The Blast to Come
It won't be long now, an oldtimer was saying the other day, until the baseball park will spring back into life. "There'll be the umpire shouting 'Play ball!' and the crack of ash on horsehide," was the way he put it. "There'll be the husky shout of the hot-dog man and the throaty roar of the crowd."
Poor oldtimer. He's heard baseball and all the clichés all right, but he hasn't heard of Walter O'Malley's latest. Mr. O'Malley, who last year changed baseball's geometry with a 250-foot left-field fence, this year is changing baseball's sound. To do it, he has authorized a bugle concession for the salesmen in Los Angeles Coliseum. And if all goes well (and in Los Angeles it will), the crack of ash on horsehide and all the rest of it will give way to the decibels of 20,000 bugles, priced within reach of just about everybody at $1. "And if the demand warrants," adds Danny Goodman, the Dodger concession manager, "we'll order more."
Horsaholics in Moscow
March 23, 1959
With all the talk about superior education, more powerful rockets, better basketball teams and the Kremlin knows what else, it is comforting to think that Moscow's man in the street has weaknesses just like the rest of us.
We have long had it on the word of bibulous Nikita Khrushchev himself that an occasional good Communist tends to nurse the vodka bottle too long and too lovingly, just as the subjects of the Czars were wont to do. Now we learn—sadly, to be sure, but with a grain of satisfaction as well—that the horsaholic, or compulsive bettor, is as familiar a figure at the tote windows of Moscow's race track as he is elsewhere in the world.
With sternly youthful disapproval, the official organ of Moscow's Young Communist League last week published a dossier of letters describing the decline and fall of a number of promising young Reds enchanted with the beguiling odds at the Moscow Hippodrome. There was, for one, the machine-tool operator Anatoli Pukhov whose life was "normal, even good, until a friend lured me to the races and taught me to play that accursed totalizator.
"Once I won," confessed Anatoli, "then I started losing. I gambled away all my pay, hocked my watch and even stuck my hand in someone else's pocket."
Sadder still was the case of a chief bookkeeper named Kachurin who in the course of a year at the betting windows gambled away a million rubles that were not his and hid out for five years in faraway Ashkhabad before the cops tracked him down.
The Communist Youth editors themselves cited the case of a brave ex-soldier who had lost his family since he took up betting, and that of a brilliant engineer who forgot all else once he found the tote machines. "Those vile and filthy mementos of the Czarist way of life," concluded the editors, "have got to go."
But with the tote machines merrily clicking off a total of some 5 million bets annually for the railbirds of Moscow and visitors from out of town, it seems unlikely that either the Ministry of Agriculture, which runs the track, or the Ministry of Finance, which collects the bets, will pay much attention.
QUESTION: At exactly 45 seconds after 5:38 the other afternoon a freight train pulled out of Fielding, New Zealand bound for Palmerston North, 12 miles away. It pursued its northerly route at an average speed of 16 mph. Along the way, it made two stops of 7½ and 12½ minutes.
Twenty-nine minutes and 45 seconds before the train left Fielding, a group of distance walkers strode off the mark in Palmerston North. Bound for the finish line of the New Zealand championship heel-and-toe race, 20,000 meters (12.427 miles) away, they pursued a circuitous route which intersected the railroad track one mile south of Palmerston North and 12.131 miles from the starting line. One of the racers, Norman Read, an Olympic gold medalist, maintained an average 7.9985 mph.
What happened and what time was it?
ANSWER: Norman Read and the train arrived at the crossing at 6:40 p.m., the train ahead by the length of its cowcatcher. As the train labored by, Read raged, gesticulated, swore and danced in frustration. Moreover, during the 30 seconds he had to wait [train's speed (16 miles per hour, or 23.46 feet per second) times train's length (704 feet)], Read's No. 1 rival, Kevin Keough of Australia, who had skittered across just ahead of the train, lengthened his lead invincibly with every stride.
Q. How did Norman Read, his fellow stragglers and officials of the walking championship feel?
A. Like perfect asses.
Mr. B.'s Dream
In this day of moon missiles the graceful three-masted schooners of a seafaring age are about as hard to find as Moby Dick, except in the dreams of imaginative boys. One imaginative boy of 49 years, however, not only owns such a schooner but kept his dream alive for a generation to get it. This man is Ward Bright, real-estate agent and yacht-basin operator in Wildwood, N.J., and his dream concerns the famous 185-foot schooner Atlantic. In 1905 the three-masted Atlantic sailed from Sandy Hook Lightship to Point Lizard, England in 12 days and 4 hours, a transatlantic record never since equaled by a sailing ship. During the passage she also set the noon-to-noon distance record of 341 miles.
Not only was the Atlantic a lady of speed but of beauty as well. One of her owners, Gerard Lambert, wrote in his autobiography All Out of Step of the time she joined a New York Yacht Club cruise: "Suddenly the other yachts in the fleet diminished in importance. The much bigger and more impressive yachts of Vincent Astor and Mr. Morgan appeared dead and inert things."
Bright applied for a berth aboard the Atlantic way back in 1927, when he was 17, but was turned down in favor of a professional sailor. Disappointed, but holding fast to his dream, he never forgot the Atlantic, and kept close watch on her as she passed from rich yachtsman to rich yachtsman until, in 1954, having fallen on bad times, she was sold to a smelting works in Wilmington, Del. Seeing his dream about to disappear, Bright hurried to Wilmington, pleaded with the company president, a sympathetic man who knew the importance of dreams, and purchased her for the price of her metals, just one hour before the workmen were to start tearing her steel hull into scrap.
Towing the great lady to Wildwood, where he could keep an eye on her, he returned to his office to earn enough money to refit her. Last week, nearing the final stages of his dream, Bright was ready to have his schooner towed to a shipyard for final repairs. Late this year he hopes to have her under sail.
"I must have got 18,000 letters from boys who are now at the stage I was at in 1927," said Ward Bright. "The dream is still there; it doesn't die."
How to Write About Sports
Four thousand three hundred twenty-six editors of high school newspapers and magazines, among them a large proportion of the high school sports editors of the nation, have been meeting at Columbia University in a scholastic press association convention, their papers and their discussion groups affording an agreeable opportunity to examine the state of high school sport at the moment. On five long tables in Low Memorial Library, ranged according to size of school, were such fine examples of contemporary youthful journalism as the Murfree Mur-Mur from Murfreesboro, N.C., Liberty Life from Liberty High School in Bethlehem, Pa., The Shorthorn from Marfa, Texas, The Birch Bark from the Birch Wathen School of New York, and several hundred others. A study of their sport pages reveals that the problem of reporting high school sports is the same for schools of all sizes and in all parts of the nation: when we win, the event is epochal, and when we lose, it's hardly worth writing about.
"The Shorthorns played the Rankin Red Devils before the biggest crowd of the season," wrote Garry Adams stoically of a bad afternoon in Marfa, Texas. "Rankin recovered the ball and pushed their way to the 38-yard line and went the distance on one play from there. This was followed by another touchdown. The Red Devils ran 31 yards for their third touchdown. The second half started with Marfa first trying for 'pay dirt' but could not quite cross 'the golden stripe.' Rankin then drove for a touchdown, which was followed by several more."
Still bemused by Editor Adams' account of the Rankin-Marfa fiasco, we followed the sports editors to room 702 of Hamilton Hall, where Jerry Izenberg of the sports staff of the Newark Star-Ledger was to speak on sportswriting as a professional career. He was introduced by the sports editor of the Avon Lake, Ohio, high school paper, who said that Izenberg had been at his present post on the Newark paper for eight years, as if summoning up a span of time the human mind could barely grasp. Dressed in a gray suit, neat and forceful, with only his spectacles and his receding hairline indicating his membership in an older generation, Izenberg began forcefully, "One of the main things..."
The door opened, and 28 sports editors silently filed in. It seemed that some preceding session had run over its allotted time. The speaker waited, undisturbed, while they ranged themselves against the wall at the back of the lecture room. On the blackboard behind Izenberg some intrepid critic of the Columbia Spectator had chalked SPECTATOR STINKS. However, he had apparently been interrupted, for the R was omitted, making it SPECTATO.
"One of the main things," Izenberg continued smoothly, and launched into a talk on objectivity. He said that in much high school sports reporting it seemed that only one team was playing. It was a good speech. The assembled sportswriters listened intently, without interruption, until Izenberg reached ethics. He asked for a little compassion for a losing team, and told a story of a Rutgers sophomore who spoiled an undefeated season by a fumble on the six-yard line. "For the rest of his life," Izenberg said, "people are going to say to him, 'Oh, you're the fellow who fumbled on the six-yard line....' "
"No! No!" cried a young man in the third row. "He's our neighbor! Nobody's said anything to him!"
Izenberg was glad to hear the unfortunate sophomore had been spared and changed the example to Roy Riegels, who ran the wrong way in the Rose Bowl. How many people know he was All-America the next year?
The discussion period began. A tall, thin, philosophical-appearing student had been brooding about Izenberg's suggestion that a sports-writer interview the referee after a game, rather than describe him as a robber. "Your team's leading by a point," said the student carefully, "in the last seconds of the game. There's a foul and everybody sees it, but the referee doesn't call it, and the game ends in a riot. The riot's still going on...." Izenberg and the high school sports editors stared fascinated at this vivid evocation of a gripping moment in high school basketball. The questioner got stage fright. "Well," he ended lamely, "how do you ask him?"
Izenberg admitted that would be difficult.
"What are the prospects," asked a girl whose reddish hair framed an ethereally pale, delicate face, "for women sportswriters?"
These turned out to be pretty bad. After discussion of women being ejected from press boxes, the problem of locker-room discussions, and—well, it's just impossible—it was agreed that girls might cover things like skiing and tennis, since almost everybody was trying to keep from writing about tennis.
It was now time to go to the next discussion group, and a visible movement started toward the door.
"Suppose there's a track meet with first place depending on the outcome of the last race!" cried an intent young man, holding his overcoat and blocking the doorway. He spoke as if he had crossed the country in order to ask his question. "A runner comes in fifth in that last race, and yet that makes his team the winner!"
The room grew quiet again as the editors considered the situation. "How can you play up his part?" said the questioner passionately. "He only came in fifth. If he hadn't come in fifth we wouldn't have won, but how can you make him a hero when he only finished in fifth place?"
"You mean your team's runner came in fifth and that won the meet?" asked Izenberg, pricking up his ears.
"Yes. Otherwise we'd have lost."
"That's very interesting," said Izenberg. The high school sportswriters of the nation nodded in agreement. "You've got a good story right there. A very interesting and unusual lead. Runner Finishes Fifth, Wins Meet...." The door swung open, and the editors swept down the hall to the next discussion in Room 716: How to Express What You Believe.
Ribs on the Fairway
Since World War II hundreds of thousands of Japanese are enjoying the triumphs and frustrations of the Western game called golf. The fact is their enthusiasm for the game often outruns their skill in playing it. This information came to light recently when a Tokyo doctor announced that according to his research Japan's amateurs were far more likely to break ribs than to break 90. After an X-ray survey of 50 professional golfers and 50 amateurs, Dr. Ryoichi Katayama found out the pros were sound to a man, but a full 30% of the amateurs were swinging around the course with rib fractures they knew nothing about.
Golf, Dr. Katayama explains, develops stresses on the body not generally considered. Their appetites whetted by such triumphs as Japan's Canada Cup victory in 1957, many amateurs have taken up the game with little or no thought to conditioning. "When a man happens to be middle-aged," says Dr. Katayama, "he frequently gets a backache. Only it is probably not a backache. More likely, he has broken a rib near the spinal column."
Dr. Katayama's advice to the more mature amateurs of his country is simple enough: use irons instead of woods while learning; warm up muscles before a round; never forget you are middle-aged. An ancient Japanese proverb offered much the same advice: "Crude tactics are the cause of serious wounds."
On the Road
The British Sunday motorist and, indeed, the British road have changed little since Mr. Toad gloriously croaked, "Sit still, and you shall know what driving really is, for you are in the hands of the famous, the skillful, the entirely fearless Toad!"—and shot through a hedge into a ditch.
The capacity of Britain's roads is practically the same today as in 1935 when there were 2.75 million vehicles in England. Today there are 8.5 million, and during the past fortnight came the sober announcement that Ross-on-Wye Cottage Hospital will be modernized to cope with increased casualties expected when Ross Spur Motorway is completed. Heedless of double center lines, arrows, blinking lights, warning signs and the rules of the overcrowded road, Britain's Sunday motorist operates on the theory that a man's Austin is his castle. On any thoroughfare, picnickers blithely park their cars in the stream of traffic, preferably on a blind curve. On any two-lane hill, rackety Morrisses burrow past lorries and buses at 30 mph despite frantic signaling. And on the infrequent four-lane highways, they wheeze and weave among lanes no matter what the rearview mirror shows.
The most unruly of all British drivers are those whose cars display, front and back, the big red L of the apprentice driver; they hurtle about as though L stood for Le Mans, not Learner. Many learners, in fact, have been hurtling for years. With only 850 examiners to deal with 1,345,832 applicants last year (a 40% increase over 1957), there is now a backlog of 250,000 unlicensed motorists. And the learners are multiplying at a formidable rate. In less than two years, 48% of the 2,162,000 Britons who took driving tests flunked, and for many it was not the first time.
A fortnight ago two celebrated Britons finally passed the test. The first had never got around to taking the Ministry of Transport examination because he got a license in 1946—at 16—when tests were not required. "It's a stupid test, anyway," said Stirling Moss, the world's premier Grand Prix driver. "Too many catch questions, which, even if you answer correctly, do not make you a good driver." The examination Moss preferred to take is the considerably stricter one given by the privately sponsored Institute of Advanced Motorists. The Ministry recognizes the Institute's test and insurance companies recognize it, too, by offering reduced rates to those who, in the Institute's words, "have cut themselves adrift from [being] mere road users." Moss's test took 85 minutes, which, according to the Institute, "is of sufficient duration to reveal any inherent weakness or carelessness, however temporarily alert the candidate may force himself to be."
Moss drove his two-tone Standard Pennant runabout and, according to a Daily Herald reporter who accompanied him, was "naughty." The reporter chided Moss for driving several miles with only his right hand, giving no hand signals ("I don't believe in arm-flapping. Anyway it's too cold with the window down," said Moss), smoking at the wheel and occasionally crossing a white line. "I admire his restraint," said Moss's examiner, however. "He's always willing to give the other bloke a chance—not a bit keen on racing anyone."
Since so many Britons have flunked at least one test, the L driver is regarded more with cautious affection than exasperation. Thus, all Britain cheered when a 39-year-old Norfolk laborer, Derek Brown, passed his 30-minute Ministry examination. Brown had been driving with L plates for 22 years, had failed his test 12 times.
An ancient wheeze of the Irish turf tells of a mystified rider who looked down to discover that one of his horse's hind hoofs was caught in the stirrup. "Saints above!" he announced. "If you're goin' to get on, I'm goin' to get off."
We've never known quite what to make of that story—there are so many pregnant, pithy and unanswered questions involved in it—and all we could really do was to put it deliberately out of our mind.
Last week we received a news dispatch that engendered that old mystification in us once more. Since we are unable to cope with it, we give it to you in its entirety. "Thieves," ran the dispatch, "broke open an iron-barred cage at the zoo in Ribeir√£o Preto, Brazil last night, stole two ferocious jaguars and drove away with them in a jeep."
This boxer, quite a cautious fella,
Holds over him a large umbrella.
He's fearful lest his foe, doggone him,
May soon be raining blows upon him.
They Said It
Georges Carpentier, 65, recalling the Dempsey era over cognac in his prosperous Paris restaurant: "You used to have to fight to eat. Nowadays the welfare state—it does too much for you. The boys are soft and they don't fight the way we used to."
Fidel Castro, belatedly reopening a subject that puzzled him at the time: "Why did Haney pitch Burdette instead of Carlton Willey in the seventh game of the World Series?"
Jean-Claude Lefebvre, 7-foot 2-inch French basketball player, on the pleasures of his 18-month stay at Spokane's Gonzaga University: "I met tall girls with whom it was possible for me to dance."
"We can plan your itinerary for you, or, if you wish, we can supply you with all the information and you can louse it up yourself."