Over the centuries, sport has picked up a great deal of prestige as well as a great many participants. No athlete was ever denied burial in consecrated ground simply because he was an athlete, as actors once were because they were actors; things were never that bad. Still, sport is more respectable than it used to be, as anyone can see by reading back numbers of the Atlantic, a magazine that has covered sport somewhat less intensively, but for 96 years nine months and two weeks longer, than SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
Last week the Atlantic celebrated its hundredth birthday, as lively as it was back in 1857 when it and the world and Queen Victoria were all young together. In that early day, thrift and industry were the prime virtues, leisure belonged to the leisure class, and sport was distrusted as a waste of time. The Atlantic, for the most part, left sport alone. In 1882 it did fire a blast called The Prominence of Athleticism in England: "The unfettered mind of America cannot help condemning, with feelings of irrepressible contempt, that miscalled energy that expends itself in frivolity and destruction of time."
And now look—only 75 years later, the times, and the mind of America, have changed. Sport is everywhere, from the chessboard to the stadium, from skis and spiked boots on the mountaintops to skin-divers under the sea. It is in the pages of the Atlantic, too, and has been for decades. Lou Boudreau is an Atlantic author and so is Birdie Tebbetts. So are Gene Tunney and Sarah Palfrey. The Atlantic has reported on baseball, big-game hunting, auto racing, salmon fishing and skiing, and has kept an eye, stern and intellectual, to be sure, on college football. It had a man near Wimbledon in 1937 to catch an early glimpse of televised sport: "Imagine a large radio console with an aperture about a foot square.... There is Parker...so plain you can see the stripe on his shorts."
November 11, 1957
Stephen Leacock delighted Atlantic readers back in 1936 with a piece about his private fish pond, a lovely hidden spot to which he invited only the most expert and devoted fishermen, listening sympathetically to their complicated explanations of failure without ever telling them that there were no fish whatever in the pond. And in 1948 Stephen Potter gave his famous dissertation on Golfmanship. ("Americans visiting [England] for a championship have sometimes created a tremendous effect by letting it be known that, on the voyage over, in order to keep in practice, they drove new golf balls from the deck of the Queen Mary into the Atlantic")
The Atlantic started out, and has largely remained, a magazine devoted to politics, science and art. But what it is really devoted to is significant human activity. Nowadays that includes sport. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, just past 3, admiringly awards the old Atlantic a long-drawn locomotive and a go-team-go!
CHANGE OF JOCKEYS
Half an hour's drive east of New York's Belmont Park sits the 22-acre farm which has been home to Jockey Ted Atkinson, 41, for several years now. It contains a comfortably stocked library (Atkinson's favorite reading and rereading: the novels of Sir Walter Scott), and a sturdy fireplace carved with the legend "Give Me, Great God, Say I, A Little Farm, in Summer Cool, in Winter Warm." Now in his 20th year as a jockey, Atkinson has won more than $16 million worth of purses, and you have to travel to win purses like that. Most of the 16 million was won for a much bigger farm near by—400-acre Greentree, for which Atkinson has been contract rider for 11 years.
For all those years, whenever a horse flying the pink and black silks of Greentree jogged onto the track there was no need for a racegoer to look at his program. It was Atkinson for Greentree: Atkinson and Tom Fool; Atkinson and Capot; Atkinson and Shut Out; Atkinson and Devil Diver. And he rode just as if every race were the Kentucky Derby.
Last week the nostalgic association ended. Greentree said it was releasing Ted because its horses needed the five-pound apprentice allowance that John Ruane could give. And Ted, already established, might be hurt by not being allowed to accept other mounts.
Two days later Atkinson came out to ride against Greentree for the first time in 11 years. He was aboard a horse named Go Lightly. Ruane was posted on Greentree's Duck Heaven. And Teddy brought Go Lightly home to win by three galloping lengths. Afterward in the winner's circle he said, "It was a funny feeling when we came out on the track. I saw the Greentree colors in front of me and I wasn't wearing them. But as far as that goes—well, you want to win them all, regardless of who you're riding against. A race is a race."
A SPORTS ILLUSTRATED expedition to Ireland last summer in the company of Bernard P. McDonough, the world's No. 1 manufacturer of shovels, had the dual purpose of focusing attention on Dublin's dream of a cinder running track (worthy of runners like Ron Delany) and the Old Country's need for some new job-making enterprises. Last week from Dublin and from McDonough headquarters at Parkersburg, W. Va. came word of progress on both fronts.
The cinder track, Dublin Promoter Billy Morton reveals, is finished, four months after ground-breaking by a McDonough-made shovel. As for job-making, Mr. McDonough has disclosed that he is moving a furniture factory he owns from Parkersburg to Dublin. It is the announced policy of the new $3 million factory to hire only native-born Irishmen and use not a scrap, begorra, of English steel.
The first event of international interest on the new cinder track will be an appearance next spring by Ron Delany during An Tostal, the annual tourist festival.
In chapter three of his Brave New World—a book he wrote a generation ago—Novelist Aldous Huxley mentions, though only briefly, a game called centrifugal bumble-puppy, which children of his sardonically conceived future would play by tossing a ball into a tall, complicated, cylindrical machine. Apparently on the theory that the Brave New World is practically upon us, one Louis Iritsky, engineering student at the University of Connecticut, recently placed his tongue in his cheek and bent every effort to prepare centrifugal bumble-puppy for the U.S. college man and the U.S. college man for centrifugal bumble-puppy.
Having first announced formation of the Centrifugal Bumble-puppy League with himself as president, and having offered franchises to interested parties, Iritsky placed his modernized description of the game upon the New Haven Hall bulletin board, noting almost simultaneously that enthusiasm for it was "overwhelming." Connecticut's campus newspaper soon proved him right; it printed his work, other college papers reprinted it with delight, and today the fame of centrifugal bumble-puppy is spreading fast.
The names of positions and functions of players in the University of Connecticut version:
Manager—a nonplaying player who manages the team.
Left bumble—plays the left bumble position.
Right bumble—plays the right bumble position.
Left puppy—plays the left puppy position.
Right puppy—plays the right puppy position.
Center centrifugal—plays the center centrifugal position, but only as an alternate.
Stinger—the function of this player is not quite definite yet.
Beer bearer—the function of this player is obvious (in high school centrifugal bumble-puppy leagues this position is filled by the water boy).
Iritsky describes the game as follows: "The players from both teams station themselves around the Centrifugal Bumble-puppy Machine. The Doppler Data Digitizer (a player too important to be listed with the other players) of the home team throws the ball into the air and blows his whistle. The ball will fall into the top of the machine and slide down a chute to the spinning centrifugal disk. Whirled by the disk, the ball will shoot out one of the holes in the side of the machine's base, whereupon the nearest must try to catch it. The team whose player catches the ball shall be declared the winner of that point (called a feather). If the ball is not caught it shall be declared dead (called a leather) and the point shall be played over again.
"The Centrifugal Bumble-puppy Machine authorized by the league is not yet on the market but is expected to retail for about $87,000 (although land grant colleges may be able to get industrial discounts, and bulk-order discounts may be available to those who order more than five machines)." League President Iritsky emphasizes that newly organized teams should be careful not to buy an unofficial Centrifugal Bumble-puppy Machine; the common tendency, he adds, is for teams to "rush right out and buy the first Centrifugal Bumble-puppy Machine they run across."
To what does League President Iritsky attribute centrifugal bumble-puppy's spreading popularity? "It's the greatest thing since goldfish swallowing and it tastes better."
The Second Pan-Arab Games, a none-too-stately ethnic replica of the Olympics, has wound up after a fortnight of events—scheduled, impromptu and postponed—in Beirut. Fifteen hundred athletes, representing nine states (Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait), competed there in Camille Chamoun Sport City, a proud new complex of stadiums, fields and ranges named for the president of Lebanon. The host country, relatively strong in track and field, was the unofficial team winner, but its victory was somewhat tarnished due to the absence of Egypt, which dominated the 1953 games. Why Egypt failed to participate was never adequately explained. Cairo said its athletes were exhausted after competing in the Moscow games this summer, but sophisticated sources attributed their absence to bad blood between Egypt and pro-West Lebanon, and to the unfortunate circumstance that the Egyptian team disported themselves in a manner unbecoming to gentlemen and positive neutralists while on the town in Moscow, and were being punished by prolonged languishment in the Egyptian doghouse.
The games commenced at night with the 60,000-seat main stadium somehow containing 80,000 spectators, and the first impromptu event immediately took place. Lebanese Boy Scouts ranged on the infield opened crates containing 200 birds, variously billed in the press as "doves of peace" and "white carrier pigeons." The birds' mission was "to carry the word of the games" to the Arab nations. But very few tidings, indeed, ever got off the ground. The pigeons remained in the grass, alas. Ardent Scouts flung them into the balmy night with such vigor that a third of the birds were dead or dying within a few minutes. When the rest still refused to take wing, the Scouts began stuffing them into their shirts and pockets for souvenirs or eventual fricasseeing. Lebanese MPs halted the sack, but two hours later, while the drum and bagpipe corps of the Jordan army band paraded the running track playing that old fox hunting classic, John Peel, a horde of youngsters charged out of the stands, crossed an eight-foot ditch and made for the pigeons. The MPs gave frantic chase and managed to save most of them.
After the opening night, which was given over largely to pageantry, attendance slumped sharply. When the track and field events started the following morning, the stands were 90% empty and became emptier daily, the average Arab being bored or bewildered by Western sport.
Western games are a recent phenomenon in the Middle East, and since they require a certain amount of leisure, few, aside from the very rich and the military, have time to participate, have access to equipment or have the know-how to appreciate them. The times and distances of the games, for example, were understandably feeble by Western standards: 5 feet 10 inches won the high jump, 4:04.6 the 1,500-meter run, 10.9 the 100-meter dash, etc. Many observers think, indeed, that as Western sport becomes more widespread it will have a highly stabilizing influence among Arab youth. Their overweening concern with politics stems, these observers feel, from the fact that they really have very little else to do; sexes are segregated and social gatherings stilted or nonexistent. If young Arabs can be kept busy putting the shot or running the 1,500 meters, they might not be so ready to engage in such patriotic exercise as heaving bricks at embassies or overturning cars bearing diplomatic plates.
Sportsmanship will, in time, follow. An argument between a Lebanese and an Iraqi broad jumper, for instance, as to who won that event simmered for two days until an Iraqi fan stood up in the stands and announced at large: "The Lebanese are the slaves of the dollar." A righteous Lebanese army officer socked him on the spot and the free-for-all which ensued hospitalized 16 spectators and athletes. The games were postponed the following day for "technical reasons."
Garner W. (Sec) Taylor, longtime sports editor of the Des Moines Register and Tribune, a septuagenarian, was truly overwhelmed this week when he rose at a luncheon in New York to accept the Grantland Rice Memorial Award for his contribution to sport. Quoting a mythical young lady who had just downed her second Martini at her first cocktail party, he said:
"Wow! I feel more like I do now than I did when I came in."
SPARE A THOUGHT
Now that the Dodgers and Giants have been welcomed on the Coast—and the Coast fan merely has to wait till spring to see major league baseball in his own backyard—perhaps a thought can be spared for those orphans of the old marriages, the New York or Brooklyn fan whose amphitheater will be as empty as Rome's Colosseum. If he wants to watch his heroes in the live, he will have to trek to Philadelphia, 90 miles to the southwest, whereto no subway runs. Both the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Phillies are, in theory, concerned with the New Yorkers' plight, but neither has advanced any accommodating proposals to date. Here, therefore, is a transportation guide to the Dodgers and Giants for off-season mulling, subject, of course, to change without notice:
Night games start at 8 p.m. in Philadelphia. Trains leave Pennsylvania Station at 5:30, 6 and 6:30 and arrive at North Philadelphia at 7:01, 7:37 and 8:01, respectively. Since Connie Mack Stadium is but a two-or three-minute cab dash from the station, fans taking the 6:30 train will miss only half an inning or so. The return trip may be a problem if the game goes into extra innings, since the last train departs at 11:41 p.m. One alternative is to stay the night and catch a train back in the morning. Another idea is to drive down and back on the Jersey Turnpike. The round-trip train fare is $7.41, tolls on the turnpike are $3.00.
For the sentimentalist who must be on hand when the Dodgers and Giants play each other, here is the luxury package. For San Francisco, a United Airlines plane leaves Idlewild at 9 a.m. and arrives at 3:30 p.m., which allows more than enough time, in the case of a night game, to get out to the ball park and watch batting practice. There is also a one p.m. flight which arrives at 7:30. A heavy-footed cab driver will get you to Seals Stadium on time. Airlines schedules do not permit the visitor to return the same day but a flight departs at 8:45 a.m. and arrives in New York at 7:30 p.m.—in time to watch the Yankees on television. For Los Angeles, the 12 noon American Airlines flight is recommended. It arrives at 5:45 p.m., allowing plenty of time to discover which ball park Mr. O'Malley has decided his Dodgers will play in. Again, one must spend the night and return in the morning. The round-trip fare to either city: $332.09 first class; $217.80 tourist. Hotels, taxis and—of course—admission extra.
BEST OF SPIRITS
When Tommy stepped upon the links,
With bourbon he was oiled;
He never played a better game—
In fact, he broke par boiled.
CURRENT WEEK AND WHAT'S AHEAD
•Ferrari Wins Again
Ferrari, by taking the first four places in the Grand Prix of Venezuela, successfully defended its sports car manufacturers' championship. The race marked the last run of the big machines, as competition next year is limited to 3-liter cars.
•A Consequence of Success
The Braves' five-year contract with the Milwaukee County Park Commission has expired and the commission is trying to get the ball club to accept a 100% increase in their stadium rent on the basis of increased profit. The Braves, heady with their Series triumph, have declined so far to release a countering financial statement, but decry the proposed contract as "extremely unreasonable."
Muggsy Taylor, the friendly Philadelphia promoter who got his license back, has also been awarded five TV fight dates from the IBC, the first on January 1. But poor Muggsy—his new license expires December 31 and he will have to apply for another. He'll get it—and before you can say James D. Norris, president.
Mille Miglia organizers have announced that their auto race will be contested next year without a change in itinerary, on the grounds that new rules reduce the risk of road racing. But members of the Italian parliament are about to protest that the race should be cancelled or contested in a closed circuit to avoid loss of life.