Some weeks ago we took refuge in a baseball metaphor to phrase our admiration and envy at the Soviet Union's lunar space shot. We said, in essence, that since the ball was knocked clean out of the park we wished one of our boys had been at bat.
In recent weeks, as the crack of real hickory on real horsehide began to resound in training camps not too far from the spacemen's Cape Canaveral, the baseball analogy has become even more valid to the missile game.
There were at first several quite satisfactory infield hits as the missile-men tested their less spectacular weapons on earth's own surfaces. Then, with the Air Force up, there was a tremendous clout which rose straight up toward the North Pole. As the men on the field, like so many bewildered catchers, dashed about in circles shouting "Where'd it go?" alternate cries of "Fair ball!" and "Foul!" arose from the stands.
The last official ruling, we understand, is that the Air Force hit a fair ball, now successfully in orbit from north to south.
But the best part was still to come. With a lunar batting average of 0 for 4 against us, the Army stepped up to the plate for its last official time at bat (the civilians will be taking over in space from now on) and, after one tentative swing, hauled off and clouted a beautiful solar home run.
Once again the ball had sailed clean over earth's center-field fence, and this time our boys were the ones who sent it.
How They Play
One hoped-for benefit of the increasing spread of international athletic competition is a corresponding spread of international good will. During the past few weeks, however, this worthy aim has taken a considerable licking as U.S. and Canadian amateur hockey teams played in Europe for the world championships. Unlike its European counterpart, which is largely a stick-handling game, North American hockey is a free-swinging, head-butting, body-checking brawl that is not readily adaptable to good public relations practice. As a result, in the five weeks spent warming up for this week's playoffs in Prague, both North American teams have generated somewhat more friction than friendship in the Old World.
The U.S. Nationals got their worst lumps and their worst notoriety in Stockholm in an outdoor game during a snowstorm, which hid most of the action from the referee. In consequence, there was plenty of elbowing, tripping and hooking on both sides. At one point a 210-pound Swede cross-checked Michigan's smallish Weldon Olson, knocked out two of his teeth, split his lip and broke both of his cheekbones. The resulting fight was interrupted only now and then to continue the game. Earlier, at Sundsvall, two U.S. players sentenced to the penalty box were set upon by Swedish spectators. A small riot followed. Police laid about indiscriminately with rubber truncheons and even managed to swat both the defending Americans.
Meanwhile, the defending world champion Canadians were busy in Helsinki, where Finland's fans had at them with snowballs. The Canadians ended up fighting officials, opponents and spectators alike. "Go home," urged a Finnish newspaper headline next day.
And a few days after that, the Canadians were fighting it out in West Germany, where the press called them "Hockey rowdies" who play a game "imported from the Wild West."
What with the flying fists and the blood and the snowballs and all, it is difficult from where we sit to say just who was at fault in all this. Maybe it's all just an unfortunate misunderstanding. But if international amity is to carry the day we think it's about time somebody dug up once again Grantland Rice's old saw, that reliable one about "He writes not that you won or lost, but how you...."
Though come to think of it—how do you play the game and win friends when each side has been trained to entirely different techniques and the audience has been conditioned to appreciate and accept only one of them?
One Way to Moon
On the assumption—not necessarily valid—that statistics are almost as dear to the American heart as baseball, United Airlines has compiled a mass of records concerning the flying habits of the 16 U.S. major league ball teams, all of whom fly United.
The Detroit Tigers, says the airline, will make the most trips by air this year (39), and the San Francisco Giants will cover the most miles (30,235). The Kansas City Athletics will finish in the American League cellar—so far as air travel is concerned—with six flights totaling only 2,717 miles, and the New York Yankees will wind up in seventh place with 11 trips and 7,826 miles. National Leaguers, shuttling across the continent, will cover 212,060 air miles altogether, while the American League, which never gets west of Kansas City, will fly only 80,124.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will fly United only 21 times in 1959, less than any other National League team. But that, says United, is because the Dodgers will use their private "club-owned Convair for short trips in the East."
The total distance flown by both leagues will be 292,184 miles. If all this travel were lavished on a single team—the Dodgers, say—it would take them easily to the moon (mean distance from Los Angeles: 238,857 miles), where Walter O'Malley might find several craters more readily available for baseball than embattled Chavez Ravine.
The Chosen Instrument
The Golden Gloves, which draws most of its talent from charitable enterprises like the Catholic Youth Organization and the Police Athletic League (ardent believers in boxing as an inspiration to potentially wayward youth), has produced 20 professional world champions in the past 30 years. Almost all the champions, whatever their problems as teenagers, have reached maturity as exemplary citizens, making it seem that the CYO, the PAL and the Golden Glove promoters are quite right in their view of boxing as a fine, character-building sport.
But an occasional young man, leaving the good influences of amateur boxing, falls in with evil company. Such a one was Johnny Saxton.
When Johnny turned professional after winning the Golden Gloves New York title back in 1948, he was a well-mannered youth, so respectful of his heroes that he once turned shyly away from an opportunity to meet Joe Louis because he felt unworthy of the honor.
"I ain't entitle to it yet," he said.
Three years later Saxton's manager was former Numbers Racketeer Blinky Palermo, hoodlum pal of Hoodlum Frankie Carbo. Palermo and Carbo are two of the dirtiest of boxing's dirty-business men. Carbo is now on the lam from New York D.A. Frank Hogan's investigation of fixed fights and corrupted officials.
In little more than a year Johnny Saxton was a professional champion, but he still was not "entitle" to meet Joe Louis. He had become one of the most despised of champions. Even before he took the title from Kid Gavilan by a Philadelphia decision that rocked boxing, he and Johnny Bratton had been showered with missiles when they went through the motions of an absurd imitation of a fight. Crumpled beer cups were thrown at him and Ramon Fuentes when they performed a similar service for Los Angeles fans. After losing the title to Tony DeMarco, Johnny won it back from Carmen Basilio by a preposterous decision in Chicago.
Pretty soon Johnny, the shy lad who once had been so humble, was an embarrassingly cocky boaster. He began to appear in newspaper headlines: SAXTON HELD ON GUN RAP; SAXTON TAKES SECOND CLOSE ONE BY ESCAPING 15-DAY JAIL TERM; and, just last week, EX-CHAMP SAXTON IS SEIZED AS BURGLAR.
The once shining hope of the Golden Gloves had been caught coming out of an apartment house with a $100 Orion cape, $5.20 in cash and a crumpled half pack of cigarettes he had lacked the pride to ignore. The $5.20, he said, would have taken him over to Madison Square Garden to see the Golden Gloves.
Detectives said he admitted burgling other apartments.
"I made a quarter million dollars as a fighter," Johnny said, "and now I owe $16,000 in taxes."
He is not alone in the Carbo-Palermo set of chosen instruments. During that same week Jimmy Carter, a former Carbo fighter and only man to win the lightweight championship three times, was involved in a scrape with a woman in Los Angeles, where he works as a laborer. Ike Williams, a Palermo boy from whom Carter won the lightweight title, is scrambling for a living.
Once, when Blinky was in a jam, Johnny Saxton signed a paper that referred to Blinky as "my manager, my friend and my adviser...honest and trustworthy." Now Johnny is in a jam. Has Friend Blinky come up from Philadelphia to help him?
"None of Saxton's fair-weather friends has stepped forward," said his lawyer, David Fay, last week, as he scrounged in vain for bail money.
Someone, says Yale's swimming coach Bob Kiphuth, "is always asking, 'What's he holding back? What's his trick?' The answer is 'Nothing.' We've never had a gimmick here except the ability to roll up our sleeves, spit on our hands and convolute our brains a little."
On this simple formula, John Robert Herman Kiphuth, now a robust 68, has designed and built championship swimming teams at Yale for half a century.
"Swimming has changed very little since I came here," said Kiphuth last week. "And the reason we've lost only 12 out of 528 dual meets in all that time is not that we know something special. The only way to get the full reward of sport is to be in condition. We spend the first three months of the term building up muscles and building up more muscles on those muscles. After that, I don't care if the boy is Humpty Dumpty and can't make it across the pool. He's on the team and we never cut him. And since we began here, only two boys who came out all four years didn't make their letter."
Bob Kiphuth, the son of a Tonawanda, N.Y. millwright, came to New Haven as a physical education instructor in 1914. He was put in charge of the swimming team one fall afternoon in 1917, when the regular coach suddenly got sick. His teams started winning at the outset ("I loved winning then and I love it now," he says).
In later years Kiphuth introduced such devices as flutter boards, lane mirrors and traveling underwater movie cameras. And in the early '30s, he helped design the huge Gothic Payne Whitney Gymnasium (the "Temple of Sweat"), which contains the only indoor long-course pool in the U.S. But for all that, he never tampered with swimming's basic strokes. "Why in hell should I?" he asks, with his best poolside irascibility. "I haven't seen the man yet, here or anywhere else, who could really use the ones already around. I wouldn't waste my time."
For a man whose whole life has been swimming (he has coached lour Olympic teams and 200 non-Yale swimmers), Bob Kiphuth has a remarkable regard for scholarship. He has written four books himself, and his quarters in Timothy Dwight College are lined with 7,000 volumes whose subjects range from the fine arts to physical education. "The swimming is only for fun," he once said. "Studies are what count. I will say this, though: if my boys weren't going to college and I could work them 10 miles a day, I'm sure nearly all of them would go to the top. That's why the Australians have the edge on most of us. They simply work harder."
This week, after meeting and beating Harvard for the 19th consecutive time, Bob Kiphuth (like his old friend and rival, Harvard's Hal Ulen, 66) is headed for retirement. But this fact has in no way impaired his zest for rolling up his sleeves.
"I've got my buttons and I've got at least 10 years of work ahead of me," he says. "My big worry is whether I can find time to do it."
The Most on the Ice
Until very recently the ancient Scots sport of curling was thought of by Americans south of the Canadian border as largely an old man's game played by grizzled sportsmen in tarns and kilts on the ice ponds of swank New England country clubs. Even in Canada itself, where curling caught on from the very first (Alberta's curlers were granted a charter by Scotland's Royal Caledonian Curling Club a year before their territory became a full-fledged province), the prerogative of age was rigorously sustained. Good, smooth ice was comparatively rare in the days before mechanical refrigeration, and the oldsters didn't want gawky kids cluttering up the few available gleaming sheets.
Canada's kids, however, showed no inclination to be shoved aside like a badly placed stone by a lot of testy grownups. All over the nation kids were busy approximating the official 38-pound curling stones by molding concrete in one-gallon jam buckets and sliding them across whatever ice they could find. Jam-pail bonspiels were the common curling equivalent of American sandlot baseball.
Since World War II and the sudden increase of artificial ice rinks, the teen-age curlers have taken over in a big way. Of an estimated 400,000 Canadian curlers 70,000 are schoolboys. Teen-age curlers outnumber teen-age hockey players by four to one, according to reliable estimates. Furthermore, curling is the only Canadian sport of any kind which boasts an official national annual championship tournament on the schoolboy level.
On the home ice of the Western Hockey League's Calgary Stampeders, Canada's 44 top schoolboy curlers, their many-hued sweaters pockmarked with the badges of local triumphs, gathered recently for this year's national playdown. Some 4,500 curling fans packed the stands to watch the play on five gleaming sheets of ice. In the final rounds Alberta and Ontario stood high with seven wins and two losses apiece; Northern Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec were close behind with six and three. The possibility of a five-way tie seemed imminent, and officials, who had been warned the ice must be cleared away for a Wild West show on the following day, were nervously trying to make arrangements for playoffs at another arena. As the final end (inning) began, the Alberta rink (four-man team) under Skip John Trout, an enthusiast as vociferous as a (Brooklyn) Dodger fan, had pulled ahead, leaving the other four rinks even-up just behind. With Trout's rock neatly in the center of the bull's-eye New Brunswick's skip shot; the crowd was tense and motionless. With every eye on it, the New Brunswick rock slid wide, leaving Trout's rock a stanch winner, and the entire arena exploded in a bedlam of cheers.
For the first time ever, the Alberta rink had won the championship, and its star and skip, John Trout, who has been known to rout his rink out for midnight practice after the oldsters have gone to bed, was all smiles. A teen-ager as well as a curler, he said only: "It's the most!"
They Said It
Frank Lane, general manager of Ike Cleveland Indians, offering to other American League managers a grand strategy for the coming season: "We should all have one objective—to keep the Yankees from winning again."
Terry Brennan, once Notre Dame coach, now in charge of conditioning the Cincinnati Reds: "Once in a while I forget and almost holler for somebody to bring out the shoulder pads and blocking dummies."
James C. Matthews, President of North Texas Stale College, quashing the furor caused when students hung Basketball Coach Pete Sands in effigy after a 70-58 loss to St. Louis University: "Incidents such as these are the best way I know to insure the tenure of a coach at this college."