THE SAFETIMONIOUS DRIVER
This weekend some 33 automobile drivers will gun their high-powered cars through the grueling grind of the Indianapolis "500" and several million more will head for the nation's highways in the annual Memorial Day motoring melee. It is noteworthy that at least one Indy veteran, Sam Hanks, has stated publicly that he would rather trust his life to the uncertainties of the "500" any day than take a chance on a West Coast freeway with automobiledom's amateurs.
Lacking Sam's experience, we are nevertheless inclined to agree. Indianapolis, for all its danger, lacks at least one highway menace who seldom if ever appears in the fatality statistics, but may be responsible for a host of them. This is not the drunk, the speeder, the roadhog or the weaver, but the mousy, pigheaded pilot who thinks that nobody is a safer driver than he. If the speed limit is 50, he goes 40; if the speed limit is 40, he goes 30. Just to play safe, he always stops dead on the right lane of a parkway before turning out and shakes his head in distress at the screech of brakes behind him. On entering, he sticks his nose cautiously into the traffic to make sure everything is all right, and clucks reprovingly at those unfortunate drivers who have to swerve and skid to avoid hitting him.
It is true he has never been in an accident, this self-righteous, safetimonious fellow, but as the cars pile up on the highways behind and around him we, like Sam Hanks, would rather be driving somewhere else.
May 29, 1960
A RESPECTABLE SIDELINE
Can anybody in the world honestly think of a good reason why Outfielder Al Kaline of the Detroit Tigers shouldn't own a race horse, or even two of them? We doubt it. But last week when it was learned that Kaline intended to become part owner of a small racing stable, the general attitude was that Al had violated a sacred trust. "I'll say this," said Al's boss Bill DeWitt, "I just don't believe baseball and racing mix. I'll have a little talk with Al. Perhaps he needs a little guidance."
A little guidance is certainly needed, but not necessarily by Al. In the American sporting scene, the two most popular pastimes unquestionably are baseball and horse racing. Stories about their daily progress fill more space on the sports pages than is awarded all other sports combined. More than any other game, baseball has come to stand for and symbolize the American way of life. Popular sentiment requires the President of the United States to toss out the first ball in each baseball season. Yet the same popular sentiment forbids U.S. Presidents from even attending horse races—a pastime dignified in many other lands by the title Sport of Kings.
This curious discrimination may stem from the turf's monarchist background or from its historic association with betting. Whatever the reason, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis elevated it to law with his early decree that horse racing was no fit playmate for the great American game. We respect the memory of Judge Landis, but we think this is a pretty silly and a hopelessly outdated dictum.
The democratic way is in no danger these days from a sport that attracts far more commoners than kings; and as for gambling—well, most authorities on gambling agree that at least as much money is bet under the table each year on the pennant races as on the ponies. If, as baseball's first commissioner apparently believed, a ballplayer's connection with the turf was likely to lead him into bad company because of betting, his connection with the diamond would now seem to offer the same risk. We don't believe there is much risk in either case.