BASEBALL IN THE STRETCH
Redleg fans hanged Manager Birdie Tebbets in effigy from a trestle at Granville Road and Delta Avenue in Cincinnati to celebrate their team's loss of six straight. "If I'd been there," said Birdie glumly, on getting the news, "I'd have helped them." The Chicago White Sox's unsung Bob Keegan startled everyone in Comiskey Park, not excluding himself, by pitching (see below) the season's first no-hit game.
The 1957 baseball races had a rich peppery flavor of their own as August drew to a close and the teams came laboring into the home stretch; but if tempers were rising and nerves frazzling, according to traditional pattern, the teams were not exactly jostling shoulder to shoulder as they left the final turn. The National League contest, which had been so nerve-rackingly close for so long, now seemed reasonably predictable—at least the gamblers thought so, for you could get 7 to 1 last week if you were willing to bet against Milwaukee. A bet against the Yankees, at a time when their lead was approximately the same as Milwaukee's, was priced at 10 to 1. The most exciting competition was going on further down the line: between Boston and Detroit for third in the American League and St. Louis-Brooklyn for second in the National League. And August might yet be remembered best for an individual war—timeless Ted Williams' stirring struggle (.378 and 31 home runs) with Mickey Mantle (.376 and 32 home runs) for supremacy at the plate.
In a larger sense, the most provocative development of the month—perhaps the most provocative development in many years—was major league baseball's invasion of the Far West (see page 54). When the New York Giants definitely decided to go to San Francisco, the shape of baseball changed overnight; the Giants all but scuttled the Pacific Coast League by their decision and left a vacuum which made further extension of big league baseball the speculative talk, not only of Los Angeles, but of such thriving metropolises as Seattle and Portland. Back East, Mayor Phillip I. Bayt of Indianapolis invited the Washington Senators to move to the "boom city of the Midwest," and it was hard not to wonder if there were going to be enough big league teams to go around.
September 2, 1957
The mood of innovation seeped to the dugout level too: Paul Richards, manager of the Baltimore Orioles, was teaching two of his pitchers, Righthander George Zuverink and Lefty Ken Lehman, to play first base. He had, he believed, an answer to the platoon system, for by alternating them between the mound and first he could keep both in the game for nine innings and juggle them back and forth at will.
August, in fact, was a month in which anything was beginning to seem possible. When an 88-pound Mexican boy named Angel Macias won the Little League World Series for Monterrey by pitching a perfect game at Williamsport, Pa. (thereby prompting the president of Mexico to invite the whole team to the national palace), a wonderful rumor swept Pittsburgh—that the eighth-place Pirates had immediately offered him a $50,000 bonus. Angel is 12 years old.
Robert Charles Keegan is a 36-year-old Chicagoan who is sometimes called upon to work afternoons and other times, on only fairly short notice, nights. In some people this might lead to mild occupational tension, but as a Major league pitcher Bob Keegan has come to take the uncertainty for granted. It was from the Chicago papers, one day last week, that he learned that either he or Jack Harshman would pitch for the White Sox the following night.
"I didn't know whether I was pitching or not," says Keegan. "But I went through my pitching-day routine anyway. To bed early—before midnight—and up late."
He rose about 10:30, ate a good breakfast of ham and eggs, read the morning papers, watched a soap opera on television, dipped into a paperback novel called The Barbarians. After lunch he tried to take an hour's nap, but after 15 minutes his neighbor's bulldog came in and bounced on him, so he didn't get the rest his schedule called for. "But I felt good," Keegan says, "I felt good all day."
It wasn't until late afternoon, at the ball park, that Keegan learned that he, and not Harshman, would pitch the second game of the twi-night double-header against the Senators. Warming up with Coach Ray Berres, he had the pitcher's not infrequent pre-game feeling that he "had nothing."
"My motion was bad. I was rushing it and I didn't have a good follow-through. Berres was disgusted with me. He didn't say anything, but he made faces that expressed his view."
But by the eighth inning everybody in Comiskey Park knew that Bob Keegan was on his way to a no-hitter. Keegan knew it too—he could see the scoreboard (Senators: 0 hits) as well as anybody else. He had disposed of 19 batters, given only two walks. In the eighth, Second Baseman Nellie Fox made a one-handed stop of a hard ground ball, and the crowd sighed.
"I was very relaxed at the start of the ninth," Keegan says, "I knew we had a six-run lead and that we'd win the game even if I didn't get the no-hitter." Pinch Hitter Jim Lemon led off the inning and grounded out on the first pitch, a low slider. Another pinch hitter, Julio Bequer, came up.
"He's supposed to be a low-ball, first-ball hitter, so I knew I had to keep the ball up and that I had to get it in a good spot." Bequer fouled off the first two pitches, took two balls and struck out on a changeup.
Eddie Yost stepped up—and Keegan remembers, "Something in the back of my mind told me I was going to get him out. I remembered he hit into a double play in the sixth on a fast ball, so I gave him one, a little high because I think he likes them down a little. Then I gave him the slider." Yost swung and hit a foul pop up near the stands, and the White Sox first baseman squeezed it in his big glove. At 36, Bob Keegan (9 won, 6 lost for the season) had pitched the only no-hitter in the majors this year.
Back home after midnight, Keegan sat up for a while with his wife Lois over sandwiches and milk.
BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE
Plunging into Lake Erie at Sandusky, Ohio on a recent Saturday morning, Dr. Harry Briggs swam north all day, all night and all the next morning, and finally waded ashore late Sunday afternoon at Point Pelee, Canada. He had covered 30 miles in 34 hours 55 minutes, which is not fast time. "Someone else can set the speed record," he says. "I just wanted to get across."
Dr. Briggs is not a physician but a Ph.D. who teaches history at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, a compact, blue-eyed, crew-cut man of 36. He swam more for the adventure of it than anything else, and the exploit cost him money but didn't make him any. The attendants in the boats which accompanied him were sailors and marines—Briggs is a lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve—and the Johnson outboard motor company supplied five motors for use on the guide boats.
One problem for distance swimmers, unsuspected by outsiders, is what to think about as they swim. "I arranged for the people in the guide boat to give me a wigwag signal every 15 minutes, meaning that I should change strokes from one side to the other. I figured I would make the trip in 30 hours and so would see this signal 120 times. I decided to keep track: one down and 119 to go; two down and 118 to go and so on to the end. And I did keep track as far as 80 down and 40 to go. Then my right arm went bad and I could swim only on my left side, and there was no more need for signals.
"I also occupied my mind by working out simple mathematical problems, and all the way across I kept reminding myself: when you get near the shore you must remember to ask for your swim trunks and put them on." (Distance swimmers usually wear no trunks, chiefly because even the slight constriction of the waistband may help to bring on cramps.)
"In all those 30 miles I came across only two objects in the water: a fish net anchored to the bottom 300 yards off Kelley's Island and a very dead fish which I could smell for five minutes before I got to it.
"Every hour I took some nourishment. I drank a lot of tangerine juice with dextrose added and once, treading water, I ate a Clark bar. I needed something hot, and for that I had one of the Gerber baby foods—strained, chicken, mixed with something to make it a liquid so I could drink it from a coke bottle. It helped a lot.
"After about three hours, the water begins to affect your eyes and your vision gets cloudy. (I threw away my goggles after the first 20 minutes because they leaked.) Toward the end, I couldn't see the small boat beside me and had to guide myself by the big cruiser where they had the galley. The blurred vision didn't worry me; it has happened before on other long swims. It clears up in a day or so.
"Once, early Sunday morning, they let me pull alongside the boat up ahead, just for the psychological lift. It's tough to keep swimming hour after hour and never catch up.
"The worst spot came near the end, naturally. I asked one of the marines, 'How far?' and he said, 'Four miles.' An hour later I asked another one, and he said, 'Four and a half miles.' That was a little hard on morale.
"I kept thinking of that cruiser, and the bunk in the cabin, and getting into the bunk and going to sleep. Also I imagined myself climbing out on the bank and beginning to cry because it was finally over, and the idea was so real that I began to cry right there in the water, with miles yet to swim.
"When the horn on the cruiser began to blow, and blow, and blow, I was in a kind of delirium, but I heard it and knew that we were nearly there and that I was going to make it. Then my foot touched the bottom, and I remembered to ask for my swim trunks and put them on. My eyesight was just about gone by that time. I couldn't see the people on the bank as I waded out. But I heard them cheering."
The $25 Pony Cart—in which little boys in sailor suits and little girls in straw hats with ball fringe on the brim used to ride down country lanes—is a thing of the past. Sailor suits and fringe-trimmed hats are hard to find nowadays, and country lanes themselves are getting scarcer; and the $25 pony that used to draw the cart cannot be found at all. What you can find, though it sounds improbable, is a single Shetland pony which sold, not long ago, for $56,000. It was the highest price ever paid in the history of the breed.
The pony's name is C-Jo's Topper. He is a 5-year-old sorrel stallion, with a white mane and tail, and he stands 41 inches high. He is not, of course, the stocky, stiff-haired kind of Shetland pony that makes a fine children's pet. He is a show pony, as delicately made as any Thoroughbred or Arabian horse, and he steps high in fancy harness, drawing a little buggy around a show ring. That is, he did, from the time he was six months old until quite recently, and over the years he acquired a vast collection of honors: 83 top awards, including five grand championships at various shows, the national grand championship of 1956 and 28 blue ribbons for solo performances. Because of his show record and his topflight pedigree, Topper's stud fee is $1,000, and his stud book is full through July 1958.
The sale at which Topper brought his record price took place at an auction in Perry, Okla. on a day when the temperature reached 107°. A five-man syndicate (four Louisianans, one Georgian) did the buying and were glad to get Topper at the price; they were prepared to pay more. Four of the members paid their shares over to the fifth, who then made out a single check for $56,000. Topper's former owners, Mr. and Mrs. Clifton C. Teague of Sherman, Texas, wanted it that way. They felt, reasonably enough, that a photostatic copy of the check would make a nice memento.
But what about the stocky, amiable children's pony, Topper's more muscular and less elegant cousin? Well, there are more of those around than ever before, and the demand for them is steady. (Pony prices used to drop off in the winter, when pony-ride concessions shut down and sold off their animals, but they don't any more.) The suburban market is booming. So is the giveaway market: ponies make good prizes for children's contests and television shows. They don't cost much, yet parents accept them happily as prestige items and children ecstatically as dreams-come-true. Prices range from $250 to $300, and nice carts with wicker bodies are available at $275. This is, admittedly, a considerable advance beyond the prices of 1902. But one thing hasn't changed at all over the years: maintenance. A handful of oats still goes a long way with a pony. Give him plenty of hay and water, and he lives happily on next to nothing, just as he did in the time of Queen Victoria.
Stirling Moss, England's leading sports-car driver, is a cool sort of fellow and a very competent man at the wheel of a howling-fast automobile—a fortnight ago, in fact, he beat the all-but-unbeatable Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina in Italy's Grand Prix of Pescara. He is 27 years old but seems older, partly because he is bald and partly because he has an air of reserve; when one meets him it is impossible to be surprised by the fact that he drifted into racing only after failing to satisfy earlier ambitions to become 1) a dentist and 2) a hotel manager. Also, Moss is a small man—he stands only 5 feet 7. This combination of size and temperament brought him from Europe to do a job of work last week at Utah's white, smooth Bonneville Salt Flats.
A curious, hopped-up version of the English MG sports car—a machine especially tailored to fit his body-awaited him. The car was shaped like a tear and painted light blue; it stood only three feet off the ground, its power plant was placed amidships and in front of it, beneath a Plexiglas bubble, was just space enough to allow Moss to recline almost supine, like a man on a chaise longue, and drive. The car had only one brake, a single disc mounted inboard to apply pressure on the rear wheels; a body flap was built to open and supply it with cooling air when applied. The supercharged and "modified" engine built around a little four-cylinder MG block (and cooled by two radiators) was formidable indeed; the tiny car's gear-shifting speeds: 59 miles an hour for first to second, 103 for second to third, 159 from third to top.
The MG factory had built the "Experimental 181" to break the world Class F record for the flying mile, 203.9 miles an hour, set by an earlier MG. Moss set out for Utah, only minutes after his dramatic victory over Fangio, as phlegmatically as a plumber leaving to install a new type of dishwasher in a model kitchen. He made a four-hour drive to Rome, got a plane for London at 4 o'clock in the morning, duly arrived, went to his office, spent the day involved in paper work, caught a transatlantic plane, went soundly to sleep and—after various plane changes—arrived in Utah at 10 the next night. He went to bed and to sleep again, hopped out at 5 and reported briskly for work.
Delays ensued—the gleaming salt was moist from rain, and three days finally elapsed before the test was made. Moss was unperturbed. He has, he says, never been nervous before a race. "I would worry only if a vulture plopped down on the bumper before the race. You see, I'm very superstitious." He seemed absolutely uninterested in the condition of the hot little car. "My job is to drive. I really know very little about what the others are doing."
He drove up and down the 10-mile course a few times to get the feel of the car and then, at 6:30 in the evening, went yowling off toward the measured mile in earnest. The car refused to stay in third gear; he matter-of-factly shifted from second to high and pressed on. In a half hour he was back with five new records: 245.64 mph for one kilometer, 245.11 for the flying mile, 243.08 for five kilometers, 235.69 for five miles, 224.70 for 10 kilometers.
He was delighted when he heard the official time, largely because he had been guessing his speed while driving. "I knew I was going roughly 240 miles an hour," he said. "I've never gone nearly so fast before but that's what it seemed like to me. I wasn't far off, was I?" He climbed out, methodically set himself to the task of packing his bags and then headed east again. He had more business in Europe.
SONG OF THE ROAD
Carol rode on my motorbike—
She rode in back of me—
I hit a bump at 65
And rode on Carolessly.
—JAMES R. NESBITT
CURRENT WEEK AND WHAT'S AHEAD
•Call of the Wild
Because of their "deadly effectiveness" in calling ducks and geese, the Department of Interior banned electronic bird-calling devices (mostly well-amplified recordings of the sounds birds make while eating) for the coming hunting season. Penalty for their use: $500 or six months in jail or both.
•Poet of the West
Although Pete Rademacher may not accept the IBC's offer to fight in Madison Square Garden ("I kind of lean away from them"), Promoter Jack Hurley, Seattle's leading prose poet, thinks Pete's boxing future could be bright. Sings Hurley: "He's as confident as Einstein doing long division."
•Hope in the Isles
The British, after a long period of austerity in their annual track meets with Russia, think they see prosperity ahead. They lost the meet again last week, but by only 26 points. Britons dominated the running events and even did surprisingly well in the field. "At the European championships next August," said one expert, "Britain is going to be the longest thorn in Russia's side."
•Bud vs. the Bug
Bud Wilkinson, the football coach who thinks of everything, brooding about the havoc Asian Flu could wreak on a football team, has arranged to have his Oklahoma squad inoculated any day now.