After three weeks of major league baseball the Washington Senators—short of hitters and short of pitchers—had lost 16 of their first 20 games and were in last place in the American League. By the immemorial logic of organized baseball, therefore, the Washington club fired Manager Charley Dressen. To his desolate and hopeless post was named Harry (Cookie) Lavagetto, oldtime Brooklyn Dodger hero, oldtime Dodger coach in Charley Dressen's day as Brooklyn manager.
Lavagetto was reluctant to succeed his old boss. "This is sickening," said he.
"This is baseball," said Charley Dressen.
May 19, 1957
THE U.S. WINCED
There is scarcely a man, woman or child in this country who has not played at one time or another with a baseball, and who, as a result, is not instantly able to imagine what it might be like to be struck in the face by one. Last week the whole country winced—perhaps the more so because the man whose pain it felt in empathy was a fellow it could hardly have helped but admire and applaud: Herbert Jude Score, the Cleveland Indians' pleasant, handsome and dazzling young lefthander. Since time immemorial the U.S. has always had the fast ball pitcher; for this generation Score fills the role which Bobby Feller and Walter Johnson filled in theirs. At 23, he is also something more: an intelligent, self-critical, genuinely religious young man.
Score was the obvious pitcher to start against the New York Yankees in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium last week: the Indians' best against the champions of the world. He looked tall, whiplike and relaxed as usual as he took the mound. Then before the game was really under way and while hundreds were still shuffling along ramps toward their seats, it happened. Score threw a low, streaking fast ball to the second batter, Gil McDougald. McDougald swung in the same split second and the hard, white ball rifled back, struck the pitcher in the right eye and bounced toward third base.
Score fell as though he had been clubbed with a wagon tongue. The marvelous discipline of the game prevailed for another second or so—McDougald ran toward first and the Cleveland third baseman fielded the ball and threw it to first base for the curiously inconsequential out. Then players converged on the fallen pitcher. McDougald took one look and felt ill. Score, still conscious, was lying with his body in a defensive embryonic curve, bleeding frighteningly from the face. Amid an awful hush the loudspeakers called for doctors and a half dozen of them began hurrying across the grass.
The fallen man's face was numb. He could not be sure, he said later, that all his teeth were not knocked out or that his face had not been shattered or that & the eye was not put out. He prayed to St. Jude, whose name he bears and whose intercession Roman Catholics invoke in "desperate cases." He was loaded onto a stretcher and carried, in a funereal rite, slowly off the field.
For all the terrible implications of his injury (six years ago Cardinal Pitcher Bobby Slaybough had to have an eye removed after he was hit by a batted ball), Score never lost his poise. In the Cleveland dressing room he said, "Now I know how Fullmer felt." At Lakeside Hospital he said, "I never had pain like this before," but also, turning his good eye around the small room to which he had been assigned, he attempted a small joke: "I may come out of this with claustrophobia." His face was badly cut and swollen, his eye hemorrhaging, he had a broken nose. He lay alone with ice packs around his head in the darkened room, while telegrams, telephone calls and letters poured in from all over the country.
If he worried, he showed no sign. He did his best, through the general manager, Hank Greenberg, to calm Yankee McDougald—who had cried, "If Herb goes blind I'll quit the game." And by week's end he had some good news: his brain was undamaged, and since the bones of his skull had absorbed most of the blow, his eye would still be useful. There was no telling, however, just how much vision he would retain, and no telling, either, how well he would be able to pitch if he is able again to relaunch his career—every pitcher must be off balance at the instant of delivering his throw to the plate, every pitcher knows he is in danger of batted balls, but few have had to bear the sure knowledge of just how badly the hard sphere they throw can hurt them. In Whittier, Calif. a cook named Ernest Robbins offered one of his eyes to the pitcher "because I love baseball," but as Herb Score surely knew, nobody could win the battles ahead for him but himself. He seemed tranquil as he waited. "It's all," he said, almost soothingly, "part of the game."
FAME STRIKES OUT
This will be a short story illustrating the perishability of fame. Tony Cuccinello, now a Chicago White Sox coach, drove Manager Al Lopez to Sox park the other morning, expounding as he went on White Sox chances for the pennant. Carried away with fervor, he drove through a stop sign at 25 mph. Naturally, there was a police car parked at the intersection.
The police car honked Tony to the curb and a fuzzy-chinned young cop walked up to his window. "Had a little trouble seeing that stop sign, didn't you?" he said.
"Yeh, I sure did," said Tony. "I'm Tony Cuccinello of the White Sox."
"Tony Cuccinello of the White Sox."
The cop looked painfully unimpressed. His partner strolled up. "This guy says he's Tony Cuccereno of the White Sox," the young cop said.
"Cuccinello," said Tony through the window.
"Oh, yeh," said the second cop. "Pleased to meetcha." He turned to the younger cop and said, "That's Tony Cuccinello. Sox right fielder." To Tony he said: "Watch out for them stop signs, pal."
Tony said he sure would and drove off. But he was a muttering man. "Cuccereno!" Tony Cuccinello would rather have had a ticket.
VACUUM AT CHICAGO
For generations football has not only influenced the atmosphere, conversation and social customs of U.S. college life but has provided Young Turks on innumerable campuses with a wonderful target; the college rebel who is not against football, in fact, can hardly expect to attract much interest in his more profound schemes for reshaping the world. In the 18 years since Robert Hutchins banned football at the University of Chicago, however, there has been no point or profit at all in crying out against it, and this spring, as was doubtless inevitable, a new fashion in dissidence was born. Six daring young men rushed into the Hutchins-built vacuum, crying that they wanted football back. Last week, as a result, the campus was lively indeed.
Like all revolutionists, the fearless six needed a symbol, a standard about which to rally volunteers—in fact, they needed the biggest bass drum in the world, the 8-foot 2-inch monster which was presented to Chicago back in its days of football glory by Carl D. Greenleaf (Class of '99), then president of the C. G. Conn band instrument company of Elkhart, Ind. From 1922 to 1939 the drum—known as Big Bertha—was the very thudding heart of Chicago's cheering sections, but when football died it was laid away under the stands at Stagg Field. According to legend, the drum grew faintly radioactive during World War II, a period when atomic scientists worked near its storage space. After that it was returned to the Conn company, was eventually rediscovered and adopted, with delight, by—naturally enough—the University of Texas.
How to get it? The revolutionists discovered that the U. of C. administration, which is laboring with an un-Hutchinslike desire to build school spirit, was delighted to help them. Dean of Students Robert Strozier telephoned his counterpart at Texas and arranged to borrow the drum. Four of the six daring young men scratched together $140, got a used Ford and a trailer and headed south; they loaded Big Bertha and drove her to Chicago without pausing for sleep. Last week they staged a parade to dramatize their cause, and since a good many of their fellow students react to Big Bertha the way the W.C.T.U. might react to an 8-foot bottle of booze, a certain pandemonium reigned.
The antifootballers, in fact, got to work before Big Bertha appeared. The rebels piled wood for a bonfire at Stagg Field, but before the scheduled demonstration the forces of conservatism poured kerosene on it and burned it. When Big Bertha was trundled past dorms and fraternity houses hundreds of students rushed out and fell in behind; others, however, fired Roman candles at the venerable drum (they missed) and lobbed stink bombs, water bombs and bags of flour at the paraders. One girl stood transfixed, arms out, thumbs down as the noisy, jostling, singing crowd went past and another student waved a sign which bore the scornful legend: "Football, Frats and Fornication."
A new fire was kindled at the football field, nevertheless, cheerleaders leaped and Big Bertha was thumped enthusiastically. It was hard not to speculate, after the clamor had finally died down, on what precedents might have been set at Chicago, at what might eventually happen to campus life if chess, say, were abolished at UCLA.
AMATEUR IN LIMBO
The United States Golf Association defines an amateur golfer as "one who plays the game solely as a non-remunerative or nonprofit-making sport." USGA rules add that "accepting expenses, in money or otherwise, in connection with a golf competition or exhibition (except from one on whom the player is normally dependent)" is enough to lose a man his amateur status.
Both of these rules are apropos in the case of Harvie Ward, the prepossessing young San Franciscan who has twice won the national amateur. Ward is a salesman for a San Francisco automobile agency operated by a highly successful dealer named Eddie Lowery. Ken Venturi, who came within the twang of a nerve of winning the Masters a year ago, is also a Lowery employee. When Lowery was asked by the California income tax people to explain deductions he had taken for business expenses involving golf, Lowery maintained that he had spent some $50,000 a year on golf promotion. He charged off such items as trips to the British Amateur and all top U.S. competitions; $1,500 for a portrait of the 1913 National Open champion, Francis Ouimet, for presentation to a New York golf club; gambling in Calcutta pools, etc. Moreover, he said, he had paid the expenses of Harvie Ward to the Canadian and U.S. Amateur tournaments in 1954.
Golf-minded San Franciscans are inclined to agree that Lowery's golf promotion is a legitimate business deduction, since it has helped make his auto agency one of the most successful in the country. Ward has been a true charmer on the golf course and his visits around the country undoubtedly initiate sales for Lowery. So ingratiating is Harvie that the USGA has awarded San Francisco the 1958 U.S. Amateur championships partly in honor of his two U.S. Amateur victories.
When Lowery told his story to the grand jury peeking into his tax difficulties, he created a problem for the USGA. By their own definition, Ward may no longer be an amateur. The executive committee of the association sent Ward a questionnaire which he answered by wire. Then they invited him to appear before their next regularly scheduled meeting, in Chicago, June 7, to amplify his answers.
Until he has appeared and explained his position, Harvie Ward must remain in a sort of limbo somewhere between pro and amateur. Indeed, in the unutterably confused state of amateur rules interpretation, he may be there after the hearing. Unless, of course, the USGA seizes the Ward case as an opportunity for clear definitions.
Is an amateur simply one who can afford the time to master his sport and who has the money to pay his own way completely, e.g., curlers, several polo players and a millionaire golfer or two? Or may he also be a fellow who postpones a conventional career to devote himself to sport for a while and lets others pick up his tabs, e.g., most amateur tennis stars and quite a few track and field men?
Possibly the oddest ambivalence in amateur sports is the college basketball player, who can be a semipro for three months during the summer without damage to his amateur status the other nine months of the year.
The USGA need answer only for golf, but it has a chance to carve a deep principle for amateurism in general.
AMBASSADOR WITH JAVELIN
If Indonesia produces an Olympic champion anytime in the near future, you can blame Bill Miller for it. Miller, who competed in the Olympics at Helsinki for the United States and placed second in the javelin with a 237-foot 8¾-inch cast, has been touring the East as a representative of the International Educational Exchange Program of the U.S. State Department. He has found considerable enthusiasm and very little know-how in his travels. Malayans insisted to him that only early-morning exercise was useful, Indians felt that a runner who gulps air through the mouth admits perilous germs and that the best way to run is with a handkerchief stuffed in the mouth. Miller managed to change a lot of minds by patiently describing successful western practices.
Miller also discovered some spear-throwers in Borneo, who toss the local spear—much heavier than a javelin-well over 200 feet. And on the island of Nias, off the west coast of Sumatra, he discovered young men who woo their ladies by high-jumping with a takeoff from a rock. With the help of a good two-foot step-up, they can sail free for another seven feet. The highest jumper on the island of Nias gets the girl of his choice. Whether the Nias boys can jump that high for a gold medal naturally remains to be seen.
Young Asian athletes have the same interests as young American athletes, Miller discovered. One of the questions he heard most often was: "Is Marilyn Monroe as beautiful as her pictures?"
Said Miller, who has never seen Marilyn but who, after all, represents the Department of State: "We think she is."
Bob Scheffing, freshman manager of the Chicago Cubs, sat alone in the dugout staring vacantly out toward the playing field where his players were taking a much needed batting practice. The season was not even a month old and already the Cubs were exactly where most people predicted they would be in September—last.
"Manager Scheffing," a young reporter asked, "do you mind if I ask you a hypothetical question?"
"No," said the manager blankly, his eyes never leaving the field.
"If you had your choice of any one player from another team, which player would you choose?"
For a few seconds it was as though Scheffing had not heard the question. Then his eyes began to focus on an idea and his mouth hinted at a smile. "Why, I suppose I'd take Hank Aaron," he said slowly. "He's only 23 and already a fine hitter. He's got marvelous wrist action."
"What about some of the Yankees?"
"The Yankees?" His voice rose with the words. "The Yankees have some wonderful men. There's Mantle and Berra, of course, but do you know what fellow I like? Billy Martin. He's a good hitter, better than most people give him credit for." Scheffing was excited now. "The Yankees have good pitching, too. There's Ford and Larsen.... Do you know they've got two excellent pitchers they haven't even used yet? And what a bench. Coleman, Collins, Slaughter.... What a bench. Gee, what a team!"
For a moment Scheffing was managing the Yankees and men such as Mantle, Berra and Ford. Then the moment passed and he was back with the Cubs. Scheffing rose slowly and turned his attention to the day's game and a lineup which read: Kindall, Banks, Walls," Long, Moryn, Bolger, Winceniak, Neeman and Kaiser.
Seeing is believing;
You've heard this, I assume.
Well, here's a boxer weaving—
This time complete with loom.
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Challenge from England
Nine determined yachtsmen from England's Royal Yacht Squadron have finally made the challenge expected from them: for the first time in 21 years England will seek to regain the America's Cup from the United States. Proposed time and place: September 1958, off Newport, R.I. Competition will be in 12-meter yachts.
•More Trouble for Texas A&M
Texas A&M, serving a two-year NCAA probation for illegal football recruiting, was barred from the Cotton Bowl last year. Now, with the penalty nearly completed, the Southwest Conference has rebuked the Aggies for basketball recruiting violations. Should the NCAA tack on another probation Bear Bryant's strong team may miss out on another Cotton Bowl.
•Not in the Family
Boxing, lumped with other professional sports for a hearing before the House Antitrust Subcommittee, should be considered on its own demerits, says Rep. Kenneth B. Keating: "The abuses within that sport are far distant from the problems of the professional team sports." Boxing, he says, should be tackled later.
Troy Ruttman, practicing in a Zink Special, zipped around Indianapolis Speedway at 142.4 mph, indicating reduction in engine size after last year's accidents will have little effect on speed of race entries. Unofficial record: 146.6 mph.