A dolefulconundrum going the rounds in southern California last week:
Question: Whathas 18 legs and lives in the cellar?
Answer: The LosAngeles Dodgers.
May 25, 1958
Who Cares forMoney?
What's the matterwith the team? This is not an unusual question to ask of a ball club that issprawling uncomfortably prostrate in a big league basement. It has been askedabout the Dodgers in bars and bowling alleys and across breakfast tables forsome weeks now, but seldom has it been asked under more portentouscircumstances or in a more awesome setting than last week. The scene was thehearing room of a full-fledged California state legislative committee, watchedby the probing eyes of TV. The questioner was an elected representative of thepeople of California, and the witness on the stand was none other than Mr.Walter O'Malley, one man who should know if anybody does what's wrong with theDodgers.
Whatever waswrong with them, Mr. O'Malley implied in answer, could easily be set right bythe people of California or, more specifically, by the people of theCalifornian city of Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, nobody knew for sure justwhy the state legislators were asking questions about the Dodgers at all,except that it had become a kind of local habit. But everybody in Los Angelesknew that within a couple of weeks it would be up to the city's 1,105,427registered voters to decide whether Big League Baseball's best-known strollingplayers should be allowed to pitch their tent—in the form of a new ball parkand stadium "seating not less than 50,000 people"—on 300 acres of cityproperty in Chavez Ravine or be sent on their way none knew whither.
All over thecity, pollsters were busy seeking the shape of things to come. One organizationof professional and business men canvassed its members and found them 61.6% infavor of the Dodgers. An independent research outfit proclaimed the city 55.5%in favor of the Chavez move. Comedian Joe E. Brown's Taxpayers Committee forYes on Baseball declared O'Malley's boys a shoo-in as far as Chavez wasconcerned. As for Walter O'Malley himself, he made it quite clear that thereferendum on June 3 would mean life or death for the Dodgers as a Los Angelesteam.
After some sixmonths of scorn and ridicule in the nation's press, westward-trending WalterO'Malley was still a prophet without honor in the land of his adoption. All hehad to show for his weeks of play on the West Coast so far was a mere$1,200,000 in gross gate receipts, an additional $500,000 in radio tolls andsome $120,000 in cuts on the hot dogs and soda pop sold in his temporary home.To many a baseball promoter in the first weeks of a new stand, such profitsmight seem undreamed-of riches, but Walter O'Malley is a man with feelings, aman with pride. Who cares for money when love is withheld? Not the proprietorof the Los Angeles Dodgers. If L.A. doesn't care enough to give the Dodgers apermanent home, then the Dodgers, like Longfellow's Arabs, will simply fold uptheir tents and silently steal away. "It is very nice to want to stay someplace," said Walter O'Malley, "but you can't stay if you don't have aplace to play."
What is wrongwith the Dodgers?
The Dodgers,according to Walter O'Malley, who should know, are just plain unhappy. "Theteam has become afflicted with a phobia because of playing 21 of its first 25games in an unorthodox park."
High above themilling crowds of railbirds at Pimlico the cast-iron weather vane swung gentlyin the breeze atop the Maryland Jockey Club cupola. The colors tinting itssculptured horse and rider had faded somewhat during the last 12 months, butthe discerning eye below could still detect in them the bay flanks of BoldRuler and the yellow-and-purple silks of Wheatley Stable worn by Eddie Arcaroas he rode the Ruler to victory in last year's Preakness.
Nearby on the tinroof, a 6¢ cigar clamped firmly between his teeth, a short, chunky and grizzledartisan thoughtfully pondered a race program and a box of paints.
"Let'ssee," he considered slowly. "I'll need cerise and blue. Then I'll needa royal blue." He drew his hand across the stubble of his paint-spatteredface. "Then I'm awful likely to need this devil's red. I'd better figure tohave some of that up here." He went on, after a moment, intently regardingthe program, talking mostly to himself. "I'll have to get a good look atthat Silky. I'm not sure of his color. If Silky wins, I'll have to change thehorse's color. The fellow up there now—Bold Ruler—he's a bay. Silky's achestnut."
"What are yougonna do if Gone Fishin' takes it?" asked the man's 16-year-old son andassistant who was propped against a chimney nearby. "Ah," said theolder man, "I won't need any paint for him. Not at 15 to 1. The Preaknessis no race for long shots."
There was a longspell of silence as the figure in the paint-spattered coveralls contemplatedthe crowd below him. For 20 years, George Dragoo (and come to think of it,somebody ought to name a horse for Mr. Dragoo) has spent the afternoon of thePreakness on this roof waiting to repaint the weather vane in the winner'scolors, pondering the odds and studying the crowd. "They really take itserious," he said. "Sometimes you see them leave their babies in thecar and forget all about them in the excitement. And you ought to see thechauffeurs in the parking lot. They wait all dignified for the boss to get awayand then suddenly come to life, hurrying to get a bet down."
The painter shookhis head again and faced squarely the possibility that after all Gone Fishin'might win. "Well," he muttered at last, "fuchsia. That's kind ofgot me; still I guess I could mix it all right."
Came the eighthrace and the end of Mr. Dragoo's musing. As it turned out, the cerise and blueof Jewel's Reward and Maine Chance were not needed that afternoon. Neither wasthe royal blue signifying Lincoln Road nor the fuchsia that would have meantGone Fishin' (though fuchsia showed that afternoon). Nor certainly the chestnutcoating of Silky Sullivan. As Mr. Dragoo has done six times in the last 20years, he reached into his paint pot for the devil's red on Tim Tam and thenclimbed down, leaving the colors of Calumet Farm riding high in the Marylandsky.
Form and theforecasts (SI, May 5) held up on Lake Carnegie, just as they did at Pimlico.Pulling like a boatload of Tim Tams, Jim Rathschmidt's Yale crew beat Harvard,Penn and the rest of an entering field of 13 to win the Eastern Sprintschampionship by a final and conclusive length and a quarter.
The day will beremembered for a rare piece of bad luck. Just 200 yards from the finish, andwith Harvard pressing for a solid second place, Harvard Stroke Bob Lawrencemiscalculated with his oar, caught a crab and was heaved plunk into LakeCarnegie by his recoiling handle. So Harvard got third and Penn second, but theaccident had no bearing on Yale's victory.
Yale stands outnow as the finest crew in the East, with only the Huskies of the University ofWashington, possibly, left to challenge them in the land. And Yale andWashington are not scheduled to meet. Not unless they meet at Henley early thisJuly, that is. Washington will go to the classic English race if they win theirremaining races on the Coast—almost a foregone matter. By its victory in theEastern Sprints, Yale has all but an engraved invitation to Henley but isn'tsure it can go. Why not? Well, Rusty Wailes, Yale's No. 7 oar, has a summerwedding date, and John Cooke, the No. 3, has a summer job to carry him throughhis fifth year of engineering. And Bob Morey, the stroke, is all set for Navyservice on an icebreaker leaving for the Arctic in July. Obviously, a lot ofpeople will have to say yes before the Yales take off for Henley.
We hope that theU.S. Navy, Rusty Wailes' girl and the rest of the people concerned will sayyes, because Henley seems to be the only place in sight where the rival claimsof Yale and the Washington Huskies can be settled this year.
There is anotherreason. The State Department has promised to pay for the transportation of aU.S. crew from Henley to Moscow, to race against a Russian shell in mid-July.The crew that pulls for the U.S. on the Moskva should be our best.
Afterdeliberating three days in the South Turtle Room of Tokyo's Imperial Hotel, the31 members of the International Olympic Committee adjourned to attend a lavishgarden party given by the governor of Tokyo and then to embark on a five-daysightseeing tour of Japan.
In order to dothis, the committee cut down its deliberating time by one whole day but wasless successful in its announced intention of cutting the size and scope of theOlympic Games. It did drop the bobsled event from the Winter Olympics ("tooexpensive") and announced a cut in gymnastic teams from eight men to five.But a proposal to set a ceiling of three men from each nation participating inthe track and field events at Rome in 1960 remains a proposal. TheInternational Amateur Athletic Federation will study it again at its Stockholmmeeting next August.
Also unsuccessfulwas a bid to reduce the numbers of masseurs and managers, despite the Marquessof Exeter's disclosure that at London in 1948 these totaled a nightmarish 800and despite his lordship's blunt characterization of such functionaries as"freeloaders."
Battling toreduce the swollen entries and soaring expenditures, the IOC actually founditself adding a women's foil team in fencing and seriously contemplating an800-meter relay for women. "We are biting away," cried the IOCpresident, Avery Brundage. "We are chewing off bits." But his statementlacked conviction.
The Emperor ofJapan broke all imperial tradition by opening the IOC congress himself. It wasthe first international gathering he has ever opened. Eighteen court musicians,warming their ancient woodwind instruments over white porcelain charcoalbraziers, piped for four male six-footers who danced on a huge green carpet inscarlet robes and green silk hats. Then a curtain lifted to disclose a100-piece orchestra and a chorus of 250 who performed the Olympic Hymn. Fromthis auspicious start, the entranced IOC delegates went on to a tea party atthe palace where they drank sake and champagne.
At the Tokyogovernor's party, delegates ate deep-fried shrimp, raw fish, and boiledvegetables with mustard and watched a fireworks display which printed geishagirls, a snowcapped Mount Fuji and "Welcome IOC" on the night sky.Italy's Dr. Giorgio de Stefani, regarding the pretty kimono-clad daughters ofJapanese diplomats who acted as hostesses, breathed "Never have I beheldsuch women."
All thishospitality was not uncalculated: Japan wants the IOC, at its Munich meetingnext year, to select Tokyo for the 1964 Olympic Games.
TV to theRescue
Some people,located for the most part west of the Alleghenies, claim that New York City isnot even a part of the United States. Their views are readily recognizable inthe deeds, if not the words, of certain major league baseball team owners whofled the supposed apathy of New York's ball fans to seek greener fieldselsewhere. The eagerness with which the fans themselves have so far eschewedYankee Stadium, site of the only major league games left in the city, givesadded weight to the view that America's biggest town is basically un-American.But one patriotic and canny group which refuses to credit any such nonsense isthe city's TV producers.
Last week, withthe Yankees off to Washington, New York fans could not have watched a bigleague ball club play in their city even if they wanted to, but thatincontrovertible fact did not for a single moment impair or interfere withtheir enjoyment of the national game. Thanks to the TV men, the fluorescentscreens of the Empire City of the East were bursting with big league ball onthree channels. At the flick of a tuning switch New York's baseball fans couldenjoy the Yankee tour on Channel 11 under the aegis of Ballantine beer and theReynolds Tobacco Co., watch the Philadelphia Phillies in one of 78 NationalLeague games scheduled on Channel 9, courtesy of Phillies Cigars and assortedwine and tire companies or follow the fortunes of the St. Louis Cardinals onChannel 13, courtesy of Budweiser beer.
The Cards'invasion of New York living rooms marked the beginning of a full schedule ofNational League games featuring the Cards, the Pirates, the Dodgers and theGiants to be piped into the metropolitan district via Newark's newly namedStation WNTA. Approximately half the tab (estimated total cost $750,000) forthis venture will be picked up by St. Louis' Anheuser-Busch brewery, and a bigshare of describing the out-of-towners' games to New Yorkers will be borne by a33-year-old veteran Budweiser plugger named Jack Buck.
An articulateex-speech major from Ohio State University, Buck knows baseball in general andthe Cards in particular like the back of his hand and can describe both invivid and sensible, conversational American. Before he had even finished hisfirst stint on Channel 13 last week, some 400 New Yorkers had called thestation to offer cheers and thanks, some saying that it was the best baseballannouncing they had heard in a blue moon.
It was indeedrefreshing to hear a man who not only knew where the ball was going at alltimes but also appraised the athletes on his employer's payroll in a way thatmade it pretty obvious that some of them were human beings who might still havea shortcoming or two in their chosen profession. He was a hard man to tuneout.
"My biggestproblem now," says Buck, "is trying to be impartial. I'm a prettyenthusiastic Cardinal man, but I don't want to color my New York broadcasts.It's going to be hard to find just the right pitch."
During Buck'sfirst broadcast one New Yorker complained that he was too pro-Giant—a bittercharge to lay against a Cardinal man. But whatever the complaints the fansmade, one thing seemed certain: New Yorkers are not exactly apathetic aboutbaseball even if baseball is apathetic about them.
Any sportinvolving violent competitive exertion is bound to include an element ofdanger, and football is no exception. Last year, according to the latest annualAmerican Football Coaches Association survey of football fatalities in theU.S., 16 young men died as the result of playing football.
Lest mothers andteachers become alarmed, however, let it be quickly said that the figurerepresented a drop of 1.38 from the average of fatalities over the last 26years and left football a far safer pastime than water sports (337 deaths fromdrowning to one from football in proportion to the persons exposed) or shooting(241 deaths to one in football). October is the worst month, and a player'sfirst five minutes in the game are the most dangerous.
To reduce hazardseven further, football's safety committee recommends: 1) thorough warmupsbefore games; 2) more emphasis on shoulder and neck muscle exercises; 3) atleast six days of drilling on fundamentals before scrimmage; 4) three weeks ofpreseason practice; 5) more complete medical exams; 6) qualified sports doctorson every bench; 7) better helmets.
Not one to complain,
But why does he carry
That queer white cane?
—IRWIN L. STEIN
They Said It
Stan Musial, his 3000th hit in his-pocket, addressinga near-midnight crowd of grown-ups and youngsters who welcomed him at St.Louis' Union Station: "I've got a word for all the kids here"—and thecrowd hushed expectantly—"Be in school tomorrow!"
Danny Murtaugh, Pittsburgh Pirate manager, when askedwhy he charged unprovoked onto the diamond: "The game was being televisedback to Chester, Pa. and I wanted my wife and kids to get a look atme."
Bob Mathias, returning from Europe: "We won mostof the track events [at Melbourne], and we told ourselves that's what counts.Well, in 1960 we're not even going to win those. We've been standing still. TheRussians have been concentrating on the events we've always dominated."
Sherry Wheeler, 17-year-old golfer, explaining herloss in the quarterfinals of Dallas' Southern Championship: "I keptthinking of that new song, Purple People Eater. That's all that was runningthrough my mind. I deserved to lose."