L.A., TAKE IT AWAY
For a generation it has been hallowed political doctrine in New York City that public funds can—and should—be spent for slum clearance. Last week New York's city fathers waved the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles on the ground that there is no hallowed political doctrine in New York permitting them to invest public money in the kind of municipal clearance and development that it would take to keep the Dodgers at home.
The whole issue was incandescently clarified by Nelson Rockefeller's plan (SI, Sept. 23) to save the Dodgers. Rockefeller urged the city to condemn 12 blighted acres in downtown Brooklyn at a cost of about $8 million, essentially as an act of municipal development. Rockefeller would then purchase the land from the city for $2 million (he later raised the ante to $3 million) and in turn lease part of it, rent free, to the Dodgers for the stadium which the club would finance. At the end of 20 years first the Dodgers, then the city, would have the option of repurchasing the land at cost plus 2½% interest. ($3 million plus interest, priced him out of the deal, Brooklyn's Walter O'Malley said sourly.) The remainder of the tract was to be improved by Rockefeller.
New York's Board of Estimate simply saw it as a "giveaway" of the taxpayers' money.
September 29, 1957
Rockefeller argued that his plan "would increase values in the entire area and add to the city's tax revenues so as to offset a temporary loss to the city in the price of land." (In Los Angeles it is calculated that big league ball will bring 20 million new dollars into the economy yearly, not to mention the intangible boost to city pride.) This vision the fathers did not have the eyes to see—nor were their constituents marching and counter-marching in the streets to emphasize it to them. New Yorkers just did not seem to care very deeply. On the whole issue, said one of Mayor Wagner's secretaries, "an occasional letter dribbles in."
It is a pretty good axiom of U.S. politics that elected jobholders move when the voters build a fire under them. If the Dodgers move to Los Angeles it will be because the old home town glow never burst into flame.
The man who made the Robinson-Basilio fight wasn't there. A month before, James D. Norris, International Boxing Club president, came down with a violent attack of food poisoning after a corned beef sandwich and a boxing commission hearing at which Sugar Ray Robinson threatened to walk out on the match.
When the fighters entered the ring at Yankee Stadium 29 days later, Jim Norris was still at St. Clare's Hospital under treatment for—not just food poisoning but a heart condition, a kidney ailment, a disorderly liver and, very likely, the emotional strain of recent events that have threatened his boxing empire and, for a time, threatened what promised to be one of the more glorious matches of his sporting career. He heard on radio a fight that may have been his boxing swan song.
For now two decrees have been entered against Jim Norris. The first was Federal Judge Sylvester J. Ryan's pronouncement that the IBC must be broken up to end its monopoly of boxing. The second was a decree of nature. From the first there is the possibility of a successful appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. But nature's decrees are irrevocable.
There are persistent reports that in due course Jim Norris will announce his retirement from boxing for reasons of health. IBC staff officers say the reports are "fallacious." The reports are speculative but they make a certain good sense in view of Norris's long confinement, his history of a coronary thrombosis seven years ago and the likelihood that boxing's immediate future—in the ring and in court—will not be serene, will call for all the strength a healthy man can muster.
Norris is the sort of man who would prefer not to quit, would like to go down fighting. But who would say that, if he were forced to quit now, he did not go down fighting? At times the referee should intervene to save a fighter from unnecessary punishment.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has long opposed Norris's monopolistic control of boxing, which seems now to be breaking up, both in the courts and in Cus D'Amato's intransigent refusal to let his heavyweight champion have anything to do with the IBC. On principle, we would still like to see Norris's solitary reign ended but we would like to see this powerful, lusty figure of sport restored to good health, too.
THE ARCH OF TRIUMPH
I try never to let nobody hit me," Archie Moore once said, and it is this self-solicitude which has perpetuated Archie. Last week in a Los Angeles hall he demonstrated again, for those who might have missed, just how it is done. The occasion was another prizefight for the light-heavyweight championship of the world, and Archie's opponent this time was Tony Anthony, a slender young fellow from Harlem who could box resourcefully and hit resoundingly; but doubts were thick about the quality of his fighting heart and chin. There were, indeed, doubts about Archie as well. He had to reduce in a very short time from well over 200 pounds to the division limit of 175 if he was not to forfeit his title. He did this, although it took three weighins before the last excess quarter pound vanished, and when Archie appeared in the black corner at the Olympic Auditorium he looked exceptionally fit if a bit ludicrous in voluminous, Bermuda-length trunks. Another doubt was whether at 40 (or 43, it makes little difference) and after knockouts by Marciano and Patterson, Archie still had what it takes. As the fight progressed this uncertainty was shed quicker than the quarter pound. But it was not the way Archie hit that was so enlightening—it was, again, the manner in which Archie was not hit.
Long ago The Old Artificer constructed a defense in which he thrusts his arms horizontally across his chest and, hunching, withdraws his head below his meaty right forearm. This armor has stood him in good stead, although it lends him the aspect of someone who has stumbled upon a horrible sight. Over and over, Anthony would lash out with flurries that bounced off these arms or the hard top of that fine old thinking head. When Anthony quit these futile assaults, Moore would come out and pursue the challenger with sweeping hooks and clubbing right leads. "I try never, never, to get hit in the head," Archie has said.
Despite these frustrations, Anthony was doing perfectly all right until the sixth round (in fact, he won the second, and perhaps the third) when, with a minute gone, Moore worked him against the ropes and drove three left hooks to the side of his head. The challenger skidded along the ropes, tentatively grasping the topmost strand. Encountering no opposition, Moore then hit Anthony with 42 consecutive punches and finally, with but six seconds remaining, Anthony sank. In the seventh round, Moore trapped his man in a corner, set him up with two left hooks and crossed with the right. On his hands and knees, Anthony stared vacantly, almost piteously, at his handlers as Referee Mushy Callahan hastily intervened. Anthony had lost, but his heart and chin had been vindicated.
Later, while Archie was orating in his dressing room, a man came in and whispered in his ear that Anthony was sobbing uncontrollably in his dressing room. Archie pushed his way down the crowded corridor to Anthony's room. From beneath the ice pack on his swollen eye, tears welled and rolled down Anthony's cheek.
Archie put his arm about Anthony's slender shoulders—an arm as thick as Anthony's neck.
"Don't do that, boy," he said soothingly. "Just let me tell you something. You had me going out there tonight. You were winging those punches in there a mile a minute—and they hurt. You just keep on training the way you been, and there won't be anything for you to be sad about."
After a moment's silence, Anthony looked up and tried a weak grin.
Archie cuffed him playfully on the shoulder. "I'll tell you," he said, "you made the old man reach away down into his bag of tricks tonight."
Tony Anthony grinned again. "Man," he said, "I'd sure like to get in that bag, too."
WHITHER THE GOLF BALL?
For 71 years researchers at Arthur D. Little, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. have been specializing in the solution of abstruse technical problems, major and minor. They have, among other things, designed a solar furnace which generates temperatures of 3,500 Fahrenheit, produced special chemicals which enabled U.S. agents to outwit enemy bloodhounds in World War II, and developed chemical substitutes for chicken feathers. Now Little & Co. are at work on another: the U.S. Golf Association has asked them to develop a golf ball which would reduce—but not totally eliminate—the advantage long drivers currently have over the average hitter.
Golf, USGA officials reasoned, is primarily a game of skill, and the advantage now enjoyed by the power boys is simply too large. In addition, long hitting is forcing country clubs to lengthen their fairways, thus increasing the game's overhead.
Unlike the situation in baseball, however, it is impossible to blame golf's longer drives on a rabbit ball. Since 1898, when the "modern" Haskell ball came into play, only minor improvements have been made, and to avoid a technological race between manufacturers, as well as to keep the game standardized, the USGA as long ago as 1942 developed a machine to test the velocity of golf balls. The velocity must be between 245 and 255 feet a second, as determined by the machine, or the association won't approve it. Clearly, the credit—or blame—for long drives, lies with the players.
Now, the USGA cannot very well legislate against a man's driving power; hence the interest in the ball. The Arthur Little scientists looking into it are Drs. William Gordon and Henry Blau, and for some time now they have been busily taking and examining stroboscope pictures of drives hit by all sorts of golfers—long and short. In the process they have discovered some interesting things about the golf swing.
According to Blau, a 27-year-old nongolfing Ph.D. from Ohio State, "the ball's trajectory is fixed before the follow-through begins; so it doesn't have any influence on its flight." Its importance, he says, is in helping the golfer to groove his swing. And the swing's the thing. Long hitters like Billy Joe Patton, Blau concludes, don't impart some superstrength through their arms; they are merely extremely skillful at hitting the ball squarely.
Blau and Gordon have also verified one locker room superstition while exploding another. Getting plenty of backspin on a ball will give it an aerodynamic lift which results in greater distance. Talk about wrist motion imparting greater distance to a drive is just mythology. Even the whippiest set of wrists doesn't add significantly to the velocity of either club head or ball.
All these, of course, are observations subsidiary to the main purposes of the experiments. But they, unfortunately, are not far enough along to enable Blau and Gordon to predict what the golf ball of the future will look like. But Blau, hauling from his desk some of those curve-bedecked charts dearly loved by physicists, winks and says: "I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we start having softer golf balls."
SHOUTS IN BUCHAREST
Because of his big grin and easy going way, but most of all because he was an American and looked just like an American is supposed to look—jolly and strapping—Parry O'Brien was the people's choice in Bucharest last week. As the bulwark of a touring American track team which competed in a 24-nation meet in the Rumanian capital, Olympic Champion O'Brien set a new European record in the shot-put (60 feet 10 inches) and won the discus with a middling toss of 168 feet 7 inches. At the night-long postmeet dance in a restaurant in the Park of Rest and Culture, O'Brien was the delight of the onlookers. Although he could not match the fancy jiving of Sprinter Ira Murchison or Shotputter Earlene Brown, O'Brien made Russian Discus Thrower Nina Ponomareva, once celebrated for an equivocal shoplifting incident in London (SI, Sept. 10, Oct. 22), the radiant belle of the ball by allowing her to monopolize him for the evening.
But the greatest moment had come at twilight as the tiny American team—three whites, three Negroes—paraded the darkening track in Republic Stadium before the 50,000 who lingered for the closing ceremonies. As the American flag, high and rippling, passed the stands a full, spontaneous shout went up. "O'Brien! O'Brien!" chanted the crowd. And "SUA! SUA! [United States]." It is not often that the Stars and Stripes is borne in Bucharest or that one has the opportunity to roar out SUA, or, for that matter, a grand old name like O'Brien.
SAINT FOR MILWAUKEE
During the heat of the stretch drive in Milwaukee, a sermon at a Wisconsin Ave. church was concluded with these words: "I'm sure many of you will be going out to County Stadium this afternoon and I just wish I could give you the name of a saint whose intercession you might seek in order to keep the Braves in first place. But I don't know of any saint who is a patron of baseball."
Nomination: St. Dismas, the Good Thief of Calvary, of whom the late Dempster MacMurphy, a Chicago newspaper man, wrote: "He roams the outfield of eternity, making shoestring catches of souls."
END OF A MYSTERY
The great Russian jumping-shoe mystery, which had the press of Paris and London cackling like chickens inspecting an ostrich egg a few weeks ago (SI, Sept. 9), isn't Russian at all, it turns out, and should never have been a mystery. Russia's two seven-foot jumpers, Igor Kashkarov and Yuri Stepanov, did wear shoes with extremely thick, spiked rubber soles this year in establishing their marks. The shoes did give them a decided increase in efficiency. But Scandinavian jumpers have been quietly using just such shoes for five years.
News, however, is a curious commodity; like water, it sometimes seeks underground channels, and sometimes moves faster by word of mouth than by electronic communications. Great portions of the world of athletics in both Europe and the U.S. seem to have remained completely ignorant of the newest thing in high jumping. Last week in New York, Finland's national track coach, Armas Valste—who is beginning a U.S. tour under the sponsorship of the State Department—explained both the background of the thick-soled shoe and its effect on high jumping with great clarity.
"As far as I can tell," he said, "a shoe of this kind was first used in Sweden. Their best jumper, Bengt Nilsson, has been using a thick-soled shoe for about five years. A couple of years ago one of our jumpers, Eero Salminen, showed up one day with one of them. I said, "What is that you are wearing?" He said, "Nilsson wears one, so I'm trying it." Now most of our jumpers use them. They give a great improvement in performance—I would say from three to five inches. Of course, you must remember that the two Russian jumpers, who have done the best with them, are very good jumpers anyhow, very good boys. I am only surprised that Ernie Shelton and Charlie Dumas have not adopted this shoe.
"There are three reasons for its effect on jumping. To begin with, the thick sole raises the jumper from 18 to 20 millimeters off the ground. Second, and most important, it is a sort of built-in inclined plane—it artificially makes the jumper go uphill during his approach. Those African natives who jump so high run up ant hills—actually run up inclined planes as they jump. A man running on the level tends to go forward, not up, and even a slight uphill slant helps him. Third, since the jumper's heel is lower than his toes his foot becomes a more efficient lever—it moves through a greater are—and he can apply power for a fraction of a second longer in jumping."
Valste has ordered 12 more of the new shoes for Finnish jumpers—but with reluctance. Though the new shoes raise no proper mystery, they do raise a question of principle. Says Valste: "I am against these shoes. It is the athlete, not his equipment, which should be important."
The ends cross; they stop and shake;
The pass falls incomplete.
Awful play, but easy way
To make ends meet.
CURRENT WEEK AND WHAT'S AHEAD
•The U.S. Waives the Rules
The State Department's ruling that Red Chinese and other Communist athletes may be admitted to this country for the 1960 Winter Olympics sans the fingerprinting requirement has no wider implication. The department will still not allow Red athletes in for such non-Olympic affairs as a home-and-home series of track meets between the U.S. and Russia unless the visitors are fingerprinted.
•Dave Sime Looks to '60
Record-breaking sprinter Dave Sime plans to turn his back on baseball bonus offers (which might have gone as high as $50,000), in order to "concentrate on track" until he realizes his "one big ambition"—to make the 1960 Olympic team. He missed the 1956 Olympics because of a pulled groin muscle.
•The Golden West
The California Horse Racing Board has offered an indication of the risk-loving nature of Californians. It reported that in the last fiscal year citizens and visitors wagered a whopping $469,229,710 at the tracks.
•A Brown Colt to Watch
The Midwest's top candidate for 2-year-old facing honors—Fred Hooper's stylish brown colt Alhambra—won a $10,000 purse in his first eastern start last week—became the horse to watch in this Saturday's classic test for 2-year-olds, the $50,000 Belmont Futurity. Up on Alhambra: Eddie Arcaro.