Duty of Ball Parks
This is an article from the May 19, 1958 issue
Mrs. May Lee, 72, a loyal fan of the Milwaukee Braves, has been awarded $3,675. The award has just been upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and the verdict may involve a lesson for baseball.
Mrs. Lee was watching the Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the first game of a double-header just three years ago when a foul ball fell into the stands between home and third just a row or two ahead of her. Thereupon, Mrs. Lee complained, 10 or a dozen of her neighbors swarmed after the ball, throwing her from her chair into the concrete aisle and down a couple of steps. She suffered a broken rib and severe pain and was unconscious for a while. Ushers, who Mrs. Lee thinks should have protected her, were all down on the field getting set to protect the playing surface after the last out.
The defense told Mrs. Lee that if she wanted to be sure-enough safe at a ball game she could have sat behind the home-plate screen; that they could find no precedent anywhere for an award of the kind she asked. Well, now there is a precedent, at least in Wisconsin. Ball parks, the court said, have a duty to protect their customers at all times.
Mrs. Lee's case involves another possible lesson for insurance companies. After her accident Mrs. Lee offered to settle for her hospital bill—$100—but the Braves' insurance company turned her down.
Ratseys Here and There
With the new America's Cup yachts scheduled to hit the water between now and mid-June, one of our boating men has just paid a visit to the firm of Ratsey & Lapthorn on City Island in the north end of The Bronx to see how the sails for the boats are coming. The sails are coming fine, according to Mr. Ernest Ratsey, head of the firm, a comfortable-looking, ruddy fellow who sounds a bit like a Hampshireman although he left England with the migrating branch of the Ratseys at the age of 6 months.
"We started in 1790 over on the Isle of Wight at Cowes," said Mr. Ratsey, "and we opened the New York branch in 1902. I'm the fifth and my son Colin is the sixth and he's got a son Scott who'll come along to be a seventh generation. Our founder was George Rogers Ratsey, and the business was taken up by his son Charles. Now Charles married twice and had George Rogers by his first wife and Thomas White by his second. George Rogers' son, George Ernest, was my father and my brother is George Colin. My Uncle Thomas White was quite a character. He was an observer during the Seawanhaka Cup races over here back in 1929 when the British were running in it against the Americans and in the final race had to get by the American boat, to win, and wouldn't you know it, they got a puff right at the finish and came in the winner. Uncle Tom donned one of his socks wrong side out that day and claimed that this was the reason for the luck. He presented the sock to the winning yacht club and they have it to this day.
"Well, Uncle Tom's son Tom Christopher and his son Stephen and nephew Franklin Woodroffe are the Ratseys over there today, along with George Colin who went back over to help them there just last year. I run things over here with the help of Colin Ernest. We own half of them and they own half of us. I hope I'm not confusing you.
"As for the Lapthorn part of it, the Lapthorns had a loft in Gosport and used to compete with the Ratsey loft in Cowes. They finally amalgamated in 1880 and the loft in Gosport was known as Lapthorn & Ratseys and at Cowes it was Ratseys & Lapthorn.
"We've made all the sails over there for the challengers for the America's Cup, and that includes the Sceptre, and over here we've made sails for every defender since 1914. Back in 1805 we made the fore topsail for Nelson's Victory, the one he carried at Trafalgar, and that was a flax sail, made before the days of cotton. Our lofts at Gosport and Cowes were blitzed during the last war and we had to start them all over again. This year we're making sails for three of the American boats, but we're not making anything for the Boston boat. They are buying local. That doesn't mean you don't have to watch out for them, because their Ray Hunt is an absolute whiz when it comes to racing. He could make Kon-Tiki win if he had to.
"The fact that we're making the sails for the cup boats doesn't mean for one minute that we're letting the small boats go. We made that mistake back in 1930 when we did the sails for seven cup boats, almost half a million dollars' worth, and had to turn down a lot of orders. It took us all of 10 years to get the orders back again. We've already got one cup sail on the water, on the Vim. It's a new Dacron mainsail and I haven't seen it, but Carleton Mitchell has and he says it's beautiful. That's good enough for me."
The best driver in the world showed up quietly at the 433-acre Indianapolis motor speedway the other day and, for a while, went as unnoticed as an apprentice pit jockey. Juan Manuel Fangio, veteran of the Le Mans 24 Hours and of the Mille Miglia, the Monza, of the N√ºrburgring and Carrera-Panamericana, has never raced at Indianapolis and was obliged to pass the novice driver's test before attempting to qualify for the "500" on May 30.
On his first rounds Fangio had a near-disaster; the experienced Indianapolis driver Ray Crawford, traveling at 135 mph, spun in front of the Argentinian on the northeast curve, missed a screaming collision by two feet. Fangio assumed all blame. "I shouldn't have been in the center of the track," he said.
Undisturbed, Fangio then ran six of his 10 laps for the driver's test at the required speed of 115 mph. Three of the first test laps were thrown out by the officials because he was running at 120 or over; the tolerance allowed during this phase is 114 to 119 mph. Fangio made up the laps later, then successfully completed 10 laps at 120, 10 laps at 125 and 10 laps at 130 to pass his test. He had expert coaching—from Mauri Rose, three-time winner of the "500." Rose drew track diagrams with chalk for Fangio, showed him where to run in the "groove" on turns and handled the signal board in the pits as Fangio swept around the track.
Test over, Fangio concentrated on learning track and car by heart. He began picking up speed and, on one lap, hit it up past 140 mph, qualifying speed at Indianapolis last year. Pleased, although he was bothered with a head cold, he then climbed out, stripped three bands of tape (signifying WARNING: ROOKIE) from the rear of his car and talked a bit.
"I'm beginning to find my way around," he said. "All the time you have to learn, even a man of my age and experience."
But mostly he drove, trying to find the secret of the 2½-mile oval. He learned to feather his throttle on turns instead of taking his foot off entirely, an important lesson since the "500" is won in the turns and the speed that one makes through them. He abandoned his idea of putting a three-speed gearbox in the car for downshifting through the turns. He got the feel of his Dayton Special, said it was all he hoped it would be.
Other drivers watched Fangio's progress skeptically. "He hasn't got a chance," concluded Jimmy Bryan, one of the favorites. "He's just not used to this closed-circuit racing. He's used to downshifting and running through the corners, things they don't do here. I'm not trying to run him down, but he's just another race driver at this speedway."
Fangio conceded nothing. He just kept turning laps, each one faster than the one before, preparing for his qualifying run, possibly this week.
He repeated that he has much to learn. Old admirers remembered a point of principle that Fangio did not bother to restate: never enter a race you do not intend to win.
It won't be long now before the rush to the nation's forests and lakes will be on in earnest. Anticipating the annual glut of hunters and fishermen in their area, a number of would-be Indian guides in northern Minnesota took stock of themselves the other day and found themselves deficient. So, in an airplane hangar classroom in Bemidji last week, seven Chippewas and one Sioux sat in solemn council addressing their thoughts to a vanishing art: how to be an Indian. Spelling out the woodsy wisdom was no antique chieftain. Teacher was a paleface.
The course in accredited Indian behavior is an activity of Minnesota's Interim Commission on Indian Affairs. In its 15 days it is calculated to help the students become self-supporting as members of an elite guide service for the hundreds of tenderfoot sportsmen who wander, wampum ajingle, through the state's forests. The Indians, all indigenous to the woods but wanting in the lore of their fathers' fathers, are being trained by forest rangers, game wardens, a Red Cross safety director and a college history professor.
What does it take to be an Indian's Indian? For one thing, the braves are discovering how to find once, then find again a good spot on a lake for fishing. They are also learning the ABCs of forestry laws, of hunting, of woodcraft and mapping, of first aid and of the upkeep of that white man's burden, the outboard motor.
One instructor is advising the Indians on Indian customs, a science he defines as "show-off stuff for the white man." Among the customary dos and don'ts: to look like an Indian guide, wear an old hat with a four-cornered crease; wear an eagle feather if you wish, but don't shoot Minnesota's eagles to get one; don't call hunters dudes; paddle the canoe for them; most important, when the fire burns low and the timber wolves howl, spin them an old Indian tale.
Visitors to This Land
The latest athletic visitors to the U.S. are the Pakistani cricket team, perhaps the third-or fourth-best in the world, and a Russian weight lifting team, all but one of them world champions.
The Pakistanis came first, wearing green blazers and flannel ice cream pants. They are: A. H. Kardar, Imtiaz Ahmed, Khan Mohammed, Waqar Hassan, Mahmud Hussain, Alim-Ud-Din, Wazir Mohammed, Ikram Elahi, Abdul Munaf, Ijaz Butt, Hasib Ahsan, Saeed Ahmed, Nasimal Ghani, S. F. Rahman, Zulfiqar Ahmed and Wallis Mathias. Mathias is a Christian. Ghani is a slow left-hand bowler who serves a lovely googly and is the only Pakistani with a crew cut. He is 16 years old and the youngest player ever to participate in a test match. Elahi, a useful all-rounder, is a comedian. His comedy is on the order of Al Schacht's.
The Russians came next, wearing boxy suits and perforated shoes. They are, from bantamweight to heavyweight: Vladimir Stogov, Yevgeni Minaev, Victor Bushuev, Fedor Bogdanovsky, Trofim Lomakin, Arkadiy Vorobiev and Aleksei Medvedev. Medvedev means bear; Vorobiev means sparrow. Medvedev, who is massively constructed, looks like a bear; Vorobiev, a moody doctor, does not look like a sparrow. Lomakin is supposed to like vodka, "but only when he needs it." None of the Russians has a crew cut. There does not appear to be a comedian among them. When the New York photographers wanted to take a picture of the Russians arrayed in a file according to weight, Vorobiev declined. "Nekulturno," he said. Nekulturno means it was an uncultured request. The Russians do not enjoy having their pictures taken. They would rather work out on the weights. "How much longer do we have to stand this torment?" they say to one another. "What is cheese in Russian?" cried one desperate photographer. The Russians do not like to smile endlessly for photographers, either. They would rather work out on the weights.
The Pakistanis were to play their first match in Philadelphia a fortnight ago, but it rained. "Manchester weather," said one, looking out at the grounds where waterlogged crows flapped heavily. "Manchester weather," agreed his companion. "What a lousy day for cricket, Shah," one little boy told another. "Cricket fits in with the 19th or early 20th century," said H.E. Mr. Mohammed Ali, Ambassador of Pakistan to the U.S., from the clubhouse porch. "It's old-fashioned. People no longer have the time, the concentration. They want baseball. It is quick. It is in accordance with the times. What a pleasant place though, with a belt of trees."
A fellow asked Khan Mohammed, a right-arm fast bowler with a melancholy face, why cricket couldn't be played in the rain. "You notice the creases in my pants," explained Mohammed. "I like rock 'n' roll," he said, and shuffled to music from a loudspeaker. He was asked if anyone ever gets killed in cricket. "The cricket ball is very fast," he said, "but God is great; He always looks after His people."
After three rain-outs, the Pakistanis played their first match last Saturday at New York City's Randalls Island against an all-star team from the Joint Cricket Leagues of New York. H.E. Prince Aly Khan, Pakistani Ambassador to the U.N., resplendent in brown suede shoes, Cambridge-gray pants, blue shirt and tie, bowled the first ball. Prince Aly is not a cricket fan. "I was delighted to see the Derby," he said. "I never felt Silky Sullivan had much chance of winning; he, of course, didn't have any breeding to speak of. I put a small wager on Tim Tarn. Just $20."
Despite the heroic efforts of a stately New York slow-medium bowler named Leslie Russell, Pakistan won handily, 189 runs for four wickets to 70 runs for 10 wickets.
"I saw the girls walking up and down Fifth Avenue," said a young Pakistani bat, "and, indeed, they looked very nice to me. But don't print that because they will fine me ¬£50 and send me back home."
The Russians went to see the circus before they left for matches in Chicago and Detroit. "I liked the acrobats the best," said Featherweight Minaev. "I liked the two girls who were shot out of a cannon, too. That's also acrobatics."
The westward set of sport's imperial tide, first noted in baseball, is continuing in other ways. Houston, for example, is now a better fight town than New York. So is San Francisco; so is Los Angeles. More fans pay more money to see more (and better) fights in these cities than in New York.
The reason? New York is overpopulated. It has too many fight fans.
The metropolitan area contains so many people, who own so many television sets, that sponsors are unwilling to black out this rich market. Without a local blackout there can be no paid attendance of consequence. Result: good fights which can attract a paid attendance go west. New York gets the leavings.
A superior fight New Yorkers saw only on television was the Joe Brown-Ralph Dupas lightweight title bout in Houston the other night. It set a Texas record gross gate of $68,740, with $30,000 more from television. It was worth every penny.
Brown proved himself a proper champion, a skilled boxer with the wisdom of a veteran and the punch of a much heavier man. It was quite a trick for him to catch the evasive Dupas, but Brown did it often and scored prettily from time to time with one of boxing's finest one-two combinations. Brown downed his man in the eighth round with a sharp left hook followed by a short, jolting right. The ensuing 10-count did not count; emulating the Dempsey of Chicago, Brown lingered too long before going to a neutral corner and the fight went on. Just for a little while, however. At 2:21 Dupas was staggering again and the fight was stopped.
Just a few days previously San Franciscans numbering 10,000 paid $48,998 to see Joey Giardello clearly establish his superiority over Rory Calhoun in a thriller of a fight. New Yorkers didn't even get a chance to see that one on television. It wasn't televised.
Each year I creak a little more
When summer sports begin,
And hope I won't be broken down
Before I'm broken in.
They Said It
Casey Stengel, after a week-long schedule of rained-out games: "It's been so long since we played a game I had to ask Edna [Mrs. Stengel] what was Berra's first name."
Peahead Walker, coach of Montreal's Alouettes, on hearing Frank Howard of Clemson was off to coach U.S. Army football players in Europe: "Howard must never converse in French or German, for what could be worse than an Alabaman with a South Carolina accent trying to speak a foreign language while wearing a dental plate?" HOWARD: "I remember Peahead as a boy in Alabama. He talks of his vast knowledge of savoir-faire. He didn't have an underwear change then—and two-toned shoes to him were a pair of black brogans with red clay on the soles."
Avery Brundage, guardian of Olympic amateurism, when asked in Japan for his views on sham amateurism: "Are you ready to stay here all afternoon?"