Officials of international athletic games, as Avery Brundage could so warmly testify, have as much difficulty keeping politics out of their stadiums as ordinary citizens do in keeping ants out of picnic lunches.
To be sure, things have been politically peaceful at Chicago's Pan American Games (except for a wrestler from the Dominican Republic who has asked for asylum rather than return to Trujillo-land). But at Turin, Italy, where 1,652 athletes from 39 countries competed in the University Games, things were chaotically normal. There the Austrians were mad at the Italians because of the troubles of the Austrians in Italian-controlled South Tyrol; the South Koreans were mad at the North Koreans until the North Koreans, who were mad at the Italians, went home in a snit; and lots of people were mad at the U.S., which ignored the games except for three unofficial athletes.
All this turned out to be of little matter, compared to the great bunting debate—Red Chinese bunting. First the Italians weren't going to let the Red Chinese play at all. Then, with second thoughts, perhaps, about next year's Olympics at Rome and mindful of the history of political uproar that invariably attends the Red Chinese in the world of sport, the Italians changed their minds. The Reds could compete, they said, but no Red Chinese flags could fly. The Red Chinese said they'd either fly their flag or go home, and it took Italian Foreign Minister Giuseppe Pella to offer a Solomon-style compromise. No national flags would fly at all, he ruled. To cap the affair, the Red Chinese student athletes proved no great shakes in the actual competitions. To local delight, the Italians did remarkably well.
September 13, 1959
It all added up to a fine dry run for Italian officialdom, which now has an idea what it can expect when athletes from all the world, flags in hand, march to Rome in 1960.
Vincent J. Velella, the East Harlem mouthpiece who was accused before a grand jury of acting as a front for Mobster Tony Salerno in the promotion of the first Patterson-Johansson fight (SI, Aug. 31) and who has noisy hopes of promoting the rematch, was grilled last week by the New York District Attorney's office in connection with the theft of $45,-297 worth of Government bonds.
According to the D.A.'s office, the bonds were last seen on July 31 in a New York brokerage office. A few days later they were redeemed in a Brooklyn bank by a man who said he was acting on behalf of someone who expected to open an account. The account was never opened, but on August 4, $45,297 was deposited in an East Harlem bank and checks exhausting most of it were then drawn. One of the checks went to Vincent J. Velella.
Said an assistant D.A.: "Velella gave an explanation which, if true, is satisfactory."
Stuck for 800 words to fill his column one day in mid-July, Hank Schoolfield, sports editor of the Winston-Salem Journal, spun out a semi-plausible tale that he had heard at a banquet. As Schoolfield got it, a pastel Cadillac drove up to a North Carolina lake one simmery afternoon, then backed down to the water. Hitched behind the car was a chrome-crusted speedboat, and hitched behind the boat was an outsized outboard. When the boat was launched her two-man crew unlimbered a fat coil of rope and a pair of water skis. One man put on the skis, snugged one end of the rope around his forearm, and struck a statuesque pose at water's edge. His companion vaulted into the boat, made the free end of the rope fast to the stern and started the engine. "Is you ready, Ski King?" he sang out. "Let 'er go, Daddy-O!" responded the skier, his voice heavy with nonchalance.
The someone who told someone who told Schoolfield didn't recollect if the runabout was making 20 or 30 knots when the rope at Ski King's feet was fully paid out. He did remember that, as the rope twanged taut, Ski King's skis remained more or less fixed in their tracks while Ski King himself departed the edging sands and described a glorious parabola in the air. He remained aloft for about 50 feet, then sluiced headlong into the lake. Daddy-O, meanwhile, his thoughts fully absorbed in the shriek of his engine, looked straight ahead as Ski King alternately dipped and rose and sailed along behind, not at all unlike a porpoise following an ocean liner. When, at length, Daddy-O got the drift and eased off, Ski King was gorged with lake water and his forearm was bent.
Legends usually live after men, not with them, but in the days after Editor Schoolfield's column appeared the story was widely reprinted in the Southeast. On top of that, by mid-August, Ski King and Daddy-O were turning up in local versions all over the country. Golfer Mike Souchak, returning to his home in Chapel Hill after the summer's tour, said that he had the story from Bing Crosby, and that Crosby had seen it happen on California's Lake Tahoe. Another version emphatically located the scene at Lake of the Ozarks.
Now, Daddy-O and Ski King (he's Ski Cat in Cleveland) have got the only real tribute men or legends can know these days: their names have been immortalized at least temporarily in a pop recording. Erson Calvin Beatty, a part-time hillbilly composer and singer, has cleared his throat, Tennessee-Ernie-Ford fashion, and has told Ski King's story to a repetitive, practically tuneless rhythm accompanied in lyrics like these:
Daddy-O opened that throttle wide,
It sounded like a swarm of bees.
All of that power from those 50 horses.
Made Ski King lose his skis.
Poor Ski King was aflyin' low,
Like a porpoise up and down,
They circled the lake about four or
Daddy-O never looked around.
Daddy-O was adrivin' that boat,
Ski King was drinkin' the lake,
People were yellin' at Daddy-O:
"Stop the boat for goodness' sake."
So far in Detroit, Nashville, Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta, the recording has sold 65,000 copies, undoubtedly because of its resemblance to the local story making the rounds and sworn to. "Why," said Orville Campbell, president of Chapel Hill's Colonial Records, which made the recording, "after the record was out I got a long distance call from somewhere. The fellow said he had a $25 bet on that the story was true, so was it?" Businessman Campbell did not know and did not really care.
Competition in Texas
Texas now has a population of 8,000,000, all believers in rugged competition. Nothing is, therefore, more natural than that Dallas and Houston should now be bidding not for just one professional football team apiece but two.
The young man who started all this is Lamar Hunt, 27-year-old son of H. L. (for Haroldson Lafayette) Hunt, whom FORTUNE has classified ($400-million-to-$700-million class) as one of the seven richest men in the country. Quietly rugged Lamar, whose football experience included playing third-string end at Southern Methodist, where teammates nicknamed him "poor boy," decided that the best way to bring pro football to Dallas was to start his own league in competition with the 37-year-old National Football League. Traveling from coast to coast this summer at a pace that once found him spending a night on a Newark Airport couch, fast-moving young Lamar lined up financial backers in five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Houston) to go with his own franchise in Dallas and announced formation of the American Football League.
But moving in on the same potentially lush grazing range now are the sons of two other Texas tycoons, Clint W. Murchison Jr., 35, son of Clint Sr. ($100-million-to-$200-million class), and Bedford Wynne, 36, son of Dallas' unranked but not unremarked Angus Wynne (real estate, cattle, oil). Attempting for some time to get the NFL to move into Dallas, they got a big boost in the hope department the other day when the NFL expansion committee recommended Dallas and Houston as the sites of two new NFL teams.
Getting the NFL expansion news on his car radio while driving home, Lamar's blood got as hot as the sizzling Dallas temperature. "This is an effort to sabotage us that will be apparent to 170 million people," he charged. He immediately reminded the NFL that Congress is well-known to be interested in the monopoly aspects of professional football.
Then, working harder than ever from the small Dallas Mercantile Bank Building office where he answers his own phone, Lamar Hunt began to battle for his newborn league and exchange potshots with his Dallas rivals.
Neither side thought much of what the other could offer on a football field. "It'll be an accident if any new NFL club finishes out of the cellar," said young Hunt. At the same time young Wynne was observing that the chances of Hunt's league proving successful are "very problematical, with the lack of players available and the caliber of players he'd have to go with."
Young Murchison even suggested that Hunt's new league was just a rich man's form of sour grapes. "I think that Lamar would have preferred an NFL franchise himself," said Murchison. "Formation of a new league was more or less a last resort."
But won't the American tendency to back an underdog help handsome young Lamar and his AFL? a questioner asked Murchison.
"Well, I'll be damned!" cried Clint. "You're the first person I ever heard call a Hunt an underdog!"
Meanwhile New Leaguer Lamar was getting set for a Los Angeles meeting this weekend, when two more teams are expected to be added to his AFL and a commissioner named.
In Texas, where you never punt until fourth down, Lamar Hunt still has the ball. (He also has a one-year option on the best ball field in Dallas—the Cotton Bowl.) For the present, Murchison, Wynne and the NFL can chiefly watch and wait.
Athletes at Atlantic City
In their annual rummage for the well-rounded girl the Miss-America people introduced in the '30s what their euphemistic press agentry optimistically call "the talent judging." Since then the pageant has come a far piece from ukulele renditions of "That's where my money goes/To buy my baby clothes."
This week in Atlantic City, for instance, Miss Michigan will give an archery demonstration. This is not the first time that a Miss has done a sports turn on the Convention Hall stage. In 1949 Miss Kansas rode a misbehaving horse. In 1957 Miss Tennessee fretfully bounced on her trampolin. In 1958 Miss Georgia flubbed an archery exhibition. But it will undoubtedly be the finest sports bit in contest history, for Miss Michigan is Ann Marston (35-23-35), the 1958 National Field Archery champion.
Although Miss Michigan is the pageant's most celebrated sportswoman, the Miss-America vital statisticians have done some earnest and momentous tabulating and discovered that their 54 contestants participate, more or less, in 19 sports. These are: fencing, tumbling, badminton, field hockey, rifle shooting, golf, tennis, swimming, water and snow skiing, skating, boating, fishing, basketball, archery, volleyball, bowling, horseback riding and sports car rallying.
The flacks reserve comment on the level of athletic proficiency but proudly point out that Miss Pennsylvania (37-24-36) "was center halfback in the U.S. Mid-East Field Hockey Tournament in '58"; that Miss South Dakota (35-24-36), "one of the 12 beauties who are swimmers, is a lifeguard at the city pool in Yankton during summers"; that Miss Maine (35-25-35) is "the rifle shooting bug"; and that there are six tennis players, five contest water skiers, four golfers, one basketball player, who besides being 37-23-36 is 5 feet 8, and one sports car rally enthusiast. The flacks admit that they don't know for sure what "enthusiast" means but assure us she has a lot of fun at it.
The judges can be relied upon to pick Miss America and her court by the ancient values, but as sympathetic historians of the sporting change which has come over American life since the early days when Miss America contestants wore bathing suits but weren't expected to know how to swim, we have promised to pass on the heartening news.
A Law for Wild Horses
Ten years ago Mrs. Velma Johnston, the secretary of a Reno insurance agent, saw a truckload of bleeding and battered horses on a Nevada road. Investigating, she learned that many such truckloads traveled western highways. Their cargoes, destined for commercialized slaughter, were some of the wild, unbranded horses of the West's open ranges. As potential dog food, wild horses brought a few pennies a pound at the slaughterhouse. Their herds were easily hunted from airplanes, which first spotted them and then buzzed them across the prairies to exhaustion. One Reno rancher was credited with rounding up 40,000 that way.
Velma Johnston, the wife of a rancher and the daughter of Nevada pioneers, was shocked at the cruelty of the practice. She appealed to the Federal Government's land management bureau and was told to forget it. She then went after the commissioners of Storey County, and in 1952, after three years of campaigning, won her first victory when Storey County outlawed hunting wild horses by plane. Her boss let her use office stamps and stationery to answer her mail. After one national article about her she received 5,000 personal letters of support. But she was now meeting the fate of crusaders and was being ridiculed as Wild Horse Annie. In Reno, says a friend of Velma Johnston, crusaders are considered fanatical, "and five will get you ten they are nuts."
But by 1955 the Nevada legislature passed a measure protecting wild horses, and other western states followed. The truckloads bound for the slaughterhouse continued to pass, however: 80% of Nevada is government land; so federal legislation was needed. To impress Congressmen, Velma Johnston collected graphic proof of atrocious hunting methods: she personally took photographs of the exhausted, battered animals. Nevada's Representative Walter Baring took up her case. He introduced a bill in the House outlawing mechanized roundups and other inhumane practices (including polluting of water holes), and Montana's Mansfield introduced a parallel bill in the Senate. At the hearings on the bill before a House judiciary subcommittee in Washington this summer Mrs. Johnston had a crusader's triumph: for almost two hours she held the lawmakers spellbound with her quiet, soft-voiced account of her campaign. Now has come full victory; both the House and the Senate have just passed legislation prohibiting the use of planes in hunting wild horses.
All in the Approach
Been a hard summer? Take a lesson from the woman golfer who—and we have affidavits—faced a downhill lie five yards short of a wide stream the other day. "What club do you think I should use?" she asked her partner. "A seven," came the reply. Our lady looked at the scene again: the ball, the stream, the distant green. "No. I think I'll play it safe," she said. "I'll just carry it across." And so she did.
It rained, so the foursome
Adjourned to the bar.
At the end of the fifth
They were 4 under par.
They Said It
Perry Jones, 71, U.S. Davis Cup captain, announcing his retirement after the loss of the cup to Australia: "We should not be alarmed. We have many fine juniors coming up. Our tennis future is bright."
Wally Moon, Los Angeles Dodger outfielder, dismissing a teammate in the on-deck circle before hitting a ninth-inning homer to beat San Francisco: "Don't worry. I've got it. You might as well take a seat."
Harry Mehre, former Georgia football coach, on being ribbed by Tennessee's Senator Estes Kefauver, who said he once saw Tennessee beat Georgia 46-0: "Yes, sir, and I once sat on the sidelines and saw you and Adlai Stevenson lose by nine and a half million."
Gene Bossard, Chicago White Sox groundkeeper, giving a reason why a groundkeeper's life is terrible hard: "Invariably, when a ball takes a bad hop, everybody says the ball hit a pebble. We haven't got a pebble on the diamond. We screen the ball field with one-eighth-inch mesh. There just aren't any pebbles. Sometimes a player will rip up a divot and he won't know it. Then if a ball hits it the ball won't bounce true. But they always say it's a pebble."
Lawrence Berra Jr., 9, Yankee fan, son of Yankee Catcher Yogi Berra, observing that his father neglected to hustle down to first base after weakly tipping the ball back to the pitcher: "Heck, he doesn't even run!"