There has never been a Wagner Act for prizefighters, and in this enlightened age most of them remain patient and obedient vassals of the manager and the promoter; they are considered muscular children and are expected to speak when spoken to, train hard, engage in combat when ordered and accept disappointing' financial arrangements cheerfully. The fighter with temerity enough, or brains enough, to buck the system can expect to go hungry; even so great a champion as Rocky Marciano dumbly submitted to the whims of an Al Weill. But for years, Sugar Ray Robinson, a man of airy and daring selfishness, has beaten the rulers of boxing's nether world at their own slippery games; last week with consummate arrogance he put the squeeze on Jim Norris himself and made him spit dollars.
The middleweight champion's ironic grab at Mr. Big's pocketbook concerned, of course, his upcoming battle at Yankee Stadium with Welterweight Champion Carmen Basilio. It began with a gesture that has made many a promoter's blood run cold before; Sugar quit training and publicly announced that the fight—which is expected to gross a million dollars—was off. Norris, he stated, had not consulted him in contracting for closed-circuit theater television with Theatre Network Television, Inc., despite an "ancilliary" clause in his contract which, he said, gave him the right to participate in the deal. A competing company—Teleprompter Corporation—had offered him a minimum of $250,000 (although it had offered none to Carmen Basilio) and he wouldn't move a muscle until he got it.
Norris seemed genuinely astounded. Most fighters, particularly at the age of 37, do not carp at million-dollar gates. Robinson had already demanded 45% instead of 40% of the television returns, and had refused to sign in the first place until Basilio surrendered five of his 25%. The IBC had agreed to spread payment over three years to ease his tax problems. But Robinson was no less indignant for all that; Norris, he charged, had hurriedly signed with TNT even as he, Sugar, was clamoring for consideration of Teleprompter's offer. "I have telephoned Governor Harriman," he announced loftily. "This now deals with human rights." He added, darkly, that he was "absolutely not" training and later mused that he was being forced to take sleeping pills because of worry and strain.
September 8, 1957
Dramatically garbed in charcoal slacks and a white sport shirt edged in finest gold thread, he appeared, with Norris and a gesturing gaggle of lawyers, before the New York boxing commission. Chairman Julius Helfand refused to rule on "side agreements" and suggested that Sugar seek redress in the civil courts, but made it plain that Sugar could not duck out on the fight. Robinson instantly restated his position: "I am not refusing to fight. If my health permits [Sugar has been known to sicken before financially unsuitable battles] I will be ready, willing and able to fight. But if, on entering the ring, I see or hear of any television cameras...I'm walking right out of that ring."
When Norris fell ill of food poisoning a little later, however, and was lugged off to a hospital, Robinson reacted uncommonly like a man who sees an unopened money bag in danger of slipping into the ocean. "Don't worry, Jim," he said, soothingly, walking by the stretcher. "Everything will be all right." Doubtless these friendly words had less effect on Norris than painful memories of Robinson's sharp trading in the past—and, it seemed quite likely, some feeling that the IBC's legal position was less than unassailable. At any rate, after interminable conferences, TNT, Norris' chosen instrument, capitulated and offered Robinson a minimum guarantee of $250,000 to be underwritten by the IBC. Robinson (through George Gainford—a manager he keeps as most managers keep fighters) refused to accept it and slyly raised his demand to $300,000. "If this demand is confirmed," sputtered the IBC lawyer Sydney O. Friedman, "the IBC will promptly bring an action...for breach of contract."
Sugar was unimpressed; to his well-trained ears these angry sounds simply meant that the jackpot was almost ready to pay off. On the following afternoon, after a nine-day strike which will doubtless go down in boxing lore with the rape at Shelby, he permitted the IBC to guarantee him a television minimum of $255,000 (Basilio, who had earlier termed him an "arrogant and greedy" man, automatically became the beneficiary of a $110,000 minimum) or 45% of television returns—whichever is larger. Teleprompter Corporation was allowed to join TNT in televising the fight. Sugar Ray agreed, with princely good humor, to start training once more.
Six men sat on a dais in an auditorium in Washington, D.C. last week, listening to speakers who rose and addressed them from what is normally the audience. The listeners were officials of the Treasury Department, whose Internal Revenue Service, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division, makes regulations concerning interstate traffic in firearms and ammunition.
The bureaucrats were holding a public hearing on proposed changes in the regulations, and they heard plenty—from Senators, Congressmen, police officers and private citizens; and also from gun dealers, rifle associations, outdoor groups and dealers in antique guns. The hearing, scheduled to take place in a fairly large room, was moved to an auditorium in order to take care of the crowd.
The proposed changes include the requirement that a maker or importer stamp his name and address and a serial number on every firearm he handles; that dealers as well as manufacturers keep permanent records of the receipt and disposition of all firearms; that similar records be kept on pistol and revolver ammunition (.22-caliber rim fire ammunition excepted); and that over-the-counter sales of firearms and pistol and revolver ammunition involve the buyer's signing his name to a permanent record.
These proposals, along with the original regulations (which date from 1939) are meant to help police trace firearms and ammunition in criminal cases; and almost the only people who showed up to speak in favor of the proposals were a few police officials. They were far outnumbered by the anti-regulation crowd, some 350 strong, who made the hearing as lively as a carnival with laughter, cheers and applause.
They also made it perfectly serious with what they had to say. Adoption and enforcement of the new rulings, the gun people said, would throw a costly burden of record-keeping on the manufacturers and retailers. They said the proposals would not accomplish their aim because criminals could find all sorts of easy loopholes. They said the nuisance value of the requirements would discourage law-abiding citizens from buying firearms. They said the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms, guaranteed in the Constitution, was being infringed.
The talk went on for two days, while the men from the Internal Revenue Service sat and listened. Then the public hearing ended, but the record will be kept open for 30 days so that anyone who wishes to contribute further suggestions may do so in writing. After that, the book will be closed and the technical writers of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division, keeping in mind all that was said at the hearing, will write the new regulations. If the hearing had any results either way, they will show up then.
BOUNCE AVERAGES (CONT.)
Since the publication here about a month ago of the new baseball statistic—the Bounce Average of the major league umpire—some interesting facts have emerged along with the figures. For one thing, umpires seem to have slumps just like anybody else.
The early days of August saw only three players ejected in both leagues. It was not until almost a fortnight of this sort of thing that a good flow of clubhouse-bound traffic resumed. Now things seem to be back to normal with seven bounces in 10 days that enabled the leading thumbers in each league to hold comfortably to their first-place margins.
In the National, the Dascolis (umpiring teams bear the name of the senior member) thumbed out Johnny Podres and Don Newcombe (twice) to run their total to 30 for a B.A. (percentage of all men bounced) of .566, a gain of three points. In the American, the Paparellas likewise held on to the lead by bouncing Manager Paul Richards of Baltimore (Paul was also chased by the Summers outfit) and Coach Bob Swift of the Kansas City Athletics. The Ballanfants also bagged a manager, Fred Hutchinson of the Cardinals.
The American League standings remained unchanged with the Rommels, Summers and Berrys following the Paparellas in that order. In the National, the Ballanfants went into a second-place tie with the Gormans with eight bounces for a B.A. of .154. The Conlons remained in the cellar, trailing the first-place Dascolis by a full 23 bounces. The Dascolis, it will be recalled, were accused by Bobby Bragan of being the most thumb-happy umpires in the league. Bobby was later given the Big Bounce as manager of Pittsburgh. By coincidence, the Pirates haven't seen a thumb since.
A curious, erratic force plays through baseball, somewhat as the jet stream does through the upper air. (It may operate in other sports as well, but it isn't so noticeable.) When it catches a baseball player up and takes him for a ride, he starts doing all-but-unbelievable things. The most recent passenger on this lightning express is a left-handed hitter named Bob Hazle, a quiet, easy-drawling young man from Columbia, S.C. who, at the end of July, was batting .279 as an outfielder for Wichita in the American Association. Then the Milwaukee Braves called him up, and toward the end of August he had 32 base hits in 61 at bats and was carrying, like a benevolent monkey on his back, the highest batting average in the majors: .525.
Nowadays, little boys, self-conscious and solemn, offer him their most treasured comic books to be autographed, with fountain pens that go dry in mid-signature. His teammates call him Hurricane, in tribute to his power with a bat and perhaps in memory of the Hurricane Hazel that ripped up the Atlantic Seaboard a few seasons ago. For Bob Hazle it is a sudden and startling transition. Last winter he was selling real estate in Columbia, resting a troublesome knee injury, and wondering if he should give up baseball. He decided to try once more with Wichita this spring, and didn't start hitting until late in June.
"It's fantastic," he said, over a drugstore breakfast one day last week. He was talking about his whole situation, but mostly about the performance he has been turning in with his bat. "I'm just lucky. I'm just swinging, that's all. I know I can't keep going the way I have been. I don't expect to. I just hope I can keep hitting." Dressed in loafers, a sports jacket and the kind of shirt that doesn't need a tie, Hazle looks more like a knowledgeable and well-behaved minor league fan than a sensational major league hitter.
Now 26, Hazle has been in the minors since 1950, with two years out for military service. He has played for Columbia, Tulsa, Indianapolis, Nashville, and Wichita. Cincinnati called him up late in 1955 and he played six games with the Reds before the season ended. Last year Cincinnati, making a trade with Milwaukee, threw him in more or less for good measure. What very good measure it was didn't appear until recently, when Hazle became another of the many blessings that Milwaukee loves to count.
He has a wife back in Columbia, but she keeps close to home with their 3½-year-old son and has never seen her husband play with the Braves. She hopes to, though, whether Hazle continues to ride his .500-plus jet stream or drops back to rejoin the merely mortal.
Style, whether it is exhibited by Vinegar Bend Mizell or the Duchess of Windsor, is not a matter of costly display but of balance and harmony. It can be achieved with the simplest of materials. Last week a man died who achieved it with simple ingredients indeed: he took the leek and the potato, and invented vichyssoise.
M. Louis Diat was born in France and learned to cook there; but nevertheless, vichyssoise is an American dish. Diat came to New York in 1910 to be chef de cuisine at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and he kept the job from the day the hotel opened, shortly after his arrival, to the day it closed, in 1951. He devised vichyssoise in the summer of 1917, a cold, thick, savory soup which, even toward the wilted end of summer, can make an appetite seem worth having after all. Actually, it was a refinement of the potato soup M. Diat's mother made when he was a boy.
In the 1930s there was a movement at the Ritz-Carlton to translate the French menus into English, on the theory that depression-struck diners would spend more money if they knew what they were getting. M. Diat was, in his artist's way, cooperative. He allowed the name of his soup to be changed from Cr√®me Vichyssoise Glac√®e to Cream Vichyssoise Glacée.
M. Diat invented many other dishes too (Chicken Gloria Swanson, for instance), but his white soup was the most famous of them all. As a contribution to the welfare of mankind, his recipe will outlast monuments of stone. Here it is:
CREME VICHYSSOISE GLACEE
4 leeks, white part
1 medium onion
2 ounces sweet butter
5 medium potatoes
1 quart water or chicken broth
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups milk
2 cups medium cream
1 cup heavy cream
Finely slice the white part of the leeks and the onion and brown very slightly in the sweet butter, then add the potatoes, also sliced finely. Add water or broth and salt. Boil from 35 to 40 minutes. Crush and rub through a fine strainer. Return to fire and add 2 cups of milk and 2 cups of medium cream. Season to taste and bring to a boil. Cool and then rub through a very fine strainer. When soup is cold, add the heavy cream. Chill thoroughly before serving.
And experience a triumph of style which cools the palate as it warms the heart.
The 100-target handicap event of the Grand American trapshoot at Vandalia, Ohio is, in its relatively unpublicized way, the equivalent of the U.S. Open in golf, the heavyweight championship, the Rose Bowl and the World Series. It is, in short, The Big One. And like all big ones, it has its traditions. No one has ever won it twice; the winner is usually an "unknown." And who is more unknown than an unknown trapshooter?
This year the title went to Carmi Russell Crawford, the 54-year-old president of the Chrome-Rite Co. (chromium plating) of Chicago. He has been coming to Vandalia for 20 years and he reported proudly that he'd "never won a nickel here before, not even a trophy." This year his victory was worth roughly 140,000 nickels ($7,000) and he won them the hard way. He broke 98 of 100 targets in the regular competition—as did three other shooters. So he had to wait around for a shootoff, feeling like "a hen on eggs all day." He then proceeded to break all 25 birds in the shootoff to win the title. This so elated him that he decided to stay on in Vandalia overnight instead of heading back to Chicago immediately, as he had planned.
Crawford is not a consistent shooter (three weeks before Vandalia he broke only 67 of 100 targets at his home club in Chicago's Lincoln Park) and he is not a regular traveler on the big-time shooting circuit—a diversion which can easily cost a man $25,000 a year. He does shoot in some of the larger mid-western meets and, of course, he makes the annual pilgrimage to Vandalia.
But the winner of the 1957 Grand American made a somehow engaging admission: trapshooting—on which Crawford spends some $5,000 a year in travel expenses, entry fees and shells—is not really his favorite sport nowadays. He has come to prefer skin-diving and underwater photography. He is as proud of some shooting he did around Bimini recently as he is of that he did at Vandalia. The Bimini shots amounted to 2,000 feet of color film. They are inconvertible into nickels.
The hazards of golf
He has found to be grim;
When he tried for an eagle
It tried for him.
—CHARLES E. HALL
CURRENT WEEK AND WHAT'S AHEAD
•A View from the Realists
After Chicago's Last Stand (see page 10), the odds makers hastily made the Yankees 8-to-5 favorites to beat the Milwaukee Braves in the World Series and stopped taking mundane bets on them to win the league pennant. Hearty optimists can, however, still get 8 to 1 on the White Sox.
•A View with Alarm
In the top-of-the-page space the Chicago Tribune normally reserves for a 60-point banner headline, there appeared last—or Black—Friday this tiny 14-point head: YANK HOMER IN 11TH BEATS sox 2-1; SWEEPS SERIES. Beneath it, in the paper's smallest type was a wistful Al Lopez quote: 'WE'RE STILL IN THE RACE,' to which the Trib glumly appended—(OR ARE WE?).
•Interlude in Mexico
Monterrey's Little League World Champions, greeted by 20,000 riotous fans at Mexico City's airport, serenaded by Mariachi bands and audienced by the president, did not, as scheduled, deposit their pennant at the foot of the altar of the Basilica of Guadalupe; they just couldn't give it up yet.
•Sport in Crime
The huge sampan population of Hong Kong is being terrorized by skin-divers. Wearing grotesque masks, their bodies painted in many hues, they pop up, rob and disappear, leaving no footprints for baffled police.