"I Felt a Great Relief"
This is an article from the Dec. 7, 1959 issue
Les Staudacher of Bay City, Mich. is a mild-spoken Sunday school teacher and manufacturer of church pews whose sport is the raucous and risky one of racing jet speed boats.
Aiming to break the world water-speed record of 260.35 held by England's Donald Campbell, Staudacher seemed near his goal on Nevada's Pyramid Lake one day last week. Then, in a single luckless second, his Tempo-Alcoa ripped into a small peninsula jutting into the lake at Pelican Point. The boat took off like an airplane toward a ledge of rocks along shore. Staudacher's story of what it was like:
"When I saw that rocky shore coming at me I said to myself, 'This is a heck of a way to end this thing. I just hope I hit hard enough to do a good job.' I believed this was the end of my life.
"Then I did hit, and I was airborne. I felt a great relief. I was about 20 feet above the peninsula, and that aerial view looked good to me. I knew I hadn't hit too hard. My jet pilot's helmet saved my head when I smashed into the windshield coming down. I'll say one thing. The boat runs much better on water than it does on land."
Staudacher's flying jet (its engine is from an airplane) covered about 150 feet in the air, passing over the crest of Pelican Point and plowed down in loam and sand, skidding to the water's edge on the other side. It missed by 18 inches hitting the shelf of rock.
Staudacher was uninjured. Later that day he drove the boat's co-owner, Guy Lombardo, back to Reno in Lombardo's car: Lombardo had skinned his knee in a fall while running down to the beach to see whether Staudacher had been injured.
Winner and System
It was just last week that our Emily Hahn (in Britain's Golden Pool) was describing the Cinderella riches that arise from Britain's system of soccer betting. At about the same moment a modest punter from Yorkshire was breaking all existing records.
Arthur Webb, a 70-year-old retired printer of Scarborough, had looked forward to nothing more exciting than Christmas dinner with his family of 17 children and grandchildren when he made a one-shilling-sixpence bet. It earned him a nontaxable $742,904.40. Like millions of his fellow Britons, Webb had played the pools regularly but with only a wistful dream that chance might favor his picks.
His system was not based on a deep or wide knowledge of either gambling or football. On the day he won, for reasons best known to himself, he decided to put his faith on teams whose names began with a C or an S and bet them (as one must in the treble chance) to tie their opponents. Accordingly he filled out nine lines on the card, at tuppence a line, expressing a hope rather than an opinion that Colchester would tie Swindon, Stirling Albion would tie Celtic, Sheffield United would tie Swansea and Cardiff would tie Stoke. Obviously (to anyone playing the C and S system) these four games were foolproof. What made Webb's choice difficult was the fact that he had also to pick Charlton, Shrewsbury and Chester to tie teams that began with an L, a Q and an N. But, wonder of wonders, it happened. Webb's choices were the only seven tie games on the card that week.
Arthur took his luck in characteristic calm. "At 70," he said, "I don't really want all that money. But we'll get a bigger house for sure."
Scratch one bowl game from your list. Officials of the Rice Bowl game, scheduled for Stuttgart, Ark. this week (in conjunction with Stuttgart's well-established duck-calling contest), called off football when they found that one invited team, Southeastern State of Durant, Okla., had had an all-losing season instead of an all-winning season, as earlier and erroneously reported.
On the Road
Shortly after dawn breaks over Hancock Field in Syracuse, N.Y. this Thursday, a chartered TWA Constellation will thrash ponderously upwind, lift its nose and head west for California. Aboard the airliner, scrubbed, combed and sanguine, will be 38 football players, 10 coaches, an athletic director and his assistant, a doctor, a dentist, trainers, managers and assorted supernumeraries. Some 10½ hours later the plane will touch down in Los Angeles, and its passengers will walk down the unloading ramp, waving to photographers. The University of Syracuse football team, the nation's only major college team still unbeaten and still untied, will have arrived to play the University of California at Los Angeles in its final game of the year. It will be Syracuse's first visit to the coast in 35 years, and it will represent a good eight months of planning.
Phased with the precision of a minor military operation, which it almost is, the transcontinental trip is a logistical exercise first taken in hand last April by James Decker, assistant athletic director at Syracuse. In the execution of his duties, Decker received bids from competing airlines for the charter service, reserved 36 rooms in Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel, engaged Greyhound buses to ferry the Syracuse contingent between airport and hotel. A man who has been shepherding Syracuse teams since 1947, Decker forgot no details (insofar as he could remember), even mailed approved football training menus to the Ambassador chef (sample items: sirloin steak for breakfast before the game, ribs of beef for dinner afterward).
Responsibilities bearing more directly on the game itself are those of Head Coach Ben Schwartzwalder. Proved or otherwise, the notion persists that any college football team lured in late fall from the harshness of the East to the bland climate and pastel distractions of the West is a setup for an upset. To minimize the chances (and UCLA was the first to upset Southern California), Schwartzwalder's pregame schedule leaves little freedom for sightseeing and socializing; at an alumni reception in the Ambassador Friday night, for example, the team will be introduced with discreet brevity and then shuffled off to bed. Other times, the players will be expected to dwell long and thoughtfully on the instructions they have been hearing all week from their coaches.
Moreover, they will be expected to glance occasionally at a mimeographed fact sheet handed to them before their departure from Syracuse by Assistant Athletic Director Decker. On all game trips Decker prepares schedule sheets and appends at the bottom some inspiring words from military history. In the past he has selected such exhortations as Admiral William Halsey's "Hit hard, hit fast, hit often," West Point's No. 1 axiom "Never underestimate the enemy" and Churchill's "You ask what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory!"
For this week's western expedition Decker has turned to Ulysses S. Grant's western campaign in the Civil War. If partisans of the UCLA cause on Saturday are in any doubt about the serious dispatch Grant sent to the Confederates' General Simon Bolivar Buckner in besieged Fort Donelson—or the spirit with which Syracuse is dispatching the Syracusans this time—here's the message: "No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works."
Analysis at Penn
The six-foot psychologist will never replace the seven-foot center, but Jack McCloskey, who coaches the University of Pennsylvania basketball team, doesn't have a seven-foot center—he does have the six-foot psychologist. Last year McCloskey's Quakers won 12 games while losing 14. This year all five of his starters graduated and his tallest man is a mere 6 foot 4. Then Dr. Howard Mitchell suited up, psychologically speaking. Dr. Mitchell is with the Department of Psychiatry at Penn's medical school and played basketball (and football) at Boston University.
Dr. Mitchell is something of an iconoclast. "It's poppycock that sports mold character," he says. "Character is molded in the family setting and in early influences." McCloskey is something of an iconoclast too. "I don't believe in pep talks," he says. "When you're playing a big game or a highly rated opponent, you need less stimulation."
Two iconoclasts ought to get along fine if their iconoclasms don't clash. Happily, they don't at Penn. Dr. Mitchell's job is to administer personality tests to the basketball team. McCloskey's job is to use the results of the tests to aid him in getting the most out of his players. "Some kids need praise from their teammates more than from me," McCloskey explains. "Some kids can be chewed out during practice in front of the squad. For others it's better to take them aside and talk to them individually."
"Sports," says Dr. Mitchell, "provide the best statistics on production of any unit of behavior. For example, we make studies of how marital conflict affects a man's productivity, but there are so many other factors. It's not the same as taking the percentage of shots a player hits."
Basically, the tests are designed to measure a correlation between the physiological readiness of a player and his mental readiness—to determine if he is "up" mentally at the same time he is "up" physically.
One test requires the basketball player to rate his performance during the week—how much skill he showed, how much of a contribution he made to the team effort, how fatigued he was. McCloskey, meanwhile, makes his own appraisals.
"You need basic personality information to account for the disparities that show up," says Dr. Mitchell.
Another test is team dart throwing. The players record their scores and then the scores they expect to make the next time—what Dr. Mitchell calls "an aspiration level." Then they record the score for their team and the score they expect their team to make the next time.
Some players score low but have great expectations as to how their team will score. "This is the sort of fellow who will put more dependence on the performance of others and not expect much of himself," says Dr. Mitchell. "We can look at his personality index, and he will show up as a dependent sort. Athletes differ from other groups in that they set goals beyond their fulfillment."
A profile chart is drawn up on each player listing 252 dimensions of personality under such large headings as conformity, aggression and dependence. One trait, for instance, is liability of affect and restlessness. "A boy showing strongly here," says Dr. Mitchell, "is the boy to exhibit for the team's good when he is on the upswing. It's no good to put him in when he's down in the dumps in an effort to shake him out of them. As for a strong superego, this sort of fellow may be an itch personally, but this trait can be helpful. He's the sort who will shrug off an injury to play. He wants to get back in.
"The information can help guide the instructional process. There may be one boy the coach must tell something to 20 times while the rest of the squad needs only seven or eight times. This boy may show high on negativism. He may still be fighting for autonomy, fighting for freedom from his father."
McCloskey, fighting for a winning season, admits that the tests have revealed little he didn't already suspect. "But they've shown that we were right in our estimates of the kids," he says. "If they had turned up differences, then I'd have been worried." Not that he isn't, in a larger sense. Asked to name Penn's chief asset, McCloskey said: "Prayer."
If you haven't seen your broker lately you may have missed a new corporation that has just arrived on the adventure-and-speculation front. It is Treasure Hunters Inc. of Washington, D.C., and its prospectus affirms that it will "engage in the search for sunken cargoes and buried treasures throughout the world." On September 28, when its registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission became effective, Treasure Hunters offered 1,900,000 shares to the public at $1 each, with 20 shares the minimum order accepted. And just to insure that everyone recognized a sporting proposition, the prospectus engagingly advised that "no person should invest in this enterprise any more than he can afford to lose." Thus far, no sportsmen have been injured in the rush to buy.
Daniel Stack of Brooklyn, the 31-year-old attorney who is president of Treasure Hunters Inc., cheerfully admitted the other day that he has had a blue-water urge for a long time: "Ever since I was a boy I've read about the millions in gold doubloons and silver pieces of eight that lie on the bottom. I even took Spanish so I could do original research, but had to give it up when I found I was probably the worst language student Brooklyn College ever had. I tried for a Navy commission seven years in a row and was rejected every time for being underweight. The eighth time I drank nine pounds of water and was sick for three days, but I got my ensign's stripe. Then, just about 1953, when I expected destroyer duty, I was given a desk job in Supply instead. But I can't complain. It was on that job that I began to get the people together who are presently officers in our organization. Now that I'm out of the Navy and the company is formalized, I feel I'm on the threshold of a dream."
Dream or not, Treasure Hunters Inc. has talented direction. Its chairman of the board is Commodore Robert E. Robinson Jr. (Ret.), an Annapolis man who was chief of staff of the North Pacific Command during World War II. Company officers include Cloyd M. Smith, an engineering consultant to the U.S. government and private industry; Edward Bunnell, a ship designer and diver who once held the world's simulated depth-pressure record; Captain Ernest G. Vetter (USNR), commander of the Navy Flight Instructor School at Purdue during World War II; and Robert I. Nesmith, an internationally recognized authority on Spanish coins and pirate treasure.
"With experts like these," said Stack, "and with the nearly $2 million we hope to raise, we should be able to avoid the mistakes that others have made. You need more than sufficient money and equipment to find treasure; you also need accurate research, a well-trained crew, adequate time and a respected reputation."
One of Treasure Hunters' first ventures aims at bringing up a part of the richest of all sunken treasures, that in Spain's mud-covered Vigo Bay. It was there, in 1702, that 23 Spanish galleons, stuffed with gold and silver estimated at $115 million, were cornered and plundered by a fleet of English and Dutch warships. Among those that were lost was one that struck a submerged rock and sank in almost 300 feet off the mouth of the bay, laden with at least $2 million in bullion. Company divers, working under permits from the Spanish government, are currently searching for this wreck on Vigo's bottom; if and when the location is pinpointed Treasure Hunters' salvage experts will move in.
"We were worried," said Stack, "about how we could show our stockholders what we're doing. We think we've solved the problem. The company plans to have its stockholders draw lots to see which one will go along on future exploratory voyages, and the one who goes can report to the others on his findings. Since one-quarter of any prize money goes to the officers of the company and the crew, the stockholder would also get a share."
This part of the offer, Stack explained, is open only to male stockholders. No women will be allowed on the company's voyages: too many complications. "I might add," Stack said, "that this particular rule makes my wife furious."
The Men and the Boys
Five athletes from foreign countries loped across the finish line in the National Collegiate cross-country championships last week as clearly ahead of the U.S.-born entries as so many Russians in a space race. And to hear the wails of anguish that arose, one might have thought they were the Russians. "It just isn't fair," said the coach from one college on the east coast. "I bring my youngsters out here and they get their brains beaten out by guys who should have quit school five, six, or even 10 years ago."
His complaint, like that of the other beaten coaches, was that three of the foreigners, all of whom were legitimately enrolled at U.S. colleges, were older than the average U.S. student athlete. Al Lawrence, who won for the University of Houston, is a 29-year-old Australian. John Macy is a 29-year-old refugee from Poland and a veteran of the Polish army. Crawford Kennedy, from Scotland via Canada, is 24.
Each of these runners is undeniably a grown man and each is an immigrant from parts of the world where amateur running is a grown man's sport, conducted far more in athletic associations than colleges. As such they may well enjoy an initial advantage over collegians in the U.S. But as another foreigner once said, "a man's a man for a' that." A male adult of college age is supposed to be a man. He is being trained and educated to compete with men and to take it like a man if he loses.
"I felt like going up to those fellas," said one bested young runner from Brown University, "and saying 'nice run, but I'll bet I can do better nine years from now.' "
Maybe you can, boy, but not if the NCAA makes it easy for you by ruling out the grown-ups as some of the coaches last week were urging. That seems to us about as childish as trying to win the space race by disqualifying Russian scientists.
Present Accounted For
At the end of a losing season
They presented the coach with a car,
In which, and they had good reason,
They said that they hoped he'd go far.
They Said It
Wayne Hardin, Navy football coach, after his team smashed Army 43-12: "We went into this game thinking defense first."
Soccer columnist of Correio da Manh√£ of Rio de Janeiro, after visiting Russian team lost two straight: "If the Russians can hit the moon they should be able to kick a football."
Walt Disney, head of the Pageant Committee for the Winter Olympics: "You have no idea of the problems. Somebody's going to have to blow up 20,000 balloons."