JIM AND THE TRUTH
This is an article from the Dec. 19, 1960 issue
Five years ago James D. Norris committed perjury by telling the New York State Athletic Commission that his meetings with Mobster Frankie Carbo were infrequent, accidental and—dear me!—entirely unrelated to boxing. It was perjury because at that very moment Carbo, the murderer, was functioning as an enforcer paid by Norris to bring boxers and their managers to heel.
Last week Norris was steered over the same ground before the Kefauver subcommittee (see page 12). But times have changed. The world of the IBC and James D. Norris, President, has come tumbling down and, besides, the statute of limitations on perjury is five years. So Norris admitted that he and Carbo had tripped hand in hand through boxing's garden of evil, spreading fertilizer, and a little muscle, as they went. It was a sickening but unsurprising admission by boxing's prize fleur du mal.
Why did great sovereign states like New York truckle to the Norris-Carbo conspiracy? They did it for money, even as Norris and Carbo. Gentleman Jim made it eminently plain early in the game that any state that opposed him would get it right in the pocketbook. Big fights bring big tax revenues. And a million-dollar gate means an additional million dollars in revenue to hotels, nightclubs and restaurants. Boxing commissions, usually made up of minor-league politicians, are under constant pressure to bring this money in.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a pathetic example of what could happen to a state that opposed Norris. When the Pennsylvania Boxing Commission put a few antiseptic provisions into its regulations Pennsylvania stopped getting Norris fights. Other states where boxing flourishes got the message.
This subservience to mob control would disappear under a federal licensing system. Those who manage boxing's dirty business then would have no place to run, except abroad.
And even there they might have trouble if the head of the U.S. licensing commission were to join forces with European and Asian and Latin American boxing control bodies in the designation of world champions and approval of boxing personnel. Last January this magazine urged the necessity of world control and pointed out that the first step must be the creation of a clean house at home. To this end, the Kefauver subcommittee is wielding a useful new broom.
THE SINFUL STANDARDBRED
It is a curious fact of the sporting life that a competitor sometimes appears who smokes, swears, carouses, drinks and wins. And wins.
There was Tony Galento, who trained for heavyweight fights on malt alcohol. And Babe Ruth, who on certain days could not tell his vest from second base. And Grover Cleveland Alexander, who was even known to order fifths of milk.
In this same cavalier tradition comes now a horse named Blue Prince. He is a 4-year-old New Zealand pacer, and he is winning races all under the place. He is a good bet for the forthcoming Auckland Cup, among other big events.
Blue Prince's sin is beer. He swills beer every chance he gets, and when he is deprived he fusses and sulks and stamps his feet. Furthermore, he likes to follow his drink with a cigarette chaser. Filters, straights, shorts, longs, it matters not. Blue Prince gobbles them up, then nuzzles the stableboys' pockets for more. Things have gotten so bad that Owner Hal Barry has had to ration Blue Prince to keep him from becoming a nicotine-saturated, beer-besotted, ever-winning reproach to the decent community.
ADVICE FROM RUSSIA
The New York Times quotes Gavriil Korobkov, coach of the Soviet track and field team that competed at the Rome Olympics last summer:
"All American track and field has this flavor of professionalism. The achievements of American athletes are not the natural result of a people's health, of mass sports. No, this is a product of professionalization which more and more covers American track and field, more and more narrows its realm. And in this also is the cause of the fact that it is beginning to suffer defeats.
"This explains the origin of one of the most surprising contrasts of the American way of life: world-record athletes and the continuously worsening physical preparation of the growing generation of Americans."
A stocky, thick-set, balding ex-diamond cutter named George Koltanowski sat on the stage of the Terrace Room in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, shielding his eyes from the glare of overhead lights. He looked like the prime suspect in a mystery drama who is resisting interrogation by the secret police. He shifted in his chair, puffed nervously at cigarettes, ran his hand over his head, munched raisins and now and then called out hoarsely for more coffee. He was just playing chess. To make it harder, he was playing what is called blindfold chess, though he wasn't really blindfolded. He was alone behind a screen on one side of the stage where he couldn't see anything, and had to carry all his moves and those of his opponents in his head. He was also trying to break a world record by playing (and winning) more chess games "blindfolded" than anyone ever had. Back in 1951 he set the old record by winning 43 out of 50 games played in one stretch. This time he took on 56 opponents.
Koltanowski developed his ability to visualize chess games without seeing the men 40 years ago. He was a 17-year-old apprentice, learning the family diamond business in his native Antwerp, when he was beaten in a blindfold contest, and it so stung him that he trained his memory until at 18 he could beat 30 chess players simultaneously with his eyes closed.
There were from 500 to 900 spectators in the Fairmont when he started his exhibition at noon on Sunday, with some 2,000 coming and going during the day. Opponents ranged from beginners (who are dangerous in blindfold chess because they make moves that do not make sense) to tournament stars. Koltanowski's most worrisome opponent was an unknown named Karl Diller, who flew in from Pittsburgh for the contest, landed at 2 p.m. and reached the hotel to sit down at his board at 4:30. Koltanowski had already polished off more than half the contenders without a loss, but he was getting nervous.
"I thought to myself, this Diller must be a dilly," he said afterwards. "A fine player, no doubt, and coming all the way from Pittsburgh, he must think that he is at his finest. I played pawn to king four, and he played pawn to king four. Hm-m-mmm. I played knight to king bishop three, and he played knight to king bishop three. Now, nobody makes that move unless he knows something about chess. I thought, this fellow has come all the way from Pittsburgh.... What does he have up his sleeve? I played knight takes king pawn, and he followed with knight takes king pawn. Now, that's bad. That's an awfully bad move. So I played queen to king two. He must lose a pawn, and his only move was pawn to queen four. But he didn't! Pie played knight to queen three! I almost jumped out of my seat. I played knight to queen bishop six, discovered a check with the white queen, and the game was over in five moves."
In all, by 9:45 that night, when the last contender was beaten, Koltanowski had won 50, drawn six and lost none.
THE INSIDE TRACK
•With Bald Eagle and Sword Dancer retired and Horse of the Year Kelso and T.V. Lark already stabled at California's Santa Anita, the rich handicap races at Hialeah this winter will be dominated by foreigners. On the grounds in Miami are Australia's Noholme II, Panama's Puerto Madero, Cambure from Caracas and South America's Don Poggio, all top-grade horses.
•The Houston Oilers of the AFL probably will train in Honolulu next summer, and at little extra cost. Club officials believe the lure of the trip will eliminate the need for sign-up bonuses, which last year ranged from $250 to Billy Cannon's $10,000. To add to the inducement, the Oilers will carry all men cut in Honolulu until the team returns to the States.
•The Atlantic Coast Conference, displeased with football's regional television arrangements, will petition the NCAA to return control of regional dates to the conferences and colleges concerned. Under the current contract, which runs through the 1961 season, the NCAA and ABC select the games to be televised.
•Coach Jim Myers, who has not had a winning football season in three years at Texas A&M, is asking for a showdown on extension of his contract, which still has one year to run. Myers says he cannot recruit properly under present contract limitations.
•Contrary to rumor, Sebring's 12-hour endurance race will not be shifted from Florida to Riverside, Calif. "We were considering it," said Sebring Race Director Alec Ulmann, "until the Riverside Grand Prix fiasco. We ran a fine race (SI, Nov. 28), but the local people messed up all our publicity. We won't go out there until they change their attitude."
Put six experienced hunters inside a mile-square fenced woodland. Then add 39 deer. Question: how long before one of the hunters spots a deer? Michigan scientists recently made this test. The answer: four days.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
A 19-year-old halfback named Bert Coan was found guilty by the NCAA the other day of accepting "excessive entertainment." He got a free airplane ride from a University of Kansas alumnus who took him to see the All-Star football game in Chicago a year ago, when he was a prospective student. Considering the variety of tempting inducements dangled before promising kickers and dribblers by overzealous and undereducated alumni these days, a plane trip is small potatoes.
The real point is that when a teenage high school student takes the recruiting bait he is the one who is hooked, if and when the case is uncovered. Coan's penalty is relatively light—he is barred from football for one year. But it could have been two years, or forever. There is no appeal for the Coans from the shame, the notoriety and the permanent stigma. They may even lose their athletic scholarships entirely. For some of them this means losing the chance for a college education, all because of an eager-beaver alumnus who should have known better (and probably did). The alumnus goes free. The school involved forfeits a few games and maybe a little money. The coach gets a slap on the wrist; the Coans get a fist in the neck.
Someday, hopefully, the NCAA will get up the courage to make the punishment fit the recruiting crime. It should be severe, and it should be aimed squarely at the men—not the boys. For anyone who doubts this is necessary, Bert Coan, an authority on the subject, has a few words:
"If I had it to do over, after graduating from high school, I don't think I'd sign with a college at all," Coan says. "I'd just sit out a year, working somewhere, keeping in shape. When I was a year older I'd start deciding where I wanted to go to school. You can't imagine the pressure...the phone calls, the alumni. It's enough to drive a guy crazy...too much for a 17-year-old high school senior."
NO ALAS FOR GRASS
It is difficult to assess the full import to tennis of Italy's Davis Cup victory over the U.S. in Australia last week. The removal of the U.S. from the Challenge Round for the first time in 24 years may even be the first faint tinkling of a bell that eventually will toll for amateur tennis itself (see page 48). The immediate result, of course, was a spate of speculation on how it happened. Why, after seven years of cup competition, should the two Italian veterans, Nicola Pietrangeli and Orlando Sirola, suddenly find the success they had sought so long in vain?
One answer—frequently overlooked in these hurry-up days of tournament tennis when no champion lingers long in the amateur ranks—lies in the very fact of their long experience and consequent improvement. The hard-fought Davis Cup Interzone finals in Perth last week were not merely lost by the Americans; they were won by two fine champions from Italy. However, the real secret of their success may reside in the person of their coach, Jaroslav Drobny. From the very beginning Drobny made it clear to his temperamental charges that he would stand for none of the prima-donna sulks that have defeated them in the past. One symptom of such sulking has been the Italians' almost pathological fear of playing on grass, a phobia common to many cup contenders from primarily clay-court countries. Drobny reportedly laid the fear with one strong warning. If you have to play on grass, he told his boys, you had better learn to win on grass. And that, stated simply, is precisely what they did.
The hunter pegged a shot at the fast-moving small buck and brought it down, stone-dead. Turned out the shot had severed the deer's tail, which caused the animal to lose balance, which caused it to fall, which caused it to break its neck. It happened, of course, in Texas.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
•When the six coaches of the Western Pennsylvania conference picked their football all-star team the other day they voted Westminster's Gib Lewis the league's best center. Good choice but for one thing: Lewis graduated last June.
•Bill Dole, Davidson football coach, was snooping for prospects in the fertile hill country of eastern Tennessee. Suddenly a rifle exploded near by, and Dole's car flapped to a halt, a rear tire in ribbons. A mountaineer came along and offered an explanation. "I guess them fellers thought you was a revenooer," he said. "One of 'em drives a station wagon just like yours."