Heidi: a Profile
This is an article from the July 21, 1958 issue
The most eminently placed and underreported bitch in America is undoubtedly the 3-year-old, ash-colored Weimaraner named Heidi who lives in the White House and answers to the whistle of the President of the United States. Heidi, a quick-moving, pointer-shaped animal bred for hunting and ghostly good looks, is the first White House dog since Franklin Roosevelt's testy, possibly basically Republican, little Scottish terrier Fala. From the notes of an old Washington dog watcher, who thinks it is high time somebody sketched a short profile of Heidi, we offer the following current report:
Heidi does not yet have the mature savoir-faire, rakish aplomb or superior poise of Fala. Moreover, her master does not give her much chance to romp at the feet of visiting prime ministers or otherwise shine in society. But Heidi is having a ball anyway.
With hot weather, Heidi has been slipping into the Presidential working quarters oftener and oftener, since she likes the air conditioning as well as anybody else. She comes scratching (Weimaraners are good scratchers) at one of the doors of her master's office that opens onto the White House terrace. Master can usually be counted upon to let her in. Sooner or later there is another open door, and Heidi rambles down the hall. She likes to make for General Jerry Persons' office, roll over on her back and let the general scratch her stomach.
On Heidi's collar is a little brass tag that reads: "President Eisenhower." This is very imposing, but not to other dogs. Until Ike had Heidi spayed, there was a certain problem with dogs bearing no White House credentials (possibly even Democrats) slipping through the iron fence and pursuing Heidi, while sweating White House policemen pursued them. Heidi is also sometimes slack about her housebreaking training and has been forgetful a few times in the diplomatic reception room on the ground floor of the White House proper.
Worse yet is a still more delicate problem—and it would be best if Oregon's Senator Dick Neuberger never heard of it. Heidi has, once or twice, trotted proudly up to White House attendants and dumped the body of a squirrel at their feet in loyal generosity. Since Senator Neuberger raised such a ruckus about the mere deportation of squirrels, he might go berserk at this news—unless he is a balance-of-nature advocate. In any case, the squirrels are getting very wary of Heidi.
Ask the Man Who Owned One
Sixty years ago a young manufacturer of Warren, Ohio, after driving two European cars and a Winton, set about building his own automobile in a shed attached to his arc-light factory. It appears that James Ward Packard did not intend to make a luxury car, since the early accounts merely stress the fact that the Packard would climb a hill.
Packard was a thoughtful individual with rimless pince-nez and the benign expression of President William McKinley, whom he resembled. He got his first car on the market in 1899 and sold it for $1,250. Then he exhibited at Madison Square Garden and sold three Packards to William Rockefeller, shortly thereafter selling the whole firm to Henry Joy, a Detroit playboy, who proceeded to make ownership of a Packard an American symbol of success, wealth, prestige, happiness and the joy of life.
This week the Studebaker-Packard Corporation announced that it was discontinuing the Packard line because the company's "destiny is tied to smaller cars." How well Joy and Packard had achieved their aim of making Packard synonymous with luxury was evident in the fact of the announcement. For 20 years Packard fitted into American folklore as the big car. The 1903 model sold for $7,500. The 1907 cost only $4,200, but the advertising was so swanky that a single catalog cost the company $35 for every copy it gave away. In the '20s, when some 50,000 Packards were sold a year (for about $3,000), the Packard was beyond American rival as the symbol of class, with its exultant advertisements—Ask the Man Who Owns One!—and its distinctive radiator line, unchanged in model after model, that made it instantly recognizable everywhere.
It is doubtful if anybody really loved the '20s enough to shed a tear at the passing of another of its landmarks. And it may be things got twisted somewhere along the way. From being an attribute of good living, the reward of success, symbols like the Packard became ends in themselves: people wanted to be successful so they could own one, and any achievement that fell short tended to be regarded as failure. Studebaker-Packard is going to get its new small car out this fall, just 59 years after the first Packard was rolled out of its shed, November 6, 1899.
On Count 815, Exhale
Holding your breath for extended periods underwater is a form of competition which has relatively few adherents. One of the more enthusiastic of these is—or rather, was—Dr. Robert W. Keast, 36, of San Rafael, California. On July 4 Dr. Keast dropped into the swimming pool of the Burlingame Country Club and stayed under, holding his breath, for 13 minutes 35 seconds. When he came up he coughed badly for a while and had a pain in his chest, but he was the new world champion underwater breath-holder.
It took preparation, of course. Dr. Keast, who is an anesthesiologist and a skin-diver, trained for his championship effort by breathing pure oxygen for 30 minutes just before he entered the pool. Forty pounds of lead attached to him here and there helped keep him under, and a skin-diver's mask made it unnecessary for him to hold his nose. Once submerged, he kept perfectly still, to conserve oxygen, and a friend at poolside marked off the minutes as they passed by underwater hand signals. The friend was Al Giddings, who himself was the world champion underwater breath-holder until Dr. Keast passed the 11-minute 40-second mark, at which time he became the former champion.
Why did the doctor do it? Well, it made an interesting "special event" for July 4 at the country club. How did it feel to win a world championship? "I disliked the experience very much," said Dr. Keast. "I'll never do it again."
The Driven Nail
During the late 1920s when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were the idols of every red-blooded American boy, Italian youngsters worshiped at the shrine of another sportsman every bit as peerless as they. He was Tazio Nuvolari, a slight, dark introvert from Mantua whose nerveless daring and almost superhuman skill at the wheel had made him the undisputed master of automobile racing the world over.
As American kids lost in dreams of derring-do longed to fill the shoes of the Babe and Larruping Lou, young Italians dreamed of a day when they too might roar around an oil-slicked curve with the cool skill of The Flying Mantuan, but few followed their dreams into maturity, for the sport at which Nuvolari excelled was a deadly game. Except for the tragic fact of an unhappy marriage at an early age, it might be that even Luigi Musso would have chosen a safer outlet for his sporting instinct.
Luigi was only a baby when Nuvolari achieved his first fame in Italy's tortuous Mille Miglia. The lithe, light-hearted son of a wealthy Roman attorney, Luigi seemed to have been born a sportsman. He was a skilled horseman before he was 10, a sleek, swift swimmer, an expert sailor, an enthusiastic hunter and skeet-shooter who went on to win an international championship. According to an old friend, "He was the best, most modest boy who ever lived."
Nobody can say what might have happened to Luigi Musso if he had found the happiness he sought in the beautiful young wife he married at 21. The only known fact is that he didn't. The marriage produced a son and a daughter whom Luigi adored, but the joy he found in parenthood was erased by disillusion in the romance that brought it. In 1950, knowing his marriage was a failure, Luigi Musso took up race driving. "Looking always ahead to the finish line," said an old friend, "perhaps because he could not bear to look back."
"One nail drives out another," wrote Luigi to his sister, quoting the Shakespeare verse that ends "...so the remembrance of my former love is by a newer object quite forgotten."
The following year, the daring new driver won his first prize in a small-car race at Naples. Within four years, driving big cars along circuits in Italy, France, England and Germany, he racked up an impressive series of international victories. Critics called him "the Reasonable Champion" because of the thoughtful caution with which he always seemed to calculate his risks. "I try to leave myself a 30% margin of safety," Luigi said, "but when I think it's worth a try, I keep my foot down and reduce the margin to 5%."
Luigi Musso, Eugenio Castellotti, Alfredo Ascari—in the early 1950s these were the three great Italian drivers deemed by all most likely to succeed to the crown of Tazio Nuvolari. Then in 1955, Ascari, the greatest of them, met his death in a skid at Monza. Two years later Eugenio Castellotti was killed at Modena. "There were only the two of us, racing for Italy against the world," said Musso. "Now he is dead and I am alone."
Time after time Musso himself nimbly escaped death. Only five months after Castellotti's death, he cracked up on the same track and stepped out of his car, by a miracle, only scratched. In Buenos Aires he broke a steering rod and reeled helplessly through a nightmare field of roaring autos to escape unhurt again. Between crashes he would return to the villa he shared in Rome's Via Veneto with his daughter, sister and mother to assure them all of his indestructibility. But no one, as Luigi Musso probably knew best of all, is indestructible.
Last month at Monza, Musso became nearly asphyxiated with methanol fumes from the car ahead of him and had to quit the race. Whether the lethal fumes were still clouding his judgment when he took the wheel of a big Ferrari at Rheims a week later is undetermined. Whatever the cause, Luigi Musso approached a curve in France's Grand Prix at a speed that took no account of his traditional 30% safety margin. "Only Fangio—the great Argentine champion—can take that curve that fast," said Signor Ferrari himself as his ace driver roared by. "Musso should have braked."
But Musso did not. And now Luigi Musso is dead. Of the four great drivers who together brought most of the laurels of international auto racing home to their native Italy, only one—the pioneer Tazio Nuvolari—managed to survive his prime, to die at the age of 61 of ailments abetted by a lifetime of defying death. "Like our other great champions," wrote Italy's leading sports magazine Corriere dello Sport of Musso, "you have gone to a brutal end." "The victim," wrote a Milan paper, "of a sport gone mad, which has forgotten that life is sacred."
Casey Stengel gives the Senate a lecture on the Spirit of '76
Casey Stengel was the first witness in the hearings of the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly, a man with a clear conscience, a profound knowledge of baseball and—what the Senate of the United States has always needed—an instinctive sense of what interests the American people. He settled himself in the witness chair the morning after his American League team won the All-Star Game in Baltimore, in the vast, granite-walled, red-carpeted Senate Caucus Room, where innumerable sweating witnesses have invoked the Fifth Amendment and where hearings generally have become synonymous with tedium and grimy revelations.
For 45 minutes he delivered a monologue composed of hilarious autobiographical fragments, homemade poetry, pungent non sequiturs and guarded revelations of lines of inquiry the subcommittee might profitably follow—an amazingly frank, cheerful, shrewd, patriotic address that left the Senators stunned, bewildered and delighted, convulsed his fellow witnesses Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial and set 300 spectators roaring with spontaneous laughter. "The best entertainment," gasped Senator O'Mahoney (Democrat), "that we have had around here in a long time."
The bill before the Senate provides that the original 1890 antitrust act, as twice amended, does not apply to professional baseball, football, basketball and hockey, insofar as they are concerned with: 1) equalization of competitive playing strength; 2) employment and assignment of players; 3) agreements to operate in specified geographical areas; 4) regulation of radio and television broadcasts; 5) preservation of public confidence in the honesty of the contests. It is the same as the famous H.R. 10378 which passed the House last month. When Senator Hennings introduced it into the Senate he secured a list of 45 distinguished co-sponsors from both parties, more than enough of the Senate's 96 members, under most circumstances, to insure passage. However, Senator Kefauver, chairman of the Subcommittee on Monopoly, expressed concern about a blanket waiver of the antitrust laws. So hearings were ordered, Stengel and the players summoned first because the All-Star Game brought them conveniently near Washington at the same time.
"Mr. Stengel," said Senator Kefauver, "you are the manager of the New York Yankees. Will you give us very briefly your background and views about this legislation?"
"Well, I started in professional ball in 1910," said Casey Stengel. "I have been in professional ball, I would say, for 48 years.... I played as low as Class D ball, which was at Shelbyville, Kentucky, and also Class C ball, and Class A ball, and I have also advanced in baseball as a ballplayer.
"I had many years that I was not so successful as a ballplayer, as it is a game of skill. And then I was no doubt discharged by baseball, in which I had to go back to the minor leagues as a manager; I became a major league manager in several cities and was discharged; we call it discharged because there is no question I had to leave."
For some reason this earnest exposition of his early hardships evoked only laughter. He digressed to the subject of the Yankees and the reasons for their success: 1) good organization—"While I am not the ballplayer who does the work, I have no doubt worked for a ball club that is very capable in the office"; 2) superb press, radio and television coverage; 3) the Spirit of 1776.
"Our ball club is successful because we have it," he explained, "and we have the Spirit of 1776. We put it into the ball field...."
Then he returned to his dolorous experiences in the minors. In fact, the minors dominated Casey Stengel's testimony. "I have been up and down the ladder. I know there are some things in baseball, 35 to 50 years ago, that are better now than they were in those days. In those days, my goodness, you could not transfer a ball club in the minor leagues.... How could you transfer a ball club when you did not have a highway...? When the railroads then would take you to a town you got off, and then you had to wait and sit up five hours to go to another ball club? How could you run baseball then without night ball? You had to have night ball to improve the proceeds, to pay larger salaries, and I went to work the first year I received $135 a month. I thought that was amazing—enough money to go to dental college. I found out it was better than dentistry, I stayed in baseball. Any other questions you would like to ask me?"
"Mr. Stengel," said Senator Kefauver, "I am not sure I made my question clear."
"That is all right," replied Casey courteously. "I am not sure I am going to answer yours perfectly either."
In the 7,000 unhackneyed words of his testimony he avoided making any comment on the legislation. At one point he said of the farm system: "I think they ought to be just as they have been," and at another he grudgingly admitted: "I didn't ask for the legislation."
But he also made it clear that his support of the status quo did not mean that he opposed Congress' inquiry. On the contrary, he perceived a magnificent opportunity for Congress to concern itself with matters of interest to millions of Americans, and in so doing become a bigger attraction than big league baseball. He modestly suggested that he would welcome a chance to manage Congress. Despite the laughs that he timed with the skill of an oldtime vaudevillian, he remained serious, an intent, composed figure in a gray serge suit, deeply aware of the economic realities that made much discussion of the farm system academic—"Now too many players is a funny thing, it costs like everything"—and with a high regard for the dignity of the Senate.
And in a curious way his elliptical eloquence was ideally suited to express his vision of a Congress that would be part of every man's daily life, like his favorite big league team. "If you fly in the air," he said, in an electrifying moment of inspiration, "you can see anything from the desert, you can see a big country over there that has got many homes. Well, now why wouldn't baseball prosper out there, with that many million people?"
His answer was poetry of his own distinctive sort and, like all poetry, defies condensation into prose. What he seemed to have in mind was that the bill before the Senate didn't go far enough, or did not touch the real possibilities; that there should be many measures and inquiries of all sorts in all fields of popular interest to turn Congress from its dreary routine into something as vital as a good ball game. When he said the Yankees put the Spirit of 1776 into the ball field, he meant it, and proved it by showing how the Yankees' success helped other teams: "I would say they are mad at us in Chicago; we fill the parks.... I will say they are mad at us in Kansas City, but we broke their attendance record."
Now, why shouldn't the minor leagues be interesting? Why shouldn't Congress be interesting? People weren't interested in minor league players, but that was a manifest absurdity—Stengel himself was a minor league player most of his life. That was what he was talking about. One reason was that no one knew who the minor league players were. "Softball is interesting," said Casey Stengel. "The parent is interested; he goes around with him. He watches his son, and he is more enthusiastic about the boy than some stranger that comes to town and wants to play in a little wooden park with no facilities to make you be interested."
He made no concrete suggestions as to what Congress should do—"I want to let you know that as to the legislative end of baseball you men will have to consider what you are here for." But he had no doubt that Congress would be a success if he managed it. "Forty years ago," said the old showman, "you would not have cameras flying around here every five minutes, but we have got them here, and more of them than around a ball field. I will give you that little tip."
That little tip was a nudge to the Senators as meaningful as one of Casey's conferences at the mound. Don't worry about baseball's bigness, he was saying in effect; baseball has changed, but so has Congress, and more people are watching both of us than ever before.
HYMIE THE MINK
They Said It
Nino Valdes after his ninth-round knockout of Heavyweight Harold Carter in Spokane: "I did it for my baby. He's four months old. He eats all the time."
Bill Rosensohn, hustling promoter of the Patterson-Harris heavyweight title fight in Los Angeles, August 18, on his plan to sell tickets on an order-now-pay-later basis to Diners' Club members: "I found out a lot of sports fans on the West Coast don't read the papers. [They drive to work instead of riding subways and commuter trains.] I felt that direct mail was the answer and I wanted to get a list."
Ralph (Babe) Pinelli, retired National League umpire reminiscing on his oldtime nose-to-nose arguments with Leo Durocher: "I always enjoyed an argument with Leo because he used lots of deodorant.... It was like heady perfume. One day he started to give me a lot of lip and I said, 'Leo, you smell sweet.' His face reddened, he stammered and then answered, 'Yaahhh,' or something like that, and walked away. I do believe he was embarrassed."