For absolute childishness we offer you the case of the nation's two major professional football leagues. Last week, as 374,876 paying patrons showed up at four American Football League and seven National Football League games, most of the teams in the NFL refused to report the progress of games in the AFL, and vice versa.
As if this were not silly enough, radio and TV announcers for each league wasted much valuable air time demeaning the caliber of play in the other league. At the rate things are going, you may turn on the TV some week and hear the AFL referred to as "Brand X" and the NFL as "the seventy-cent" league. This is all foolishness. The fan is not interested in the intramural infighting. Let football take a lead from baseball and keep its fans fully informed. In the long run this will be best for everybody—especially the pros.
Apropos of Roger Maris' mission, we wouldn't want to be in the shoes of Casey, the IBM electronic computer that declared in August that Roger's chances of slamming 61 home runs in 154 games were 55 out of 100. Bettors who were touted onto the action by Casey and who accepted those odds lost $55 for every attempt to win $45 and are presumably waiting to dry-gulch him if he ever trundles out of his private room. But it may not be Casey's fault; perhaps he wasn't programed for the high, outside pitches of September.
October 1, 1961
Madison Square Garden has the world's best carpenters. They can change a frozen hockey rink into a wooden basketball court in 6½ hours, and change that into a fight arena in 2½ hours more. So last Friday everybody showed up at the Garden around 9 o'clock for the start of the big Six-Day Bike Race, but all they saw was about half a bicycle track strewn with random bits of lumber and the world's greatest carpenters. It seems that the carpenters had put the track together in sections down in the basement, and when they took it upstairs for assembly it didn't fit. Somebody had put a lot of clockwise-type boards in counterclockwise.
Well, they hammered and they sawed and they banged and they carried on (at $9.50 an hour), while the bike riders dozed and polished their machines, drunks and kids made forays out onto the track, a brass band played, and at least one fallible do-it-yourselfer looked on with infinite relish. At midnight the track was still cluttered, and practically everybody went home. The big Six-Day Bike Race is now a five-day race.
YOUR MOVE, COMMISSIONER
Baltimore's Jim Gentile hit a grand slam homer off Don Larsen in Chicago one rainy night last week. At 12:20 a.m. the A.P. reported: "Gentile walloped his fifth grand slam of the season to tie the major league record set by Ernie Banks of the Cubs in 1955." This was straight from the record book and incontrovertibly true, but it was an hour and 28 minutes before the A.P. remembered that these are exceptional times. It hastily sent out a message which read: "Gentile's record-tying grand slam came in Baltimore's 156th game. Since Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that New York's Roger Maris would have to hit 60 home runs in 154 games to tie Babe Ruth's record, it became questionable whether Gentile's homer would be considered in tying Banks's record. It now is another problem for Frick to solve."
It certainly is. And while you are about it, Commissioner, maybe you can find time to rule on dozens of other entries in baseball's record books which will become meaningless or puzzling after your decision to temper statistics with sentiment.
INSIDE LEFT OUT
When five Hungarian newsmen arrived in Madrid last week to cover a European Cup soccer match between Vasas of Budapest and Real Madrid, they had to face a terrible problem in journalistic technique, Iron Curtain-style. Ferenc Puskas, a Hungarian refugee, was playing inside left for Real—and for real. But there wasn't supposed to be any Ferenc Puskas. The Hungarian government's official line is that he was killed trying to escape several years ago.
Officials traveling with the team warned the writers that they'd be wise to kind of not mention Puskas in their stories. Real won 3-1, and the anxious journalists were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Puskas, just as emotionally disturbed as the newsmen, played poorly and didn't score.
SAVE OUR MONSTERS
Nature lovers will be pleased to hear that the monster of Bassenthwaite is still frolicking and gamboling in freedom, despite the best efforts of some British scientists to do the poor thing in. The monster lives in Lake Bassenthwaite in the vicinity of Cumberland, England and is reportedly 13 feet long, with three humps and a head like a python's. Two weeks ago knife-wielding skin-divers from the Sellafield atomic station made a search of the 70-foot-deep lake and found nothing but six golf balls, a fishing rod and an eel. Mr. J. Moffat of Thornthwaite, who says he has seen the monster from as close as 15 feet, announced: "I am still convinced it is in there. If I catch it I shall make sure it is put back." Thanks to conservation-minded men like Mr. Moffat, there will always be a good supply of monsters.
CHI CHI THE GREAT
"In two year, Se√±or," said Chi Chi Rodriguez to Seattle Times Sportswriter Bill Prochnau, "I weel be the greatest golfer in all the world." Munching vitamins the way some primitives chew betel nuts, the 116-pound, 5-foot-7 26-year-old (whose given name is Juan Antonio) makes continuous antic hay on a golf course. He whistles while he plays pro tournaments with a set of women's clubs. He shouts across the fairway at players and spectators. When he sinks a putt, Chi Chi gallops to the cup, takes off his straw hat and covers the cup, then peeks eagerly under the brim. "Si, it is still there," he exclaims.
To date Chi Chi has taken in $4,000 playing his brand of golf, but he is certain that within two years he will be the leading money winner. His ambition is to return to his native Puerto Rico and teach little boys to play golf. "They like to have money for candy, you know," he says. Chi Chi himself was a caddie when he was 5 years old and so poor he had no candy. After caddying, he was a boxer and then a "great" baseball pitcher.
"Tell the girls to write Chi Chi a letter," he told Prochnau. "I want to have babies, many babies. I weel make one a golfer, one a baseball player, one a football player. But most of all, you know what I want? I want one boy to be heavyweight champion of the world." He is looking for a "beeg, beeg girl." RSVP.
NO SECRETS, PLEASE
"All I know," said New York Titan Quarterback Al Dorow, rubbing his jaw, "is that Ramsey [Buster Ramsey, the coach of the AFL's Buffalo Bills] hit me hard. How hard? Hard enough to knock me off my feet." Dorow, one of the American Football League's leading passers, was recalling an incident during the Bills-Titans game two weeks ago. "I was out of bounds—10 yards out of bounds—when Richie McCabe of the Bills tackled me. I threw the ball at his face because it is senseless for a guy to tackle you 10 yards out of bounds. Maybe I shouldn't have thrown the ball at him; the tension gets you sometimes. But a coach slugging you? Wow!"
The incident in Buffalo was the first genuine controversy the AFL has had, and last week charges and countercharges filled the air. When the Titans viewed their exchange copy of the game films, provided by the Bills, they saw Ramsey starting after Dorow and then—presto—fadeout. When the Titans went to the American Broadcasting Company to look at the kinescope of the game—presto—no kinescope.
Through all the uproar, AFL Commissioner Joe Foss refused public comment, contented himself with sending a private letter (contents not divulged) to Ramsey, who in turn announced sarcastically, "I received a very nice letter." This cloak-and-dagger approach would be laughable if it were not so unfair to the fans. They deserve to know exactly what punishment—if any—was meted out to Ramsey for what appeared to be a disgraceful and unsportsmanlike act. Such public misbehavior calls for strong and public punishment.
BYE-BYE, WITH PLEASURE
A baseball game in Los Angeles last week marked the end of an era of distortion. Some 12,000 fans turned up to see the Dodgers play the Cubs. It was—thank goodness—the last major league game to be played in the Memorial Coliseum.
Unfortunately, it will not be easy to forget the Coliseum. It was built for football, but Dodger Owner Walter O'Malley squeezed a diamond into it, put up a preposterous fence in the short left field, and invited Angelenos to what he laughingly called "baseball." A record 78,672 turned up for the first game in 1958. A year later 93,103 paid to see the Dodgers play an exhibition game against the Yankees, a record which may never be broken. In fact, almost every National League attendance record is held by the Coliseum.
Both Los Angeles teams move now to Chavez Ravine, which seats a mere 56,000, but where baseball will be played. To the glorious old Coliseum, we say hail and farewell and good riddance.
GOD'S CENTER FIELDER
Until Billy Graham came along, the most successful American evangelist was Billy Sunday, who was also one of the best players in the early years of baseball. The story of this personal transformation from the diamond to the tabernacle, via a few saloons, is told in detail in a new biography, The Billy Sunday Story, by Dr. Lee Thomas, an evangelist himself.
Sunday started playing baseball for the Marshalltown, Iowa team, and his razzle-dazzle base running soon made him a local celebrity. "Cap" Anson, captain of the old Chicago White Stockings, gave him a job, and big league fans got to like his daring, speed and geniality. But Billy was dissatisfied with his life-and took to drink. Sauntering out of a saloon one Sunday afternoon in the fall of 1886, he heard his mother's favorite song, Where Is My Wand'ring Boy Tonight?, wafted from a rescue mission. He went in and got religion. As his biographer puts it: "The Lord went out to the baseball diamond, tapped a young center fielder on the shoulder, and said, 'Billy Sunday, I want you to play ball for Me.' " Billy signed up.
The first game he played after that was with Detroit. The score was 3-2 in favor of Chicago in the last half of the ninth. Detroit had men on second and third. The batter hit a high drive to the outfield. "I turned my back to the ball and ran," Sunday wrote later. "I could run one hundred yards an ten seconds flat. As I raced I offered up a prayer, something like this, 'Oh, Lord, if You ever helped me, please help me now to get that ball. And You haven't much time to make up Your mind.' "
Sunday made the catch.
He got out of his contract in 1892, and thereafter, until his death 43 years later, did the work of an evangelist, talking to 100 million people and bringing millions down the sawdust trail. His style of preaching was as exuberant as his ballplaying. He could box with a heckler as well as quote the Gospel. When questioned about St. Augustine, he replied: "He didn't play in the National League. I don't know him." When his health began to fail, he used to say to his friends: "I'm on third base, waiting to go on home." He went home in 1935.
THEY SAID IT
•New York Titans Coach Sammy Baugh, scolding a back who sprinted ahead of his interference during practice: "Just play like you do in a game, son. Loaf a little."
•K. Gill Shaffer, Albuquerque Civic Auditorium board member, when asked to decide between two wrestling promoters: "We can't get involved in arguments among the arts."
•Blackie Sherrod, sports editor of The Dallas Times Herald, picking Baylor to win the Southwest Conference football championship: "The Bears haven't pulled this trick since shortly before the Protestant Reformation."
•Paul Richards, new Houston Colts general manager, discussing the month his club spent scouting National League talent which will be made available in the player pool in October: "The guys we're going to get aren't playing; they're sitting back there in the shade."