To one small, grim group of fact-minded fans it matters little who tosses out the first ball at the start of the baseball season; what really matters is who tosses out the first ballplayer.
For those whose main interest is in the umpire's thumb, we are happy to report that the four-man team of judges headed by Umpire Frank Dascoli, last year's leading bouncers, got off to a fine start by throwing two ballplayers (Alvin Dark and Herm Wehmeier) and one manager (Fred Hutchinson) out of games in the first week of National League play. Among competing umpires elsewhere: no bounces yet.
Holds and Handshakes
April 27, 1958
The phonographic recording of the Soviet national anthem, Hymn of the Soviet Union, was played over the public address system at the wrong speed and came out sounding rather like a lilting Irish jig, but the odd rendering had no visible effect on the Russian wrestlers, who were in New York last week for their farewell match with the Americans. And Russian Ambassador Mikhail A. Menshikov, who attended with his wife, and members of the Soviet delegation to the U.N. also kept their musical composure and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
They were part of the biggest crowd—1,400—ever to gather in the gymnasium of the New York Athletic Club, where in the past a crowd of 100 wrestling fans was considered good. Many who came chiefly because of curiosity about live Russians were caught by the interest of the sport itself and were surprised to find that international freestyle wrestling can be exciting to watch.
The Soviet team won its last series of matches as it had won in Oklahoma (SI, April 21). The over-all totals for the visit were 23 Russian victories, three losses and six draws. With competition out of the way, the Russians turned to sightseeing and last-minute shopping in Manhattan. Their choice of capitalist consumer goods might seem odd to most Americans: many of them stocked up on medicines. They bought liquids, pills and powders, antibiotics and patent medicines. One man described his father-in-law's symptoms to an American acquaintance and then asked what sort of medication he should buy to effect a cure.
By the time the wrestlers were ready to board their Russia-bound plane, something like a spring migration between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. was well under way. In Moscow, a 23-year-old Texan named Van Cliburn had just won an international competition for young pianists and Russian cheers for his playing. In New York, Russia's Moiseyev dance company, whose artists are as perfectly conditioned as athletes, was playing to sold-out houses. Russian weight lifters were preparing to set out for the United States to compete in New York and Chicago, and American basketball players, both men and women, were getting set to fly to the Soviet Union. On a people-to-people basis, Russians and Americans were getting along fine.
There hadn't been such an exchange of handshakes and good will since the troops of General Courtney Hodges met the troops of Marshal Ivan Koneff on the Elbe just 13 springs ago.
The Name Is East Indian
While there is enough excitement already bubbling up about this year's Kentucky Derby (see page 8), we would just like to tell you that, true to tradition, Churchill Downs is planning to run another one in 1959. While the chances of telling you who is going to win that one are about 7,000 to 1 at the present time, we would like to give you the name of a little horse to keep your eyes on in the 12 months ahead.
The name is East Indian, the first son of Native Dancer ever to get to the race track. He came out last Saturday at Jamaica, six years to the day exactly, as Native Dancer did. Naturally, when race followers saw his name on the program they crowded to the paddock for a look. He is a rich bay, with almond eyes and a quiet manner, and he runs in the white and blue of Circle M Farm. One man standing in the paddock said, "You know with horses it's different than with people. The great Thoroughbreds always seem to produce fine sons. The breeding is the thing. Somehow I think that's the reason why there is so little juvenile delinquency among horses."
East Indian's first race was at five furlongs, just as Native Dancer's had been. He carried the same weight as did the Dancer, 118 pounds. And while East Indian won by only two and one-quarter lengths as against Native Dancer's four and one-half, he was only [2/5] of a second behind his father's time. Eric Guerin, the little veteran who also rode Native Dancer, rode East Indian.
"He runs just like his daddy," said Guerin later. "Nice and low to the ground. He's playful and alert. Riding him is just like sitting in a rocking chair. I never had to hit him. He just did the work by himself. It's the biggest thrill I've had since his daddy retired."
On Deposit at Frankfort
Kentucky Derby Bettors are the most frivolous improvers of the breed on earth," says Dean Eagle, sports editor of the Louisville Times. This is not just a frivolous generality spouted over a julep or two, for Mr. Eagle, a curious man, has studied the habits of Derby plungers, who, through ignorance, negligence or nostalgia, preserve or discard scores of redeemable Derby pari-mutuel tickets every year.
A close check has been kept on un-cashed Derby tickets since 1933, when they were made reportable to the state by law, and since that time a million dollars' worth have not been turned in. This indicates, according to Mr. Eagle's figures, that the Derby bettor is six and a half times as bemused or sentimental as the average racing fan. If the uncashed Derby ticket rate of $4 per thousand were applied to the nation at large, unredeemed bets would amount to $9 million annually, Mr. Eagle adds with wonder.
Kentucky law requires that money from uncashed tickets be turned over to the state after two years. Churchill Downs holds the records, however, and upon presentation of a ticket gives the bettor an order to the State Treasurer at Frankfort. Tickets more than a year old are rarely presented, but track officials are occasionally called upon to check a stack of tickets to help settle an estate.
The most valuable ticket on the books is a $50 win ticket on Assault, the 1946 Derby winner, which is worth $460. The least valuable is a $1 show ticket on Bimelech, at $1.20 (Churchill Downs sold $1 tickets in 1940).
An evidence of souvenir hunters is the large number of uncashed tickets on Citation, the first million-dollar winner. Two hundred sixty-four $2 tickets on Old Cy have never been redeemed; nor have 42 $5 tickets, seven $10 tickets and four $50 tickets. The complexities of field betting account for Count Turf's being the Derby winner with the most unclaimed money—$5,535 is still outstanding on him. Count Turf ran as part of a field along with Phil D., Pur Sang, King Clover and Fighting Back in 1951. Many bettors who wagered on these horses undoubtedly did not realize that they could cash their tickets on Count Turf.
Not so easily explained is the 1946 Derby, says Mr. Eagle. A tidy $4,947.60 is still out on Assault. Assault was not in the field nor was he part of an entry. Bold Venture, Assault's sire, won in 1936, but his backers were not so eager for expensive mementos. Not a single win ticket is unaccounted for on Bold Venture, although $354.90 worth of other tickets on him remain uncashed. Iron Liege, the 1957 winner, is third in uncashed tickets, with $3,999.70 still unpaid. And Broker's Tip, who won from Head Play in a riotous stretch duel in 1933, has the least money out, a piddling $237.70.
The only certain way to obtain a souvenir ticket on a Derby winner is to bet every mount in the race. Mr. Eagle has done some furious calculating here and discovered that a flat $2 wager on every Derby starter since pari-mutuels were established in 1903 would have netted a profit of $68.58 on an investment of $994. A $2 bet, on the other hand, on every favorite in that period would have netted only $8.64 and the privilege of hearing My Old Kentucky Home played 55 times.
When I founded the Animal Insurance Company of America last July," says New Yorker Milton Weiss, a fast-talking insurance broker with 27 years' experience behind him and enough imagination for a dozen men, "everyone said I'd gone to the dogs. Sometimes I wondered myself. But let's face it. Dogs are valuable property. Nobody thinks twice about insuring an automobile. Why not dogs?
"Forget the purchase price and just consider the costs of food, medical attention, maintenance and training. Then take an animal that's winning money on the show circuits or bringing it in at field trials or stud. So he dies. Even if the owner isn't out an income, he's out burial fees, his original investment and the cost of replacing a friend.
"With the big money earners, it's even worse," says Weiss. "Take this hot-shot miniature poodle that died a few years ago at the peak of a theatrical career any movie star would envy. His death was front-page news. In one year that poodle had racked up $11,000 in stud fees, not to mention a staggering income from fashion modeling, TV and public appearances. His owner lost more than man's best friend. He lost the best business asset he'd ever had. What could he do about it? Nothing.
"The Animal Insurance Company of America has changed all that," Weiss says with pride. "Dogs are big business in this country, so insurance makes sense. Nine months ago I started with an insurance ceiling of $5,000. Now I've raised it to $13,000 and dropped the medical examination requirements on dogs insured for $500 or less. All the owner has to do is establish the value of his dog, either by bill of sale, stud earnings, show winnings or in any number of ways. For $8 per $100 he gets complete coverage. It's just like life insurance on people. We cover any dog from six months to nine years which dies by any cause but poisoning. Poisoning's too complicated, so we don't cover that.
"Most important," says Weiss, "we've already established ourselves as an outfit that pays off fast and fair. Take this German shepherd that was hit by a car this winter. His owner only took out the policy two days before the accident, but we paid the claim right away. That even made the New York Times."
To avoid confusion among clients, the Animal Insurance Company of America provides handy nose-print kits to all prospective insurance applicants. Packaged in a cellophane container, the kit contains a pad saturated with harmless dye which is applied to the dog's nose. The dog then puts his nose print on the application, a means of identification, according to Weiss, which is as distinctive and foolproof as the human fingerprint.
"The prospects are great," beams Weiss, "because any dog worth owning is worth insuring. As a matter of fact, that's true of all pets. Right now I'm working on a big program for cats."
An Unusual Customer
On April 13 Joie Ray, a steelworker and gladiolus fancier, celebrated his 64th birthday by running a mile at the University of Illinois.
"I'm stiff as a board," said Joie afterward. "I guess I got going too fast." Fast indeed, Joie's time was a sprightly 5:52.
The mile run is an annual birthday event for Joie. It began three years ago when Dr. Thomas Cureton, head of the physical fitness laboratory at Illinois, was scouting around for an elderly former track star to test in a continuing study of the cardiovascular systems of athletes. His search ended when he found Chesty Joie, an eight-time National AAU mile champion and three-time Olympian who had tied the indoor mile record of 4:12 in 1925.
The morning of Joie's 61st birthday, he finished his eight-hour trick at the Gary (Ind.) plant of U.S. Steel and went to bed. Twenty minutes later, Cureton was at the door to take him to the university. "I found the functional condition of his heart better than normal," Cureton recalled the other day. "His muscles had a very unusual tone for a man of his age. He's an unusual customer."
Joie did not run a complete mile that day, for Dr. Cureton had put him through 128 tests, and Joie was plumb tuckered out. On his 62nd birthday Joie, who had trained for three months on a punching bag and cut down on fried foods, ran the mile in 6:23.4. On his 63rd birthday, despite a dislocated cuboid bone in his left foot, he ran it in 6:26.
Before this year's race, Cureton examined Joie and was pleasantly surprised. "Joie has a bigger stroke to his heart than most people," said Cureton. "His pulse wave is a long stroke and showed up decidedly better this year than in the past three." Cureton found that the height of Joie's T-wave, which he says tends to decrease with age and in sedentary men of Joie's years sometimes reaches a high of only two millimeters, was seven and one-half millimeters. In 1957 it was only four millimeters.
"He just took it in stride," marveled Cureton after the race. "He wasn't even gasping. Joie works hard at the mill, he works outside in his garden and this helps him keep his muscle tone. Joie proves that more, not less, exercise is the answer to good health for a lot of aging people."
Said juvenescent Joie: "Next year I'm going to do the mile under five minutes. I'm going to take off 10 pounds and train a little better. I haven't felt better in years—except for these sore calves."
A Round in 78
You're an experienced caddie and you've heard a lot of stories, so it doesn't surprise you too much when this Easterner you've never seen before joins the foursome with three of your regulars one day and tells you, when you ask him about his game, "I never take more than 78 strokes."
Well, the caddie who passes on this story to us sees his new friend bogey the 1st hole, double-bogey the 2nd, goof to an adding-machine figure on the 3rd (a water hole) and struggle across the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th like a combination of the early Lewis and Clark boys and Wrong Way Corrigan. So at the 12th the caddie says, "Excuse me, sir, but you'll be 78 going off the tee."
And the thing our caddie will never forget is the fellow's answer, smooth as you please: "Ah, thank you, caddie. You can slip the driver in the bag, and I'll see you at the clubhouse. It's just a personal rule—never take more than 78."
The Fourth Voice
Party must be confessed, because we enjoy having our voice recognized as basso profundo but also because we think they are worth repeating, this magazine makes no bones about calling attention to some words concerning us that were spoken by the Rev. Frederick B. Speakman, pastor of Pittsburgh's Third Presbyterian Church. More or less ad-libbed at a college get-together last winter, these words have since become a kind of gospel in the University of Pittsburgh athletic department.
Parson Speakman began by confessing his own early indignation at a prayer that fairly reeked of the locker room. "My hackles went up from the start," he said, "at hearing God addressed as Coach." Yet, said the burly reverend, who admits to being a "compulsive" Pirate fan, by the time "the amen came to this extraordinary recital of sweat-shirt and Charley-horse piety," he himself had undergone a change of heart. "Literarily it was ridiculous. Liturgically it was absurd. Yet it made living sense to those who heard it. A kind of sense I had missed for the moment because I had forgotten what we all too often only dimly sense: the deep instinctive analogy between most any great athletic event and life itself. There are truths about us and life and the living of it at which our minds blunder and fumble but which become unmistakably plain when we put them in terms of some great game. It is no accident that the masters of human speech from St. Paul to Winston Churchill have carved incomparable phrases from the games of their day. For disciplined participation in, or even intelligent attention to, a great competitive sport can be a short course in life itself."
What people have enjoyed and found meaningful from earliest times, concluded Parson Speakman (and here we take our bow), "remains so appealing in the harried, hectic twentieth century that LIFE, TIME and FORTUNE magazines decided they couldn't do justice to it just in passing, that they must have SPORTS ILLUSTRATED singing bass in their journalistic quartet."
Golf au Gourmet
Deep though his divots,
Pierre never ruffles;
He finds relaxation
And, often, some truffles.
—A. R. FONTENOT
They Said It
Jimmy steed, longtime caddie (and frequent club selector) for Sammy Snead, as misquoted at the Greensboro (N.C.) Open: "When he's right, nobody can beat that man." Caddie Steed's correction: "When I'm right, nobody can beat that man."
Meriyan Tsalkalamanidze, visiting Russian wrestler, when asked how to pronounce his surname: "Just say it the way it's spelled."
Billy Conn, former light-heavyweight champion, on the best challenger for Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson: "Throw 20 names in a hat, and pick anybody. They're all the same—they ain't any good."
Columnist Red Smith on the Los Angeles Coliseum's short left field and its effect on baseball: "These performers dress like ball players, look like ball players, wolf sirloins and pinch waitresses like ball players, but that story about Walter O'Malley bringing big league ball to Southern California is pure fiction, the greatest hoax since Orson Welles' Martians."