TRACK: HERE THEY CAME
Please accept my congratulations on a superior bit of track reporting from Philadelphia (Victory with a Smile, SI, July 27).
Tex Maule's description of the 10,000-meter run was indeed excellent. For one who did not see the race, it was a graphic and complete picture. For one who did see it, it was even more interesting. The picture coverage made it complete.
Unfortunately the meet showed we lag far behind Europe when it comes to staging an affair of this type. With all the planning and thought that was behind this contest, one would think the end result would be a model of track and field efficiency.
Instead it was a two-day ordeal. Believe it or not, no wind gauge was present. Had Greg Bell finally wiped out the last of Jesse Owens' great world records, it would not have been accepted because no evidence would have been available to show that this great broad jumper did not have the advantage of excessive wind.
August 2, 1959
A successful meet is usually guided by a knowledgeable announcer. At Franklin Field, it was simply frustrating. Pity the poor guy who plunked down $4. He got all of his information from his morning newspaper.
My press-box neighbor was Robert Parienté of L'Equipe. This Paris sports daily with a 600,000 circulation had sent their top man to report it in detail. They felt it important enough to have him telephone Paris four times during the course of the Sunday events. The last call lasted a full half hour. I spent all Sunday evening attempting to convince him that this was not a typically conducted big meet in this country. I'm not at all sure I succeeded.
This nation is still at the top among track and field powers. Our solid position has slipped a bit, to be sure. Europe has learned much from us. They have taken from us three of our proudest possessions—and in a seven-week period. First, it was the Russian, Kuznetsov, who broke Rafer Johnson's decathlon record. Then the Pole, Piatowski, took Fortune Gordien's discus record, and then the German, Lauer, invaded our strongest hold, the high hurdles, and captured the record held jointly by Jack Davis and Milt Campbell.
Europe has learned from us the secrets of our success. The only thing left to be learned from them is how to efficiently stage a big meet.
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Although I am not an enthusiastic track and field man, I must say that with Tex Maule's article on one side and the television screen on the other I thoroughly enjoyed the U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. track and field competition held July 18-19 in Philadelphia.
His article outlined most events in full detail, including stretch runs, and I found myself very familiar with the names of the athletes.
ALLAN H. TABAC
BASEBALL: STRIKE ONE
Permit me, as a baseball lover, to say the players and authorities of the good game have cheapened themselves by permitting two All-Star Games to be played this year. It is no longer the game of games but a money-making proposition that could not be passed up because of the financial potential of Los Angeles.
It probably makes little difference, but the TV promoters have lost one customer.
WILLIAM C. TRAPP
BASEBALL: HIS AND HERS
One might get the idea, from recent inferences in your magazine (BASEBALL'S WEEK, July 6), that the Baltimore Orioles are a "Mickey Mouse" ball club which belongs in a Class D league rather than in third place in the American League. We do not consider the Orioles a motley crew who are going to pack up and get out of the pennant race, as you suggest. Nor do we consider our team to be cluttering up the first division. Remember, they have been out of the first division only one day in the last three months.
P.S. After all, it's partly due to our Baltimore club that the pennant race this year is so full of suspense and excitement. It's also an accomplishment in itself for a team not outstanding in pitching, hitting or fielding to remain in the first division and give all impressions of remaining there for the duration of the season.
Vive les Patchworks!
MRS. MARTY COOPER
BOXING: THE LOSER AND STILL CHAMPION
The Johansson victory over Patterson was not the best thing that could happen to the fight game, contrary to the belief of Reader R. Lebou (19TH HOLE, July 20). The best thing that could happen to the fight game would be the extermination of rodents like Frankie Carbo.
As for Floyd Patterson, I think he is a credit to the boxing world. He was defeated and decisively so, but he took his defeat like a real man and probably would still be getting up and going down if the referee hadn't stopped the fight. Mr. Patterson is still a gentleman though an ex-champion; come September he'll be the first heavyweight to regain the title and again be the First Gentleman in Boxing.
As for Ingemar Johansson, terrific and a tremendous surprise; he and Patterson are the only two heavyweights worth a boxing fan's time or money.
Thank you for the usual best in fight coverage.
ROBERT A. BUNCH
I cannot enjoy your usually good magazine until you desist from your hysterical adulation of Ingemar.
It is true that he got in a lucky shot, but from there on his performance was sloppy.
On the other hand, Patterson, although badly hurt, put up as gallant a fight as has ever been seen. But of this aspect of the bout your reporter apparently saw nothing.
WADE HAMPTON HASKELL
THAT THIRD LEAGUE: THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING
I agree 100% with Pat Suzuki (19TH HOLE, July 13) on expanding the two leagues into eastern and western divisions rather than forming a dullsome third league. How could they ever have a successful World Series with a third league poking in the way?
That third major league is going to look sort of funny without major league ballplayers.
This talk of forming a third major league forces me to take my pen in hand. How idiotic can we get? Expansion, yes. Third major league, no. Are we to have a round-robin All-Star Game—or World Series?
Sure, these other large population centers such as St. Paul, Dallas, Toronto, etc. deserve to be in on this greatest of summer pastimes, but let's do it in a manner which will strengthen baseball, not weaken it.
Never have I read such sour grapes as contained in Roy Terrell's piece on the so-called Gotham savior, "Catalyst Bill Shea" (3rd League Cities Pin Hopes on This Man, SI, July 20).
There will never be an additional 200 bona fide big leaguers available for a third league without the sound minor league proving grounds, and surely the already decaying bush leagues would hit deeper depths with further major league expansion.
You just can't pluck big leaguers out of colleges or sandlots as is done in pro football. In baseball there is no alternative—except rarely—other than moving up from Keokuk to Yakima to Louisville and then to the majors. A couple of dozen college games for several years won't do it, nor will accelerated training camps.
The biggest problem facing Organized Baseball is to revive the minors. Certainly there is an abundance of potential new big league cities, but you can't sell eight more teams and have them play a decidedly inferior brand of ball.
Youngsters today are getting an earlier start with the Little Leagues and Pony Leagues but the further prepping stages for would-be professionals must be entirely overhauled before we are ready for the eager Bill Shea.
TENNIS: KNOW THYSELF
My heartiest congratulations to Bill Talbert (The Kramer Cast Lacks a Plot, SI, July 6).
I have been watching tennis matches for many years—back to the Budge-Quist era—and honestly believe that Gonzales has that rarity in any sport magnetism, that is hard to explain, and sometimes even harder to recognize. I have often likened him to Ted Williams, a loner who believes in himself and doesn't give a darn about what others think.
This trait is fast disappearing in every phase of sports, and I for one will probably take up knitting when Williams and Gonzales retire.
FAY Y. HOLDER
THAT'S RACING—COUNTRY STYLE
The coincidence of the two articles in your June 29 issue, one on Billy Haughton (In Quest of the Golden Fleece) and one on a racing ostrich (The Birds and Beasts Were There), recalled a tale that is a part of the midwestern racing saga.
We have, out here in the hinterland of harness racing, a recruit from the show-horse racket whose lack of experience is compensated by exuberant enthusiasm. This lad answers to the name of Micky, but his driver's license is issued to E. O. Ellis, Maryville, Mo. The locale is the grounds of the Northwest Missouri Fair at Bethany. Time: 1954. Plot: moonlight race between hoppled pacer and ostrich.
Out here where we race horses in the daylight, a backward thing to do in these times, our fairs usually present variety entertainment in front of the grandstand each evening. In 1954 the Bethany people booked an outfit that staged a number of animal acts, among them a race between ostriches hooked to bastard-sort jog carts. Somehow Micky fell afoul of the animal-act man and a discussion ensued as to the comparative speeds of ostriches and hoppled pacers. From this point things fell into a natural groove, and a match was made between one of the birds and Micky's 11-year-old Johnny Spencer, p. 2:07.
An agreement was reached on a distance of a furlong from a walk-up start of about 100 yards. The ostrich man came off second-best in the matter of post position, although this was his fault as he maintained that his bird was somewhat rail shy and wanted the middle of the race track.
This race was, for the most part, contested in the moonlight. What transpired on the upper turn above the ‚Öù pole is known only to the contesting drivers and the citizen of somewhat astigmatic vision who was assigned to the starting chores. They finally hove into view in the moonlit stretch. The ostrich changed position at every stride, but old Johnny was on the pole and pacing as if the ghosts of all his ancestors were right at his tail.
Some ground was lost by the ostrich as he pursued his wobbly course, guided by being swatted about his hinder parts with a rolled-up newspaper, which his driver swung with all the élan of a raceway cowboy.
As a goad, the newspaper was ineffective—Johnny iced away the heat by maybe a couple of lengths. Time not recorded. However, several horsemen, well known to this writer as having trouble reading 24-point boldface at the distance of a foot, claim to have caught the eighth in 14 seconds. This is, of course, unofficial. Moreover, it is unreliable, as the ‚Öù pole was a small stick wired upright to a post inside the rail and very hard to find even in daylight.
The ostrich proved difficult to pull up after his stint; the driver finally running him (or her—the sex was never surely determined) into a fence on the outside of the track near the turn into the back-stretch. The bird became entangled in the fence, where, amid a great flapping of wings, he overturned his bike and kicked his driver several times at various points of that worthy's person.
Mr. Ellis and Johnny, being gentlemen of good will and helpfully disposed, drove around to the point of the bird's discomfiture where, despite his nine years or so of exposure to all the sights and vicissitudes of county-fair race tracks, the horse took fire from the ostrich's whing-ding and staged one of his own. He reared, came down facing his driver, broke a shaft out of a perfectly good bike and subsided in a tangle of harness that had to be cut away to free him. There was no money at stake, so Mr. Ellis came out with a loss on bike and harness, more than his pacer won all summer.
Well, that's racing—country style.
WALT S. GRANTHAM
Kansas City, Mo.