Short items of quiet and miscellaneous wonder, from a single week's news, as 1959 drew to a close:
Sevierville, Tenn.—George Stoutt, a gas station operator, bagged an African lion when it reared up and snarled at him in a field near his home. Turned out the lion was AWOL from a traveling animal show.
Fresno, Calif.—Owner Harley Oremus watched as a bald eagle snatched up his chihuahua Poco, carried Poco high in the air and then dropped him into Millerton Lake. Oremus rescued Poco, complained to authorities about eagles, was told eagles must be conserved. "How about chihuahuas?" he wanted to know.
Minneapolis—Game wardens apprehended Phillip Turnbull, a bricklayer, said he was spreading whisky-soaked corn to wild ducks, then sending his dog to retrieve them, reeling with holiday cheer, for his freezer. Turnbull was fined $200. Not for getting ducks drunk—no law against that—but for hunting out of season.
The $2 windows will be open for business as usual in 1960. The track owners followed the agenda at their annual meeting in New Orleans and brought up the subject of abolishing the hallowed $2 bet. But after the groans that came from the rail-birds last month when the idea first got aired (SI, Nov. 23), nobody spoke up for abolition at all.
Down the Mountain and Out
America's no. 1 Olympic skier, Bud Werner, was poised at the top of Buckhorn Trail on Aspen Mountain, Colo., ready to run an intricate course marked by the fluttering red, yellow and blue flags of slalom poles set in the snow. The Squaw Valley Olympics were two months away, but the U.S. squad was already in training. Werner shoved off, shortly entered a nest of poles and unexpectedly pitched forward.
It was a routine fall, the sort that happens a hundred times to a racing skier, but Werner felt a sharp pain as his leg twisted and he hit the snow. He rolled over and pulled himself to a sitting position. Teammate Jim Barrier took Werner's skis off, Ski Patrolmen Dick Bird and Jim Paschel eased him gently onto a toboggan and hauled him down to a waiting jeep. Dr. Robert O'Den of the Aspen hospital X-rayed the leg. The plates showed a spiral fracture of the right tibia about one-third of the way up from the ankle and a simple fracture of the right fibula, a little higher.
Werner, the only U.S. skier in history able to beat the top European champions and the natural leader of the American squad, would not be able to ski again for months. The considerable chance that had existed of an American men's skiing victory in the Olympics was eased gently down Aspen Mountain along with Bud.
Golf Preview for 1960
Nowhere are this year's reveries cheerier than among snowed-in golfers. An optimistic lot by nature-did you ever know a golfer who thought his slice was going to be worse next year?—golfers have something special going for them at this season's close. The United States Golf Association has reduced the penalties on three kinds of wandering shots starting January 1, 1960, a move hailed with cheer by duffers everywhere.
A friend of ours, and it's hard to say whether he is a hooker who sometimes slices or a slicer who sometimes hooks, shared this general optimism until a few days ago. That's when circumstances found him in Florida, and overeagerness led him to preview the 1960 rules.
It seems that his partner in this venture was a purist, a man who joins with the British in thinking the USGA is making the game too easy. That got things off on the wrong spiked foot before a club was swung.
On the first tee, our friend reports, he hit a long drive—over the fairway, over the rough, over a hedge and over a paralleling road. It was out of bounds, to say the least. "Smiling sweetly, I reminded my purist companion that I was now hitting two, under the new rules, instead of three under the old ones, and I teed off again. The purist looked unhappy." The penalty stroke he saved eventually won our man a bogey, and bogeys are the backbone of his game.
Six holes later the second rule change came up. A sweeping slice found a dense grove of trees. No sign of the ball:
"I told the purist I'd drop another ball and take a two-stroke penalty. This is the way (admittedly illegal) that it's done in friendly golf games. But purists aren't friendly. 'Any rules, old or new,' I was tartly reminded, 'you walk back and shoot from where you were.' Under the old rules I'd be hitting three, under the new ones hitting two. It was a long way back, and uphill. A foursome was waiting on the tee, so I started to run, trying not to think of the fellow I knew who dropped dead of a heart attack at 33 rounding third base in a picnic softball game. I finally got there, and the foursome looked tough. 'Get him!' said one. 'Thinks he's in the National Open.' 'Hit it, Hogan,' advised another. I hit it. All of 15 yards. Hit it twice more with my driver before getting to my bag. Ended up with a quintuple bogey. The purist smiled."
The final rule change, and the day's most bitter blow, came up on the 17th. Our friend, less optimistic about 1960 by the minute, mismashed a mashie into a vine-covered fence. Declaring the ball out of bounds, he hit another, tight to the pin for an apparent par 3. But:
" 'Not so fast,' I heard the purist call. He had muddled around the fence and found my ball against a pole, but in bounds. I swung twice trying unsuccessfully to move the ball. Then I declared it unplayable. Under the new rules I could either return to the spot the ball was hit, hit another, and add a penalty stroke, or drop the ball behind me, out of the unplayable position, and add a penalty stroke. I looked back and saw the grim foursome, so ceremoniously dropped the ball over my shoulder. It fell in deep rough. I ended up with an 8. The purist laughed out loud."
Our friend has quit golf for this season. Says he's moving north to sit quietly before a fire while it snows outside.
But don't you be discouraged, golfers. The new rules will help your scores in 1960; they really will. In any case, Happy New Year.
"Baseball, like watermelon, traditionally belongs to the summer pleasures and pastimes of the American people. No one has successfully canned a watermelon yet, but a couple of rival television producers are now doing their best to accomplish this for baseball.
Producer No. 1 is Max Cooper of Chicago, a public relations man who views the world through sleepy eyes and a wide-awake mind. Cooper is filling baseball's winter void with a 26-game series lifted from the Cuban League, starring, among others, Chicago's Minnie Minoso. The notion to tape Cuba's winter games and replay them in the U.S. at a later date, Cooper claims, came to him in a dream one March night in 1958, and he bolted out of bed forthwith. He has been moving at a pretty fair clip ever since, and when the Cuban League's season opened this fall, he had 11 TV stations around this country signed up and waiting. The games are taped in Havana, edited, and air-expressed to such day-in and day-out baseball strongholds as Chicago, Milwaukee and Los Angeles, where they are broadcast at the rate of one a week. Cooper admits he does not know what to expect from any one game (he describes his first attempt as "the dullest sport show ever made"), but he says he does know how to improve upon the raw material in the cutting room. A typical 2½-hour game is reduced, with some 200 splices, to 78 minutes, and a lissome Latin lady is slipped on camera between innings to post the scores. And, because Cooper's shooting schedule is shorter than the league's schedule, Cooper has devised a synthetic, midseason "playoff," for which all participants will be handsomely rewarded.
Producer No. 2 is Peter De Met of Chicago and Coral Gables, Fla. De Met shows no Cuban games but rather tapes of U.S. major league games warmed over from last summer. Game dates and scores remain unannounced until the end, and the whole thing is through and done with in a fleeting 53 minutes, for the duller passages, says De Met, translate better in synopsis form. De Met has sold his 26-game series to some 90 TV stations, which seems to prove that more people will watch a major league ball game twice than will watch a Cuban League ball game once. And though his series will contain no playoff, contrived or otherwise, De Met has his own surprise. Just as soon as the canned baseball series has run its course and fresh baseball is getting started again, De Met hopes to grasp his audience anew with 1959 professional football games—concentrated, warmed up and, for the absent-minded, exciting through the final second.
Everybody in the Pool
Winter's traces may be here, but the days were never sunnier for the swimming-pool crowd. We're referring, of course, to the contractors, distributors and dealers who sell the pools. Business was the best ever during 1959, the National Swimming Pool Institute declared, and the figures proved the point. Some 70,000 pools were installed, boosting the total number now in use to 250,000, and almost two-thirds were sold to private home owners.
It seemed a good time to find out how a home owner goes about buying one, and what sort he usually selects. So we directed our questions to a trio of NSPI men who were in New York for the opening of the National Swimming Pool Exposition.
"Buying a pool today," enthused Robert Greene, the NSPI's executive secretary, "is like buying an auto used to be. The average person finds people who have pools and he gets their opinions. Then he visits a dealer's showroom. He sees full-scale models on exhibit, full to the brim and completely landscaped. The customer usually feels the urge then and there to jump in for a swim."
"The pool can be just about any size or shape," said Bob Hoffman, the Exposition's co-chairman. "But our statistics show that a home-owner's average dive-and-swim pool is rectangular, about 16 by 36. Its depth at the deep end is 8 to 8½ feet. Another interesting statistic is that the cost of the average pool was slightly under $4,100 in 1959. That's down from $4,250 last year, and it's one of the few costs in the economy that has gone down."
"Yes, sir," beamed NSPI President Jere Gottschalk, "swimming is as basic a skill as driving a car, and a good deal more healthy—very healthy indeed. We're growing with the demand. Sales in 1959 totaled $800 million, and we're not counting the factor of obsolescence. Diving boards do wear out. That's why, what with replacement sales, we consider ourselves a billion-dollar business."
"You also have to remember," Poolman Greene added, "that our figures don't even attempt to estimate the things families buy to add to their enjoyment of the pools. Products like outdoor furniture and portable TV sets, poolside dressing rooms and rubber life rafts."
We were very impressed, but we could have told the NSPI executives there was still another statistic they had forgotten. A South Orange, N.J. home owner who had just bought a pool summed the situation up for a friend last summer. "Gosh, I'm sorry, Gene," he apologized. "I know you drink Scotch. But with all the people who've been dropping in for a swim all I can offer is beer. Otherwise I'd be drunk out of house and pool."
Hunters and campers in northern states faced an unexpected hazard this winter, the risk of asphyxiation in closed, heated trailers.
Discovery of the danger was announced by the Public Health Service, which alerted authorities to be on the lookout for small trailers (up to 18 feet) carrying a type of heater which might have been a factor in as many as 16 deaths this fall.
In the fatal trailers, the Public Health Service said, were 22-by-14-inch panel-model 8 M Thurm Heaters, some 2,000 of which had been installed in the past 18 months.
A representative of the heater manufacturer, Thurm Engineering Company of Elkhart, Ind., said the firm has notified trailer dealers that the 8 M heater needs modification and has attempted to trace all of the heaters which have been installed.
The search will continue through the holiday season in an earnest turnabout that finds the hunters becoming the hunted.
He's wise to fishing through the ice. But learned it to his cost: His only bite from morn till night Was diagnosed as frost.
They Said It
George Weiss, New York Yankee general manager, explaining his club's frequent, trades with Kansas City: "We have faith in each other."
Duffy Daugherty, Michigan State football coach: "Our grants-in-aid are awarded for academic achievement and need. By academic achievement—if he can read and write. By need—well, we don't take a boy unless we need him."
Amos Alonzo Stagg, 97, football immortal, on learning that he is Yale's oldest living graduate: "I shall try to behave myself for the rest of my days so that dear old Yale will not suffer."