Boating Boom (Cont.)
This Time last year, when the word was of recession, the National Motor Boat Show came to New York and set dazzling records in both attendance and sales (SI, Feb. 3, 1958). Maybe this was a prophetic index and maybe it wasn't, but the recession is no longer with us. What about this year? Well, the big boat show closed last Sunday bigger than ever. The total of 1959 sales orders in boats, engines and accessories was $26,970,000—an increase of 20% over last year.
Two recent items in the news, both of them concerned with sports arenas, have set us to pondering again, for perhaps the ten thousandth time, the exact nature of those precincts in which we occasionally make bold to raise an authoritative voice.
The first of these items, winging its way eastward from Los Angeles last week, echoed like a view halloo in the offices of presidential aspirants from coast to coast by announcing that the officially chosen site for next year's Democratic National Convention was the still-unfinished 17,000-seat Los Angeles Sports Arena, the West Coast's answer to Madison Square Garden.
February 2, 1959
With the heady sense that our empire had suddenly expanded beyond our wildest dreams of power, we were inclined at first to hail this choice of venue with enthusiasm and to extend our heartiest congratulations to those politicians who made it. In view of their frank admission, it seemed to us, there could no longer be any doubt that politics, at least Democratic Party politics, would now take its rightful place in the world of major sports, and we were eager to face up to the responsibility.
Then, hard on the heels of the first news item, there came another, and we sobered instantly. This item concerned the plans of Cuba's victorious revolutionary, Fidel Castro, to hold history's most highly touted series of mass-murder trials in the huge Batista-built Sports Palace in Havana. This, we felt, was something else again—something pretty somber.
We suddenly were thankful that we did not have to pass judgment either as referee or reporter on liberated Cuba's arrangement for justice. We were finally thankful that we would not have to set up headquarters in Los Angeles and belatedly master the intricacies of a national game more complex, confusing and confounding (with the possible exception of the British wall game) than any we are now called upon to observe. Most of all we were thankful that the wonderful world of sport, as we know it, is a world not circumscribed by yearnings toward punishment or power but one bounded only by man's desire to triumph over his own shortcomings.
Happy Knoll, U.S.S.R.
A Basic Axiom of country club management—as every member of Mr. Marquand's Happy Knoll must be aware—can be stated something like this: "If any golfer complains loudly enough about the workings of the greens committee, put him on the committee."
Soviet Russia's Nikita Khrushchev is not primarily a country club type, but his hardheaded realism has led him often to emulate the methods of capitalist society: "You can't get production without incentive," the Russian dictator told Minnesota's Senator Hubert Humphrey some weeks ago and, when Humphrey replied that that seemed like a pretty capitalistic point of view, Khrushchev snapped back: "Call it what you like; it works."
Last week, to counter an ever-increasing ground swell of national discontent over the state of Soviet sports, Khrushchev took a step exactly in line with the accepted policy at Happy Knoll. He abolished the top-heavy and cumbersome government Committee on Physical Culture and Sport and put the control of Soviet athletics in the hands of a grassroots organization composed largely of those who had been complaining the loudest about how things stand.
The new boss of Soviet sports will be a so-called Union of Sports Societies and Organizations whose membership will be culled from a host of participating local sports groups in factories, offices, schools, army units and farm collectives throughout the land. A major share of the responsibility for getting the new organization going will be laid directly in the lap of the outspoken Young Communist League whose objections to the former centralized setup were the most vociferous of all.
The accent in the new sports setup, as in most of Khrushchev's domestic policies, will be on decentralization, the old capitalist device of local control and local incentive. The avowed purpose of Soviet sport is still that of "training Communist youth for greater productivity and defense of the fatherland," but the drive, it is hoped, will now come more from the sporting youth and less from the sedentary boss.
In the past, according to the dissatisfied members of the youth league, too many temperamental stars have been pampered by the government at the expense of neglecting the commoner athlete. Indignation swelled last year when one of these stars, Top Soccer Player Edward Strelstsov, was thrown in jail for rape and other extracurricular athletics. It reached a crescendo when a team of other temperamental stars lost the world soccer championship to Britain in a 5-0 rout.
Under the general supervision of the new Sports Union, local authorities plan to keep a sharp eye on the conduct of the nation's top athletes, and keep them on their mettle as well with the constant threat of new talent from the provinces. Within three years, the Union hopes, the number of Russians actively engaged in sport will rise from the present 20,000,000 to twice that number or even more.
"Between Here and London"
Mike Hawthorn, champion road-racing driver of the world at 29, slid into a swift green Jaguar in Farnham, England one day last week and surged toward London for a business appointment.
Just a few days before, the tall, flaxen-haired Hawthorn had said: "The roads are getting to be proper death traps. The average driver simply will not bother to think ahead. He just tears along as though he hasn't a minute to spare and relies on his brakes to get him out of trouble. If you ask me the race track is a lot safer than the road between here and London."
Now, by odd coincidence, Hawthorn found himself cruising behind the Mercedes 300SL of another famous British racing man, Rob Walker, whose Cooper cars won two important Grand Prix events last year. Ahead lay a wet, treacherous pavement, with two bends in view.
But Mike was in a hurry to keep his appointment. (He was to receive yet another reward for having become in 1958 the first English driver to win the world championship—a $28,000-a-year contract as technical adviser to an automobile manufacturing firm.) Behind him were eight years of intense competition on the world's great road circuits. He had been badly burned and battered in racing accidents. Just last year he had mourned the deaths of four racing comrades.
Upon his retirement from racing in December, at the zenith of his fame, the British press outdid itself to pay him tribute. His garage at Farnham was prospering. He was thinking of marrying and settling down.
Hawthorn waved and grinned as he pulled alongside Rob Walker's Mercedes on the road to London. "I suppose I must have got up to about 50 miles an hour and he was going quite fast," Walker recalled. "I let him go."
(However, another driver whom they both had passed had another story: "I was doing about 75 miles an hour in my Bentley," he said. "A car went past me and then a little later another car tore past at a terrific pace. I looked at my speedo again. I almost thought I had stopped.")
Walker, still in sight, was able to describe the accident itself. "Then it happened. I was well behind. Mike's car skidded. The back went round. I never dreamed it was going to mean disaster. I couldn't believe that a driver of his class could get into trouble. I expected he would give a flick of the wheel and be out of it. This was Mike Hawthorn in front of me. I thought, 'Good old Mike; he'll soon flick out of that one.' "
But Mike did not. His Jaguar spun around and around again as it skidded wildly for 100 yards out of the second of those awkward turns; then it caromed off a post in the center of the four-lane highway, clipped the rear of an oncoming truck, uprooted a tree and shuddered to a stop in a hedge. The time was five minutes before noon, the place was near the town of Guildsford. Hawthorn was found crumpled in the back seat of the car, fatally injured.
An impromptu roadside shrine of flowers was built by motorists around the uprooted tree the next day, but police ordered it removed. By attracting sightseers, they feared, it might cause further accidents.
Brekekekex, Koax, Koax
The proper mascot of the Air Force Academy is Mach I, a falcon. But when the Academy swimming team took part in the Wyoming Relays last month they borrowed a frog from the University of Wyoming biology lab, rubbed him for luck, finished second and adopted him as a surrogate. The frog's name is Croak I, he lives in the chemistry lab far from the dissecting tables and his chief handler is Cadet Mike Peterson of Altadena, Calif. "The team decided that since it isn't feasible for the falcon to perform in a swimming pool, they should have a substitute," explains Coach Mac Mackenzie.
Croak I made his first personal appearance last week during the AFA-Colorado State College swimming meet by diving from the one-meter board into the pool. He was borne to the board on a blue velvet pillow. A small plastic canopy was raised, and Croak I was urged to take off. He declined. Peterson taunted him from the water by twirling a small leather lure. As Croak I pondered Peterson, 250 spectators roared, "Jump in." Croak I declined. A sneaky cadet stole up behind him and, tipping the pillow, sent Croak I soaring in what was described by an Academy spokesman as a "beautiful frog dive."
It was thought by some that the chlorinated water might make Croak I croak and necessitate the arrival of Croak II. The spokesman said, however, that the chlorine had "no apparent effect," but he did not rule out the possibility of delayed aftereffects. He added that Croak I's training schedule involved keeping him in an icebox and not feeding him for a week before the meet. "It saved the taxpayers' money," he said. He attributed Croak I's reluctance to dive to the "large crowd," but felt that his presence was "salutary." The Air Force won 59-27.
By the Book
Literacy, in the form of reading the rule book, we suggested some months ago, could go a long way in keeping college athletic coaches out of trouble. The suggestion was made in the wake of severe disciplinary action by the NCAA for illegal recruiting of athletes. One of the offenders was Basketball Coach Johnny Castellani of Seattle University, who promptly resigned his job with the penitent statement: "The rule was there. I violated it."
This year Seattle has a new basketball coach whose respect for and belief in the powers of literacy exceeds our wildest expectations. A slim, studious young Master of Arts from Columbia University, Vincent Cazzetta has composed a 48-page brochure for the guidance of his athletes that leaves virtually nothing to guesswork. "It's just a thing," he explains, "to let all of us know what's expected of us so that the chances of tripping up may be minimized."
In his 10 chapters Vince covers everything from a brief historical resumé of the basketball tradition at Seattle ("We are now part of that tradition and should make every effort to carry on...") to the tactics of defense on the court ("Talk to your opponent: Force violations and bad passes by talk and aggressive defense!"). Between times he discusses scholarship ("You are in school to get an education.... DON'T CUT CLASS..."), filial devotion ("Your parents have sacrificed a great deal for you. WRITE HOME OFTEN, MAKE THEM PROUD AND HAPPY") and manner and bearing on tour ("CONDUCT YOURSELF AS A GENTLEMAN AT ALL TIMES").
Many paragraphs of Cazzetta's manual are filled with detailed instructions about practice hours, diet, the proper method of dribbling (with the fingertips not the palms), care of equipment, rules of play, and the other minutiae of the basketball player's life set forth in such completeness that there is no room for question. But if, after amassing and mastering all of these fundamentals, the young Seattle player still finds himself basically confused or leaning toward the prevailing philosophy of his supposedly "beat" generation, Coach Vince had an answer for that as well.
"We must recognize," he tells his boys, "our emotional status. If we are frightened or angry and recognize the fact, we may be able to do something about it. We must learn to restrain as much as possible the continued expression of the undesirable emotion. Many times the basketball player will have big problems and find life unpleasant. But if he is in good mental health he can take these in stride. All the work of the coach and players may be nullified if the team does not have the proper mental attitude."
Whatever else Coach Cazzetta may have at Seattle this season, he gets an A for attitude.
In a letter to Ford Frick the other day the president of the Texas League, Dick Butler, asked a boon of the baseball commissioner. His league, he wrote, wants to dispense with the four pitches required for an intentional walk to first and wave the batter there instead. Commissioner Frick wrote back next day that it was neighborly to keep in touch but the answer was no. And added: "I hate always to take the position of the dog in the manger, but it is of extreme importance that the fundamental rules of baseball be observed."
Nobody, least of all Dick Butler, was much surprised at Frick's reaction. A former assistant to Frick, Butler had once before broached the idea without success. This time he did so at the prompting of the Texas League directors who are looking for new ways to speed up the game and the spin of minor league turnstiles. More baseball interest, they feel, can be generated by arranging for shorter doubleheaders, putting bull-pens closer to the diamond and in general eliminating what Butler calls "the dead spots—no matter where they exist."
Admittedly, that long walk from the bullpen by an incoming pitcher is a tedious thing, but somehow it is hard to see where the wave to first would be an improvement. When the pitcher is obliged to angle off four balls to his catcher, there always remains the possibility that the catcher will either drop one, allowing an advance on the bases, or the batter will get hold of a too-close pitch and clout it over the Lone Star beer sign. And as to the time saved by waving, the idea seems even less compelling. Last year the Texas League recorded 324 intentional passes in 612 games. Allowing, at the most, one minute for throwing four balls, each game was set back an average of maybe 30 seconds. Which is not very long. And which is probably about how long it took Commissioner Frick to make up his mind.
These track stars ran a race
And never knew defeat;
Both perished at the tape;
They called it a dead heat.
—L. L. MORRISON
They Said It
Emanuel Celler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, promising organized baseball a time of trials: "They want exemption from antitrust laws. Well, they're not going to get it. I am going to fight them tooth and nail."
Branch Rickey, 77, in St. Louis for the silver anniversary of the Gas-house Gang: "I know a little man here this evening—I am talking of Leo Durocher—who had a greater facility for making a bad situation immediately worse than any man I ever knew. But if I were the sole owner of a major league club made up of probable winners, he would be the man I would select for manager."
Adolph Rupp, 57, University of Kentucky basketball coach, reflecting on the pleasures of fox hunting in the Kentucky manner: "It's the best sport for a man my age. You turn the dogs loose and sit down and listen to them with some sandwiches and a fifth of bourbon. The fox holes up and doesn't get caught; the dogs have a happy time running about—nobody wins and nobody loses, and the alumni don't write letters."
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, clergyman and author, addressing the New York Touchdown Club: "I am a great reader of the sports pages. Indeed I read the sports pages before I read the front pages and editorial pages—so that I can bear to read the front pages and editorial pages."