If the Brooklyn Dodgers stay in Brooklyn, a key date in baseball history will be May 20, 1957. It was on that day that a New Yorker named Nelson Rockefeller, chairman of the board of Rockefeller Center and, president of the International Basic Economy Corporation, left his office in mid-Manhattan to keep a speaking date at the annual luncheon of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
Now Nelson Rockefeller describes himself as "a casual baseball fan"—soccer was his game at Dartmouth and sailing is his sport today. But like any good guest speaker he briefed himself on the concerns of his hosts. In Brooklyn that day Rockefeller became as concerned as the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce: the City of New York, and Brooklyn in particular, was in danger of losing an institution with both tangible and intangible assets.
Rockefeller flew off to the Far East after that. When he got back in mid-August he was disappointed to find the Brooklyn Situation still drifting. He called in his staff, quietly conferred with the baseball commissioner, Ford Frick, with the National League president, Warren Giles, and with Dodger Boss Walter O'Malley. As a citizen of New York, he told them, he wanted to do whatever he could: buy an interest in the Brooklyn club, or help expand the league, or help in finding a site and in constructing a new home for the team. It is the latter offer which could be most productive, since O'Malley has lately disdained several offers to buy the club and league expansion is a Gordian knot that even a Rockefeller probably can't cut.
September 22, 1957
The announcement last week of Rockefeller's interest in the Dodgers sent the previously confident bidders from Los Angeles into dismay. ("If it's true that Mr. Rockefeller has entered the picture," moaned Mayor Paulson, "I'm very much afraid we don't have a chance.") Meanwhile, energized by the Rockefeller news and by an official opinion that New York City can legally acquire land for resale to the Dodgers, New York politicos began to act as if the game wasn't lost after all.
Active Citizen Rockefeller couldn't help but feel pleased. "The city," he said, "should be a little more aware of the factors which make it great. We've got to stop taking them for granted; we can't expect them to be here forever if we do."
Arkansas' Governor Orval E. Faubus isn't the only advocate of states' rights who is currently embroiled in heated controversy with the Federal Government; there is also North Dakota's State Senator Lee F. Brooks, a fellow who feels that a canvasback is not necessarily a wetback, and who has promised to defy the powers in Washington with gunfire on the 27th of this month because he thinks states have sovereignty—over ducks.
Ducks are defined by federal law as "migratory" waterfowl, and are thus under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government—which not only limits shooting (this year to the period between October 1 and January 15) but has long been a party to migratory-bird treaties with Canada and Mexico. States are allowed to set their own seasons (75 days of shooting in the central flyway) but only between the dates prescribed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Last spring Senator Brooks thought he saw a loophole in this concept and introduced a bill—which passed both houses and was signed by the governor—authorizing a special 3½-day hunt of "native birds by native sons" at the end of September.
In his justification of the special hunt, Senator Brooks has spiritedly challenged the Federal Government, in effect, to prove that all ducks migrate and that North Dakota doesn't have native ducks of its own, and to show cause why North Dakotans can't shoot their own birds when they choose.
Establishing the birthplace of a duck is, of course, a fairly tricky matter, and the subject has led to some ingenious suggestions in North Dakota. One more or less exacting routine suggested by a letter writer in the daily Fargo Forum: "Examine their gizzards to determine what kind of grain they were feeding on. If it is found to be Manitoba grain, just throw it away." The U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service is not amused. The Service scoffs at Senator Brooks' "native duck" theory and points out that U.S. treaties with Canada and Mexico assume that every duck is migratory.
Senator Brooks has publicly invited both the press and federal officials to join him in a duck hunt beginning at noon on September 27. "If he shoots a duck," promised a Fish and Wild Life executive, "we'll arrest him, naturally." But an arrest might not end the matter—there could be as much quacking in the federal courts this autumn as over the central flyway itself.
THE SIEGE GUN
Like everyone who can remember that he won the National Amateur in 1921, big, white-haired Jesse Guilford of Newton, Mass. has changed somewhat during the years, but he has changed far less than the game of golf. He is a man of unvarnished opinion and a belief in direct statement and does not hesitate to say that the game is now in a state of decadence, induced chiefly by 1) swimming pools at golf courses, 2) women players and 3) mixed drinks. Nevertheless he entered the 1957 Amateur (all former winners are eligible), which was held last week at The Country Club in nearby Brookline. "I'll never," he said, "get a chance to play that course any cheaper."
Guilford, once known as the Siege Gun for his tremendous drives off the tee, is now 62 years old, but he is in a wonderful state of preservation, and he brought the big tournament some very decent golf as well as the flavor of the unpretentious past and the benefit of some well-marinated philosophical comment. He appeared for his first match, amid a welter of Dacron jerseys, silk shirts, gaily colored slacks and two-tone shoes, wearing just about what he had worn 36 years ago—long trousers, open-necked shirt, a light sweater and brown spiked shoes.
If the old champ's clothes drew attention, however, his ancient putter held it. The club was a wondrous artifact—hickory shafted and rusted to a mellow brown by the rains of decades. "I don't know how old it is," he said. "I won the New Hampshire state amateur championship with it in 1910 and it wasn't new then. I figure the shaft is the original, and I suppose it is more than 50 years old. But what's so strange about that? Who breaks putter shafts? And if you can putt at all you can putt with a pipe."
Guilford, who drew 25-year-old Don Albert of Peoria, Ill. as his opponent, continued to emit irascible comment as the day wore on. At one point, when he pushed his second shot beyond the ropes rigged to hold the gallery back, a solicitous marshal approached and asked, "Mr. Guilford, shall I have the ropes and stakes removed?" Guilford said impatiently, "Don't bother. I'll just bang it over." He did, too, and walked off muttering, "Why make a federal case of the game?"
A little later he spoke sharply of the time consumed in modern golf. "Miss 'em quick, is my motto," he said. "I don't know why it takes four hours to go around the course. These guys squint at the line, pace alongside the line glaring at it; they pick up a pebble, separate blades of grass, stand over the ball, hunch their shoulders, purify their minds, disseminate the flabaris, and take a deep breath before they finally putt." Before the game was over he also felt constrained to make a short speech to his opponent. "That young fellow I was playing began to fold on the second nine," he explained afterward, "and I was afraid I was going to beat him. I certainly couldn't have played two matches tomorrow so I had to give him a pep talk. I said, 'Look kid. You're 25 and I'm almost 90. You better start hitting that ball right from here in or I may have to keep playing and my legs are tired.' After that he settled down and beat me."
Was he going to enter the Amateur again next year?
"No," he said with a chuckle. "I just entered this year because it was held in my backyard. And I'm now convinced that somebody should shoot all amateur contenders over 50 years of age."
OUT OF THE NEST
The football Falcons of the United States Air Force Academy are gradually getting to be rather big birds—the academy has never been averse to admitting fast, husky young men and its original star-loaded class of cadets are juniors this year—but a good many pin feathers remain among their fancy plumage. The Falcons' loveliest dream—beating Army or Navy—still seems far from realization, but for all that they are being shoved out of the nest with almost no warning at all this week and into big-time football competition: on Friday night they engage the Bruins of UCLA in combat at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
This spur-of-the-moment debut was arranged as the result of an unusual cancellation—the whole University of Florida football squad, which was to open the season against UCLA, came down with flu last week, leaving the Bruins with a crowd and a stadium and nobody to play. Athletic Director Wilbur Johns simply picked up a telephone, called his counterpart at the academy, Colonel George F. Simler, and asked for help. The colonel called together the academy's athletic council and Coach Buck Shaw—who seemed delighted at the idea—and one day later the game was scheduled.
In one sense the game may be less uneven than it seems—UCLA too, due to the peculiar regulations which followed the Pacific Coast football scandals, will not be able to play its seniors this year. Even so the Bruins will out-gun the academy team—which was beaten last year by Brigham Young, seventh in the Skyline Conference, and will, except for games with Occidental, George Washington and Detroit, content itself with playing neighborhood schools during the rest of this year. The academy's wing of cadets, which will doubtless be transported en masse to witness big games in the future, will stay in Denver this week: it would cost $98,428.50 to transport them to Los Angeles by airliner and the Air Force apparently would never think of sending them on a train. Thus constricted, they did their cheering in advance, sturdily chanting "Beat UCLA" every day on marching from the mess hall. The football players—21 juniors, 8 sophomores and 9 freshmen—began working, literally, like mad in the hour and a half they are allotted for practice. Win or lose, something new was being added to big-time college football.
The Global World Series, an annual tournament which determines the amateur baseball champion of the world, is baseball's equivalent of the World's Fair and is more notable for its novelties than for its baseball. Last year, for instance, one team fielded a left-handed shortstop and another loftily disdained to slide. In the third renewal which got under way at Detroit last week among teams representing Japan, The Netherlands, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Hawaii, Canada and the U.S., it was the Japanese who provided the most memorable vignette. When the Japanese pitcher hit a Canadian batter, he marched to the baseline, removed his cap and bowed his apologies. Detroit has seen better baseball this season, but 8,000 indulgent fans, many of them undoubtedly global minded, turned out for the opening game in Briggs Stadium and seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly.
The father of global baseball is Richard S. Falk of the engineering firm of the same name, which has headquarters in Milwaukee (the first two series were played in that city), and a dedicated baseball missionary. Falk, a frustrated sandlot pitcher, turned to sponsoring semipro teams after graduating from the University of Arizona in 1935, and readily became semipro commissioner of Wisconsin.
At that time, Falk now thinks, he was something of a Midwest parochialist. World War II—he was a Marine in the South Pacific—made him an internationalist. In 1951 he combined his old love of baseball and his new outlook to start talking up a global series. He got the go-ahead for his scheme from amateur baseball brass and, using his social and business position to obtain support from Milwaukee industrialists, raised $250,000 for the first championship which took place in 1955.
The series, won both times by the U.S., has been a going concern ever since, and Falk has national commissioners helping him spread his baseball gospel in some 20 states and territories. He is not aware of Russian teams, "but if they got them," he says heartily, "they're welcome to affiliate with us.
"You know," he continues with missionary enthusiasm, "baseball in America turned out to be something which people from many backgrounds and nationalities could play and which would give them a common language. I think the same thing could apply to nations. One of the oddest things which has happened to me is that I realized the Japanese aren't really like those I saw in those movies years ago. You couldn't find a gentler people. Now I didn't set out to find that out, it just happened because of those games we've had. We're all living a stone's throw from each other now and maybe a game like baseball will help us understand each other."
THE KING IS DEAD
In February 1956 a fawn-and-white dog flew to New York from California for a testimonial dinner at the Savoy-Plaza Hotel. He sat on the dais wearing a gold paper crown and was served steak in a gold bowl by the captain of waiters while 200 humans ate turkey and made elegant speeches and presentations for five hours. The occasion was the retirement from the show ring of Ch. Bang Away of Sirrah Crest, the boxer who had won more best-in-shows—121—than any dog in history. Bang Away's splendid record was in no small part responsible for the boxer's becoming, in the last few years, the second-largest breed (largest—beagle) registered with the American Kennel Club.
After the dinner was over Bang Away went back to California to his master and mistress, Dr. and Mrs. Rafael C. Harris (Sirrah is Harris spelled backward) of Santa Ana, where he lived the easy life of a house pet and stood occasional stud. Despite his casual breeding activity, Bang Away had sired a breed record of 56 champions by this summer, including the fine bitch Ch. Baroque of Quality Hill, who won the Morris and Essex in 1955 (a boxer first) and her brother, Ch. Barrage of Quality Hill (SI cover, Feb. 11).
Two weeks ago, while the Harrises were sitting in their living room watching Bang Away romp, he keeled over and died. An autopsy was performed but proved inconclusive. Dogs do have heart attacks, but there was no evidence of one in Bang Away's case and the Harrises are reconciled now to the fact that they will never know what caused his death. He was eight years old—a getting-on age for his breed.
"It was quite a shock to us," said Dr. Harris sadly the other day. "We haven't gotten over it yet." Neither have dog fanciers. The Harrises have been receiving messages of condolence by the hundreds—from Canada and Mexico as well as all parts of the U.S.—all deploring the death of the king of boxers.
Baseball has still to produce its annual climactic drama at the World Series, but football (see pages 26-128) was new again, exciting again, and once more a catalyst to both Big Talk and small talk in the United States. A football season, like a hit play, or a bank failure, or a new fashion in women's clothes, always seems to produce one anecdote, one apocryphal tale, which spreads like wildfire and captures the attention of millions. The All-America conversation piece of the 1957 season may very well turn out to be a bit of business which was born at the Pittsburgh Press Club, and which, at the weekend, had barely started its inevitable journey to "21" in New York, Romanoffs in Los Angeles, and to pool halls, locker rooms, beer joints, and doubtless beauty parlors in Detroit, Savannah, Boston and Seattle.
Its perpetrators at the press club set it up for each new victim simply by starting a casual conversation about their favorite college football team, the Pitt Panthers. Most marks soon noted, if properly steered, that Pitt must take on Oklahoma, Army, Notre Dame, Penn State and Miami this year, among others, and at this point somebody offered to bet that the sum of Pitt's scoring this year will be greater than a figure derived by multiplying the scores of all its opponents in the same 10 games. Fancy odds were usually reached when the mark was encouraged to work the problem out for last season, when Pitt scored 142 points, and its opponents' scores, multiplied, were 13 x 7 x 14 x 14 x 7 x 9 x 13 x 7 x 7 x 7 or 5,010,435,612. Most bettors did not seem to see anything unusual about Pitt's games last year, or realize just what they were really betting against—the fact that Pitt, a stout defensive club, might very well hold at least one opponent scoreless this year—at which point the opponents' total figure would have to be zero, since even a million times zero is still zero. Some of them, aha, probably did not get hep until they read the sentence above.
CURRENT WEEK AND WHAT'S AHEAD
•What's Wrong with Mr. Norris?
The liveliest topic of conversation along Cauliflower Street these days is Jim Norris' health. Taken to the hospital August 26, he is still there—suggesting that he may be suffering from something other than the "ptomaine poisoning" (defective corned beef sandwich) it was announced that he had.
•Bold Ruler Comes Back
Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, who carefully brought Bold Ruler back from a fitful summer (fevers and a shoulder injury), saw his colt blaze a mile in 1:35 to win Belmont's Jerome Handicap in a time just one-fifth off the track record, started pointing him toward the next race with Horse-of-the-Year overtones—the Woodward Stakes at Belmont, September 28.
•Attention Mr. Stoneham!
The San Francisco Seals won their first Pacific Coast League championship since 1947, as their successors, the New York Giants, had just about reconciled themselves to sixth in the National League.
•Nashua's Kid Sister
Stavros Niarchos, a stable owner for some time, is showing increasing interest in racing. His newest prize is the promising yearling filly Stavrola, full sister of Nashua, who has been bought from U.S. breeders and flown to England for training by Sir Gordon Richards.