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Las Vegas' opening line on the 1959 major league pennant races looked like this:
National League: Milwaukee 4-5, San Francisco 5-2, Los Angeles 3-1, St. Louis 5-1, Cincinnati 10-1, Pittsburgh 20-1, Philadelphia 50-1, Chicago 100-1.
American League: New York 1-2, Cleveland 4-1, Detroit 6-1, Chicago 8-1, Boston 15-1, Baltimore 20-1, Washington and Kansas City 100-1.
February 23, 1959
If you happen to be a betting man, don't break your neck getting there to pounce on that overlay on the Pirates, however. Somebody else beat you to it. Within a few hours a flood of Pittsburgh money had narrowed the odds on the Pirates to 5-2—which is a lot more like it. As for the short price on last year's seventh-place Los Angeles club, it loomed as no bargain from the start. By nightfall the Dodgers were up to 12-1—where they belonged, too.
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Horses & Budgets & Nonsense
New York newspapers are giving a lot of attention to the proposal by the city's mayor, Robert Wagner, that off-track betting on horse racing be legalized. His object is to raise $100 million by taxation on this new form of betting; that sum would get New York's budget about two-thirds of the way out of the red.
There has been a strong suspicion that the off-track betting project was never more than a political maneuver; it has been suggested that by espousing a project which has little chance of being approved by the Republican-controlled State Legislature, the city's Democratic administration might be able to shrug off some of the opprobrium which would be heaped on its shoulders when it eventually turned to, say, an increased sales tax in order to balance its swollen budget.
We do not know if that suspicion is justified; we do think that it tends to be justified by the document on which the mayor's recommendation is based. This is a 46-page report from a citizens' committee appointed by Mayor Wagner to investigate off-track betting, and it reads like something essentially designed to keep a good barroom argument going; in no practical sense can it be considered a serious job of work.
The report summarizes conflicting views on the principle of off-track betting. The committee, after consulting "distinguished leaders in labor, law enforcement and courts, church, racing and press," could find only two categories of opposition to the plan: the Protestant Council of the City of New York objected on the classical grounds that it was immoral and socially harmful to do anything to facilitate or encourage gambling, and the New York racing authorities adhered to the more tortuous opinion that off-track betting would greatly increase gambling, thereby leading to a violent reaction by reform groups which might sweep away the whole structure of racing in New York.
The committee cited in favor of the plan the reactions of the chief city magistrate, the police commissioner, labor representatives and public opinion (alleging that the most recent poll showed that 86% of New Yorkers approved legalization of off-track betting).
All that is interesting enough. But the plan lamentably fails to cope with any of the practical complexities involved. It seems fairly clear that no one familiar with the mechanics and mathematics of betting had much of a say.
The citizens' committee idea seems to be to authorize about 100 horse parlors in New York City, all of which would have to be "reasonably distant" from "bars, race tracks, places of worship, schools, funeral parlors, welfare centers and unemployment insurance offices"—quite a trick, that is, if by "reasonably distant" is meant anything more than about two and a half lengths.
Bets made at these stations on the New York tracks would be computed at a central office, then relayed to the track itself for inclusion in the mutuel pool. But what if you want to bet on a race at Hialeah or Santa Anita? The report has the barest suggestions that the city would like to book those bets, too (if it didn't, it would only be depriving bookmakers of a small percentage of their illegal trade).
How could this possibly be worked? It would be impractical to relay the money bet in New York to the mutuel pools in Florida and California. Apart from anything else, this would require special legislation in those states, too. No, the city is thinking of keeping the money bet on out-of-state tracks, creating its own pools and payoffs. Thus, a horse that won at Arlington or Hollywood Park might go off at 4-1 at the track and at 7-1 in New York. Or vice versa.
This is only one example of the practical problems involved in the scheme which the mayor's committee has either frankly ignored or cheerily passed over. Nor is the confusion much less on the moral plane. What are we to think of a state where you can legally bet in one town (New York) but not in another? If you live in New Jersey you could not bet legally at home, but if you went through a tunnel to work you could do so during your lunch break.
A final consideration which no one has mentioned is that it is inconceivable that a plan could be worked out and approved, personnel and premises found and machinery built and installed by July 1, which starts the city's fiscal year.
No, we would like to study a serious plan for off-track betting, and maybe one will come along, but we don't think Mr. Wagner has it at this time. In fact, although we are not political analysts here, we would, if pressed to make a modest legal off-track bet, prefer to wager on a higher sales tax.
Many a small boy on his birthday has been torn between the overwhelming desire to be left alone to play with his toys and the parental warning to be polite to his guests. This, to some extent, was the dilemma of the state of Oregon as it celebrated its 100th birthday this week.
Like proud parents, Oregon's assorted chambers of commerce invited a bevy of outsiders in for a year-long celebration of the territory's accession to statehood on February 14, 1859. Entertainment for the occasion included banquets, parades, pageants, speeches from such distinguished outsiders as Vice-President Nixon and a seasonal kaleidoscope of sports events ranging from the Far West Kandahar ski championships already in progress through a world-championship logrolling tourney in July to a sailboat regatta in August. By virtue of these diversions, Oregon hotelkeepers hoped to lure a record-breaking flow of visitors.
For all his indigenous hospitality, however, many an Oregon sportsman wished the visitors elsewhere, or at best hoped they wouldn't stay too long to overcrowd his state, which is already one of the fastest-growing in the Union. Oregon's birthday blessings, from the sportsman's point of view, are multifold and they have all been there from the moment Explorers Lewis and Clark first spotted the Pacific beaches in 1805. Listen to our Portland correspondent, fellow named John White:
"Native Oregonians last weekend, spurning speeches, were picking up 25-pound steelhead from the Sandy River on the very edge of metropolitan Portland. Soon the smelt will be showing up by the glistening thousands, and in their wake will come the annual run of Chinook salmon through the heart of Portland itself.
"By May the mountain lakes will be free of ice, and caravans of trailers will head out from the city to find their fun in the fresh waters of the highlands or alternatively in the coastal bays where schools of feeder salmon tempt the angler. White sails will blossom on the blue coastal waters. Public golf courses and tennis courts will play host to enthusiastic natives and visiting champions alike. And, come fall, the hills and forests will crack with the echo of gunfire as grouse, deer, partridge, elk, cougar, jack rabbits, ducks, geese and pheasants bow to the skill of the hunter.
"Best of all, from the native Oregonian's viewpoint, many of these sports can be pursued within minutes of the city limits. The Portland businessman can shoot a pheasant in season 10 minutes away from his office and catch a steelhead during his luncheon hour. His sailboat is only an hour or two away from him, and yet, not far to the east, there is outdoor wilderness almost as primitive as that discovered by the pioneers of the Oregon Trail."
Well, we get the message, White. We plan to drop in someday for a long visit.
Remember Silky Sullivan, the big red colt that Californians (and a lot of others) were getting excited about this time last year? Well, the crowd that might be called the Sullivan set had what might be called a fresh hypothesis last week. Three-year-old named Finnegan. California-bred.
Looking him over before the $88,000 California Breeders Stakes, noting his big, red good looks, the cocky gleam in his eye, the green-blue braid lovingly woven into his mane, observant observers at Arcadia, Calif. sucked in their breath and breathed: "Finnegan. And he looks just like Silky Sullivan."
Some of them, well-bitten cynics, thereupon thrust their money deep in their pockets and left the track for the day. Enough of the other kind, clutching greenbacks in their fists, rushed faithfully to the betting windows to make Finnegan the favorite.
Well, and again well, we are obliged to let you know that the shamrocks are wilting in Arcadia by the time you read this, and the Irish coffee is being left untasted, and the Finnegan Hypothesis is, for the moment anyway, being pushed well to the back of minds. When the gate opened, young Finnegan came stumbling out like a drunk out of a swinging door and gathered himself up, after a while, more or less like Sullivan. The race was a mile and a sixteenth; plenty of time for a Sullivan to catch up. But it must be admitted that Finnegan, very likely a name to remember to forget this year, came in next to last. Up front, it was a pretty good race, however. By the time he finished, some disappointed backers already had words and music for Finnegan's wake: "F-I-double N-E/G-A-N spells bum again."
Popularity by Air
Do you want to be popular?
Would you like to go out in the evenings, make new friends? Well, it used to be that the only way to achieve these ends was to sign with Arthur Murray for a course in ballroom dancing, but now there's another way: you can take flying lessons.
Arthur Murray himself has nothing to do with it. It's just that his sales techniques have been borrowed by a former franchise holder and applied to flying schools, and they are working like a dance instructor's charm. The salesman who made the ingenious switch is E. G. Ege ("the E is for Edgar, the G just for fun") of Minneapolis. One day in 1955 he drove past a little flying school at the edge of town, and thought: "Here I am, a potential customer. I have done some flying already, and I can afford to do more. But for 10 years nobody has tried to get me going again." Ege became the school's merchandising consultant, he used the Murray methods, and in six months the little flying school had increased its business by 500% and was one of the biggest flying schools in the country. The genius of Arthur Murray—if that is what it is—is apparently as expandable as bubble gum and as adaptable as nylon.
Mr. Ege, like Mr. Murray, believes that you must find out what a potential customer wants from his lessons and then show him how he will get it. In his Operations Manual Ege lists Sample Selling Sentences for all occasions. If the prospect's motive seems to be vanity, the instructor remarks casually, as they stroll out for a free trial lesson, "You'll have to get used to being the center of attention when you know how to fly." With the man who wants relaxation the pitch is, "You certainly get a feeling of getting away from it all up here, don't you, Mr. Prospect?" To a business executive the instructor explains that, "When you fly yourself you can set your own schedules. You don't have to come and go when the airlines tell you to."
The Free Demonstration Lesson, of course, is another Arthur Murray device. But where dancing instructors use it to discover the prospect's natural ability, flying instructors use it to allay the prospect's natural apprehension. One particularly skilled operator loaded a family of four into a plane "just to taxi a little." The next step was to "take it off the ground about two feet. If you don't like it, I'll put it right down again." Naturally the two children, having got into the air, clamored for more altitude. In the end both parents learned to fly, and the family now owns a plane.
After his first success with a flying school, Ege sold his Arthur Murray franchises in Minneapolis and St. Paul and went into the new business full time. He theorized, correctly, that most flying school owners are good pilots and instructors but need help as salesmen. Now Ege supplies his techniques to 77 schools all over the country. The schools let students fly now and pay later, make arrangements by which the brand-new pilot can buy anything from one-tenth of an airplane, which he shares, to a whole one which is his own.
The toughest sales resistance comes from worried wives, but husbands themselves overcome it—or, rather, detour around it—by taking lessons on the sly. Then, with a mixture of pride and sheepishness, they present the true facts and the pilot's license at the same time. Sometimes, though, it is the wives who take lessons on the sly.
Ege assumes that flying is for anybody who wants to learn and can qualify. This includes that classic Arthur Murray customer, Mr. Lonely-heart, or the prospect whose motive is New Friends: "You'll enjoy all the people you'll meet through flying. Just sitting around talking flying is part of the game." It also includes that rollicking character whose motive is simply Fun. According to the manual, the instructor turns to him in the middle of the free demonstration lesson and says, "This is really living, isn't it, Mr. Prospect?"
The animal story of the week comes from London, and we are told it is sweeping the British Isles like myxomatosis. Here it is:
There are these two lions, see, one old and one new—just arrived that day—who share adjoining cages. The old lion merely loafs on the floor of his cage, contemplating age and old lice. The new lion, on the other hand, acts a proper beast, pacing and roaring and clawing at the visitors through the bars.
When lunchtime comes the keeper tosses a great bloody steak to the old lion, then throws two bananas and a bag of peanuts to the new lion. The new lion is so hungry from his exertions that he gobbles down the bananas and peanuts, but then he turns querulously to the old lion. "I don't get it, old boy," he says. "Here I pace and growl and claw like a lion should and all I get is some bananas and peanuts, while you lie there like a worn rug and get a proper meal. I just don't get it."
"There's something you've got to learn," says the old lion. "This is a small town and a small zoo. The budget can't stand two lions. You're booked in here as a monkey."
On sailors' knots he thinks he's weak,
On boats he thinks he's bright.
He's got them mixed—I sneaked a peek.
His barque's worse than his bight.
They Said It
Billy Martin, onetime Yankee now with the Cleveland Indians, in best banquet-circuit snapper since Casey Stengel bawled out the 1958 Yankee playboys: "All I can say is I'm glad I'm out of that bad environment."
Major General James E. Briggs, Air Force Academy superintendent, on the proposed national football conference: "We're little kids trying to muscle in, so we have to talk about [the conference]. But our main goal is to beat Army and Navy."
Michael Foot, Labor Party M.P., on England's loss of The Ashes to Australia: "The reactionary, self-appointed junta controlling England's lest teams has continued the Tories' task of lowering Britain's world prestige."