THAT PCL IDEA
When the Pacific Coast League proposed permanent pinch hitting for pitchers most baseball fans (ourselves included) considered it just another of those silly schemes that are always afoot for changing the game. Surprisingly, the idea is finding favor. Lefty O'Doul calls it baseball's "greatest innovation," and former slugger Ralph Kiner is ecstatic. "Tremendous," says Kiner. "Under this rule I could have stayed in the majors an extra five years."
Some uneasiness is apparent among the pitchers who might be facing Kiner, Ted Williams and Stan Musial four times every game for 30 seasons. But there are other, more compelling reasons why the PCL proposal is bad.
Much of baseball's appeal rests on provocative problems of strategy involving the pitcher—two on, one out, behind by a run and the starter coming to bat: What do you do? And what would become of that delightful phenomenon, the good-hitting pitcher? As for Kiner's (or even Williams') extra five years, we can do without them. When a man has to hang up his spikes and glove he should drop his bat as well.
KILLER IN THE IRS
By accident or design, John Kennedy has been partial to sporting types in his appointments. Aside from touch footballer Bob Kennedy, there are skier Robert McNamara, ex-quarterback Orville Freeman and former basketball star Stewart Udall. Dean Rusk, it turns out, is a staunch promoter of Little League baseball.
Comes now Mortimer Maxwell Caplin as Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. Basic training for this job could hardly be acquired in a more suitable activity than the one Caplin chose as a student at the University of Virginia. He was a boxer. He was Southern Conference senior middleweight champion in 1936.
He is also a lawyer and professor at the University of Virginia Law School. That school's Dean F.D.G. Ribble has this to say of Caplin: "He was a formidable opponent in the ring. He is a very formidable lawyer at the bar, but he is very cheerful before and afterward. I suppose every first-class boxer has the killer instinct in the ring, and so does every first-class lawyer."
Taxpayers who may one day step into the ring with Killer Caplin are forewarned.
ANYONE FOR BLOCKADE RUNNING?
During the Civil War the Confederate Navy experimented with a series of small, mechanically operated submarines which were almost 100% successful in drowning their volunteer crews. Since the Union lifted its blockade of southern ports, this type of underwater craft has fallen into disuse. But there at the Los Angeles Boat Show last week, by golly, was a thing called the Minisub, a mechanical two-man submarine with all the virtues of its Confederate forebears. As soon as the Minisub goes under, it fills with water. There is no internal pressure system, so it cannot take the human body down any deeper than the body could go without it. To operate the sub, one of the crew, in full scuba gear, lies back down inside the fuselage and pumps madly on bicycle-type pedals hooked up to the propeller. In order to explore, take pictures, or whatever, the crew members have to get out of the sub—which is obviously the best thing they could do anyway.
On probation for a year because of alleged sins in recruiting, North Carolina has withdrawn from the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament to be held, as usual, at the end of the season. This withdrawal does not stem entirely, as announced, from an interest in "fair play to other teams." Behind it is a desire to kill the tournament, which Carolina Coach Frank McGuire has opposed for years, and a long-range plan to leave the conference for independent status.
The ACC and the Southern are the only two conferences that hold season's-end tournaments to determine which team will represent them in the NCAA national tournament. We agree with McGuire that this is a bad idea. Every other conference sends to the NCAA affair the team that has the best record over the regular season. This is as it should be; it is ridiculous to ask players who have already proved they are the best in their league to prove it again when the season is over. We believe that the only reason the ACC and the Southern Conference hold their own tournaments is to make money. While this is a reasonable ambition, it should not be achieved at the expense of sporting principles.
Gambling houses welcome system players the way epicures welcome oysters—as something to be smiled upon and then zestfully devoured. But last week an M.I.T. mathematician revealed that he has devised a system that might turn the appetites of Las Vegas operators into churning indigestion.
Dr. Edward O. Thorp (Ph.D.), who conceals the heart of a river gambler behind a crewcut facade, told a Washington convention of the American Mathematical Society last week that he and an IBM-704 computer had worked out tables that would permit a player to make $125 an hour at blackjack.
The doctor explained that he began his work on blackjack two years ago after reading that the odds on the game favor the house by only 3.2%. "I wanted to find out, by computation, if the player could possibly change the odds to his own favor," he said. His system will yield $125 an hour, provided the player's bank roll is $40,000 and he bets up to the $500 table limit set by most gambling houses. This can be done, the doctor says, with less than a 1% chance of losing the initial stake. If the bank roll is smaller, say $3,200, the maximum bet becomes $40, the average yield is $10 an hour, and the risk: of total loss is still less than 1%.
The key to the system is the number of fives that have been played. "If all fives have been used, you make a larger bet than usual," said Dr. Thorp. "If no fives are out, a minimum wager is made." The system exploits two rules of the game as it is played in Nevada: that the dealer puts discards at the bottom of the pack and that he must take another card himself if 16 points are showing.
When Dr. Thorp got home from Washington he found himself besieged by offers of capital to test his system, but he had reservations about a trip to Nevada.
"The problem is very clear to me," he said. "If I mustered a big bank roll and marched out there, the income tax people could wipe me out or the casinos might change their rules. I'd go if they would promise not to change their rules and would let my system make up to $20,000 before they forced me to quit."
Among Dr. Thorp's calls was one from the management of the luxurious Sahara Hotel, made plush by the losses of system players. They offered free room and board for a month if the doctor would try his system at their tables. "They're just looking for publicity," said Dr. Thorp.
For the past 10 years any red-blooded cluricaune would have given the secret handshake to any member of the U.S. Equestrian Team. Cluricaunes, as readers of Irish folklore know, are a species of Great Elf who, unlike Lesser Elves, scorn living under toadstools. Cluricaunes live in rich men's cellars, drink their whisky and ride their horses until both are used up. This, in effect, is what the U.S. riders, dependent upon the whimsical good will of assorted wealthy patrons, have had to do. They have borrowed horses and stabling from coast to coast and border to border, and they have not stood aloof from the liquid hospitality indigenous to the sport.
Now the USET is ready to eschew its cluricaune role. A permanent headquarters, the first ever, will be opened on February 1 in Gladstone, N.J. on the extensive estate of James C. Brady. It will have housing facilities for both horse and man luxurious enough to turn a Great Elf as green as his environment. But even though it now has a permanent headquarters, the USET still will be dependent for operating expenses on public contributions and benefactions from the wealthy. This means its members will need to retain at least one cluricaune attribute—the ability to find hidden treasure.
Islesboro High School, about 12 miles out in Penobscot Bay, Maine, has 13 boys, 11 girls and a basketball team. Coach Frank Reed has nine of the 13 boys on his squad, and his main problem is ferry fare. Whenever Islesboro plays at home it has to pay $65 a game to ferry the competing team to and from the island; whenever it goes abroad the cost is $80. When Islesboro visits the neighboring island of Vinalhaven, about 20 miles away, the cost of the ferry ride is $94. Of the 14 games Islesboro has played this year, it has lost only five. Next year it hopes to be in district championship contention, if the ferry doesn't break down and the fare doesn't go up.
Who owns a lost golf ball? In the U.S., possession has been nine-tenths of the law. Not so in Britain, as a gentleman named Hibbert discovered to his dismay when he "found" eight balls, was haled into court and adjudged guilty of trespassing and stealing. He was, said the court, as much a burglar as one who "finds" jewelry on the dressing table of another man's bedroom.
Even a member of an English club who finds a lost ball does not own it. It belongs to the club. Though unaware of the exact location of the ball, the club was in possession of it, the court decided. Its prior possession was ruled superior to the subsequent possession by the member. It is no defense for a member to say, "This may well be one of the many I have lost."
A precedent for this is the case of Elwes vs. Brigg Gas Co. (Chancery, 1886). The gas company, licensees of land from Elwes, found a prehistoric boat while digging for gas. The question arose whether the gas company or Elwes owned the boat. The court decided that the landowner, not the finder, owned it.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
•Jockey Johnny Longden, who has taken only one mount in the last 10 runnings of the Kentucky Derby, says he may handle Flutterby in this year's race. "This colt," says Longden, "is a son of Noor, and he seems to get better as the distances stretch out." Flutterby is trained by Longden's son, Vance.
•"California has lots of good high school boys with A averages," Cal Football Coach Marv Levy told a banquet audience, "and I think we're going to get both of them."
•Asked his reaction at being voted AFL player of the year, Dallas Halfback Abner Haynes replied: "Ain't no sense in a runner gettin' big-headed before he talks it over with his blockers."
•Rex C. Ellsworth, whose Swaps personally lifted the prestige of California racing in 1955 and 1956, has two new names to introduce this year. Olden Times, a 3-year-old colt about whom more will be heard in the weeks ahead, and Prove It, a 4-year-old son of Endeavor II. Prove It won the Santa Anita Maturity last week by four and a half lengths to give Ellsworth his first win in a $100,000 race since Swaps ran for him.
•Satchel Paige, now touring with basketball's Harlem Stars, still wants to get back into major league baseball. "I'm gonna try to bring baseball back," he said. "Maybe the big leaguers will help me. I'm not putting no bouquets on me but there won't be another pitcher like me for a hundred years."
•In his annual report to the membership of the American Horse Shows Association, in Houston, Chairman Adrian Van Sinderen announced with pleasure that in 1960 there were no complaints about judges being drunk.