Fair Play at Penn
This is an article from the Dec. 14, 1959 issue
A man may consider it nobody's business but his own if he chooses to toss his wife out of his house, but society will seldom agree with him—particularly if it feels she has been a good wife. Football fans may concede a degree of privacy in the domestic arrangements of colleges and their coaches, but when a coach is summarily fired in the midst of festivities celebrating his greatest victory, the fans—and quite rightly—feel they have a right to know why.
Steve Sebo, a first-class backfield coach at Michigan State, was brought to the University of Pennsylvania as head football coach six years ago at the darkest moment of Quaker gridiron history. Penn at that point was in a state of transition from football powerhouse to Ivy League de-emphasis. As a result, Sebo found himself facing a left-over schedule of some of the toughest teams in the country with a pitifully de-emphasized squad of nonsubsidized scholars. In two years he lost 19 straight games.
To its credit, while portions of the alumni howled for his head, the university re-signed Sebo when his contract expired. The sorely tried coach repaid the gesture during the next three years by lifting Quaker football virtually by its bootstraps from a dismal place in the cellar of the Ivy League to its undisputed 1959 championship. Then last week he was fired.
The nearest thing to an explanation that Penn Athletic Director Jerry Ford chose to give the public was an invitation to newsmen to "assume anything you like."
One assumption most of them made is that the real reason for Sebo's firing lay deep in the rift that formed among Penn alumni and athletic circles during his losing years. Sebo himself had been informed even before his championship season began that his contract would probably not be renewed (information that made his job no easier). Another and perhaps more unavoidable assumption is that the lessons of sportsmanship and fair play which under de-emphasis become the only excuses for football in the Ivy League are not considered very important in Penn's hallowed halls.
MacArthur Carries the Ball
Few memories among modern men encompass so wide a span of events with such forceful clarity of recall as that of 79-year-old General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, whose rich recollection is matched only by the ringing rhetoric with which he often frames it.
Last week the distinguished guests at the annual banquet of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame discovered to their delight and surprise that a considerable portion of this rich recollection is concerned with the game of football. Sports fan MacArthur himself was on hand in New York's Waldorf-Astoria to accept the Hall's gold medal in token of his long service "as a spiritual leader of the forces of football," and the words with which he received the honor were in themselves ample justification of it. Striding exuberantly back through the corridors of history with a football seemingly cradled in the arm of his heroic memory, he was able to endow the game with a new, almost legendary, dimension.
"I belong," he told the guests, "to the ancient vintage of Walter Camp and Alonzo Stagg. I thrill to the blaze of Hinkey and Heffelfinger, of Haughton and Brickley, of Poe and Trenchard and Truxton Hare. I collaborated with Charlie Daly and Pot Graves and Joe Beacham and that fine midshipman back Bill Halsey, who was destined to become our great fighting admiral....
"I listened with a thirsty ear to the witching voice of Grantland Rice. I learned the hard way from Knute Rockne and George Gipp and the Four Horsemen, and every year on every campus and every field throughout this broad land of ours, I can see and hear their counterparts. I can see and hear their dazzling performances and ideals repeated over and over again and, as each passes on, I find myself again and again with the same old catch at my throat, the same old pounding in my heart, the same old yell on my lips, 'Well done, Mr. Football, yours is the touchdown!'
"No greater accolade could be given this game" continued the general who had walked with the greatest, "than to recall its personal impact on the chief magistrates of our nation.
"I can still remember a remark President Theodore Roosevelt made to me more than 50 years ago at a Harvard-Yale game when I was his aide-de-camp. 'Douglas,' he said, I would rather be in that Harvard backfield today than be in the White House.' "
Roosevelt's successor and rival, William Howard Taft, a Yale man, told MacArthur of his wish that he and T.R. could "settle their political quarrels with the same decisiveness and the same gallantry" as did the Harvard and Yale football teams. Appointing him to head West Point, President Woodrow Wilson urged the general to resume football rivalry with Annapolis and went on to muse, "If we could only extend and expand this game throughout the world, perhaps we would not need a League of Nations." Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, far lesser men both than these, had lesser things to say. "How goes my favorite cadets, the football squad?" Harding asked MacArthur on a visit to West Point. "I'm glad," wry Calvin remarked of a particularly effective team, "all such players are not Democrats." Herbert Hoover moaned over the public's indifference to some great problem: "If it were about football, I could rally popular sentiment quick enough." On the verge of choosing MacArthur's successor as chief of staff, Franklin Roosevelt asked, "Which, Douglas, was the football player?" and picked that one, General Malin Craig.
"And," added General MacArthur, "Harry Truman surely tried to look like a fullback when he kicked me out of Korea."
Summing up the vast changes that have overtaken the world since the first football game at Rutgers, changes that have promoted "such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time," the general concluded that "it cannot fail to be a source of inspiration to football enthusiasts and supporters to realize how steadily and invincibly [through all this change] their own great tradition has continued to command the absorbing interest of our people.
"For youth," said Douglas Mac-Arthur, "as it crosses the threshold of manhood, football has become a rallying point to build courage when courage seems to die, to restore faith where there seems little cause for faith, to create hope as hope becomes forlorn."
Exit the 'Order' Man
Frankie Carbo, the Murder, Inc. alumnus who has run boxing from his shifting, underworld podium for a dozen years, has had his official portrait painted by an expert. The expert is Alfred J. Scotti, chief assistant district attorney of New York. Scotti has studied his subject, in the line of duty, since 1947. The sitting was in a New York courtroom, where Carbo last week was sentenced to two years in prison for undercover managing and matchmaking. Carbo had avoided an open trial by pleading guilty, but Scotti limned his man in a 4,000-word rendering before sentence was passed. This magazine has been reporting the doings of Frankie Carbo since its own beginnings, so much of the Scotti portrait may be familiar—though no whit less important to anyone who cares about the corrupt and shameful situation.
Scotti did not depict how Carbo achieved the power, iron and suasion, that enabled him to control the lightweight, welterweight and middleweight titles, that forced boxers, managers, promoters and matchmakers to submit to his "dominance with cynical indifference," but he did show, once and for all, how Carbo used this power and how his crowd of stooges and sycophants abjectly capitulated to him.
Perhaps the clearest, most damning examples are these, excerpted from Scotti's statement to the court; the broad, dark, ugly canvas revealing a diabetic in elevator shoes who, for too long, was the "dominant figure in professional boxing."
"The events leading to the staging of the Akins-Logart fight at Madison Square Garden on March 21, 1958, an elimination contest for the world's welterweight title that had been vacated by Carmen Basilio," Scotti recited to the court, "unequivocally established Carbo as the most powerful figure in boxing. Not only did he assert control over both contenders, but he also determined where and under what terms the match was to take place. Incidentally, his role as undercover manager of both contestants explains how he preserved the continuity of his control over champions. Titleholders changed but Carbo's interest in the title remained constant.
"A conversation between Truman Gibson, executive vice-president of the IBC [and presently promoter of the Wednesday Night Fights], and James D. Norris, head of the IBC, on Jan. 16, 1958 made it clearly evident that the Akins-Logart fight could not be staged without Carbo's approval.... Gibson, in fact, admitted that at the time of this conversation he and Norris needed and sought Carbo's approval to stage the match....
"Norris was very anxious to have the fight take place in New York. Jimmy White, a matchmaker and promoter in Denver, wanted the fight to take place in Denver. A meeting was arranged at the home of Herman [Hymie] Wallman on Feb. 6, 1958 to resolve this conflict....
"Those who attended the meeting were Billy Brown [onetime IBC matchmaker], White and Carbo.... Carbo, who left no doubt as to his motivation for his interest in boxing, said with the air of the final arbiter that the fight should take place 'where it would draw the most money.' In pressing for a match at the Madison Square Garden, Brown was willing to offer to each of the contestants $10,000 that would be part of the proceeds of the sale of the television rights and 30% of the gross receipts. However, these terms were not satisfactory to Carbo. Hence, no agreement was reached.
"Arrangements were made for a meeting...between Carbo and Norris. Accordingly, on Feb. 10, 1958 [they] met in the home of Wallman.... Carbo, in no uncertain way, let it be known that he wasn't satisfied with the financial terms that had been proposed. In fact, Carbo demonstrated his power to determine not only who should fight whom but also where the match should take place by threatening Norris that unless the terms were satisfactory, there would be 'no match altogether in New York.' It was evident that Carbo's threat produced the intended reaction." Norris, Scotti said, upped the ante.
"Still no final decision was made at that meeting although the indication was that Carbo would accept the offer on behalf of both of the contestants. Norris, nevertheless, was still fearful that Carbo would not accept his offer...for on the following day he told Wallman that he hoped the offer he made would be satisfactory to Carbo. Within a few days, however, an agreement was reached and the Akins-Logart match was formally announced by IBC.
"It is indeed mystifying to see Norris, who was in an enviable position to lift the professional sport of boxing to a high level of integrity, cringing before Carbo in his plea to have the Akins-Logart fight take place at Madison Square Garden. This sorry spectacle, more than anything else, attested to the validity of the characterization of the defendant as the 'Underworld Czar of Boxing.'
"Carbo had such a dominant hold on boxing that even while he was being sought by the District Attorney of New York County, as a result of the indictment that had been returned against him by the grand jury, he continued to have contact with managers, boxers and others connected with boxing, including Norris."
Scotti cited a round-robin meeting at Carbo's Florida hideaway and Norris' Coral Gables home to discuss terms for a proposed rematch between Carmen Basilio and Ray Robinson. The participants: Basilio, his co-manager, John De John, Carbo and Norris.
"Such was the influence of the defendant," Scotti continued, "that even after he had been arraigned...he met with James D. Norris. On Oct. 1, 1959 Carbo was observed riding in a white Cadillac, bearing Florida license plates, in front of the air terminal in Newark. Also seen at the time and in the same vicinity was James D. Norris riding in a blue Cadillac, bearing Illinois license plates. Frank Carbo was seen leaving the white car and entering the blue Cadillac with Norris in it. This took place at about 1 p.m. Carbo left the blue car at about 4:25 p.m. Carbo and Norris had conferred for over three hours. While we do not know what these two discussed, this lengthy meeting certainly removes any doubt if there should be any, as to the extent of Carbo's influence among those connected with the professional sport of boxing, including, particularly, James D. Norris."
The shocking thing about Carbo's domination of professional boxing in the United States is not only that he succeeded in capturing a great sport for his own ends and for so many years. It is also that he found so many confederates, humble and high, who were willing to play along with Frankie for the kind of underworld "order," backed by muscle, that Frankie represented—and for their own shares of the payola.
Thanks to the efforts of New York's District Attorney Frank Hogan and his assistants, Frankie is now to depart behind bars for a sobering period of time—as far as Frankie is concerned. Next job is to rout his old payola pals out of the business, and to make sure that Frankie does not have a brand-new underworld "order" man as his successor.
While hunters clad in red get shot,
Here is a hunter who does not.
He saves himself, year after year,
By masquerading as a deer.