It is rare indeed in this complex world when one man, and one man alone, becomes the repository of all human experience in any field. England's Donald Campbell, however, has achieved this lonely and frightening position. There is only one jet speedboat in the world, Campbell's Bluebird; nobody but he has ever occupied its tiny, plastic-canopied Duralumin cockpit and no other man has gone more than 200 mph on water and lived. There is a relatively roomy society of U.S. Gold Cup drivers, and when Art Asbury pressed Canada's Miss Super-test II to a new propeller-driven record of 184 mph last month, they all knew just about what he had experienced. Only Campbell knows how man feels and what he encounters when he goes 100 mph faster than that.
Yet Campbell did not lack for kibitzers during the two months he spent in New York State last summer trying to boost his 225 mph world record to 250 mph (his fantastic 286 mph run, made in England in 1954, cannot be accepted, since records are based on the average speed of two runs made in opposite directions within one hour). He all but killed himself when Bluebird hit a wave at 240 mph on Lake Canandaigua in August, and many in the crowds which watched his dismally unsuccessful speed runs after that concluded that he had simply lost his nerve. Campbell admitted that it sometimes took him weeks to key himself for nerve-racking sensation of 200 mph-plus and let it go at that-few were quite able to follow his involved explanations of the dangers implicit in the slightest irregularity of lake surface.
Back in England last week, however, he sent Bluebird howling down dark, hill-hemmed Coniston Water in one last attempt at the elusive record. As the boat fled toward the measured kilometer, Campbell felt that he had found a few minutes of almost perfect water at last, and he opened his throttle wide. He was instantly astounded by the boat's reaction and his voice called over the radio: "What the hell's happening? She's all over the place." Leo Villa, the cunning little engineer who had also served Campbell's father, Sir Malcolm, called in warning: "Easy, skipper—she's nose light." Bluebird was oscillating, and if her nose lifted 3½° she would go up and over backward. But by then the kilometer had been run. The speed: 260.107 mph.
November 18, 1957
Hurriedly, before the wash from his progress could reach shore and rebound into the course, Campbell turned and came flying back trailing a long tail of smoke, steam and reverberating sound. He was white and shaken when he got out of the cockpit. "A real pasting," he muttered. But in a few minutes he grinned jubilantly. His average: 239.07. "Some unkind people," he said, "thought I didn't want to do it. The man without fear is a man with no sense and no feeling. But when conditions are plumb right I'll take my chance." He then suggested that he would build a new Bluebird. "This boat will not reach 300 with safety," he said. And pushing on toward that beckoning frontier—and across it—is now Don Campbell's objective.
RETURN OF THE IRRELEVANCY
Back in 1939, when Robert M. Hutchins was chancellor of the University of Chicago, he considered intercollegiate football one of the "irrelevancies," and over the dead bodies of Old Maroons he abolished it. But Hutchins could not abolish autumn and the changes the season works in young blood. Autumn kept coming to the campus, Hutchins left and again, this year, the old seasonal irrelevancy returned—Chicago defeated Wilson Junior College 24-6 October 31 and last week lost to North Central College 18-0 in what were, well, almost football games. The scores might have been higher but there were no extra points—there were no goal posts to kick them over. There were also no kickoffs, as the proceedings, in order to receive official sanction, had to remain in the "scrimmage" category.
The Chicago squad was made up of 41 enthusiastic students—averaging 178 pounds per man—who had enrolled in a football course taught by Walter Hass, the university's athletic director. Only one-third of them had ever played the game before. They were outfitted, for the most part, in white satin pants, maroon jerseys and white helmets. Most of the jerseys and an occasional antique brown helmet dated back to the pre-1939 era when Chicago was a member of the Big Ten.
Some 175 spectators, largely students, watched on the sidelines last week during the gray, chilly afternoon and freely joshed the substitutes, five of whom—collectively—established some sort of modern football record by wearing mustaches. Six small boys and a yellow dog climbed to the top of the deserted soot-blackened north stand of Stagg Field and gave a cheer. Then they climbed down again.
The game had a nice, amateur air to it. A North Central lineman was banished for threatening a Chicago player. Coach Hass spoke to Jesse Vail, the North Central coach, and the two men waved the offender back. He shook hands with his late enemy and play resumed. Since there was no marching band to take up time, the teams broke for just five minutes at the half. And no one minded that the Chicago center, Bob Taylor, was a postgraduate divinity student who had played for Rutgers.
Coach Hass was delighted with the experiment—though a bit perturbed over a leaky pass defense which permitted all three North Central scores—and he hopes it leads to "a low-pressure, modest operation.... I mean, five or six games with small colleges around Chicago...then perhaps at the end of the season a couple of teams like Yale or Columbia, teams that have a fine name and would draw a fair crowd but wouldn't be too far out of our class.
"I'm not interested in coaching big-time football," said Hass, a Minnesota star in 1931-32. "If that's the kind of football program we end up with, they can find another coach."
Before Chicago winds up with any kind of program, however, the university's regents will have to lift Hutchins' football ban. It cannot be done without the faculty council's approval. The faculty was against it in 1956 but Hass is going to try again this year. He thinks he has a chance.
THE CATAPULT CLUB
The best of the unlimited hydroplanes went thrashing across Nevada's Lake Mead the other Sunday in pursuit of the last big trophy of the season, the Sahara Cup. But for all the effect the race had on the year's hydroplane title they might have been just a hippopotamus herd staging a noisy free-for-all: Hawaii Kai III already had the title cinched on points. Moreover, to the intense satisfaction of experts—such as Lou Fageol who had predicted great things for Hawaii Kai's Rolls-Royce power plant this year (SI, Aug. 12)—the Kai roared off with the Sahara Cup trophy too.
It has been a big year for the unlimited class in hydroplane racing. More boats than ever before competed, a million people turned out to watch as the big craft barnstormed from coast to coast, and millions more watched on home screens. Possibly the only disturbing statistic is that three drivers were catapulted out of their cockpits and into the drink on very short notice—the sort of accident that had previously been rare.
In the Lake Chelan (Wash.) race last May, Russ Schleeh was forced into a tight turn by a stalled competitor and was flung out. Four months later in the President's Cup, Schleeh's Shanty I nosed under and Schleeh was hauled from the Potomac unconscious. In between, Fred Alter was tossed from Miss U.S.I into the Detroit River during the Silver Cup, and later Bud Muncey's Miss Thriftway bounced high and split up in the Governor's Cup at Madison, Ind. Fortunately, all the drivers lived to drive again, though they have earned membership in what might well be called the "Catapult Club."
The original catapult man was, of course, Lou Fageol. He went through a towering back flip—75 feet high—in the 1954 Gold Cup and came away with a punctured lung, a damaged heart and four cracked vertebrae. This year's initiations were not quite that rough. Alter escaped without injury, Muncey got off with a badly bruised shoulder and Schleeh with general contusions which still have him feeling "like I've been run over by a herd of wild horses."
Blame for the rise in accidents has been variously fixed, but if the Catapulters ever get together to formalize their fraternity (a miniature gold slingshot in the lapel might do nicely) they will probably talk about the need for a hull that won't nose, slew or otherwise act up in rough water at the 150-mph speeds reached in unlimited class racing today.
With this in mind, the drivers at the Sahara Cup took turns trying out the unorthodox, humpbacked Thriftway, Too on Lake Mead after racing was over. Designer Ted Jones claims that by seating the pilot up toward the nose with the engine astern of him, Thriftway, Too achieves good balance even in the most disturbed water. The boat has accumulated a fair record in its rookie year and hasn't tried to buck its driver once. Next year, according to Jones, the design will be capable of outrunning the best conventional hydro. Jones goes to work with the best wishes of every pilot in the class. To a man they are on record for pegging the Catapult Club's membership right at the present level.
Gotta tie myself together," says Jim Shoulders, the world's champion cowboy, a little while before he is due to ride a bareback bronc or a bull. Then he puts on an old pair of boots, wraps his legs here and there with elastic bandages, puts more bandages on his knees outside of his Levis, stuffs a cushionlike device called a tail pad into the seat of his pants, has a friend pin a number on his back, and is ready to ride. "It's hell to be old and feeble," he sighs, "and poor, too."
Poor old Jim Shoulders is a lean and wiry 29. In his 10-year career he has made more than a quarter of a million dollars as a rodeo cowboy, which is a rugged way to make a quarter of a million dollars. The bandages he applies before his rides are not for what may happen, but for what has already happened, in the way of dislocated knees, broken bones and torn ligaments. But Shoulders is as durable in real life as TV's cowboys are on the screen. In September, when a sudden twist by the horse he was riding pulled his collar bone loose from his shoulder, Jim just went ahead and finished the ride, and turned up the next night as well to ride two bulls and another bareback horse.
To a rodeo hand the seriousness of an injury is measured by the length of time it keeps him out of competition, and therefore out of the money. Getting hurt doesn't worry them much. "The fear that most of us have," says Shoulders, "is that we won't draw an animal, bronc or bull, that will give us a good point-making ride." At the San Francisco horse show and rodeo, where Shoulders competed last week, he did draw poor stock and failed to win a dollar or a single championship point. The 1957 rodeo season isn't over yet—the Harrisburg (Pa.) rodeo, opening this week, is one of the last events of the year—but Shoulders has already done so well as a bareback rider, bull rider and all-round cowboy that no one has much chance to catch him. He is almost certain to be the 1957 champion in all three categories, just as he was in 1956. These are Shoulders' specialties; he leaves steer wrestling, calf roping and saddle-bronc riding to others.
Shoulders grew up not on a ranch but in Tulsa, Okla., where his father owns an auto-body repair shop. He became a cowhand suddenly at 14 when, in a Fourth of July rodeo at Oil-ton, Okla., he won $18 and gave up shocking grain for $15 a week. Now he has a ranch near Henryetta, Okla., a pretty wife named Sharron and three children. Mrs. Shoulders often travels with her husband and cooks his food. She doesn't have to worry about variety. He likes steak, gravy and potatoes for all three meals, every day.
"A fellow wouldn't enjoy it much," says Shoulders bluntly about his profession, "if he didn't make money." Last year he made $43,381 in 65 rodeos, sometimes chartering a plane to take him from one to the next. It is the highest pay any rodeo cowboy ever got for a season's work. This year, because of time lost through injuries and a new rule which makes it difficult to appear in two rodeos which are running simultaneously, he will probably earn somewhat less.
"I think rodeoin' is one of the toughest sports," he says. "Maybe the toughest. In football and those other sports they pay the guy on the bench, but in rodeo you are on your own. There is absolutely no guarantee. You even got to furnish your own equipment and you got to pay entry fees to compete.
"But," he adds, "I like the money in rodeoin'. And I like the people. I figure on rodeoin' hard one more year, then letting it go. I'm just like Robinson. [He meant Sugar Ray.] You can't overcome that youth. It's like I said when Basilio beat Robinson—you can't overcome that youth."
A frisbee (or Phrisbee), as readers of these pages might recall, is a plastic missile the size of a dinner plate but having rather the shape of a garbage can cover. When two or more people skim a Frisbee back and forth among themselves, they can, if they wish, say that they are playing Frisbee. There are no rules for Frisbee, but this deficiency did not faze (or phase) Bob Howey, a 26-year-old Lincoln, Neb. insurance man who staged the first United States Frisbee Matches the other day. A member of the press who was asked to spread the news of the tournament insisted on calling it the National Intercollegiate Frisbee Championships, but Howey said that was incorrect, and since it was his tournament, he and his buddies from the Diamond Bar and Grill could call it anything they wanted to.
The Diamond Bar and Grill is at the corner of Fourteenth and P streets in Lincoln and is the tavern closest to the University of Nebraska campus. It was there that Howey, who picked up the rudiments of Frisbee while attending insurance school in Hartford, Conn., introduced the game to his cronies and discovered that in his absence it had already become a fraternity favorite.
Since the homecoming football game against Kansas was to take place in a few days, Howey thought the United States Frisbee Matches would be just the thing to generate undergraduate and alumni steam. Howey's buddies thought so, too.
"I went to Williams College, the home of Frisbee," said Bud Sidles, who plays Frisbee while awaiting his Army call. "I'll be their entry."
"I'll represent California," said a diving instructor named Gene Cotter. "I've been there."
"Put me down as Florida's representative," said Tom Houchin. "I lived there a while."
Chuck Beans, a trucker, called from his booth in the rear that he had attended Princeton and would be delighted to represent the Tigers. So it went, with everybody agreeing to help Howey's tournament in any way possible, even to buying the next round.
The matches were held at 9 on the morning of the Nebraska-Kansas game at the East Hills Club, a suburban Lincoln cabaret, after two country clubs had haughtily turned Howey down. Five hundred spectators who had paid 50¢ each were on hand for the spectacle. A 40-mph wind ruined plans for the doubles competition but the singles tournament took place on the lee side of the clubhouse, where the downdrafts and gusts produced some very spectacular Frisbee, indeed. Wayne Brown, a University of Nebraska junior, was declared the winner from among 40 contestants, but when it came time to present the trophies, it was discovered that somebody had swiped them. John Peterson, Lincoln's only Frisbee dealer, who did a whale of a business selling Frisbees at the door, gallantly offered to buy new trophies and thereby saved the day.
"We diehard Frisbeeans love the game," said Howey, when he was back in the Diamond. "We hope to organize lots of national tournaments, but I guess next year it will be too big for Lincoln. Some Ivy League town will probably grab it off. You know, this started as a joke but it got serious; people are serious about Frisbee. It's a great drinking game. It's even great if you're not drinking, I suppose."
The sports car racer had to make
An unexpected stop.
While cornering at 80, he
Was cornered by a cop.
—ROGER B. PREHN
CURRENT WEEK AND WHAT'S AHEAD
•Go and Give
It is National Football Week and college football audiences across the U.S. this Saturday get a chance to contribute to a good and worthy cause: erection of the Football Hall of Fame at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J. (TV watchers can contribute by mail; same address.)
•A Look at the Silver Lining
Minor League attendance flagged again this year, dropping one-and-a-half million to 15,496,684. But Minor League President George M. Trautman was not dismayed. He pointed out that despite "frightful weather during the early season" eight of the 28 leagues showed increases.
•Bad Break for the Tar Heels
Frank McGuire, coach of North Carolina's national basketball champions, has a touch of the miseries. Joe Quigg, his fine, 6-foot 9-inch center, broke his leg in an intrasquad scrimmage and will be out for the season. But McGuire has a replacement: a 6-foot 7-inch sophomore named Lee Shaffer.
•Save Your Romanov Music
Before a soccer game last week between the Lancashire borough of Bolton and a touring Russian army team, the Soviet side stood at perfect attention as an absent-minded British band played a Russian national anthem exactly 40 years out of date: God save the Tsar.