The Death of Jean Behra
With skies leaden and the 5.1-mile course as damp as the spirits of the drivers who raced in it, Britain's Tony Brooks last Sunday won the Grand Prix of Germany over the AVUS track in West Berlin.
Brooks pressed his Ferrari to a 143.5-mph average. A crowd of 75,000 was on hand to watch. It should have been a great occasion.
But while speeds were high, morale was low. The day before, during a warmup for the Grand Prix, a downpour hit the track, and France's finest race driver, 38-year-old Jean Behra, found his Porsche fishtailing off the banked north turn at 110 mph. The car nosed upward and soared. Behra was projected even higher and, clutching at a wasteland of thin air, smashed against a pole and died of head and neck injuries.
August 9, 1959
In his honor next day, two Porsches dropped out of the Grand Prix and the sporting world mourned another of the truly fine and courageous men of racing. Behra was not endowed with the innate talent of men like Ascari (killed 1955) or Fangio (retired 1958) or Moss (still active), but he had skill and an unflinching determination, often coupled with recklessness, to win. Among his victories were the classic races of Pau, Bordeaux, Bari, Nurburgring, Aintree and Sebring. At Sebring he was teamed with Fangio, and he was expected some day to take over Fangio's crown.
Said Stirling Moss after Behra's death: "Berlin's AVUS is the worst track in the world. It is dangerous, it is uninteresting and it requires a minimum of driving skill." Every word might be true, but what Stirling Moss was really expressing was the grief of racing men for the death of Jean Behra.
Two Out in Chattanooga
Like a lady with a purple past, baseball has lived with the memory of its Black Sox scandal for 40 years. That memory was dredged up again last week with the news that two players in the Southern Association had been attempting to fix games. Punishment was swift. One player, Waldo Gonzalez, was booted out for a year. The other, 33-year-old Jesse Levan, the leading hitter of the Chattanooga Lookouts, was thrown out forever.
It was in early July that George Trautman, president of the minor leagues, heard that certain members of the Chattanooga team were being bribed to lose games. Trautman questioned every man on the team and excused all but five, Levan and Gonzalez among them. The investigation of these five men continued all month, and when it was done, this is the story Trautman had:
When the season began, Sammy Meeks was first base coach for the Mobile Bears. One day, Meeks said, Levan invited him into a cocktail lounge where another man was waiting. The two men told Meeks he could earn some easy money if he watched Chattanooga's shortstop, Waldo Gonzalez, before every pitch. If Gonzalez was standing erect, the pitch would be a fast ball. If Gonzalez was bent, it would be a curve. Meeks could then alert the Mobile batter what to expect.
Meeks refused the "easy money," he said, but did agree to keep an eye on the Chattanooga shortstop's risings and bendings in case they might help him signal Mobile batters what to expect. He did not report the conversation, he said, because he did not want to spoil a tip that might help his team win. After all, wasn't winning the most important thing? A Mobile batter who admitted testing the supposed system in one game said that it didn't work.
In mid-June Meeks was released by Mobile and signed by Chattanooga. Now he had some deep thinking to do. He decided to tell of his conversations with Levan. Meeks informed the Chattanooga catcher. The catcher told the manager. The manager told the club president. The club president told the league president. The league president told Trautman.
Two other Chattanooga players testified that Levan had tried to bribe them. Both were pitchers, and Levan had asked them to throw easy-to-hit pitches. Levan was called in and confronted with all this. He insisted, "I've never accepted a bribe or a fix." He said he would appeal the lifetime ban: "I feel my punishment is too severe." Gonzalez denied intentional sign-tipping but was suspended for his lack of cooperation during Trautman's investigation.
One of the pitchers who had been asked to throw easy-to-hit pitches, Tom McAvoy, said he thought Levan was joking. The other, Jim Heise, took it more seriously but didn't turn Levan in because he was "a friend." Jim Heise, and baseball itself, needs no friends on those terms.
It was a happy elephant that stood swigging a fiasco of Chianti in the warm Italian sunshine one day last week, the center of the uproar swirling around her. Fire hoses gushed high in the air, brass bands tootled and children cheered. After 10 days and 150 miles on the road, the British Alpine Hannibal Expedition had led an elephant named Jumbo out of France, over the towering Alps and into the town of Susa. And what made it truly remarkable, Jumbo was the first elephant to come that way in 2,177 years.
Not that Jumbo was exactly a 100% heroine. When she set out from Montmélian, France the week before, her objective (and that of her caretakers) was to cross the Alps over an 8,200-foot pass called Col du Clapier. The pass, in the controversial opinion of John Hoyte, an English amateur historian, is probably the one used by Hannibal, who invaded Italy in 218 B.C. with 45,000 men and 37 elephants. And Hoyte borrowed Jumbo from the Turin Zoo for a practical test of this thesis. Unfortunately, after the first week's march up the beautiful winding roads of the French Alps (at Jumbo's steady 15-mph pace) things stopped going according to Hoyte. Leaving Jumbo five miles from and 2,000 feet below Col du Clapier, Ernesto Gobold, the elephant's trainer from Turin, scouted the pass and reported it partially closed by rock slides. "There are two or three places too narrow for Jumbo," he told Hoyte. Too narrow, he said, even though his elephant had lost some 300 pounds since the caravan left Montmélian. Too narrow, indeed, even though a few days before three stone masons had mounted the summit of Clapier and carved into the rock a likeness of Jumbo and a premature inscription commemorating her historic passage.
It seemed un-British to turn back altogether. Instead Hoyte, Gobold and others in the party decided to use another pass which, while it would supply no proof for Hoyte's theory, would at least afford an access to Turin, Jumbo's destination. The pass chosen was the 6,800-foot Col du Mont Cenis (used by Napoleon, sans elephants, whenever he felt like invading Italy), and two days later Jumbo marched triumphantly up and over.
By now the scientific expedition had taken on the proportions of a small circus. Jumbo did tricks for photographers as she descended into Italy, and at the Italian frontier she presented a foot-square passport which listed, in the space for Special Peculiarities, "Long nose and partiality for pears."
Later that day Jumbo was in Susa, drinking her fill of Italian wine and having, it appeared, the time of her 11-year life. And there, perhaps, she came to understand the full import of the words addressed to her ancestors by Hannibal 22 centuries before from the top of the Alps: "We now surmount not only the ramparts of Italy but also of the city of Rome; all the rest is smooth and downhill."
A young lawyer in Rochester, hard-working and very successful, spends his weekends working hard, but not very successfully, on his golf game. He had, until recently, been unable to break 90.
Then one day he went water skiing on a neighboring lake. It was his first outing and he fell often. The next morning he had a fearfully stiff neck. He also had a golf date.
Bravely he winced onto the first tee. Unable to do anything except keep his head down, his eye on the ball, he sent his first drive whistling 270 yards down the fairway. It went that way all afternoon, and the lawyer ended up with an exhilarating 84. The following day, neck still stiff, drives still whistling, he scored an 82. He began entertaining visions of breaking 80.
Then came disaster. His neck un-stiffened. The drives stopped whistling and once again he shot in the miserable high 90s.
Back onto the water skis hustled the young lawyer, but by now he was reasonably competent. No spills, no stiff neck. No whistling drives, no breaking 90, let alone 80. He needs help. Anybody know what is good for causing a stiff neck?
The Injured Moose
William Joseph Skowron, commonly called Moose, is a well-muscled young man who—when injuries permit—does an outstanding job at first base for the New York Yankees. A fortnight ago he broke the radius and ulna bones of his left wrist in a freak base line accident at Detroit, and at that point, understandably enough, he was sunk in gloom. "I'm just a putty ballplayer," he moaned. "This is the fifth time this year I've been out. I've never had one season without being hurt.... Hell, I want to play!" But last week Skowron, relaxing in a hospital bed with his wrist in a plaster cast, was quite himself again, good-natured and soft-spoken, and he was accepting his latest mishap more philosophically.
"I never had any real injuries when I was a kid," he told a visitor. "Oh yeah, playing high school basketball I jumped for a rebound, came down wrong and sprained my ankle. And playing football I lost three teeth, and another time a guy hit me square on my thigh muscle with his helmet and I was out six weeks. But that was all. Then playing college football I lost two more teeth and got laid up when I was clipped from behind. But that's all.
"Even the first few years in the majors weren't so bad. I broke in with the Yankees in '54, but I didn't lose much time. Of course, Casey was platooning me. In '55 I tore a muscle in Chicago, right here under my thigh, and I was out six weeks. In '56 I stayed in good shape most of the time and had my best year. I hit .308, got over 20 homers, knocked in 90 runs.
"Then in '57 I had my trouble with the air conditioner. I took it out of the window and favored a bad finger when I was moving it. The next thing I knew I felt a wicked pain in my back. I've had a bad back ever since. I also got hit by a pitched ball, I broke my thumb and I broke a toe.
"Things were better in '58. But I did tear a muscle up high, up on my back, going for a ground ball Clint Courtney hit. I was out three weeks. And I hurt my leg running out a base hit in Kansas City and was out for two more.
"This year was the worst ever. In spring training, I hurt my back and was out for 10 days. I only missed the opener, though, so I shouldn't count that. At the exhibition game for Campy in Los Angeles I pulled a leg muscle. It cost me two weeks. After the All-Star Game I got hit in the head by Ike Delock. I kept playing, so that shouldn't count either. Then the back again. The last time was in Boston early last month. I still don't know how it happened. Maybe I had been sitting in a draft....
"The day I broke the wrist in Detroit, I asked Casey to play me. Just one inning. I didn't figure it could hurt. So there I was, the first inning back, the first chance I had. Hector Lopez threw the ball a little wide. I reached for it into the runner and there it went. It wasn't Hec's fault, it was mine. Casey came running out when it happened. He just took one look at it. He knew what it was. Then he turned and walked away.
"You know, I thought I was having a pretty good year, considering the injuries. Hitting around .300, leading the club in RBIs. Then this happens. But I'm not sorry for myself. I don't think things happen to me and no one else. What I do think about is that you don't get salary increases by playing 90 or 100 games, no matter how well you do. You get them by playing 150 games.
"One thing I am sorry about is making that statement that I consider myself a putty ballplayer. Some sportswriter stuck it in my mouth and I said 'Yeah, I'm a putty ballplayer.' I was sorry right after I said it, but I was feeling low. I was angry because the doc had told me I was out for the year. I said to myself, 'Two little bones broken and you're out!...You're out!'
"Well, that's all behind me now. They told me I should be getting out of the hospital soon. This morning they took X-rays and told me the bones are in place and everything's fine. It'll just take time to heal. Somebody said I might even play the last two weeks. But you know something? I knew yesterday that it was mending well—yesterday was the first time since I broke the wrist that I had the old craving for hot dogs."
Future of Dogs and Cats
Sir Ronald Fisher, a bearded English scientist of awesome repute, was interviewed in Australia not long ago, and in the course of some observations on genetics said that surgery would enable dogs and cats to "speak simple sentences." A stunned silence followed publication of his words, nothing being heard from newspapermen, other scientists or dogs. Now, however, an English writer, Paul Jennings, has taken up the matter in London's Sunday Observer with a querulous demand that science leave well enough alone. "We know what they're saying already," wrote Jennings. "If you spent ¬£'l million on research and surgery to make our cat speak, she would say, 'I hate you. I hate everybody. Open this damn window and give me some milk.' Our dog would say, 'I love you, shloop, shloop.' "
Since Russian scientists have succeeded in grafting a second head on a living dog, it appears unwise to dismiss too casually these comments on animal communications: dogs and cats may start talking all around-us even while we are calling the reports nonsense. Launching our own inquiry, we have discovered that Sir Ronald did not mean that canine conversations were to be in the immediate future. What he actually said was, "I am convinced scientists will eventually increase the intelligence of dogs, cats and monkeys. Surgery on the brain and mouth, followed by intensive training, should enable these animals to speak...." But he said that at least 40 years of progress would be necessary, and that eventually monkeys might do factory work and serve as household servants.
Now 69, Sir Ronald was until recently Arthur Balfour Professor of Genetics at Cambridge. He became famous after World War I when he performed the herculean task of organizing 75 years of British agricultural statistics. The University of Chicago in awarding him an honorary degree called him one of the greatest figures in the history of scientific method. His comments on current controversies, like the relation of smoking and lung cancer (not proved, he says), are respectfully noted in the British press. But dog-lovers seem to have lost their voices over his prediction that dogs will talk. Nobody has provided a single serious comment. Nobody has ventured to suggest what people and dogs might discuss.
We don't like to see a promising and conceivably sporting discussion languish for want of encouragement, and we'd be willing to start things off with the idea that dogs and men have a lot of things to straighten out if they ever get to it. In the week's news, for instance, we note the conviction of a Long Island bloodhound fancier named A. Kent McClelland that bloodhounds have been maligned for generations as a bloodthirsty set, whereas they are actually, in McClelland's opinion, one of the friendliest and most people-loving of all dogs.
"If the bloodhounds had caught Eliza fleeing across the ice," says McClelland, "they would merely have licked her face."
What about it?
What does the catcher say to the pitcher?
"Come on, kid, we're all witcha."
What does the pitcher say to the catcher?
"I'm gonna fling this one right catcher."
They Said It
Ingemar Johansson, on financial hanky-panky in the boxing business and how to beat it: "Everybody wants a piece of the cake. But my cake has no slices."
Walter Hagen, five-time Professional Golf Association champion, bemoaning the disappearance of match play from his favorite tournament: "Medal play is like playing bridge and match play is like gin rummy. In bridge you have to be quiet and mind your manners. In rummy you can kid your opponent and have a little fun with him."
Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals, 38, on meeting Senator John Kennedy, 42: "They tell me I'm too old to play baseball and you're too young to be President. Maybe we should get together on this."
Pope John XXIII, after watching the Harlem Globetrotters go through a tricky basketball drill with their exhibition-game opponents, the San Francisco Chinese: "Bravo! Bravo! Your races represent almost all parts of the world and you engage in friendly sport together. How good it would be if this idea was a bit more widely spread these days."