What Price Glory?
With Little League Baseball Week currently a matter of national observance, we pass on a story that has just reached us from a correspondent in New Orleans.
A Little Leaguer's mother, the dispatch goes, turned up at the field just in time to see her son being triumphantly carried off the field on his teammates' shoulders.
"Oh," she inquired proudly, "did Jimmy win the game for you-all today?"
"Naw," grumbled her source. "I won it. They're carrying him because he's the lightest."
Crowds at Winged Foot
A Light breeze was murmurous in the ancient elms overhead, the summer grass lightsome and elastic underfoot, and behind 12 miles of red-white-and-blue nylon rope, the spectators at Winged Foot at the National Open were making golfing history. The rope was stretched tautly along broad rippling fairways and around edged emerald greens; the spectators either trudged along outside, following their favorites, or they settled themselves around the greens to wait for the contenders to come up. There had never been so many of them at a National Open before: 14,000 on each of the first two days, 15,000 on the third despite the rain and 10,000 more on the unscheduled, unforeseen postponement Sunday.
They made a far-reaching spectacle in themselves. They were good-tempered and quiet-spoken and in general dressed in sport clothes of vivid and celebratory hues; seen across the benign and sunny grounds, the gallery of 5,000 or so following Ben Hogan looked consciously decorative, as if someone had planted them there. When the weather turned sour on the last two days they turned out in foul-weather garb and defied the wind to blow.
Smaller galleries of a few hundred followed other favorites. From time to time short, spirited, temperate shouts arose. But there was a share of applause for everyone. The most hopeless plodder, with no gallery at all, might find his scrambling iron shot from the rough enthusiastically greeted by some old gentleman in shorts resting under a tree in a deserted grove; somewhere or other there was always someone clapping his hands. The sound was frail, cheerful, human, the reverse of the roar of the crowd. Every New York paper wrote of Winged Foot's crowds. The Mirror's Dan Parker said, "Don't be sure, until you've seen the crowd at Winged Foot, what our national pastime is!"
Now in the summer of 1929, when Bobby Jones won the Open at Winged Foot, there were newspaper references to "his enormous gallery in a frenzy of excitement." And how large was that gallery? It ranged from 150 on the second day, when a downpour reduced the crowd, to 3,000. The actual records of Winged Foot were destroyed in a fire, and there are contradictions in the contemporary published accounts, but the total attendance for the first day was estimated at 3,800, around 4,000 for the second before the rain and around 3,000 each day thereafter.
For that matter, Mamaroneck, N.Y., where Winged Foot is located, didn't pay much attention to golf in 1929. Its population then didn't equal Ben Hogan's gallery last week. It was a quiet village on Long Island Sound where a fair number of theatrical people lived and where the movie Birth of a Nation had been filmed. Winged Foot became famous with Bobby Jones's triumph in the 1929 Open, one of the great legends of American golf. Nobody knows exactly how many people watched the now-famous 12-foot putt at the 18th hole on the final round that gave him a tie with Al Espinosa and his chance in the playoff. Sometimes the accounts suggest that the watchers that day are akin to descendants of the Mayflower; but there could have been at most only a few hundred. The crowd at Winged Foot last week indicated how greatly golf has seized American interest since that day, with neither sport nor crowd declining in quality as a result.
Two for One
Ford Frick confirmed last week what most everybody already knew: for the first time since 1933 there will be not one but two All-Star games this summer. The second game—and the fact is a glistening tribute to the 93,000 Angelenos who turned out with folding money last month to watch the junketing Yankees—will be played in the twilight of August 3 in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Set at a respectable 27-day distance from the first All-Star Game, to be played on July 7 in Pittsburgh, it should, with the help of TV and radio donations, net the major league participants in the neighborhood of $400,000. And that, after all, said Mr. Frick, was the intention in a nutshell.
Pressure for holding the second game came from the players themselves, who hope to gain something substantial for their pension fund. The extra money, 60% of the net, is supposed to be used to help discharge heavy, pressing commitments to the so-called "back service" players who contributed little or nothing to the 12-year-old pension fund before retiring—although the players themselves still have to ratify this benevolent plan, and skeptics point to a remark by Yankee Bob Turley the other day as grounds for keeping fingers crossed. Said Turley: "We are not letting anybody tell us where any of the 60% is going. It is for us to say." The major league club owners, who endorsed the second game at their Columbus, Ohio meeting last month, are committed to sifting their 40% of the take over the minor and juvenile leagues.
None of this, of course, has set well with everyone concerned. Some of the owners objected and voted along with their fellows in Columbus only because they were in the minority ("I'm going to advocate two Christmases," grumbled the Orioles' Paul Richards). Some players, too, have found fault and argued that if two All-Star games are better than one, three are better than two. Even Frick has reservations.
"I don't even say I'm in favor of a second game," says Frick. "I don't know yet, and that we're trying it this year is by no means a commitment to continue it next year. Maybe, as some are saying, we will dilute the whole idea of an All-Star Game, so we'll watch and see. But I'm pretty sick and tired of these guys who say we're doing it only for money and think they havesomething.
Everybody expects baseball to give aid to the retired players and to give aid to the minors. But that takes money. And that, damn it, is what is behind this second All-Star Game. It's for money."
There are, to be sure, two things left for those still opposed. They are not, for one thing, obliged to attend or watch. And if it rains in Los Angeles on August 3 the game will not be postponed, it will be canceled. Since 1877, however, the total rainfall in Los Angeles on August 3 has measured a scant .02 inches.
Skowron of the Month
Because of his daily multi-cup consumption of tea, Bill Skowron, New York Yankee first baseman, was ceremoniously named Athlete of the Year last fall by the Tea Council of America (SI, Oct. 27). How, then, was that compatible with the news released the other day that Bill Skowron has been named Yankee of the Month by a New York milk institute?
No conflict of interests at all, said Skowron, because "the milk award is for how well you play, not how much you drink." As a matter of fact, he added, he takes his tea with lemon.
Not Since Suez have Britons engaged in such soul-searching. The current crisis: Having lost both the Walker Cup and the Amateur to foreigners, what can Britain do about the shattered state of British golf? Inevitably, voluble Henry Cotton had an opinion and a solution; inevitably, also, Cotton's opinion was supported and challenged in the letters column of the august London Times.
The first letter, under the title "Larger Golf Ball," was published June 2:
To the Editor of the Times:
[Mr. Cotton] said that to bridge the current gap between British and American golf there was one prime move to make. We should at once adopt the larger ball...in Britain. [Cotton observed] that ever since the Americans themselves took this course in the 1920s they have gradually pulled away from us. As I understand it Mr. Cotton's contention is that the larger ball demands of the first-class player greater accuracy of hitting, while on or near the green it tends to promote a method of striking which of itself leads to greater efficiency and confidence.... If the larger ball is the answer...surely there is a case for adoption.
P. B. Lucas
House of Commons
Six days later came a rebuttal from a golf ball manufacturer:
...From Mr. Lucas's letter the public might be under the impression that Americans [in the British Amateur] played the American-size ball. Both [finalists] played the British-size ball and, in fact, at least six of the American Walker Cup team did the same.... Concerning Mr. Cotton, we admit that he is an expert at the art of striking the ball, but even he always plays a British-size ball in British tournaments, although it is perfectly legal for him to play the larger ball if he so wishes. The facts concerning a golf ball are that those in the British size and weight are much easier to control in the wind.... To produce the perfect ball so far as flight is concerned, it could be slightly heavier.
A. E. Penfold, Managing Director
Golf Ball Developments Limited
Two days later, slicing slightly away from the original problem, another M.P. weighed in:
Referring to the recent correspondence about the size of golf balls, no mention was made of their velocity. I understand that in the United States maximum velocity is 250 feet a second [with] no minimum. In (Britain] only minimum size and maximum weight are restricted.... I am not, of course, suggesting a return to the gutta ball, but it would pay players of Ryder and Walker Cup class, who are as accurate from 120 yards as from 70, to sacrifice some loss of distance...in exchange for some putts dropping which would otherwise lip the hole. This would be the result with less lively balls of lower velocity than those at present used.
House of Commons
Finally on June 11, came this pithy end to the dispute:
Surely we do not want to use bigger balls. Bigger holes, yes.
A. H. J. Diamant
19 Kingsley Avenue, West Ealing
Five Names to Remember
One of the unforgettable sights of the past decade in trotting was Scott Frost in the stretch for home, skimming the track surface in his low-gaited shuffle, betraying no mark of effort to account for his unbelievable speed. And in the sulky, the wiry, tight-lipped Joe O'Brien, rocking from side to side in rhythm with each stride of his great trotter. Together, these two blazed a memorable trail of victory on the raceways of both coasts and through the traditional Grand Circuit, including the only capture of trotting's Triple Crown—the Ham-bletonian and the Yonkers and Kentucky futurities.
The other day a visitor to the fabled mile track at Goshen, N.Y., the scene of Scotty's Hambletonian victory, could only gape in astonishment as he watched O'Brien circle the clay mile behind, successively, five apparent carbon copies of the Scott Frost of 1955. For this is the year that Scotty's first offspring will be going to the races, and Joe has five of the champion's sons and daughters in training at Goshen for 2-year-old debuts later in the season.
All have inherited a great deal from their sire, in gait, conformation and personality. They have the long hip, the deep chest and girth; on the characteristically low-gaited trot their hind legs also flash out to the side instead of straight back. But most of all, they have Scotty's playful, cheerful approach to the life of a race horse. "You can tell," O'Brien says, "when the horse in front of you is feeling good. These always do. They never sulk, never lay their ears back and refuse to do what you ask. They're willing, usable horses, like Scotty. This crop is really the big test for Scotty as a sire, because none of the mares of these youngsters had real breeding. If they turn out to be good race horses all the credit belongs to him."
The last is only partly true; much of the credit will be Joe O'Brien's. In all of trotting today, with its emphasis on racing aged horses at the night pari-mutuel plants, there are regrettably only a bare handful of superior trainers of colts. Del Miller, Johnny Simpson, Ralph Baldwin—among the oldtimers, Fred Egan. And Joe O'Brien. They combine sheer horsemanship with the infinite patience required in schooling young, gaited horses.
O'Brien skill and Scott Frost blood will be a strong entry in this year's 2-year-old stakes. You might like to make a note of those five names: Pal Joey, Spring Frost, Miss It, Summer Fun, Firm Ruler.
One Down, with Mustard
Fearing the home run hitter's whack,
They wave the outfield farther back
Until, a hot dog in his hands,
The center fielder's in the stands.
They Said It
Joe Gordon, Cleveland Indians manager, dutch-uncling a slump-ridden Rocky Colavito hours before the right fielder slugged four home runs in a single game: "Somebody's printed a rumor that you're being traded. It's a phony. I'd never trade you. I wouldn't trade you anywhere. But if you don't start hitting, I'll send you back to Reading."
Ben Hogan, asked if there was any particular moment during the National Open when he felt nettled: "Once. When I ran out of cigarettes."
Paul Richards, Orioles manager, on Pitcher Billy Loes (who has performed beautifully for Baltimore since Richards unsuccessfully tried to trade him) after Billy's latest hassle with a photographer: "All artists have their eccentricities. Some throw their paint brushes and easels, some push a photographer's cap down over his face. But make no mistake, they're both artists."
John Netherton, dean of students at the University of Chicago, adding his voice to the rising sound of admiration for collegiate football at the Midway: "I feel that football has a unique value as a spectator sport in this country. A college ought to give a student access to this experience."