Space Age Chess
With satellites spinning around the earth 2,500 miles out in space and Walter O'Malley and the Dodgers even farther removed from their launching pad at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, the problems of adjustment to the new age mount by the minute. But the problems are being solved: the toy manufacturers were in the shop windows with miniature satellites and missiles almost overnight, and now comes word that the ancient game of chess has been made ready. Arthur Elliott, an artist and avid chess player, has designed (and copyrighted in Italy) a whole new set of space-oriented chessmen.
"As a game," says Elliott, explaining his own adjusted thinking, "chess is often compared to war maneuvers. Even the pieces used to play the game have resembled or been compared to military counterparts, the pawn as the foot soldier, the knight as the armed horseman, the tower the fort or tank and so on. In my game, the pawn is a rocket, the knight is a satellite, the queen a space ship. The tower is radar, the king a space station, the bishop an ICBM."
All the new pieces, says Elliott, are in character with the traditional ones. That is, the satellite hurtles through space as did the old horseman across the landscape, the ICBM slashes across the board as did the bishop and the rockets protect and attack at close range as did the pawns. The space ship, the queen, can go anywhere, and the space station, like the king it represents, has little mobility.
The adaptation of chess to space could scarcely be more fitting, in Elliott's view. "Since chess is played in the mind and imagination," he says, "it is a quiet game, matching the silence of space. And the movement of the chess pieces is as thrilling to the eye of the passionate chess player as an eclipse is to the astronomer."
Other Space News
And then—in the story now going-by word of mouth from coast to coast—there's the new Sputnik Girdle. Haven't heard of it? It's for girls who want their shape to be out of this world.
Not so many Easters ago the only discernible signs of friendship for the Japanese people in this country lay in a grove of blossoming cherry trees along the banks of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. These innocent plants were themselves an anachronistic holdover from a day before the bitterness of war had turned the people of two great nations against one another, however, and there were those in Washington back in the early '40s who even wanted to chop down the cherry trees.
Since that ugly time many things have changed; changed, we think, for the better. As the Easter season rolled around again this year, it was the cherries themselves that held aloof. Embittered by an extra-harsh Potomac winter that lingered overlong, they stubbornly refused to blossom on schedule. But elsewhere in a nation whose people find hatred at best an uncomfortable burden, evidences of an old friendship nurtured to renewed strength by past regret were in full and vigorous bloom. A movie celebrating Japanese-American friendship in the very shadow of national defeat and victory was a leading contender for the highest honor U.S. filmdom had to offer. Two Japanese actors as well were up for Hollywood's cherished Oscars and one of them walked off with the prize.
The finest tribute of all from one friendly people to another, however, was that accorded two diminutive Japanese sportsmen who came to this country a fortnight ago in a deliberate attempt to steal one of our top golfing trophies, the Masters championship. Far from resenting the fact that 5-foot-3 Torakichi Nakamura, whose never-failing grin and bland, cheerful face put one in mind of an amiable casaba melon, and his sidekick, Koichi Ono, beat the pants off U.S. Golfers Sammy Snead and Jimmy Demaret in Japan last year, the American fans at Augusta last week were openly rooting for the Japanese. "Pete" Nakamura's fabulous skill with a putter, his heroic hole in one during a practice round and his endless good humor were constant topics of conversation wherever the fans gathered.
"That's all you hear around here," said one reporter, " 'Let's watch the Japanese.' Why, you wouldn't know Hogan or Snead were in the tournament." "That Pete," gushed one entranced Georgia lady, "he seems to have a perpetual smile on his face."
On the morning the tournament reached its final rounds, two U.S. marines eagerly scanned the giant scoreboard for news of a friend. "Hey, look here," one of them shouted at last, grinning happily, "Pete made the cut." Unhappily, Pete's partner failed to qualify for the last 36 holes and Pete's own final score (76; 73, 76, 76, for a total 301) was nothing to crow about. But if Nakamura and Ono had failed to win the Masters by a wide margin, the prize they carried away in the affection of one people for another was a sight more precious than any sporting trophy.
The Old Ball Parks
Gone are the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field, joining an obituary list that also includes Braves Field in Boston, League Park in Cleveland, Baker Bowl in Philadelphia and (if you want to go 'way back) Robinson Field, onetime home of the Cardinals in St. Louis. The new trend, of course, is toward city- or county-owned baseball stadiums which accommodate other sports and assemblies of all kinds. In Milwaukee, it is County Stadium, in Cleveland and Kansas City it is Municipal Stadium. Baltimore has Memorial Stadium, Los Angeles, for a time, will see the Dodgers in the Coliseum, and San Francisco will house the Giants temporarily in the minor league park called Seals Stadium.
In Boston, there is a syndicate trying, unsuccessfully so far, to lure the Red Sox out of historic Fenway Park (where Babe Ruth pitched) and into an as yet only imagined $10-million sports center. There were mutterings from Cincinnati during the winter that Powel Crosley Jr. had toyed with the idea of yanking the Redlegs out of Crosley Field and putting them in New York. Somebody said John Galbreath could be tempted to take his Pittsburgh Pirates out of Forbes Field for the same purpose. Is any old ball park safe? Happily, there seem to be more than a few: Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, Yankee Stadium in New York, Griffith Stadium in Washington, Briggs Stadium in Detroit, Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park in Chicago and Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
With Gussie Busch in charge, the St. Louis ball park looks particularly secure. And that is as it should be, for baseball has been played on this site since 1866 when Andrew Johnson was president and there were only 36 states in the Union. No ball park is so heavy with tradition. As Sportsman's Park, its name before the Busch interests took over, it housed the old Browns of the American League and the old, old Browns which won four straight pennants in the American Association. It has memories of Hornsby and Sisler in their batting primes and of the Gas House Gang and of Frisch and Durocher making the double play.
The other day, a man who remembers them all and many before them stood on the edge of the infield of Busch Stadium watching a grounds crew at work on the finishing touches for the 1958 opening. He was Bill Stocksick, 72, the dean (at least the full-time, year-round dean) of major league groundskeepers. He took his first job at Sportsman's Park in 1905, painting foul lines and pushing a hand lawnmower, and he has been there, more or less, ever since.
"There was a three-man crew when I started," said Bill Stocksick, "now we have 50. In the old days, it took three days just to cut the grass; now we do it in less than two hours and do it better. The modern drainage system makes it unnecessary to use the old five-ton rollers and modern fertilizers make the grass greener than it used to be."
Everything is ready, Bill Stocksick said, for opening day. Not only the playing field, but the stands where new paint glistens and all the broken seats have been repaired. The peanut vendors and the hot dog, soda pop and beer salesmen, the scorecard hawkers and the umpires all are in good voice. The ushers stand with dust cloths poised, the men who paint the foul lines at the last minute are clear-eyed, steady of hand.
Of course, that's true all across the country, in ball parks new and old. But there will be something different about the old parks, a little something the great new city-and county-owned stadiums won't ever quite duplicate. In the old parks, where the memories linger, the grass, as Bill Stocksick was saying, will strike some opening day fans as just a little greener than it used to be.
Those natty Cincinnati Redlegs, who came out with the genteel knitted-weskit look in 1956, are bringing another innovation to baseball this spring. Their new item is Vapo-Cool, by MacGregor. It's an air-conditioned cap, styled (and patented: Reg. U.S. Pat. Off. #2544381) by Baseball Milliner Joe Henschel of St. Louis. The crown of Vapo-Cool is fashioned of an airy mesh. The old-hat sweatband has been replaced with a glistening strip of aluminum foil folded over ribbons of sponge. To use it, the player merely goes and soaks his hat in a bucket of water and tugs it on. The water evaporates, the aluminum chills and cooling vapors swirl through the hair of the wearer. "It goes on like that for hours," says Hatter Henschel.
We believe the Redlegs deserve a pat on the back for their pioneering. Certainly, as you glance at the scouting report pictures of the other major league teams elsewhere in this magazine you don't have to be Mr. John to see right off the bat that the others still burden themselves with caps of dark, woolly, heat-absorbing tradition that do little to promote heads-up ball in hot sun. But a San Francisco man in our office suggests that the Redlegs would do well to take some old-fashioned models along when they play night games in his old town, where spring temperatures all too often bounce around in the 40s. In fact, our San Franciscan is thinking of working up a little patented cap of his own for the Giants: fur-lined and with ear muffs.
Family Man and Family
The little boy, whose parents call him Ray Jr., was just as wide-eyed as the other little boys on opening night of the circus in Madison Square Garden last week, but somehow he managed to look uncomfortable in his tuxedo. He was, after all, only 9 years old and had not been wearing tuxedos for more than a year or so.
The boy pulled at his bow tie, squirmed in his seat (a front-row box) and from time to time leaned across his mother's chinchilla-covered lap to whisper something to the head of the family.
After each whispered conference, the father stood up, hailed a vendor and bought whatever the boy had asked for. The vendors hovered attentively, which is an unusual thing in the Garden. Father and son watched the circus raptly over ice cream, peanuts and pink cotton candy. The mother just watched. At intermission, several youngsters came up to the man and asked him to autograph their circus programs.
Toward the end, Harold Alzana, the "death defying" high-wire performer, fell while picking his way down the 45° exit wire and dropped 20 feet to the tanbarked floor of the Garden. As circus people carried Alzana off on a stretcher, the man turned to his wife and suggested that they leave. And a spectator sitting close by said out loud, "Gee, after what he did to Basilio, you wouldn't think this would bother him."
At the top of the steps, Sugar Ray Robinson paused with a friend. "What a way to make a living," the middleweight champion of the world said, gesturing toward the unconscious Alzana on the stretcher. Then Sugar Ray turned and moved down the aisle, poised on the balls of his feet like a dancer, or a fighter. He grinned at a group of people in evening dress like his own, swung his arms around his wife and young Ray Jr. and nodded good night.
For close to 30 years, or ever since his entry Easter Hero was nosed out of first place by the winning Gregalach in 1929, U.S. Horseman John Hay Whitney has been hoping to find a Thoroughbred good enough to carry his colors to victory in England's horse-and heart-breaking steeplechase, The Grand National. In the course of those years, Jock Whitney's interests have expanded to include the multifarious concerns of an ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James's, but the National still lies close to his heart.
The other day, on the eve of a diplomatic reception for U.S. consuls in the United Kingdom, Ambassador Whitney got a note asking if he was interested in the purchase of a horse named Mr. What. Whitney, who had never heard of the beast, turned down the offer, attended his reception and, on the following day, ran down to Aintree to watch his own young entry, Green Light, win a preliminary hurdles race. A bit later, with Whitney still watching, the horse called Mr. What soared over Becher's Brook and all the other Aintree obstacles to win the Grand National by some 30 lengths.
Was Jock Whitney downhearted? He was not. After waiting 30 years, he still wants the victory with a horse he had bred himself, not one bought readymade at the last minute. Such a horse might well be Green Light, a likely entry for some future National. "It's a very promising horse," says Ambassador Whitney. Then, thinking back to the horse that came within a nose of winning for him 29 years before, the ambassador added: "But it's still too early to tell if he will be another Easter Hero."
Ecumenicity in Seattle
The remarkable performance of Seattle University—a Catholic school with several Negro players—in last month's NCAA basketball championships and, especially, the passionate way all Seattle rooted for the team, prompted the Rev. Darrel E. Berg, minister of Seattle's Ronald Methodist Church, to write these considered words in the church publication:
"When a great national sports event such as the college basketball finals takes place, we seem to forget our denomination divisions. I should think most-Protestants in this city were pulling for a team that went so far when so little was expected....
"In some ways the world of sport, for all its illegal subsidies, collegiate commercialism and cold competition, is doing a better job than the church. This year, for the first time in history, we had an all-Negro, all-American basketball team and Elgin Baylor [the Seattle star] was one of them....
"One of the words we have been hearing lately is ecumenicity. For some reason I don't like the word. It is a highfallutin way of saying Christian love. For all our preaching, there is usually more genuine, interracial, interdenominational feeling at an athletic contest than in church.
"Why is this so? Well, for one reason, we are not trying to produce it there. We are not self-conscious about it. It is a sort of byproduct. This does not mean we can quit preaching it, but that it can be preached from other places than the pulpit."
THEN, SUDDENLY, IT WAS SPRING
Two well-meaning but tactless scientists chose last week to assert that another ice age was on its way. A San Francisco newsman, asked to file a report on spring, begged off on the ground that he was too busy covering the worst winter storm since 1880. Here and there, however, despite denial, the annual promise of spring was being fulfilled in countless ways. In New Orleans, Josephine, the last hope of the whooping cranes, was busy hatching another egg. In Chicago, the twin offspring of a polar bear and a grizzly were blinking newly opened eyes in tribute to unwonted compatability. Rockefeller Center's Prometheus, the Kaaba stone of New York's tourist Mecca, was getting a new suit of 23-carat gold. The swan boats were afloat again in Boston's Public Gardens. And practically everywhere else, as these pictures show, people were beginning to enjoy themselves.
This oarsman from Harvard,
His sports days are through;
They caught him at Vassar
Stroking the crew.
They Said It
Garry Schumacher of the San Francisco Giants' front office: "They told me it never rained in March. I bought that. It not only rained all March but it's still raining in April. They say it will clear up for the opener. I don't know, now, if it will ever clear up."
Harry B. Frank, New York Supreme Court justice, in a 12-page decision regretfully denying the suit of a man trying to halt the transfer of the New York Giants to San Francisco: "Beneath these robes beats the heart of a Giant fan."
Rocky Marciano in an on-the-button summation of Boxer Floyd Patterson: "He's everything a good heavyweight champion should be. Except busy."
George Gainford, Sugar Ray Robinson's think-big manager replying to an offer for Sugar to fight Gene Fullmer in Utah this summer for $100,000: "Time and place acceptable. Just add another zero to your figure."
Cookie Lavagetto, manager of the likely last place Washington Senators, after reprimand by Commissioner Ford Frick for saying the Yankees would win pennant by 15 games: "I wanted to get them overconfident so we could beat them."