A great deal of confused nonsense has come out of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association meetings in New Orleans, all of it reflecting the frantic concern of that group with preserving the fiction of amateur tennis. President George Barnes released a plan, described as a "bombshell," which advocates something called "quasi-open" tournaments in which amateurs and pros would play side by side but not quite together. On examination, the bombshell turns out to be a mess of shredded white flannel from a Newport memory chest with a pair of old sneaker laces as a fuse. We agree with Barnes only when he says, "It may not be perfect, but it's a thought."
Here's another thought: the players want open tennis; the public wants open tennis; everyone wants open tennis but the USLTA. Get out of the way, gentlemen.
JETS? METS? REBELS?
February 13, 1961
Mrs. Charles Shipman Payson, the principal stockholder of the New York baseball club that will join the National League in 1962, is looking for a name for her team. She has been flooded with nominations from local fans, and the other day she invited some sportswriters to make a few apt selections. Their choices were: Continentals, Skyliners, Burros, Skyscrapers, Rebels, Bees, NYBs, Mets, Jets and Avengers.
We don't believe any of these will finally be chosen. For one thing, Mrs. Payson is herself something of an expert in this area. She and her brother, John Hay Whitney, are responsible for many of the delightfully imaginative names of the Thoroughbreds in their Greentree Stable. There was a colt by Equipoise out of Goose Egg that Mrs. Payson named Shut Out. Shut Out's colt out of Big Event she named Hall of Fame. At the moment, Mrs. Payson is partial to the name Meadow Larks for her team, since it will eventually play its home games in a new stadium located in New York's Flushing Meadows.
Our unsolicited suggestion is the honored (in New York) name of Giants. The Giants now in San Francisco should by all rights be called Seals—which would please most San Franciscans mightily, if not Owner Horace Stoneham. Perhaps Mrs. Pay-son can arrange to trade one of Green-tree's promising 2-year-olds for the rights to "Giants."
In any event we hope her inclinations toward aptness do not lead her to pick the name Moles, which was suggested for the team by one New Yorker "because they'll be near the bottom anyway."
The first edition of his Future Book on the Kentucky Derby will not be out until March, but Caliente Price-maker Tony Alessio privately offers this appraisal of eligible 3-year-olds: Carry Back 5 to 1; Beau Prince 6 to 1; Captain Fair 8 to 1; Crozier 10 to 1; Gay Landing 15 to 1; Vapor Whirl 15 to 1; Garwol 15 to 1; Guadalcanal, Ambiopoise, Ronnie's Ace, Olden Times, Bowl of Flowers, all 20 to 1; Oak Dandy, On his Metal 30 to 1.
Miss Wilma Rudolph, a tall, slender, café au lait runner who is, without any question, the best female athlete in the world, tied her own pending American record in the somewhat esoteric indoor 60-yard dash at Madison Square Garden the other night. Most of the 15,000-odd people who mushed through a small-scale blizzard to the Garden did so in order to watch her. When it was all over, Miss Rudolph had a few—very few—words to say.
About indoor running: "I don't like it. Too many people. I don't like it."
About life in general since she has become the acknowledged queen of the women's athletic world: "I get lots of letters. Most of them from Germany. I don't answer most of them."
About the future: "I'd like to get married and have two girls. I don't want to run indoors much."
Said her coach, Ed Temple, to an insistent reporter: "We been winning a long time. We won in Russia two years ago. You were there. You didn't say anything about it."
THE VERY BLUE PLATE SPECIAL
This is the season of the sports-award dinner, a time that tries the sturdiest digestion. Whenever we attend one of these feasts, we are appalled at what passes for food intended for athletes and other gentlemen. There is the pastel fruit cup apparently confected of shiny celluloid, a tepid, over-boiled distillation masquerading as soup, a mouse-colored sliver of cholesterol called beef and sicklied o'er with viscid gravy composed of equal parts of paraffin and Vaseline. Embellishing the main course are two or three balls of alleged potatoes encrusted in petrified brown grease, and something green which tastes like soaked blotting paper and may well be. Finally comes the frosty liquid that once was ice cream, the equally chilly liquid misnamed coffee and a stale cigar obviously woven of raffia.
Since this kind of banquet menu is clearly well established and to abolish it might be considered un-American, wouldn't it be possible to present sports awards between meals?
THE INSIDE TRACK
•Joe DiMaggio may soon be back in baseball. Friends say he is weighing offers from several teams, but if he does return, whatever the job, it will be with the Yankees.
•Midwestern track men think Tom Sullivan, a senior at St. George High School in Evanston, Ill., will soon be a four-minute miler. Last year Sullivan did 4:11.5, fastest time ever posted by a high school junior. This year his coach is training him for a 4:05 effort, concedes he may go lower.
•Australia's Lawn Tennis Association, which shudders at the thought of professionals playing with amateurs, still runs the game to make money. The city of Adelaide, whose turn it was to stage the 1961 Davis Cup Challenge Round, was bypassed for Melbourne. Thereason: Melbourne stadium's greater seating capacity will allow a $137,000 profit—almost three times Adelaide's potential.
•There will be fewer home runs but more fireworks in Kansas City's Municipal Stadium this season. General Manager Frank Lane wants to move the left-field fence back 30 feet (visiting teams hit 43 left-field homers last year, the Athletics 32). Owner Charles Finley, an admirer of Bill Veeck, plans to convert the scoreboard into a king-size fireworks display.
•Houston's National League baseball club believes the roof to its new enclosed stadium will eliminate the rain-outs that require the scheduling of double-headers, give the club about five playing dates above average and an extra $300,000 in revenue.
•The San Francisco 49ers, who need ground-gaining strength, may soon be swapping with the Los Angeles Rams, who are loaded with offensive backs. Likeliest 49er to go in the exchange: Quarterback Y. A. Tittle.
COME TO FLORIDA
Florida is worried about a recession in tourism, and the new governor, C. Farris Bryant, is planning counter-measures. One of the state's major attractions is legal gambling at its horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons, and a number of Floridians would like to spread this sanction to other areas. Miami Beach's Harry Levy, director of the Florida League for the Extension of Legalized Gambling, puts their case: "When we advertise in northern newspapers, we get tourists down here for a day. Then they go to one of the Caribbean countries so they can gamble." The league wants casino gambling and state lotteries.
Thus far, Governor Bryant has resisted such notions. He is presently concentrating on schemes to insure Florida's pre-eminence as spring training home for baseball clubs, against the lobbying of California and Arizona. This year 13 major league teams will train in Florida, and they will attract many tourists.
Floridians have the privilege of turning their night clubs into gambling casinos. They have also exercised the privilege of telling baseball teams that Negro players must be segregated during the months of spring training. Legalizing roulette might draw new tourists—but allowing baseball teams to house all players under the same roof might prevent an exodus to the west.
It was reasonable to expect, in this expense-account society, that the promoters of next month's Patterson-Johansson fight would block off all of 7,000 seats in the Miami Beach Convention Hall and sell them as "ringside" for $100 apiece. But boxing is ready to push on to newer and costlier frontiers.
The Silver State Sports Club, which is promoting the March 4 middle-weight title fight between Sugar Ray Robinson and Gene Fullmer in Las Vegas, has put a price tag of $1,000 on 16 special ringside seats. There are advantages to watching the fight from these locations, but proximity to Ray and Gene is only incidental.
All 16 seats will face the television cameras, so that occupants may impress their friends throughout the evening. The seats will be leather lounge chairs, resting on a red carpet and set aside from all others by "plush" ropes. Free drinks will be served during the fight by suitably photogenic young ladies. Silver State says four of the seats have already been sold and that "people like Frank Sinatra" will buy the rest.
Adolph Rupp, onetime absolute monarch of Southeastern Conference basketball, charges that some of the insurgents now knocking his Kentucky team around are doing so by playing soft outside opponents and concentrating on the league schedule. In addition, some SEC schools are hiding behind segregation to keep from playing worthy opponents.
"Hell," he fumed last week, "we could do well in the conference if we warmed up against a bunch of teachers' colleges. We can't go around playing a bunch of patsies like Mississippi State does.
"Those silly people down at Tulane think they are fooling somebody. They sit down there and say they can't play against teams with Negroes. Well, practically the whole Tulane team is from Indiana or some Yankee state, and those boys are used to playing against Negroes. They say they won't let 'em schedule games against Negroes in Louisiana. What's keeping them from playing Negroes away from home?"
Asked to predict the conference champion after his Wildcats had lost their fourth league game to Georgia Tech, Rupp snapped: "The team with the most victories."
A sin of the times may be the excessive introduction of rules. A number of sports are, so to speak, over-ruled. Two of the finest games in the world are hurling and Gaelic football, kept alive in Ireland by the patriotic Gaelic Athletic Association (SI, Oct. 10). Fettered by few rules, these games are an invariable pleasure to watch and an obvious joy to play.
What reminds us of these sports is the news from St. Louis that Cardinal Outfielder Charley James, an engineering student, has designed an electronic umpire. Luckily it is still on paper, and that's where we hope it will remain, an interesting theoretical exercise and no more. James admits that in developing his idea, "the ultimate goal is not to eliminate one of the colorful subjects of the game, but rather to improve on his judgment in calling pitches." But baseball is already a sufficiently disciplined game. Who wants less to yell and argue about, less color and less of the humanities?
It ill befits any heir to the old Gas-house Gang even to make such a suggestion.
In several recent races in Australia, horses have been allowed to wear plastic shoes. These weigh only a half ounce each compared to the two and one-half ounces of aluminum and the five ounces per hoof of steel plates used in this country. The horses ran faster than usual, thereby injecting another factor into the complex calculations of the wary horseplayer. He now has to figure that a cagey trainer could build up a long shot by working his horse all week in steel shoes. On the day of the race, presto—plastic and victory.
To most people, professional athletes seem to be a privileged race, living in a world of applause and five-figure incomes, quite removed from mortal harassment. Mickey Mantle never lies awake with heartburn. The battery on Arnold Palmer's car is never dead on cold mornings, and Bob Cousy's wife loves being home alone with the kids.
But last week one young athlete, up to his armpits in money and applause, sounded like a lot of other guys for whom the winter has been long, cold and fruitless. Playing in the 90-hole Palm Springs Golf Classic, Don January struck a 148-yard tee shot that bounded dead to the pin for a hole in one. The shot was worth $50,000. In a subsequent radio interview the announcer bubbled, "How did it feel to make that shot, Don?" "Man, it felt great," bubbled Don. "And what are you going to do with that money?" said the announcer. "Man, I owe it all," said January.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
•Cleveland Brown Fullback Jim Brown isn't saying whether Sam Huff of the Giants or Joe Schmidt of the Lions is the better linebacker—"I don't want them trying to prove a point by tackling me any harder than usual."
•England's fun-loving golfer, Max Faulkner, says: "Most American golfers are too serious when they play. I like larking, but I feel these American chaps will blame me if they make a bad shot. So when I play in the U.S. I go around in complete silence and I am bored with it all."
•Bud Adams, wealthy owner of the Houston Oilers, likes to soften up his player prospects by stuffing $100 bills in their breast pockets. When a Midwest halfback balked at signing, however, Adams was foiled. He found the breast pocket on the halfback's new suit still stitched, and the quarry escaped, still a free agent.