These are the times that try men's souls. The summer sailor and the sunshine golfer will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his favorite sport, but he that stands it now...."
No sports-minded Thomas Paine was on hand to cry this Common Sense of the changing seasons last week as the U.S., still limp from a summer-long heat wave, moved onward into the first chill winds of autumn, but from all over the U.S., SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S correspondents stood ready with reports of the seasonal change of heart on the sporting scene.
"There has been a defiant southwester blowing here for the last couple of days," wired Dean Brelis from Boston. "It blew away the last elements of summer from the local scene and gave the sailing places a tired look. Natives left behind by the departing summer people in places like North Haven, Maine and Orleans, Mass. were feeling in a better humor. Their favorite bars were open to them again and a man could walk down Main Street without living out a lifetime of wondering if he could ever make the five blocks from Dawson's Country Grocery to Mabel Glugeth's Package Store. Bungalows so much lived in over the past three months now look seaward with a bleak, gone-away look, and canvas now covers boats hauled up in yards. From Searsport to Point Judith, professional fishermen are enjoying a privacy that makes the stiffening wind something to relish. But if natives along the coast are just now finding the annual privacy that comes with the end of summer, the reverse is happening in Vermont and New Hampshire, where the first light snow has already settled on mountain tops, where the tourist invasion is yet to begin. 'It's going to be a great skiing winter,' the natives are telling each other."
September 27, 1959
"High in the Rocky Mountains, along the jagged backbone of the continent," runs the report from Barron Beshoar in Denver, "the first heavy frosts of autumn are turning the jittery aspen groves into splashes of glittering gold, and the first fat, wet snowflakes are beginning to fall on the high passes, making rich promises to the skiing hordes of the coming winter.
"The elk are still high on the treeless ridges and big black-nosed timber bucks stalk boldly across their alpine meadows, but the does, mindful of the season, are beginning to lead their fawns to winter feeding grounds in the sheltered valleys.
"The tumbling trout streams are still open to fishermen but the vast majority are putting away their tackle until spring. Lures are being sorted and boxed; creels are being washed out and their straps are getting coats of neat's-foot oil before going, with the newly varnished rods, into storage for the winter. But as one season replaces another, so one sport follows another in the Rocky Mountain playgrounds, and hunters are already busily cleaning and oiling their guns in anticipation of the shooting seasons to come."
"Every weekend now," reports Lenny Anderson from the northwest corner of the nation, "more boats are laid up for the winter. Among the horde of Puget Sound boatmen, the urge for cruising has subsided and the time for caulking and painting and planning next season's voyages is at hand, but not all the sailors are ready to quit. Seattle's Corinthian Yacht Club has a full off-season schedule of frostbite races still to sail and the dauntless Outboard Cruising Club is making ready for its annual foul-weather cruise up the Snohomish River on September 27.
"A stubborn core of diehards still refuse to relinquish their water skis though most of the skiers are quitting the lakes to await the coming of snow in the nearby mountains. Ski tows at Mount Baker, Mount Rainier and Snoqualmie Pass will not start operating until Thanksgiving, but a small advance guard will head for the hills with the first snow, tow or no."
"In Florida," reports Edwin Pope from Miami, "the change of season means only that the game limit on tourists' pocketbooks is lifted. You can get a good sunburn golfing in Florida all the year round but it costs just double in winter."
In Texas, according to Jimmy Banks, the favorite new sport is bowling, a game conducted in airconditioned immunity to all seasonal change. But even bowling was feeling the impact of autumn. "Boy," moaned one gloomy alley proprietor in Austin last week as the crisp, clear weather lured would-be customers away by the score, "will I be glad when the weather's terrible."
An hour or so before Nikita Khrushchev made his way through New York's Pennsylvania Station last week a commuting sportsman of our acquaintance threaded his way through the station himself—and with, he lets us know, a sudden sense of personal apprehension. The feeling mounted as he realized that police and security guards were already taking their positions on all sides. His mind flooded with the conviction that strong hands would fall on him at any moment. As he walked, he mentally rehearsed the story he would tell. But the story never got told. Despite the extra precautions taken by the police throughout the city that day, despite the milling and curious crowds, despite the general air of furtive expectancy that lurked on all sides, our sportsman got all the way to his office without anybody challenging him at all. And this was odd because, under his arm, only slightly concealed in its carrying case, the fellow was carrying a 12-gauge pump shotgun.
Nice Guy in First
It comes hard for a manager to find the right words to say on winning a pennant, and it is plainly even more difficult to find the right words on losing one. Leo Durocher long ago set the pattern for portentous managerial pronouncements with his grim axiom that nice guys finish last, and the power of the ill-considered word at the end of the season was amply demonstrated last week by the flare-up in Cleveland, where Manager Joe Gordon resigned after a critical blast by Frank Lane (see page 33). News of a sort therefore lay in the fact that nothing but high praise for Al Lopez attended the triumph of the White Sox in clinching the American League pennant, the burden of it being, of course, that he was a nice guy, and he won.
Genius was only one of the words showered over the name of Al Lopez in the sport pages, along with sagacious, wise, good, kindly, friendly, nice, pleasant, wealthy, rich, frugal, sensible, honest, good-hearted, smart, intelligent, unaffected and good-looking. Even the San Francisco Chronicle, managing to tear itself away from the Giants for a moment, reported tersely: "Al Lopez is a nice guy."
This paragon among baseball managers last week sat at his littered desk in his windowless office in Comiskey Park, where he had been opening one congratulatory letter after another, and allowed himself to be drawn out about the White Sox strategy and its meaning. Last July, when the neck-and-neck race with Cleveland had already lasted three months, Lopez laid it down that the White Sox could win only by constant pressure exerted by a light, fast team against more powerful opponents. Without one consistent long ball hitter, they had to depend on tight pitching, breaks, speed and plain audacity. "We keep moving and keep the pressure on the other team," he said. "They know they have to rush their plays. The more they rush, the more likely it is they will make an error. With our speed, an error means another base or maybe a run."
But the summer's question soon became: Could the White Sox survive their own frenetic pace and not become frantic themselves? "Well," said Lopez last week, opening a chink in his composed exterior, "it seems to me that I'm the only one who is tight and nervous. I feel it in my stomach, but I try to keep it to myself. Everybody else seems loose and easy. They joke and whistle. I just don't say anything." Preaching audacity to his players, always audacity, he had to maintain an air of benign composure himself, and the combination of long chances on the diamond and good nature in the dugout created something new in the business. Only a nice guy could have done it.
"Winning and developing young players are the rewarding things about managing," Lopez said. "First of all comes winning. But it gives you a mighty good feeling to think you've helped a young man become a better ballplayer." With his temperament, the hardest part of managing is his isolation from the men. He used to play cards with them, but now stays pretty much by himself, goes to movies and reads a lot. He was reading Lady Chatterley's Lover when the White Sox clinched the pennant. Somebody told him it was a good book, and he heard so much controversy that he decided to see for himself. What was his opinion of it? With typical Lopez mildness, he thought it over and concluded, "I think it's a nice book."
If the National League's agonizing three-way stretch did not leave enough baseball unresolved last week, there was additional speculative fun to be had elsewhere. Supplying some of that was Joe Gordon, manager of the second-place Cleveland Indians, who, with a "You can't fire me, I quit," took leave of his job and his terrible-tempered boss, Frank Lane. Supplying the rest was Leo Durocher, who suddenly up and announced he was quitting his lavishly greenbacked ($65,000 plus expenses) sportscasting job with NBC and heading back to the game.
Where Gordon would go, said the insiders, was to Detroit, and Jimmy Dykes, already there, would probably go back to Pittsburgh as a coach. Where Durocher would go just might be Cleveland, but any substantial evidence was harder to find than the hair on Leo's pate. Frank Lane, who talked to Durocher in Pittsburgh where Leo was doing a Pirates-Reds telecast, said both of them had more than one bat in the rack and no decision would be reached until this week. What Durocher was also thinking about may have been San Francisco. Support for that thesis comes not from San Francisco but from Los Angeles, Leo's home town. There, they are saying, quoting the NBC water-cooler set, that Owner Horace Stoneham some time ago addressed Durocher like this: "Leo, you gotta help me. I don't think Rig [Manager Bill Rigney] is going to win the pennant." Or Leo may be considering Branch Rickey's suggestion that he join the warmups of the Continental League. Or just as likely, he may be holding out for the best offer that turns up.
While Leo was minding his lip, Mrs. Leo, the pretty half of the Durocher team, who is better known as Laraine Day, was minding their $250,000 Beverly Hills dugout. Where does Mr. Durocher hope to find work next, she was asked. "Mr. Durocher makes his own decisions," Laraine answered. "What he says is up to him." You were once quoted as saying that if he went back to baseball, he must have a slight hole in his head, she was told. "I was wholly misquoted," she said.
A young boy who admired Mr. Durocher as a baseball manager (New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers) once said: "I liked him because he used to kick dirt on the umpire's pants." Leo is still capable of clouding issues, but it was pretty clear through the week's dust that seven ball clubs in one of the major leagues are going to have an old-fashioned leonine Durocher club clawing at them in 1960.
A Most Unhappy Velella
According to a cynical doctrine known as Begun's Law, there are three sides to every story: my side, your side and the truth. Begun's Law is named after its promulgator, Jack Begun, a Chicago wise guy who may have said it first.
Last week in New York, Begun's Law got a public workout during the State Athletic Commission's belated hearing into what it grandly calls "Alleged Irregularities in the Conduct of the Promotion of the Patterson-Johansson World's Heavyweight Championship Contest."
This magazine first published Bill Rosensohn's side of the irregularities, which the contrite promoter subsequently told the New York grand jury in amplified form and again recounted to the boxing commission in all its sordid detail last week. Vincent J. Velella, the alternately truculent and soulful East Harlem mouthpiece who controls two-thirds of Rosensohn Enterprises, Inc., told his side to the grand jury and last week recounted it to the boxing commission in all its innocent lack of detail.
The Velella and Rosensohn stories were preposterously contradictory and, at first, it was hard to say which of them, if either, was the truth. But as the testimony unfolded last week in the commission's green chamber off Broadway, Rosensohn's side began to sound more like the third side in Begun's Law.
The major differences between the two accounts involve the roles of East Harlem Mobster Tony (Fat) Salerno and Charley Black, an intimate of Cus D'Amato's and a witness pathetically torn by old loyalties. Rosensohn contends that Salerno, using Velella as his front, and Black were partners in the promotion with him. Velella and Black admit knowing Salerno but deny that he was a partner. Black also denies that he was ever a partner.
Velella, who has admitted to New York District Attorney Frank S. Hogan that he lied to "puff" himself up when he once said publicly that he had lent Rosensohn $10,000 (the money was Salerno's, according to Rosensohn) was an evasive, forgetful and whimsical witness. But in response to the dogged and thorough examination of Commission Counsel James P. Fusscas, he did make several righteous assertions, two of which backfired devastatingly.
Velella reiterated that he had never made a loan of $10,000 to Rosensohn and denied that Charley Black was a partner in a company called All-Star Sports, a predecessor to Rosensohn Enterprises, Inc. He was unaware, however, that Rosensohn, cooperating with the district attorney, had consented to have a conversation between Velella and himself recorded on tape. The recording, which was made before a stockholders' meeting of Rosensohn Enterprises in New York's Manhattan Hotel on July 31, was played at the hearing and Velella was heard acknowledging in it that he had, indeed, lent Rosensohn $10,000 and that Charley Black was a partner in All-Star Sports.
Velella's explanation of the discrepancies between what he had just told the commission and what the tape revealed him as saying was that he was trying to "steam" Rosensohn up, that "I may have said it in a sarcastic way," that "I may have used a poor choice of English."
Ingemar Johansson, who is scheduled to visit Detroit this week, has signed with Rosensohn Enterprises (Vincent J. Velella, two-thirds owner) to promote his rematch with Floyd Patterson. Ingemar says he has an agreement that if investigations show that anyone connected with the promotion "is illegal or a gangster he will be thrown out." We urge Ingemar to read over the transcripts of the commission hearings in the light of Begun's Law.
A stumpy man with a large No. 8 on the back of his pinstripe baseball flannels stood before a home plate microphone at Yankee Stadium last week. Behind him was clustered a semicircle of gifts just presented to him during the 55-minute ceremony marking his "Day." There were a new station wagon, certificates for trips to Italy and Bermuda and for a swimming pool, a color television set, lawn furniture, suits, hats, gladiolus bulbs, a pool table, a sewing machine, a rifle, cuff links, watches and more certificates, one for a course of dance lessons. Photographers autographed a baseball for him. The umpires, in unexpectedly genial recognition of his chronic second-guessing of them, called him "the last of the playing umpires." And Ted Williams of the Red Sox gave him fishing gear, possibly hoping for an angling partner.
Then it was No. 8's turn to say thank you, in a short little speech he had been rehearsing anxiously to teammates for days, wanting to get it just right. He took the microphone with a smile that almost became a laugh and let the words tumble out.
"Until now everything was fine," he said. "I was enjoying myself and I hope you were too. On behalf of myself and my family I want to thank each and every one of you, not just for the wonderful gifts, but for showing up. God bless you all." Applause rolled across Yankee Stadium. Lawrence Peter Berra, 34, wiped his eyes and turned his head away.
They are beating new paths
To his door each day;
He designed a better
They Said It
Charley Black, former fight manager and friend of Cus D'Amato, after admitting at a New York State Athletic Commission hearing that he had been fined three times for making book during the 1940s: "I had to make book in those days—things was hungry."
Frank Howaro, Clemson football coach, after 20-18 victory over North Carolina, on difficulties of recruiting a squad with sufficient depth because of higher academic requirements: "When those Russians shot that sputnik up there they played hell with college football."