Boxing has had a black-and-blue time of it in the 1950s, but the ultimate absurdity was reached last week when New York's attorney general had to send the state troopers out to bring in Cus D'Amato for answers to questions the attorney general had every right to ask; questions about Cus's custodianship of Floyd Patterson as heavyweight champion of the world; questions that Cus insists he has clear and shining answers to. It was beneath the D'Amato dignity or something to respond to an invitation to come in and talk to the attorney general; so a subpoena was issued, and still no D'Amato; and thus the police were called out, and D'Amato surrendered.
Anticlimactically, the New York State Athletic Commission three days later revoked D'Amato's license as a manager. At the same time it suspended for three years the matchmaker's license of Bill Rosensohn, who was in charge of the last heavyweight championship fight.
In 1960 boxing has no place to go but up.
November 30, 1959
Hunters Can't Forget
Isolated by deep marsh and ice covered channels in Lake St. Clair, though hardly out of sight of Detroit's skyscrapers, is the island of Ste. Anne's. Refuge for sporting industrialists and a duck hunter's paradise, it became in one short minute last week the scene of tragedy.
Sitting on ammunition boxes behind a three-foot-high improvised shore blind were two duck hunters the nation knew: Harlow H. Curtice, 66, onetime president of General Motors, and Harry W. Anderson, 67, former G.M. vice-president and Curtice's longtime hunting companion.
It was a good day by the perverse weather standards of duck hunters. A 13-mile-an-hour wind gave bite to the 17° cold, keeping the ducks moving beneath the overcast sky. The hunters had killed six mallards by 11:15 that morning when another flock swung upwind across the decoys from the left. Curtice, sitting on the right, sighted on the lead duck, which was properly his target. Anderson, presumably, would remain sitting like Curtice, and fire at the rear of the flock. Instead, Anderson inexplicably stood and came into Curtice's line of fire. His death focused attention on some things that all hunters know or are supposed to know.
The close quarters of duck blinds make accidents like this one rare. Duck hunting accounts for only 5% of shooting accidents and is relatively hazard-free. Perhaps the secretary of the National Rifle Association, Frank Daniel, said it best: "What happened is the same thing that happens when a man who knows better walks out in front of a truck. He just forgot."
More and more it becomes apparent that amateur tennis is nice for weekends at the country club but not much good for tennis players. Tennis fans the world over long ago became inured to seeing the cream of the amateur crop turn pro, but until recently the unpaid champs have held back long enough to establish their reputation firmly in the amateur lists. Now, as Mai Anderson and Ashley Cooper proved last year, they're turning pro before they've even matured as amateurs.
The latest to be plucked half-ripe from the amateur vine by professional harvester Jake Kramer, according to reliable reports, is Alex Olmedo, the most exciting and the most erratic young player on the amateur courts. With a Kramer contract for $35,000 awaiting his signature, Alex, winner and loser of a Davis Cup, good enough for Wimbledon but not for Forest Hills, has only to make a squiggle of his pen to join the ranks of the frankly compensated. But that gesture alone will not make Alex a pro in the sense that Early Wynn, Kyle Rote and Pancho Gonzales are pros. Professionalism in athletics, in the best and proper sense of the word, implies a lot more than just being paid, and in exchanging a promising amateur for an inexperienced pro world tennis has gained little but another argument for the open game.
Renaissance in Dominoes
From a 19th-floor office in San Francisco's Pacific Telephone and Telegraph building last Thursday a secretary called an insurance company vice-president, a bank officer, a steel-tubing manufacturer and a retired Pacific T&T executive. "Your regular domino game will be at the Transportation Club tomorrow at noon," she reminded each man crisply. Not long ago in a San Francisco bank a secretary called the Pacific Union Club to notify her boss of a pending board meeting.
"Stall them, somehow," said the banker. "I'm playing dominoes and I'm $20 in the hole."
At a San Francisco golf club the membership committee took stock of a candidate and was less impressed with his low golf handicap than his high domino ranking.
In such a setting, it was not surprising that a bestseller in San Francisco's bookstores last week was a slim volume whose matter-of-fact title was Dominoes. On the shelves less than four weeks, 3,000 copies of the book had already been sold (at $4.50), and, said the gratified publisher, David McKay, orders were coming in for more. "It's really fantastic," reported a normally composed observer of the San Francisco scene. "People out here have become domino demented. It's a madness, a passion. They're so carried away, they're seeing spots before their eyes."
Even more carried away than most (though still clear of eye) is Dominoes' author, whose first name, appropriately, is Dominic, and whose last name is Armanino. Dominic Armanino, a San Francisco banker (assistant vice-president of the American Trust Company), was born in Genoa 60 years ago last Saturday, came to California when he was 2 and took up dominoes when he was 50. The domino interest was the result of hypertension, for which his doctor prescribed mental relaxation. "I got into my first game with misgivings," says Dominic, "because I thought it was a kids' game. Five minutes later, though, I had learned the rudiments and I haven't been the same man since."
But while Dominic found dominoes first-class mental therapy, his hypertension was little soothed by the chaotic circumstances then surrounding the game. "The Chinese invented dominoes in the 12th century," says Armanino, "and by the time it got to California, the rules were anybody's guess. You couldn't find agreement anywhere. I read one pamphlet and ended up worse off than when I started. I know of three oldtime cronies who dissolved their regular luncheon game when they came to an impasse on a rule. Friendships were strained."
In the name of his blood pressure and other men's friendships, Banker Armanino decided to write his own book on the subject, and five years ago sat down to do it. With few precedents to guide him (all other domino books are out of print and not much help anyway, says Dominic), he engaged a mathematician to figure play possibilities and codified a set of rules with the help of leading experts, nearly all of whom are, naturally enough, San Franciscans. The result, concerned for the most part with the so-called San Francisco game, a sophisticated elaboration of the primitive games of childhood, is a handy compendium of fundamentals, diagrams, strategics, official rules, odds (there are 98,280 possible hands) and a glossary (a dancing girl is any domino with a five). Finally, to give his book the stamp of authority, Author Armanino has renamed the San Francisco game the Five-Up game, and has had it trademarked.
For the Man Who, etc.
It was just 100 million years ago that some dinosaur or other was idly puddling around in the Mesozoic ooze of South Hadley, Mass., leaving his three-toed footprints all over the place. And believe it when we say that was a lucky day for the perplexed Christmas shopper of 1959. Because, for as little as $12, he can have one of these footprints, all petrified and scrubbed clean, sent directly to his home. One need only imagine the good cheer and dancing about when it is spotted under the tree.
The purveyor of this not-altogether pedestrian gift is Carlton S. Nash of South Hadley, who has been selling dinosaur tracks some 20 years now. Mr. Nash gets them from his back-yard and can thank his stars there weren't any no-trespassing signs warding dinosaurs off his property in the old days. So far he and his family have sold about 3,000 spoor slabs carved from the stratified quarry (they have been used in front walks, patios, fireplaces and the like), and he is now at work on the 38th layer of prints. "But the supply may soon be exhausted," warns Tracker Nash. And anybody whose shopping list is still so many question marks had better get busy.
There will be some, of course, who still cannot see the Christmas possibilities of dinosaur tracks. For them we can only direct attention, albeit reluctantly, to a more contemporary selection of gifts beginning on page 44 of this issue.
Man from Dubuque
Vern Carroll is a spare man with a plentiful beard, an erect back and a philosophical bent who walked from Dubuque, Iowa to Fairbanks, Alaska this summer for "the great pleasure of it." It took Carroll, who is 49, five months to cover the 4,100 miles, but he believes in a moderate rate and in whiling time with folk along the way. "I didn't meet a man I didn't like or a bad child and I didn't have a blister or a corn," says Carroll. "No aches, no pains, no aspirin; my only problem was dogs."
Carroll trained for six weeks before setting out. He lost 22 pounds bicycle riding, swimming, weight lifting, boxing, wrestling and rolling himself with a rolling pin. "The best thing in the world," says Carroll, "is to roll your back with a rolling pin. Or have your wife roll it for you."
Carroll had $60 when he left Dubuque, pulling a golf cart loaded with 125 pounds of belongings. He had $24 when he reached Fairbanks, wearing a pack. He abandoned the golf cart in Saskatoon after he burned out the bearings and two sets of tires. Carroll doesn't play golf. "Too much walking," he says. It cost him 95¢ cash money to cross Wisconsin, $1.30 to cross Minnesota and $1.85 to get through North Dakota. There is something about Carroll's mild, bearded aspect, his sincerity and corn-pone jokes which makes folk shower him with free lodgings and meals. "I'm not trying to make a million dollars but a million friends," he says. "Will Rogers said that."
Even in New York, which he visited the other day and whose buildings reminded him of "the beautiful mountains of Canada, only they have windows in them," a cab driver refused his fare and gave him a pack of cigarettes. Along the Alcan Highway where there were no folk, he lived off the land, subsisting mainly on berries, porcupine hindquarters, pheasant, wild lettuce, rhubarb, Indian potatoes, bread he baked in a coffee can, grayling, trout and "a nice big northern pike who was more'n I could eat but I wasn't about to throw him back and try to catch a little one."
Carroll says the first thing people ask him about his trip is how many pairs of boots he wore out. None, says Carroll, and only two pairs of heels. "My boots," he explains, "are soled and heeled with tire rubber." The next thing people ask him is whether he saw any bears. Carroll saw heaps of bears, including one he met in a raspberry patch. "He wiggled his ears at me," says Carroll. "I said to him, 'Old boy, if you want that patch of berries you can have it.' " Carroll was also besieged, but unmolested, by howling wolves while camping on a sand bar in the Yukon. Carroll says the best way to camp is to dig a trench in the sand, build a fire in it, wait until the fire dies down into coals, cover the coals with three inches of sand and then lie in the trench. "Learned that from the Indians," he says. "Nature's electric blanket."
Carroll, who managed a movie theater in Dubuque, says he's going to return with his wife to Alaska, not on foot, to settle. Once, he says, he was signing autographs up there with Governor Bill Egan and doing a better business than the head man. "Vern," said Egan, "you know, you ought to run for governor." "I'd rather walk," said Vern. Carroll doesn't have to run or walk. "They've given me a lot to build my house on in Anchorage," he says, without wonder, "a year's supply of groceries and an acre to build the first Boys' Club of America in Alaska."
One of the purposes of Carroll's trip was to talk up the Boys' Club of America, which he is as strong on as walking. "I've always wanted to do something for someone," says Carroll. "What was I put here for? What good am I? I used to ask myself that."
By Act of Congress?
Like a diner with a whole Thanks-A giving turkey all his own, college football has been battening for years, and by seemingly inalienable right, on the prime use of America's fall Saturday afternoons. This year professional football, that ol' interloper, has been edging toward Saturday with a hungry gleam.
The first rustle of competition came a couple of weeks ago with word that the proposed American Football League might play some games on Saturday afternoons and, worse yet, televise them. The National Collegiate Athletic Association turned promptly to Tennessee's sports-watching Senator, Estes Kefauver.
Head of the Senate Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee, and a Senator who knows a monopoly when one is pleading before him, Kefauver listened sympathetically to the NCAA man. A bill will be introduced, he promised, to keep the professionals from telecasting on Saturdays within 75 miles of any locale where a college game is being played (unless the colleges concerned give permission and get a cut of the TV bundle).
This seemed fine to the NCAA, which has its own high-Trendex TV shows each Saturday. The founders of the American Football League spoke up to say that they had never had any real idea of playing on Saturday afternoons anyway. So there the matter seems to stand, at least until Senator Kefauver sends along his legislation giving college football its old inalienable right to Saturday afternoons by Act of Congress.
When the Senator does get around to it, we trust that some of the implications of the idea will get a good old Capitol Hill airing—and we're for college football as much as the Senator is. Tariff protection is a familiar idea, and farmer protection is a familiar idea. It may be that the time has come for the welfare state to wrap its arms around college football, too, and declare it Congress' chosen instrument for the American people on Saturdays. Maybe college football can testify to its social and moral right to be relieved of onerous competition. But we'd like to hear the arguments and the testimony at a bit of length.
They have a song down in Chapel Hill that is always pretty much on everybody's mind as the University of North Carolina prepares to meet its old rival, Duke University, each Thanksgiving week. At least it was on the mind of a Chapel Hill clergyman's 5-year-old daughter last week as she and some friends prepared to bury her dead chicken.
Done to death on a highway, the poultry pet was laid to rest, with ecclesiastical overtones, in a casket made of an old shoe box and with a prayerbook selection read by the only mourner who knew how to read. When it came time for the recessional hymn, however, the congregation was stumped. But only momentarily.
Suddenly, as if with one voice, they burst out with the only song everybody present knew: Don't Give a Damn for Duke University.
NO TOY BALLOONS FOR MAXIE
This is a gag," said the visitor who had been down at Asbury Park, N.J. watching Max Baer train for his fight with Primo Carnera. "Nothing about it is real. The ocean, the hotel, the blue sky, they're painted scenery for a musical comedy in which an actor plays the part of a contender for the heavyweight championship. I expect to see the chorus come dancing on the stage at any minute."
In that early, noisy time, the chorus was always in the wings of Max's life, which he fashioned into one grand music-hall turn. Never at a loss for a few thousand well-chosen Broadway-type words, Max strutted, mugged, cracked wise whether wrapped in white camel's hair at the wheel of his 16-cylinder Caddy or rapping, with his splendid right hand, papier-m√¢ché pillars in a gin mill or opponents in the ring.
Max was built like a fighter but he wasn't built for fighting. Fighting is a somber, arduous trade and Max wasn't cut out for work. "I hope he's more appreciative of the title than I was," Max said when Jim Braddock beat him. If it wasn't good for a laugh, it wasn't good for Max. "Listen," he said after he was knocked out by Joe Louis, "I couldn't see straight. I thought all Harlem was in there. I saw a whole ringful of black clouds and this little ray of sunshine just couldn't penetrate them all."
He was champion for a year after knocking out Camera in 1934. "I want to end up with a little trust fund," he said then. "I don't want to end up with the toy balloon concession in some insane asylum or other." He didn't. When Max Baer died of a heart attack in Hollywood last week at 50, he had a monthly annuity of $2,200, a wife, three children and a happy home.
The audience Max always played for last saw him three days before he died. He was refereeing the televised Zora Folley-Alonzo Johnson fight in Phoenix. Just as the show went off the air, Max vaulted his big frame over the ring ropes and blew a kiss and sent a laugh to all the living rooms and bars. It was a perfect exit.
He's pleasant indeed
And his smile
Is a stunner.
It's hard to believe
He's a cross
They Said It
Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, 85-year-old horse trainer, on cancellation of the racing card at Aqueduct because of cold weather: "Nothing bothered the pioneers, but this isn't their day."
Weldon Heald, snow forecaster of Tucson, Ariz., predicting the lightest snowfall in years in the Sierras: "I wouldn't dare associate with ardent ski fans at present. Lynching would be too good for me."
Yvon Durelle, light heavyweight, announcing his retirement at 30: "I got only two arms, two legs and a little wee brain, and I'm going to save it."