Signs and Omens
For some weeks now, as the picture on the cover of this issue shows, the great signboard over the south gate of the Los Angeles Coliseum has carried an apparently simple legend:
L A DODGERS VS S F GIANTS
APRIL 18TH 1 30 PM
Students of baseball omens—and of California history—might do well to examine this information closely.
March 24, 1958
Is an augury of any kind to be found in the circumstance that the San Francisco Giants will make their first descent of all time upon Los Angeles on April 18, the 52nd anniversary of something known around the world (but not in San Francisco) as the San Francisco earthquake? And if so, is it the Giants or the Dodgers who are due for a shaking? We leave these matters to the study of omen experts everywhere, confident that in just about four weeks' time we'll all have an answer.
But it does not take the seventh son of a seventh son to recognize in Walter O'Malley's big sign the authentication of the greatest moving and rocking that has ever hit major league baseball—the arrival of the big game on the shores of California. When Walter O'Malley and Horace Stoneham get together in the Coliseum on the afternoon of April 18 they can shake on it.
Ron for the Money
Use your arms on the bends, Ron," said Jim Elliott, the Villanova coach. "I'll call your lap times to you."
"Righto," said Delany. "If I'm around 3:05 at the three-quarters, I'll have a go at it."
To Ron Delany, the likable gentleman from Ireland, records are something to play in a jukebox. He has, all year, run to win and he has won 28 consecutive races indoors. In his 28th, at the Chicago Daily News Relays last week, he turned the three-quarters in 3:05 and had a go at the world indoor mile record. He used his arms busily on the turns, propelled himself through the final quarter in 58.4 seconds and set a new world indoor mile mark of 4:03.4, 2/10 of a second under the old one.
After the race he sat on the edge of a judge's platform, changing from natty white-and-red racing shoes to a pair of old, not-so-natty sneakers.
"No, I don't think this track is much different from the others," he said in answer to a question. "There's one that's like running through an Irish bog barefoot, but not this one. I could have set this record on the New York track if it had been convenient and the time had been right at the three-quarters. But then there's half a dozen milers who can beat it. I might myself."
He watched Iowa's Deacon Jones begin a kick that carried him to the tape ahead of Max Truex in the two-mile.
"They ought to get on his back," Delany said, a grin lighting the pleasant, bony face. "He runs like I do. You have to run to meet the competition. If I had said to myself tonight, 'Ronnie, you're going to break the world record,' I might not have done it, you know. But I was running that last quarter. I wasn't taking it easy."
He looked up at the full stands.
"Chicago is an Irish town," he said. "I'm going to stay here tomorrow and Sunday and ride in the St. Patrick's Day parade with a shillelagh on my shoulder. There are lots of good Irish people here I want to meet. I don't know what Philadelphia is, but it's not Irish."
He stuffed the running shoes in a canvas bag with Swissair on the side. In the bag were a towel and a loose dollar bill.
"My ultimate ambition is to retain my Olympic title, and I think I can," he said seriously. "I should be at a peak by then. Meanwhile, I enjoy running. I'm in America to run for my university and I make no bones about running. I enjoy keeping my end of the bargain."
On the theory, perhaps, that the more distance they put between themselves and the fans up north the better, the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates occupy the southernmost spring training camp of all. A lovely, sea-lapped spot, it basks on Florida's west coast at Fort Myers.
The Pirates have been going to Fort Myers for years, but this spring something new has been added to the camp. It is a huge lump of muscle named Ted Kluszewski. The first thing a reporter sees as he strolls into the Pirate clubhouse is likely as not to be the Klu stretched out on a rubbing table. Or he can stroll down to the pitching machine where the players are taking their practice cuts, and there is the Klu filling the cage like a moving van in an alley. Everywhere one looks, there is the massive man with No. 3 on his back. His presence pervades the camp, and one reason the reporter cannot stop watching him is that everyone in the camp from the bat boy to General Manager Joe Brown is watching him too.
Not that the Pirates are counting on Kluszewski, or anything like that. Oh, dear, no. They got him from the Cincinnati Reds on a gamble with a sore back and they don't expect him to bat .326 as he used to a couple of years ago. It's just that if he doesn't, they may all drop dead.
"I never saw anything like it," said one seasoned observer last week. "The first day Klu walked into the batting cage, everything stopped dead. The pepper games behind the cage stopped. The pitchers running in the outfield stopped. The coaches hitting fungoes, they stopped. Everybody just stood there watching Klu hit."
Working himself into shape slowly and easily, Klu himself is optimistic about the future. He's still not sure exactly when his trouble began, this slipped disc that threatened to put him out of the game after nine brilliant seasons, but he remembers feeling it first after fielding a ball during spring training in 1956.
"I went ahead and had a pretty good year," he says, "but at times it was pretty bad and last year it hurt a lot. So many doctors have looked at me I couldn't even count them." In hospital and out, Klu has been punched and probed and pounded, sweated under heat lamps and frozen in ice packs. His powerful back muscles have been subjected to all manner of electromagnetic radiation.
His most recent gadget is a curious device resembling a sawed-off refrigerator with rubber cords sprouting from its sides. At the end of one of these is something that looks like a detached headlight, and when this is applied to Klu's back, whatever is in the box goes into Kluszewski. "I believe this is doing him some good," said the technician who controlled this monster last week. "I don't know," said Ted Kluszewski, "but keep it up anyway. It feels good."
Love in Moscow
Geim, set, maych. These are three little words being heard with more regularity these days behind Russia's Iron Curtain. Translated they mean, of course, "game, set, match." Having decided to embrace tennis, it appears, the Russians have embraced some of the international language of the game, adding only a Russian accent.
A tennis friend of the editors has been able to establish this news after a certain amount of persistent digging. First he called a fellow who had spent some time in the Soviet Union.
"What is 'game' in Russian?" the fellow said, repeating the query. "Gee, I don't know. I think it is igra or something like that. Why don't you call Tass. They would know."
So our friend put in a call to Tass, the government news agency, which has offices in New York.
The sharply accented voice at the other end of the line indicated complete confusion when asked what the words "game, set and match" would be in Russian.
"I do not know," the Tass man said. "Let me look it up and you may call back, please."
An hour later he phoned back. The Tass man had the answer.
"It is just like the English," he said. "Geim, set, maych. We found out from our sports authority." Our correspondent is convinced that Tass had cabled Moscow for the answer.
In adopting a word, the Russians don't try to translate it but apparently use it in its closest derivative form. For instance, tennis in Russian is tennis. That's not hard, now, is it? But the proud Russians, who would like to dominate all sports, are finding it much more difficult to translate the game of tennis itself into Russian play at a level matching international standards.
They held a tournament recently in Moscow. The Belgian Davis Cup stars, Jackie Brichant and Philippe Washer, who almost beat the Americans in Australia, were there. So were the Frenchmen Paul Remy and Robert Haillet.
The Russians showed poorly. The Belgians and French beat the best the Soviets had to offer, with only a negligible number of lost games. But the Russians are stubborn. They say their youngsters will play at Wimbledon. And they will have another international tournament in Moscow this July.
Meanwhile, America's own tennis ambassadors are busy on the international circuit. America's Davis Cup hero, Barry MacKay, is in Egypt with Mrs. Dorothy Head Knode on a tour sponsored by the State Department. Louise Brough is in South Africa. Budge Patty and Gardnar Mulloy are in the Caribbean. So is Althea Gibson.
The world circuit gets bigger all the time—and now Moscow. Incidentally, our tennis correspondent adds that the word love in tennis comes from l'oeuf, meaning egg or zero in French. Wonder how they say "egg-thirty" in Russian? Our man forgot to ask.
Point and Counterpoint
Dirty Doug Donovan, a 27-year-old professional wrestler from Ontario, simply can't stand being needled when he performs. It makes him furious enough to go around kicking old ladies in the shins and things like that.
Take the night of July 5, 1956, for instance. Dirty Doug was grunting and groaning his darndest in an Albany, Ore. ring. In a front-row seat sat Mrs. Euchee Benson, an enthusiastic 73-year-old widow. Somehow, in a short time, the two made contact, upon which Donovan cut loose with an anguished bellow and kicked old Mrs. Benson.
Mrs. Benson, in a suit filed later, claimed Donovan kicked her without provocation. She asked the court for $75,000 damages.
Last week in a federal courtroom in Portland, Dirty Doug did not deny the kicking. It was not the widow's sharp tongue which had provoked him, but rather a "sharp object" with which she had stuck him in the rear.
Attorneys for Donovan introduced in evidence a two-inch needle. Police testified the needle was found on the floor near the kicking incident.
With "grave doubts" Federal Judge Gus Soloman (a good man for the job) put the widow's claim to the jury.
Not a cent, said the jury. Their reasoning was clear: you can needle a wrestler, but not really.
Precedent from Kiki Cuyler
As editor for the last 15 years of the Atlanta Constitution, Ralph Emerson McGill speaks his mind with all the assurance (and rather more than the wit) of a Supreme Court justice. Barring an undue influence during his young manhood, indeed, Ralph McGill might even have become a Supreme Court justice. That influence turned him instead into a sportswriter and an avid baseball fan.
It happened a long time ago when young McGill was a part-time police reporter and part-time law student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. There was a rookie outfielder on the local ball club named Kiki Cuyler. "At the crack of a bat," wrote Editor McGill in his Sunday paper, "Kiki could turn his back on the ball and go racing back with the speed of a gazelle. And at the instant the ball was within reach he could turn and take it effortlessly. Judge Ed Seay, who taught torts, couldn't do that."
The result was that young McGill spent less and less time at school, more and more at the ball park. And if the bar lost a promising recruit, the bleachers won a firm champion. Last week, in a time of widespread pessimistic ululations about the future of the national game, McGill penned a ringing and confident challenge.
"There will be some changes," he wrote, "but baseball will not die. It is too much a part of our lives. The minor leagues are dying out, but it should not be overlooked that there are more youngsters playing baseball today than ever before.
"In time the cities themselves, or the major leagues, will get some organization to revive semipro ball along the lines of the Little Leagues. The majors, already in an agonized process of finding new patterns, will find cities to support baseball. The automobile, which took the people away from baseball, can also bring them back. There is no reason, for example, why the first-or the third-base line couldn't have a multiterraced parking lot from which fans could watch in their parked cars if they wished.
"All sorts of new things could be done to amuse the fans. Why, for instance, do the listeners on television get so much more information about the players, their past records and so on, than do the people who go to the game? Baseball has been acting like the railroads in the face of competition. It has been aggrieved and plaintive, but it hasn't been thinking.
"It is the game which offers the most skill, the most thrills and the most entertainment for the least money, but it will have to change with the times."
Be a good thing, in short, if the well-fed men who run Organized Baseball could show a little of the speed and imagination of Kiki Cuyler in going back for one of those shots to deep center field.
This basketball team
Has scaled the heights;
It's playing the game
They Said It
James D. Norris, president of the IBC, who virtually invented televised fights: "What can a recession do to boxing that television hasn't done?"
Billy Graham, a 90s golfer, asked what he says when he flubs a crucial putt: "I don't say it, I think it."
Casey Stengel, on Ted Williams' reluctance to wear a batting helmet: "Ted hit .400 without a helmet, and he will continue to be a great batter even if he decides to wear a derby hat at the plate."
Carol Heiss, three-time world women's figure skating champion, pooh-poohing her own chances of matching Sonja Henie's record of 10 straight titles: "By the time I would be going after my 10th, I would be 26 years old. Goodness, I'd be utterly ancient."
Jack Begun, Chicago fight manager, upon being denied a manager's license by the Illinois State Athletic Commission: "There are three sides to every story. My side, the commission's side, and the truth."