MR. O'MALLEY'S TROUBLES
This is an article from the Dec. 16, 1957 issue
Mr. Walter O'Malley (him and his big fat cigar, as they say in Brooklyn) thought on the evening of last September 24 that his troubles were over. His Dodgers had just played their final ball game in Ebbets Field (where they had earned a tidy profit for five years straight) and now nothing seemed to stand in the way of a wonderful new life in Los Angeles. Mr. O'Malley had found a magnificent 300-acre site in the heart of downtown L.A. that was known as Chavez Ravine and on it he proposed to build the baseball park of his dreams, a 50,000-seat stadium that would eventually bring in all the loose baseball money that was not being poured into pay television sets broadcasting the Dodger games.
Puffing away on his cigar, O'Malley explained to his press conference the details of his grand plan for California and Mr. O'Malley. He would trade the city of Los Angeles the ball park known as Wrigley Field for 260 acres of the ravine. He would pay, moreover, $1,200,000 at the rate of $60,000 a year for the remaining acres on which he proposed to build recreational facilities for young people. The 50,000-seat stadium would be placed on the 260-acre tract in the center of parking facilities that Mr. O'Malley promised would be the finest anywhere.
Even so, it wasn't long before a petition was making the rounds. Sponsors of the paper bluntly charged that Mr. O'Malley was giving himself too good a deal. Whereas, they said, he promised to build himself a 50,000-seat stadium, he did not say when. As a matter of fact, they went on, there was nothing to prevent him from building apartment houses, drilling oil wells or opening up a shopping center. O'Malley supporters were aghast at these insinuations. They retorted that no man in his right mind, let alone Mr. O'Malley, would so brazenly attempt to humbug the nation's third-largest city.
The petition was signed by 80,000 persons. Enough of the signatures stood up under the city clerk's scrutiny to force a referendum on Mr. O'Malley's Chavez Ravine proposals. Since a special election would be too costly, the referendum will become part of the regularly scheduled election in June.
This means that Mr. O'Malley's dream of completing his stadium for the 1959 season is out. So what does he do now? In the face of a tremendous advance ticket sale, Wrigley Field is already inadequate. The Los Angeles Coliseum is a possibility, although not ideal for baseball. Worse than that (in Mr. O'Malley's view), the Coliseum commission would want 10% of the gross and all revenue from concessions and parking. No wonder that, following the major-minor league meetings at Colorado Springs, Mr. O'Malley hurried to California to inspect the Rose Bowl at Pasadena as a possible temporary home for the exiles from Brooklyn.
Sophisticated Los Angeles citizens are not alarmed by Mr. O'Malley's troubles. The petition? Nothing to it, they say: in California a certain number of people could be found to sign a petition to outlaw orange juice. The Dodgers will play in Los Angeles, say the knowing ones, if they have to play in a tent on the side of Mount Wilson.
To The lethal obstacle course called the U.S.A. which ducks must run in order to get from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, a new obstacle has been added: a portable plastic lake for attracting ducks. It was invented by Harold Hahn, a photographer and veteran hunter of Kansas City, and it consists of several 6-foot-wide strips of blue polyethylene film covered over with a layer of transparent plastic.
The hunter chooses a site near a wheat or corn field, rolls his plastic strips out like welcome mats, and pegs them down side by side until he has covered some 2,000 square feet. Then he walks out upon the "water" and arranges his decoys, and conceals himself to wait. Seen from the air, the plastic glitters like water and appears to reflect the sky. If the wind ripples it, so much the better. The illusion lasts until ducks are well within range.
So far the plastic puddle is just an experiment, but it is already a successful one. Mr. Hahn thinks he can perfect a kit which would enable a hunter to make any stretch of dry pasture into a pond in 15 minutes flat.
Don Newcombe the pitcher sat one cold evening last week in his Newark, N.J. cocktail lounge, large and brooding in a leather sports jacket the color of white clover honey and a polka-dot tie. His jukebox played 100 songs relating love's old fevers.
"Let me tell you something, young fella," Newcombe said to his visitor. "I am going to fly or I am going to quit baseball. And I am not going to quit baseball. This year I really thought I would quit because I am a big man and a big eater and I have to work harder than any man in baseball. But I sat down in a chair one day and wrote my life story by telling it to myself and I knew, being also a grown man 32 years old next June, that I could not quit.
"The last time I flew was when the Brooklyn ball club forced me to go to Japan in 1956. They gave me sleeping pills, I drank whisky, but it didn't do any good. After that I swore on my little girl that I wouldn't ever go on another airplane.
"But then I got interested in hypnotism. I want to impress one thing on you, young fella. This is no farce. If children can be born and the mother feels no pain, hypnotism is not a joke, and if Don Newcombe can fly again, it is also not a joke. And $25 a session is no joke. This hypnotist I am going to is not a quack.
"I have had three sessions with him—one a week for the last three weeks. Each session lasts an hour. The man says, 'Sit down and look into my right eye, Don.' Then he starts talking to me the way I am talking to you now. He is so nice, it's pitiful. He tells me I will not be afraid when I get on the plane and that the plane will not crash; that I will be able to fly again. We talk about how I am a Negro pitcher and people sometimes call me names and about how I get nervous so my palms are sweating before a game. It's all right to get nervous before a game but you shouldn't bring it in with you. We talk about when people say I choke up and the time I was so pent up, I hit that man.
"My eyes are closed when he is talking to me but I am fully conscious. He says I am an excellent subject because I want so much to be one. I can hear the buses going by, the horns blowing, people passing in the street. I am not in his power. I can always get up and walk away. He cannot make me jump out the window.
"This man is doing me a favor, young fella, and I am doing me a favor. He does not need me. He lived before he met Don Newcombe and he will live after he met him.
"Also," Newcombe continued, "three times a day for five minutes I have a relaxation session with myself. I count from 5 to 1 over and over again. 5-4-3-2-1. 5-4-3-2-1. I get so relaxed, it's pitiful.
"If the weather clears next week, the hypnotist and myself are going in an airplane. Where are we going? We are going to Chicago, Miami, Montreal; anywhere about three hours away. The hypnotist stakes his reputation that I will be able to fly again and I believe him. This man wears a big black hat and a big blue overcoat. He is a strapping man and he does not need Don Newcombe."
Newcombe looked up above his bar at the plaques he won in 1956 for being the Most Valuable Player and the best pitcher.
"I won 27 games once," he said, softly, as if it were a country he had been to all too briefly and to which he could not return.
Jack Paar, the National Broadcasting Company's gift to the nation's nonsense-loving insomniacs, likes to dislocate funny bones in the early morning with demonstrations of odd gimmicks and gadgets his staff finds for him.
Last week he titillated so many funny bones that he wrecked the calm of New York's very proper Abercrombie & Fitch. What touched his viewers off was a largish mechanical fish which stalks after, catches and viciously devours a smaller mechanical fish. The little fish may then, like Jonah, be plucked from the innards of the larger and sent on its way, to be eaten again still another time.
This unorthodox item (Spanish-made Gabby The Whale, $3) was stocked, surprisingly enough, by none other than Abercrombie's conservative Fishing Department.
The morning after Paar's foray into the lighter side of angling, harried clerks normally accustomed to explaining the intricacies of Orvis reels found themselves besieged by hundreds of mechanical-fish lovers. Men, women and children crowded onto the eighth floor in a traffic jam closely resembling Gimbel's Basement on bargain day. Above the din of voraciously cracking jaws as big fish gobbled up little fish all over the place, impatient voices kept shouting, "Show me the carnivorous fish!"
By noon the worst was over. Late-arriving executives and suburban housewives learned the sad news. Every fish, big and little, in Abercrombie's had been sold. "But," a weary clerk assured the disappointed, "we've ordered 20,000 more and hope to meet the demand in a few days."
FRIEND IN NEED
Maryland Game Warden Leo Friend last week arrested Carlos Friend, who owns a farm near Friendsville, for illegally selling wild game. Nor was that the end of this friendly business. Leo Friend, warden, hauled Carlos Friend, game seller, to Uncle Earl C. Friend, magistrate, who fined Friend's Friend $1,750. That's all, friends.
A recent typical Sunday in Chicago produced the sports page headlines: Washington Redskins 14; Chicago Bears 3. Cleveland Browns 31; Chicago Cardinals 0. Toronto Maple Leafs 7; Chicago Black Hawks 2. St. Louis Falstaff bowlers 24,801; Chicago Reserves 23,941. A dark overline on a Monday morning sports page lamented: "No one can expect to win all the time. But wouldn't it be nice to win once in a while?"
The plain truth is that the bitter ashes of defeat no longer sting in Chicago. They have sifted down too long and too often. For a Chicago sports buff to exist in tranquility requires the charitable feeling toward broad-shouldered ball fumblers and idiot base runners that St. Francis of Assisi reserved for the poor, the sick and the luckless. There are many vagaries of sport to contemplate in Chicago, few to admire. As Chicago Daily News sports editor John P. Carmichael put it recently:
"Chicago hasn't won a professional football title since 1947. The Cubs haven't won a pennant since 1945. The Sox haven't come close to playing in a World Series since 1919 and the Black Hawks last won a Stanley Cup in 1938. This is a record of futility unmatched by any other city with a similar number of representations going for it."
Carmichael is right. Chicago now has more major league professional teams than any other city in the country, including New York (a greatness it had thrust upon it when the Giants and the Dodgers belatedly joined the gold rush to California). But with all the clubs it has to watch, Chicago seldom sees a worthwhile victory.
The Cubs romp in season at Wrigley Field, but they have not been real contenders for a decade. The aging White Sox try hard, as they have for each of the 38 years since they sold out the 1919 Series, but their highest pinnacle of success was the 1957 American League second place. The ill-tempered Black Hawks, ice-hockey incompetents who have been rescued from deserved oblivion by television, have not wound up in the big time since that Stanley Cup of 1938. The best gauge of the Hawks' recent history is the fact that their programs omit all references to the past. The Cardinals last made a creditable mark in the football record books in 1947, when they led the Eastern Division. The Bears reached the same high mark in the Western Division in 1956, giving George Halas' crew the freshest locker room laurels to be found in Chicago. (New York won the playoff match by 47-7.) Even in boxing, the sports fan gets about as much nourishment as the runt pig at chow-time, thanks to television and the International Boxing Club's James Norris and Arthur Wirtz (owners of the Chicago Stadium and the Black Hawks). The boxer's fistic accomplishments seem to count less in Chicago than, his relationship with the IBC; the fan who buys one of the Stadium's 12,500 "ringside" seats might justly conclude that the fight is not to the swift but the favored, and anyway he can't see very well from his seat in the 47th row.
Chicago's pathetic results on the gridiron, diamond, ring and rink caused one sportswriter to cry: "Mention New York to a sports fan and what does he think of? The Yankees. Mention Milwaukee and he thinks of the Braves. But mention Chicago and what does a sports fan think of? What is there for him to think of?"
The answer, of course, if you leave out the fine horse racing at Arlington, and Washington Parks, is: Not very much.
GOOSEMANSHIP IN CAROLINA
Virginia Kraft, who reports and writes on hunting and fishing in this magazine, tells of a harrowing and deplorable experience in North Carolina.
"Some children spend the whole year looking forward to Christmas. In our family there is a 12-year-old, my nephew, who looks forward to the waterfowl season. This year was particularly exciting for him. Having learned to handle a shotgun, and even to down a duck or two, he was ready for the ultimate waterfowl experience—a chance at Canada geese. And what more wonderful place could anyone choose than the fabled public hunting grounds at Lake Mattamuskeet, North Carolina?
"With shotguns oiled, shells sorted, equipment piled high in our station wagon and a note of celebration in the air, our party of three headed south. As long strips of highway rolled away behind us, dark clouds gathered on the horizon ahead. Brisk winds whipped out of the southeast; a touch of frost hung on the air. The weather was going to be just right for geese.
"At nightfall we pulled into the town of New Holland, heart of Lake Mattamuskeet goose shooting. Sporty guides lounged in front of the general store, each equipped with an engraved business card listing his fees and the advantages of his particular hunting ground. In the darkened sky, black shapes winged overhead in an unending procession. The muted, mingled honking of thousands of geese was a music we had never heard before. It had to be wonderful shooting here!
"Long before sunrise the next morning we were ready to meet our guide, one chosen from the group of worthy prospects at the general store. A crowd of other hunters was already with him. We decided our choice had been a good one. After paying him $15 for the three of us, he suggested we follow him in our car to land he'd leased for the season. We found a number of cars already there when we arrived. The land, a strip running parallel to the Lake Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge, and in no place more than 100 yards from the refuge's borders, seemed ideal. A natural wall of young trees and bushes separated the hunting land from the sharp eyes of thousands of geese wintering within the sanctity of the refuge. Their jabbering and honking was almost deafening.
"With a group of other hunters, we followed our guide along the trees. About 500 yards in from the parked cars, he asked us to stop. Part of the group had already dropped off; the rest he took on down the line. Some minutes later he returned to tell us should we need anything he'd be back at the cars.
"Arranging ourselves shoulder to shoulder, we moved part way into the protective covering of bushes and waited. Presently, off to our right a small flock of geese got up from the lake and winged over the natural wall. We heard shooting and saw two geese drop in the distance. On our left, the same thing happened. Down the line now we could hear guns going off with regularity. Geese were moving out from the lake and into the fields to feed. Soon it would be our turn. Breathlessly we waited for the moment when a flock would get up in front of us and whiz within shooting range. A soft rain had begun to fall. It only increased our expectancy. Any minute now. Then, right over our heads they came—five great, wing-flapping Canadas, honking plaintive, deep-throated messages.
"We each fired once. Three geese dropped into the bushes in front of us.
"From the right somebody shouted, and a man we'd never seen before raced up to us exclaiming: 'That's my goose; that's my goose in there.' A fat man in baggy overalls came panting up from the left. He didn't speak but charged into the bushes. Through the thicket directly in front of us two strange voices began a loud, unintelligible argument. Stunned, we watched as gunless strangers thrashed the bushes where our geese had fallen.
"Only my nephew recovered his senses with speed; then he too leapt into the bushes. Thorn-scratched and ragged at the edges, he emerged some 10 minutes later, a smile of victory on his face and a goose in his hand. 'That fat guy almost got it,' he panted, 'but I was faster and beat him to it.' Our score was one for three.
"Of course, we'd never been goose shooting at Lake Mattamuskeet before, so we didn't know that besides being able to shoot, it's also necessary to qualify in cross-country, water-splashing, twig-snapping and plain orneriness."
Thus ends the report from Virginia Kraft. We should like to add a footnote by way of emphasis: The fact that the public shooting at Lake Mattamuskeet is the kind of shooting that is available to the large group of outdoorsmen who cannot afford the luxury of a private or semiprivate club makes all the more deplorable the lack of management in places like Lake Mattamuskeet.
STUCK WITH IT
Why is he walking on all fours,
Just like a tail-less pup?
He touched his toes when he arose,
Then couldn't straighten up.
THEY SAID IT...
•Jack Dempsey, in an interview with Sports Editor Al Warden of the Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner: "The fistic sport needs an overhauling, a cleanup, and the sooner the better. Present-day TV fighters wouldn't have made good four-round preliminary boys a few years ago. The monopoly is one of the reasons... ."
•Frank McGuire, North Carolina's basketball coach: "My team is like sputnik. We've been up there awfully high. Like sputnik, we've got to come down."
•Harry G. Davis, executive secretary to Kentucky Governor Happy Chandler, explaining why the state hired the father of 6-foot 9-inch University of Kentucky freshman basketball player Ned Jennings as a highway investigator: "Mr. Jennings needed work. The university needed his son. It was a worthy case."
•George M. Trautman, president of the minor leagues, on the problem of reorganizing the minors: "I have sat with clubs and leagues for 12 years on realignment, and as a result nothing has been realigned."
•Frank Ryan, Rice quarterback and nuclear physics major, after being told that he had been drafted by the L.A. Rams: "I considered it, but then decided against it. My professors advised me not to try to mix my education and pro football."