Conviction No. 1
While the championship fight in Yankee Stadium the other night was illuminating once more the eternal verities of the well-timed left jab and straight right (see pages 34-39), another demonstration of great importance to boxing, though a much less remarked one, was going forward a few miles south of the Stadium in New York's Court of General Sessions. There, a racketeer named Gabe Genovese, 64, a longtime pal of Frankie Carbo, received trial by jury.
The charge against the small, rumpled man in the tinted glasses had a dry, almost innocuous sound: that Genovese had been the "undercover manager" in two 1956 fights of a lightweight named Ludwig Lightburn and had pocketed a rake-off of $4,056. By the time the trial was over, the jury had a much clearer idea of an undercover manager and the term had lost its innocuous sound. Instead it carried the real-life business menace that an old generation of moviegoers and a new one of TV rerun watchers has come to recognize, when the man says (and he has friends with guns and blackjacks), "Take me into partnership or else."
The jury found Gabe Genovese guilty of forcing himself into a manager partnership with the lightweight fighter, and the trial might have marched on quickly to the judge's sentence and its end. But before the sentencing, the assistant D.A., John G. Bonomi, received the court's permission to broaden the sketch that jury and public had already received of Racketeer Genovese.
"The fact is," said the assistant D.A., "that this man Genovese has exercised an evil and degrading influence on professional boxing for over two decades." It began in the 1930s, said Bonomi, when Genovese joined forces with Frankie Carbo, and has continued almost up to the present moment. Not only had Genovese received $4,056 from the regularly licensed manager of Ludwig Lightburn, but a new investigation showed—and Bonomi's words deserved far more than the slight attention they got in the press next day—that Genovese "collected $10,000 from Norman Rothchild, an upstate fight promoter, to stage the Carmen Basilio-Johnny Saxton welterweight championship match held on September 12, 1956 in Syracuse.
"Joe Netro and John DeJohn, the licensed co-managers of former welterweight and middleweight champion Carmen Basilio, stated to me that they paid Genovese $7,000 from the managers' share of Basilio's purses in 1956. During that year Herman Wallman, also known as Hymie Wallman, gave Genovese $1,500 from the earnings of Charlie Cotton, a prominent middleweight.
"In 1957 Netro and DeJohn shelled out $20,000 to Genovese from Basilio's earnings and Wallman contributed $640 from a Cotton purse.
"In the past year, Basilio's co-managers, according to their own statements, gave Genovese $24,000. That makes a grand total of $67,196 to Genovese in ring plunder during the past three years. It is of little consequence whether the defendant Genovese received the money as his share of the spoils or whether he acted as a bag man or collection agent for another [e.g., Carbo]....
"It is my considered opinion that there is some hope of converting boxing from a racket into a sport if a prison sentence is imposed."
Judge John A. Mullen imposed the severest sentence within his reach—two years. Next step for the district attorney's office: completing the extradition of Frankie Carbo, now held without bail in New Jersey, for a trial of his own.
This is a true fable about three vacationing window washers from Dallas who went to Colorado to skin-dive for gold the other day and found, instead, the bottom of a bottomless lake.
When the window washers discovered that Colorado streams are too shallow for diving they decided to poke around Missouri Lake, a privately owned body of water billed as "The Bottomless Crater Lake," to see what they could find.
They found, at a depth of about 90 feet, an old ore bucket, a tire rim from a model T Ford, something they believe is a rusty rod from an experimental submarine which was launched (and sank) around 1898, and trouble.
The trouble came from the bottomless lake's owner who telephoned his caretaker to get the window washers out of his water. "All he said," said one, "was that we would make trouble for everybody, and we still don't know why."
The window washers are well out of their depth, for the moral is passably clear: don't get to the bottom of a thing if it isn't supposed to be there.
Out of a Seemingly Tunnel
Dear Floyd, wrote Archie Moore, perhaps the most durable of all boxers, from Montreal, where he is preparing for yet another fight, the first bout is over; I know how you must feel. I hope you don't continue to feel bad. The same thing has happened to many great fighters.... of course I haled to lose to you, and fate decreed it that way. Fate does strange-seeming things. If you are a believer in things that happen happen for the best, listen to this and you can find your way out of a seemingly tunnel....
Floyd Patterson sat beneath an awning on the terrace of his home in Rockville Centre, N.Y. wearing the familiar T shirt with the mythical prizefighter's city of EVERLAST, N.Y. printed across its front. He had interrupted a game of knock rummy to feed his three-month-old daughter, Trina, who now regarded him from his lap, but his mind was concerned with the wisdom of Old Arch which the postman had just delivered.
"Do you believe what Archie says about fate?" a visitor asked.
"I'm not superstitious," Floyd said. "If a witch flew around my house twice in the day and once in the night, it doesn't mean I'll win a fight. I told you that I didn't dream about fighting Johansson before the fight. I meant to tell you I dreamed of it afterward; not the night after the fight but the next one. I don't know what happened, only I was fighting, fighting, fighting and people were yelling and yelling. Then I remembered hearing the referee say,'...and still champion,' and he mentioned my name. The dream was so real. I'm still champion, another victory I was thinking as I lay there in the dark, and then I looked around and there wasn't any championship in the room. And after a while I felt the cotton in my ear." The cotton, Floyd explained, was there because his ear-drum had been cut during the real fight in Yankee Stadium.
"A tunnel," Floyd said musingly, "it was something like a tunnel until today. Things seemed dark. I've only gone out of the house twice in a week—to see the ear doctor and to go to a drive-in. I've just been hanging around watching TV, working in the basement. You know, just because you lose one thing, doesn't mean you have to neglect others; I've started to spend time with my family again. I hadn't spent any time with them for a long time. The night I came home I wasn't saying anything, just lying down, looking up. Jeannie [his 3-year-old daughter whose formal name is Seneca]—she's too young to know I'm a fighter—she looked at me and ran to her mother. 'Daddy's sick,' she said. 'Daddy's sick.' "
First, Archie Moore's letter continued, Johansson was not so great. You fought a stupid battle. Look at the film. Evaluate it. Never once did you lead with a jab. All you did was move your feet and try to leap toward him. Now, this man was not like London. He could bang a little....You gave absolutely no respect to your opposition....
"Any time you lose," said Floyd, "you fought a stupid battle. I didn't think I fought a smart fight. I was trying to make him trade, throw a flurry. Then I'd throw a flurry with him. But I couldn't catch him. He was gone. As the fight progressed I was waiting for the people to boo. But the people never booed. I could have stepped back when he was flicking a left jab, but most of them didn't land and the others, I couldn't even feel them. And I was imagining how furious the people who paid $100 would have been.
"I had no plan. I wasn't even about to put a plan into effect. It's the first time I ever fought without a plan. And I couldn't create one. I just wanted to go out and get him and, in turn, he got me. I just wanted him to slug. I had pictured him coming right out and displaying his right, but he didn't and so I forgot completely about it. After what I read in the papers about his training, maybe he didn't have a right. I tried to have respect for him. I tried to respect him, but sometimes you just can't. I tried but I couldn't. I never saw a man go so far back, get out of the way so fast."
"Have you seen the films?" the visitor asked.
"No. I know what happened." Floyd laughed. "I don't want to see myself roaming all over the canvas six or seven times. But I do want to see exactly what happened with that first right hand. I didn't see it. I'll look at the films up at camp. Somebody told me to watch that right hand very carefully, and I'll see why I didn't see it—the referee threw it." And Floyd laughed again and wiped Trina's mouth.
"You know," he said, "this is the first time I talked and laughed and joked about it. That's the idea I wanted to have had about it but I failed before. Whenever I thought about it before—mostly when I was alone—I'd try to take my mind off it.
"I remember being down five times. Two times I don't remember. They tell me I was walking towards Johansson's corner after the first knockdown. I remember the referee counting seven, eight.... I must have had my eyes open, for they tell me I was pulling myself up by the ropes, so I must have seen them to know they were there. Seen or saw? My goodness, which is it? Anyway, I vaguely remember walking, and then I remember something knocking on the back of my head [see page 39]. I knew a punch came from someplace, but I didn't know where it could have come from. For a minute I thought he had climbed out of the ring, come all the way around on the outside, jumped in again and hit me.
"Sandra," Floyd called to his wife, "I can't make her eat the rest of her food."
If he had been the banger the press said he was, Archie Moore's letter concluded, he should have put you away with the left hook he hit you with with your back turned [see page 38]. Well, if you concentrate on your jab and move around this guy you will be the only first one to regain the crown. You can do it.
Floyd had been given a jeweled crown by his manager and several of his friends. The crown rested on a base which has five gold plaques, one for each of his championship fights, and provides room for others. The base still sits on the mantelpiece in Floyd's living room, but the crown is no longer there.
"I can't have it up there if I'm not the champion," Floyd explained. "Maybe in September it'll get back.
"You know," he said, shifting the baby in his lap, "it's not that I thought I couldn't be beaten. There's always a man that can be beaten. I'll do things different next time, but I won't change my style. If I change my style I might beat him, but I won't beat no one else. That's the style that won the title. I'm no less the person I was as far as myself is concerned, but I don't feel like the same person without the crown."
Hold Your Fire
It was sugar in the gourd and honey in the horn for big league baseball last week as over-all attendance figures of midseason 1959 climbed comfortably above the figures for 1958 which in turn were above those of 1957.
Of course, those whose hobby it is to insist that baseball is a moribund sport about ready for complete extinction had their explanations handy. Last year, they said, the rise was due to a sudden spurt of curiosity on the baseball-naive West Coast. This year, with West Coast attendance down, the explanation lies in the close pennant races in both leagues. Just a fluke, say the gloombergs, the whole thing will blow over in no time....
Meanwhile, foolishly suspecting that the reason lay in the fact that people like to watch baseball, those whose business it is to harvest the honey were licking their lips in anticipation of even bigger yields to come.
Riding high on the wave of expansionism was New Yorker Bill Shea, whose projected Third League seemed to have grown almost overnight from a gawky, impossible brainchild to a glamorous and attractive near reality. Though official formal approval of the Third League by organized baseball as it presently exists is still to come, there seems at this point no real reason to believe that the major league owners will turn their thumbs down on it. To avert that dire possibility, however, Senator Estes Kefauver, whose pending legislation to limit the contractual power of big league ball clubs is a loaded gun pointed straight at the heart of rich teams like the New York Yankees, last week offered to load his bill in favor of a third league, but Shea would have none of it.
Fearing that a blast from the Senator's gun might well turn the succulent honeypot into a swarm of angry bees, Shea asked the Keef to hold his fire, or at least suspend further hearings on any bill until the major leagues give him their word—one way or the other.
Shea has little doubt himself that that word will be favorable. "I believe," said Shea, referring to the clubowners' definite if lukewarm signal of approval of his plans in Ohio this spring, "that baseball made an honest statement at Columbus."
Faced with the appalling problem of paying off on a horse named Tywydd Teg, second in the Royal Windsor Stakes, bookies at Royal Ascot decided on the correct pronunciation: Tick Tack.
In venerable Royal Albert Hall in London summer concerts were inaugurated with something called Midsummer Madness, featuring a new composition known as The William Tell Goes to Hell Overture, and a special number, Auto Accident, which involved 26 percussion instruments and sheets of plate glass to be broken in buckets. And so it goes, apparently, over much of the globe: in Redwood City, Calif. an inventive golfer named Karsten Solheim has placed on the market a musical putter to retail for $17.50. When the ball is correctly struck, the putter, which has a hollow head of high-tensile manganese bronze, gives off a pleasant, bell-like note; if the ball is struck off center there is only a dull thud. In New Zealand a 29-year-old salesman named Cliff Lawrenson fastened on a pair of skis in the high mountain ranges, lost his balance and, to his horror and that of observers, skidded over a 500-foot cliff. He was uninjured except for bruises and a cracked rib. Said the local papers: he was a novice. In the Holy Land, the salt-soupy Dead Sea, never crossed by swimmers, was conquered by two American foreign service officers, Jack Griffin and Bill Johnson. These stalwarts swam at night (since day temperatures reach well above 100°), crossed from west to east and covered the nine miles of hot brine in seven hours.
All these strange items, popping sporadically into the news, were plainly building up to some eerie climax, to something unbelievable and truly surrealistic. Last week it arrived, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, to the second baseman of the Cubs. With a base runner dashing in on a steal, Tony Taylor looked up to see two baseballs coming his way—yes, two baseballs, as if in test of some crackpot statistician's theory that it should be twice as easy to get the runner out with two.
One baseball sailed over Tony's head into center field—and the base stealer, no less a sharp-wit than Stan Musial of the Cardinals, watched the ball sail by as he slid into second base. Naturally, he picked himself up, grinning happily, and headed for third. Barely on the way, he was tagged out with the other ball. This one, thrown low, had been scooped up on the bounce by Shortstop Ernie Banks while Stan the Man was looking the other way.
What had happened (if so ordinary a word can be used) was that Stan Musial had drawn a base on balls after a fourth ball, inside, bounced back toward the screen. But to Cub Catcher Sammy Taylor, it had not been a ball but a foul tip; he planted himself before Umpire Vic Delmore and so argued. Pitcher Bobby Anderson left the mound to join the discussion. Shaking his head, Umpire Delmore reached into his pocket, absent-mindedly brought forth a fresh ball and handed it to the pitcher.
But what was Third Baseman Alvin Dark doing? Why, he was charging in to get the ball that had gone toward the screen—which he managed to do with an absent-minded assist from the bat boy.
And what was Stan Musial doing? Well, he was dashing for second.
So it befell that, in the space of a heart-skip, Pitcher Anderson and Third Baseman Dark threw to second, and Second Baseman Tony Taylor had his vision of wonder.
Ernie Banks got the putout, Alvin Dark was credited with an assist (his was the ball still legally in play, even if the bat boy had touched it) and nobody was charged with an error. The whole libretto is recommended for next year's Midsummer Madness concert series.
Cincinnati Hit Parade
Every time a Cincinnati Red hits a home run in Crosley Stadium, it is the responsibility of the club's official organist to play a tune as nearly appropriate as possible. He plays, for example, Here Comes Peter Cottontail for Pete Whisenant, Jingle Bells for Gus Bell and Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home for Ed Bailey. Since the season opened, however, he has been stuck for something even remotely appropriate to Center Fielder Vada Pinson. The other day, after weeks of indecision, Organist Ronnie Dale announced his choice. Hereafter, whenever Pinson rounds the bases, he can jog along to Show Me the Vada Go Home.
I like a bathing beauty,
Though water I abhor;
So now and then a cutie
Seems well worth wading for.
—HARVEY L. CARTER
They Said It
Rocky Marciano, retired undefeated heavyweight champion, when asked whether he was thinking of a comeback: "One thing I love, it's a fight. But the first thing I have to do is lose some weight. You can't say it's a comeback until then. But I've been thinking of fighting again for a long time. There's more to it than just money. The thing of making it back. Nobody ever did before. I could be the only one. It means something."
Mrs. Rocky Marciano, when asked whether she approved: "NO!"
Frank Lary, Detroit Tiger pitcher, reacting to the news that Casey Stengel had left him off the All-Star team (despite a 9-4 record): "I don't want revenge against the Yankees. I'd just like to skin that old guy's head."
Casey Stengel, on his life and hard times: "If you're playing ball and thinking about managing, you're crazy. You'd be better off thinking about being an owner. It's safer."