Spectacle of Magic
One of Walt Disney's pigeons, doing its best to make like a dove of peace at the opening of the 1960 Winter Olympics, flew slam-bang into a scoreboard. A snowstorm delayed the arrival of Vice-President Nixon—and thus, by 15 minutes, the opening of the Games themselves. For dreary moments the TV cameras seemed content to concentrate on a procession of camera-worn Hollywood faces that looked sillier than ever in the snow.
But Disney's confused pigeon straightened out at last and winged off into the wild blue, ceremonies and prologues made way for Olympic winter sport and the TV camera at last found its proper subject. Like the Disney pigeon once it found its wings, it soared triumphantly over Squaw and bore a whole nation of sports fans into new heights of excitement.
Few if any spectacles of televised sport have equaled, and certainly none has surpassed, the thrill of the women's downhill ski race as caught by CBS. Cameras artfully placed at strategic points along the mile-and-an-eighth course made it possible for a whole nation of viewers to follow with terrifying intimacy the hurtling progress of one tense racer after another. One could feel in his own nerves the tautness of brave little Penny Pitou as, arms tucked up and skimming downhill at 60 mph, she seemed to dedicate every fiber in her body to the production of speed and more speed. There must have been a single audible gasp from Maine to San Diego as Betsy Snite came a cropper on the vicious turn known as Airplane Curve, Squaw Valley's own Becher's Brook.
February 29, 1960
A word of specific praise is in order here for TV's recently slandered Orthicon tube. The snow, every last flying flake of it, that was brought to the nation's TV screens was certainly real, and it looked real—just as real as the real people and the real excitement. The quality of the show that the nation's homebound sports fans were discovering in wonder and joy for themselves on TV was even more apparent in the Valley itself. After all the gloomy predictions, after all the little squabbles and fusses, the 1960 Winter Olympics had created its own marvelous spectacle of daring, beauty and magic.
And Still Champion
Don Bragg, 24, is a private first class in the U.S. Army, and when he returns to civilian life one of these days he may go into the real estate business. Last week his legs were hurting: Bragg weighs 198 pounds, and the effort of lifting himself over 15-foot vaults for the last several years has given him a bad case of varicose veins—not to mention a sore tendon in his left, or takeoff, leg from a recent track meet in Boston.
But Don Bragg last week was also the defending pole-vault champion in the National AAU meet in Madison Square Garden. Half a dozen other good men were after his title. Aching tendon and all, Bragg decided to defend. By agreement with the officials, he took his first vault only when the pole had been raised to 15 feet one inch. The first two times, he fouled the bar, cleared it on the third. Then the bar was raised to 15 feet five inches. Bragg took a firm grip on his pole, sighted down the long runway, charged, went up, up and over, all 198 pounds of him. From the pit below, Bragg looked up at the bar over his head, level and stationary. Nobody else could get that high last week. Still champion, Don Bragg slipped into his street clothes and went off to get some sleep and some rest for his aching legs.
It Just Takes Five
High in the mountains of Central Montana and remote in the midst of a lodgepole pine forest sits the village of Neihart. Once Neihart was busy and bustling; then the gold and the silver mines petered out. Now its people number less than 300, and the total enrollment of its skinned-log high school is two girls and five boys. But Neihart High has a basketball team.
Schoolteacher Jack Koetter, a new man last September, had major misgivings when he was also asked to coach the team. "What team do you mean?" he had to ask. "Us," said the high school's five boys, and they drew themselves up tall, which was not very. Two freshmen were 5 feet 2 inches, a senior was 5 feet 7, a junior was 5 feet 8, and, looming over all, a sophomore was 5 feet 10. "Let's," sighed Jack Koetter, "get started."
The Neihart team calls itself the Wildcats, which is fully acceptable, for that is the way they play. They played so wildly so often, in fact, that referees were frequently obliged to banish a Wildcat from the floor for excessive fouls. Since Neihart had no substitutes, that left four. Sometimes another would follow, and sometimes a third. Opposing coaches did what they could to square things by sidelining an equal number of their own boys. Occasionally this helped matters, but generally it did not; Neihart had a way of losing. Yet even when the outcome was gloomiest, the Neihart cheerleaders (one from the high school, one borrowed from the 12-pupil junior high) would brighten the log gymnasium with "Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar/All for Neihart stand up and holler!"
Last week the Wildcats lost their first two games in a tournament at nearby Stanford to finish the season with three victories and 13 defeats. Still, they had gained a measure of glory. The team that won the tournament was Stanford itself, and earlier in the season Neihart had polished them off 28-23. Next year? Coach Koetter is losing one man by graduation, but the Neihart Wildcats will have a team to reckon with. Two fellows are moving up from junior high.
Second Thoughts in Chicago
With short-range eye or long-range eye, every city in the U.S. nowadays must regard this question: How do we make the best use of the city's play and sports space? Chicago's park officials took a long-range view a year ago as hosts of the 1959 Pan American Games. They moved into 110,000-seat Soldier Field with bulldozers, ripped up the asphalt track designed for midget-car racing and replaced it (for $85,000) with 450 tons of En Tout Cas, an exotic blend of soil imported from the English Midlands which, by universal acknowledgment, makes the best possible running track. Chicago's responsible men judged that the expensive new track would be more than just a necessary installation for the foot races of the Pan American Games; the En Tout Cas would remain long after the Games, help make Chicago a mecca for U.S. and international track and field events.
Last week Chicago, grappling with municipal budget problems including the upkeep of Soldier Field, was having second thoughts. On their best day the track and field events of the 1959 Pan American Games drew only 16,000 to Soldier Field. The only solid booking for Soldier Field's En Tout Cas track for the 1960s was the Big Ten, which was hoping to run its spring meets there. With budget and other public interests in mind, Chicago felt obliged to consider such things as the annual Police Thrill Show, the annual Firemen's Thrill Show, the Chicagoland Music Festival—and the midget racing cars.
Sadly and truly enough, you can't have fire engines and midget racers on En Tout Cas—they need asphalt. Between now and spring, Chicago is betting the park commissioners will send the bulldozers into Soldier Field again; this time to peel up the best running track in mid-America.
Certainty in New York
In an office a thousand miles east of Soldier Field, another city official was considering the issues of sport in a growing urban world. He foresaw dramatic changes, and he spoke with his customary sense of certainty.
"I think soccer will be a great sport in America 25 years from now," said New York's Park Commissioner Robert Moses. "Cricket is going to catch on too, and so may bicycle racing, which always draws big crowds in Europe."
The predictions merited attention, coming as they did from a civic planner who for a quarter century had cudgeled, browbeaten, coaxed, intimidated and harassed the world's greatest city into building itself parks and parkways, beaches and bridges, fairs and fairways.
"He never breaks the law, he just gets it rewritten to suit him," a foe once said of Moses' forceful tactics, and it is axiomatic among New York politicians not to let him hear about a vacant piece of land. They know he'll demand it for a park.
The latest Moses park demand is a big one: a 55,000-seat, $15 million municipal stadium on Flushing Meadow, site of the 1939 World's Fair. The chief prospective lessee would be the Continental Baseball League.
Last week, the thin fuzz on his balding head standing straight up, as if scared by the thoughts below, Bob Moses was defending the concept and design of Flushing Meadow Stadium, and saying things that city planners from Back Bay to the Golden Gate might find applicable for their situations.
"Nobody but the government can really afford to build a stadium these days," he said, "and the government must be sure of getting maximum use out of its land and facility.
"That's why 100,000-seat white elephants are things of the past. Their economic use is limited to a couple of days a year.
"It would even be criminal in most cities to build a stadium exclusively for baseball. Seventy-some days a year isn't enough use, either, for public park land."
Flushing Meadow, as revealed in an architect's sketch, meets the Moses specifications for a circa-1960 stadium: it offers a suitable site for football ("the professionals have a fast-growing, first-class game"), for baseball ("though it may have reached its attendance peaks everywhere but on the West Coast") and for that exciting potpourri of other sports which may draw smaller crowds but which have a large potential in the future as seen by Moses.
Like any such project, Flushing Meadow has its detractors, and Bob Moses whacked away at them in his crusty fashion. Of the idea of a 100,000-seat arena he said: "Damn foolishness." Of a Yankee plan to sell Yankee Stadium to the city and then share it on a rental basis with the Continental League he said: "Preposterous—manifestly absurd." Of the notion that the Continental League's Bill Shea might lease Flushing Meadow and then sort of relax—without doing his damndest to schedule soccer, cricket, et cetera there when baseball isn't: "He won't try that while I'm around."
The New York Yankees drew Moses' final words of the day. They have suggested that if New York doesn't want to buy Yankee Stadium, the least it can do is sell the Yankees an adjoining public park for use as a parking lot.
"A crazy scheme," said Robert Moses, keeper of the people's parks. "George Weiss seems to think of the Yankees as an arm of the city government. They'll never get that park while I'm here."
Bat with a Message
Opponents of the North Carolina State basketball team would do well to note a decision handed down in New York's First District Court last week. The decision upheld the right of New York's peppery Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (see above) to keep airplanes from dragging advertising through the skies over Long Island's Jones Beach.
So what has that got to do with North Carolina State? Possibly nothing, except that at a tense moment in a recent Wolfpack game a small flying object swooped out of the NCS cheering section, circled Raleigh's huge 12,400-seat Coliseum twice and disappeared, leaving fans with the startled—and accurate—impression that it was a live bat towing a foot-long sign reading: BEAT DUKE.
1,000 Miles for a Reason
The most publicized long-distance walker in Britain during the current distance-walking craze has been Dr. Barbara Moore, the 56-year-old dietician who lately walked the 1,000 miles or so from John o'Groat's in Scotland to Land's End in Cornwall on a diet of fruit juice and grated carrots, and who commends this sort of fare to all humanity.
The other day, with a gleam in her eye, an 18-year-old named Wendy Lewis reached Land's End after finishing the same 1,000-mile walk, and announced that she had done it on conventional English fare. Said Wendy: "Thought it was time somebody did something for steak and onions."
He took the jumps,
But we never knew
Just where it was
That he took them to.
They Said It
Duffy Daugherty, Michigan State football coach, after a day at Santa Anita racetrack: "The only place where windows clean people."
Chena Gilstrap, Arlington State (Texas) football coach, on difficulties of finding a site between Dallas and Fort Worth for a Continental League baseball park: "Trouble is, you can't find anyone to take enough land out of the soil bank so they can build one."
Harry Truman at Hialeah: "I've gotten a great deal of pleasure out of horse racing ever since my father began taking me when I was 5. Why didn't I go to the races when I was President? I had no time."