THE GREAT ARTIFICER
One of the most romantic names in boxing in its Golden Age of a few decades ago was that of Jack Kearns, as he was known to the public, Doc Kearns as he was known to friends, or John Leo McKernan as he was born and christened. It was rather symbolic of his career that he should have had three names. He had at least as many personalities, all of them roguishly charming, all perfectly controlled to cope with the situation of the moment. When he died this week at an age (80) that he persistently denied, he still was filled with dreams of exploits that would match his triumphs in prizefighting—in which he managed such great champions as Jack Dempsey, Mickey Walker, Jackie Fields, Joey Maxim and, to an extent, Archie Moore.
At the end he wanted to lead a labor union of all professional athletes—prizefighters, of course, but also jockeys, baseball players, football players, golfers, and what have you. He would thus have become the czar of professional sport. To this end, he studied at the feet of, naturally, Jimmy Hoffa. He had been turned down by more respectable labor leaders. "Over my dead body," said President George Meany of the merged AFL-CIO, when Kearns broached the idea to him.
Kearns was trying, at the same time, the biggest con of all. He sensed the advance of Death and he sought to talk Death out of it. Asked his age, he would underestimate it and speak glowingly of his golf game. One of the great champagne swiggers of an earlier time, he abandoned the cup. At the last, he did all the right things—but the oldest trick in fate's bag outfeinted him.
July 14, 1963
Well, come to think of it, perhaps not. Doc is still one of sport's immortals.
SPECTER HAUNTING BASEBALL
For the next few years, baseball's club owners, who care as much about soccer as they care about polo, will be studying the European football game as biologists might study a strange and dangerous virus, seeking to prevent its spread. For Britain's High Court has ruled that the peonage system by which soccer players are tied to one team until traded (without their consent and often against their wishes) is illegal.
In American baseball, justification for the same system has rested on the argument, which has a sensible ring, that the end of peonage would be the end of many a baseball club, that the best players would be bought up by the richer clubs and that the less wealthy teams would be depleted of talent, perhaps forced to disband. Even so, the system runs counter to both the British and American sense of justice—though it has been upheld from time to time in American courts.
Now there will be opportunity to see whether it works for the betterment or the impoverishment of a game that is organized very much along baseball's lines. And to speculate where the wealthy New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s would be in the standings if they were able to bid for players in a free market.
EXILE TO PARADISE
A strange new gimmick is sweeping Texas professional wrestling, which could use a little sweeping. It is agreed before a bout that the loser will leave Texas.
The other night a stranger rode into town, tilted his hat for a better look at a poster advertising a wrestling card, and, in an unmistakable Oklahoma drawl, asked, "Why the loser?"
MORNING LINE AT VEGAS
Officially retired from his odds-making business a month or so ago, James (Jimmie the Greek) Snyder of Las Vegas has—in order to keep his mind in trim and as a favor to us—come up with what he considers proper man-to-man betting odds on the heavyweight championship fight between Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson. In man-to-man betting, says Jimmie, the odds favor Liston at 5½ to one. They are even that Patterson does not last a full five rounds. And, most unusual, Jimmie has gone to the lengths of figuring out what the odds are that Liston will knock out Patterson in any one of the scheduled 15 rounds. They go like this:
First, 15 to 1 (meaning Liston is a 15-to-1 underdog to knock out Patterson in the first round, so that you put up $1 to win $15 if you think Liston can repeat his Chicago performance). Thereafter, with Liston the underdog all the way through, if you pick him to win in any particular round, it runs:
2nd, 5 to 1
3rd, 3 to 1
4th, 3 to 1
5th, 3 to 1
6th, 10 to 1
7th, 10 to 1
8th, 20 to 1
9th, 20 to 1
10th, 25 to 1
11th, 30 to 1
12th, 30 to 1
13th, 30 to 1
14th, 40 to 1
15th, 100 to 1
We gather that Jimmie figures it probably will end with Liston winning in the third or fourth round and, since he has not bothered to put his mind to it, that the odds on Patterson winning in any particular round would be expressed in googols.
GOODBY TO ALL THAT
The world record landlocked salmon (22 pounds, eight ounces) was taken from Sebago Lake in Maine just 56 years ago this August. But in August 1963 let no man be so foolish as to assemble his tackle, pack his gear and hie off to Maine in hope of catching a Sebago landlock of even respectable size. Last fall, during the spawning run at Sebago, biologists were unable to net a single salmon that weighed more than four pounds. During the previous year salmon from four to 10 pounds had been netted. And this year biologists were unable to find minnows on the Sebago shoreline. The lake, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation concluded, after examining salmon sent to it by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Game, has "collapsed" as a sport-fishing locale. Once it was so magnificent that anglers regarded its plenitude of smallmouth bass as a nuisance because they struck so voraciously at lures intended for salmon.
Reason for the collapse? The abuse of pesticides—indiscriminate, careless and reckless abuse. The DDT in 10 Sebago salmon analyzed by the Wisconsin group ranged from 0.5 parts per million to 2 parts per million. A lethal dose is 1.7 parts per million. (The scourge is not, of course, confined to Maine. A week or so ago, Canadian scientists said the tributaries of the famous Miramichi river had lost a million Atlantic salmon smolts from excessive use of spraying chemicals.)
Four bills were introduced into the Maine legislature this session—all aimed at spraying control. Two of the bills were defeated in both houses as farmers, paper companies and utilities (which spray along their wire routes) voiced opposition. The other two were withdrawn as impossible of passage. "The bill had no chance," Representative Malcolm Berman said of his own withdrawn offering. "It would have gone before the Committee on Natural Resources, which had an employee of a paper company as its senate head and a farmer as its house head." The bill's modest proposal: that pesticides be dumped no closer than 20 feet from stream or pond. Farmers, it seems, have been tossing used pesticide containers into the water.
So, fishermen, forget about Sebago—and Ossipee Lake, Roxbury Pond and many another fine Maine body once abounding in salmon, smallmouths, trout, pickerel and perch. We hope, though, that the Maine legislature won't forget that the state derives large revenues from sporting tourists and that it has an obligation of simple decency to preserve its natural treasures—not only for the people of Maine but for all the people of the United States, too.
VENDETTA IN THE BUSH
The Yankee hater (we're talking about baseball, not the Civil War) is a special case in the psychology of sport, a type who despises the sweet smell of success and would rather lose betting against the Yankees than win betting on them. That is the way it often turns out, too.
Hatred of the Yanks is not confined to fans. It exists among the players also, especially among pitchers. One of these is Frank Lary, the Detroit Tiger star who was sent down to Knoxville of the Class AA South Atlantic League several weeks ago to work his troubled arm back into major league form. (He has since returned to Detroit.) Lary carried with him his detestation of the Yanks, against whom he holds a 28-11 record.
During a recent game at Charlotte, N.C., Lary was approached by a park employee. "Mr. Lary," the man said, "I'm not a Detroit fan, but I sure would like to have your autograph." Lary scribbled his name on a scorecard.
"Say," the man said brightly, "my son is named for Mickey Mantle. Could you make this 'To Little Mick?' "
"No," Lary said, eyes glued to the field, "I couldn't."
And then, with only the faintest trace of a bitter smile flavoring the acid on his tongue, he added: "Besides, with a name like that, the kid will never be any good."
RULES OF GOLF, TEXAS STYLE
By no means one of the world's finest golfers, Sheriff Slim Gabrel of Ector County, Texas is one of the winningest—just so he gets a proper handicap of six. Six shots from his six-shooter, that is.
He got that handicap, a stroke a hole and some other minor advantages in a foursome match not long ago. The basic idea was that Sheriff Slim could fire his pistol six times during the 18 holes, choosing his own time to do the shooting.
He used the pistol for the first time on the first tee, just as Opponent Cecil Russell started his downswing. Badly shaken, Russell reached the green of the par-4 hole in nine. That first shot was the last Slim had to fire during the match. Sympathetically, he announced that he would ease up on the opposition by using a kind of Russian roulette system over the remaining holes. He explained that he was removing all but one bullet from his revolver and, on each tee, would spin the cylinder. Then, on an opponent's downswing, he would pull the trigger.
Actually, he had taken all the bullets out. But the click as the hammer fell on an empty chamber—and the tense anticipation of a possible blast—proved as effective as an explosion. Without having to waste any more ammo, Slim and his partner won easily.
ROMY USES HIS NOODLE
Each year Monsignor John (Romy) Romaniello, an American missionary of the Maryknoll Fathers, distributes 12 million pounds of noodles to Chinese in the Hong Kong area, where he is stationed. Raw materials for the noodles—wheat flour and cornmeal—are provided through the U.S. Food for Peace Program. Since Chinese refugees had no facilities for converting the raw materials, Romy invented a noodle machine that processes daily food for some 65,000 Chinese. He also invented a technique for raising a bit of extra money when funds run low, as they do. The technique is golf.
In his book Freedom Bridge (Coward-McCann, Inc., $4.95) Author Bill Surface reports that Father Romaniello, who is in his 60s but shoots in the low 80s, may mostly be found at a golf course near the Red China border. There he lies in wait to bait visitors into playing him a round for "$100 a game," which is $17.50 in U.S. currency. Romy rarely loses, but when he does it is with a grand display of indignation. "Now aren't you ashamed of yourself?" he snaps. "Taking noodles from hungry little refugee children!" In this game, win or lose, you pay. If suckers are in poor, supply in Hong Kong, Romy takes off to scout a few in Manila and Japan.
The noodles furnish fine calories but are deficient in animal protein. The other day Stewart L. Udall, Secretary of the Interior, sat Romy down to a luncheon in Washington. The dish: noodles, but noodles with a difference. They were made with the same old wheat and cornmeal but were fortified with fish protein concentrate (FPC), a substance that Udall believes can help fill the world's hunger gap. Any old trash fish, ordinarily thrown away, can be used to make FPC—light, easily transported and all but impervious to spoilage. Udall estimates that unharvested fish in U.S. waters alone would supply enough FPC to provide supplemental animal protein "for one billion people for 300 days at a cost of less than half a cent a day per person."
Romy is going to Hong Kong (stopping off at a macaroni makers' convention) with a new idea in his noodle—FPC.
THEY SAID IT
•Bobby Bragan, Milwaukee manager on Catcher Joe Torre: "I can't under stand why he hasn't been nicknamed 'Chicken.' Don't you get it? Chicken Catcher Torre."
•Abe Lemons, Oklahoma City University basketball coach, on recruiting: "I'm going to Kentucky and Indiana to see a couple of prospects. That's a 900. mile trip—and then I have to act like I just happened to drop in."