THE YANKS HAVE LANDED
Sooner or later some member of the British parliament will leap to his feet and demand to know why American owners arc dominating English horse racing. If, as a result, there is a tremor in Anglo-American relations, blame Gregory Peck, film star and race lover.
Peck has wanted for years to win England's most glorious steeplechase, the Grand National, to be run on March 30 this year. Recently he bought, for ¬£7,000 and sight unseen, a 10-year-old horse named Owens Sedge. At that time Owens Sedge was quoted at 33 to 1. Then he won an important warmup to the big event, Ireland's Leopardstown 'Chase, and immediately shot to third favorite at 12 to 1, a most comfortable position. All well and good, but it also made the English take a second look at the lists for other big races.
"This year," thundered Clive Graham in the London Daily Express, "American-owned horses are already named as favorites for all our classic races." He was right, too, except that, of the five flat race classics, St. Leger is so far off (Sept. 11) that betting has not yet opened on it.
March 11, 1963
The Stars and Stripes lineup is dazzling. For a magnificent start there is Crocket, owned by Danny Van Clief of Virginia. The colt was unbeaten as a 2-year-old last year. He now shares the top slot with two other colts for the English Derby.
The wife of a chemical company executive, Mrs. Evelyn Olin, owns the Epsom Oaks race favorite, Noblesse, a filly who equaled the Doncaster mile record in 1962 against a field of colts. Another woman owner, Mrs. Gertie Widener of Maine, is behind Hula Dancer, who at 2 broke the Longchamp all-ages mile record and, if she does well in the Prix Imprudence at Maisons-Lafitte, will be sent to England for the 1,000 Guineas. Her result in that will determine whether she runs in the Oaks.
Well, after all, one of the best steeplechasers ever to run in Britain was a diminutive horse named Battleship, son of Man o' War and owned by Mrs. Marion duPont Scott of Virginia. But why, as Clive Graham puts it, are Americans "gradually supplanting the century-old domination of the rich, hereditary peers as racehorse owners?" Graham suggests that "these new American owners are tired of the super-efficient commercialism of American race-tracks." He may be right, though a more positive approach would be to point to the infinite variety of the English tracks and the graciousness and color with which the English have invested the sport.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SLOPE
This has been a disastrous year for skiing in California's Sierras, where the snow forgot to fall. Still, in a way, it's been fun. Despite absence of snow in all but the very high reaches, California resorts were jampacked for the Washington's Birthday weekend. The new tramway at Heavenly Valley had a long waiting line for three days.
The fun wasn't so much in the skiing as in jokes about the nonskiing. Heavenly Valley's president, Chris Kuriasa, reported a "10,000% higher use" of the coin-operated shoeshine machine, attributed to the fact that skiers were getting their boots dirty walking around in the dust near the lodge. And a group organized Skiers Anonymous. The gag: When you feel like skiing call up Anonymous and they'll send a man over to break your leg for you.
LIFT THE LATCH FOR SATCH
Satchel Paige, who has been going on 50 for the past half dozen years, still yearns for another crack at major league pitching—and is willing to pay his own fare to get it.
"My number's Wabash 1-2684 in Kansas City," he drawled the other day, "and if any of those big league boys want to call they can reverse the charges."
Satch used to drive jazzy, bright-hued automobiles and wear clothes to match, but his life is more subdued now. What is not subdued, he insists, is the zip in his fast ball. He pitched more than 200 innings last year for the Kansas City Monarchs, a team that plays one-nighters from coast to coast and travels in an aging bus. He expects to pitch for them again this season, without benefit of spring training, which never appealed to him. His preparation for a game, in fact, has always been limited to a few warm-up pitches.
"I'd make 'cm a real deal," Satch said, still going on about the big leagues. "If I got back in the majors and wasn't helping any, I'd pay my own fare around the league. I still got my fast ball but most of all I still got the one thing the youngsters on the mound today haven't—my control."
THE CLOSED OPEN MIND
One of the principal blockers of open tennis has been the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia. Now the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia finds itself embarrassingly impoverished, to the extent that its hat is out for a sponsor to drop in some $22,000 so that the association may stage the 1963 Davis Cup Challenge Round in Adelaide.
"It takes big money to run big sport these days," conceded Norman Strange, association president, "and we feel it is time to seek new methods of improving our finances."
Of course it is, since the pretense that the top amateur is the world's best no longer fools the crowds. Therefore, why not have commercial announcements between sets and if the sponsor should happen to be a brewer, say, why not trot out the Davis Cup at the end of each match, fill it to the brim with beer and have the winning player drink from it, his face registering appropriate pleasure? This would mean that the matches would have to be played on licensed premises and during legal drinking hours, but that would be a minor obstacle since, after all, the money's the thing.
NOT HAVING A BALL
Winter salmon fishermen in Puget Sound are beset this year by a new frustration—an acute shortage of live bait, all caused by the seemingly whimsical disappearance of an unobtrusive sea bird, the rhinoceros auklet, known popularly as "the herring bird."
His special value to the salmon fisherman was his gift for making herring balls. A herring ball is a solid mass of thousands of minnow herring, herded into this condition by the rhinoceros auklet, herring bird or whatever you want to call him. When the birds are around they so terrorize the herring that the fish gather into a tight ball, a squirming mass that may number up into multiple thousands. The balls range from the size of a basketball to something like a good-sized dory, or larger. The herring's idea seems to be that if he can get into the middle of the mess he won't be noticed and can escape the auklet's pointed beak.
The advantage of all this to the salmon fisherman has been that he could move into a herring ball, dip a net and come up with a day's supply of bait. Now bait fishermen may cruise likely waters for hours and dip up scarcely a single herring. The herring are there, to be sure, but they don't ball. It's impossible to gather a useful quantity without the assistance of the auklet.
As to the auklet, no one knows where he has gone, or why, or whether he will ever return.
THE MORE IT CHANGES...
All but unnoticed in the welter of confusion surrounding college football's new "unlimited" substitution rule—and the limitations it puts on substitutions—is one other rules change, also subtle. The change doesn't sound like much. All it says is that on the T formation the quarterback once more will be eligible to receive a forward pass. But Buck Brad-berry, offense coach at Auburn University, regards it as a significant restitution of an offensive weapon, one that harks back to other, more exciting, days in college football. Follow him closely:
"The evolution of the corner linebacker on defense and accompanying team pursuit all but stymied the T run-pass option play. Making the quarterback eligible to catch a pass can in turn all but eliminate pursuit by the linebackers. Say a quarterback starts off tackle on an option play. He makes the end commit himself, then he pitches out to the halfback. But if the linebackers and/or sideback come up to contain the halfback he can flip a quick pass to the quarterback just across the line of scrimmage."
It was thus in the early '50s, before the NCAA eliminated the quarterback as an-eligible receiver, in the days when Wallace Butts, University of Georgia coach and "pass master," made great use of the quarterback as pass receiver. In 1946 his All-America quarterback, Johnny Ranch, caught as many touchdown passes as he threw. Now, it seems, all that may well come back.
As to the reason for reverting to the old rule, a source close to the NCAA rules committee advises:
"The committee wanted to do something to reduce the tremendous advantages certain teams have gained by use of team pursuit on defense. This 'pursuit' has added two new and too often deadly words to the football vernacular—'gang tackling.' It is hoped that making the quarterback eligible to catch a pass will reduce the effectiveness of pursuit."
THE POWER OF POSITIVE CHEERING
America's foremost full-time cheerleader, Lawrence R. Herkimer of Dallas, took off the other day for Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, the Canal Zone and Hawaii—there to preach the Herkimer gospel of cheerleading, which is one of charity to the enemy.
"In the old days," he said before he left, "college yells were filled with overly descriptive words—like 'Let's skin 'em alive' and 'Kill 'em' and 'Bash 'em.'
"Now we take a more positive approach. We praise the home team and suggest no mayhem at all. It isn't a good idea to make the other team mad."
At 37, Herkimer is a practical man and an agile one, practical and agile enough to have done 38 backflips during the filming of a 58-second TV commercial (for Cheer detergent, naturally). He has written four books on cheerleading, one of which sold 75,000 copies, and has conducted cheerleading clinics in 42 states, with the aid of 95 part-time instructors. He also publishes a cheerleading magazine, The Megaphone, which reports on trends in school yells.
And he is frank enough to concede that cheerleading, no matter how good, never can replace football material when it comes to winning games. After all, he was Southern Methodist's cheerleader when Doak Walker and Kyle Rote were cleaning up Southwest Conference foes for the Mustangs. Fourteen years later Herkimer does not kid himself about the value of cheering in those days. He does note that the school spirit was great, as was the rapport between the cheerleaders and the student body.
"That, "he admits, "was in the days when SMU's student body was larger—but so were its guards and tackles."
MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY CLUB
Millions of golfers believe that they are not entitled to a handicap rating because they do not belong to an accredited club. The fact is that every golfer is as entitled to such a rating as a Thoroughbred is entitled to a speed rating. Golfers can get one easily. For handicapping purposes, any group of players constitutes a "club," if need be, and a member of such a group has only to make attested application after playing rated courses.
As a consequence of widespread ignorance on the subject, however, a handicap-certifying organization turns up from time to time. The latest is United States Golf Handicap, Inc., operated by a San Franciscan named Bill Brown. Bill runs a golf tackle shop and, for $3 a year plus notifications of the unaffiliated golfer's best 10 of 15 rounds (witnessed, of course), Bill will issue a handicap. His rules are rigid. Anyone caught cheating three times will be warned, caught four times will be banished.
THEY SAID IT
•Dorothy Albrecht, manager of the Oklahoma swimming team and the first girl in history to manage one of the school's athletic teams: "It's kinda nice having 35 brothers. Boys are fun. I'm getting a liberal education."
•Lou Bello, basketball official in the Southern Conference and Athletic Coast Conference area: "They say officials favor the home team. Why? Well, perhaps because it's the responsibility of the home team to pay the referees."
•John Yovicsin, Harvard football coach, on the brilliant, inquiring minds of Harvard athletes: "When we introduce a new play, we have to call off practice for five minutes while the players analyze it."