A Touch of Genius
His service, with its short swing, was strikingly effective. His volley dispatched the ball forthwith and his lob was disconcerting. Moderate in his hitting, he consistently sought and found unreachable terrain to score or extract the error."
Who was the subject of this high tennis praise from New York Times Sportswriter Allison Danzig? None other than SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S own Contributing Editor William Talbert, whose preview of the Davis Cup matches appears on page 56. Talbert, a veteran who is only a drop shot away from 41 and who up to a few weeks ago had played no grass-court tournament tennis for a year, proved how well he knows the sport he writes when he teamed with young John Lesch to go to the quarter-finals in the National Doubles at Brookline, Mass., before bowing to the tournament finalists, Alex Olmedo and Earl Buchholz Jr.
It was the straight set defeat of British Davis Cuppers Bobby Wilson and Tony Pickard in the third round which led Danzig to call Bill's tennis "a marvelous exhibition of tactical play."
August 30, 1959
"There was a touch of genius to Talbert's return of service," wrote the Timesman of his SPORTS ILLUSTRATED colleague and competitor, "and he constantly baffled the opposition with his ripostes."
In the Quebec village of St. Simeon, whose water supply was recently tied in to a well-stocked mountain lake, housewives have complained about hot-and-cold running trout in their kitchen sinks. We don't know if William Zeckendorf, the millionaire real estate man, has considered this as a possible luxury feature for the $66 million hotel he is building in mid-Manhattan, but we do know that he has some fancy ideas about privately raised trout. Zeckendorf's 70-acre estate on Long Island Sound boasts an eight-acre manmade lake so well stocked with fish as to provide an angler's paradise. What's more, the trout are all happily thriving in salt water.
"I thought," says Zeckendorf cheerfully, "it would be fun to experiment, so I put 5,000 brook, brown and rainbow trout in the salt-water lake this spring, and they're doing very well, not bothered by the salt a bit, except that their skins are getting a little darker and they may not be able to breed."
He was standing at the time on a narrow bank separating the salt lake from a fresh-water pond, and he promptly picked up a rod and baited the hook with a minnow. "First, I'll show you how the fresh-water fish bite around here," he said, casting into the pond. Within seconds the bait was taken and he landed a three-and-a-half-pound largemouth bass. "Easy, isn't it?" he chuckled.
Zeckendorf walked to the other side of the bank, putting a worm on the hook as he went. "Now," said the hotel man, "we'll get ourselves a salt-water trout. The lake is full of them." He pointed with the rod. "See that spillway? The lake is higher than the sound, so we get the last two hours of the tide. It comes in over the spillway and gives us clean water. I've got a wire netting there that's small enough to keep the trout from swimming out, but big enough to let in food."
He whipped the rod, and the line snaked through the air; he reeled it in slowly, waiting for the strike. It didn't come and he cast again. Small beads of perspiration broke out on his face and trickled down his neck. On the fourth try he played the line carefully, felt a small tug. "Ah, he's taking it. He's taking it," he said. Quickly, he set the hook and reeled in his catch. "Oh my golly," he laughed, "it's an eel!.... I've got an eel!" He dumped the squirming creature into a handy pail, looked down at his watch, then looked out regretfully over the lake. There was a moment or two of complete silence. "I'm sorry," busy Bill Zeckendorf said finally, "but I have an appointment coming up. I guess you'll have to take my word the trout are in there."
It pleases us to take Bill Zeckendorf's word for it, but it pleases us even more to know that a man who controls a multimillion-dollar corporation and builds his own lake can have troubles landing his trout—just like the rest of us.
Muscular Mike Souchak, who has caused financial dismay in the ranks of touring golf professionals so far this year by winning $46,000, let slip some information which may scare those of the next generation's prospective pros old enough to read.
Fresh from his eye-opening 69-63-67-69 win in the Motor City Open (a victory for which big Mike gives much credit to a waist-trimming diet), the ex-Duke football player confided that there's another golfing Souchak: Mike Jr.
At age 5 Mike Jr. has already worn out one set of clubs and is using the second to hit the ball 70 yards at a shot. This may be even a better beginning than he had, Mike Sr. admitted to an Atlantic Coast conference of football coaches and sportswriters. "I was playing at the age of 5 too," said Mike. "But my brother John, who was a pro in Pennsylvania, used to give me only one club at a time.
"One day he'd hand me a seven iron. He'd make me play for three or four weeks using only that stick. Then I'd get a driver, and again I'd play the entire course for weeks at a time." By the time Mike was 10, and presumably using several clubs, he could break 80. Mike Jr. has five years to top Dad's record and, to hear his father tell it, the boy might just do it at that.
'It's a Bug'
Each weekday Terry Lentz rose with the Monterey Park, Calif, sun, drove 45 minutes to school, attended classes till 5 p.m., supped hastily and worked in a grocery store till after 10. This left only weekends, "when beaches are most crowded and other spearfishermen follow you around to see the best spots," for Terry to practice his favorite sport. But Terry made the best of it, and that best proved good enough last week to enable him to win the World Underwater Fishing Championships at Malta. During seven hours of diving in the Mediterranean, Terry collected such a variety of underwater prey that the Italians, who won in 1954, '55 and '57, and the reigning French champions held their breath in awe.
The U.S. had never before competed in the world championships and the team made the trip this year only because of the enthusiasm of a roaring, stumping lion of a man named Gustav Delia Valle, who looks like a cross between Tarzan and Toscanini. Valle managed to raise enough money to send Terry and three other American divers to Malta. Few gave them much chance to win, and the Italians laughed aloud when they saw Floridian Don Del Monico's Hawaiian sling—a hollow bamboo tube fitted with a piece of surgical rubber—which Don used in preference to a conventional spear gun. Incensed, Don fitted the sling with a quarter-inch steel spear, drew back and in true Homeric style sent it flying through one wooden door, across a room and through a second door. The Italians gaped.
They also gaped when Terry Lentz presented his catch: six groupers and nine smaller fish, totaling 106 pounds. Terry swept the field for individual honors even though the Americans as a team came in behind Spain and Italy. Now his only worry is about the future. "When you become a skin-diver," he says, "it can make a mess of any plans you have for a career. Plenty of good guys have blown plenty of good jobs because of skin-diving. It's a bug. I'll probably end up as a fireman like Don Del Monico...24 hours working, then 48 hours off for fishing."
Otto and the Night Visitors
The natural-born enemy of the starling is man. The natural-born friend of man, who must perforce share his trees, his TV antennae and his suburban peace with nightly droves of gabby, untidy starlings, is Otto D. Standke, The Bird Man. By his own admission, Otto is the most persistent, dedicated and resourceful foe it was ever a starling's lot to meet. And last week, for a $4,000 fee (contingent upon success), he was in New York City's starling-infested suburb, Mount Vernon, to prove it.
For 50 trying years Mount Vernon's town fathers despaired of solving their starling problem, but Otto Standke and his "copyrighted, proven method" of dispersing the clubby birds have given them new hope. "I got my fill of starlings out in Great Bend, Kans. 10 years ago," said Otto, a vigorous, wizened little man of 71½ years. "There are 230 elm trees in the six-acre park there, and every summer they used to fill up with starlings. The city got the idea they could scare 'em off with aluminum owls, but I told them they couldn't. So they went ahead anyhow and spent $1,500 on those owls, and the starlings liked 'em so much they took to roosting on their heads." Outraged, Taxpayer Standke captured 24 Kansas starlings, put them in a barn and for two months carefully studied their habits. "Before long, I knew all about them birds," says Otto. "And I didn't learn anything from any tomfool books and I wasn't guessing. The next year when the starlings came, I went out and cleared that park of every one of them, and they haven't been back since." Nor, says The Bird Man, have any blankety-blank starlings returned to perches they occupied in Louisville, Wichita and Indianapolis before being shooed away by Standke. The remarkable fact is that responsible officials in these cities bear him out.
How, asked good burghers of Mount Vernon (and a score of reporters), did he do it? "I do it," said Otto, "with a secret method that I ain't going to talk about. People ask me to chase birds and I chase 'em, but I didn't come 2,000 miles to tell you how it's done. You don't think a man who's as old as I am and has a secret worth half a million is going to blab it all away, do you? No, sir, not The Bird Man. I don't hurt them, but when I chase starlings, they stay chased. I can drive 'em out of one tree and into another if I want to. I can drive 'em out of Cleveland and into Cincinnati if I want to. I can do anything with 'em because I know all about 'em, that's my secret."
That, of course, was only part of his secret, Otto amended. The rest, he said, was in a gray metal box, eight inches square and 24 inches long, fastened shut by two padlocks. And it would stay locked, vowed The Bird Man, whenever there were prying eyes around trying to see inside. A girl reporter shook the box and said its contents sounded to her like a fist-size rock bedded down in some dry Kansas dirt. "Anything you can see," said Otto, plainly relishing the wonderment on all sides, "is merely for show and to make monkeys of all them fellas who hang around watching me while I work."
And with these fateful words, The Bird Man went to work on his enemies. Leaving the double-locked box at his hotel ("There'll be too many monkeys out there a-looking at me"), he fairly raced up and down the streets of Mount Vernon, banging together two aluminum paddles and, on occasion, plinking a metal pipe suspended around his neck by a woven cotton rope. Clang, blang, twang went Otto D. Standke, probing the darkening back yards and driveways over which the starlings slumbered. Chatter, screech, whirr went the birds, put to flight from their bending branches. And while children and grownups alike traipsed along behind, breathless at the exhausting pace, Otto denounced the whole shebang: "All this noise-making and carrying on ain't got a thing to do with chasing starlings ; I do it because it's a good show."
After three nights of this procedure, neither the starlings (whose numbers had not appreciably diminished) nor the people of Mount Vernon could make out whether The Bird Man was a wizard, a spellbinder or an outright charlatan. But one thing seemed clear. Faced with the continuing nuisance of pesky, defiling birds, the solace-seeking suburbanites of a neurotic century are willing to try almost anything—or anybody—that offers them peace.
The International Approach
Three hundred representatives from 38 countries arrived in Helsinki, Finland this month to hold six days of cool (Helsinki temperatures 57° to 68°, a brochure advised) conference on a hot and difficult topic: the role of sports and physical education in the complex world today.
Jointly sponsored by the Finnish government and UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the meeting, officially called the International Conference on the Contribution of Sports to the Improvement of Professional Abilities and to Cultural Development, had set itself a task as tough to encompass as its name. To no one's surprise the conference failed to come up with any very clear ideas. It concluded in a vague way that sport can contribute to health, relieve boredom for industrial workers, improve their reflexes and enable them to escape some of the frustration of factory life. (UNESCO was urged to assist in an international exchange of information in this sociological field.)
They skated so cautiously over the thin ice of international relations and discriminatory practices that nearly a week passed before a Pakistan resolution condemning political discrimination in sports finally won approval. And the heady question of the relationship between sport and culture was not moved much further forward by the thinkers at Helsinki than it had been by the ancient Greeks.
The importance of the conference, however, lay not in its resolutions, but in its implicit recognition that sport in the broadest sense is becoming an increasingly vital aspect of the lives of all peoples—something well worthy of the attention of an international conference. Delegates from 38 nations were on hand and the fact that only one U.S. delegate attended was noted by all the rest with raised eyebrows. Great Britain sent five delegates, Russia eight.
Out of the Helsinki meeting came plans for a full-fledged "International Council of Sport and Physical Education," with an organization meeting set for September 1960 in Rome. Meanwhile, the delegates were left to muse over the closing remarks of Professor A. Davis Munrow of the University of Birmingham, England, whose comment on the proper sporting mood is worthy of consideration by sportsmen everywhere.
"For adult sport to make a real contribution to a culture pattern," said the professor, "it has to retain in it some of the characteristics of childish play—when it is fun it is never merely flippant, when it is serious it is never overtense, it is pervaded with an air of complete enlistment without the characteristics of obsession."
Lapse at Lord's
In this indelicate age of nuclear power, mechanized ease and crude pragmatism, there are few places where an English gentleman can still find the graceful amenities of a bygone day. One of them is the cricket ground at Lord's.
The members' pavilion at Lord's (which was named after a lordly but not titled Mr. Lord more than a century ago) is tougher to get into than Eton, and the average waiting period is more than 10 years. One sweltering day last week, the 145-year-old gentility of Lord's was brutally shattered when some 30 cricket fans in what amounted to Lord's bleachers took off their shirts and sat watching the play in bare and hairy chests.
There was no real trouble. When an attendant was despatched to inform the half-nude offenders that numerous English ladies were seriously threatened with the vapors at the ghastly sight, the culprits hastily covered themselves again. But despite the heavy sarcasm, humor and amusement evidenced in the English press, most proper Englishmen realized with a pang that Lord's would never be quite the same again.
In baseball's never-never land
A place to sit is called a stand.
And in the baseball czar's domain
A raincheck never checks the rain.
—HARVEY L. CARTER
They Said It
John Cudmore, assistant football coach at Southern Methodist University, on SMU Quarterback Don Meredith: "If anything happens to Meredith, we'll have to change our offense. We'll resort to the confused T with the unbalanced coach in motion."
Murray Rose, Australian swim star and 400-meter Olympic freestyle champion, after visiting Japan: "Japanese girls are far more attractive than Western women, who act so bold you'd think they've experienced all there is in life. Japanese girls have a very sensitive and unassuming quality. I would very much like to marry one."