Plea to theCourt
Golf has beenplayed in this republic for three score and 10 years or so, and it wasinevitable that the demand would eventually be presented to the courts: makethat handicap committee stop behaving like a pack of idiots.
This was theburden of the plea presented last week to a justice of the New York StateSupreme Court by an irate golfer named William W. Wacht, who plays the game atthe Pines Ridge Golf Club in Ossining, N.Y. Mr. Wacht's handicap is 29; he hasbeen beseeching the handicap committee at Pines Ridge for a 34. One reason thehandicap committee wants to keep Mr. Wacht at 29, it appears, is that Wachtshoots in the 100s most of the year but keys himself up in August tournamentplay to shoot in the 90s. "Generally, I hit a short and straight ball,"explains Golfer Wacht. "In August, when the ground is hard, I get a betterroll." But such arguments have had no effect on the handicapcommittee—causing Wacht to utter the following classic cry: "You have thissituation in a lot of golf clubs. You have little Caesars throwing their weightaround and members are subject to their whims and caprices. I am a one-mancrusade...."
Wacht'scontention, of course, was that under the usual rules of golf his handicapshould be based on the 10 lowest scores of his last 25 rounds i.e., 34. Heprayed the court to step in as a matter of equity and bid the handicappingcommittee stick to the strict rules of handicapping.
August 3, 1958
Well, the scenewas set for a court decision that might have gone down eventually inconstitutional history with McCullough v. Maryland. Justice Samuel W. Eager,who listened for a while to Wacht's plea in State Supreme Court, admitted"playing at golf" himself. Handicap in the low 20s. But justice in theperson of Justice Eager was uneager to take a full swing. Cramping up, thejudge told Wacht: "Maybe if I went out and played a game of golf with you,I could straighten this out. It would be easier than looking up thelaw."
The judge askedfor a week to look up the law, and nobody objected to this—not Mr. Wacht or thePines Ridge handicap committee. It might have been quite a week. We werelooking forward to a decision as much as you were. But Mr. Wacht reflected onhis course and decided that, after all, there are some things in these busydays you just can't trouble the People about. He withdrew his plea, showingevery indication of lodging it again, where such pleas have been lodged forthree score and 10 years or so: with the handicap committee.
In Cincinnati theother day, a posse of sober and civic-minded citizens hanged Birdie Tebbetts ineffigy, and the only protest on record came from one indignant Redleg fan whopointed out to his fellow barflies that the outrage lay in hanging an innocenteffigy and not Birdie himself.
In Detroit therewas the question of who put the Tiger Balm in Casey Stengel's locker. If therewas one thing Detroit fans could count on in these parlous times when all thatshiny new chrome was rusting unsold in dealers' lots from coast to coast, itwas the fact that the Tigers would beat the Yanks. They'd already done it nineout of 15 times, hadn't they? So how come the Yanks went out to Detroit andpinned the Cats' ears to the wall three times in a row? And why were the loyalfans of the World Champion Milwaukee Braves suddenly growing cool to theirboys?
Witchcraft,wicked witchcraft, that's what it all was, and if you don't believe us, you cango ask Coach Abdulrahman bin Mohammed, mentor of the top schoolboy footballteam in Malaya's Interschool League. Abdul knows all about the kind of fatefulcussedness that seemed to be overtaking American baseball. When hischampionship Paya Bunga club was trounced 2 to 1 by a bunch of rank outsidersfrom Ladang a couple of weeks ago, he knew just what was wrong."Jampi-jampi," was the way he explained it. After all, a good footballteam doesn't go suddenly heavy-footed and start wailing hysterically on thefield unless a skillful witch doctor has been working on them.
Just as any goodMalayan coach should, Abdulrahman took his boys home after the game and hadthem thoroughly treated with incense, incantations and a good, reliable potionof herbs. Then he sent out a party to examine the football field. Sure enough,right there in center field and in each corner of the lot they found the buriedhexes: three marble chips, some hard-boiled eggs and four lemons, all of which,as everyone knows, carry a pretty potent curse.
Athletes fromdown under have proved themselves so capable at the British Empire Games inCardiff, Wales that competitors from other nations, certain of defeat in thecontests, have welcomed a chance just to practice with them.
With this thoughtin mind, a championship swimmer from Pakistan approached a burly Aussiestanding by the Cardiff swimming pool. "We swim a couple of lengths, youand I, please?" he asked politely.
"Why,sure," said the Aussie and dived in.
The informal racethat followed was brisk, hotly contested and ended, of course, in an Aussievictory.
"Please,"said the defeated Pakistani as he climbed from the pool grinning widely at thistaste of reflected glory, "what is your regular distance?"
"Distance?" said the surprised Aussie. "Oh, I have no distance. I'mnot a swimmer. I'm a wrestler."
When James Cagneycompletes a motion picture (he just finished one in Hollywood and is about toleave for Ireland to make one there), he usually heads across country for hisfarm in Dutchess County, New York. Once there, he promptly calls his friend,Dr. William H. Dunn, the veterinarian in nearby Sharon, Conn., invites him overfor a little horse talk.
Actor Cagney isalso a considerable horseman. He has a string of 40 trotters and pacers inCalifornia and has just decided to bring a couple of his colts east for thecurrent meeting at Saratoga Raceway.
But when Cagneyand Doc Dunn sit down in the kitchen of the farmhouse, the talk invariablyturns to Thoroughbreds and the reasons why so many of them develop foot troubleor leg injuries. Doc Dunn, a ruddy, white-haired man in his early 50s, gets soworked up about the subject that he can't sit still. He'll drain a whole cup ofcoffee at a gulp, call for a cigaret (theoretically he has quit smoking) andstart pacing up and down. He strongly suspects that the whole system oftraining Thoroughbreds may be all wrong. He charges that many a modernThoroughbred is poorly nourished, underworked, overtired and actuallystir-crazy from being cooped up in a stall that is, in the Doc's words,"almost an exact replica of a cell at Sing Sing."
If there's aguest who hasn't heard the Doc's theories, Cagney casts himself asinterlocutor. "Now how, Doc," he was saying on such an occasion lastweek, "can a Thoroughbred be underworked and overtired at the sametime?"
"Because,Jim," Dr. Dunn replied, "the horse doesn't get enough slow-work inproportion to the sprints and dashes that constitute the usual morning workoutat the track. A Thoroughbred should be worked at least two miles, sometimesfive miles a day. The trainer should keep his stop watch in his pocket and getan alarm clock and time the horse from the moment he leaves the stall until themoment he is put back into it. That's the important time. You train a horse ona daily schedule of sprints and dashes alone and then subject him to thetremendous effort of the home stretch in an actual race, and that horse isgoing to suffer extreme fatigue."
"And whatabout the shoes he's wearing, Doc?" said Cagney.
The Doc threw uphis hands.
"Jim," hecried, "I'm convinced that there's no such thing as good shoeing today. Thesteel shoe, placed under the wall of the hoof, damages the function of thewhole leg. It puts stresses and strains on the structure of a leg that naturenever intended it to bear. Hell, the horse wasn't created for the shoe. I thinkthat with a little research—and I'm working night and day on the thing—we coulddevelop an entirely new kind of shoe that would put the horse's weight where itbelongs and take up part of the stress on turns. But, meanwhile, I say this toyou: rather than have a horse ruined by the type of shoes they're putting onThoroughbreds today, I'd run 'em barefoot!"
The Doc is doingjust that. Well, not at the tracks, but around Cagney's farm right now thereare four riding horses, one a retired trotter and two Thoroughbreds belongingto E. Austin Byrne, of Mount Kisco, N.Y. The last pair are Midling, a bay byDjeddah out of Formidable, and Damat, a big chestnut gelding imported fromItaly, by Macherio out of Damilis. Dr. Dunn is testing his theories on the tworunners, feeding them a high protein diet, giving them plenty of work and therun of the place. When they arrived from Belmont, they were (Cagney says) likea pair of belligerent drunks, so frustrated, so stir-crazy (Dr. Dunn says) thatit took three men to handle one of them. Now Dr. Dunn's 14-year-old daughterSheila rides them without incident and is even teaching them to take a fewjumps. All the horses on the place look happy and relaxed as they frolic in thefields—free of frustrations and as barefoot as the day they were born.
A 41-year-oldinsurance man, Major Charles Boswell, who lost his sight while serving in theinfantry in World War II, won the annual championship tournament of theAmerican Blind Golfers Association. Last week over 20 of the best blind golfersof the United States and Canada met at the Warrington Golf and Country Cluboutside Philadelphia. The winners of regional eliminations, their expenses werepaid by the Philco Corporation. Each was accompanied by a coach who lined himup with the ball, placed the head of the club behind the ball as a player withsight would do in addressing it, and stepped out of the way, leaving the restto instinct and to form.
At the tee,Boswell's coach, Jug Waldron, his fellow townsman from Birmingham, broughtBoswell's driver firmly and delicately to the ball, with a touch that remindedone of billiards. Boswell, a husky fellow who played three years of varsityfootball at the University of Alabama, shifted his weight lightly from one footto the other, flexed his shoulders and swung. The ball sailed 200 yardsstraight and true down the middle of the fairway.
On the greensthey played like this: the player stood where he would play his ball, then,guided by his coach, carefully paced the distance to the cup, touched the pinto fix direction in his memory and paced back, the coach placing the putter inhis hand and sighting to the cup. Direction was almost always good, distanceless so, though Boswell sank one 35-footer.
Moving over thecourse, the coach held a club under one arm, the player grasping the shaft as aguide. Otherwise, the tournament looked like any other—rigid tournament rules,no concessions, a high competitive spirit, the new Warrington course (opened inJune) sweltering beside Neshaminy Creek, the gallery differing only in that itwas more vocal. A blind golfer knows how he has done only by the feel of theimpact. Again and again the ball skimmed the trees like a bird, the playerunaware of it until the gallery burst into applause or let out a groan.
Boswell andWaldron have played together for years. Jack Hayes, the famous White Sox secondbaseman who lost his sight, a relative newcomer who finished eighth, had playedwith his coach only a few times before the tournament. Blind golfers say thatwhen perfect coordination between coaches and players is worked out, scores inthe high 80s will be possible. Boswell, 10 times national blind champion, wonwith a total of 200 for 36 holes, 28 better than young Joe Lazaro, a Waltham,Mass. electronics worker who has been giving him tougher competition eachyear.
Most blindgolfers are veterans who learned the game in veterans' hospitals. Someexceptions: Clint Russell, winner of the first blind tournament in 1948, aretired dairyman who made a fortune in the stock market after he retired; NickGenovese, a Canadian nightclub singer; Ben Pearlman, a former bookie; RobertAllman, a onetime college wrestling star and radio sports commentator.Regardless of age, they all looked young, standing patiently by with serene,unlined features. Blind golf is pure form, and at its best the tournamentlooked like a demonstration of the mastery of form; the players graceful andunworried, intent on stance, swing and follow-through, as if no distractionswhatever could reach out to them from the sunlit course.
Antony Hopkins, a37-year-old Englishman who likes sports cars, is also a composer. Somehow hegot the two enthusiasms mixed up in his mind, and the result was a Concerto forMotor Car and Orchestra which had its premiere London performance the otherevening in Albert Hall. The solo instrument, a 1903 De Dion Bouton touring carheavily festooned with antique automobile horns, was rolled onto the stage. TwoEnglish gentlemen and a pretty girl got into it, the orchestra struck up, andthe concerto was on the road.
No backfires,blowouts, skids or engine sounds were called for. The solo part involved merelythe old automobile horns, but it called for so many of these that the threepassengers had all they could do to squeeze the ancient rubber bulbs on cue.Working busily under the conductor's eye, they got through the firstmovement—"Ritual Tire Dance"—and so on into the "CarburetorWaltz." When the composition ended, there was actually applause, for theaudience was not horrified but pleased. The Motor Car Concerto was part of alarger program, a sort of cultural Hellzapoppin called Midsummer Madness, and7,000 people had showed up for it.
In his moreserious moments Composer Hopkins writes more serious music. He also drives hiswhite Jaguar XK150 in sports car races, but he has never won one. In fact, theprogram notes admitted frankly, "He has baffled the handicappers on severaloccasions by coming in last no matter how much head start he was given."But as a composer Hopkins was laps ahead of Mozart, who was hampered by thenonexistence of automobiles in the 18th century and could only write music forsleigh bells.
By way of lockingthe barn door after most of the horses have been stolen, a 10-man committeeappointed by Commissioner Ford Frick has announced a change in the rulescovering the size of ball parks. Under this directive right and left fieldfences in all newly constructed big league parks must be at least 325 feet fromhome plate; the center field fence must be at least 400 feet from home.
Of the 16 bigleague parks, only six fit these measurements. One of them is Seals Stadium inSan Francisco, soon to be abandoned by the Giants for a new park. But if Frickhas done nothing else, he has at least made sure that Walter O'Malley will havea properly proportioned outfield in the stadium he may now never get to buildin Chavez Ravine.
In the Cards
At poker hewilts
And can't stand the pace;
He always reveals
A flush in his face.
They Said It
Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox outfielder, after $250fine by American League President Will Harridge for spitting at a Kansas Citycrowd: "I'm sorry I did it, and I'm principally sorry I lost the$250."
Whitey Ford, New York Yankee left-hander, upon beingasked if his delivery was patterned after that of his former teammate EddieLopat (Yankee record 113 won, 59 lost): "Naw, Lopat never had half mystuff."
Vinnie Aleles of Yankees' ticket staff, discussing asteady customer who always demanded two seats in the same reserved section:"These two seats are split by a pole, and I never could understand it. ThenI found out that this guy was taking his wife to the game. He put her on oneside of the pole and he sat on the other."
Bear Bryant, Alabama football coach, as to whether heor his quarterback will call the plays for 1958's new one-or two-pointconversion options: "I don't know. It's too important a decision for a merecoach."
"Hurry home now, before your rumble gets cold."