The concept of college, popularized by Hollywood, as a 'series of romantic escapades punctuated by athletic crises' is not a worthy concept."
These words appear in Higher Education in a Decade of Decision, a newly published volume in which the 20 distinguished members of the Educational Policies Commission examine the needs and problems of American colleges. The report is the result of a four-year study, and the statement quoted above is hardly more than a passing remark in a work which deals seriously with finance, educational policy and the fitness of students to study and teachers to teach.
But the words which follow it ought surely to be of interest to all those who—nowadays—discuss the de-emphasis, re-emphasis or non-emphasis of college athletics: "Perhaps the worst excesses of this distortion of higher education came during the 1920s. Since the Depression and World War II, a significant readjustment of the values in college life has been under way."
May 5, 1957
Walter Owen (Spike) Briggs Jr., General Manager of the Detroit Tigers, was unhappy last week about the way the new owners of his ball club were running things (SI, Feb. 18). He was particularly unhappy with Harvey R. Hansen, the Tiger president of only one week.
"I'm going to straighten him out on the chain of command around here," Briggs told a Detroit sportswriter on Thursday. "This fellow [Hansen] is going around me so I may have to take him in hand." On Friday morning, sitting in his office in the stadium named after his father, Spike Briggs began taking things in hand. Hansen and John Fetzer, chairman of the board, were standing in front of his desk. Spike, apparently ruffled over being remonstrated in the press by Fetzer for "losing his head," pointed to an undated letter of resignation and asked his visitors:
"This is the paper you've read about—do you want me to date it?"
To Spike's sad surprise, Fetzer and Hansen replied, "Yes."
"Spike's only doubt about resigning," Fetzer said, "was the date."
And so ended the Briggs family association with Detroit baseball which dates back to 1920, when the senior Spike Briggs bought a one-fourth interest in the Tigers—which he later acquired in full.
Spike Jr., now 45, had grown up with the Tigers, worshiping Bucky Harris in 1934 and '35 when the Tigers won the pennant and finally joining the front office as vice-president in the following year. But it was not until 1952 when his father died that young Spike had his chance to run the whole show. Yet nothing went right for the young baseball executive.
First the courts ordered the executors of the Briggs estate to sell the Tigers. Spike tried to interest Detroit friends and relatives in buying the baseball club, but he could find no takers. Eventually other buyer groups made offers and finally the Fred Knorr-Fetzer-Hansen syndicate acquired the club (SI, Feb. 18).
During the dewy-eyed press conference he called on Friday to explain his resignation, Spike held his tongue remarkably well. The letter, he said, had been written in routine fashion long ago. His remarks to the Detroit press concerning the new owners made them "very unhappy" and precipitated his resignation. It was that simple.
After it was over, Spike confided:
"It's the first time I've ever got the ax. The stuff hit the fan, I guess. It was a semi force play."
Upon leaving, Spike had some advice for the business magnates now running his Tigers.
"In baseball," he said, "you've got to roll with the punches. If they don't learn that, they won't be happy. And if they don't keep John McHale [in charge of player personnel], they'll screw up the whole outfit."
He also had a warning.
"If the new owners don't keep Briggs Stadium up to the fine high standards that my father did," Spike said, "then I will ask them to take the Briggs name off the stadium wall. Briggs Stadium is a memorial to my father, and I want it kept in the kind of condition my father kept it in."
THE ADMIRAL LAUGHS LAST
When Rear Admiral Daniel Gallery, Commander of the Caribbean Sea Frontier, examined baseball's official rule book (SI, Feb. 4), he concluded that it was full of loopholes and fuzzy writing. Citing one case in point, Admiral Gallery wrote:
"There is one way of breaking up a double play which is entirely legal though I've never seen it tried. Suppose there's a runner on first, the hit-and-run is on and the batter hits an easy double-play ball at the second baseman. The runner from first simply fields the ball and tosses it to the second base umpire. The ump will, of course, treat the ball as if it were white-hot and will do his best to avoid touching it. But under the rules all he can do is declare the runner out for being hit by a batted ball and put the hitter on first with a single...I hope I'm around when some real belligerent big league manager lets his boys try this dodge. It could produce the biggest rhubarb since the Cain-Abel fight."
A fair-size rhubarb was produced by the admiral's observations. Under a headline in The Sporting News that read: "Rules Experts Fire Broadside at Navy Critic," James T. Gallagher, chairman of the Playing Rules Committee of Organized Ball, and Cal Hubbard, supervisor of American League umpires, sprang to the defense of the rule book. On the case cited above, Mr. Hubbard said:
"As for Admiral Gallery's suggestion that the runner easily could break up the double play by getting hit or fielding the ball, well, I often wonder why they don't do it. But, of course, you never know whether it actually is going to be a double play or not. I imagine that's what keeps them from taking a chance on getting hit."
Mr. Gallagher said that if he were a manager, he'd "slap a stiff fine" on a player who deliberately interfered with a hit ball. "Just think," he said, "how many double plays are missed for one reason or another."
In a wire to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Mr. J. G. Taylor Spink, publisher of The Sporting News, said that in Admiral Gallery's hypothetical case, "[I] believe umpires could invoke power given them under 9.01 (c) and rule double play because of deliberate interference and making travesty of game."
It was all good hot stove league stuff. But then, as the world now knows, Admiral Gallery's hypothetical case became a reality.
In a Cincinnati-Milwaukee game at Milwaukee on April 21, Don Hoak, the Redlegs' third baseman, fielded a batted ball and in effect retired himself. Reported the Associated Press:
"Hoak, automatically out under the rules, fielded Wally Post's hopper between second and third in the first inning and flipped the ball back to the Braves' shortstop, Johnny Logan.
"Post was credited with a single, Logan with the putout.
"Hoak probably could have avoided the ball because it wasn't hit hard.
"Base Umpire Frank Dascoli said that Hoak was declared out under the rule covering base runners coming in contact with a batted ball and that the rule does not specify intent."
Heads of both major leagues went into action immediately. After a hasty conference, the rule of long standing was clarified to cover just the case envisioned by Admiral Gallery and executed by Don Hoak. As Will Harridge, president of the American League, put it in a wire to all league umpires:
"If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead, the umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the following runner because of the action of his teammate.
"In no event may bases be run, or runs score because of such action by a runner."
For Admiral Gallery's last laugh see 19th HOLE, page 81.
FIGHT NIGHT AT ST. NICK'S
Manhattan's dingy St. Nicholas Arena, which is billed as "America's oldest fight club" over television on Monday nights, also serves another, less publicized purpose—on Saturday nights it is often converted into a ballroom. Fight fans, however, need not feel that the old abattoir's seamy atmosphere is necessarily profaned by the sound of music and the soft laughter of dancers.
It is possible to report that one of the liveliest battles in St. Nick's history occurred only a few days ago in the midst of the Caribbean Carnival—a dance sponsored by an Eighth Avenue social club. Nobody ever found out exactly how it started, but one minute 2,700 people were swaying rhythmically and the next most of them seemed to be punching each other in the nose. Bottles flew, a fire escape collapsed, dumping retreating dancers to the pavement, and chairs sailed through the air. The cops lugged 10 contestants off to the hospital, took three to jail and spent a busy hour clearing the hall. When silence finally fell the floor was littered with broken glass and smashed tables. "It looks," said Police Captain Anthony Sadlo Jr., in honest admiration, "as though a cyclone has been through here."
In chess as in poker, pole vaulting and the prize ring, the ability to press an opponent—to look cool and apply heat—is a priceless talent. Soviet news releases indicate that it was this sort of psychological leverage which enabled Vassily Smyslov, a gangling, redheaded, 36-year-old Muscovite to seize the world's chess championship from his fellow countryman, Mikhail Botvinnik last week after two months of nerve-racking play in Moscow. It was not, however, the only weapon Smyslov used in ending Botvinnik's nine-year reign; the new champion is an old campaigner with a persistent and adventurous mind.
Smyslov's father was also a chess master, so the boy began the game at 6, beat his paternal instructor when he was 12, and at 14 began an intensive study of the game in a state youth center. For years he lost many matches he might well have won if he had stuck to a conservative approach to the game, but he revolted at "dogmatism," "experimented" continually and eventually achieved what he calls a "creative" or "mystic" view of chess. This—and remarkable poise and self-control-stood him in good stead during the wearing 22-game championship match with Botvinnik.
From the beginning he laid daily plans to seize the initiative from his opponent. They worked, and through most of the match Smyslov—like a pitcher staying in front of the batter—had a decided psychological advantage. He utilized it further by making every move with an air of supreme confidence—and by strolling silently up and down the hall while Botvinnik contemplated his next move. In all Smyslov walked a hundred miles—a mile an hour for a hundred hours. Botvinnik, in the words of a Soviet commentator became "depressed." How did the new champion explain his devastating coolness? "I do not," he said, "expect more from fate than it gives me."
A FEW KEYS TO OLE DIZ
A good many millions of people have listened to Dizzy Dean in the years since he ceased subjecting baseball to internal stresses as a pitcher and began subjecting it to external strain as an interpreter and broadcaster. In that time, it is quite probable, several thousand have learned to understand him. Now that Ole Diz is being heard from coast to coast however (Game of the Week on 190 CBS television stations), it becomes mandatory, both as a journalistic duty and an act of simple kindness, to offer a few keys to the Dean mind—which, like those of Einstein, Freud and other original thinkers, is more easily admired than really fathomed.
Ole Diz, of course, speaks his own brand of English. Being aware of this, however, and understanding what Ole Diz is saying are two different things, so the following lexical references may prove invaluable:
KARM—a verb in "watchin' the ball karm off'n the wall," otherwise spelled "carom."
SCORN—surname of the New York Yankees' first baseman, Bill Skowron.
AIRS—miscues, as in "No runs, no hits, no airs."
STROK—a good pitch, opposite of "ball."
WARSHDUN—our nation's capital and home of the "Warshdun Senators."
SEMTH—the inning between the sixth and the eighth.
GARNTEE—an assurance of good faith, as in "Ah'll garntee ya he was tho'in real hard."
ROT—opposite of left and also opposite of wrong.
SWANG—either present or past tense of verb "swing."
JOE-ZY—a Spanish name which is spelled "Jose."
The listener who makes use of this glossary will also be aided by the knowledge that Dean's range of coherent pronunciation is limited to one syllable. Though he does occasionally attempt multisyllabic sounds he normally telescopes words to a more functional size. Thus "Bauer" becomes simply "Bar"—which is not to be confused with "b'ar," an animal, as in "Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three," a snatch of a song Ole Diz may sing if the game is dull enough and he has momentarily forgotten the second verse of The Wabash Cannonball.
Dean's words, of course, are not designed for conventional syntax and should be used simply as clues to the Dean thought processes, which include all the congenital prejudices of a onetime pitcher. Ole Diz, for instance, still hates batters, and he can be thrown into a tantrum at the sight of one of them refusing a visor-high waste pitch. "Ah cain't," he is likely to cry, "see how a man can he'p from swangin' at a tho lak 'at." He also feels that it is the simple duty of all outfielders and infielders to catch every ball which comes their way even though it may be hit with atomic force.
The above constitutes only a basic primer for those who follow the weekly Dean Commentaries. There is still plenty of unexplored wordage for anyone who would like to engage in the thrill of recognizing a new Deanism—a thrill not unlike that known to skin-divers who find themselves face to face with some rare specimen of cuttlefish far below the surface of everyday existence.
SOME VINTAGE THOUGHTS
Some two dozen vintage cars were gathered in New York's Rockefeller Plaza one fine spring morning last week, for the second Anglo-American Vintage Car Rally. They dated from 1908 to 1929, and they had been restored to a glittering freshness. Their wheels were enormous, their paint jobs brilliant, their running boards as broad as the piazza of an old-fashioned summer hotel. Their trappings of brass or chrome were of an almost Gothic splendor; and they attracted crowds that not even a fire on the 33rd floor of the RCA Building could distract.
A modernist on SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S staff fell into conversation with one of the antiquarians present and came back to the office with some new slants, to wit:
The old cars' strong, clean lines and incisive angles made some of their descendants rolling interminably past in the nearby streets look like gelatin-molds-on-wheels. People turned away from the fine sight reluctantly, obviously filled with nostalgia and delight.
This nostalgia for good design has grown in recent years. It accounts for much of the quick popularity of the simple, clean-cut Thunderbird and the acceptance of the new long, straight lines of some of Detroit's 1957 models. It explains in part the whole world's persistent fondness for the jeep. The nostalgia market (which the antiquarian seems to consider the good taste market) is growing, and some day a car manufacturer with taste and courage is going to make a killing in it.
Perhaps the easiest spot for the kill would be in the design of small cars. The need for them grows and grows, and so does the demand; yet no one small car has ever been a conspicuous success in this country. Why? Maybe it's because virtually every small car has tried to look like a miniature version of a big car, and has managed only to look cramped and clumsy, and to be a rolling admission that its owner has dropped behind the Joneses.
The supersuccessful small car, perhaps, will be one that the modest can buy because its price is low, and the rich because it is perky, tough and amusing; and the millions in between can buy it for the one reason and pretend that they bought it for the other.
He leads with nothing much to spare,
But watch his speed diminish.
He's taking time to comb his hair—
In case of a photo finish.
—F. E. WHITE
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
NASCAR, disturbed by withdrawals of independent drivers who found it discouraging (and too costly) to compete against "super stocks," roadblocked the souped-up models by outlawing double carburetors and fuel injection systems. In future, stock cars will be limited to single four-barrel carburetors.
The rare case of an umpire calling the "phantom" double play (SI, Aug. 6) sparked a rhubarb in Yankee Stadium when Pivot Man Bobby Richardson left the bag before taking throw from third base for relay to first. Jackie Jensen of Red Sox was called safe at second, and Billy Martin was ejected for squawking.
In Chattanooga a softball league with groups sponsored by such firms as the Du Pont Co. and Peerless Woolen Mills got a new team: the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Chattanooga's Klavern No. 1 will sponsor the team as "a public relations move," because, according to a Klan spokesman, "we have a bad name."
The athletic department of the University of Nebraska faced a round of rising costs: the Board of Regents raised tuition $70 a year for Nebraskans, $150 for out-of-staters. In terms of 80 full and 59 partial athletic scholarships, the tuition hike will cost the athletic department an extra $10,000 a year.