahoma took a long look into the future, began negotiations for a 1,000-seat breakfast before the Orange Bowl game. Meanwhile, back in Norman, Hypnotist Franz Polgar lent his blessing to the project, after reading Coach Bud Wilkinson's mind from 120 miles away: "He has more faith than ever before," said Polgar.
Lew Hoad, who carries the weight of the Australian Davis Cup on his shoulders, scoffed at rumors of a $125,000 offer from Jack Kramer to turn pro this fall, but indicated that it is just a matter of time. The $125,000 offer may have discouraged a potential rival promoter, Pancho (Champion) Gonzales.
•How To Create Incentive
Frank Lane, the indefatigable trader who guides the fortunes of the St. Louis Cardinals, traded fancy-fielding Bobby Del Greco to the Cubs one evening last week. Next day, Del Greco (.214 last year) beat the Cards with a pinch-hit.
The Brooklyn Dodgers, eying Los Angeles as a relief from the fiscal and physical discomforts of Brooklyn, have been offered a home in Queens. But Dodger President Walter O'Malley wants concrete proof of good intentions, awaits construction on the former site of the World's Fair at Flushing Meadow.