TIME OF HOPE—AND WHEEZING
Autumn, splendid autumn, was here again—in 1957 it was a season of falling leaves and rising temperatures. Though doctors punctured the bared arms of thousands and Macy's filled flu serum prescriptions (a package good for five shots: $3.98) over the counter, Asian influenza—or something disconcertingly like it—settled in the bones, bellies and bronchial apparatus of innumerable citizens and made them hate themselves and the bright and lovely world. Professional football teams seemed curiously proof against the bugs, but high school games were canceled last week from Butte, Mont. to Port Chester, N.Y., the available manpower of college teams fluctuated wildly from day to day (although perhaps not quite as wildly as their coaches implied) and distracted bettors sought the latest intelligence from campus infirmaries.
The halt and the wheezing were, however, in a minority and most of them recovered soon; millions of Americans were able to draw in a feeling of hope and well-being with October's bracing air. In the North and West, woodland color (see SPECTACLE) astounded the eye, and tree worshipers on double-laned Highway 41 outside Milwaukee caused a truly monumental traffic jam. There was still trout fishing in New Hampshire and the Rockies, still sailing on both coasts, still golf everywhere. Ducks were flying south and 200,000 hunters took to blinds in California alone one rainy day last week. It snowed the same day in Utah's Wasatch Mountains and a dedicated vanguard of Salt Lake City skiers hurried to the heights. Wisconsin hunters bobbled cardboard deer through the brush on wires and blazed away at them to sharpen their reflexes for November's venison; in Omaha a man named Robin Hood, proprietor of a window-washing service, swore to get a deer this year with bow and arrow.
To the young on college campuses, in high schools and prep schools, autumn (much more than January 1) meant the beginning of a new year, of new attitudes, new fads, new enthusiasms. Northeastern college males refer to girls this fall as "heaps." The growing campus tendency toward viewing football players with a sardonic eye has spread to—of all places—Texas (where 541,000 fans have already paid to see college football games this year). At SMU, athletes are known simply as the "animals" and the athletic dormitory is called the "zoo." The first recorded panty raid of the season took place at the University of South Carolina, but it was half-hearted; the old rite seemed on the wane although there was still student exuberance—the Theta Chis at the University of Nebraska stripped one of their freshmen, tied him in a sack and hung the sack on the doorknob of the Tri Delt house. The "Ivy League" buckle—on caps, on shoes, on pants (which is scratching up varnished school desks something terrible) is being worn from coast to coast; and even at Arizona State, Levis, traditional western campus garb, were being supplanted by nonpleated slacks.
October 28, 1957
Meanwhile, in Baltimore, just before 6:05 o'clock one morning last week, hundreds of curious citizens climbed up on their roofs, breathed deeply of the fresh air and partook of an absolutely new fall sport: Sputnik spotting. That evening a Baltimore disc jockey announced his favorite 1957 fall song: Shine on, Harvest Moons.
DESPERATION AT WALDEN
Walden Pond is doubtless one of the loveliest, as well as the smallest (64 acres), of the world's famous bodies of water. The trees which border it are as bright, this autumn, as they were in the fall of 1845, when Henry David Thoreau, having moved two miles from Concord, Mass., was preparing for his first winter there in a 10- by 15-foot hut, and mulling the philosophical thought which was to make his name and that of Walden imperishable. Not all the trees remain, however—a stretch of eastern shore has been bulldozed to baldness, affording, from mid-pond, a clear view of "Walden Breezes," a trailer camp, and nearby hot dog stands. Walden, as a result, is now a battleground.
The acrimony stems from the fact that the pond has not only been a sort of shrine for generations, but has always been used, locally, for swimming. When three Concord families (the Emersons, the Forbeses and the Hey-woods) deeded the land around the lake to the commonwealth as a public reservation in 1922, and later when simple bathhouses and swimming piers were built, there were no objections. But last summer, after the Middlesex County commissioners agreed (at the request of the Red Cross, which runs the beach) to make improvements, and wangled $50,000 from the legislature for that purpose, the tumult and the shouting rose.
Members of the Thoreau Society (not only in Concord, but in London, New York and other faraway cities) were horrified at news of bulldozers and talk of a paved road to the water's edge. They were more incensed at plans for a concrete bathhouse ("Just like the Maginot Line"). When they heard that one of the commissioners suggested cleaning up "that old pile of rocks"—a cairn at the site of Thoreau's hut on which the devoted have reverently placed stones since 1872—their indignation grew unbearable.
The Thoreau Society hurried into court and got a temporary injunction halting the work. The Board of Commissioners seemed astounded and with some reason, since some of the very people who had asked for improvements were now protesting. "I think it's a great pond and I like to go out and walk through the woods myself," said Commissioner Thomas Bonaventure Brennan last week. "All we ever tried to do was help the Red Cross. I think these people just don't want anyone else to enjoy the pond." So, pending final action in the courts, the matter stood. It was difficult to guess what Thoreau might have thought of it all, but it was hard to feel that he would have been surprised. "The mass of men," he wrote, "lead lives of quiet desperation."
JUMPER OF THE YEAR
New York's Belmont Park belongs to the Arcaros, the Atkinsons and the flat racers for 95 days of the racing year but in October, before the horses are vanned off to Jamaica, the United Hunts Association moves in and puts a steeplechase cap on the whole show.
For two days last week Tyrolean hats with saucy feathers burst forth like chrysanthemums. The Turf and Field Club, haunted by emptiness most of the season, became muddied with mink. The hunt set arrived in tweedy clumps and occupied the land of the runner.
Salutations spilled over the lawns, clipped and questioning. "Hello there, George. How goes it? Haven't seen you since the Garden. Or was it Montclair? We must get together one of these days." But all the conversations eventually got around to Neji, who for two years has been the darling of the jump set wherever it gathers, in Middleburg or Malvern or Oxmoor. This time Neji was trying to win his second Temple Gwathmey—two and a half miles and 13 jumps—under the highest burden, 173 pounds, ever imposed in the 34 runnings of the race.
Neji ambled delicately in the walking ring, his rich chestnut color ricocheting sunlight. As he walked past his owner, Mrs. Ogden Phipps, words of praise came in murmurs: "Don't ever remember him being in better shape." On Neji's back was a six-foot Irish boy named Pat Smithwick, who had boosted his weight from 140 to 145 pounds so that as much of Neji's 173 pounds as possible would be "live" weight and not dead. A rubber band circled around the left sleeve of Smithwick, holding fast a stick of Beech-Nut gum.
When the 12 horses got onto the course Smithwick unwrapped the gum and popped it into his mouth. The other horses wiggled through two false starts, but Neji stood stoically still.
The tape sprung, and Neji started slowly. At the eighth fence he was sixth but starting to strike. By the 10th he was third, moving like a roll of drums. He went by his stablemate, the 1956 Gwathmey winner Ancestor, and as he rode to his last fence the decision was not in doubt. He sprang away by seven lengths, breaking his own track record by almost three seconds. When he came back to the winner's circle the people were comparing him to Battleship, the only American horse ever to win England's Grand National.
By the time Jamaica opened the next afternoon the hunt set had left. The flat racers took over again, and the seasonal argument was taken up again: who should be Horse of the Year—Round Table or Gallant Man? Few words were spoken of Neji. But maybe he is.
Anybody who wants one can now buy a long-playing phonograph record which will give him, in meticulous high fidelity, 40 minutes of the assorted noises made by sports car engines. Sports Cars in Hi-Fi is the product of Riverside Records, a small but lively organization whose president, producer, engineer, sales manager and art director are all young men in their 30s and all sports car owners. The company started out recording music, plays and verse, and does so still. But at the 1956 Grand Prix of Endurance at Sebring, President Gill Grauer taped the sounds of voices and engines as he heard them along the circuit and in the pits.
"Just to see what would happen," says Grauer, "we put some of it on a record and called it Sounds of Sebring. It sold like mad."
So now there is also Pit Stop (made at the Nassau Trophy Races in December 1956) and Sports Cars in Hi-Fi made at Watkins Glen). The latter album has a program note for each car: notice the valve surge on the PBX: whish-whoosh, whish-whoosh.
The market for all this sound and fury is as precisely limited as the market for surgical instruments. Hi-fi purists buy the records because the deep roar of the engines is ideal for showing off their equipment, and sports car owners buy them because, as Grauer explains it, "They are a well-heeled lot and they all like to own every scrap of material that concerns their sport."
Encouraged by the salability of pure noise, Riverside Records decided to try plain talk as well and so issued a series of almost sloppily relaxed conversations with top racing drivers. Each man is allotted an entire LP record on which to speak his thoughts about himself and his profession. The Marquis de Portago, musing about death on the race course, said, "Every driver believes it can never happen to him. I know it won't happen to me." (A few months after he made the recording, Portago was killed in the Mille Miglia in Italy.)
Carroll Shelby, speaking with affection of the old striped overalls he likes to wear in competition, says, "They've been in something over 100 races now and won about 88 of them." Stirling Moss admits that for touring, he would settle for "a Lincoln or a Caddy with air conditioning and reclining seats and a radio."
Only the sports car fans seem to care for the talking records. The hi-fi bug sticks to the engine sounds. He likes to start his turntable, close his eyes and hear a wide-open Maserati come screaming up from the turn, plunge through his living room, and fade away down the stretch.
A ROCK FOR ROCKY AND THE REF
The most boring fight of the year was inflicted on a Madison Square Garden crowd and a network of U.S. living rooms Friday night when Rocky Castellani alternately clutched and backpedaled for 10 rounds in an effort to escape the fists of Rory Calhoun, No. 5 middleweight contender in the National Boxing Association rankings. If rankings mean anything in matchmaking, there was no good reason for the fight, presented by the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president), since Castellani is so rank as to be unranked and unlikely to be ranked.
Referee Harry Kessler made a noisy effort to persuade Rocky to fight, but got nowhere. "Come on, Rocky," he pleaded, loud enough for ringsiders to hear, "let's make a fight of it." Castellani ignored him.
He might not have ignored him, though, if Referee Kessler had wielded a power that pre-TV referees have exercised. He could have threatened to stop the bout and award it to Calhoun and he could have carried out the threat if Castellani persisted in his preposterous retreat.
But Kessler did nothing of the sort, of course, though some of the spectators were walking out on the silly affair. This is the TV era of boxing, with the IBC in command, and that's the way it's going to be until a competitive situation is established in boxing.
VINDICATION FOR MUGGSY
In Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, there's this Muggsy Taylor. Now Muggsy's not the First Citizen of Philadelphia, but neither is he the first citizen Philadelphians would like to ride out of town on a rail.
Muggsy is not really a complex character, but he is a man with sides. One is the less gainly side he himself revealed from the witness chair in 1950 when the Kefauver crime committee was playing an engagement in Philadelphia. He was a friend of, Muggsy said, or otherwise acquainted with, such underworld characters as Frankie Carbo, boxing's most sinister behind-the-scenes figure, Al (Scarface) Capone, Charlie (Lucky) Luciano, Frank Costello, Charley Fischetti, Rocco Fischetti, Jake (Greasy Thumb) Guzik, Meyer (Slats) Lansky, Little Augie Pisano, Mickey Cohen, Longy Zwillman and Murray (The Camel) Humphreys. To which may be added Harry (Nig Rosen) Stromberg, recently indicted in New York as head of a multimillion-dollar narcotics ring.
But then there is the blindingly virtuous side that was revealed for the first time recently when Philadelphia Mayor Richardson Dilworth, District Attorney Victor Blanc, City Council President James H. J. Tate, Municipal Court Judge Emanuel W. Beloff, Commissioner Bert Bell of the National Football League, and Frank Weiner, former chairman of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, stepped to another chair in an inquiry into Muggsy's general worth and allowed with right hands raised as how Herman Taylor (Muggsy's square moniker) is one of the most valuable and trustworthy, though as yet unsculptured, citizens of the historic Pennsylvania metropolis.
The occasion for the revelation arose when doubt had been cast on Muggsy's essential fitness to hold a license to promote prizefights in the State of Pennsylvania, and it came in the nick of time, for a former fight manager and a once up-and-coming middleweight fighter gave testimony before the Pennsylvania boxing commission that Muggsy was anything but the righteous promoter he was being cracked up to be. The fight manager was Donald E. Rettman, 57, a former Trenton, N.J. department store personnel director. The fighter, George Johnson, 27, once had belonged to Rettman, though not for long. For, they testified, Muggsy had snatehed Johnson from Rettman and became his manager-in-fact though, as a promoter, it was illegal for him to manage fighters. He operated, they said, behind a front in the person of Archie Pirolli, Muggsy's press agent, who became Johnson's manager of record. Rettman was testifying, he said, even though he and his family had been threatened by New Jersey tough guys acting in Muggsy's behalf.
The threat had worked once, when the commission was forced to abandon an action against Muggsy because Rettman did not appear to testify and could not be subpoenaed out of New Jersey. Muggsy just let his promoter's license lapse on December 31, 1955 and waited until last April, a more propitious time, he felt, to apply for a new one. But in the meantime Rettman and Johnson had come to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED with their story, and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED had properly referred them and their evidence to the Pennsylvania commission.
Muggsy's lawyer—a Philadelphia lawyer, natch—was Morton Witkin, alternately badgering and gracious, and always loquacious. In the end it turned out that Witkin could have sat serenely silent, like a TV drama lawyer, and said nothing more than "No questions, your honor," throughout the proceedings. For it developed that the commission had to grant the license anyhow, or believed it did, because the evidence against Muggsy, who denied everything, referred to events before August 31, 1955, which is when the new Pennsylvania Athletic Code came into being. Under a recent decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, the commission cannot punish a licensee, or refuse a license to an applicant, because of acts committed before the code became law. So the commission felt "impelled" to grant Muggsy his license.
What this means, apparently, is that brotherly love also will be extended even to Frankie Carbo, onetime gun slinger for Murder, Inc., if Frankie should apply for a license in Pennsylvania and no one could prove that he had done wrung since 1955. But the chances are Frankie doesn't want a license. His old friend Muggsy has one, and brotherly love to spare.
CURRENT WEEK AND WHAT'S AHEAD
•No Jinx in the Program
Although Duffy Daugherty's Michigan State football team lost to Purdue last week, Duffy did not lose a bit of his fine Irish wit. Dismissing the notion of a Purdue jinx, Duffy said sourly: "Jinx didn't make one block or tackle. I guess our real trouble is that we can't stand prosperity."
•The Bug and the Bettor
Asian flu, which has stricken football players throughout the country, has also afflicted football gamblers. One Chicago handicapper estimates that business is off 40% to 50% from last year due to canceled games, flighty point spreads which fluctuate hourly with reports of flu-riddled teams.
•Sammy's Practice Round
Sammy Snead, playing Tokyo's Kasumigaseki Country Club course—site of this week's Canada Cup matches—for the first time, shot a six-under-par 66, three strokes below the competitive record. Keened one astonished Japanese pro: "I'll never play golf again."
•Progress Report: America's Cup
The New York Yacht Club has tentatively scheduled a series of races beginning in May for the 12-meter sloops vying to represent the U.S. in the America's Cup Race, September 20. Of the four probable contenders, three are still models in the testing tanks; the fourth, Vim, is in the yard for the winter.