The word being whispered around by boxing insiders was that Senator Estes Kefauver wasn't really going to have his subcommittee investigate the fight game after all. But the insiders, as usual, seemed wrong.
"Wishful thinking by the boxing underworld," said the Senator last week when the whispers reached him. The Senate's civil rights filibuster had delayed the hearings, he explained, but "this should not be confused with a lack of resolution on my part to pursue the boxing investigation. I can assure you that enough material has been amassed to hold hearings."
Would boxing puppet-master James D. Norris be called to testify? "I can unequivocally state that no one, including Mr. Norris, has immunity," Kefauver said.
April 4, 1960
ABC Puts on a Sprint
You don't have to be a trend spotter or the son of a trend spotter to spot conscience-stricken television's trend toward more and more hours of sport. ABC (gross billings: $126 million) is making a particularly remarkable sprint this spring in an attempt to overhaul its big rivals CBS (gross billings: $266 million) and NBC ($235 million).
Not only has ABC outbid NBC ($6.3 million to $5.2 million) for the exclusive rights to broadcast major college football games this fall and next, but it has greatly increased its stakes in baseball and boxing. On all these fronts ABC the other day became the partner of the Gillette Safety Razor Co., the country's No. 1 sports advertiser, with the signing of an $8.5 million contract for a year-round package.
Besides 50 weeks of boxing starting in October and the 13 afternoons of football, the contract between ABC and Gillette calls for 25 Saturday afternoon baseball games beginning this month.
Now ABC, bidding against NBC, is trying to get TV rights to 56 American Football League games; those nationally televised will be shown Saturday nights and Sundays.
"TV was born to do sports," says Tom Moore, ABC's vice-president. "No programming we can devise has anything like its direct appeal. Its ratings grow and grow and grow. It even beats out westerns."
Between Two Worlds
Inevitably, as the world grows smaller and man grows smarter, technology and the wilderness must learn to dwell together in ever increasing intimacy. The Bambis of the future will no longer learn of man from their doe-mothers as if he were a being from a world apart. The fellow will, in all likelihood, be living right next door, and—like many neighbors, no matter how well intentioned—may frequently make a confounded nuisance of himself.
This increasing tendency of man to involve himself in the lives of his new neighbors was frequently—and from some points of view, painfully—in evidence in the news last week. In the neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota, for instance, final plans were being made for the attachment of six tiny radio broadcasting sets to the backs of an equal number of wild ruffed grouse in an effort to chart their hitherto untrammeled flights into the wild blue.
In Montreal a chubby 5-year-old black bass was swimming moodily around a tank at the Sportsman's Show in the uncomfortable awareness that he was radioactive. In case he tried to forget the fact for even one moment, a wildly clicking scintillation counter provided by Quebec's Game and Fisheries Department was right there at tankside to remind him. And it was probably of small comfort to the bass, who was there to prove a point about the mutual affinity of fish and fallout, to hear the man in charge reassure spectators with the degrading information that he was probably no more dangerous than a luminous wristwatch.
Meanwhile, far out to the west where men used to be mere men and wild animals wild, the Oregon woods were atinkle with silver bells fastened around the necks of wandering deer as part of a long-range study of herd migration.
Small wonder then that, with their native wilderness all but wired for sound, the wild deer on Missouri's Knob Noster game refuge suddenly opted for civilization in its entirety and took to dropping around to Farmer Ebbie Adams' place at feeding time to watch TV. According to Ebbie, who lives right next door to the game refuge, the deer come around regularly, pull an ear of corn out of his crib, then position themselves like so many popcorn-munching teenagers in front of a kitchen window to watch the TV screen while they eat.
If the trend continues, it may well be soon that the only authentically wild animal left will be someone like Old Wily, a onetime respectable horse who went native in New Zealand-after his master died in 1957. Baffling volunteer posses and local police alike, Old Wily spent three glorious years running wild and raiding suburban gardens in the neighborhood of Auckland until his capture by a lariat-swinging circus man last week.
A Little Bit of Fun
On page 78, in the midst of Henry Romney's survey on social conservation, New Mexico's Senator Clinton Anderson is quoted as saying that whenever land is attached for public use, some sports-minded person should be there to hold up his hand and say, "I claim a little bit of this for recreation."
In Rhode Island last week, some 7,000 members of the Federated Rhode Island Sportsmen's Clubs did just that. Referring to the state's new plan to take over 11,856 acres of woodlands for use as reservoirs, the sportsmen voted to oppose the issue unless it guaranteed the water supply areas be made available for hunting, fishing and boating as well.
Another fellow with some fresh ideas for the national pastime is Michael John Petonic, now 63 but once a director of the Scottdale (Pa.) Cardinals in the Middle Atlantic League. Any player of baseball, says Petonic, can better his batting average overnight by practicing his swing against a plastic golf ball delivered from a point midway between the mound and the plate. "This discovery, gentlemen," Petonic says with mild immodesty, "is the greatest thing in baseball since Abner Double-day's day."
Benefits to accrue from practice with the golf ball, one fifth the size of a baseball and normally used by backyard duffers, include a steely, steady eye and a sophisticated, deadly swing, says Petonic. After a session with the diminutive ball, he continues, a baseball takes on the aspect of a grapefruit, and can usually be last seen clearing the center-field fence. That the concept has true merit was demonstrated several years ago by Dick Groat of the Pirates and Dale Long of the Cubs.
Petonic found Groat in a .254 slump in 1956, he recalls, tutored the shortstop for two hours with the plastic golf ball. Next day, says Petonic, Groat got four line drives off Robin Roberts, in no time at all was batting .273. The following summer Petonic undertook the resurrection of Long, who was wallowing around at .227. After just one golf lesson (as Petonic tells it; Long admits he's fuzzy on the dates and statistics) the outfielder hit two singles and a home run in his next game, two home runs and a single in the game after that. Long finished the season with a .298 average, and his fabled comeback, says Michael Petonic, was largely attributable to Michael Petonic.
Why, then, is Groat's current average still only .275, Long's only .236? "Because," says Petonic, "you can throw gold at some guys and they won't pick it up."
The Tie That Bound
Among the many and fanciful ways men choose to risk their necks, the Cresta sled course at St. Moritz holds a secure position. En route down the precipitous, serpentine, three-quarter-mile case-hardened gully of ice, the sportsman lies flat, belly-whopper style and practically helpless, on a razor-runnered, 150-pound steel sled, plummets toward, if not actually into, eternity at upwards of 90 mph. Since 1884 it has been one of the most rousing things a man can try in Switzerland. About 1,400 are now alive who have accomplished it, and they are all thereby entitled to wear the appropriate Cresta Club tie, an affair of wine and gold stripes.
Now, if all goes well, North America will shortly have its own Cresta, on the slopes of Canada's Laurentians.
Word of these plans reaches us because a reader and correspondent of ours who lives in Montreal happened to wear something like the Cresta's tie to a dinner party not long ago at Quebec's Mont Tremblant. The tie caught the eye of one Wolcott Robinson, a Philadelphia man and vice-president of Tremblant. Robinson asked if it were the Cresta tie. Our friend said sorry it was not, but in the ensuing conversation admitted an acquaintanceship with the Cresta course, having once shot down it. He also admitted, as the talk waxed on, an acquaintanceship with Montreal's Doug Connor, 41, Cresta's undisputed world champion (56 seconds for the 1,320-yard nose dive). Our friend suggested that Robinson, who for 10 years has nursed the notion of a Canadian Cresta, ought to talk to Connor, who's had the same idea himself.
Just the other day Robinson, Connor (a helicopter airline executive) and their catalyst friend sat down and drew up provisional plans for a Cresta Club. And this week the three of them mean to hover over the Laurentian slopes of Mont Tremblant in a helicopter until a likely Cresta route presents itself to their searching gazes. Rhapsodized Doug Connor last week: "Tremblant's the best bet by far." Said Robinson: "It's the most exciting project I've worked on in years." Reports our friend: "When we open for business, I'm going to present my tie to the club."
Putting It to a Vote
One thousand senior members of the UCLA faculty, most of whom haven't done a push-up or deep knee bend in 20 years, are being asked this week to vote on an athletic issue which has caused much stress among their university's lowerclassmen. The question: Should UCLA give up its 40-year-old compulsory physical education program for freshmen and sophomores, making all P.E. courses strictly elective?
The education policy committee of UCLA's Academic Senate has recommended that P.E. be put on a voluntary basis, and last week mailed ballots to the faculty to get a vote on the proposal. Along with the ballot came 500-word summaries of both sides of the argument.
Gist of the reasoning of the keep-it-compulsory side, written by Dr. Ben W. Miller, director of physical education, whose son Denny is Hollywood's latest Tarzan:
"The students (84.2%) want compulsory P.E. and most U.S. colleges (95%) have it. There is evidence that regular physical education contributes to: improved function (Paul Dudley White, 1957), cardiovascular efficiency (Gemmill, 1930), strength, endurance and agility (Brouha, 1944), rehabilitation following illness (Daniels, 1954), control of obesity (Johnson, 1956), sense of well-being (Bock, 1931), neuromuscular coordination (Jokl, 1955), preservation of the above benefits (McCammon, 1958)."
Gist of the make-it-elective position, as offered by Dr. Robert Tschirgi, UCLA's professor of anatomy and physiology:
The need for physical education should be determined in the same way as the requirements for language, science and humanities, i.e., weighed against the student's needs for other courses.
Faculty members have until next week to ponder and decide. Meanwhile the student newspaper, The Daily Bruin, needed no such cogitation time, concluded:
"Americans are getting potbellied, chicken-chested and short-winded sooner and more permanently than ever before. Even if many UCLA students will eventually come to lead sedentary lives, is this a reason to deny them at least a few years of good conditioning?"
Togetherness in Portland
If the 62-million acres comprising Oregon were evenly parceled out to all the men, women and children in the state, everybody would wind up with 35 to himself. In a similar way, if the 30,000 seats comprising Portland's Multnomah Stadium were evenly divided among an average baseball crowd, every patron would have 10 to himself. The story of Portland's minor league troubles is not much different from those of minor league cities everywhere. What the management is doing about it is this: Last week the Portland Beavers announced that the stadium has been cut down to size. Five-foot fences now enclose the seats between first and third, creating a compact, 6,000-seat stadium-within-a-stadium. Two more fences in the left-field bleachers enclose a 1,300-seat layout. The effect, says Billy Sayles, Beaver assistant general manager, will not only generate more fun and fellowship among the Beaver faithful, but will moreover (and happily) cut cleaning-up and ticket-printing costs by a third. On such auspicious occasions as opening day (a social summit affair in Portland), the fences will come down for a day.
Rewrite by John Thomas
William Saroyan is in England writing a play called Sam, the Highest Jumper of Them All—or, The London Comedy. What is it about? Well, in Saroyan's first version a character explains: "The play is about two hours and 40 minutes, but we're a little over and we hope to cut it down."
Sam, etc., which is only slightly more Method than madness, is also about Sam Hark-Harkalark who lives on East Best-Two-out-of-Three St. Sam develops "delusions of grandeur, paranoia and schizophrenia" and decides he is the world's highest jumper-.-Throughout the second act a makeshift high-jump bar in Sam's house rises higher and higher until it finally reaches the ceiling. But Sam is convinced he has cleared it and broken all records in the process. It is, perhaps, Saroyan's old allegory about the little man who vaults heroically over disaster.
In Saroyan's latest draft Sam's sanity is restored and he goes back to work as a bank clerk. But Saroyan is still rewriting, taking advantage of history even though the play opens this week. Just the other day he interrupted a rehearsal after an actor recited his line saying that the world high-jump record is seven feet. Whipping out a Paris edition of the New York Herald Tribune, Saroyan triumphantly dictated his new line: "Change it to: 'It's seven feet two-and-a-half inches. Chap named John Thomas just did it.' "
Listen to This
The locker room's one
Place, at least, where a guy,
When the round is done,
Can improve his lie.
They Said It
Don Drysdale, Los Angeles pitcher, after the team's plane made an emergency landing: "There won't be much delay. We only have to change one sparkplug and 42 sweatshirts."
Oscar Robertson of the University of Cincinnati, greatest scorer in collegiate basketball history, after his last game: "I'm glad it's over. It's like I've been in the house all week and I can finally get out for the weekend."
Doc Kearns, manager of Archie Moore, after the NBA restored Moore's light-heavyweight championship: "After they give it back, they say, 'When are you gonna defend?' I say, 'In six months. After all, we just win the title back, don't we?' "