A mighty roarechoed from the stands at Tanforan race track in California one day last weekas a big, sleek chestnut made his move in the stretch of the $4,000,six-furlong feature. Hoofs pounding, nostrils flared, the great horse, 12lengths off the pace at the half, drove past one after another of the field ofnine to win by half a length in 1 minute 10[3/5] seconds, the second fastesttime in the meeting.
The horse's name?Silky Sullivan.
Who's on First,If Any
December 15, 1958
By all odds, themost important development of the winter baseball meetings held in WashingtonD.C. last week was that Dick Nixon, at the main banquet, wore his own tuxedo.Certainly little else happened.
All importantlegislation was either voted down, passed in a milk-toast form or tabled intosome distant tomorrow. Two committees already formed to consider the problem of10-team leagues were dissolved; another was created and it in turn handed thewhole ugly problem over to a research agency. The realignment of two minorleagues was settled, disrupted, then settled again with a maximum of confusionand skulduggery.
Major leagueplayer representatives asked club owners for 20% of each team's gross incomeand were answered with a loud and unanimous "no." International Leagueplayers threatened to strike unless their owners created a pension fund, butscarcely anyone bothered to answer them.
The most definitestatement of the meetings was made by Will Harridge, president of the AmericanLeague for 28 years. The statement: "I resign." Everyone, including anumber who had long wished he would, said how sorry they were to see him go.There is perhaps no one that American League club owners would rather see in anice out-of-the-way spot than George Weiss, general manager of the New YorkYankees, so they promptly offered George Harridge's job. He said he wouldn'ttake it.
There were a fewtrades. Wally Moon came to Washington as the St. Louis Cardinals' playerrepresentative and left as a Los Angeles Dodger. Frank Lane made a trade,naturally, getting Jim Piersall for Vic Wertz. Frank Lane loves to tradeballplayers. It relaxes him.
The liveliestspot during the meetings was the lobby of the Statler Hotel, baseball's winterplayground. There sportswriters swapped rumors, general managers whisperedsecrets to each other behind potted palms and old outfielders tried to promotenew jobs. After midnight, the lobby became a stage upon which Casey Stengelcould perform his never-ending monologue act to a small crowd of delightedlisteners.
Toward the end ofthe five-day session a few sports photographers herded a group of managers intoa corner for a picture. They wanted Casey to sit in an armchair with the othersgathered about. As Casey sat, his World Series rival, Fred Haney, ploppedhimself on Casey's lap and began tickling him under the chin. It was prettyfunny stuff but no pictures were taken. The photographers wanted the posedshot, the same picture they had taken last year and the year before that.That's the way it is with baseball, too.
In the Bag
When the Dodgersand Giants moved westward, National League baseball fans in the nation'slargest city were abandoned to the tender mercies of the American League andits kingpin Yankees alone. National League bosses from St. Louis, Philadelphiaand Pittsburgh seized the opportunity to move in—via TV. Coincidentally, theYankees' home attendance dropped 70,000 from the previous year.
On the dayfollowing the Washington baseball meetings last week, the Phillies, Cards andPirates announced simultaneously that they would not pipe their ball games intoNew York in 1959. Reasons given: "bad ratings"; "the advice of ourad men."
Did the decisionresult in any way from a Yankee threat to go on nationwide network TV?"Heavens, no!" said all hands in effect.
Yankee GeneralManager George Weiss admitted the threat but added, "We weren't too seriousabout it," All of which is nice to know, but it doesn't alter the fact thatthe Yanks now have New York just where they want it—in the bag.
See You Later,Alligator
Of all themunicipal problems a city can face, one of the most perplexing is to have asix-foot alligator wandering around in its sewer system. This happened recentlyat Pompano Beach, Fla. (pop. 18,000), whose storm drains empty into a brackishstream called Cypress Creek. The alligator crawled out of the creek and into anempty drain so narrow that it constituted a sort of underground one-way street.There were catch basins every 300 feet in which the alligator could have turnedaround if he had thought of doing so, but he didn't. He just crawled alongindustriously through a mile and a half of municipal plumbing, and so ended upin the last catch basin of all, right in the middle of town.
There he managedto turn himself around, but before he could decide to start the return trip hewas spotted by a Pompano Beach resident named Newton T. Haley, who bent overthe iron grating to drop in a bit of rubbish and saw a hungry alligator lookingup at him with interest. Mr. Haley reported his discovery to Edward L. Miller,the Director of Public Works of Pompano Beach, and it became Mr. Miller'sproblem to get the alligator out of the sewer.
"First wetried high-pressure fire hoses," said Miller. "We thought we could washhim down to the next catch basin and get a rope around his neck as he came outof the pipe." It didn't work. The water flowed freely but the alligatorbraced himself and stayed put, just a few feet down the pipe from thefiremen.
"Next wetried ammonia fumes. But alligators can close their nostrils and go without airfor an hour. We couldn't get enough ammonia in the sewer to botherhim."
By now severaldays had passed, the alligator was a local celebrity, and people were offeringingenious plans for getting him out of the drains. One man suggested thateither a dog or a small boy—alligators are fond of both—be dropped into thesewer and allowed to race the alligator through the pipe back to CypressCreek.
Miller's chieffear was that the creature would starve to death in some inconvenient part ofthe drainage system and create a tough fumigation problem. In the end, though,it was hunger that offered a solution. Miller put a huge hunk of beef in one ofthe catch basins about halfway down the line, and waited. Eventually the smellwafted up to the alligator who responded like a farm hand to a dinner bell.When he reached the beef he ate it, and then, strengthened, kept on going. Histracks, headed downstream, showed up on the sandy bottoms of the catch basinsand eventually led out of the sewer and back into Cypress Creek. The alligatorhad spent about five days, including the Thanksgiving weekend, as a guest ofthe city. On the whole, Pompano Beach found him about like its morethin-skinned guests. It was interesting to have him around for a while, butsomething of a relief, too, when he was gone.
A Plea forFitness
Americans, saysAvery Brundage, President of the International Olympic Committee, in the latestparaphrase of the words of President Eisenhower (SI, Aug. 15, '55, et seq.),are becoming a nation of softies. "Because we are descended frompioneers," Brundage told a meeting of the American Amateur Athletic Unionin Chicago last week, "we developed the belief that we are one of thegreatest sports nations in the world. And so we were, many years ago." ButU.S. athletes today, Brundage asserted, "are outclassed in over half thesports on the Olympic program. Fewer and fewer world records are being set byAmerican athletes. We haven't won an international race of over half a mile inthe last 15 years. We invented basketball and our basketball team went toBuenos Aires and was beaten by the Argentines."
Americans, saidAvery Brundage, continuing the paraphrase, "are too prosperous. Our life istoo easy."
One way the U.S.committee already plans to stem this tide of deterioration before the 1960Games is by stepping up the pre-Olympic conditioning period for all athletesfrom a lackadaisical fortnight to a rugged six weeks of rigorous training incamp. The new plan, which may cost up to $500,000, will be given a trial runthis summer before the Pan-American Games to see how it works.
"There was atime," said Committeeman Tom Hamilton, the Pittsburgh Athletic Director whofirst urged the plan, "when the U.S. could throw a team together with aminimum of training and fare exceedingly well, but now we have to carry thatball up the field to meet the kind of competition we're getting in theOlympics."
I am thecommissioner," said His Highness Prince Borghese with some melancholy oneday last week at the Waldorf-Astoria, "because they have not yet foundanyone better. But there must be someone better than me!" The prince, amiddle-aged, middle-sized bachelor whose noble family includes at least onePope (Paul V) was in New York as guest of honor at a reception for Baseball forItaly, Inc., a nonprofit organization which hopes to strengthen "the tiesof friendship between the United States and Italy through the sport ofbaseball."
At home in Italy,when he is not serving as Commissioner of Baseball for his native land and thewhole of Europe, Prince Borghese spends his time growing wheat and alfalfa on1,000 irrigated acres near Nettuno, cultivating vegetables and fattening 200head of Swiss and Dutch dairy cattle. He also grows mushrooms.
Although theprince spent his youth playing tennis, skiing, "climbing on the rocks"and rowing on the naval academy crew ("I was the last, the smallestone"), he had never seen baseball until he watched two GIs playing catchjust after World War II. " 'What is this childish game?' I askedmyself," he says. " 'What possible fun can they be having from it?'" The prince found out when the manager of the American cemetery atAnzio-Nettuno asked him if he could spare some land for a diamond. "Itwas," says the prince with pride, "the first baseball ground inItaly."
Today theprince's Italian organization boasts 100 ball teams. The players, says theprince, are "amateur in theory," and games are played only on Sundaybecause Italians are not accustomed to attending sporting events during theweek. "The Nettuno team, which is sponsored by Algida, an ice-creamcompany," he says, "have always been champion but not on account of me;I only give the ground. It is a cute idea, don't you think? A summer gamesponsored by an ice-cream company; very cute." Nettuno used to be sponsoredby Chlorodent, the toothpaste, and the team was known as the Chlorodents, butseveral of the teams have proper American names like the Florence Braves andthe Bologna Green Sox.
"The mostpeople who ever watched a game in Italy," says Prince Borghese, "was12,000 in 1952, but that wasn't really fair. I had invited Gregory Peck to thegame. How good are the Italian teams? Well, I have asked the catcher ofGlorioso, our best pitcher who now lives on Long Island—he was a plumber—and hetells me, 'Don't you dare bring an Italian team here to the States!' Do thespectators shout at the umpires? Yes, they cry, 'More horned than a basket ofsnails,' which is a very old Italian saying."
Even today it ispossible to lose a fight on fouls. Though referees no longer stop a boutbecause of them, they still have the right to do so if fouling ispersistent.
When WelterweightChampion Virgil Akins fought Don Jordan in Los Angeles the other night the oddswere 3 to 1 in the champion's favor. He fought like a man with the odds againsthim.
It simply is notAkins' normal style to butt, wrestle and punch low, but he did one or the otherand sometimes all three in every round. The referee warned him about it seventimes during the fight and deducted two points from his score. Even if thepoints "had not been deducted Akins still would have lost, since only fairblows count and he seemed almost careful not to throw enough fair blows to makeany impression on the scoring.
Whatever themotive for his persistent fouling, so blatant that even TV Announcer JimmyPowers commented on it repeatedly, Akins' tactics were a stench in the Americanliving room.
There will, ofcourse, be a return bout and it probably will be in Akins' home town, St.Louis. That may give a clue as to whether Akins has set out on the win-lose,win-lose road that Jimmy Carter took in the lightweight division.
Remember thefootball cards that popped up in bubble-gum packages for a while during thelate '30s? Well, in case you haven't been chewing much lately, the kids arestill swapping them, have been for the last seven or eight years. At latestmarket quotations, one Jimmy Brown is worth one Rick Casares, a Van Brocklinand the bubble gum from five packs of baseball cards. All of them, however, maysoon be museum pieces because of a financial hassle in the councils of bigleague football.
Back in the dayswhen you were trading, say, two Bulldog Turners and a Don Hutson for one SammyBaugh, the league and its players had no firm stake in the deal. The cards werefreebooted; nobody got paid; nobody seemed to care.
Ever since 1951,however, National League Commissioner Bert Bell has been collecting a fairstash every season from a gum manufacturer for the rights to print players'likenesses and tuck them into his product. This year 110 million cards wereprinted—a record like Baugh's 187 touchdown passes—and the take was $15,000.Unlike the royalties for baseball cards, which go to the players individually,the football money went into the league funds and stayed there. Then the newlyformed National Football League Players Assn. put in a claim for the gumloot.
After chewingover the problem for a spell, Commissioner Bell ruled that the money be turnedover to the association, with the proviso that a chunk of it be paid to somedissident players on the Chicago Bears. At that point, the bubble burst. TheBears are the only team which has refused to join the players' union anddoesn't feel any urge to feed its kitty. The union doesn't want to share any ofits loot with the obstinate Bears.
So there itstands—a stalemate made to order for the speculator with a mind to buy in onJimmy Browns. Who knows? Maybe someday they'll be worth as much as those Baughsyou have left over from the old days.
Dr. PeterKarpovich is a renowned expert on and an ardent proponent of weight lifting. Heis never so happy as when he is plugging the beneficial physical effects of theshoulder shrug, the squat, pullover, supine press and lateral raise. Aboutfootball, however, Dr. Karpovich is perhaps less well informed and certainlyless enthusiastic.
When thephysicians attached to New England's colleges met for their annual conventionat Springfield recently, Dr. Karpovich suggested to the medical men assembledthat they unite with educators and drive football out of all educationalinstitutions forthwith. Dr. Karpovich didn't say where football might go; hemerely insisted that it was no proper part of education.
"As collegephysicians you have to take an active part covering the medical aspects offootball," he declaimed. "Prohibit playing before the public, and seehow many will choose football as a means of physical education! When a man hasto wear armor for protection; when a doctor and an ambulance have to bepresent, is it a type of activity a man wants to choose for his son?...Doctorsand educators should unite in driving football out of educational institutionsto free adolescent slaves from a demanding activity which steals their timewithout giving in return anything educationally tangible."
Said Oscar Solem,retired football coach at the doctor's own college: "I don't think Karpyknows his football too well. What would replace it?"
The doctorsassembled decided to table the matter—for a while anyway.
The Meaning ofMu
TetsuharuKawakami is 38, a first baseman for the Tokyo Giants and a Zen Buddhist. At theend of this year's season, Kawakami felt he was too old to play baseball, buthis fans begged him not to retire and Kawakami did not want to displease them.Since Zen Buddhism prescribes meditation rather than revelation for solvingone's problems, Tetsuharu Kawakami went to a mountain temple southwest of Tokyoand meditated for 21 days. When he emerged the other day, after "coming togrips with my bare spirit," he had a serene reply for his anxiousfollowers. It was mu (pronounced moo), a Zen word meaning nothingness. For 24hours Giant rooters worriedly pondered the meaning. Then Kawakami smiled andgave them his translation of mu: he would remain with the Giants as a coach butwould occasionally relieve at first base.
Long and Low
This Master of Foxhounds:
He now leads the hunt
With '59 Dachs-hounds.
They Said It
Maurice (The Rocket) Richard, aging Canadien hockeygreat, on his future prospects: "I'd like to be a referee. I'd want to workup. Right now, of course, I'd be prejudiced in favor of the Canadiens, but infour or five years I should be able to do an honest job."
Biggie Munn, Michigan State Athletic Director, askedif he ever missed football coaching: "Well, coaching is like a bath. If youstay in it long enough, it's not so hot."
Bill Veeck, disenchanted former owner of the ClevelandIndians, after the major leagues' annual business hassle in Washington:"You've heard about the barn door being locked after the horse has beenstolen? Well, baseball waits until the barn has been stolen."