Mr. Heart Attack
Since horse racing is a fairly elementary sport on the face of it, the greatest race horses—presumably, anyway—are those that go the fastest. But many a swift Thoroughbred has run his course to the comparative indifference of the public at large. What makes the world sit up and notice a race horse is more often than not the way he wins his races—or even loses them. So it was last week when Silky Sullivan, a rangy colt by Sullivan out of Lady N Silk, went to the post at Santa Anita to compete with the best of California's new crop of 3-year-olds in the $67,360 Breeders' Champion Stakes.
Ranged against Silky and his jockey, Bill Harmatz, were at least two colts perhaps worthy of more public attention than Silky. There was the favorite, unbeaten Old Pueblo, whom many consider the finest West Coast Thoroughbred since Swaps, with Jockey Eddie Arcaro aboard. There was Swaps's own kid brother, The Shoe, ridden by his namesake Willie Shoemaker. But for most of the 23,000 eager racegoers there was, most of all, the flame-colored young chestnut, unforgettably named Silky Sullivan, whose nerve-shattering style has already earned him the sobriquet of Mr. Heart Attack.
The name is no mere joke. Silky Sullivan's co-owner, Lumberman Tom Ross, has been expressly forbidden by his doctor to watch Silky at work for fear it might affect his heart. Silky's impact is scarcely less lethal on casual bettors, some of whom have been known to tear up their tickets in disgust in mid-race only to scramble desperately for the pieces when Silky romped home at the finish.
February 17, 1958
What kind of a beast is this Silky? His sire and grandsire were good steady horses, valued for speed and for grabbing a lead and holding it. Silky himself usually leaves the starting gate-like an old woman pushed against her will through a subway turnstile and not at all sure whether she's forgotten her umbrella. In last week's race as Old Pueblo, with Arcaro crouched confidently in his stirrups, shot to a comfortable lead, Silky Sullivan was once again bumbling along amiably in the rear and losing ground at every pace. "Look at that Silky Sullivan, man!" said an old Negro. "You'd swear he was all broke down. But he ain't broke down. Wait'll they hit that stretch."
A few seconds later the horses hit the stretch, with Silky 35 lengths back of Old Pueblo on the mudsogged track. Way up front on Pueblo, Eddie Arcaro took an experienced look over his shoulder, and what he saw and heard was shattering. With ears suddenly flat against his head, his long legs devouring the track in great gulps, flame-colored Silky was rocketing past the others like the Jupiter C outclimbing gulls at Cape Canaveral.
"And here comes Silky Sullivan!" screamed Announcer Joe Hernandez.
Well, Old Pueblo is a pretty good horse, and Eddie Arcaro is as good as jockeys come. Eddie went to the whip in a frenzy of final effort and held off Silky's rush—by a neck.
The winner's purse and well-due applause went to Old Pueblo but, against all precedent, a huge cheer broke from the crowd when Silky Sullivan was led back, his limpid brown eyes gazing at the stands in somnolent fashion once more.
"Good Lord," breathed one handicapper, as though he could not believe it, "they're cheering the loser." Later they figured that Silky had run the last quarter-mile of the mile-and-a-sixteenth race in 23 seconds flat, heart-in-the-throat speed when even Man o' War was a boy.
The Kentucky Derby is a mile and a quarter. In California horse fans are already making Louisville reservations for May 3. Not that they expect Silky to win. They just want to be there when Mr. Heart Attack makes his run.
Ambassadors on Horseback
Out of Karachi has come the news that Aly Khan will be Pakistan's new Ambassador to the United Nations. Aly hasn't yet decided whether to bring some of his racing stable over; he says he'll make up his mind after he presents his diplomatic credentials. This is diplomatic of him, no doubt, but if he does decide to be a sportsman-ambassador he'll be in distinguished mounted company.
Item: Jock Whitney, the U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James's, is racing several of his Greentree horses in England and doing quite well as an ambassador and owner.
Item: American Ambassador Max Gluck, now getting along famously with Ceylonese Prime Minister Solomon W.R.D. Bandaranaike after an unpronounceable start, is racing his Elmendorf Farm horses in absentia at Hialeah—only because there is no first-rate racing at Colombo.
The Associated Press, which faithfully reports, without comment, the perplexing progress of mankind, has sent the following dispatch:
"The Packey McFarland Award for the Man of the Year who contributed most to boxing will be presented to Jim Norris at the sixth annual Chicago Boxing Writers' Assn. banquet March 23.
Sports illustrated, which faithfully reports, frequently with comment, much of the same old march, is currently struck wordless.
Ever since President Eisenhower called the experts together and established the President's Council on Youth Fitness (SI, July 18, 1955) it has been perfectly clear that the government can only lead—not drive—the U.S. public to greater fitness. In Russia things are different, but the President's Council sees its first job as creating an "atmosphere" in which groups, clubs, towns and, of course, individuals will commit themselves to their own fitness programs. The President's cause has now enrolled a major nongovernmental recruit: nothing less than the $190 million General Mills company, makers of Wheaties and old hands at creating an "atmosphere" in the minds of American youngsters.
General Mills has long billed its best-known cereal as "the Breakfast of Champions," with supporting testimony from heroes of American sport. General Mills has now decided to broaden this theme exactly as the President's Council would wish—by setting out to make youngsters (and their families) exercise-minded as well as sports-minded. The other day it set up the Wheaties Sports Federation, called in advisory experts from the NCAA, the national college coaching associations, National High School Federation and the national Junior Chamber of Commerce and began to design a campaign for family recreation and sports participation on a national scale.
The Olympic pole vaulting champion, Bob Richards, will be the director of the new federation. In preparation is a set of exercises and fitness standards for all age groups. The federation will be speaking directly to the U.S. public this spring.
We make it a policy never to divulge figures" said Joe Cronin, the beefy general manager of the Boston Red Sox. The occasion for Cronin's lordly remark was the contract-signing ceremony last week of Ted Williams, Boston's lordly left fielder. Williams, so they say, will receive $135,000 for this summer's work. Williams made $100,000 last year (again, so they say), and his raise therefore re-establishes the American League's traditional supremacy over the National League, in this respect at least. A fortnight ago the Cardinals' Stan Musial signed for $100,000 to give the senior circuit a fleeting advantage—a figure, incidentally, which was authenticated by ebullient front-office men.
How does the world know that Ted's getting $135,000? Well, to tell the truth, one reporter took a poll of his fellows, who were as ignorant of the actual sum as he was, that's how, and the consensus was $135,000. A New Hampshire sports editor close to Williams said that he had seen the contract and that it called for $150,000, but his figure was airily dismissed in the face of the belligerent logic of the law of averages.
That Williams got a raise, though, Cronin admitted, and Ted showed it later by his high, tart spirits.
"Boy, is he in a great mood!" a photographer who had been admitted to the signing chamber gushed to the waiting writers. "Anything you want. He'll hold the pen up, hold it down, give it to Cronin, sign the paper 18 times. Anything!"
When the press finally met Williams at the Red Sox's pressroom atop Fenway Park for hamburgers and happy talk, he was, indeed, in rare form.
"All right," said Cronin, opening the jollities, "all those on speaking terms, pull up a chair."
Everyone guffawed, and Ted allowed that he didn't "make some plays in the field" and hoped to have another "slam-bang" year. "I sold Cronin on the idea I will," he added with a sly old smile.
"I'm purposely not elaborating on these answers," he then elaborated, "because last year I read after the meeting that we would have 'peace in our time' and that I was the 'greatest actor in history.'
"Yessir, it would be great to have a nice summer," he flowed on, "but I don't expect it. And I just want to say to you guys that I'll be friendly with you writers—most of you, anyway, the ones I like—but anyone who writes anything detrimental or dishonest or prejudiced about me or the team—anything that distracts me from my job—don't come near me, and that's no obscenity."
He waited for the hollow laughter to subside and went on.
"If I don't hustle," he said, "get on me. But just because I'm hitting .280 on May 20, don't write they ought to bench me, and that's no obscenity either."
Ted gave a final, one-of-the-boys chuckle, and the great man and the writers parted company for a while.
The Reason Why
A Penguin, The New York Times soulfully recorded the other day, is trekking, unless it has already perished or turned back, to the South Pole. The bird's trail was discovered last month by an American tractor party which reported that the bird's nearest known source of food was 150 miles behind it; the Pole 860 miles ahead. Penguins usually stay pretty close to the coast, and this, the Times circumspectly added, "appears to be the farthest inland that anyone has seen evidence of penguin wanderers."
More than a mile of the penguin's track was examined, and it showed that the bird had walked only six feet of that distance. The remainder of the time it had tobogganed on its belly, as penguins do, pushing itself forward with its feet at a heady rate of speed.
The picture of the hardy little bird zooming determinedly on its stomach across the great, lonely continent toward the pole is a mournful yet thrilling one. It evokes the grand mystique of men who climb mountains because they are there, seek legendary rivers because dying Indians mumbled of their existence, cross unexplored country because no one has ever done it before, because they want to get away from the madding crowd, because some driving compulsion of their being that knows no easy logic impels them on.
Well, seeking expert opinion on a possible rationale for the penguin's trip, a fellow telephoned Dr. Dean Amadon, curator of birds of the American Museum of Natural History. Did he have the answer? "Yes," Dr. Amadon replied, all business, "the bird is lost."
Golf courses, like young brides, thrive best on unwavering attentions. But last week fairways and greens across the country were temporarily neglected; soapy water seeped from ball washers, and abandoned divots lay gasping in the winter winds. The men who normally concern themselves with such matters were in convention. It was the 29th annual meeting of the Golf Course Superintendents Association.
For the 1,342 gentlemen assembled in Washington's Shoreham Hotel the week's work was an exhilarating experience. In one of the early symposia, a speaker rose up, cleared his throat with authority and launched forthwith into "Progress Through Drainage." A feeling of warm approbation followed his remarks, and the golf course managers looked ahead to the upcoming "Progress in Controlling Insect Pests Through Research." In smaller panel discussions, several of the conferees delivered themselves of appropriate thoughts on "Sawdust and Its Importance to Turf Maintenance," while others applauded the news that disease, crabgrass and moles were all on the run. And, later, pencils and vest-pocket pens agitated across the backs of programs during the address: "How the Golf Course Superintendent Can Create Publicity for Himself."
But all was not talk. Into the Shoreham's big exhibition room the people who cater to the needs and whims of the superintendents wheeled their finest equipment. There was an electric golf cart with extra-wide, easy-on-the-tender-grass tires. There were new hole-cutters for putting cups, new ball washers (plastic, metal and noiseless for $52), new plastic bubbles for tee-off markers, new grass seeds—as a salesman said with finality—containing, by damn, "no weed seeds, no fungus spores, no disease germs and no insects or larvae." There was even a fire-engine-red maintenance tractor, brilliantly conceived with a two-way radio for emergency distress calls. ("Travis," a green-keeper can radio his assistant from clubhouse headquarters, "get your tractor over to the eighth fairway on the double. A fallen limb is blocking the right of way." And Travis, puttering around the pond by the 16th green, should be off like sixty.)
What was not on display was envisioned. And perhaps a Maryland course superintendent had the most advanced idea of all: a curtain of air around the whole course to warm it in winter, cool it in summer. Perhaps that must wait until the cost of nuclear power is substantially reduced. But we thought you'd like to know that the men who should be thinking ahead about such things are thinking ahead.
On the night of January 20, two purposeful young men crossed the campus of Iowa State College at Ames, entered the student union, strode up to 'the desk clerk and set down their bags.
"We'd like rooms," said one.
"We're here to see Coach Jim Myers," said the other.
Without a second thought, the room clerk took up his pen and issued them rooms. As he watched them walk away, he thought pleasantly to himself: there go two more football prospects.
He was wrong. There, in effect, went Coach Myers—right off the Ames campus. The two men were Texas A&M students who had come 825 miles north, at their own expense, to speak personally with Myers. In the historical analysis of the event now widely accepted in Texas, they are credited with being the decisive influence in persuading Myers to quit his job at Iowa State in favor of one more opulent at A&M (SI, Feb. 3).
Anyway, next day the Texans came downstairs, ate breakfast and went to Coach Myers' office. Some time later, having done their best to proselytize the coach, they returned to the student union, checked out and asked for their bills of lodging.
The clerk told them to forget it: any friends of Coach Myers were friends of Iowa State. He bucked the bills to the athletic business manager, Merl J. Ross, who takes care of that sort of thing.
Last week, after some chin-stroking, Mr. Ross bucked the bills, at $3.50 each, to Gary Rollins and John Hagler, A&M student missionaries, at College Station, Texas.
I guess the limelight
Warps their woof.
They Said It
Ted Williams, on tennis: "My backhand isn't so good, though it's not a matter of power. I slice the ball instead of following through."
Harry Wheeler, father of Lucile Wheeler, after her world downhill victory last week at Bad Gastein: "It's not worth it. The pressure [on her] is too much. The years of practice, the exercise. It's just not worth it."
Jack Kramer, a deft needler, launching the U.S. tour of Pancho Gonzales and Lew Hoad: "Old Pancho is not anxious to get out there any more. He'd rather be doing something else. But for economic reasons he has to go through with it."