DEATH AT MONZA
A world-famous racing driver and 14 spectators are dead (see page 18), and once again society wonders what to do. Can a civilized people condone a sport which brings the danger of death and injury not only to its participants but also to its spectators? Or should the disaster at Monza be the end?
Motor sport uniquely risks the lives of uncommitted watchers who have neither fame nor prizes to win. Eighty-two of these innocents died at Le Mans in 1955; 11 at the Mille Miglia in 1957; 17 at an Argentine stock car race in 1960. The upshot has always been the same: a public outcry, a few improvements in safety precautions, a quieting of conscience, new races, new tragedies.
One way out of this macabre cycle is to ban motor racing. We do not believe this is necessary or even possible. The alternative is the strictest possible revision of the standards of the Fédération Internationale de L'Automobile, world governing body of racing. No half-safety may be tolerated here. Spectators should be barred outright from dangerous corners and curves. Grandstands should be set a safe distance back from the track, and amply protected by networks of Indianapolis-type protective steel cables. No trackside standing should be permitted; there is no conceivable way, short of opaque sheets of battleship steel, to protect close-up spectators.
September 17, 1961
The FIA has the power to order such worldwide standards and to enforce them by throwing out any racecourse failing to comply. It also has the power to take the Italian Grand Prix away from Monza for this year's failure to be more than half-safe in its protective measures and crowd control. It must take both steps, and quickly, or motor sport will soon have become its own executioner.
Baseball's most hallowed taboo holds that no one may mention a no-hitter while a pitcher is working on one. The argument was that the pitcher would become rattled and lose both no-hitter and game. For some time now Broadcasters Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese have been campaigning against this taboo, but with little success. Now comes Ron Woods, pitcher for the Charleston (S.C.) team in the South Atlantic League. The other night Woods walked to the mound in Greenville after pitching six innings of no-hit ball. A few scientifically minded fans, seeking to enlist the services of the taboo, began shouting "No hitter! No hitter!" Woods set the side down in order. In the seventh and eighth innings the shouts grew louder, and by the ninth practically everyone in the stands was trying to put the humbug on the young pitcher. Somehow Woods overcame the black magic, not only pitched a no-hitter but the first perfect game in the history of the league.
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
Last week two candidates for mayor of New York City got in touch with Yankee Stadium and inquired as to whether they could come to a night game and be introduced. The Yankee brass, to its ever-lasting credit, said that they would be more than welcome, but that the P.A. system would be busy with other matters.
A few days later still another of the bumper crop of mayoralty candidates just happened to be strolling through The Bronx when he came upon a group getting ready to play Irish football. He insisted upon throwing out the first ball, whereupon a player shouted in a thick brogue: "We don't want you! This park is for players, not politicians." We view these events as salutary.
NO HOOFS ACROSS THE SEA
Carry Back, the 1961 darling of American race tracks, will not emigrate to Paris for the glamorous Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in October. Instead, he will stay at home and try to wrest Horse of the Year honors from Kelso, last year's winner.
It was not without regret that Owner Jack Price made his decision. It would have been a challenge to enter his exciting 3-year-old in an international event never won by an American-bred horse, not to mention the $100,000-$150,000 purse. But Price had to weigh some negative factors, too. Carry Back would require intensive training to learn how to run clockwise at Longchamp. Then he would have to repeat the process in reverse on his return home. By staying here for such fat races as the United Nations Handicap at Atlantic City and the Woodward at Belmont Sept. 30, Carry Back could turn a profit with honor in his own country, and at far less risk to his racing future. Juggling all these factors, Price said thanks but no francs, at least till next year.
All in all, it was a wise decision. In this year's Arc de Triomphe, Carry Back would be lucky to finish third.
We take you now to downtown Bellingham, Wash. for the re-enactment of a historic scene from last week. A woman is driving home from two weeks of fishing in Canada. Her husband, totally nude, is sacked out discreetly in the back of their camper. The wife stops at a red light, then puts the camper into gear with a tooth-jolting jerk. The rudely awakened husband jumps up and is catapulted out the back as his wife drives off at near-sonic speed.
Now the husband realizes that he is standing at State and Holly Sts., the main intersection of Bellingham, and he is out of uniform. Several hundred bystanders, most of them women, make the same observation with varying sound effects. Some of them run for shelter, and so does the man. He winds up behind a row of garbage cans, where the police find him and make inquiries. It all ends happily; the police race down Hwy. 99, catch the wife and re-insert the now-blanketed husband into the camper. Just another relaxing, happy fishing trip.
This week, as the National Football League season begins, professional gamblers will move in with bribes and promises to try to beat the usually accurate point spreads offered by bookmakers. Pete Rozelle, the league's commissioner, recently gave his boys his stand on the subject. Said Rozelle, "You used to be told that we made spot checks on places where gamblers hung out. We used to say that we would not use surveillance on individual players. I can no longer assure you of that. We are using more agents than ever before, spending more money than ever keeping watch. If we have any reason to suspect a player he will be under surveillance."
The NFL has expanded its investigative staff to nearly 100 men, most of them FBI-trained. This staff, backed by Rozelle's firm stand, should deter the sleazy polluters of sport.
THE BEDSIDE RINGSIDE
"I have often thought," wrote Nellie Bly, a lightweight journalist of the 1890s, "that the sparring instinct is inborn in everything—except women and flowers." Nellie, of course, was right; boxing is fundamentally for guys, not dolls. Her observations, along with hundreds of others, show up in The Fireside Book of Boxing (408 pages, $7.95), to be published by Simon and Schuster on October 9. This is a man's book, carefully and thoughtfully edited by W. C. Heinz; it includes such stalwarts of literature as Nelson Algren, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, James T. Farrell, Damon Runyon, John Lardner, A. J. Liebling, Dan Parker and Red Smith.
Heinz has included much of the poetry of boxing, such as the anonymous The Kid's Last Fight, an old barroom favorite, and Joseph Moncure March's narrative The Setup, which describes a boxer's dressing room: "A dirty bulb swung by a cable/ Over a battered rubbing table./ The crude glare/ Fell on bare/ Gleaming flesh, and underwear./ Open trousers bagged,/ Sagged./ Shirttails flopped;/ Belts dragged./ Backs bent down;/ Flushed faces/ Scowled over shoelaces. / Shoes thumped./ Knees rose;/ Fingers clawed at sweaty hose/ With holes in their toes." In fact, all the good boxing lines are here, including Dan Parker's classic question on how Charley Massera managed to get himself knocked out by Tony Galento in 1938: "Did he fall or was he pushed?"
It's a cinch that boxing these days isn't what it used to be; some argue that it never was. The Fireside Book of Boxing is a reminder that whatever fighting was or wasn't, it once was interesting.
THE CHALLENGER (CONT.)
Our football department has examined Mr. Harry Wismer's handicapping prowess and found it wanting. Wismer, the impatient owner of the New York Titans in the American Football League, proclaimed that his team could beat the New York Giants of the National Football League. Not so, says our football department, whirring its circular slide rules and feeding data into hungry computers. Here is what would happen:
The Giants would beat the Titans by 40 points or more, depending on how fast the Giant backs could run from one end of the field to the other.
As of now, the worst NFL team (the football department goes on) would beat the best AFL team by at least 18 points.
The best college team of 1962 would be favored over the worst AFL team.
Nothing personal, Harry, but facts are facts and dreams are dreams. It takes time to build up football teams.
The second hottest hitter in baseball this season has been Yankee Catcher Elston Howard. Flail away as he might, Elston cannot win the American League batting championship. An arbitrary rule says that a hitter, to qualify, must make 502 appearances at the plate. Howard, who was frequently platooned, will simply not have enough appearances.
A check of American League statistics shows that the matter is one of concern not merely to Elston Howard. It happens that about 35 players in the league are going to have the required 502 appearances. About 125 batters will be under that figure. We think that any rule that keeps more than 75% of players from having a crack at the game's most important individual honor seriously needs review. Baseball is becoming more and more a platooning game (see page 20), and it is not hard to imagine a future season wherein only a handful of players qualify, and the batting champion turns out to be a .270 hitter.
A DIP IN THE ODDS
Puss n Boots, one of Canada's best 2-year-olds, moved into the stretch at Fort Erie race track three lengths in front and figuring to improve his lead. And no wonder—the $27,000 colt had won his last race by 11 lengths; he was trained by Frank Merrill Jr., a leading trainer; he was garnished with a good jockey, Ron Behrens, and he was well bred (by Solar Slipper from a Bull Lea mare).
Despite all these glittering credentials, at the eighth pole Puss n Boots suddenly leaped over the infield hedge, unseated his rider, fell down, slid across the grass, plopped into the deepest of the track's three lakes and struck out for the opposite shore. It took eight men and a row-boat to head him off and finally bring the colt to safety, unharmed.
We bring this up for one reason only: not to make you feel sorry for Puss n Boots, still regarded as a fine 2-year-old prospect; nor to show that high-priced horses are often failures; nor to prove that betting on horses is still a precarious thing. For years, however, there has been a saying that "there are a thousand and one ways to lose a horse race." Now, thanks to Puss n Boots, there are a thousand and two.
THEY SAID IT
•Casey Stengel, on the sacking of Milwaukee Manager Charley Dressen: "Anybody who talks too much is going to have trouble, like I did.... I respect anybody who lasts over one year as a manager."
•Paul Brown, Cleveland Browns coach, on the San Francisco 49ers' wide-open "shotgun" offense: "It's a California gimmick, good only for Coast weather. In our division we play on frozen fields or in mud a lot. Under those conditions, I doubt if the shotgun would go off."
•Former sportswriter Choc Hutcheson, of Lubbock, Texas, on how to solve the Berlin crisis: "Induct Big Daddy Lipscomb [the 288-pound Pittsburgh Steeler] and send him to Berlin in Army fatigues marked small."
•Cincinnati Manager Fred Hutchinson, on armchair managers: "They've never been on a baseball field. Anybody can play ball in a saloon."
•Hal Naragon, Minnesota Twins' catcher, on whether Boston's Carl Yastrzemski will turn out to be the Red Sox' new Ted Williams: "He's like Ted from the shoelaces down."