The Dodgers' moon-shaped and self-launching Walter O'Malley, who has been orbiting between Brooklyn and Los Angeles for months, beeping steadily to ground observers in both cities, has completed Phase One of his inter-coastal operations: the Los Angeles City Council, which has spent weeks attempting to track him accurately, interpret his messages and weigh his intentions, voted this week to let him land permanently with his ball club. Unlike the Soviet earth satellite, which will burn up as it settles down in thicker atmosphere near earth, O'Malley is expected to remain cool, perhaps even cold, as he slips in through the smog. O'Malley, of course, was all burned up before he ever left Brooklyn.
STRANGERS IN PARADISE
One night last winter, as he toured the banquet circuit, Mickey Mantle addressed a capacity crowd at Eagles Hall in Milwaukee. "I've heard," said Mickey, "a lot of talk here this evening about how you'd like to see me hit in County Stadium. Well, all I can say is you just get those Braves to win the pennant and we'll be there."
It brought down the house and, in the atmosphere of good fellowship that prevailed, a sweeter dream could not be imagined. Last week, the dream was reality: the Yankees were there, Mickey had shown what he could do with a pitch he liked and Milwaukee had had its glimpse of what it had imagined to be a kind of pennant winners' paradise, filled not only with baseball, but with all the feasting and parading and singing that are the ingredients of Gem√ºtlichkeit. Milwaukee found that, to the Yankees, paradise is a cold, calculating workaday world in which the only thing that matters is winning ball games, and the devil take the hasenpfeffer.
October 13, 1957
Milwaukee's disillusionment began with an incident at Sturdevant, 30 miles south of Milwaukee, where the Yanks refused to come off the train for a welcome (with band music) and only Mrs. Casey Stengel saved the occasion by milking a cow named Rosie that had been brought to trainside in the spirit of friendly feelings.
Then, when the Yankee train pulled into the Milwaukee station, another assembly of eager hosts was waiting. The players pushed on through the crowd, however, and Casey Stengel declined to pose for pictures with Judge Robert Cannon who, incidentally, had sat at the speakers' table with Mickey Mantle that blissful evening at Eagles Hall last winter.
Inflamed by stories of these Yankee brushoffs in the Milwaukee Sentinel (which relegated the Soviet moon story to page three), the crowd at County Stadium next day gave Stengel the loudest boos ever heard there, sat in hurt, stony silence through displays of Yankee prowess.
Later, Stengel denied that the Yankees regarded Milwaukee as a "bush town." Trouble was, said Casey, the Milwaukee brand of hospitality was just too much to absorb. The series, said Stengel, as the Yanks declined all invitations, is not a party.
Maybe that's the way it has to be. But as they say in Milwaukee, surveying the mountains of untouched cheeses, barrels of untasted beer and yards of undelivered speeches of welcome, das ist ein helluva note.
Baseball has certain characteristics and color TV has certain shortcomings which don't mix well at all. The shadow that creeps across the infield, or the sudden shift of interest from the plate to center field, are precisely the kind of thing that the color camera is hard put to deal with. Still, it was inevitable that the great new medium would be focused on the grand old spectacle, and it was; and the fans who watched the first two World Series games on color sets received, along with the games, several impressions that weren't exactly baseball.
Sometimes, as the camera swung to follow a fly ball, the game disappeared in an explosion of colored light. After the stadium shadow got out to first base, the players there and the umpire seemed to be standing shin-deep in a swift-flowing, deep-blue trout stream. Beyond them, the shadow was edged with a brilliant red border, and beyond that the grass was aquarium green, or sometimes Kentucky blue.
The Yankee players, in their white home uniforms, transmitted better than the gray-suited Braves. The red trim on the Milwaukee uniforms sometimes appeared to be detached and hovering in the air, two or three feet nearer the viewer than the man who was wearing it.
Reception—and reaction—varied, of course, with the receiving set. A sign in a bar on New York's Third Avenue offered, "See the World Series in Color." But the bartender volunteered that, having attracted his customers, he had been obliged to switch to black-and-white TV to keep them happy.
"Where the infield was in the shade you couldn't see the pitch. You couldn't see nothin'! It was like a night game without no lights. So I changed over to black and white. After all, we wanted to see the game."
But many a fan had better luck than that and stayed with both games in color all the way. Despite the sudden flashes of abstract design, the unworldly colors and electronic rainbows, the thing transmitted was unmistakably baseball.
The devious mind of Sugar Ray Robinson is expert in the useful art of slipping out of tight spots, in or out of the ring. Sugar gets himself into spots, mostly with his tongue, but he gets himself out of them, too. Last week he put the New York State boxing commission in the delicate position of deciding, as it seemed to somewhat bemused observers, that Sugar Ray's word was preferable to that of reputable newspapermen. It was a virtuoso performance on all sides.
Less than a week before he lost his middleweight title to Carmen Basilio, Sugar Ray told Mike Wallace, a TV interviewer who also does a newspaper column, that he had been offered "quite a few large sums of money" to take dives. This went on all through his career, he repeated and elaborated in the presence of some 15 newspapermen. "I have had many offers of bribes throughout my career," he said proudly, "including one by a man still prominent in boxing."
Hauled before the commission, as he had been when he made somewhat the same statement in 1947, Sugar Ray vowed he had been "misinterpreted," which is a graceful avoidance of the word "misquoted." From time to time, he said, "cracks" would be made in his presence to the effect that he could make more money losing than winning, but no direct bribe offers ever had been made and anyone who said he had said that was misinterpreting him, regardless of what he had said.
As for the man "still prominent in boxing," he reluctantly named Al Weill, manager of Rocky Marciano. ("How dare he!" stormed Weill.) It was just hearsay, though, Robinson insisted. Weill never did offer him a bribe. Shortly before an eventually canceled bout with a Weill fighter, three strangers approached his associate George Gainford, and offered to bet $25,000 that Robinson would not make the weight. Later, he went on, these three gents were described to him as "friends of Weill."
Two of the newspapermen, Murray Rose of the Associated Press and Harold Weissman of the New York Mirror, testified they had quoted Robinson correctly and implied that everybody else had, too. Recalled, Robinson insisted that these two, and all the other reporters, had "misunderstood" him.
The commission mulled it over and then Chairman Julius Helfand handed down an opinion that "on the whole all that appears to us is that there is a difference in interpretation." That was all Sugar Ray wanted to appear.
"We feel," Helfand went on with a punitive glare at Robinson, "that a prominent athlete should be most careful in making statements that can be misinterpreted, as he says happened in this instance."
The advice was taken immediately, not so much by Robinson as by George Gainford, who pulled his fighter away from an impromptu post-hearing interview in which Sugar Ray had only time to say that he had not "given any thought" to a return match with Carmen Basilio. It was a remark which could be misinterpreted to mean several things, but who wants to bother?
ANTICIPATION IN MARYLAND
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, paying a state visit to these shores, will see their first game of American football on October 19—North Carolina vs. Maryland—from a special box on the 50-yard line at Maryland's Byrd Stadium. Plans call for the box to be tented with clear plastic in the event of rain. This may seem a trifle over-solicitous, since Elizabeth and Philip are accustomed to outdoor ceremonies in rainy country, but the University of Maryland is anxious to be a good host.
"We've been working on a special cheer for them," said Cheerleader Captain Judy Eberts the other day. "Of course, we've got a regular welcome cheer but that's not good enough for this occasion. We felt we should have something really special. The first thing we thought of was maybe spelling out queen—you know, Q-U-E-E-N—and then going down into a curtsy and jumping back up with ELIZABETH. But then we thought maybe that wouldn't be dignified. Anyway, that wouldn't be doing anything for Philip. He really stumps us. We don't know what to do about him. What we really ought to have is some sort of a deal that would include both of them."
The man with the deal, though, is Howard Miller, Maryland student government president. Miller, an accounting major, will be the only student permitted to sit in the royal box, and at his side will be the date of his choice.
"I've had many fine offers," said Miller loftily. "It's a very enviable position to be in, to be sure!"
Miller was so taken with the idea, in fact, that his first choice for a date was Marilyn Elaine Van Derbur, the new Miss America. Unfortunately, she had to decline because of another engagement. Meanwhile, Maryland coeds have been giving Miller the rush of his career. But they rush in vain.
"I wouldn't want it to be generally known around here at the present moment," Miller confided, "but I've already got a date, and the girl isn't a student here."
Two other privileged students are Jack Healy and Gene Alderton, co-captains of the football team. They will receive the football from Queen Elizabeth during the pregame ceremonies.
"I'm really excited," Healy said. "It's going to be one of the highest honors I've ever had. But you know, my grandfather, Thomas Hogan, had to leave Ireland because he hauled down the English flag in his town square and burned it. That was 50 years ago, though. I hope nobody tells the Queen about him."
ALL ROADS LEAD TO 1960
The International Olympic Committee, a wonderfully antiquated but curiously hardy sort of multilingual men's club, has now met in Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, and has addressed itself to an impossible task: cutting down the scope and size of the Olympic Games. They did so, after a fashion—although the effects of their labors will not be particularly noticeable at Rome in 1960; it was, however, fascinating to watch them.
Sofia, most placid of the satellite capitals, is a city where the bright yellow brick streets are both vacuum-cleaned and hosed down at night. It boasts a luxurious new Soviet-style hostelry, the Hotel Balkan, a building where the plumbing often fails but where a corps of female servants is kept busy, night and day, straightening the long white fringes of the lobby rugs, and where caviar is ladled out as generously as beans in Boston. It seemed like a perfect background for the committee, which includes nobility (Denmark's Prince Axel, Italy's Count Paolo Thaon di Revel, England's Marquess of Exeter), commoners, Communists and nonparty members from the Iron Curtain countries.
There was less politically inspired controversy during the five-day meeting than might have been expected. The committee is absolutely autocratic. Nations or even national athletic groups do not send delegates—the committee invites whomever it chooses to serve, and if a Communist country forces one of its non-Communist nationals to "resign" for not adhering to the line it may well end up with no member at all. This odd power was dramatized last week by the presence of one Shou Yi-tung of Red China. Three years ago at Helsinki the committee, which has heard no word of Shou for six years, directed the Chinese government to produce him within three days. The Chinese Reds did so—but sent two policemen and an embassy man to the meeting with him on the ground that he could not speak English. The committee, which knew he spoke English well, refused to seat him. In Sofia he turned up safe and sound again and was able to leave his accompanying cop outside the hall, to take part for the first time in nine years and to speak English eloquently.
To say that all went smoothly, however, would be incorrect, if only because Russia's Aleksei Romanov made vodka-inspired amorous advances on the dance floor to the pretty wife of a non-Communist delegate and was repulsed. There was also polite but incessant difference of opinion in official sessions. The Russians agreed grandly with the idea of reducing the size of the games and then asked that two more sports, archery and volleyball, be added to the optional list (they were). Chicago's outspoken Avery Brundage once more sought stricter rules of amateurism, and with modest success: a proposed rule against direct or indirect subsidies from "government, school, college or employer" was voted down, but the IOC went on record that any athlete who "gives up work for more than 30 days to train for competitions" is a professional. Moreover, a certain commendable amount of whittling was accomplished—there will be only 140 gold medals awarded at Rome (as compared to 151 at Melbourne). But Rome is easier to reach than Melbourne, and there will be about 7,000 Olympians on hand there in 1960, or just twice as many as made it to Melbourne.
Time and the advent of television have outmoded the gaudy broadcasts of college football games which electrified the autumn air each Saturday in the 1930s, but the apoplectic sports announcer has not gone unmourned—a good many graying fans find today's see-it-for-yourself reporting unspeakably bland and secretly yearn for the old days when every game sounded like Pickett's Hour at Gettysburg. They will be pleased to learn that the hair-raising play-by-play is enjoying one small renaissance, even though most of them could not understand a word of it; Albuquerque's Radio Station KABQ has begun broadcasting the University of New Mexico's games in Spanish—a language rich in emotion and superlatives—and at times the terror and bravery of it all are almost too much for human nerves to bear.
This soul frazzling, however, is exactly what the Spanish-speaking third of Albuquerque's population expects of football. Most of Albuquerque's citizens of Mexican birth or extraction are bilingual but simply find the English-language broadcasts of games too dull. They do not mind at all that Announcer Fred Chavez finds himself almost impelled to inject such English terms as el fullback, una formatión split-T and el belly series, or to refer to a dropped ball as un fumble. Chavez makes up for it. Players are tremendos hombres and los brutos. His descriptions are full of references to automobile crashes, rockets and atom bombs, and the home team rips, tears and mangles its opponents.
He has had one wave of criticism; when he announced that a halfback was hugging the ball like a baby his excitable auditors complained that he was being all but inhuman, since a baby would undoubtedly be killed if carried into the scenes of carnage he describes. They had no objection at all, however, when he switched figures of speech and said one of los brutos was hugging the ball like a sweetheart. And nobody in New Mexico finds his football Spanish startling; football scores, after all, are also announced, over Alamogordo's Station KALG, in Apache and, over Gallup's KGAK and Farmington's KVBC, in Navajo.
Our back started hard,
Then sank like a mole:
That hole inside guard
Was really—a hole.
—IRWIN L. STEIN
CURRENT WEEK AND WHAT'S AHEAD
•Bluebird at 275 mph
Persistent Don Campbell, still seeking to break his own water speed record of 225 mph, cranked his Bluebird up to an unofficial speed of 275 mph on Lake Onondaga. Since official timers were not available it established no record, but Campbell planned new official speed runs this week.
•Boat to beat: "Hawaii Kai"
Wind-up race of the unlimited hydroplane season will be held on Lake Mead, Nevada this weekend with Seattle's Hawaii Kai odds-on to take its fifth straight and make a runaway of the high-point title which it clinched when Bud Muncey's $100,000 Miss Thriftway disintegrated in the Governor's Cup regatta.
•Impasse on the Matador Front
Mexican aficionados are gloomy over the prospects for the coming fall season of bullfighting. The Mexicans, whose matadors have had a difficult time getting good fights in Spain, have canceled reciprocal contracts in order to bring pressure on the Spaniards—but the cancellation means that no Spanish matadors will be fighting in Mexico this season.
•Home Triumph for the French
For the first time in three years a French horse—Raoul Meyer's 4-year-old Oroso—took the climactic race of the French season, Europe's richest, the $155,000 Arch of Triumph stakes. C. V. Whitney's Career Boy was well back.