Churchill Ups and Downs
This is an article from the May 12, 1958 issue
The crowd at the Kentucky Derby, carefree and slightly awash in bourbon and sentimentality, carries a great responsibility without knowing it. Every year the total sum it bets on the Derby points out the path—either up or down—that the nation's economy is going to follow.
This, at least, is the lightly held theory of some Kentucky businessmen. One of them, a young Louisville investment counselor named Tyrus R. Davis, has published a pamphlet which shows that the amount of money bet on the Derby, the Dow Jones averages, and the gross national product have risen and fallen together, year after year, from 1920 through 1957. But the Derby bettors are out of step: what they do this year, the charts show, is what the economy will do next year. A sharp drop in the total that was bet in 1928, for example, warned of the 1929 crash. In the rich year of 1957, betting was off by $265,533, heralding in May the recession that people began to talk about the following January.
Well, what of 1958? Betting totaled $1,635,520, up $234,503 from last year and only $41,658 under the alltime peak year of 1955. The recession, it appears, is on its way out.
Mr. Davis warns that his indicator is not to be taken seriously. Still, he insists, it is every bit as good as some of the investment guides people do use, such as sunspots, humidity or the fluctuating fortunes of soap opera heroines.
Any Further Questions?
Sooner or later, the stubbornest visitor to Rome must learn to do as the Romans do. In the view of at least one exacerbated Southern Californian the same holds true of newcomers to Los Angeles' more-or-less-Roman Coliseum.
Big league baseball is now an established part of life in the City of the Angels, but there are those who affect to see in it no relationship with the game as played in the East. "Of course," wrote Columnist Red Smith, "it isn't baseball."
Fed up with such talk from dissenters at home and abroad, Editor Loyal D. Hotchkiss of the Los Angeles Times last week set the record straight. In a signed editorial headlined THE COLD WAR OF BASEBALL, he ticked off and answered one by one the complaints of those who claim that in baseball, as in Kipling, East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.
Complaint: The Coliseum seats too many people.
Answer: Not too many to watch a baseball game, but too many to see it plainly from stands built primarily for football.
Complaint: Too many of its seats are occupied.
Answer: Not for Mr. O'Malley.
Complaint: People in L.A. know nothing about baseball.
Answer: Maybe, but California has provided the raw material for big leagues for 30 years including the DiMaggio brothers, Lefty O'Doul, Wally Berger, the Waner boys, Tony Lazzeri, Lefty Gomez and many, many others, and we think we know a double play from a squeeze bunt and don't have to have it explained to us by Red Smith.
Complaint: The left field fence is degrading the national pastime.
Answer: The left field fence is a problem, but this is a temporary home and all can be solved when a new park is built in Chavez Ravine.
Complaint: Hot dogs cost too much [25¢ for regular, 35¢ for the giant foot-long size] in the Coliseum.
Answer: Everything costs too much today.
Complaint: Walter O'Malley's moving of the Dodgers from Brooklyn to L.A. makes the doings of Benedict Arnold mere peccadilloes in the realm of treason.
Answer: Walter O'Malley is a businessman...more intent on making money than character.
Complaint: Duke Snider can't throw the ball out of the Coliseum.
Answer: It's lucky for Duke the Dodgers aren't playing in the Grand Canyon.
Complaint: It is too hot in the afternoons, too cool in the evenings.
Answer: Weather is weather.
Any feeling of insecurity suffered by the boys from Brooklyn in their new home, concluded Editor Hotchkiss, can be quickly cured by a few base hits. His final word of advice to O'Malley and Co.: "Get out of the second division quickly. Los Angeles is never a hick town when it comes to losers. We aren't used to them."
Meeting at the Bottom
Like the picture of Dorian Gray, the portrait of James D. Norris which has been exposed to public view over the years is beginning to change in more or less subtle ways and to reveal his true character.
Norris has testified under oath that only his essentially naive nature made it possible for him to encounter Frankie Carbo—mobster, murderer and fight-fixer—from time to time in 20-odd years without being aware that Carbo was the underworld's No. 1 boy in boxing. His meetings with Carbo, he said, were entirely casual, never prearranged.
The fact is that Carbo's influence on the degradation of boxing has been profound precisely because the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, then president) fertilized it by giving Carbo-controlled fighters preference on IBC's TV shows.
With inspired timing, Norris quit his presidency just as a New York grand jury began to poke expertly into Carbo's power in the IBC. When last heard from Norris was on a yacht off Nassau, well outside the 12-mile limit of the grand jury's subpoena powers. As he rode at anchor the grand jury developed evidence that Norris had met secretly with Carbo as recently as February 10.
The meeting took place in the home of Hymie (The Mink) Wallman, prominent fight manager who has known Carbo since boyhood. Also present: Billy Brown, No. 1 IBC matchmaker.
Hymie could not remember what happened or what was said. Hauled into court, a judge told him he had better remember. Hymie went back before the grand jury, whose proceedings are secret.
Another reluctant witness was Bernie Glickman, whose fighter, Virgil Akins, won the right to fight Vince Martinez for the welterweight title by scoring an upset knockout over Isaac Logart on the very night that grand jury subpoenas were being distributed among the faithful at Madison Square Garden.
The judge was advised that Carbo had placed a bet on Akins through Glickman, but that Glickman could not recall the circumstances of the wager. The judge was told that Glickman "lent" Carbo $10,000 in May, 1957 but could remember only that "another manager" gave the money for that purpose. The judge advised Glickman to remember, too, and he went back before the grand jury.
The bell rang at this point, ending the round.
The Navy Blimp, coming in from a run over the Atlantic, hovered at 1,472 feet over its huge paved landing area at Lakehurst, N.J. Aboard it was a full crew of 14 men. On the ground, 50 people waited tensely, gazing into the dazzling sky. Standing beside a radio jeep, Lieut. Commander Jack Hannigan spoke an order into his transmitter. An object which seemed no bigger than a pinhead dropped from the gondola of the blimp.
It fell, drifting a little on the wind, growing larger, while a visitor counted slowly to 11; then it hit the pavement and bounced. It was a basketball.
The blimp made several more runs over its landing mat and, to laconic Navy reports of "Balls away," dropped 12 basketballs altogether. There was a reason for all this: the Naval Reserve training unit was helping out the Seamless Rubber Co., which was conducting a guessing contest and wanted to know how high one of its basketballs would bounce if dropped from the height of the Empire State Building (1,472 feet). The Empire State Building itself was not available for the experiment. Bounce No. 4 was declared to be the official one, and its height was calculated from movies made with an object of known height in the background.
Twelve thousand contestants had already sent in their guesses, which ranged from one inch, from someone who apparently thought the ball would burst, to 736 feet, from a man who explained confidently that a basketball usually bounces half of the height from which it is dropped. One contestant had figured that the ball would bury itself 28 feet deep in the ground. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, asked to calculate the bounce in advance with the help of their electronic brains, had replied regretfully that they couldn't. There were too many variables, they said.
Well, Bounce No. 4 was 22 feet 9 inches. The ball missed the spot at which it had been aimed by some 200 yards, but none of the other 11 came close either.
Yellow Flag for Thirst
We can only conjecture how it came about, but it must have been on a fearfully hot spring day and the fellows were sitting around the locker room after 18 arid holes, free-associating.
"Wouldn't it be great, fellows," spoke up the first bright boy, "if a fellow could get a real man's drink out on the links?"
"Oh, boy," assented the second, tinkling the ice in his tall one. "But how?"
"Maybe, fellows," mused the third, an idea shining over his head like a light bulb, "they could fly you out one by helicopter."
"And a beautiful blonde would be up there with the pilot, mixing it while they hovered over the third tee," said the first fellow, with a gone look.
"And she would be wearing a bikini," murmured the second.
"All you do is wave a yellow flag anywhere on the course," said the third fellow rapturously, "and the copter would flutter down from heaven like an angel in the desert."
Well, we don't know if the bright boys belonged to the Helicopter Airlift company or the Federal Savings and Loan Council of Illinois or the Rolling Greens Country Club of Chicago, but on July 26, the date of the Council's annual outing at Rolling Greens, Helicopter Airlift is prepared to get the free-association in the air. The yellow flags may be picked up at the clubhouse on the way out, Helicopter Airlift is standing ready with a copter and pilot for $85 an hour, and Rolling Greens will supply the young thing, the bar ingredients and the bikini.
Somebody usually turns up every spring with a fistful of notes on how to improve upon the game of baseball.
In Huntsville, Texas the other day the University of Houston and Sam Houston State put some of the latest theories to a test. It all boiled down to a formula for speeding up the old game: two outs made an inning, two strikes were out and three balls drew a walk.
The teams played a double-header and the University of Houston took both ends of it. After it was all over, Lovette Hill, the winning coach, summed up his reactions: "I told my hitters to go up there swinging and I told my pitchers to get that first pitch across at all costs. You saw more boys go up to that plate ready to be hitters than you ever saw before. And pitchers wasted no time fooling around. Personally, I liked the shortened count, but not the two-out inning."
Other findings: the longest half inning required only a little more than four minutes. Both teams had hitters up to the plate and back in 30 seconds. Just about every hitter went for the first pitch because, as Billy Dube, Houston's top slugger, said, "If that first one got by you, you were dead. You didn't dare take a pitch."
Ultimate conclusion by all hands: baseball is better with all the old fussing around, the pitcher's fiddling with the rosin bag, the feigned speck in the batter's eye, the long, slow walk of the relief pitcher from the bullpen (except in places like Kansas City where they are driven to the edge of the infield in convertibles) and the full three-and-two count that is sometimes agonizingly prolonged by foul balls.
What's all the hurry anyway? A man in a hurry has no place in a ball park.
Tennis with Tigerettes
Even texans were willing to admit that their attempt to improve baseball at Huntsville was not an unqualified success, but the spirit that made Texas great is equal to any number of imaginative experiments. Some 150 miles away in San Antonio, another group of innovators were at work on tennis.
On the theory that what is good for football is good for any game, athletic officials of San Antonio's Trinity University staged a rip-roaring "tennis appreciation day," complete with all the Cotton Bowl trimmings. A blaring brass band made the welkin ring with spirited booms and oom-pahs. Trinity's shapeliest coeds, the Tigerettes, donned striped uniforms tighter than any tiger's to strut in the best drum majorette style before a delighted gallery of some 350 cheering spectators. Special buses ran from the school to the municipal tennis center where the matches were held. Soft drinks were given away free and all students were allowed free cuts to attend. Far from observing the traditional etiquette of the country club game, the gallery was encouraged to urge on their favorites with yells and catcalls and even to boo the opponents' errors.
Oh, yes, somewhere in the midst of it all, more or less ignored by the crowd and somewhat distracted by the prancing of the Tigerettes, some earnest young netmen from Trinity were busily exchanging serves, drives and smashes with their counterparts from Baylor University.
When it was all over, Trinity's tennis team, possibly the best in Texas, had won four matches to two. More important, the experiment to determine whether Tigerettes could make tennis a spectator sport in true Texas fashion was pronounced a marked success.
Secret of Perfect Angling
Long before Ike Walton made it official, the angler's art and the philosophical outlook were walking hand in hand. They were still walking thus a few weeks ago when our own favorite angler, Sparse Grey Hackle, sought temporary respite in a glass of soda pop from luckless hours in certain streams feeding the East Branch of the Delaware River. "You'll never know the meaning of true happiness," exclaimed Sparse, burping politely at the force of the vintage pop, "until you learn to give up fishing. No more sweating in rubber pants. No more casting to sated fish who'll rise only to something you haven't got. No more—"
But the harsh diatribe was interrupted by the bland philosopher who dispensed the pop. "Oh, no," he said firmly, "I could never give up fishing. Never, never, never."
"Hmph," said Sparse Grey Hackle.
"Why," continued the philosopher, whose name, by the way, was Virgil, "I've got a bundle of rods here that would break your heart—Leonards, Paynes, all kinds. And a couple of years ago I bought another just because it was so beautiful. Oh dear no, I could never give up fishing."
"Hmmm," said the disillusioned angler, by now somewhat mollified, "whereabouts do you fish in this blasted crick?"
"Well," admitted the philosopher, "actually, I've never fished it. You see, I'm a Neversink man. The Neversink—about 30 miles from here—that's my river."
"That so?" said Sparse. "How often do you fish the Neversink?"
"Well," said the philosopher, "actually I don't. Come to think of it, I haven't been fishing anywhere for more'n 10 years."
And, gazing unperturbed into a dreamy vista of endlessly perfect angling, the angling of the mind, the philosopher polished another glass.
Memory and invention shape spring in the thrasher's throat, guide the shortstop's suppliant hands back of second.
But the yellow butterfly moves by memory alone; it is the procession of children following into the wood who invent.
Warm strokes of rain; the thrasher silent in the brown bottom of the bush; the shortstop on the dugout bench watching the infield tarpaulin rise huge in the wind like a whale.
Tomorrow, traveling player and bird will set up at the old stands, telling their easy rituals.
But the children running on into the last ash-fall of light have borne the butterfly back across the fields, a yellow fragment of today.
They Said It
Stan Musial, 37 and leading the major leagues last week with a batting average of .509: "Baseball is a game you can play as long as you still have two things—desire and the ability to concentrate. It's concentration that comes hardest. You have to give the pitcher your undivided attention every second. At the end of every game I'm beat."
Archie Moore, 41-and-up, after winning a decision over the German heavyweight champion, Willi Besmanoff, 25, last week: "I guess he thought I was an old man." BESMANOFF: "For an old man, this Moore hits like the devil."
Jack Gould, New York Times TV critic on Silky Sullivan's poor Derby: "[It] occasioned little surprise among experienced viewers. Television performers from California seldom show to best advantage in a live program."