Antitrust, But Not Very
Officially the attitude was one of cautious "no comment," but in the higher echelons of Organized Baseball and pro football a tentative whimpering was plainly audible, as though the businessmen of big-time sport were not sure whether they were going to be spanked or not. On the one hand a Democratic Congress—in the person of Senator Estes Kefauver, who publicly fought a few entertaining no-decision rounds with some shadowy racketeers—was once again threatening to treat them just like other businessmen with no thought for the fact that they were all in the game just for the fun of it. (Why, even the Supreme Court had not dared wag an antitrust finger at the national pastime!) On the other hand the bomb labeled Senate Bill 886 that Senator Kefauver pitched into the legislative hopper might yet turn out to be little worse than a bad cold.
"A baseball-badgering bill!" roared Senator Kenneth B. Keating, who last year tried to get all major sports placed legislatively beyond the reach of such crass considerations as monopoly laws, but the Kefauver bill seemed on examination less intent on badgering than on placating. What his bill proposes to do, stated simply, is to bring big league baseball and football under the antitrust laws (because they are a business) and then grant them broad exemptions (because they are a game).
The main provisions of S. 886 include a paring of the control of big league operators over potential players. Baseball teams such as the Yankees (which now control some 200 players in their farm systems) and the Milwaukee Braves (which control some 250) would be limited to contracts with not more than 80 players each. The football draft system would be made dependent on the written consent of the players to be drafted.
February 16, 1959
Kefauver is also willing to guarantee a degree of monopoly to any team within the limits of a circle of 35 miles radius—provided no city within the circle is over 2 million in population—big enough, in other words, to support a couple of teams. Thus, according to the trustbusting Keef, little Milwaukee, little Pittsburgh, little Cleveland et al. can continue as monopoly towns, but the Yankees cannot have big New York all to themselves, and the White Sox can't kick the Cubs out of big Chicago or vice versa.
As for TV rights, which many consider the heart of the matter, the Senator seems content to leave all that up to the Federal Communications Commission, which "is in better position to strike a balance" than the Congress of the U.S.
Hearings? Yes, there'll be hearings. The word is, though, that the Senate has already heard all it can translate from Casey Stengel (SI, July 21), and will concentrate on the worried business types of Organized Baseball and pro football. Until the hearings, let's leave the Congress story right there.
Philosophy of Babe Pinelli
Once upon a time there was a big league umpire who had a heart. Last week, speaking cautiously behind the padded protection of retirement, Ralph (Babe) Pinelli, late of the National League staff, supplied a little proof. It was of such heady stuff that real fairy tales are made. "In my case, I was willing to take the situation into consideration," reflected Mr. Pinelli. "If a kid was in the ninth inning trying for a no-hitter, I might call a close corner-cutter a strike. He deserved it."
What gave Pinelli's philosophy a haunting interest for baseball fans was that, as they well remembered, it was Babe Pinelli who was standing behind home plate that day in October 1956 when Pitcher Don Larsen of the New York Yankees, with the count two and one on Brooklyn's Dale Mitchell, threw that last one in. Mitchell watched it go by, clearly of the opinion it had missed one corner. "Stri-i-i-ke three!" yelled Babe Pinelli, and Don Larsen had a perfect game that could make him happy forever after.
Oh yes, we should point out that Don Larsen's no-hitter was the third in which Fairy Godfather Pinelli worked behind the plate.
Cup Runneth Over
As Alex Olmedo stepped out of the plane in Los Angeles, he tossed a big silver cup to a friend in the welcoming crowd below. "Good Lord," said a worldly press photographer in awe, "is that the Davis Cup?"
It wasn't; it was the Brookes Trophy, another tennis souvenir of Australia which Olmedo brought back with him for winning the Australian singles championship. The Davis Cup itself was in the plane, though—crated and carried in the cabin instead of the luggage compartment—and it, too, was almost a personal trophy of the young Peruvian Indian who played for the United States.
The nighttime welcome and the cheers—it was 8:25 p.m.—were understandably for Olmedo. His three big grinning teammates (Barry Mac-Kay, Earl Buchholz Jr. and Chris Crawford) modestly stood back and let him enjoy it. And though Davis Cup Captain Perry Jones tried to keep it a group affair, he couldn't. Alex Olmedo, his brown eyes and white teeth flashing, had his due.
In the terminal he made a short speech: "I tried to represent the United States as well as I could.... I am very grateful to all the people in Australia...and right now I am very happy to be back in the States." ("Well done, Chief!" cried Barry MacKay, applauding.)
Someone asked if he planned to defend the Davis Cup next year, and Olmedo brought a shout from the crowd by beginning hesitantly, "Well, if I can make the team...." (This year, he won both his singles matches and paired with Ham Richardson to win the doubles.) Switching to Spanish, in which he is far more fluent than in English, he made a tape recording for use in South America. Then someone wanted to know, in English, if Olmedo slept well the night before he played Australia's Ashley Cooper. "Oh, yes," said Olmedo, grinning. "Australian beer is very relaxing."
Once they had checked into their hotel, the four players drifted out onto Hollywood Boulevard, hoping to see some pretty girls. It was nearly midnight, though, and they had no luck. They drove to the USC campus where Olmedo is a student. His old automobile was parked where he had left it two months before, its battery now run down. The victorious Davis Cup team was suddenly just four kids with nothing much to do.
Returning to Hollywood, the boys stopped at the Brown Derby for a postmidnight snack. Olmedo's choice was a chicken-and-bacon sandwich, a screwdriver and five Coca-Colas. Two pretty girls in the next booth recognized the players, smiled, accepted a batch of Australian newspaper clippings as references and joined the party.
The following evening, at a testimonial dinner for Perry Jones, Alex Olmedo made another speech: "At Brisbane, it was hot and humid. We had to wear light clothes and the lightest haircut you can get. In your private life it helps to wear your haircut long—but on the Davis Cup team we are not interested in girls; our main interest is in the game.
"Mr. Jones said, 'Never give up, try all the time, and get to bed early.' And we really deserved to win and I am glad we won. New Year's Eve, after we won the Davis Cup, I passed out at 1:30. [There was a shocked roar of laughter.] I kept saying, 'I will have one more—and one more—and one more.' And finally they picked me up and put me in my room, and when I woke up I was sleeping on the floor."
Champion athletes rarely confess at public dinners that they are human enough to have a hangover; Olmedo captured his audience with the simple tactic of honesty. At the end, though, the shy, nice-looking boy from Peru turned serious, and in his accented English told the $12.50-a-plate gathering what he wanted them to know: "I am glad they gave me this chance and nominated me a member of the USLTA Davis Cup team and engraved my name, and I want to thank everybody who had anything to do with it."
It's Called the Biathlon
For several startling hours on the slopes of peaceful Squaw Valley this week, it may seem as if enemy paratroops have dropped in at last. Skilled skiers, many of them clad in the olive drab of the U.S. armed forces, will be hurtling down the mountainsides armed with loaded rifles. From time to time each of them will drop to the ground, fire five rounds at a distant target, then be up and off again at top speed.
The skiers, 20 of them from the U.S., one each from England, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the U.S.S.R., will be competing in what amounts to a preliminary trial for the world biathlon championships to be held late this month at Courvoyeur, Italy.
Invented in the 1930s in Scandinavia (where the experience of hostile invasion is recent and pungent), biathlon is a combination of crosscountry skiing and rifle marksmanship that demands top performance in each department. It has been recognized as an international sport only since 1958 when the U.S. sent an inexperienced team to the first world championships in Saalfelden, Austria and got hopelessly trounced, largely through bad shooting.
Biathlon shooting must be far better than just good because of the difficulty accompanying it. Four times during a 20-mile run the biathlon competitor must stop and fire five shots at a target about the size of a phonograph record set from 100 to 250 yards away. At one stop he fires from a standing position; at the other three he fires prone. Each time he misses the target two minutes is added to his skiing time. Since each man must fire while breathless, in a hurry, shaking from exhaustion and often shivering with cold, bullseyes are not common.
Since early last summer, with the blessing of the U.S. Army, Civilian Ski Coach Hans Wagner has been busily polishing the shots and the schusses of a U.S. team composed of the best skiers the Army could round up. By last week, after months of arduous training and conditioning at Fort Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska, every one of them had behind him at least 1,000 hours of rugged skiing and 5,000 rounds of often well-directed ammunition. "Firing," said Coach Wagner, "that's still our big problem. That's what we keep striving for—hit 'em, hit 'em, hit 'em!" In one workout in Alaska before leaving for Squaw, one of the best U.S. skiers missed the target 18 out of 20 times, adding a whopping 36 minutes to his skiing time. "But at least," said Wagner, "we feel our chances are much better than they were before."
Look Ma, No Skis
In an invitational meet in Duluth the other day a 26-year-old ski jumper named Chuck Ryan pushed off, sped down the track and soared into space. There he was, with the sky above, the crowd below and emptiness all around, a situation Ryan had long been accustomed to. But this time, Ryan found, he was in space without his skis. They were back at the takeoff—right where he had jumped out of them.
"I figured the only thing to do was to come in like a ballplayer sliding into second," he said later. So he sailed through the air for 150 feet, touched down on the runway boots first and slid for 150 more feet in a swirl of snow. Then he got up and walked off unhurt.
If the Shoe Fits
For footing IT across the United States, nothing quite does the job like ripple sole shoes. We quote the testimony of Erwin Erkfitz who did it (SI, Dec. 8). On the other hand, so to speak, for destroying a golfer's composure on the putting green, nothing, again, quite does the job like ripple sole shoes. And we quote Horton Smith, two times Masters champion and now the Detroit Golf Club professional. "Psychologically speaking," spoke Smith at a United States Golf Association turf clinic in New York the other day, "all those little ripple sole ridges and gullies in the grass are murder."
Up to that point, the most arresting discussions of the meeting had dwelt on such ideas as when to use a certified bentgrass (Oregon-bred Colonial Astoria Blue Tag, for instance) and what to do about snow mold and dollar spot. But when Smith declared himself on ripple soles, more than a ripple of interest spread through the 181 golf course men in the audience.
"And while we're at it," said one greenkeeper, "whatever made the USGA approve ripple sole shoes in the November issue of its journal?"
Marvin Ferguson, the national research coordinator for the USGA Green Section, who had written the article in question, rose up. "That, er, is a good question," he said. The report, he said, was prompted by an unproved theory making the rounds that ripple soles would scar the greens and kill the grass. "We conducted tests at Texas A&M," said Ferguson, "with two boys on Trans-Mississippi golf scholarships. They walked back and forth across our test green. They wore ripple soles and rubber cleats and spiked shoes. Over a period of five weeks, all three types of the shoes were walked across the green in a path 630 times." Could he help it, asked Ferguson, if the ripple soles did far less damage than the rubber cleats and spikes? And furthermore, could he help it that, in another phase of the tests, ripple footprints showed no appreciable effect upon a rolling golf ball? He could not, he pleaded. He still had his own reservations about ripple soles, of course.
"Well," said Horton Smith, un-mollified, "my people out in Detroit aren't worried about ripple soles tearing up the green. And maybe it's true the footprints won't make the ball roll funny. But you just try to line up a good putt looking over millions of little lines going every whichaway." And he looked over the approving faces every whichaway around him. "Psychologically speaking, I tell you, it's murder."
It was, somehow, the most heartening news of the week: word from Canada had it that after three days on the North American banquet trail Herb Elliott had eaten not a single raisin, not one flake of uncooked rolled oats, not a drop of peanut oil. In an unhoped-for departure from a training diet that would gag lesser men (SI, Feb. 9), the champion miler was taking every offered meal in easy, loping stride. And at a sports celebrities dinner in Toronto he paused only in the name of rudimentary conversational etiquette between courses of lobster cocktail, roast lake duckling with applesauce, Brussels sprouts, oven-roasted potatoes, pears and ice cream with pastry on the side.
"When you're traveling around, you can't be sticky about the arrangements," he said.
Victory in the Blood
Not many hockey players know what norepinephrine is, though the stuff is as important to the game as, trainers' liniment or owners' cash. Norepinephrine is a secretion of the sympathetic nervous system—a magical substance, a small amount of which makes lions roar, bulls charge, blood boil and hockey players dismember each other on the ice. It is a sort of elixir of aggression, and a good hockey player has about six times more of it throbbing in his system after a game than he does before one.
At least the Boston Bruins do; so far they are the only ones who have undergone urine tests, which in sport are well known among race horses but something of a novelty to working athletes. The testers were Fred Elmadjian, Justin M. Hope and Edwin T. Lamson (Ph.D., M.D. and M.A., respectively) whose experiments were part of a much larger research project.
Now norepinephrine is a comparatively recent discovery. Adrenaline was once thought to do the job which is now credited to norepinephrine. Adrenaline was believed to be a two-purpose secretion which equipped not only lions to fight but rabbits to run. Adrenaline readied you for action, the experts said, and the kind of action you chose—fighting or running—depended on your temperament. Well, the experts turned out to be wrong. The different responses, it is now known, are produced by different substances, and the name of the elixir of flight is epinephrine. It is secreted by the adrenal medulla.
And who turns out to produce large amounts of epinephrine in the course of a game? Basketball players. The doctors learned this by subjecting the Boston Celtics to urine tests. This does not mean, however, that all Celtics are rabbits and all Bruins are lions; it simply means that the two groups play different games. If you put a basketball player in a hockey game, his system would soon churn out more norepinephrine than usual. In basketball, however, he doesn't need it. Basketball calls for vigilance, alertness and self-control, but not for red-eyed aggression. It calls, therefore, for epinephrine.
The radical exception to all this—there nearly always is one—was the basketball player Bob Cousy. He broke all the adrenal rules in a brilliant display of hormone activity that left the doctors breathless. (Doctors can find excitement in a test tube, just as other people can find it in a stadium.) Even before his game, Cousy was loaded with more norepinephrine than the hockey players and ten times more epinephrine than anyone else on his basketball team. It seems possible, at least, that Cousy's 10-year stay at the top of his profession can be credited not only to his speed and tactical skill but also to his hard-working adrenal medulla and his victory-loving sympathetic nervous system.
The doctors aren't through yet, and they have drawn no conclusions. But to the layman it seems pretty clear already that while it is illegal to dope a race horse, athletes administer stimulants to themselves legally every day. With athletes it is involuntary, unavoidable and beyond the reach of the law. It just happens because nature meant it to.
Some athletes run to brawn, not brains,
So college registrars
Are forced to curb the coaches who
Keep reaching for the stars.
They Said It
Don Bragg, nursing a novel suspicion of what might have jogged the-pole-vault bar: "It might have been the religious medal I was wearing."
The Earl of Northesk, deploring poodle boom in London shows, lamenting decline of the bulldog: "A sign of the times. The country is becoming effete. All a result of women getting the vote."
Cowboy Johnnie Cherberg, once head football coach at the University of Washington, now lieutenant governor of the state: "Presiding over the senate is a terrific job. When I compare it to coaching I note the lack of peaks of exhilaration, but it doesn't bring the depths of despondency either."