Twice in the past three weeks international sport has produced moments of memorable climax. The first occurred in late June when Sweden's Ingemar Johansson sent America's Floyd Patterson hurtling to the canvas in the world's heavyweight boxing championship, and 22,000 unbelieving people rose from their seats in delirious, roaring astonishment.
The second great moment occurred last week in the Soviet-American track meet at Philadelphia (see page 14). It was that moment close to the end of the 10,000-meter race, when Southern California's Max Truex, on the brink of exhaustion himself, sprinted from 200 yards behind to pass a reeling-tired Russian, Hubert Pyarnakivi.
Truex's valiant effort (he had seemed nearly ready to drop midway in the race) turned out to be in vain, for he officially finished behind the Russian. But he had set the hearts of 27,000 Americans pounding in their breasts and brought lumps to their throats. Their voices, blended in an unearthly sustained roar, paid unbounded tribute to the highest form of conflict two nations can know—the clean, decent and essentially comradely conflict of sport.
July 26, 1959
Shades of Brooklyn
We went over to Ebbets Field—you remember, in Brooklyn—the other night to see a soccer game between two foreign teams, Real Madrid and Graz of Austria. It was a lively game, lustily applauded by some 13,500 Spanish-and German-speaking fans obviously little concerned with specters, but for old Dodger fans the occasion seemed haunted—tinged with ineffable memory like a pressed rose in some forgotten book. For one thing, no effort had been made to turf the infield, and the soccer rectangle was imposed over base lanes and a pitcher's mound as impeccably groomed as though for a World Series ("C'mon, Newk, ya got Mantle! Now get that bum Berra...get him...get him...oooooooooooh!).
The dugouts were cleanly painted and freshly swept, and even the left and right field bullpens were as neatly manicured as ever. At one point an overenthusiastic Austrian pushed, shoved and finally kicked down a Madrileno while in pursuit of the ball, which went out of bounds. The Madrileno looked up angrily, and a whole series of ghosts came out of the dugouts, bellowing clearly but at a pitch beyond the range of the human ear—of most of the ears present, anyway. Durocher and Stanky and Jackie Robinson and Charlie Dressen, just to name a few, surrounded the fallen player and his persecutor, and then all quietly faded away when the players shook hands, embraced each other and resumed play.
Out in center field, under the big scoreboard, a sign still said ABE STARK, and there at one end was the hole with the legend: A NEW SUIT OF CLOTHES TO ANYBODY WHO HITS A BALL THROUGH HERE. The sign, of course, was out of bounds for the soccer game, but every now and then the ball would fly off in its direction. We found ourselves wondering if Abe would still come up with the suit if somebody kicked the ball through the hole, but alas the question must remain unanswered. Nobody did.
As we left, the game over and the lights beginning to dim, the field, despite its rough treatment by the soccer players, still had an expectant look. Would the pressed rose, we wondered, ever bloom again?
It Can Be Fun
Why is it, a pessimist of growing girth once asked of the world at large, that anything that's fun is always illegal, immoral or fattening. One answer might be that those most interested in doing good generally make it sound so dreary. "Come on, fellows," cries the camp counselor at 5 o'clock of a clammy morning, "everyone out for push-ups"—and 10 miserable little boys dream longingly of a future of debilitation and decay.
It needn't, we are glad to report, be so, and we have the word of the Executive Director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness to back us up. "Without in any way minimizing the important place of gymnastics and formal exercise," said Shane MacCarthy in a recent speech, "it must be recognized that America is a sports-loving, sports-minded nation. In fact, the nation's culture in every definable sense includes a large segment of sports interest, participation and devotion.
"The Council's lively interest in furthering sports participation runs the entire alphabet from angling to yachting. It includes everything from bowling and basketball to rope skipping and rowing; from calisthenics and canoeing to track and touch football and tobogganing; from gymnastics and jujitsu to lacrosse and weight lifting. The list encompasses cycling, swimming, skiing—on the snow and on the water—and scaling mountains; hiking, hunting, hockey and handball; fishing and fencing; roller skating and wrestling—and on and on through an almost endless list of body-building, health-safeguarding and spirit-nourishing activities.
"The Council sees competition as an inevitable and generally desirable concomitant of sports. The Council finds merit in happily conceived and properly conducted body-contact sports suited to the physiological and sociological ages of the participants. Particularly, the Council stresses sports which have a carryover value and can become a rich part of a recreation and fitness program of the individual throughout his life.
"It is realized that professional athletics, conducted on a high plane, have a legitimate place in the American sports scene and can make a great contribution to youth fitness when the performers exemplify the best in execution of skills (individual and team), observance of rules and fine sportsmanship in the stress of hungry competition."
At The Y & Y
The Yak and the Yeti is the Mermaid Tavern, the Shepheard's Hotel and the Toots Shor's (see cover) of the high Himalayas. The historical correlatives are alcohol, in one dilution or another; conversation, loud, nonstop and occasionally factual; and the bonds of palship.
The Yak (a hairy ox) and the Yeti (a hairy apparition also known as the Abominable Snowman) is situated in a converted palace in Nepal's capital, Katmandu, a city of crumbling palaces and erotic sculpture.
The host at The Y & Y is Boris Lissanevitch, a Shor-size Russian expatriate who escaped from the Bolsheviks in 1924 by blending into a touring ballet troupe. Besides refereeing the conversation and playing Victor Borge records for his patrons, Boris has found time to shoot 68 more tigers than Toots and to organize air-conditioned motor caravans from Europe to Nepal. "One place we go through in Persia," says Boris, in accents still thick with Odessa, "is a place called Bum, and that's just what it is—bum." Which shows that saloonkeepers separated by 8,000 miles use the same vocabulary.
The patrons of The Y & Y consist of French anthropologists, Japanese entomologists, Mexican broadcasters, Swiss explorers, American correspondents, Harvard ornithologists, rhinoceros hunters, zoo keepers, Yeti hunters, hikers and holy men. The talk runs heavily to dangerous sport, high adventure and gossip about people who fish for fresh-water dolphin in the holy Ganges or chase 30-foot crocodiles in the swampy Sunder-bunds south of Calcutta.
Just the other night, for instance, the great mountaineer Tenzing Nor-gay dropped in to slap mosquitoes with the boys and everyone said he looked in great shape. Tenzing demurred: "A woman knocked into me and broke my leg when I was learning to ski in Italy a few months ago." Tenzing also said that his daughters, aged 18 and 19, will be forging up Mount Cho Oyu in August with seven European women on a ladies-only expedition. This was also the night Boris showed a color film to prove that it was entirely possible to capture a baby tiger by throwing a blanket over it and then pouncing on the blanket with a dozen Nepalese beaters. "They don't know what fear is," said Boris with emotion, but it was not entirely clear whether he meant the beaters or baby tigers.
The high point of that evening was when Boris showed off his "Alka-Seltzer" gun, designed for paralyzing instead of killing wild animals. It shoots a dart loaded with curare, the paralyzing drug of South American Indians, then water and crushed Alka-Seltzer tablets at the rear of the dart force the poison into the animal through a kind of hypodermic needle. After the animal is tied up, he has to be given a dose of heart stimulant to unparalyze him. Boris wants desperately to try out his gun on tiger and rhino but is stymied. The gun was given to him with two unlabeled bottles, and Boris doesn't know which is poison and which is stimulant.
A Day at the Races
What about a bit of fishing tomorrow, James?" the visitor from the U.S. asked his County Mayo guide.
"Tomorrow, sir?" Disappointment traveled the circuit of the man's round face. "Sure, you'd be wastin' your toim out thir tomorrow," he said.
This was odd. The five shillings and free picnic lunch a West Ireland gillie can pick up for a lolling day of trolling and dapping on Lough Corrib is as much as he'll make in a week in other jobs, and James Egan is not only a man with 63 years to carry and half a dozen mouths to help feed, but one who likes his pint of Guinness as well.
"But it's the only day we've got," the visitor implored. "Are you sure we'd be wasting our time?"
"Sure, indeed, sir," said James. There was a look on his face, though, that suggest he was worrying about next week's Confession.
"And anyway," he blurted, "it's the Ballinrobe races tomorrow."
So that was it. If there is anything other than a sea-fresh salmon or a five-pound brownie that will cause a West Country Irishman to try the tensile strength of the great stone tablets, it's the whinny of a blood horse. And in truth, as much could be said for the visitor who happened to be our London Bureau Chief Robert Manning. Was it to be the fish, he now asked himself, or the horses? Foie gras or caviar?
"Tell the truth, now, James. What about the fish?"
"It's God's truth, sir. Thir down deep feedin' off the perch fry. We'd have to cheat with a sprat to catch one, and sure you wouldn't want to do that, would you now?"
"And the horses?"
"If you die and niver see country racin', I'll ask all my friends to pray for your soul," vowed James.
"Would you like a lift to the races?"
"Indeed, I would," smiled James Egan, so that's the way it turned out.
The County Mayo market town was hung with bunting for the day and those of its 1,300 people who weren't already at the track lounged in doorways and on street corners to watch the traffic flow in from points as distant as Dublin, and from most of the rest of the republic.
If, as seems to be the case, Ballinrobe's little jewel of a track is typical of a score of courses in Ireland, the country is not as poor as its statistics and its bankbooks say. Simple grandstands, with refreshment stand and bar beneath, held about 1,000, and the grounds along the stretch and finish line had room for another 5,000 to 10,000. Marshmallow clouds swam through the bright blue. The sun glanced tranquilly off the green grass infield and slightly browned circle of the mile-and-a-half track. A modest shack containing the tote betting system was well attended half an hour before the first race, and two dozen hand-bookies babbled soft cajolery from their enclosure in view of paddock and track.
"Evens on the gelding, evens on the gelding," cried one. Soon all two dozen echoed his safely parsimonious offer. Their hands flickered from blackboard to leather money pouches and back again to blackboards to erase or alter chalked odds.
The crowd was a typical Irish horse-going crew, tweedy, self-assured, speckled with florid faces and with eyes that seemed to know what they were looking at as they scrutinized the horses in the paddock, and with a lot of people who if not poor were plainly of the beautiful but skimping West Country land. This was a carnival day round Ballinrobe.
What marked it from non-Irish race crowds, save perhaps for the Derby Day crowd in the infield at England's Epsom, were the children. Children lined the rails. Children politely wormed through tiny gaps along the paddock rail. Children waited patiently in the tote lines, or tugged gently at the sleeves of babbling hand-bookies to proffer a sweaty shilling or two. "Two to win on O'Fairwell," said a sprat of no more than 11 to a busy gentleman whose red-and-white poster proclaimed him to be John Brady, Turf Accountant, Limerick. "Two bob it is to win, lad," he said and turned to his sheetman. "Number Two Three Eight, two bob to win on O'Fairwell."
A glance at the race card explained the large number of youngsters. Under Admission, it said: "Gentlemen, 10 shillings. Ladies, 5 shillings. Special Stile for Children, 5 shillings. Children under 14 years, 2s/6d [35¢]." Irish country children learn early to know and to love the Thoroughbreds; indeed it is through horses that many of them find their way to liberation from the grudging farms and arid villages that are the only future for those Irishmen who go neither to secondary school or the immigrants' boats—which is to say the majority of Irishmen. So lads who get near horses begin early to think of riding or breeding or training or, if the Lord is especially good, to owning a Thoroughbred or two, of finding a place in that proud and tranquil way of life that the blood horse life can be.
"Look, now, Sean," a father murmured to his 10-year-old boy at paddock's side. "You can see he's a good animal. Watch how each rear foot steps out to where the front foot was. He's worked well, too. If his boy's good, he'll do." With the crowd they turned silent to listen to the loudspeaker that announced the riders. "It's Ryan on him. He'll do," said the father, and the two walked toward the two-shilling tote window.
A round, brown biddy with shawl and pigtailed daughter stopped to chat with a man and his son. "Is it yours?" she said to the man with a nod at the toe-scuffing boy.
"That he is," said the man.
"And how many is he?"
"Twilve," said the man, and, as the lad blushed, nodded toward the girl. "And yours?"
"Twilve, near thirteen," said the woman. The two young ones could barely stand the embarrassment, glanced away and bounded off with relief when the gossipers finished and moved on.
It was a dream of an afternoon, bright with sun, gentle with talk and laughter, dark brown stout and the smell of horses, keen with the neatly spaced excitement of six tight races that brought men, beasts and nature into as sweet communion as any man could ask for. Of the first five races, all but one well over a mile, three were won by a head, two by less than a length, as the animals swept down the two-furlong uphill stretch to the finish. The sixth race, two miles and a furlong on the flat, was a problem-five runners, three of them mounted by their owners, two by hired jockeys. It was between the professional riders.
"Evens on the pros," one hand-bookie intoned, and the chant began:
"Evens on Scotch Koffee and Duranta.... Twelves on Luckibash.
...Twinty-to-one on Pongo's Fancy, here, twinty to one!...Evens on the pros...."
Was it to be Duranta, a 4-year-old filly by Dante out of Bois de Boulogne? Or Scotch Koffee, a 5-year-old gelding by Scottish Union out of Fonfra II?
"The filly's too big for Scotch Koffee," said a youngster to his companion.
The other pushed back a shock of red hair and surveyed a gleaming rump with the knowing demeanor of an Amsterdam diamond cutter examining a stone. "But has she worked enough this year? We could get twinty on Pongo's Fancy. Twinty!" His lips pursed.
"Jimmy," said the other boy impatiently, "how old will you have to be before you know not to bet on long shots? Come now, it's Duranta or Scotch Koffee for us." The examination continued for a few minutes, followed by a pooling of resources and a silent trip to the bookie. "Six to win on Duranta," said the older boy. "Six bob it is to win on Duranta," sang the bookie. "Number three four sivin," and handed the lad a pasteboard ticket. They scrambled to the soft green bank beside the track to watch the five great-rumped 4-, 5-and 6-year-olds drum past on the first of two runs around the track.
"What did I tell you," said the older boy with the race only three furlongs old. "Yir right," said Jimmy with a thankful finality that settled the race without ending the suspense. In the end, it was Duranta, by a photo-finish over Scotch Koffee. Pongo's Fancy ran a 25-length last.
The boys ran off to collect 14 shillings. The visitor tore up his ticket on Scotch Koffee and went to find his guide. "Is it always like this, James?" he asked.
"Always, and in a hundred parts of Ireland," said James Egan, then, honest as ever, "Of course, sometimes it rains."
Signs and Science
When a Bushnell Spacemaster Telephoto TV Unit with an 80-inch lens is placed in the center field bleachers and focused on home plate some 400 feet away, it is possible for the home viewer to see Yogi Berra's fingernails. Last week the Yankees were losing to the Red Sox in Boston, and the Bushnell Spacemaster was covering the action for the Game of the Week on a nationwide hookup over NBC, when Berra's fingernails began to command a lot of attention on the air. Phil Rizzuto and Mel Allen, rejoicing in the telescopic clarity of the view, told countless millions throughout the nation what the next pitch was to be. They explained that one finger projecting shyly toward the ground from Berra's mit was a signal to the pitcher for a fast ball, two fingers a curve. If Berra wiggled all his battered fingers at once, he was calling for a change of pace. What was more, Rizzuto and Allen were invariably right: the next pitch was what they said it would be. Magnificently impartial, they performed the same service for their listening audience on the signals of the Boston catcher, Sammy White.
About the only person in the whole United States who did not know what the next pitch was to be was the man at bat. Commissioner Ford Frick, who happened to be watching the game, said, "Oh, oh. I don't think this is such a good idea." He had a bleak vision of dugouts filled with television sets. He called Tom Gallery, the sports director of NBC, and notified all clubs to have protective clauses written into their contracts against the use of the 80-inch lens, and as a result it was mutually agreed that no further games would be televised with it. "Frick is right, of course," Gallery said, explaining that the Bushnell Spacemaster had been used in only eight games before, most successfully in the All-Star Game, but was destined for use in horse racing and football. Hereafter, a catcher's signals to his pitcher remain (as far as television is concerned) a sacred confidence between the two of them.
For the past 33 years, the Harlem Globetrotters have served up a refreshing cocktail of basketball and buffoonery, seasoned with superb skill and stirred well with a slapstick. This heady formula has convulsed audiences in the 68 foreign countries the team has visited. But a fortnight ago, in the first game of a series in Moscow's Lenin Stadium, the Globe—trotters found themselves surrounded by 15,000 Russians looking dour and laughing hardly at all. After the game they learned why: to the Russians, the team had taken too many liberties with the referee, a person of high esteem in the Soviet Union. The next night the program notes were rewritten to explain baiting the referee was all a part of the act. The Russian bemusement gave way to boffos.
Not that the rest of Moscow had not already warmed to the touring Negro team which had come to Russia after seven years of negotiations. The Trotters arrived by plane and were immediately set upon by official welcoming committees, a whole corps of newsmen and 37 Russian girls bearing lilacs, lilies and goldenrods. "And we ate like kings," said Captain Clarence Wilson. "The Russians were surprised we had no dietitian and that we eat anything we want. But what really stopped us was the corn flakes I got one morning. They were served hot." "Yeah," said another Globetrotter, "they really gave us preferential treatment. And I don't mind telling you we attracted attention. Wilt Chamberlain, who's over seven feet tall, tied up that Russian traffic all over the place."
The team's visit hit the summit on a sightseeing tour of the Kremlin. As they were crossing the grounds three black Zis limousines threaded through a gate, and as the lead car neared the players it suddenly stopped. And out bounced Nikita Khrushchev, who shouted, jovial as you please: "Ah, basketball!"
"I could hardly believe my eyes when he came up and shook my hand," said Abe Saperstein, the owner-coach of the Globetrotters Khrushchev, full of himself, was all smiles as he shook hands with the towering players and told them: "Basketball is very interesting, very interesting." He then noted with amusement that Saperstein, on the short side, was the boss of so many taller men. Everyone else noted with amusement that Abe Saperstein and Nikita Khrushchev are about the same height.
When Juan Torero missed his thrust
The crowd began to yawn,
But brightened when El Toro hooked
And made a hole in Juan.
They Said It
Perry Jones, nonplaying captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, explaining Wimbledon Champion Alex Olmedo's deplorable defection in the national clay-court tennis championships at Chicago: "I'm going to do all I can to protect him. He shouldn't have ever played this tournament. He only played because I asked him to. If we had been looking at it from a purely selfish point of view, from the point of view of the Davis Cup, we should have told him to take two weeks' vacation."
Gil McDougald, New York Yankee shortstop, pondering the fact that Rocky Colavito's two Texas leaguers in a single game caused him to collide with outfielders: "You think that's a play Rocky's working on, trying to cripple us?"
Paul Richards, Baltimore Oriole manager, waxing redundant over the merits of Chicago's Luis Aparicio: "He's the greatest living shortstop of all time."