Back in Nero's day, the Roman sports fan was a pretty uncomplaining character. All he asked of a Saturday afternoon at the Colosseum was a pride of good, hungry lions, a handful of scrawny Christians and a good seat. He had little doubt about the way the thing would turn out. Barring some occasional Androcles to stage a fluke, the lions always won and the Christians always lost.
The modern American baseball fan is somewhat harder to please. He is, in fact, approximately as fickle, as fussy and as fastidious as a gourmet with a gastric ulcer. He is a perennial champion of the underdog, provided the dog stays under, and he loves a winner, just as long as the winner doesn't win too much. An exacting perfectionist and a sentimental slob at one and the same time, he is utterly intolerant of bumbling incompetence and acidly derisive of skilled self-confidence. In his highest evolutionary form, in fact, he is not a fan at all, but an antifan.
For several seasons now—or has it been several centuries?—the most enthusiastic antifans, and hence the most ardent baseball lovers, in the U.S. have found their inspiration in the apparent and infuriating invincibility of the New York Yankees. Because the Yankees possessed all those qualities the Yankee hater most admired in the national game, the Yankee hater had to hate them. After all they left him nothing to hope for. Their invincibility was not a mere partisan wish but an ugly fact, as inevitable as the 90 feet that separate the bases on an official diamond, and as much a part of baseball. Whatever was right or wrong with baseball could be blamed somehow on the fact that the Yankees were too damn powerful. In their 20th century Bronx amphitheater, these perennial league leaders strode as arrogantly and indefeasibly as Nero's lions, and all the other teams in either league were at best poor Christians, armored with hope and faith but doomed to martyrdom.
The whole point and purpose of organized major league baseball in the U.S. was, in its simplest statement, to get the Yankees. Then came the year 1959.
May 24, 1959
We have no exact way of knowing from this point in history just how the fans lined up in the Rome of Nero's day. We think it is fairly safe to say they were probably pro-Christian for the most part, with the lion fans restricted to a few surly experts with a connoisseur's eye for artistic dismemberment. The lions, we feel, got the applause; the Christians got the cheers. They did, that is, until they began winning. There is solid historical evidence to show that the whole balance of ancient sentiment began falling apart pretty badly once the Christians forsook their underdog role. Is some such epochal change, we now ask ourselves, facing U.S. baseball?
The New York Yankees of 1959, as the lead article in this magazine explains in some detail, are certainly acting very little like lions.
The fact is they more closely resemble treed alley cats.
Beaten and bruised by even such habitual basement dwellers as the Washington Senators and the Detroit Tigers, the team that was never once headed in last year's pennant race now bobbles along in seventh place, losing game after game. Attendance was bad at ball parks all over the U.S. (with the exception of the exceptional West Coast) in 1958 because—said the Yankee haters—the Yanks were too good. This year attendance is down even further (by 383,359) in the National League, but it is up in both the American League as a whole and in the Yankees' own stadium. The fans are plainly flocking to the scent of blood, but whose blood, we wonder, do they want to see flow. Where do the antifans stand now? Are Mr. Stengel's boys still lions to be jeered at and crowed over as they lurk in a corner of temporary defeat awaiting the moment to pounce again and strike terror into the hearts of all of us? Or are they now Christian martyrs doomed to certain defeat and hence worthy of our cheers?
Yankee hater! Yankee pitier! Quo vadis?
Voice of the Bells
At 11:16 a.m. one hazy, sunshiny day last week, Donald Campbell, an old teddy bear in the cockpit alongside him for luck, left the base jetty on England's Lake Coniston to break his world water-speed record of 248.62 mph.
"Feel your way," said Chief Mechanic Leo Villa over the radiotelephone, and Bluebird was off in a shower of spray on the first of two runs over the measured kilometer. At 11:19 the timekeepers signaled Campbell that his downlake speed had been 275.15 mph; excellent. At 11:22, Villa signaled that the wash had smoothed and gave Campbell clearance for the return dash. "Take it easy, old man," he said.
Bluebird jetted uplake in its own spray cloud again and passed the kilometer marker. Over the radiotelephone came the voice of Campbell in mild discouragement: "Afraid I have missed it. I was slow."
Back went a cheery message from shore to Campbell: "Turn again, Whittington!"
Doubletalk? Not to Campbell, a fellow who saves teddy bears and remembers his childhood stories. He had done 245.55 mph on the return dash, for an average of 260.35 and a new world record. And the shore had given him Dick Whittington's old assurance, as in the bell voices of Bow Church, that he was a cinch for Lord Mayor of London.
"Well, I never," said Donald Campbell.
Tokyo in 1964?
The world of sport is having one of its quadrennial elections next week. The scene is Munich, the electors are the 60-odd members of the International Olympic Committee (Avery Brundage, president), first prize is the right to play host to the 1964 summer Olympics and the candidates are Detroit, Tokyo, Vienna and Brussels. Election Day is on or about May 25, and a simple plurality will decide. Here's a condensed dope sheet:
Vienna and Brussels are given very little chance to win, especially under a voting procedure which tends to settle everything on the first ballot. If IOC rules required an outright majority for a choice, and thus encouraged the emergence of a compromise candidate from a smoke-filled room, Vienna and Brussels could be taken as serious dark horses. In the circumstances, put them both down as cities really anxious to play host to the Olympics of 1968, 1972 or thereafter.
Detroit has been an earnest bidder for the summer Olympics ever since the mid-'30s. Detroit asked for the Olympics of 1936 (awarded to Adolf Hitler's Berlin), for those of 1940 (awarded to Tokyo and then postponed), those of 1944 (again postponed), those of 1948 (awarded to London), those of 1952 (awarded to Helsinki), those of 1956 (awarded to Melbourne) and those of 1960 (awarded to Rome). Fred Matthaei, Detroit industrialist, who has led every campaign since the mid-'30s, will be leading the Detroit delegation in Munich again next week. Don't count him out. For one reason, the electors of the IOC, who include such old-school characters as Grace Kelly's father-in-law, Prince Pierre of Monaco, are inclined to lend a courteous ear to any city that has offered its hospitality for a generation.
For another reason, Russia and her assorted Iron Curtain colleagues could conceivably go right down the line for Detroit. Admittedly, this involves a species of Kremlin-gazing which has proved risky on other fronts. But the argument goes like this: Red China is likely to be outside the Olympics looking in again because of Red China's refusal (as at Melbourne) to take part in the same Games with Formosa's Nationalist Chinese. (The Russians are all set to make a losing fuss about this at Munich.) Now Detroit's chief rival for 1964 is Tokyo, and the argument goes that Russia would rather see the Olympics in Detroit than in Tokyo if, in sight of all Asia, Chiang Kai-shek and Co. turned up on the inside again, with Mao Tse-tung and Co. on the outside.
Tokyo nonetheless has to be called the preconference favorite. Why? Because Japan has never had the Olympics. Because the head of the Tokyo delegation to Munich next week will be the distinguished Governor (i.e., Mayor) of Tokyo, Dr. Ryutaro Azuma, eminent 65-year-old physician, onetime rowing coach of the University of Tokyo, onetime president of Japan's Amateur Athletic Association. Educated in London, a confident speaker and a member, no less, of the International Olympic Committee, Ryutaro Azuma will lead his Munich delegation with a mixture of persuasive oratory and a sound approach to fundamental vote-getting. Since January Azuma has had legates touring Asia, Latin America and Europe, including Moscow, Warsaw, Prague and Budapest, to lobby for Tokyo in 1964. Nobody else has thought of such old-fashioned salesmanship.
"Personally," says Azuma, "I believe Tokyo will get the Games." On an old grass-roots basis, you almost have to go along with Azuma.
Man vs. Moray
Telegraphic suggestion to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED from Miami Correspondent William Shelton: YOU MIGHT WANT TO COVER PLANNED MORAY EEL MASSACRE BY 50 TO 60 SKIN DIVERS OFF FORT LAUDERDALE SATURDAY. MORAYS ARE PROBABLY WORST ENEMY OF SKIN DIVERS AND ARE VICIOUS RETALIATORY STRIKERS. IDEA IS TO ELIMINATE AS MANY MORAYS AS POSSIBLE FROM SKIN-DIVING WATERS.
Memo of opinion from Associate Editor Coles Phinizy, skin diver:
"Trust we will do nothing about this except protest. Idea of 50 skin divers setting forth to clean out moray eels is like setting forth to extirpate the last of the black bears from the Adirondacks. A bear will rip the hell out of a human if cornered or surprised, or if wounded and trapped. A moray will do the same; if you drive a spear through his body it makes him mad and he wants to bite, which is just what any living creature should want to do.
"There is absolutely no evidence that the eel is doing anything more than its evolutionary duty of keeping all manner of things in balance. I have dived at night when eels are freely swimming about, and eels, like most others, avoid you. If you stick a hand or foot into an eel's cranny, he will clamp down. If someone stuck a hand or foot into my cranny at 216 Token-eke Road, Darien, Conn. I would do the same."
Wire from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED to Miami: RE YOUR SUGGESTION, WOULD LIKE DETAILS AND RATIONALIZATION OF MORAY FORAY.
"A few hours after 29 members of the Florida Skin Divers Association completed their first moray massacre tournament in waters off Fort Lauderdale, a conservation-minded sportsman (me) approached three of the divers and asked the boys if they didn't think they might be upsetting the balance of nature.
" 'No,' said J. C. Jones, I don't think we're upsetting the balance of nature...not when you catch just two eels.'
" 'Maybe those eels read the papers,' said A. L. Honaker, who spent a fruitless four and a half hours in the water.
"What was the reason for the eel hunt?
" 'A number of divers have been bit by eels,' said Andy Torony. He admitted that the moray rarely attacks unless provoked. 'But sometimes you get attacked when you're not hunting them. You could be looking for lobsters down there and never see the moray, they blend so closely in the reefs.'
"But why the massacre attempt?
" 'Well, it's like this,' Torony said. 'We are hosts to this quarterly meeting of the Florida Skin Divers Association. They wanted to have some sort of tournament, so we decided to try a moray eel hunt. We took the moray because it's a fish that fights back.... The moray is a good, sporting fish to pick on. Another reason we picked the moray was to build up good will. Skin diving is rated the lowest type of fishing there is. The moray, now, devours lots of fish in the reefs, and we're out there trying to conserve fish, not deplete them. The last thing an honest skin diver wants to do is catch more fish than he can eat. They're a vicious thing, morays....'
"Does the moray have the right to fight back?
" 'Absolutely,' said Torony. 'Every right in the world. And they do.'
"Torony said the divers had planned to make the moray hunt an annual affair. After the day's events he wasn't so certain: 'We may decide to switch to barracudas instead. Probably make a better showing, anyway. The barracuda's a fish that needs to be cleaned out.' "
I'll Cry Tomorrow
It was Bob Friend talking; half talking to himself, maybe; Bob Friend, the still young, handsome, strong-wristed Golden Boy of the Pittsburgh Pirates' pitching staff, the Golden Boy whose gold had somehow lost its shine. "Look," he said with just a hint of truculence as the reporter approached, "I know what you want. You want to know what's wrong. How come Bob Friend, who won 22 games last season, hasn't won any yet this year? Well, the answer is I don't know. My arm feels good. I'm throwing as well as ever. The guys say I got good stuff. I've had good stuff five out of seven times. I have been hit hard only twice even though I've lost six. I've just got to hang in there is all."
Pitcher Friend puffed agitatedly on his cigar. He stared at the ceiling of the hotel coffee room as he put his thoughts in order.
"This thing goes in streaks," he observed. "Good Lord, I lost five in a row last year. But because I had won a lot of games—I was nine and four, I believe, at the time—no one made a big thing out of it. But you're not supposed to lose a game if you won 22 the year before. You're supposed to win. You get off to a bad start and it seems all the more revealing."
He flicked ashes off his cigar. "The fans have been very good. They haven't been on me. I've gotten swell letters. I must have gotten dozens of good-luck charms." He laughed. "I got a 1951 penny, rabbit-feet. I got a Catholic medal and I'm not a Catholic. I got a dozen four-leaf clovers encased in plastic.
"The guys have been boobing me a little bit. Not on the field. They're very encouraging on the field, and I don't get the feeling they're holding their breath for me. But there are things like Klu [Ted Kluszewski] noticing I'm rooming with Paul Giel.... Paul has been having his troubles, too, this year. So Klu wants us to break up rooming together. 'Whatever you are talking about, it's not doing you any good. You guys are putting each other in a slump.' Of course, you understand, it's just kidding. The other guys kid a little bit, but they say, 'Gee, if you can just win one of these things, you'll be on your way.' "
Friend paused to relight his cigar. "But I plan to win a few ball games. I'm not figuring to get down now. If I were 35 or 36 years old and had a sore arm, I'd be worried. But I'm 28 and my arm feels fine.
"Three or four years ago, it might have gotten me down. I would have been in rough shape mentally. But I've been in this game long enough now—nine years—to know things can go the other way just as easily. I should have won three games at least. In two games I blew three-run leads. Now look at it this way: say I win three ball games, we're ahead of Cincinnati, aren't we?"
Friend went on. "It's frustrating as hell to feel good and have stuff and go out there and be ahead of most of the hitters but still find that every bad pitch costs you. Every bad pitch I have made has cost me. Sometimes you get away with a lot of bad pitches. The hitter isn't always ready. But he's ready for me.
"Actually, the hardest I have been hit this year was in my second game against Cincinnati. Even balls that were caught were hit hard. Once Cincinnati got five runs in one inning, and the Cincinnati players said they never saw me with better stuff. But Cincinnati is tough in that ball park of theirs. Jerry Lynch hurt me. No, I'm not unusually susceptible to left-hand hitters. I got a sinking fast ball that's kinda tough for them to hit out of there."
He paused and watched the note-taking, then suddenly looked up. "Look," he said, "you're not going to make this out a sad story, are you? I mean, I feel confident. I'm not crying in my beer. I don't go along with this hard-luck business. I feel this way: I'm going to get out of it. It's just a question of which game now. You remember Frank Lary of Detroit was four and 10 at the All-Star Game in 1956 and he wound up winning 21. As soon as I get that first one, I'll be O.K."
Decision in Texas
Lewis Qualls of Houston, the seven-foot honor student and basketball whiz we were telling you about (SI, April 20), has finally made his choice among the 64 colleges that have been after him: Texas A&M. Why? Well, among other things, of all the colleges he visited, Texas A&M was the only one thoughtful enough to show him an eight-foot bed.
Official Starter Two-gun Pete
Can liven up a dull track meet;
He fires a blank to start the race,
Then five real slugs to speed the pace.
—HARVEY L. CARTER
They Said It
Sam Snead, 46, after shooting a record-breaking 59 in his own golf festival at White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.: "I always wanted to break 60 in tournament play before I hung up my sticks. Now that I've done it, I'm not going to hang up those sticks after all."
Harmon Killebrew, Washington Senator third baseman, on how it feels to be making good on the same team as his boyhood hero (and fellow-Idahoan), the legendary Walter Johnson: "Now I'm on his team. It's still a dream. Harmon Killebrew and Walter Johnson. Silly, isn't it?"
Leverett Saltonstall, Senator from Massachusetts, on his general physical condition 45 years after he and Harvard classmates became the first American crew to win Britain's Grand Challenge Cup: "My wind is wonderful. How else could it be in my line of work?"
Frank Lane of the Cleveland Indians, heaping scorn on the New York Yankees for canceling a game on the basis of a few drops of rain and a weather forecast: "I told everybody this spring that the Yankees weren't invincible. Now they're inaccessible. You can't find them to play them."