The Asian Games
The Emperor looked down on the throng as it marched past: men in turbans, in fezzes, in the varied costumes of the East. But he was not an old Asian conqueror, reviewing his captives. He was the mild-mannered Emperor Hirohito of Japan, and the occasion was firmly based on Western tradition: it was the opening, last Saturday in Tokyo, of the Third Asian Games.
The Games are modeled on the Olympics, and, in fact, had their beginnings at the London Olympic Games in 1948 when a man from the Philippines and a man from India discovered that each had been planning to organize an athletic federation to link the nations of Asia through their common interests in Western sport. The first Games were held in New Delhi in 1951, the second in Manila in 1954. Japan won them both, just as she is expected to do in Tokyo this year.
In most Olympic sports Asian athletes are far behind world marks, but they are gaining rapidly on themselves. The 1,500 meters, for example, was run in 4:04.1 in New Delhi and 3:56.2 in Manila. Ron Delany's time at the Melbourne Olympics was 3:41.2. The pending world record is 3:38.1. While Asian performances are improving, Asian enthusiasm is growing. The number of competing nations has jumped from 11 in 1951 to 20 in 1958, and the opening-day ceremonies, presided over by Crown Prince Akihito, with the Shah of Iran and other Eastern heads of state as his guests, were staged before 70,000 people.
June 1, 1958
The flame which roared from an urn in Tokyo's National Stadium was not kindled by the light of the Eastern sun, as the Olympic flame is by the sun of Greece. It was struck in New Delhi, originally, by a European safety match. This seems appropriate; both the symbol and the thing symbolized had their origin in the West, and both are thriving in the East. Among the nations taking part in the Asian Games this year are Pakistan and Iran, which, geographically speaking, lie not far from Greece. The Olympic idea, therefore, has not only endured for 25 centuries but has encircled the world. Measured against any other idea or ideal of mankind, that is a pretty good showing.
Richard Henry Kerr, better known as Dickie Kerr, a left-handed pitcher for the Chicago White Sox a generation ago, will go down in history as a man of character. While teammates were conspiring with gangsters to throw the 1919 World Series, little Dickie Kerr, too reputable to be invited in on the plot, went out and pitched two winning games for the Sox in that Series. Dickie Kerr will also be remembered in history as the man who converted Stan Musial from a so-so pitcher into a near-indestructible outfielder and persuaded him to stay in baseball.
These thoughts come to mind because, the other day, Stan Musial and his wife Lillian, in recollection of old kindnesses, presented Dickie Kerr, now 64, and Cora Kerr with a glistening new house in Houston. The Musials didn't have much to say for the press about this, but the Kerrs thought back and remembered when. The time was 1941, and the scene was Daytona Beach in the Florida State League.
"Stan was pitching for Dickie," Cora Kerr recalled. "It was spring training and he was losing and he looked kinda worried. He came over to where I was sitting and I said, 'Stan, you don't look good.' He frowned and said, 'Mom. I've got a wife here. She's at the hotel. She's a stranger and she's real lonesome.'
"We went by the hotel and got Lil and brought them out to our house to stay.
"Stan and Lil had been married the season before, and Lil was pregnant. We had a great time. After the games we used to come home and raid the icebox like kids."
Dickie Kerr said: "He was the kind of ballplayer that once you saw him swing a bat you knew he could hit. I had signed with the Cardinals to manage their Daytona Beach farm, and we were down there in the spring to plan the rosters of the Cardinal teams in the lower minors. I noticed Musial's name on the Asheville, N.C. roster.
"We were going down the blackboard with Branch Rickey, and he told me to pick out the players I wanted. I said, 'There's someone on that Asheville club I'd like to have.' I pointed to Musial's name. Rickey said, 'You want him?' like he was very surprised.
"Tommy West, who was managing Asheville, said, 'You can have that wild sonofagun.' I told Mr. Rickey, 'I have something else in mind for him. I'm going to give you a better ballplayer in the fall than you've got now. The next time you see him he may be an outfielder.' "
And of course that's the way it turned out to be. Kerr mused a moment and grinned, "Stan was good for seven or eight bases on balls a game."
"We were anxious to help the Musials," said Mrs. Kerr, "because we saw too many baseball families that nobody did anything for. Baseball is a lonely life. If things aren't right you start getting on each other's nerves. We've seen a lot of it. We're Catholics, and we saw that the Musials were up every Sunday and went to Mass. Not that it was necessary, but I told them that they were married in church, and that's where they should be every Sunday morning. I don't think they've ever missed Mass."
The Musials plan to visit Houston for a week in the fall. Do the Musials plan to stay with the Kerrs?
"They better," answered Cora Kerr.
Those in the know are betting that the summer of 1960 sees the start of one of the most farfetched boat races ever conducted by mortal men: a competition in sailing the Atlantic singlehanded. The man behind the idea is a sailing enthusiast named Richard Gordon McCloskey who fairly bristles with concern that his race committee will be besieged by a horde of millpond sailors and notoriety seekers. There will, says McCloskey tartly, be none of that.
A most venerable sailing club, the Royal Corinthian of Cowes, England, has agreed to start the race, and the Slocum Society Sailing Club, a quiet little affiliation of solo sailing buffs of which McCloskey is world secretary, will take over from then on in.
"There is no need for publicity here," says McCloskey. "Serious solo ocean-racing men in this country already know about it, and we don't want crackpots."
McCloskey, who works with the National Security Agency, knows the value of keeping things under his hat. The project has been silently in the works since the idea originated with Society Member H. G. Hasler of Southampton, England. Hasler pointed out that the society was missing an obvious bet just gathering and distributing data on historic one-man sailing ventures when it could be adding to that lore on its own. McCloskey polled the entire membership on four continents about the idea.
"You might say that 90 were for it," said McCloskey, "either mildly or avidly, while the other 60 were opposed violently. The vice-commodore in England is still absolutely raging mad.
"You might remember," he continued, "that when the Bermuda Race was first discussed it was roundly condemned as lunacy by sport sailors, who predicted that the yachts would end up all over the ocean. Now it's just a joy ride."
"We have major hopes that the race will result in the discovery of suitable untended steering equipment. This would mean the crew could go below and sleep instead of making it an endurance contest by staying up all the time, or taking down sail at night, which is, in effect, pulling off into a parking lot.
"If we didn't have such serious objectives, the race would be like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, just a lot of damn foolishness.
"The Slocum Society is a backer of sailing safety. We would love to see those idiots kept off the water who go to sea without knowing what they are doing and then cost the Coast Guard $20,000 for an air-sea search." McCloskey's folder warns would-be participants that they "have no right to expect rescue operations to be launched on their behalf."
McCloskey estimates that entrants will finish in 40 to 60 days after their start from Cowes. Finish line will probably be Fairhaven, Mass., where old Joshua Slocum, in whose spirit the society is founded, fitted out his little Spray in 1895 for the first singlehanded circumnavigation of the globe.
The prizes? Anything like a Slocum Society version of the America's Cup? A McCloskey snort: "One doesn't sail the Atlantic for prizes. This is sport."
Oscar, Meet Toni
Like four slapstick comedians painting themselves into a corner, the members of the Amateurism Committee of the International Ski Federation have been working their way, by perfectly logical steps, toward a position of complete absurdity; and they have now arrived there.
They announced that they would view a German movie called Der Schwarze Blitz (Black Lightning), which stars Toni Sailer, the Olympic ski champion. If Sailer turned out to be a competent actor in the film, he would be allowed to keep his amateur standing as a skier. But if he gave a bad performance, he would be declared a professional athlete and barred from further FIS competition. Having made this pronouncement, the four athletic officials assigned themselves the roles of movie critics and filed, presumably with straight faces, into a projection room to view Sailer's film and decide his fate.
The situation developed from fairly straightforward beginnings. Sailer is 22 and as handsome as any amateur athlete in the world. American, French and Italian film companies have been trying for months to sign him to contracts, with or without his skis. The thing that worried the Amateurism Committee: Was Sailer cashing in on his fame as an amateur skier? Or did the moviemakers want him for his pearly teeth, his sex appeal and his skill as an actor? The committeemen decided that if Toni turned out to have no skill as an actor it would mean that he had been hired for his skiing and should therefore be branded a professional; and so they ordered up their command performance.
It turned out, however, that only a fourth of the movie had been filmed, and the Critical Committee of the International Ski Federation had to admit that such a small sliver of Black Lightning wasn't enough to judge by. They put off their decision for two months, so that Sailer could return to Munich and finish the movie.
For a time the committeemen entertained themselves with another fantasy: perhaps they should summon Roberto Rossellini and let him judge whether Sailer was a professional actor and an amateur skier or the other way around. But this proposal was abandoned "in view of the costs it would automatically incur," and it was decided simply to ask Sailer's co-workers on the movie set whether he is any good or not and use their answers as supporting evidence.
Sailer seemed unworried. "Es ist alles in Ordnung," he said, and what he meant was, everything is fine. Then he announced that he was "prepared to accept" a leading part in Hollywood, in a picture starring Van Johnson and Terry Moore. He didn't say why; perhaps he felt that, measured against such performers as Mr. Johnson and Miss Moore, any skier would look like an actor.
Meanwhile, Toni has his work cut out for him. In the next two months he has to make the kind of effort in Munich, that, in Hollywood, wins Oscars. If he doesn't he may get poor reviews from critics both in and out of the FIS and wind up with both his skis and his profile unemployed.
The New Dick Stuart
Remember Richard Lee Stuart, the big, old boy with the strong back and the ego the size of a mush-melon, who believed his singular mission in life was to hit home runs? And Dick Stuart, as Dick Stuart will remind you, did hit 66 of them at Lincoln in the Class-A Western league back in 1956, and struck out 171 times and caught more flies on one bounce than any other outfielder in organized baseball.
After bouncing himself with the diminishing return of a baseball from a tryout with the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose property he is, down into the bus leagues, Dick Stuart seems to have undergone a metamorphosis. Now a first baseman with the third-place Salt Lake City Bees of the Pacific Coast League, Stuart is batting .351, has hit 15 home runs and struck out 35 times in 38 games, but, significantly, he has also hit 32 singles, has 45 RBIs and is fielding with both aplomb and interest.
"I used to sulk," said Stuart the other day. "If I wasn't hitting, I'd sulk real bad. I'd be so mad I wouldn't even want to go back to the outfield. When I'd get there, I'd be cussing myself out so hard that when somebody hit the ball out near me, I wasn't ready for it. But I like it better and I work harder at first base. It keeps you in the game. You've got something to do instead of just standing around in the field."
A tranquilized Stuart has even saved a game against Phoenix by ranging into the hole between first and second, spearing what looked like a base hit, throwing to the shortstop covering second and sprinting to first to take the relay to complete the double play. And once against Vancouver he lunged headlong after a sizzler he could well have ignored without an official scorer in the land thinking the less of him. What's more, he came up out of the dust with the ball in hand. The crowd roared, something Stuart thought occurred only when you hit a home run. Says his manager, Larry Shepard: "I say without any hesitancy that Stuart is a better-fielding first baseman right now than several regulars in the major leagues." Says Stuart: "I never used to believe fielding was part of the game."
At bat, too, Stuart, who used to be a sucker for a two-strike pitch, going to his knees in an attempt to lose it, has been punching the ball over second and an over-shifted infield, when the occasion demands, for a cooperative single. Or at least he tries. At Sacramento last week he had two strikes and two balls on him and he seemed to be trying to punch the pitch into shallow center field. His natural power, alas, propelled the ball 420 feet and it was caught after a mighty run. "I will say this," Shepard says, "he is a different boy after the second strike."
But there are remnants of the old I'm-for-me Stuart. He still has a tendency to neglect running out ground balls and he still relishes hitting those home runs, which, after all, is what brings the fans out.
"The guy who breaks Babe Ruth's home run record will make a million bucks," Stuart mused the other day. "Maybe he'll make that much on endorsements alone. You know how old Ruth was when he got his 60? Thirty-three. Just hitting his stride. I'm working on it. I've got time."
Stuart has; he is 25. "He just about made it to the majors once on brass alone," a close friend has said. But just about isn't good enough for Richard Lee Stuart and that's the chief reason why it is tempting to conclude that he will be back.
704 vs. Shoemakers
In Endicott, N.Y. an electronic brain spluttered and fumed through three hours of checkers. Then it sighed and gave up. A panel of eight retired shoemakers had beaten it half a dozen times and played it twice to a draw.
The computer, an IBM 704 of the type used to interpret satellite information, made its moves by calling on a memory bank of 30,000 checker problems it had ingested before the match. For each human move a technician fed it a punched card. After considerable blinking, clicking and head scratching, 704 offered its idea of a counter. To IBM researchers intently studying 704's reactions, it did not matter that it won or lost. It was how it played the game.
Well, they laughed when 704 sat down at the checkerboard, and they were right. But IBM's Dr. Alfred Samuel offered some sobering intelligence. No. 704 plays only a passable game of checkers, he says, but at tick-tack-toe (memory bank:, only 400-500 items) it's unbeatable.
He loves to take the hurdles,
He acts just like a boy,
He does not jump for money,
He only jumps for joy.
They Said It
John Holland, Los Angeles city councilman, after National League President Warren Giles issued vote-for-Chavez-Ravine-or-lose-the-Dodgers ultimatum: "The last desperate threat of a frightened group of greedy men."
Gussie Moran, who wore lace panties at Wimbledon, learning that Wimbledon has banned Karol Fageros' gold lamé panties this year: "It's like taking away Carry Nation's hatchet, plucking out Pocahontas' feather, bursting Sally Rand's bubble and cutting Lady Godiva's hair."
Clayton Stapleton, new football coach at Iowa State, gallantly weighing his light squad and heavy schedule, including Oklahoma: "There's no question about it. I rate coaching more important than material."
Birdie Tebbetts, Cincinnati manager, replying to the bull-like bellows of Fred Haney after two Braves were dusted in a single inning: "No manager tells his pitchers to throw at a hitter, but this is no tennis match. Anyone who rolls over and plays dead consigns himself to last place."