IN THE LIVING-ROOMBOWL
This is an article from the Jan. 13, 1958 issue
Literary anddramatic criticism are at least as old as the republic and—who knows—haveprobably had a generally good effect on the state of culture in these UnitedStates for a long, long time. Nobody has yet made a full-time career out ofcritical scrutiny of the TV sports announcer, but an attempt seems overdue.Certainly millions of professional football fans came away from the TVbroadcast of the Detroit-Cleveland game two weeks ago in a mood to cuffchildren, because an announcer named Van Patrick doggedly persisted—in hallowedradio fashion—in telling them in detail, and without surcease, what they couldalready see for themselves on their own screens. On New Year's Day, therefore,with roughly half the country assembled before bowl-game screens for five orsix hours, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED set up a living-room watch as well as a press-boxwatch in Miami, New Orleans, Dallas and Pasadena. Give or take a few bloopers,living-room America got a high-grade show.
The coin-tossingceremony—with the TV audience tuned into the mid-field ceremonies with fieldmicrophones—still seems prevailingly unrehearsed, with lines and gesturesstrictly ad lib. Thus at Pasadena, when the referee introduced his colleaguesto the Ohio State and Oregon captains, one official acknowledged with a nod,another with a semimilitary salute, another with a semi-Bushido bow. But nobodyexpects football officials to synchronize like the Radio City Rockettes, andthe coin-tossing closeups did help the living-room set to acquire a fair senseof intimacy—after the sweeping camera shots of coliseums people-packed likebeans in cans—with the real goings-on.
All networks usethe two-platoon system in the announcers' box: Chris Schenkel and Johnny Lujackat the Orange Bowl (CBS); Lindsey Nelson and Red Grange at the Sugar Bowl(NBC); Tom Harmon and Forest Evashevski at the Cotton Bowl (CBS); Mel Allen andChick Hearn at the Rose Bowl (NBC). Thanks to the fact that the Miami game andits pageantry consumed close to three hours of network time, CBS watchers gotlittle more than the second half from Dallas and had to be brought up to dateon lost happenings by Harmon and Evashevski, who proved to be in expert andrather unexpected disagreement as to the chief reason for Navy's success. OldRunning Back Harmon credited the Navy line; Old Blocking Back Evashevskicredited Tom Forrestal in the Navy backfield. Out in the Rose Bowl, Mel Allendid a good clean job and, with no beer to gargle or cigars to lip as he doesfor his baseball sponsors in summertime, was able to keep the excess saliva outof his pear-shaped tones.
By every standard,however, the most successful novelty of the day was CBS's wiring of thereferees for sound. Both in Miami (Referee John Donohue) and in Dallas (RefereeAlbie Booth), the top official was equipped with a breast-pocket microphone, √†la Ed Murrow, a set of batteries in one pocket and a small transmitter inanother. A pickup aerial carried field talk to the CBS man in the press boxwho, at the turn of a switch, put the dialogue on the air.
In Dallas, AlbieBooth's batteries ran low in the second half—which was a pity ("He's anawfully colorful guy," mourned a CBS spokesman). But in Miami the deviceworked beautifully, even though—perhaps overweighted with the experimentalcharacter of the occasion—the control booth put Donohue on the air less than adozen times altogether.
"Clipping—15yards," Donohue would sing out.
"Who?" theOklahoma field captain would say.
"Number74"—or whatever—and the camera would pan down on the culprit.
Or, as Donohuemade a sidewise chopping motion with his arm to indicate the offense, his voicewould come through: "Personal foul—15 yards." And the camera would pickout the villain again.
No cuss words madethe air—though Donohue was heard from coast to coast when he uttered an honest,involuntary "Wow!" on one spirited tackle—and it is fair to say thatfor the first time in the history of television a New Year's bowl-game audiencefrom coast to coast felt as close to the play on the field as the watchers inthe stands, if not closer.
MR. FRICK SPEAKSUP
The office of FordFrick, baseball's commissioner, sits high in New York's RCA Building, the70-story centerpiece of Rockefeller Center. A stop at baseball's HQ is notincluded in the Rockefeller Center Guided Tour, possibly for the reason that inyears past nothing much ever happened there. But lately (and the Guided Tourpeople can take this for what it is worth to them) some sense-making soundshave come echoing out of Commissioner Frick's inner sanctum. That would seem tobe good news for everyone in major league baseball except a few operatorsskilled in the off-field stratagem of looking to capital gains at income-taxtime.
As a matter offact, there seems to be a new and more forceful Ford Frick sitting in thecommissioner's chair. Using hindsight, some observers date the transformationback to last July when Mr. Frick was elected to another term which should carryhim up to retirement. Up to that time Mr. Frick was somewhat in the position ofa baby-kissing, handshaking politician just before the voting; he seemedanxious to please the club owners, wary of offending.
But at themajor-minor league meetings in Colorado Springs last month Mr. Frick was a manwho fairly radiated job security. He spoke up loudly and clearly on mostissues. He told a press conference exactly where he stood on the question ofkeeping New York "open" for the National League: he was for it. Later,he appointed a four-man committee to study territories.
This committee metwith Mr. Frick last week and out of their meetings came some clear-cutrecommendations. These boiled down to 1) any city with more than 2 millionpopulation (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit and Los Angeles) would beeligible for a second major league club and 2) ball parks in any one city mustbe at least five miles apart. This declaration, if adopted by the leagues intheir meeting January 25, would give the National League a beachhead in NewYork, while apparently giving the Yankees a monopoly in Manhattan. Cincinnati,just for instance, would be free to take over Ebbets Field (not the PoloGrounds, which is too close to Yankee Stadium) or any stadium the city mightconstruct at Flushing Meadows on Long Island.
On this last pointCommissioner Frick had some plain words to deliver before the meeting. He saidcommunities that want major league baseball must undertake to build their ownstadiums, not baseball-only stadiums, which would antagonize the taxpayers, butathletic plants to accommodate many sports and be (in 10 years, Frick thinks)self-liquidating.
This would runcounter to the Walter O'Malley formula. Mr. O'Malley would prefer to build hisown plant on low-cost land and then keep control of all revenues: admissions,refreshments, parking and the rest of it. Powel Crosley (who has been hintingthat he will move to New York if Cincinnati doesn't provide more parking spacethan it has promised) is apparently thinking O'Malley-style that the community"owes" a baseball proprietor something.
Mr. Frick pointsout that private enterprise can't get property in the thickly populated centersexcept at outrageously inflated prices. He cites the case of NelsonRockefeller, whose display of interest in keeping the Dodgers in Brooklynskyrocketed the price of a piece of property from an estimated worth of$1,250,000 to $4 million. Frick does not deny that private capital was equal tothe task in the old days of trolley-car transportation and abundant vacant lotsaround the ball parks. But in these days of exploding populations, he sees onlyone way to play fair with baseball, the cities and the taxpayers: all-purpose,revenue-producing, city-owned stadiums. With enough of them, Frick sees themajors expanding in orderly fashion to two 10-team leagues or three eight-teamleagues.
And if all thisdoes not solve the immediate problems of Walter O'Malley (Los Angeles will voteJune 3 on whether to give him the Chavez Ravine site on his terms), well,anybody in Brooklyn will be glad to tell Mr. O'Malley where he should havestood.
FROM HERE TONADIR
If all the scienceof Thorough bred racing is, to a large extent, just one big guessing game, noone must be more proficient at the science of guessing than the professionalhandicap-per whose unenviable lot it is to load weight on young horses forraces to be run months in the future. To get an idea of the enormity of theproblem, take the case of Frank E. (Jimmy) Kilroe, who is the officialhandicapper and racing secretary of The Jockey Club, of all New York tracks andof beautiful Santa Anita.
Jimmy Kilroestarted cocking a curious eye at the present crop of 3-year-olds from themoment the first of roughly 9,000 foals arrived early in 1955. He followedtheir progress and recorded their form throughout 1957 when the fit survivorsof equine childhood diseases put in their first races. And finally, this week,he published his list of his best bets for 1958—a sort of cast of charactersfor the Triple Crown ahead. The list cuts 9,000 youngsters down to 125—75colts, 40 fillies, and 10 geldings.
Kilroe's list,known in the trade as the Experimental, is made up on the principle ofweighting horses for a theoretical race at a mile and a sixteenth early in thespring. Actually this spring such a race, the Experimental Handicap, may wellbe run on April 5 at Jamaica for $25,000. Naturally Kilroe puts the most weighton the horse he considers the best 3-year-old in the land, and this year topweight (126 pounds) goes to Maine Chance Farm's flashy Jewel's Reward. Next inline come Claiborne Farm's Nadir (125); George D. Widener's Jester (124),Jaclyn Stables' L'il Fella (123) and Wheatley Stables' Misty Flight (122).Bracketed at 121 pounds is a quartet made up of Kentucky Pride, Old Pueblo (thelone California colt in the top 10), Rose Trellis and Terra Firma. And at 120pounds come Whitley and the undefeated filly Idun.
What do Kilroe'sopinions mean in terms of longe-range forecasting? Well, in the three previousyears since he inherited this thankless chore from the late John Campbell,Jimmy has been a jewel of consistency. His top-weighted horses in each of thelast three Experimental lists were Summer Tan, Career Boy and Barbizon. And ineach of the last three seasons Kilroe's second high-weight—Nashua, Needles andBold Ruler—wound up as the 3-year-old champion. Nadir, take it from here.
Maybe it's becausehe is invariably well dressed in a world where sartorial slackness is more andmore regrettably prevalent. Maybe it's because of the portly tolerance withwhich he views—and declines to judge—the foibles and fallibilities of sloppymankind. Whatever the reason, the penguin, of all representatives of the animalkingdom, has achieved for himself a unique niche in the affections and respectof humanity.
Since Oregoniansare no exception to this rule, excitement ran high in Portland last Novemberwhen word spread that a delegation of 67 penguins was on its way north fromAntarctica to take up residence in the local zoo. Portland's citizens turnedout en masse at the air base to greet the huge Globe-master bearing thedistinguished visitors, and it was notable as well as fitting that zooofficials turned out for the occasion impeccably clad in white tie and tails.During the next few weeks, as the penguins lodged in a local swimming pool toawait the completion of their official home, visitors by the thousands droppedby to pay their respects.
Last week, likethe announcement of stark catastrophe in the midst of a court gala, a pall fellon Portland. Black banner heads in the city's newspapers told the terribletale: PENGUINS HERE DYING, NEXT 28 DAYS CRITICAL, CITY GOES ALL OUT TO SAVEPENGUINS. One by one, gasping for breath in the throes of a disease calledaspergillosis, Portland's gallant penguins were quietly giving up their ghosts.Within a week, five plump Emperors and as many slighter Adelies bit thedust.
Portland's parkcommissioner hastily called a conference of zoo officials, doctors andveterinarians. A top pathologist of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raced tothe scene to confer with a penguin authority from Baltimore's famed JohnsHopkins. A local cold-storage plant offered to turn its premises into a replicaof the Antarctic for the sake of the sick birds.
Pressed intoservice, Dr. Charles Dotter, chief of the Oregon Medical School's Department ofRadiology, loaded his fanciest portable X-ray equipment on a truck and headedfor the penguin pool. His improvised technique revealed six more birds whoseemed to be seriously infected and another six who may have been, but nobodycould be sure. "Who knows," said Dr. Dotter, "about X-rayingpenguins?" Even a constant temperature check was not of too much help,since nobody was sure what a penguin's temperature is supposed to be.
To help clarifythese puzzling matters, Dr. Dotter took one of the ailing birds, a plump youngAdelie named Hector, back to his home. Dignified and uncomplaining, Hector isstill there, puttering about the doctor's study, peering with interest over hisshoulder as the radiologist studies chest plates, and determined to make aslittle trouble as possible. With care and antibiotic dosage, Hector seemssomewhat improved, but, as Dr. Dotter says, "Who knows? He may berecovering. He may be dying. All I can say is that he's a damned finepatient."
On November 13,just 26 days after he had scored the 500th goal of his illustrious career,Joseph Henri Maurice Richard skated against Toronto. "I had cut into centerice," says Rocket Richard in retrospect, "and I was about 15 feetinside the Toronto blue line as I got a pass from Dickie Moore. I took a shot,and as I did so I fell forward on the ice and slid forward toward the goal. AToronto defense-man, Marc Reaume, was in front of me, his back to me. Chadwick,the goalie, had blocked the shot on his right side and the puck had gone off tothe corner. Moore was in there trying to get it. Reaume was watching the playin the corner. I slid into him from behind. I didn't hit him hard. He fellbackward on top of me and I felt the stab in my leg as he got up."
The stab Richardfelt was the blade of Reaume's left skate cutting down inside his skating shoeand deep into his right Achilles tendon. The tendon, thick at that point, wascut two-thirds of the way through. Dr. James Murray, the Toronto teamphysician, stitched up the surface cut. On November 21 Dr. Lawrence GarthHampson, the Canadiens' team surgeon, reopened the wound and stitched thetendon together with subcutaneous catgut, which in time will dissolve. For thenext 33 days the Rocket wore a plaster cast that extended from his toes to sixinches above his knee.
Had the tendonbeen severed Canada's greatest athlete would have been disabled for the rest ofthe season. Last week there was good news for Montreal's perfervid hockeydisciples. The Rocket, saved from long convalescence by the uncut shred oftendon, said he would be back on ice and in action by the end of the month.
Los Angeles is acity that chalks its cue with the manufactured illusion, and calling some ofits best shots these days is one Jack Swimmer—prestidigitator, mentalist andillusionist. In December, Swimmer essayed to predict the scores of this year'sfour major bowl games. The thing of it is, he got them all right.
How he brought offthis crafty enterprise, curious all the more in the light of Oregon's nearshading of Ohio State, Swimmer isn't saying in so many words. He talks, if atrifle fuzzily, of extrasensory perception, telepathic thought patterns,electronics and illusions. But to lend the whole thing the necessary air ofwizardy, he announced what he was up to on NBC-TV's Truth or Consequences,knitted his brow in the accepted fashion of divinators and wrote down hisforecasts. Undisclosed, they were carried off in a strongbox by Los AngelesCounty Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz for safekeeping. When the box was opened theday after New Year's, everybody on the show sucked in his breath and agreed itwas the doggonedest thing.
Now 50, Swimmerhas been an amateur magician of sorts since he was 7 and living in Brooklyn.There, at Coney Island, he served as an impromptu aide, stooge and errand boyfor the great Houdini. Nowadays he is a well-to-do businessman who, for ahobby, has taken to forecasting. To the consternation of gamblers (whom herefuses to aid and abet), Swimmer, in his own way, picked Marciano to kayoWalcott in 2:25, predicted the correct runs, hits and errors for the MilwaukeeBraves' final 1957 game and the popular votes polled by Eisenhower in 1956. Atany rate, the right figures always came out of the sealed envelopes.
Explains Swimmer(explaining nothing): "There is nothing supernatural about my effects. Butit would take four or five hours to explain."
Would Swimmer makea prediction on the first Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants game?Nothing doing, said he—at least not until the day comes closer and he canarrange his strongboxes, sheriffs and the like.
Because I'm not sovery tall
They said, you can't play basketball,
But too few inches are no lack
For I play forward piggy-back.
LINETTE M. BURTON
THEY SAID IT...
•Walter Fondren, Texas quarterback, mourning his team'slack of power in losing to Mississippi 39-7 in the Sugar Bowl: "We couldn'tbust a peanut."
•Pancho Gonzales, beaten two matches out of three byLew Hoad in Australia: "I have to find the answer to him and find it quick.He plays the same game as I, hitting the ball hard—only he's getting itin."
•Arthur Garvais, New York member of the Sports Car Clubof America, discussing rallying: "It is the true test of a prospectivewife. There's a simple formula. You discount the first rally because you'reboth still too polite to each other. The second rally, the politeness usuallyhas worn off and the girl's true character begins to show. If she survives thethird, you may as well marry her."
•Jack Rice of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on thecomforts of the Los Angeles Coliseum as a proposed nesting place for theDodgers: "The sunshade and ice-water concessions ought to make $250,000 forthe first Sunday double-header. The Coliseum is a deep and roofless concretepit, and on a hot summer day no camel would go from first to third withoutstopping for a drink."