Up the Revolution
Mild-Mannered, methodical Victor Denny, the new president of the United States Lawn Tennis Association, chafes (we hear) at being called a revolutionary. Perhaps it is with good reason, for Vic Denny, a conservative and successful investment banker with carefully combed, thinning hair, seems about as radical offhand as a Series E government bond. Nevertheless, in his cautious, conservative way last week Denny was hard at work in Seattle with his Davis Cup captain Perry Jones plotting the details of what certainly seems like a fine revolution to us.
Like those of other great revolutionaries, the battle cry of Denny's new program for amateur tennis is "Expansion!" Its strategy: infiltration. "The U.S. is a cornucopia of athletic talent," he said, "but tennis has to compete with other sports to attract its share. Our prime objective is to make it possible to offer at least 200,000 to 300,000 additional youngsters the opportunity to play tennis."
One tactic by which Denny plans to net these small fry is by encouraging something like baseball's Little Leagues in tennis. While he and Jones conferred in Seattle last week, other USLTA plotters were busy in Chicago studying the ways and means of little league financing. "We want to expand the movement into every sizable city in the U.S.," says Denny. "It's been our experience that, once started, youngsters are soon gripped by the game." Denny hopes further to keep them gripped by giving them a greater chance to see the best. "One of our objectives," he says, "will be to drive home the point that no region can expect to stimulate great interest in championship tennis without giving the public a chance to see it."
March 10, 1958
Another part of the Denny plan involves exploration in depth. "By canvassing every club in the U.S.," he says, "we hope to explore fields never looked into before. We hope to find out how many courts they have, who belongs to their organizations, what is the character and condition of their facilities. Take this Seattle club—since it put in a heated swimming pool the rise in family interest has proved a great boom to tennis playing. It should be our business to keep in touch with current plans and research, to know about things like plastic coverings for out-of-season courts and anything else that might engender more active interest in the game."
Further Denny plans include raising the dues of member clubs to help pay for the expansion program, raising the traveling allowances of players to a realistic level ("It burns me to think it's been continued at $15 a day for so long, when the fact is you just can't live on that while you're traveling") and getting some positive action, maybe by fall, on open, or pro-amateur, tennis tournaments.
Speaking of pro-amateur cooperation, it was interesting, in view of the summary dumping of ex-Cup Captain Bill Talbert, that Denny and Jones also announced they were attempting to sign up four of the world's top professional players—Jack Kramer, Don Budge, Pancho Gonzales and Tony Trabert—as Davis Cup coaches to make up for the loss of Talbert.
"The tennis association," said Victor Denny last week, "now has its first truly national administration, and our objective is to make it something more of a hard-boiled businesslike operation. The only 'revolution' I'm interested in is the kind that will bring some 50 or so boys and girls now on the verge of tennis greatness over the threshold, the kind that will stimulate the interest of thousands of others who don't yet know even the joy of being 'just another player.' "
Well, Mr. Denny, we're sorry you don't like our word for it, but all we can say to that is, "Up the Revolution!"
Meanwhile comes news from the world of pro tennis, to wit: Wearing a sack on his head with slits to see and breathe through, and dressed in long white trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, an amateur tennis player will enter the professional tournament to be held in Cleveland next May. He will be known as Mr. Nemesis, and if he gets as far as the semifinals he will dramatically unmask himself and turn pro on the spot. If he fails he will remain both anonymous and amateur, and the United States Lawn Tennis Association will be unable to punish him for mixing with the pros because it won't know who he is.
These, anyhow, are the plans and theories of Jack March, the promoter of the tournament. Mr. March insists that his conscience, rather than a thirst for publicity, has driven him to make such arrangements. They will constitute, he claims, a step toward open tennis tournaments. "Now the USLTA," he says, "is afraid of open tennis. This will focus some attention on the situation. I believe the USLTA will protest and I welcome it.
"It won't scare Mr. Nemesis. He will have a police escort at all times in case any overzealous USLTA official tries to rip off the mask."
Since USLTA officials to a man are responsible members of their communities and ordinarily models of good conduct, it seems likely that Jack March is the only man on earth who fears that one of them may attack Mr. Nemesis. Still, his security arrangements are impressive. An internationally known amateur player, he says, has agreed to be the man in the flannel mask. "He will be met at the airport and rushed to secret lodgings. He will come to the arena only for his matches and play only in the singles. Furthermore, if he is questioned, he will answer only in grunts or in monosyllables."
The austere geometry of tennis is rarely tricked up with carnival frills, even by the professionals. But Mr. March is going to embellish his tournament not only with a Masked Marvel such as professional wrestling uses, but also with borrowings from elsewhere. Some drum majorettes are being taught to twirl tennis rackets instead of batons. An object called a sputnik will be suspended from the ceiling of the arena and the tennis players invited to knock it down (for prize money) by driving tennis balls into it. A dance band will play between matches, and there will be a beauty contest whose winner will be crowned Miss Pro Tennis.
There is only one possible name for such a sideshow, of course, and Mr. March has hit upon it: Tennisarama. "Tennis is a great sport," he says, "but it needs some help."
It seems to us that Mr. March might help tennis much more if he slipped that sack over his own head and retired to a corner to rethink this whole thing out.
Vignette in Sarasota
There was still dew on the rich green grass of Payne Park in Sarasota when the crowd began to gather. They waited patiently on the gravel path outside the Red Sox clubhouse; old men in straw hats, young girls in Bermuda shorts, little boys with baseball gloves. They carried cameras and autograph books. They talked in little groups, but they all kept an eye on the door of the clubhouse.
A spanking new Cadillac drove up and the crowd snapped to attention. But it was only Joe Cronin, general manager of the Red Sox and a Hall of Famer, so the crowd returned to its former pose. They were not waiting for Cronin.
Out of a side door came a lanky individual dressed in Uniform No. 41. He trotted out to the field. The crowd was confused. Perhaps they had been waiting outside the wrong door. A few moved around to the side, but the majority held firm.
At exactly 10:30 the front door opened and the Red Sox came out on the run. Each wore a gray road uniform and each carried a glove. The numbers filed by: 21, 8, 14, 33, and the crowd let them go. A dozen or more had run the gantlet when the man for whom the crowd had been waiting appeared. He was wearing No. 9. Cameras clicked and the autograph books were thrust forward, but this was no time for autographs. Like the other players he carried a glove, but unlike the rest he cradled a bat in his left arm. It was spring again and Ted Williams was armed for battle.
Evening with Delany
On the night before he led Villanova to victory by winning the 1,000-yard and two-mile events in the IC4A meet at Madison Square Garden, Ron Delany had dinner with a friend at the Cafe Fran√ßais at the south end of the Rockefeller Center skating rink and spoke in the soft accents of a Dublin man of a wide variety of things.
Ron's companion was a man who tries to pass himself off as being from County Clare, although he is a whole generation off on that, and since they hadn't met in more than a year, there was a lot of news to be exchanged.
Ron's two brothers are doing well. Paddy is back with the Volkswagen assembly plant in Dublin and Joe (who was as promising a runner as Ron himself at one time) has come out to Canada and found a fine position with the Bank of Montreal. No sooner did Joe get settled in Montreal than he sent for Markie O'Callaghan and they were married in Montreal last November with Ron as best man. Colette, Ron's pretty sister, is 21 now and is no longer with the solicitor but has a secretarial position in the radio business. Ron's parents are in excellent health.
"Ah, this is a wonderful place altogether," said Ron, looking around the café, "and is that another restaurant across the rink?"
"It is," said the Clare man. "This one is French and that one's English."
"Oh, oh," said Ron. "I'm glad you didn't take me there. Now are the skaters out there professionals or what?"
"No," said the Clare man. "They just pay their way in to skate. Wait a minute and you'll see they're not professionals, not all of them anyway." In a moment, a man fell down and Ron nodded understandingly.
"You'll be graduating in June, Ron," said the Clare man. "What are your plans after that?"
"Well, now, I've been giving that question a great deal of thought," said Ron, buttering a piece of roll. "I believe I'd like to stay on at Villanova and do some graduate work."
"You'd continue on with your commerce and finance studies?"
"No," said Ron. "Jumbo Elliott [his track coach at Villanova] has suggested that I study law. But to be candid with you, I believe I'd like to study the drama and do a master's thesis on the Irish theater."
"Would you be an actor, Ron?" said the Clare man. "Is that it?"
Ron thought a minute, chewing slowly. "No," he said. "Would you believe it, I'd like to be a director? Do you think I'd be fitted for that?"
The Clare man made a gesture of impatience with the very thought of anything baffling Delany. "Ron," he said, "all Dubliners are born directors. Just as all Clare men are born fighters."
"Who told you that about Clare men?" said Ron.
"A hotel maid at Cruises in Limerick," said the Clare man, "and she volunteered it herself, I didn't draw it out of her."
The waiter came finally and took the order for shrimp cocktail and swordfish steak.
"Let's talk about your running for a minute, Ron," said the Clare man. "What are the big mile events for the rest of the year?"
"Well," said Ron, "I'll fly to Dublin in May to run on the new cinder track that Billy Martin [Dublin's famous promoter of amateur running] built at Santry. I'll be gone just a few days. Then, in June, I'll go to Compton, Calif. for the relays. But, of course, the great event of the year will be the European Games at Stockholm in August. I'll train very hard for that when I go home in June. I plan to run 25 miles every day in training."
"Twenty-five miles!" exclaimed the Clare man. "Won't that be overdoing it, Ron?"
"Not at all," said Ron. "Not at all."
"Well, how much do you run every day now?"
"Only seven miles a day at present," said Ron, "but, of course, I've got my studies to keep up with."
"You don't neglect your studies, I hope," said the Clare man.
"Not at all," said Ron, "I get mostly Bs."
After dinner (Ron had baked Alaska for dessert), the Dubliner and the Clare poser went up to watch the skaters from the street level and then strolled over to Times Square, the Clare man getting very nervous crossing streets, not for himself, but for the priceless running equipment that strolled beside him. "Be careful of the curb there, Ron," he'd say. "Watch the cars there! Wait for the light to change now!"
Ron paid no attention to that at all, but looked up at the signs in Times Square and remarked upon the movies he had seen. Of Witness for the Prosecution he said, "Wasn't the old maid housekeeper terrific in that one!" Under a great spectacular advertising Raintree County, he stopped and regarded the giant-size figure of Elizabeth Taylor wearing a neckline that had nothing to do with the neck. "I saw that picture," said Ron, indignantly, "and there's no such costume as that in it at all!"
The strollers parted at Hotel Manhattan, where the Villanova athletes stay. "You'll go right to bed now," said the Clare man. "You've two races to run at the Garden tomorrow."
"Three," said Ron, "if I qualify for the 1,000 yards in the afternoon. [If he qualified, hah!] But I always get to bed at 9 or so before a race. I may watch television for a bit."
They said good night, and Ron's dinner companion hurried off, crossing streets carelessly against the lights, for now Ireland's greatest miler was safely indoors and all that Ireland stood to lose in a traffic accident was a fighter from County Clare, admittedly past his prime.
Praise from Caesar
The other day, a man being interviewed by Gene Ward, New York Daily News sports columnist, spoke a few solemn words in praise of Cus D'Amato, manager of Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson. D'Amato has been smeared with potfuls of printer's ink for his refusal to let Patterson fight such top-ranked but IBC-oriented contenders as Eddie Machen and Willie Pastrano and for his willingness to let the champion meet such unranked noncontenders as Joe Erskine, the Welsh rabbit.
Ward, who goes along with such criticism, reported nevertheless that he had found a defender for Cus, a defender who was willing to describe him publicly as "intelligent, honest and articulate," with qualities "that could make him a manager in the great tradition of the past, ranking him with men like Joe Jacobs, Eddie Mead, Dumb Dan Morgan Jack Kearns and Jimmy Johnston.
"His principles may be misdirected and his convictions wrong," the man said, "but I'm willing to stake my reputation in boxing that eventually he will allow his fighter to defend against a top-ranking contender."
D'Amato, the man went on, is not stalling out of fear that Patterson would be licked by anyone now in sight.
"I know Cus realizes even better than the experts that he has one of the great fighters of our time in Patterson," the man said. "Also, I want to point out that it is part of tradition that the heavyweight champion be given extra consideration on a title defense over and beyond the six-month period."
D'Amato reacted to these words like a fighter who has been cruelly fouled. For the words were spoken by Harry Markson, managing director of the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president). The IBC-D'Amato feud is, of course, at the bottom of the heavyweight division mess. And Markson, though liked and respected by sportswriters, is one of D'Amato's pet hates.
Cus brooded through the night on the IBC man's shining words. He awoke slightly groggy but with an explanation that satisfied him. "They're trying another approach," he croaked darkly through a midmorning frog. "Maybe they're starting to take my threats seriously."
The notion refreshed him and he was soon able to take breakfast.
James D. Norris, president of the International Boxing Club, has, after due thought, picked an inspired name for a promising 2-year-old bay colt who will be running under Norris colors this spring: Octopus.
When poor old Harvey swallowed the puck,
We all agreed it was dreadful luck;
Except his girl, she's like a pup
Since Harvey's always puckered up.
They Said It
Captain Slade Cutter, Naval Academy athletic director, commenting on the Navy basketball team's No. 2 national ranking in personal fouls: "I think it's a sissy game as it is. I don't think our fellows are rough enough."
Jimmy Jones, trainer for Mrs. Gene Markey, undisturbed by grandstand booing after Tim Tarn was awarded Flamingo Stakes (see page 12): "As long as Mrs. Markey don't boo me, let 'em holler."