Symbolism in K.C.
This is an article from the June 15, 1959 issue
In the geography of baseball, Kansas City has rarely been as happily located as it is right now. The Athletics have been in the first division all spring, lead the American League in batting, with four regulars at the .300 mark. And the team has played better than .500 ball from the start.
This does not mean that Kansas City is without its discontents. The trouble is geography, in a way; for years, ardent publicists have taken advantage of Kansas City's inland location by making it known as the Heart of America, with its symbol a big heart. Now when the Athletics were located in Philadelphia their symbol was a big elephant. When the franchise was sold to Kansas City, the elephant symbol went along with the team.
There it affronted the pride of members of the Southside Democratic Club. A South Kansas City merchants' association took up the cause. Before anybody was quite aware of it, a considerable movement had developed to replace the elephant with the heart, and the Athletics were beginning to think uneasily of the day when they would have large hearts sewed on their uniforms, like so many Valentines, and what hostile fans and bench jockeys might say about that.
On May 28 Charles Fisher (Democrat) introduced a resolution in the city council. The elephant, he orated, was not in keeping with the Heart of America. While he didn't quite spell it out, he got across the idea that the elephant was not in keeping with the symbol of the Democratic Party either. Fisher's resolution passed 7 to 1, with the lone Republican on the city council voting to stand pat. The resolution as passed did not, to be sure, outlaw the elephant symbol, or make the heart symbol compulsory, but it did call upon the ball club to replace the Gothic A and the elephant on the players' shirt fronts, at least on out-of-town games, with something solid like KANSAS CITY.
Last week petitions to the same effect were circulating in Kansas City. Said the Chamber of Commerce, in a hasty statement: "We have not taken a stand on this matter." Nor had the old left-hander who frequently turns up from Independence, Harry Truman, though obviously, in a matter of this kind, his feelings about elephants could be taken for granted.
As for the Kansas City A's themselves—well, a club spokesman spoke for them. "All they have on their minds," he said, "is staying in the first division. They don't care if you put FRANK LANE LOVES GEORGE WEISS across the front," he declared, opening up still more awesome possibilities, "so long as they continue playing .500 ball."
A modern dante once depicted the special Hades of golfers as a course whose perfection of tee, green and fairway was beyond anything known to mortal man. Its private clubhouse was a bower of infinite beauty and its bar an empyrean spring. Its caddie house was peopled with young men as tactful as Jeeves, as wise as Bob Jones and as quietly indefatigable as old Enos Slaughter. The bags they carried were loaded with exquisite sets of matched irons and woods cunningly designed to make Sam Sneads of the veriest duffer. What then was the catch in this vision of joy? The hell of it was simply that there were no golf balls.
While no mortal golfer as far as we know has yet experienced quite such hellish frustration as this, few of us have escaped the sample that occurs when, on a perfect morning on an ideal course after a flawless drive and an inspired approach, we take three putts on the green.
One way to balance things up and regain an approximation of heaven after such an experience is to give your clubs to the caddie and renounce the game forever. A better and easier way is to move to San Francisco and join the Tri-Putt Club, or maybe start one of your own. The San Francisco Tri-Putters are a group of West Coast golfers whose dedication to the game often outstrips their skill. To maintain an even keel on the lip of constantly threatening discouragement, they have negotiated a solemn compact by which each of them contributes $5 to a common fund whenever he three-putts a hole. This nonsinking fund is thereupon invested in the stock market, where unearned increments have been spreading out like scar tissue to cover the spiritual wounds of the frustrated duffers.
The worst putter in the Tri-Putts is its president, Anthony Bottari, who has paid out the maximum $25-a-week limit for bad putting 11 times since the club's founding at New Year's. Since Tony is also a stockbroker, it is his business to sink the club's money into suitable financial holes. At the latest reading he and his fellow duffers had putted themselves $2,000 worth of profitable holdings.
"Who knows," said one of them last week, "we may end up owning an apartment house. If we do, I for one am going to insist on tightly woven carpets for home putting practice."
Flycycle Built for Three
Perhaps the most encouraging thing about this automated age is that there is still always someone who wants to do it the hard way. No number of helicopters can deter the dedicated mountaineer from clambering upwards rock by rock; the horse goes right on plodding along in happy coexistence with the automobile; and in the engineering offices of Pratt and Whitney Aircraft a young man dreams of putting himself right out of business.
The young man is Hank North, a Canadian with an advanced degree in engineering from Britain's College of Aeronautics. Hank's business in the Montreal plant of Pratt and Whitney is helping to design and build better aircraft engines, but his sustaining dream (dreamed on his own and not company time, of course) is to build an airplane that will fly without the aid of any engine whatever. Not a glider, mind you, but an airplane, i.e., something that will take off, fly and land on manpower alone.
Like Da Vinci and many another dreamer of similar dreams before him, young North is handicapped by the fact that man, as an engine, is a highly inefficient prime mover. Under normal circumstances he just can't generate enough power to get himself off the ground, not and carry a plane along with him, anyway. Even the best man can produce only one and one third horsepower and can sustain even this puny effort for only about 20 seconds.
This is not, North reasons, enough to carry an airplane aloft, but it might be enough to carry a part of an airplane aloft if the plane were properly designed with minimum drag and maximum lift potential. With such a plane and not one but three (count 'em, three) strong men to push it, North feels, the trick might well be turned. The way he sees it, the plane will be of approximately Piper Cub size, with one man seated amidships and two others close behind him, all pedaling like fury on a bicyclelike gear to spin a propeller in the plane's tail.
With the right men pedaling ("We can use a crew of average athletes," says North, "not necessarily world champions"), and the plane performing according to specifications, North figures he could achieve a man-powered flight of close to a mile over a period of two or three minutes before his athletes collapsed. All he needs now to become airborne is the athletes, the plane and approximately $25,000 for expenses.
"A refreshing prospect of the whole undertaking," says Hank North, his eyes alight with enthusiasm, "is that it will have absolutely no commercial value whatever."
Among other distinctions, Dr. Robert Lieghton is known for a rare and difficult operation on damaged ligaments in the legs of dogs. More specifically, other veterinarians speak of him as the best man on the anterior cruciate. If these phrases communicate little to outsiders it is no reflection on them, for the anterior cruciate is so complex in its workings that it is almost necessary to witness Dr. Lieghton's operation to understand what it involves. Briefly, however, damage to the ligament means a dog can't move his leg—run, jump, scratch, or anything else.
Black Boy XI is a nine-year-old Labrador retriever, winner of a roomful of trophies, owned by Lewis Green-leaf, a sportsman and business executive of Greenwich, Conn. Among experts on American field dogs, Black Boy is regarded as outstanding; he isn't the national champion, but in the complicated hierarchies of field trial winners it doesn't make much difference—he has won so many events even his owner has to look up the record to see what they are. And last fall Black Boy suddenly went lame.
He held up his left hind leg, and couldn't move it. All conventional treatment failed to have any effect, and Greenleaf was ready to have Black Boy destroyed when he heard about Dr. Lieghton, who is the head surgeon at the Animal Medical Center in New York. Now, what happens when an animal of championship caliber, valued at many thousands of dollars, faces a major operation? The achievements of human surgery have become fairly well known, but operations on animals have not. For one thing, Black Boy was a superb patient. He was given a light anesthetic to permit examination. A pair of crossed ligaments, one anterior and one posterior, are involved in all the movements of a dog's knee. Dr. Paatsma, a Finnish veterinarian working in the United States eight years ago, discovered that when the ligament, the anterior cruciate, is broken, there is a certain looseness in the knee, a slight sideways motion that is not possible if the ligament is whole. This is the only outward indication of what causes lameness in such cases. Black Boy was anesthetized because, says Dr. Lieghton, "You can't tell anything if the dog is frightened and his muscles tense."
The operation, which took about an hour, was performed on the second floor of the Animal Center, soon to be replaced by a $6 million animal hospital and laboratory. Masks over faces in the ether-drenched air prevented comments. The bones of Black Boy's left hind leg were uncovered, and the anterior cruciate, stretching over the upper part of the knee and under the lower, was found to be destroyed. (Why and how such damage occurs is not known, and the accident need not be a dramatic one: a dog makes a running turn, perhaps, and comes back lame.) It is, of course, impossible for science to duplicate the amazing symmetry and efficiency of nature's arrangement of the muscles in the knee. But a working substitute is possible. For the material for a substitute ligament Dr. Lieghton used fascia, a heavy, thick, fibrous tissue taken from Black Boy's thigh. He drilled a hole through the bone and drew his substitute ligament down the leg, over the knee, through the hole he had drilled and back up the leg. He put a standard splint on the leg, and Black Boy was immobilized for about a week.
"I can't praise that dog too much," said Dr. Lieghton the other day when word came that Black Boy was again winning firsts, this particular one a Talbot County, Maryland event. "He's a very bold dog. As soon as the splint was taken off, he was ready to go, started right off. He has an admirable disposition. When not working he's quiet, very gentlemanly. He took well to confinement. As soon as I came near him his happiness indicator—that's his tail, of course—would start to work. After he was released to Greenleaf I went up to Greenwich to see him. He was worked in a big field there, about 15 acres; his trainer, Ray Staudinger, deserves a lot of credit. Black Boy was put through his paces—signaled, near and far retrieving, everything. He's a very wonderful dog. If I hadn't known which leg I operated on I couldn't have told which leg had been injured."
The big red horse in stall 50 at Hollywood Park eyeballed with unblinking amazement the five dudes coming his way. It didn't take much horse sense to know they didn't belong there: their fingernails were manicured, the brass buttons on their cashmere jackets glinted in the morning sun and the long drink of water in jodhpurs had more hair than a lead pony. Then the horse got the drift and understanding came on like the Lone Ranger: Show Business, which has always considered Silky Sullivan one of its own, had come to do the scene with him.
The plot was horse-opera simple. Johnny Cash, a high-riding cowboy singer, had composed a little number called The Ballad of Silky Sullivan. To get the recording some little-deserved but much-needed publicity ("Silky came up for the kill/Passed 'em all like standing still"), a press agent's photographer was going to snap pictures while Johnny Cash sang and Silky simpered.
Silky was obliging to a fare-thee-well. He is not much of a race horse but he is a confirmed actor, and while Johnny Cash plunked a guitar and mourned through three verses of I Don't Like It But I Guess Things Happen That Way (a current hit?), Silky affected a dreamy look and nuzzled guitar and guitarist. The photographer and the three press agents with Johnny Cash fairly danced with the success of the venture. (It was written in a Los Angeles newspaper last year that Silky was thataway about Cash's singing; this was the first demonstrable proof.) "Well, you ask me if I'll forget my baby," sang Cash in a fourth reprise as if his heart would break. "I don' know, I cain't say. I don' like it but I guess things happen that way." And when both horse and singer had wearied of that, Cash changed his tune. "Don't take your guns to town, son, leave your guns at home," he implored, and Silky Sullivan was again reduced to a sentimental, nuzzling sop.
But the point of the meeting was being ignored. "Play The Ballad of Silky Sullivan for him," said the photographer, remembering the point and rushing to reload. "What?" said Johnny Cash. "The Ballad of Silky Sullivan," said a press agent. "Sing that." "I can't sing that," said Singer-Composer Cash. "I don't remember the words."
Outside Looking In
Even though, as journalists, we can when necessary whip out a phrase like arbiter elegantiarum, we had not up to now thought ourselves qualified for the role the phrase described. The elegancies of high society we had thought in our rough and hornyhanded way were all a matter of iced punch and petit fours at garden parties and an air of exquisite boredom at the opera. Pulling a respectful forelock, we were content to leave the expertism in such matters to magazines like our British colleague Queen, which always knows exactly whom to snub and when to look bored.
"Society," the editor of Queen tells us with an indolent yawn, "is entirely a matter of who is 'in' and who is 'out.' " This we knew before. What we didn't know until Queen's man told us was how closely the criteria of inmanship on the British Isles parallels our own concerns.
"Ascot, Lords, the Royal Academy and Henley," says Queen's editor, "are still very smart and important." Well, Ascot is a race track, Lords is a cricket field (pardon us, pitch) and Henley is a river site known for its crew races. Four standards of inmanship and three are sporting in nature.
"Shooting and hunting," the authority goes on, "are terribly 'in' and if you have an estate and don't shoot or hunt, you are a joke—despicable." A proper "in," we learn further, doesn't even measure his land in acres but in potential bags. "I have a little place in Devon," he'll say, for instance, "not much, of course, only four days' first shootin' " (i.e., 8,000 to 10,000 acres).
Then there are horses. "The horse," says the Queen's man, "is definitely an 'in' animal, and it is very smart to own horses and go in for racing. But," he adds, "you must win." Now that is something we—and we suspect most of our readers—can definitely understand. Anyone who touts us on to a horse that runs out of the money with our deuce on his nose—he certainly ain't "in," he ain't even no gentleman.
The dark horse won the Derby, yes,
But ever after that
He'd not go on the track unless
Allowed to wear his hat.
—HARVEY L. CARTER
A golfer's dedication to his game has been so overworked by cartoonists it is a cliché seldom believed or laughed at. Yet last week in Pittsburgh while the Alcoma Golf Club was being consumed by a $225,000 fire, its members, with contrasting coolness, kept right on playing. And this photo-cartoon proves it.
They Said It
Ingemar Johansson, on why he has been throwing so few hard rights in training camp: "What good is a sparring partner sitting down?"
Frantisek Vodslon, Czechoslovak Olympic Committee chairman, exultant over the expulsion of Nationalist China from the International Olympic Committee: "A defeat for the reactionary forces in the IOC; it constitutes an important step toward the solution of the question of two Chinas."
Frankie Frisch, Hall of Fame second baseman, working a playful hit-and-run on present-day infielders: "How can anybody make an error now? They wear gloves that come up to the elbow."
Victor Denny, U.S. Lawn Tennis Association president, answering critics of amateur athletics: "The tragedy is not excessive funds, but insufficient funds to live on properly. If a nation wants its athletes to be recognized as first-class citizens, they should be permitted to travel first-class."