Three weeks agowhen Bill Talbert spoke optimistically of his Davis Cup team ("The boys aresharp and getting sharper") sounds of derision filled the tennis air fromthe Antipodes to the U.S. Talbert and Co. had crumbled almost hopelessly beforemanaging to beat Belgium in the Interzone Finals, and the American mixture ofcallow youth and hobbling antiquity was given little chance of escaping a thirdconsecutive shutout at the hands of the Australians. The New York Times calledthe U.S. Davis Cup prospects a "Study in Futility."
True, the UnitedStates failed to bring home the Davis Cup, but, as 60,000 people who squirmedwith fascination in Kooyong Stadium will attest, the U.S. team played somepretty cheering tennis.
Twenty-two-year-old Barry MacKay, who last June was only a 6-foot 4-inch snarlof arms and legs when he graduated from the University of Michigan, proved thatthis country can still produce first-class young tennis players—and in so doingsent back an echo of encouragement to those who have been trying to buildtennis back to its rightful position in this country. Although he had neverplayed before more than a few hundred at any time in his life, he carried thebest amateur in the world, Mal Anderson, to five sets before losing the openingsingles (see page 12). On the final day he beat the Aussies' No. 2 man, AshleyCooper. In both matches MacKay rallied with a determination that was assignificant as his blazing service. Meanwhile, Vic Seixas 34 and playing whatmay very well have been his last Davis Cup match, gave the U.S. a final wink ofglory by beating Anderson 13-11 in the fifth set, apparently on desirealone.
January 6, 1958
Welcome home; allis forgiven.
SPORT IN SPACE
Since thismagazine last went to press the mighty military arms of the U.S. have beentossing missiles through the stratosphere with all the purposive abandon of aquarterback caught with his score down in the last 40 seconds of play. As oneof these planetary passes sped skyward a sports-minded sunbather on a Floridabeach suddenly rose like a tawny Venus from the seashells to shout at itsflaming tail: "That's the way to do it, baby! Go get 'em!"
Whether or notthis vocative body-English contributed materially to the first successfulflight of the Air Force Atlas may never be known, but, in a time of pedagogicalargument over the relative values of science and sport, it offers a healthysuggestion of interdependence. The lion's share of responsibility for theworld's future may now rest with those once dismissed with a snort asgreasy-grinds, but the competitive spirit summoned up by a nation'scheerleaders still packs a propulsive wallop as potent as that of anylab-distilled fuel.
Behind thechilling suggestion of the cold-blooded triumph of science in last week'sheadlines was many a reassuring hint of burgeoning dependence on the sportingspirit. It was certainly no mere hunger for facts that prompted young ScottCrossfield, a husband and the father of five, to volunteer his services as theworld's pioneer space traveler (see page 22). It was equally certain, accordingto another man of pure science who figured in the week's news, that Scott'sefforts and those of his successors would be of little avail without the aidand succor of sport. One of the major problems of space travel, said Dr. GeorgeMangun, a pioneer researcher in space survival, will be how to provide thetraveler with sufficient opportunity for exercise. A leading psychologist wentso far as to suggest to the American Association for the Advancement of Sciencethat no spaceman should set forth on a trip to the stars without a spacewomanto keep him company.
"Games thatrequire a reasonable amount of exercise and include the opportunity to hitsomething," a psychiatrist told a group of Canadian doctors, "can helpto relieve both tension and anxiety." However, the good doctor added, lesttwitchy patients—and the nations of the world—take to cuffing each other withtoo much enthusiasm, it is important that the games be played "just forfun."
With Frank Leahyeliminated for reasons of health, the search for a big-name football coach tosucceed Paul (Bear) Bryant at Texas A&M is right back where it was whenBryant, the old character builder, first announced that he was returning to hisalma mater, Alabama.
Texans, who areaccustomed to getting anything that money can buy, are now beginning to wondernot what is wrong with Texas (for, of course, nothing is), but what kind ofperverse fate is fouling up the football situation. Prior to the unhappyfindings of Leahy's physician (his condition does not affect normal activity,but is said to be unequal to the rigors of coaching), two other big names hadbeen approached. Duffy Daugherty found he could not tear himself away fromMichigan State. Red Sanders of UCLA was told what grateful Texas A&M alumnicould do for a coach in the way of oil deals and stock market tips tosupplement the walking-around-money salary of $15,000 a year. Sanders seemed tobe tempted, but (call him a sentimentalist if you like) when he went back hometo Los Angeles, he began to speak almost tearfully of his duty. While he wasregaining his composure, he hadn't the strength to protest against a raise inpay, a raise in expense money, a new station wagon every year and $1,000 a yearfor its upkeep.
Now the stage wascleared for Frank Leahy, and he swiftly made the preceding actors in the piecelook like bit players in the Late Late Show. Leahy liked what he heard, made noeffort to conceal the fact that he was interested.
But first, Leahylet the air fill itself with rumors. Then there leaked out a tantalizingfragment of a phone conversation in which Mrs. Leahy was said to have told afriend: "I'm going to love living in Texas." And then:
Scene: The Leahyhome in Long Beach, Indiana. Time: Christmas Eve. Soft strains of "It cameupon the midnight clear" are heard in the background. The father laden withgifts hurrying down the icy path to the door and then his legs suddenlyskidding out from under him, the gifts flying.
Scene: Thehospital in Michigan City, Indiana. Coach Leahy abed, a leg held aloft bypulleys, a broken ankle in plaster cast. Statement in response to statement byDr. M. T. Harrington, president of Texas A&M, to effect that Leahy will benew head coach and athletic director: "It is 99% definite. I will know assoon as I have had a physical checkup. I couldn't go back to coaching withoutdoing that because I had some serious trouble." It was a stomach disorderthat forced Coach Leahy to resign at Notre Dame in 1953.
Scene: A room inChicago's Passavant Hospital. Coach Leahy, sitting up in chair, explainsdecision to get physical checkup: "While I was conferring with TexasA&M officials, one of the athletic board members, Doc Doherty, looked meright in the eye and said, 'Coach Leahy, are you certain you are physicallyable to handle this job?' I got to thinking..."
The suspensemounts. As laboratory tests proceed, Coach Leahy says he will name his oldNotre Dame assistant, Bob McBride, as No. 2 man at Texas. Leahy to be headcoach, but in three years' time hoping to turn the active coaching over toMcBride, retaining the post of athletic director himself.
Meanwhile, inTexas, the sports-writers revel in the absorbing byplay up north. It comes outthat Leahy's salary would be $16,000 a year as against Bryant's $15,000, but aswith Bryant, Leahy's would be a salary with a fringe on top, all sorts offringes really, a house, business deals and television shows.
As the drama drawsto a close, the question hangs agonizingly in the air like a soap opera teaser:"Will laboratory tests show Coach Frank Leahy is physically able to facethe rigors of big-time coaching? Tune in tomorrow, same time."
Leahy, in aconfident aside, muses:
"I have beenasked if I will attempt to schedule a game with Notre Dame. I can only say thatit is an honor for any team to have a place on Notre Dame's schedule. I wouldbe delighted to see such a game arranged.
"Have I keptup my contacts that may bring promising prospects to Texas? I have, indeed. Itis not unlikely that some lads from the Middle West will now decide to enrollat Texas A&M. That will be fine with me and with the Texas A&Mauthorities. I understand there were seven lads from outside Texas on the 1957squad."
The curtain isabout to fall. The results of the laboratory tests arrive. The news is bad—forLeahy and for everyone who likes exciting football, whether they approve ofLeahy methods or not.
Frank Leahy sayshe is "deeply distressed." He wonders if Texas A&M would considerhim for athletic director with McBride as head coach. In Florida, Dr.Harrington shakes his head. "We're looking for a coach," he said afterthe Gator Bowl game which was Bear Bryant's farewell.
What now? Whonext? Well, there is Forest Evashevski at Iowa, Jack Curtice at the Universityof Utah, Floyd Schwartzwalder at Syracuse. Maybe Carl Snavely, the Gray Fox whoturned his back on the big time to coach low-pressure football at WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis. Any one of them conceivably might listen to the Texastale.
For all othercandidates, the post address is Texas A&M, College Station, Texas. Phone:Victor 6-5713.
Before a capacitycrowd of 90,000 in Hanover's Niedersachsen Stadium last week a Hungarian soccerteam, described as "mediocre" by local sportswriters, went down tohumiliating defeat by West Germany. The fate of the Magyar dribblers and theadjective applied to them were both characteristic of what has happened toHungarian sports in the year since Magyar Olympians competing at Melbourne madeof their athletic prowess a symbol of the life-and-death struggle taking placein their homeland.
Only a few morethan half of the 100 athletes who went to Australia ever returned to Hungary.More than a score came to America, found jobs and a new life (see 19TH HOLE).Those who went home found the atmosphere drastically changed by a once-bittenRed government that had grown more than twice shy. Despite what seemed to be adetermined effort to make political capital of their returning heroes and toorganize an efficient sport machine on the Soviet style around them, the Kadargovernment bore down hard on would-be athletes.
Many of Hungary'stop performers have been benched—or worse—for political unreliability. Lesserfigures have found little encouragement to climb to the top. Top stars who oncespent almost the entire year training luxuriously on salaries equal to those ofthe nation's doctors and engineers found themselves faced with the need to earna living at workaday jobs.
"Now,"said an ex-Olympic star in Vienna last week, "the sports clubs get onlyhalf as much money as they used to, and athletes' stipends have been cut from800 to 400 forints a month." Beyond these privations, the jitterygovernment has to a great extent deprived potential athletic stars of thefinest incentive of all—the chance to get away from Hungary.
NEVER ASK ASTRANGER
A basketballofficial named Mel Ross, whose home base is Oklahoma City, flew from SanFrancisco to Denver the other day to work a game between Drake University andthe Air Force Academy. Over a coffee at the airport a stranger gave himdirections to the academy. Following the advice, Ross paid $6 for a bus ticketfor the 72-mile trip to Colorado Springs, then rented a car for $20 to driveout to the academy site. There he got a fine uncrowded view of the academy'sultimate home, now under construction and scheduled to be ready for the airmenin the fall of 1958. The basketball game, a foreman pointed out, was beingplayed at the academy's temporary layout in Denver.
Ross calledDenver, said he was on his way. Still in his hired car, he roared down thehighway, was promptly arrested for speeding and fined $104.
Ross never didmake the game. Too bad, too, because the $65 fee would have been at leastsomething toward the day's expenses: a total of $195.10—including the cup ofcoffee at the airport.
While mostbasketball coaches are content merely to win the old ball games, Saxon Cameron(Sax) Elliot of Los Angeles State is not. A successful campaign for Elliot isindicated less by his won-lost record (20-11 last season) than by the number offresh ideas he can bring to the game.
This season Saxhas opened strong. His latest idea is a "remote control" referee whowatches the game via closed-circuit television from the safety and quiet of anearby room and booms out his calls and whistle blasts over a public-addresssystem. Elliot tried it out the other day but it was not a pronounced success.The TV cameraman, unfortunately, was no sports expert. He had trouble followingthe ball but got many excellent shots of the spectators. Elliot hopeseventually to eliminate human failure by having three fixed cameras which willtake pictures of the entire court.
Of course, theremote-control referee is only an electronic refinement of Elliot's old deviceof hanging an official from a painter's chair over the center of the court, orsuspending one above each backboard. The reasoning behind this particular, evenperilous, experiment was that the referee would thereby be able to spot foulshis grounded counterparts missed. The scheme was short-lived. For one thing,the official spent the early part of the game wondering if he was going to stayup and neglecting the action below. For another, once accustomed to his perch,he called too many fouls and was a sitting duck for the wrath of the fans.Towards eliminating this condition, incidentally, Elliot once suggested thatofficials wear earplugs so they would not be disturbed by booing andcatcalls.
But Elliot's mainconcern is to eliminate the present advantage of the tall man. "I havealways felt," he has said, "that a little man should have an equalizerin this game. And I always felt the way to get some sensible rules in the bookwas to try something to get around the big boys."
One year, whenElliot's team had to play an opponent with a decided height advantage, he builtup the soles of his athletes' shoes with as much as six inches of rubber untileach player was exactly the same height as the man he was to play against. Hisartificially elevated team played very well for one half but then the gluewhich secured the platform soles to the shoes began to lose its cohesivenessand so did the team.
Among Elliot'sother antigoon inventions—not all of which, of course, have gone beyond hisbusy mind—have been moving backboards "so the big man couldn't just standunder a basket and make it a skeet shoot"; rotating hoops; and two basketsand backboards, one at 14 feet for those over 6 feet to aim at, the other atthe regulation 10 feet.
Elliot's interestin the dynamics of color has also prompted him to paint the basketball brightorange, and to stripe it and polka-dot it and to tinker with fluorescentuniforms.
But the mostcelebrated achievement of Elliot's career came on the night John Barber scored188 points. That was several years back, when 6-foot 7-inch Bevo Francis oftiny Rio Grande College was scoring as many as 116 points a game. Elliotclaimed that Francis was just a good player who was fed the ball whenever abasket was imminent, that Rio Grande played mediocre opposition and that whatresulted was a decided mockery.
Elliot thereforeselected Barber, an ordinary 6-foot 6-inch player, and arranged that he be fedthe ball at every scoring opportunity when LA State played feeble ChapmanCollege. State won 232 to 78 with Barber shooting his head off.
Elliot neverfollowed it up. "The point was," said Sax, "that feeding Barber theball would have gotten us killed by a good team. He would have scored 100points but they would have scored 200."
A tenderfoothunter from Baltimore brought a curious problem the other day to GraydonDunlap, a state game checker in western Maryland. He had his deer all right, hetold Dunlap, but he hadn't shot it, he had captured it. Could he check out alive deer?
Curious, Dunlapstepped outside the game station to have a look. Then he gave his ruling: theprize would have to be returned. It wasn't a deer, he told the city boy gently;it was a goat.
When the last ofthe Christmas turkey has been consumed and the worst New Year hangover is done,the football buffs of the nation gather over America's banquet tables to talkof Army and Harvard and Texas A&M, of unbeatable but beaten Oklahoma andother great and famous teams.
Last week, firedwith just as much enthusiasm, a handful of buffs got together to munch ongridiron fry so small that few had ever heard of them. They were the men of theGrid Seersucker League whose purpose is to keep the competitive fires burningon the gridirons of those they call Saturday's Stepchildren.
The GSL cares lessfor Yale than for Redlands, less for SMU than for Catawba and Friendship andHope and Tougaloo Southern Christian and the College of Puget Sound.
Last week at itsaward banquet the league singled out as "the most neglected"footballers of the year, the stalwarts of Ouachita College, the pride ofArkadelphia, Ark., who 10 times in 1957 marched against the foe to the utterindifference of the nation at large.
With compassionbeyond that of most fans, they even bestowed a special award on Assistant CoachGerald Brittain of Pittsburg State Teachers of Kansas, who was felled by agoalpost during a practice session.
Little Willie, newto skis,
Tried to schuss between two trees;
Said Willie's sister with a smirk,
I rather thought it wouldn't work.
THEY SAID IT...
•Powel Crosley Jr., owner of the Cincinnati Redlegs:"I'm liable to wove the Redlegs. Every other club in the National Leaguewould love to see us move to New York."
•Frank Leahy, when asked by a clerk in a Chicagohospital what occupation she should list on his admission card: "Just putdown that I'm a traveling man."
•Slater Martin, St. Louis Hawks basketball player, asquoted by Robert L. Byrnes in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat: "The toughestpart of the job of guarding Bob Cousy in that it's such a temptation to standback and admire him."
•Frank Shaughnessy, president of the InternationalLeague, commenting on a major league proposal to televise Sunday baseballgames: "If they blanket us with television on Sunday, the best day we have,then we're finished."
•Eddie Arcaro, as reported by Joe Hyams in the New YorkHerald Tribune, reluctantly replying to a friend's question if he were amillionaire: "I am, unless I got short-changed during the past 24hours."
Is there no better dish to put before the king?