Disenchantment of a Champion
This is an article from the Aug. 24, 1959 issue
The ugly mess surrounding the promotion of the Johansson-Patterson fight, which gave Europe one of its rare heavyweight champions, has gravely injured America's sporting prestige abroad.
Scarcely a person involved, except the two fighters, emerges with honor. Now, as Promoter Bill Rosensohn, who first shed light on the situation in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED two weeks ago, returns from the French Riviera, cutting short his vacation, to answer questions of a New York grand jury, Ingemar Johansson repeats in LIFE this week his disillusionment with the American boxing scene and adds that to a degree this disenchantment now extends to Rosensohn. He resents the fact that Rosensohn introduced him at a Paris meeting (SI, Aug. 17) to Truman Gibson, president of National Boxing Enterprises, the court-created successor to the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president). Ingemar declares he wants "nothing to do with the shady IBC," which he has always despised almost as much as has Floyd Patterson's manager, Cus D'Amato.
Ingemar has every good reason to be disenchanted with the situation. He has one solace. He is the heavyweight champion of the world, and it is in his power to see that the next Johansson-Patterson fight is promotionally as clean and open as the blue skies of Sweden.
As every man in public office well knows, chances are good he will someday be out. Thinking ahead for himself last Friday, Vice-President Richard M. Nixon told the Football Writers Association in Chicago: "After I finish my term I could, of course, become a lawyer. But if I had the choice—and if I had the ability—there is nothing I would rather do than write sports." By questioning his ability, however, Dick Nixon was selling himself short. And a few hours later, at the Colts-All-Stars football game, he proved he already has the sportswriter's credentials of observance, analysis and, to be sure, political tact.
From a 50-yard-line seat in Chicago's Soldier Field, the Vice-President watched the game with animated interest, followed each play closely and frequently stood up to cheer an exceptional run or pass. In the third quarter, with the All-Stars trailing 29-0 (the final score), David and Dewey Graham, sons of All-Star Coach Otto Graham, came to Nixon's box. The boys gave him a football autographed by each of the All-Stars. Nixon thanked them, then, noticing their visible unhappiness, said soothingly: "Now boys, tell your dad not to worry. These Colts are just too tough." A few minutes later a man from the Colt cheering section next to Nixon said to the Vice-President: "I sure hope our yelling hasn't bothered you, but we just love our Colts."
Said Nixon: "Not at all. Those Colts are great. You just tell them to take it easy when they play the Washington Redskins. I'm a Redskin fan, you know, but you have a fine team. You have a right to be proud." That was almost too much for the Baltimore man, who shouted back: "Mr. Nixon, you sure converted a lot of Democrats just then."
After the game Nixon went to the All-Star dressing room, there shook hands with his old friend Otto Graham. "You were up against a great team," he said. "Your kids were scrapping to the last minute and that's what I like to see." The dressing room was crowded, hot and littered with discarded football gear and towels, but Graham yelled for his players to line up to meet the Vice-President. Nixon walked down the receiving line of men—some dressed, some undressed, some dripping wet—shook hands and spoke with each. "I hear Indiana's going to be up this year," he said to Indiana's Mike Rabold. "Seeing you, now I know why the Boilermakers were so good," he said to Purdue's Nick Mumley. To Utah's Lee Grosscup, introduced by Graham as "our Ernest Hemingway," Nixon said, "Yes, Lee, I enjoyed your article in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED."
Well, now Grosscup, who wrote for us in the August 10 issue (Private Life of a Forward Passer) gets his chance to examine the sportswriting style of the Vice-President. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED invited Mr. Nixon to set down his quick summary of the game he had just watched. He agreed—dictating it in a pacing stroll with our correspondent—and here it is:
by RICHARD M. NIXON
This is a Colt team that, barring injuries, will probably go all the way. Now, of course, I haven't seen the other teams yet, but it is hard to imagine any team effectively stopping the Colt offense for very long. The Colts have a great quarterback combined with three ends and two halfbacks who are excellent pass receivers. In addition, they have a driving fullback and speedy breakaway runners.
The college boys were simply unable to halt the balanced Colt offense, and when the All-Stars had the ball they lacked the stuff to move it. The injury early in the game, when Halfback Don Brown of Houston suffered a concussion, was a tremendous psychological blow for the All-Stars. Of course, the All-Star Game is always difficult for the college boys. They haven't worked together long as a team nor had they had much time to learn the new plays.
But the team this year, compared with last year's team that beat Detroit, had one major lack: the team this year did not have a great breakaway runner like Bobby Mitchell. The passing looked good, especially the flat passing, but the team was weak on receivers, and the running simply was not fast enough. One thing you have to hand to the All-Stars is that they scrapped all the way.
What all of this points up is the fact that pro football is an exciting and superb game and demands a high level of training and skill. Now in the regular pro league, if the Colts had been playing the Giants, the Colts' 29-0 lead at the half would not have been overwhelming. With a passer like that Old Man Conerly and a breakaway runner like Gifford, the Giants could have come back and tied or perhaps won the game. But what we may be seeing in the Colts is one of those great pro teams, like the Cleveland Browns of a few years ago, that has gotten to the top of the heap and is going to stay there for a long time.
Mr. Blandings' Dream Stadium
Last May, when the San Francisco Giants were in fourth place, it didn't seem to matter much that work on Candlestick Park was going slowly. Compared to Walter O'Malley's frustrations with Chavez Ravine, Horace Stoneham's troubles were minor: he let San Francisco build him a beautiful $10.5 million park, which he obtained on a 35-year lease, paying only $125,000 a year rent, with Stoneham to receive all concession revenues. True, there were certain disquieting happenings that called to mind the sleepless ordeal of Mr. Blandings building his dream house. The architect, John Bolles, forgot to provide for a backstop. The contractor, Charles Harney, who contracted to do $7,046,000 worth of work on the stadium, did not think of it right away either. A backstop is going to cost somebody, maybe the city, maybe the contractor, maybe even Stoneham, an extra $45,000. But that has been trivial, more of a joke than anything else, bringing up suggestions that customers behind home plate wear catcher's masks and chest protectors.
Last week, however, San Francisco-was looking forward to a World Series, and the slow progress on Candlestick Park became nightmarish. "The biggest disgrace we could possibly suffer is not to be ready!" cried Mayor George Christopher. "Those boys are playing their hearts out for us!"
Horace Stoneham revealed that until May he had expected to be in the new park by July. Candlestick Park (named for Candlestick Cove) is being built by Stadium, Inc., a nonprofit organization which borrowed $2 million in private capital, gave Contractor Harney 5% tax-free notes for his work and some land, and made up the rest with a $5 million city bond issue. Season tickets for games in the old Seals Stadium (capacity: 24,000) were delivered only through half the season, under the belief that 1959's remaining games would be played in the new park. Next, the move was postponed to September. When a local paper reported that the betting was 2 to 1 that Candlestick Park wouldn't open in September, Harney offered to take all such bets.
But in a 90-minute crisis session in Mayor Christopher's office last week, the best that could be promised was that the new stadium would be partly ready for the World Series, in the event the Giants win the National League pennant.
"There is nothing involved here," said Contractor Harney, "that somebody spending some money can't help."
"We have had problems of everything under the sun," said Architect Bolles. "But the contract calls for an arbitrator to settle disputes while the contractor continues working. Charley hasn't done that. He only ordered the last batch of seats yesterday, and with the steel strike and all...."
"It wasn't yesterday," growled the contractor. "It was last Friday."
"Who got the contract?" asked Mayor Christopher. "I'll put some pressure on them!"
"Now, wait a minute, George," said Harney. "Let's not get those American Seating Co. boys in it. They're O.K."
"I want that stadium ready!" cried Mayor Christopher. "By God, I want that stadium ready!"
At the end of the meeting, it seemed likely that 34,000 of the 48,000 seats of Candlestick Park will be ready for occupants by World Series time. Of course, the Giants could easily erase the whole mess by losing a few games and dropping out of the pennant race. But nobody in San Francisco expects them to do so.
No athletes are more zealously dedicated to their game than lacrosse players. When Gene Corrigan, who coaches lacrosse at the University of Virginia, heard that the sport is entrenched in Australia, it seemed only natural to gather a group of American players and, in a mixed spirit of missionary zeal and competitiveness, offer to send them 10,000 miles to demonstrate how lacrosse is supposed to be played. Love to have you, said the Aussies, and last month two dozen eager young Americans from the University of Virginia and Washington & Lee reached Australia for a barnstorming tour. There were surprises all around.
The Australians got Surprise No. 1 as they watched the Americans jog onto the field at Perth. Protected only by padded cloth caps and wrist-length gloves themselves, the Aussies wondered why their guests were wearing fiber-glass helmets, face guards, forearm-length gloves, shoulder and body padding. "Are they going to box or play lacrosse?" asked one baffled official. He got his answer when the Americans went into action, swinging their sticks with carefree abandon and, in classic North American fashion, throwing their opponents almost as often as the ball.
Surprise No. 2 came to the Americans in Adelaide. Word of the North American style of play had spread, and Adelaide's lacrosse teams eagerly decided to adopt it themselves. They flailed away with their sticks, alternating this tactic with a little inventive kicking and tripping not strictly called for, even by the North American style. The Americans retaliated, and the Aussies in their less protective costumes began falling on all sides. Though the Aussies clearly lost the free-for-all (seven of them checked in at the hospital), they did persist long enough to win the game. They beat the Yanks in the next game too, and narrowly lost a third.
The crowd response to the games provided Surprise No. 3. Some 4,000 fans attended the series in Perth, while crowds of 3,000 and 4,000 watched the two rugged Australian victories in Adelaide. And the last game of the tour, which found the Americans (who had won eight out of 10) facing the Australian All-Stars in Melbourne, supplied the topper. An almost unheard-of lacrosse crowd of 10,000 saw the Aussies stagger away with a hard-fought 8-to-5 victory.
All in all, Corrigan and his colleagues felt that the trip was an unqualified success. They had developed great respect for the Aussies' dogged-ness on the playing field, and had learned something of the crying need for agreed international rules. So enthusiastic are they that plans are already being made for another such go-round within the next couple of years. Here, it seems to us, is a good chance for somebody to come forward with an international lacrosse trophy. Nobody had ever heard much of international tennis, either, until Dwight Davis put up his big silver cup.
Drought and the Duck Season
From early spring until last July, no rain fell on the Saskatchewan prairie, breeding ground for millions of mallards, canvasbacks, pintails and other ducks—85% of the North American total. Sloughs and potholes that had not been dry in 20 years were baked, waterless depressions covered with the dried stubble of bulrushes. Ordinarily those rushes were part of the emergent vegetation in which ducks nested above the water, safe from predators. Only a million and a half water holes remained; ordinarily there are 5 million to 10 million of them. The number of broods was estimated as 71% below average. The number of ducklings to a brood was the smallest ever recorded. Canadian authorities were alarmed about ducks, but they had even more alarming prospects to consider: if it did not rain before July 1, the half-billion-dollar grain crop would be lost. As for American opinion on the prospects for ducks, the head of the wildlife department, Daniel Janzen, said "We can always hope some miracle will occur" (SI, June 29).
By July 1 a miracle of sorts had occurred. In two joyful, soaking days four inches of rain fell, saving the Canadian grain crop, filling the streams, turning the brown landscape a vivid green. And the ducks? No one seemed to want to speculate about them. Ducks Unlimited of Canada ventured cautiously that the outlook was a little improved, if only because "many broods that would have died through lack of water have been saved," and said that much rain last May would have made a great difference. While American and Canadian authorities conducted a joint survey of the breeding grounds by plane all through July, the Sports Fisheries and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior kept silent, refusing to discuss a shortened season, a curtailed daily bag limit, or—as some conservationists urged—no duck season at all in 1959.
Last week both the Canadian and the U.S. seasons and limits were announced, and the drought toll of the duck world received official recognition. In Saskatchewan, whose 70,000 hunters ordinarily kill a million ducks each fall, the daily limit was cut to seven (it was 12 last year, 15 the year before). In southern Saskatchewan, the season was shortened by three weeks. The hunting area of 14 lakes and marshes, running southwest from Saskatoon to the U.S. border, was entirely closed. Alberta cut the daily bag limit to seven, possession to 21 (down from 40) and shortened the season by about three weeks. Quebec and Ontario cut the daily limit to six.
The reduction in the U.S. was more drastic. A complicated optional system worked out by the wildlife service permitted the states to choose their own limitations, but these ran from 20- to 40-day reductions in the duck season. New York, Maryland and the other states in the Atlantic Flyway, for example, may take a 40-day season, with a daily limit of four and a possession limit of eight, or a 50-day season with limits of three and six. Last year the season ran 60 days (down from 70 in 1957), and an 80-day season was once normal. The same alternative is offered in the Mississippi Flyway; where such states as Minnesota and Louisiana have the same choice of 40- or 50-day seasons, but the reduction is greater because their seasons were longer in the past. In the Central Flyway there can be a 50-day season in 1959, with bag limits of four and eight, or a 60-day season with limits of three and six, as opposed to a 75-day season before, with limits of five and 10. The Pacific Flyway was unaffected by the drought. "We have attempted to cut the duck kill by one-third to one-half in all fly-ways except the Pacific," Janzen said. "Even though certain restrictions are essential, we have attempted to spread the shooting so that some hunting can be provided for all hunters across the country."
The wicketest game
Still can be fun,
Provided it's played
With mallets toward none.
—DANIEL E. BUTTON
They Said It
Melvin Krulewitch, New York State Athletic Commission chairman and former Marine Corps general, peering at the barrage of affidavits laid down in the current series of boxing controversies: "Iwo Jima was never like this."
Archie Moore, light-heavyweight champion, accurately forecasting his kayo of Yvon Durelle: "I think a knockout looks so beautiful in a championship match."
Amos Alonzo Stagg, 97, on why he sent back the gift of a power mower, intends to keep cutting his lawn with a hand model: "I didn't want them to take my source of exercise away from me."