Waiting for Lefty?
One of the most enthusiastic voices to cry "Wagons Ho!" in the recent westward march of big league baseball was that of San Francisco's ebullient Mayor George Christopher. Last week, on a visit to Moscow, the mayor was suggesting an even longer trek for the national game.
Basking in the assurance from Nikita Khrushchev, his guest of last year, that San Francisco was "the best city in the whole United States," Christopher suggested to his Russian hosts that he and they get together more often and in various ways. Exchanges of rare animals between their respective zoos, a transpolar airline route directly between Moscow and San Francisco, a greater Russian consumption of California's wines were all part of the mayor's long-term plan of betrothal. But the idea that raised the most overarching vistas was certainly Christopher's suggestion that Premier Khrushchev agree to let Lefty O'Doul, a great slugger for the Giants in the days before they went west and a onetime manager of the old San Francisco Seals, come to Moscow with a trunk full of equipment and teach the Russians how to play ball.
"Who is this Leftist O'Doul?" we can imagine Khrushchev asking with kindling eye. Mayor Christopher is for a home-and-home series between Moscow and San Francisco. Well, they laughed at first at the idea of big league ball on the Coast, too.
March 21, 1960
Men and Machines
From the South came word of the fresh advance of automation. At Miami Stadium a mechanical throwing machine named Eddie Everready pitched both ends of an intrasquad double-header for the Baltimore Orioles, performing impartially for both sides. The first game was a 3-3 tie in nine innings, the second a tight little 2-1 affair. Two days later, his pitching rack fresh as ever, Eddie didn't allow a hit for six innings, but he finally outpitched himself 2-0. Over 54 half innings he had walked only one batter and got himself a 1.67 earned run average (compared to the league leader, Baltimore's own Hoyt Wilhelm, 2.19 last season).
Oriole Manager Paul Richards, recognized in diamond circles as a wizard with pitchers, picked up his new rookie for the catalogue price of only $360, f.o.b. Kansas City.
"People have used these things for a long time," said Richards, "but as far as I know nobody ever tried one in a regular game before. The last one we had shot the ball at you like a cannon. And when it threw spitballs it leaked oil. But Eddie's fine. He has a good fast ball, a little dipsy-doodle of a curve and great control."
If Richards was fascinated, his batters weren't. Veteran Jim Finigan paid the machine the compliment all batters use when they can't hit a pitcher they think they should. "The louse is sneaky fast," he said.
Eddie had one attribute, though, which might earn him much favor with baseball fans. Unlike his flesh-and-blood counterparts, he doesn't rub up the ball, warm up, tug at his hat, upbraid the umpire, paw at the ground, sulk, pout, shout or shake off the catcher's signal. (Indeed there was no catcher, and bunting and base stealing were out.) He just pitches. Under these circumstances, the Orioles played their full double-header in two hours and 25 minutes.
At the same time, 280 miles away in St. Petersburg, the St. Louis Cardinals were using human pitchers, but another grand baseball figure, the craggy-faced old coach with the fungo bat, was out.
Time was when these sages could tell rookies how they did it in 1922, and then command respect by batting fungos with the accuracy of mortar gunners. But last week Cardinal coaches were crouching behind a sawed-off shotgun of a gadget and shooting balls into the outfield with compressed air. Long flies, pop-ups, line drives; all a cinch with a gun.
Anti-automationists (pitchers, coaches and sentimentalists) finally had a chance to smile when Eddie Everready got a sore arm at the end of his big week. But the front office had a last laugh. They had the ailing member unscrewed and replaced with a new one, at a cost of $36.83.
The New York Yankees, by the way, seemed one desperate step away from automation. They showed up at St. Pete to play the Cardinals with that seasoned actor Yogi Berra impersonating a third baseman. The obvious rumor was that this was a stopgap measure dreamed up by Casey Stengel while awaiting delivery of the latest mechanical marvel.
The Film Isn't Right
One baseball pitcher got even with the machine age last week. When the Yankees' best left-hander, Whitey Ford, was asked to step before television cameras at Miller Huggins Field he excused himself, dashed inside for a glove and came out again.
All through the interview he kept pounding his fist into his glove. What the television interviewers never remarked: Whitey was wearing a glove on his left hand and making fists with his right.
But don't let him fool you. Ford is still a left-handed pitcher.
Big Red and the Red
The football, to almost every college in the U.S., has long had the glittery aspect of a golden egg. Not only does the game it is used in normally support a varsity team, but frequently the revenues left over pay for a school's entire athletic program. In a sample and not extreme case, football at Cornell University, from 1938 to 1952, underwrote the costs of 18 other varsity sports and 17 freshman sports and made half a million dollars besides. More recently, Cornell football has been having trouble paying its own bills; the Big Red has had to worry about red ink.
The blame for this new embarrassment, complains Cornell Athletic Director Robert Kane in the current Cornell Alumni News, is easy to fix. In an attempt to divorce themselves from the contemporary high-pressure football philosophies of other major conferences, Cornell and its Ivy colleagues have overreacted and developed a vapid game of "planned mediocrity" that is driving off nonalumni fans in droves. The loss of ticket sales, deplorable and needless to Kane, has severely cut into the operating revenues of other college sports. "We are scourging ourselves for the sins of others," says Kane. "There is nothing at all wrong with football"
To narrow the gap between high costs and low incomes, Kane urges his school to take two steps. One is to follow the pattern of Harvard and establish an athletic endowment at Cornell that would support non-money-making sports. The other is to permit a better (i.e., less Ivy) football team.
Fishing's Just Luck
Corporal Henry Martin Clifford Johnstone of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is a brave man. Four years ago he answered a holdup alarm, was shot eight times before he killed one bank bandit, wounded another and threw his empty gun at a fleeing third.
Last week Corporal Johnstone displayed his heroism again. He ruled that British Columbia's time-honored fishing derbies—in which anglers pay entry fees, then get prizes for the biggest catches—are lotteries, therefore illegal.
"Fishing is entirely a matter of luck, not skill," he said.
Consider that Mountie Johnstone was proclaiming fishing derbies illegal in a seacoast province which has held more than 200 such events a year, where prizes sometimes total $20,000, where 116 fish and game clubs approve of them, and where thousands of anglers take part.
Consider, too, that he was casting aspersions at the abilities and philosophies of famous fishermen from Izaak Walton to Dwight Eisenhower. Now you have an idea of the courage involved.
Editorialized the Vancouver Province: "Either the RCMP knows nothing about the art of fishing, or the lottery section of the criminal code needs overhauling." Fumed British Columbia Magistrate Roderick Haig-Brown, also a magisterial fishing writer (SI, April 7, 1958 et seq.): "Only the experienced know where to look for the big ones."
Wailed Vancouver's official publicity man, William Hawkins: "Fishing is no more a game of chance than golf, curling or ice hockey!"
Tangled in the backlash, Johnstone's RCMP superior, Inspector Gordon Gerrie, manfully ordered a full investigation of the legal question; he observed that his corporal had only been offering a legal opinion, not making a binding ruling.
Meanwhile British Columbia's attorney general, Robert Bonner, the man who may have the final say if the Mounties arrest any fishing-contest anglers, uttered a reassurance: He is a fisherman himself, he admitted, and has believed all his life that there's more than chance to catching fish.
Texas Tries Pigeons Live
It was like the opening chapter of Edna Ferber's novel all over again last week as the elite of Texas arrived at Brackettville, the storied south Texas cavalry post from which Robert E. Lee was once summoned to command the forces of the Confederacy. By Cadillac convertible and private plane they came, the richest of the ranchers and the oilmen, dressed in the best from Neiman-Marcus, and all eager to enjoy the latest sports preoccupation in the Lone Star State.
The sport they came to enjoy was shooting pigeons. Not clay pigeons, mind you; what the Texans were shooting at were real pigeons flung into the air by an expert pigeon thrower at the rate of about 750 a day.
To help them play their game, the Texas sportsmen had imported from Spain a distinguished pigeon tosser named José (Pepe) Manauta, known in his own land as a colombaire, or dover, from the Latin for dove, columba. Armed with 12-gauge shotguns, the shooters lined up near the center of a 200-foot circle marked off with flags. As each was ready to shoot, he echoed the trapshooter's call for "bird" or nodded his head. At that instant Pepe would whirl around and with an underhand delivery toss a pigeon high into the air.
Once the pigeon began its free flight, the shooter was required to bring it down before it passed the line of flags marking the circumference. Pepe gave each marksman a chance at 15 birds and tossed him out after four misses. Since the Spanish colombaire had a diabolical talent for spotting the weaknesses of the marksmen, few shooters lasted beyond the 10th round. "Invariably," said one lean Texan marksman who looked like John Wayne at the Alamo, "if a fellow looks so good he just can't miss, Pepe will find his soft spot."
Handsome and expensive rifles and rifle cases were awarded to the winners, and one shrewd investor carried away $8,000 by backing the right guns in the Calcutta sweep that accompanied the two-day shoot. But the real hero of the occasion was the little colombaire from Spain who, clad in jaunty white ducks and an open-necked sport shirt, tossed his pigeons tirelessly and expertly in the icy 30° air for hour after hour.
"Can you imagine," asked one admiring oilman from Corpus Christi, "what the big leagues would do with a guy who could pitch 1,500 pigeons over the plate in two days?"
Railbirds at Holloman
The rocket sleds which career at supersonic speeds along the seven-mile test track at Holloman AFB, N.Mex. are controlled by water brakes. The Air Force is agreeable to permitting small, dusty birds to bathe in the stretches of water between the rails, but when they hop up on the rails to dry off it's another matter—they don't hear the sleds coming. The collisions not only kill birds but damage sleds and ruin tests.
The Air Force has tried to scare the birds off by playing tom-tom music, trumpet flourishes and recorded gunfire over the track's public address system. The cacophony startled visiting technicians but left the birds unmoved. High-frequency noises have been recommended, but Holloman's budget doesn't allow for a seven-mile hi-fi set.
News of Holloman's (and the birds') plight got around, and the base received a flood of imaginative remedies: enclosing the track in a wire-mesh cage, buzzing it with jet planes before test runs, flighting the birds with electrical shocks and destroying all insect and plant life along the track.
"Your problem is so simple to solve," wrote a California inventor. 'Just invite the birds to a few strategically located bird parks." He enclosed a sketch showing the track, a park nearby labeled "Sanctuary," another park farther away labeled "More Appealing Sanctuary" and a third park, even more remote, labeled "Still More Appealing Sanctuary."
Another correspondent suggested camouflaging the rails and dying the water "to confuse the birds."
A New Jersey man said he had heard that rubber mice scare away pigeons and recommended posting an unspecified number along the track. "I want no pay," he added.
"Would it be feasible," wrote a sincere young lady from Massachusetts, "to attach a bumper-type piece of metal or hard rubber to the front of the sled? What I have in mind is something comparable to a cowcatcher." Track personnel told her that, for one, this would destroy the aerodynamic shape of the sled.
"Tie some live hawks nearby," a Texan urged. Indeed, Holloman was getting up a little recording session to tape amplified hawk calls until a zoology professor vetoed the idea. "There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that hawk cries affect birds," said Dr. Hubert Frings of Penn State. "After all, a hawk doesn't yell at a bird it is going to catch."
After considering various commercial products which explode, twirl or involve disagreeable chemicals, Holloman called in Joseph H. Fink, president of National Bird Control Laboratories of Skokie, Ill. Last week Fink sprayed several areas, including loudspeaker poles, with Roost No More, a sticky substance which is supposed to make birds' feet so uncomfortable it eventually repels them. A Holloman spokesman says it's too early to evaluate Fink's goo, but Signal Corps men who have to climb the loudspeaker poles say the stuff isn't strictly for the birds. It's so sticky it repels men.
On the Beach Again
Why do people get that urge to head for the beach come the first warm weather? Because they like to swim? Because it's hot back there on the land? Nonsense. Sir Alister Hardy, F.R.S., professor of zoology at Oxford, says that it is because we all started by living on the beach in the first place.
Sir Alister, one of Britain's foremost authorities on the mysteries of plankton and such, argues that primitive man lived as an apelike beachcomber for something like a million years. At first wading and groping in the shallow tidewater, later venturing forth beyond his depth, early man found his first food at the seashore and hence became a vacationer even before he went to work ashore. Groping about in the deeper waters seeking fish with his hands and the bottom with his feet, man first learned to stand erect while in the water. During the process, he (and presumably she as well) lost most of the rich matting of hair that covered his primitive body and learned to savor all the languid delights of sunbathing.
With the perversity that has marked him ever since, man eventually learned to sacrifice all these delights in favor of the harsher regimen of life on the dry land, but—and here is the real point of Sir Alister's argument as expounded last week before the British Sub-Aqua Club in Brighton—not permanently.
What with land-grown food supplies becoming scarcer all the time and land-fed human mouths to consume them growing more and more numerous, Sir Alister sees the day fast approaching when man will have to go down to the sea once again and make his living on the beach. Ready, Miami? Ready, Malibu?
O Tempora, O Records
Working up a sweat for his own event, the half mile, Track Captain Ernie Cunliffe of Stanford ran a practice mile in four minutes, four and four-tenths seconds.
Neither Ernie nor anyone else was much impressed with this accomplishment in the year 1960, despite the fact that some 30 years ago the great Glenn Cunningham made headlines with an incredible new world record for the mile. His time in a rousingly contested race: 4:04.4.
The local team was in a draw
As public tension grew;
Until, thanks to an early thaw,
They finally broke through.
They Said It
Frank Lane, noisy general manager of the Cleveland Indians: "This game of baseball didn't become the national pastime because everybody in it was quiet."
Big Daddy Lipscomb, Baltimore Colt tackle who plays football at 285 pounds, learning he now weighs 297 as an off-season wrestler: "I got to watch my weight. Don't want to look sloppy out there in my tights."
Ingemar Johansson, who last summer solved the mystery of Patterson's peekaboo style, after an exhibition tour in the Gaza Strip: "I saw some very pretty women, although many were veiled and I could only see their eyes."