Friday Night Fadeout
The sponsor was happy because the fights were selling razor blades. (If there was anything wrong with boxing, correction was the responsibility of the states.) The advertising agency was happy because the sponsor was. (If there was anything wrong with boxing, it hadn't rubbed off on the product.) But the network was unhappy. Like Janus, it could look two ways at once—behind at the wreckage left by the quiz scandals, ahead to what Senator Kefauver might reveal in his investigation of boxing's dirty business.
Last week Gillette regretfully announced NBC's decision not to carry the Friday night fights, television's oldest continuing show, after September. Said Vincent Ziegler, president of the Gillette Safety Razor Company: "The reasons are not entirely clear to us, but we recognize they have problems at this time peculiar to the broadcasting industry."
Slap at the Sooners
January 18, 1960
On the whole, the chairman of the committee on infractions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association seemed pleased about the state of amateurism in U.S. college football. "We don't think we have a rotten situation here," he told the NCAA's 54th annual convention in Manhattan last week. "For the most part all the colleges are living up to the rules."
To the University of Oklahoma's coach and athletic director, Bud Wilkinson, sweating under a Hawaiian sun in preparation for last Sunday's Hula Bowl game, these words must have come as cold comfort, for Bud's well-behaved Sooners, perennial champions of the Big Eight conference, had just been slapped with one of the heaviest penalties in the NCAA records, and seemingly for no crime whatever.
There had, it was true, been malefactions in the past, way back in the early 1950s when Oklahoma was put on probation for two years as a result of "recruiting irregularities." But even the NCAA admitted that the Sooners seemed to have conducted their affairs with scrupulous regularity ever since. What then was the point and purpose of the severe NCAA ruling that put the University of Oklahoma on probation for an indefinite period and deprived it of participation in bowl games and in nationally televised games of all kinds until that probation was lifted? Simply stated, the answer is that Oklahoma's football team was being made hostage for the good behavior of its friends and boosters.
During the recruiting irregularities of the early '50s one of these boosters, an Oklahoma City accountant named Arthur Wood, had administered a fund raised by local fans to help pay the traveling expenses of prospective Sooners visiting the campus at Norman. This fund, reputedly amounting to about $6,000, was discontinued, along with the other irregular practices, at the time of the university's probation. Its existence, however, was brought to the attention of the NCAA only a year ago when Coach Wilkinson and Oklahoma's president, George Cross, first learned of it themselves. Even though the issue seemed largely a dead one, the NCAA was anxious to learn more details about the booster fund, and President Cross urged Sooner Alumnus Wood to cooperate with them. Wood refused.
Since then, according to inside reports, the investigating committee has been tipped to the fact that Wood's fund was far larger than originally supposed, and its interest in the matter has grown accordingly. What the NCAA wants now is a close look at Wood's books, and since Wood still refuses to open them (he claims it would violate his ethics as a certified public accountant), the NCAA plans to hold the pistol of probation against the university's temple until it can persuade its friend to change his mind.
Meanwhile, having tried again and again without success to get Wood to play ball, the Sooners could do little but sit in their classrooms wringing their hands and reworking the old classic maxim to read: "Beware the boosters bearing gifts."
The Crybabies Outvoted
There was a lot of moaning by U.S. track coaches when foreign student-athletes, most of them older than their U.S. counterparts, swept the first five places in the National Collegiate cross-country championships last month (SI, Dec. 7). There was even a proposal, up for vote last week at the annual NCAA meeting, that foreign athletes over 23 be banned from all collegiate competition in the U.S. But the NCAA was not in a moaning mood. In a stern decision that seemed to say "Grow up" to the crybabies of U.S. amateurism, the NCAA voted the amendment down 166-33.
Doc Kearns and Jimmy Hoffa
Jack (Doc) Kearns, who was Jack Dempsey's manager and now is Archie Moore's, has, as they say, a lot of smarts. Which means that in that tough old race, the pursuit of the dollar, he has not only outstripped most of his associates in a notoriously uncertain profession but outlasted them as well. Doc Kearns is 78 years old and he hasn't stopped running.
Kearns' latest proposition is The International Federation of Professional Sports, a trade union for which he has sought the support, the moral support, so to speak, of Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa.
"I know Hoffa a long time," Kearns explained the other day. "I know his old man when I'm promoting in Detroit, and I know the kid, too, and I'm glad to have him on my side. It ain't so much that I'm trying to move Hoffa into this thing. But them Teamsters have got the world by the tail, and I figure they can go to the bat for us in a big way. All I want from Hoffa is for him to give me the nod so when I go into some joint like Seattle I'll be all set for organizing people."
As a prose stylist, Kearns has quite a change of pace. He originally approached Hoffa through an elegant letter. "Perhaps I am late coming to the conclusion that sports need a trade union," he wrote in a very round hand indeed. "If so, it is only because the boxing business demands that you study the style of another fighter before you lace up your own gloves. I am satisfied that professional athletes can enjoy the security and dignity which they deserve only by associating themselves into a trade union.... The professional athlete gets no more consideration today than the Roman gladiator of the Dark Ages. After the public have seen the bloodletting, they leave the arena and the gladiator to the insecurity of darkness."
Hoffa replied in the vernacular. "We'll go with him right down the line," said Jimmy and left the next steps up to Doc.
"The way I get the idea originally," said Kearns, relaxing, "is when we have a managers' guild in Cleveland, and somebody makes a case against us for restraint of something or the other, and this judge is an old fight fan and a union lawyer, so finally he gives us a clean bill, and he tells me, 'Kearns, you got a great idea here, but you need to have working stiffs in it instead of just managers. I mean, Kearns, you got to have fighters, race track grooms, golf green-keepers, and et cetera.'
"This judge, he makes me out a very flowery setup, and that gives me the idea. Think about all those caddies and greenkeepers staggering around the course! Jockey's apprentices starving to death! So I go to work on it, and I been working on it pretty near four years. I give this thing a canvass like nobody's business and here's the figures."
Kearns' figures show that the IFPS membership potential is 1,016,464 in 52 sports, including 600,000 in golf, 175,000 in bowling, 10,000 in skin-diving (counting photographers) and 5,000 in dog racing.
"The other day over on Miami Beach," Kearns went on, "I see a kid with a bum hand and he says he banged up the mitt in the gym and they ain't nobody to help him pay the bills on it, so he don't know what he'll do, and I say to myself, though I don't say nothing to him, 'This is the sort of guy we need to sign up.'
"Then I see old sports celebrities all over the place driving mail trucks and things that way. I see guys who used to be heroes, and now they're working on the docks. You think them soccer players—50,000 of them—don't need a union?
"You know, I was around with some football coaches in New York not long ago and I says, 'You're the guys who really need a union like this. Why, school kids can throw you right off your jobs!'
"If I could near about make an evangelist out of Al Capone, I guess I can move on this thing. It was in 1932, I guess. Capone was in the Cook County jail. I had Jackie Fields fighting Lou Brouillard for the welter championship in Chicago, and Al sent word for me to bring him some tickets for his friends. So I took 50 tickets to the jailhouse. Al asked me into his big cell. Then he ordered up a couple meals from his personal chef and a couple bottles.
"Finally I asked Capone what he'd do if he took a fall on the tax rap and had to go to jail. He said he didn't know what he'd do when he got out, but he guessed he'd have plenty of time to think it over. Then I made my pitch. 'I got it, Al!' I said, 'You know this Billy Sunday who moves around with the sermons? If he can be an evangelist, why can't you? You could go on tour, telling the error of your ways, and I'll promote you. We can do a lot of good. Besides, we'll make a million dollars.'
"Well, sure enough, I talked Capone into the idea. He started practicing his speech in that cell. I sat there thinking: 'What a sweet hood! What an evangelist this bum will make! Would we clean up!' "
Kearns sighed. "Then," he said, "Al had to go away. To Alcatraz or San Quentin or some place that way. When he got sprung, he'd forgotten all about our evangelistic tour. I was really sorry about that. But I am just telling you that to show you that maybe I can swing this union thing, at that."
Innocence at Tropical Park
The dream of all horse players, the fancy that enthralls them in the dark of night, is that someday, somehow they'll have a chance to bet on a sure thing—like a race that has already been run.
At Tropical Park, Fla. the other day the dream came true when a bay colt named Deemster was judged the winner of the sixth race in a photo finish over a brown colt named Teacher. Nearly an hour after, track officials took a long second look at the photo and decided that the race had been a dead heat.
So what about people who had thrown away win tickets on Teacher, which were now worth $5.30 for $2? The track announced that it would entertain claims.
Such innocence! Claims from Teacher backers flooded in by person, post and phone. Within a week dismayed Tropical Park officials toted up claims for $70,000 worth of mutuel purchases, though all but $5,747 worth had been cashed the day of the race. Item that made Tropical officials shake their heads most sadly: a claim for seven $20 tickets. Race tracks don't sell $20 tickets.
By week's end Tropical President Saul Silberman was pointing out that the law hadn't required the track to make its generous postrace offer, and he was wondering why he had ever done it.
"We'll consult with the Florida Racing Commission," he said. "Some of these people filing claims obviously have made a mistake."
Cross Words in Graustark
The two-man bobsled team from the tiny Alpine principality of Liechtenstein (pop. 14,000) was not an outstanding performer at the winter Olympics in Cortina four years ago, but the fact that it was able to perform at all was something of a triumph since neither man had even been on a sled before the trials began.
Back home in Liechtenstein credit for this moral victory was given freely to the man who had bullied the team onto their sled in the first place: Baron Eduard von Falz-Fein, himself a frustrated bobber forced to eschew the sport in deference to a squeamish wife.
Less than a week after Cortina, the baroness' squeamishness about bobs came to be shared by other matrons of Liechtenstein when one of the baron's protégés, by then an addict, lost his life sledding. The baron, determined to field some sort of winter sports team at Squaw Valley in 1960, set about training a squad of skiers.
It was a difficult job since little Liechtenstein, nestled between Switzerland and the Austrian Vorarlberg, has no ski lifts at all and only the poorest excuse for a slope. But by arranging for his tyros to travel over the borders on weekends, the baron in time managed to get a team together: two cousins named Kindle and another Kindle who is no kin. The whole enterprise would undoubtedly have proceeded smoothly if the baron, who runs three souvenir shops in the capital city of Vaduz, had only restricted his international activity to sport.
Instead, last year, the baron decided to compete in the Eisenhower-Khrushchev league. He organized what he called the Little Summit Conference on a hilltop in Liechtenstein. This was a well-publicized parley of representatives of four sovereign European nations—Liechtenstein, Andorra, San Marino and Monaco—whose combined population is roughly equal to that of the town of East Chicago, Ind., and it succeeded in ironing out whatever differences lay between them in a single day's session. With tongue fairly firmly in cheek, the baron extolled the conference as a fine "example for the Big Four nations who spend all their time arguing," and the newspaper readers of the world laughed dutifully in response. But stern Herr Alexander Frick, who runs Liechtenstein as Chief of Government under the constitutional monarch Prince Franz Josef II, was not amused. As punishment he forbade Falz-Fein to take his Olympic team to the U.S.
"In every country," mourned the baron, insisting to the last that both he and the team would show up at Squaw (as well they may, since Olympic Chancellor Otto Mayer is now urging Prince Franz Josef to intervene), "politics puts its foot in the Olympics. It's the last thing I thought would happen here."
King of the Mountain
Jose Garatea, a Basque shepherd who came to the U.S. from Spain just last month and settled in Emmett, Idaho, has, to our surprise, set a new North American record by lifting a 251-pound stone 49 times from floor to shoulder in 10 minutes. Our surprise is not that Jose did it, though we are certainly impressed by his feat, but that there is such a sport as stone lifting in the first place. Well, there is, and it's called ari-altiza, which is Basque for rock lifting.
Ari-altiza originated centuries ago among the mountain men of the Pyrenees and is today to the Basques what bullfighting is to the Castilians. Arialtiza consists of three tests: the first, lifting a 251-pound cylindrical stone and a 282-pound square one; the second, throwing a 104-pound stone; the third, walking with two 104-pound stones, one in each hand.
When José Garatea, who is Basque and European champion in his weight class, moved to Idaho, fellow Basques among his neighbors persuaded him to lift in the U.S. championships, which took place this year (and for only the second time in history) at Boise. José Garatea did not have a training stone but admirers chipped one out for him in no time. After the challenger, who weighs 167 pounds, lifted 49 times, Defending Champion José Marruri, weighing 212, went to work, but he got the stone up only 42 times before the clock ran out.
Under the traditions of the sport José Garatea is now subject at any time to a challenge. "He is a smart, fast lifter," Marruri admitted, "but I may challenge him soon."
Out There, Too
South Vietnam has banned all boxing contests until further notice. "Promoters treated boxing as a money-making proposition," explained sports director Cao Xuan Vy, "not as a sport."
Race Track Economics
No drama of the turf
I ever heard was odder;
He mortgaged his old mudder
And spent it all on fodder.
—A. R. FONTENOT
They Said It
Frank Howard, Clemson football coach, telling why Clemson beat heavier TCU in the Bluebonnet Bowl: "Those other boys were so big they tilted the field, and we had the advantage of playing downhill all the way."
Lefty Gomez, addressing a dinner: "Remember this. A pitcher's success depends on clean living and a fast, friendly outfield."
The 10th duke of Marlborough, explaining why he no longer has a cricket team made up of his servants at Blenheim Palace: "They're all Italians nowadays and don't know the game."