HIM AND HIS BIG FAT CIGAR
Gentlemen," said him and his big fat cigar, "I will guarantee you $400,000 for the two years. That is a fair price, a dignified price. I urge you to accept or reject it. Should you reject it, I would not complain but accept your democratic decision. I think, however, you should know I will not negotiate any further."
Every baseball fan knew that Walter O'Malley would run out of cigars long before he ran out of words, and even as he said these last ones to the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission, he was still puffing vigorously on his cigar.
The result? Are you kidding? Why the Dodgers—the Los Angeles Dodgers, that is—are going to play ball for at least two years in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
January 27, 1958
After that? Why by then baseball will really be popular with the natives, and Walter O'Malley will be able to write his own ticket.
Walter O'Malley and his problem of bedding down his émigrés in their new Los Angeles home was not the only baseball news that made headlines last week.
When he was invited to appear at a Boston dinner and receive the applause of the Boston baseball writers, Jimmy Foxx, a truly fabulous baseball player who retired from the game in 1945 and whose bust now rests in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., had to decline because he was flat broke and had been in more or less the same sad financial condition for about 10 years. Whereas almost everyone knew that Jimmy Foxx's predicament was largely the result of human shortcomings that are all too common, it was heartening to observe the flood of offers that came in to solve his problem. Some of these offers, to be sure, were made out of varying degrees of self-interest, but the observation still stands that on the whole response to the knowledge of the sad plight of Jimmy Foxx was reassuring.
It may be, though, his bust in the Hall of Fame notwithstanding, that Jimmy Foxx will gain his most lasting fame as a heroic statistic in the march of social progress. If Jimmy had been a year younger, he would have started his baseball career a year later and thus he might have been eligible for the fancy new pension that he and his bat helped to create for all baseball players of the future. The pension system that would have given Jimmy Foxx a handsome stipend for life went into effect just one year after Jimmy wore himself out hitting home runs. Social progress is never retroactive even though those who helped make the progress possible can only stand and watch and want.
MATTER OF JUDGMENT
Ted Atkinson is a fine little gentleman who looks more like a country squire than one of the most successful jockeys in the country. But, like the little man on this week's cover, Ted is master of all situations and, from his long experience in steering 1,000 pounds of horseflesh around turns, in and out of pockets and tight squeezes, he has earned the right to speak with authority on the art of race riding.
Last Thursday over dinner with friends, Ted was discussing Willie Shoemaker's mistaken judgment of the finish line in the Kentucky Derby on Gallant Man. "Willie," said Ted, "is an old friend of mine and a fine race rider. But pulling up early like he did is absolutely inexcusable. I don't know how he could do it." Friday, Ted went out to ride Notation in the second race on Hialeah's opening-day card.
As the horses circled into the stretch Ted was second, trailing the leader by two lengths. Brandishing his whip, he roused Notation and sprang to the leader's throat. In an instant he was by him and apparently on his way to victory. But nearing the finish Atkinson stood up in the saddle and two horses flashed past him.
Called before the stewards, Atkinson was asked whether, just like Shoemaker, he had misjudged the finish. "Nope," said Ted, "my hat dropped down over my eyes and I pulled up in confusion." The judges nodded their appreciation for such an original answer but decided to examine the film patrol pictures anyway. Then they handed down their ruling: "Jockey Ted Atkinson is fined $100 for misjudging the finish line."
Few celebrities are lucky enough to achieve the immortality of a biography in film while still earning the plaudits of the crowd in their chosen profession. Louis Pasteur, Alexander Graham Bell, Moses, Lou Gehrig and the great Dan Patch—the most memorable harness horse who ever lived—were all pretty well washed up by the time Hollywood got to work on them. But in Paris last week, the filmed biography of one of France's greatest heroines was packing them in at three first-run movie houses while the heroine herself performed for an adoring crowd at a race track just outside of town.
This doubly celebrated heroine was one Gelinotte, a once-wayward filly who in eight short years of life has come to be the greatest European trotting horse of the 20th century and the biggest money-making mare in the history of Continental racing.
Like that of many another heroine who might have gone wrong, Gelinotte's story was ennobled by the love and attention lavished on her by a good man. The filmed tale of Gelinotte recounts with tenderness the first moments of her life when, as a feckless foal, she gamboled and frolicked among the rolling green hills and fragrant apple orchards of her native Normandy. Gelinotte then showed the promise bequeathed by her grandm√®re, the famed trotter Uranie. Harnessed to a sulky for the first time at Vincennes, the cradle and capital of French harness racing, she plucked the track cinders with her dainty hooves as gracefully and delicately as a harpist in a symphony. Alas, however, the promise was not fulfilled, for this talented debutante was as temperamental as she was spirited. Time after time in important races, she would forget her schooling and break from her carefully learned trotting pace into a wild and willful gallop. The result: disqualification.
Success followed disgrace and disgrace success in dreary monotony until at last the career of Gelinotte, seemingly doomed to mediocrity, crossed that of Charlie Mills, the German-born son of an Irish father famed in harness racing. Once Europe's finest trainer-driver, Charlie himself had lost everything when the Russians moved into Germany at the end of World War II. At well over 60, he was just beginning to make a comeback when he met the fractious Gelinotte. "My father used to say," murmured Charlie, gazing into the filly's soft brown eyes, "that there is no such thing as a bad horse. If a horse misbehaves, there must be a reason. What we have to do is find it."
In Gelinotte's case Charlie found the reason in a skittish temperament that is the birthright of every great performer. Subjected to Charlie's own massive calm, kept in rein by his firm but gentle hands, the great trotter turned as tractable and docile as a Shetland pony. After four months' training, Charlie drove her to a win, followed in quick succession by three more. In 1954, under Charlie's hand, she won 11 races out of 11 starts. In the years since then, hailed as an idol by fanciers at country fairs and city tracks, Gelinotte has managed to break every trotting record at every distance and has twice plucked the coveted Prix d'Amerique, Europe's top trotting prize, as a feather for her trainer's cap.
So much for the story of Gelinotte on film. Unfortunately, life itself is not so kind to its heroines. With her film still going strong, Gelinotte, with Charlie Mills at the reins once again, trotted out on the old track at Vincennes for still another race. Penalized by her past successes, she was in lonely grandeur a full 50 yards behind the field as the starting wires dropped. Within seconds she had outdistanced the nearest competitors, and her fans at the trackside blew fervent kisses as her mincing feet stepped along. The big field of 20 horses made it impossible for Gelinotte to break through. Nevertheless, drumming along at a steady gait, she passed horse after horse on the outside until, at the final turn, she was one of the first five.
In a last breathless drive on the stretch, the great heroine pulled past three of the remaining horses—only to bow to the fourth, a sleek mare two years younger. For the idol of France it was probably a small satisfaction to find that she had beaten even the winner's time by three tenths of a second.
HOW TO SCORE
Marv Jorde, University of Minnesota hockey player, complained of poor vision as he returned to the bench after scoring a goal against Michigan State. "Things seem kind of fuzzy," he complained. Inspection showed why: Jorde wears contact lenses, which is not unusual except that he had put two in one eye, none in the other. Mistake corrected, Jorde returned to the ice, scored no more goals.
SOCK, BUSKIN AND GLOVE
Any competent actor can drop dead, or become a father, or write a symphony six nights a week plus matinees for months on end. But in Baltimore a part-time actor and full-time cab driver named Paul Kosty is facing an uncommonly stiff theatrical challenge. In the title role of a musical comedy called Money Fighter he has to fight nine rounds of real boxing at every performance.
Kosty has the leading role because he wrote the play, and the play is about boxing because he used to fight professionally before he became a cab driver. As Paul Kostopoulos he won eight, drew three and lost one in preliminary bouts. ("I was winning my fights, but I just couldn't get enough fights to keep eating.")
Money Fighter will be performed six times, starting January 26, in a Baltimore suburb. It offers, according to publicity releases, Real Fights, Rock 'n' Roll Music (words and music by Paul Kosty), College Scenes, Night Club Settings, Romance and Murder. Its hero is a young middleweight named Joey Bates, who is introduced at one point as "college champion, Olympic champion and Kathy's boy friend." Kathy, in turn, is affectionately described by Joe as "the best little college band singer this side of Mason Dixie." These two clean-living youngsters are brought to New York for exploitation by a villainous fight promoter and night-club owner named Al King, and the plot thickens from there.
Though Kosty is 32, he feels he will be convincing as young Joey. The play's three fight scenes will be staged in half a boxing ring—a triangular area with ropes on two sides and footlights on the third. Kosty swears that the fights will be real, and has had a note printed in Money Fighter's program: "In case of a knockout there will be a 10-minute intermission."
Opponents for the hero will be real fighters supplied by the Ringside Boxing Club of Baltimore. They will not be required to speak much dialogue. As for the hero, he feels that even if he is knocked out some night in Scene Two, he will still know his lines when he regains consciousness and be able to rise and deliver them.
In the interest of dramatic pace the rounds will be shortened to a minute and a half, with 30 seconds between rounds. "After all," says Kosty, "if you've seen one round of boxing without a knockout, you've seen them all." There will be real seconds and a referee and fake crowd noises on a phonograph record.
"The script calls for me to win a split decision in the last-act fight," Kosty explains. "If I lose, you can call it a surprise ending. It will add to the drama. And," he adds hopefully, "it might bring the same customers back the next night to see how it should have ended."
Kosty hopes, of course, that Money Fighter will show a profit on its Baltimore run. But even more, he hopes to sell the script to network television and retire from cab driving.
"I took what I knew about boxing, worked in my nine songs to make it a musical, added a murder for excitement, and that's it. Money Fighter. Sounds good, don't it? Sounds great. Got mass appeal. Got punch. Maybe this play will change everything."
It is some years now since Dr. Gallup and his colleagues elected Tom Dewey president of the U.S. only to be confounded by a nationful of voters who preferred to play according to the old rules. Nevertheless, the urge to know the score before the game is played still runs strong. This spring psychologists at Boston University will make available to coaches and athletic directors all over the nation a testing device designed to predetermine the skill of would-be athletes.
The B.U. brains use all sorts of fancy instruments to turn their trick: sextantlike devices to measure peripheral vision, chronoscopes to measure reaction to light, even a "motivation meter" which claims to measure a boy's desire to play the game at all.
No doubt these gadgets will save the nation's coaches huge sums of money by eliminating costly mistakes. They could even, in fact, obviate the need of building stadiums or grading football fields. Why bother to play out the farce of a game when all the results are known? Future coaches will, in all likelihood, merely feed the testing records of their teams into the maw of some vast Univac and, after a few short electronic whirrs, pull out the final score.
Among the fans waiting breathlessly for the results of some future World Series which need never be played, however, there may well be a few gray-beards who fondly remember the careless old days when great athletic performances were distilled in the alembic of immeasurable odds, when natural handicaps served only to spur the handicapped to greater effort. Some of them may recall the humpty-dumpty figure of baseball's Peck's Bad Boy pumping around the bases on his pipe-stem legs like an old woman chasing cats out of the kitchen and wonder what a testing laboratory would have made of Babe Ruth.
What machine could have taken Yale's Mighty Atom, Albie Booth, seriously as a varsity football contender? Or paused for long over his most formidable Ivy League opponent, Harvard's awkward, studious, scrupulously polite and gentle Barry Wood. The trouble with Barry, of course, was that he always liked to concentrate on what he did worst, and that way he got pretty good at everything. Playing the game on a larger field, two boys named Roosevelt managed to rack up a satisfactory score despite unsatisfactory odds. It was certainly not the measured predictability of sure success that prompted sickly young Theodore to face down the asthma that blighted his boyhood or that urged Franklin D. to build anew on the crippling polio seizure that halted his promising political career in early manhood.
If memory serves, recent sporting history reveals more than one prediction-confounding champion—a golfer with a crippled arm, two tennis champs who began the long, hard climb to the top at an age when most of their contemporaries were coasting downhill. The world's newest swimming champion, Australia's tomboy immigrant girl from Latvia, Ilsa Konrads, was practically ruled out of the running during a year-long spell of illness preceding her greatest triumph. And one of the most memorable foot races ever run, the Miracle Mile at Vancouver in 1954, involved two sportsmen who should have been home in bed, since one was racked with the fever of a nasty cold and the other had a slashed foot.
According to H. G. Wells, the warlords of ancient China maneuvered their forces, sent out spies to check up on each other, and then called a conference to decide who would have won the fight that was never fought. It might just be that the Year of the Sputniks is not the best time to re-establish this old custom in either world affairs or the sports arena. There will, it is hoped, still be many on the athletic front who will cheer loudest of all for the shortstop with tunnel vision, the 4-foot-5 basketball forward, the sprinter with two left feet, and the pole vaulter who can't stand heights.
The National Audobon Society's Christmas bird count brought out, as it does nearly every year, some examples of perseverance and pure grit that would do credit to a quarterback or a big-game hunter. One woman, mailing in her report from northern Canada, explained apologetically that she had stayed out from daylight to dark, all right, but hadn't seen many birds because the temperature was 38° below zero.
In Florida, a team directed by Alan Cruickshank (SI, Jan. 16, 1956) spotted 193 species in the 24-hour period. This is the largest number ever sighted at a single location in this or any other year. The location: Cape Canaveral, Fla. Part of the bird-counting area borders directly on the rocket-launching site. But the arrival—and the fiery departures—of the wingless machines of space had no noticeable effect on the birds of the air.
Two weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission gave the pay TV pioneers a go-ahead for a three-year tryout on condition that the test channels interfere in no way with existing stations. Last week the House Commerce Committee began hearings on the whole question of pay TV.
This is pretty heady political stuff and we wouldn't be interested if it weren't for the fact that pay television is an integral part of the plans of sports promoters.
For anybody who is worrying how soon it may be before he has to begin to shell out to watch baseball, boxing, pro football and the like, it may be worth noting that the Columbia Broadcasting System—as wise in the ways of jamming as only professionals can be—threw a party in Washington just as Congress was convening. CBS was host to 793 Senators, Congressmen and their wives. Over Martinis, aged Scotch and thick filet mignon, the legislators were treated to personal-appearance performances ranging from Patti Page to Phil Silvers. A CBS band played state "songs. "If you want it," the sponsored communicators seemed to be saying, "we've got it—and it's free!"
BOB, THAT IS
She took her Bob-sledding in earnest,
But found it a difficult job
To finish the run to the bottom
Without having jettisoned Bob.
"Hey, Ron, let's rock around the clock for a change."
THEY SAID IT...
•Jimmy Demaret, professional golfer: "There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am taking over the Texas A&M coaching job. But the way those guys have been missing their shots, I might be available to caddy for them."
•Marcel Paille, ex-New York Ranger goalie, on his demotion to the minors: "Everything went terrible. The forwards they no backcheck. The defensemen they miss their man. The storm it all came on me."
•Ted Williams, asked if he planned to play beyond next season: "I know what I think right now, but I'm not saying." Of his outstanding performance last year when he hit .388: "I surprised even myself."
•Dudey Moore, Duquesne basketball coach, noting that the Dukes' home game with Cincinnati—and record-scorer Oscar Robertson—in February is already a sellout: "Everybody wants to see Robertson—that is, everybody but me."