Thorough soul-searching has gone on among the American track and field fancy since our U.S. team, instead of trouncing the Russians, squeaked through to an embarrassingly meager win in the men's division while the women suffered an embarrassingly one-sided defeat. But perhaps not quite thorough enough.
The men's team horsed around too much with the women's team, it was suggested—and denied. Our guys are too highly strung. Our team was too young and inexperienced. We did not have enough pre-meet competition, whereas the Russians had plenty. And so on.
All of this is simply an extension of another game the U.S. plays too often and too well: pin the tail on the scapegoat. The fact is that those Russians just may be awfully good—and better we face the possibility now than be surprised at Tokyo in '64.
August 4, 1963
1¾ LENGTHS FROM GLORY
The worries that go with owning a good Thoroughbred, instead of just an ordinary animal, were described here recently (SI, July 22) by Ernest Havemann, writer, horseplayer and now horse owner. The horse, a filly named Nubile, lost to the great Cicada by a mere neck some time back and Havemann knew he was in trouble. He would have to decide whether to invest $1,500 to keep Nubile in the $172,812.50 Delaware Handicap, world's richest race for fillies and mares.
Nubile did run, as all his friends knew she would, and Havemann was as nervous and worried as he expected to be. Trying to relight a cigar, he flipped it into a glass of Scotch. When Nubile's jockey did not appear in his scheduled fourth race Havemann looked as if he might flip in with the cigar. It turned out all right. The jockey had scratched himself to keep fit for Nubile in the seventh.
Havemann watched the race with Trainer Reinier Vandernat sitting in front of him. This was a good idea because when Havemann sits in front, Vandernat pounds him black and blue.
Nubile ran fourth. Havemann, coatless, with hands on hips and binoculars dangling, stared straight ahead, a trace of a smile on his lips. "I'll be darned," he said, then shrugged, smiled more broadly, mopped his brow. The winner, Waltz Song, had been a rank outsider who paid $148.60, and had been beaten by Nubile several times.
"Imagine," Havemann said, "one and three-quarters lengths from glory." And, he might have added, a $122,062 purse—Nubile, by her fourth-place finish, at least paid the bills (she got $7,250).
"Well," Havemann sighed, "we beat our landlady. She owns Patrol Woman."
BACK TO THE SCHOONERS
There are sailors who scorn the sleek racing machines that compete for the America's Cup and hold that no boat equals the old fishing schooners of Gloucester and Nova Scotia. For decades before the diesel engine, these beamy, gaffrigged vessels brought cargoes of fish home from the Grand Banks, and, since the first boat home got the best price for the freshest haul, staged informal races on the beat to port. In 1920, to show brass-buttoned yachtsmen what real sailors could do, Halifax put up an International Fishermen's Trophy. Gloucester won it and a chagrined Halifax promptly built a new schooner to recapture the prize. Christened Bluenose, she was to become a national symbol. From 1921 to 1938, under Captain Angus Walters, she won four championships, lost only a handful of all her races here and abroad.
When Bluenose foundered on a Haitian reef in 1946 big schooners were a dying breed. But Bluenose never was forgotten (her replica is on every Canadian dime), and in 1960 Captain Walters headed a committee to build a new Bluenose. Last week from the same Lunenburg yard that produced her legendary namesake, Bluenose II was launched with dimes from schoolchildren and dollars from a Halifax brewery.
Not just Bluenose, but schooner racin g itself seems to be coming back. The two-year-old Nova Scotia Schooner Association competes in annual championship races and encourages the salvaging of derelicts and the building of new boats.
The Nova Scotia schooner fleet now numbers 42 but their holds are more fashionable than fishy. The tough old Grand Banker is easier to handle and just as fast as the J boat or the 12-meter—and has space below for bedrooms, a ballroom and a bowling alley. There are some pleasure schooners around New England, too, and one can hope that a challenge may revive racing competition akin to the thrilling battles once waged between Bluenose I and Gloucester's Gertrude L. Thebaud.
IT ISN'T THE HUMIDITY
The sports of summer invariably are spiced with oddities that could never occur in a less torrid season. The sun's actinic rays, beating down on unaccustomed skulls, seem to produce an effect very like punchdrunk. Some samples:
In Norway, Thorbjoern Pedersen, 23, certainly was affected by something. He claimed a new world record and he can have it. Using his head, Thorbjoern bounced a soccer ball 13,270 times off his noggin before the ball touched ground. Could have done more, he said, but mosquitoes drove him crazy. We rather think it was not the mosquitoes but Norway's perpetual summer sun.
At the annual watermelon festival in Raleigh, N.C., Wally Ausley, weighing in at 200 pounds, spat a watermelon seed 35 feet 6 inches, demoralizing the defending champion, John Alexander, whose best effort measured only 29 feet. In next year's competition Ausley will be top-seeded.
This final one we cannot blame on the sun, since it is winter in Brisbane. From there Tom Morris is skipping rope to Cairns, Queensland, a distance of 1,300 miles. He is, in fact, going out of his way to pick up old-age pension checks forwarded to post offices along his route. Tom says he is 60-odd. We think he is odder than that.
THE VACANT CHAIR
Now that Bo Belinsky has left the major leagues to pitch in Hawaii—if Hawaii will let him—those fans who believe that a certain impudence in a pitcher adds zip to his fast ball and verve to his curve feel an emptiness in their hearts. Be of good cheer. There is one coming up who might make Dizzy Dean look modest.
We note with pleasure and anticipation the success of Jim Baten, a 20-year-old right-hander who is owned by the San Francisco Giants and performs for Lexington, N.C. in the Western Carolinas League. Pitcher Baten this spring struck out 21 batters in a 12-inning game and has been averaging 1½ strikeouts per inning. Says Baten: "When I hear a guy is a fast ball hitter I throw him my fast ball. They never hit it."
A COOL GHOUL
Famed for its association with Jim Thorpe, who became a legend of sport at Carlisle Indian School, the town of Carlisle, Pa. is also the burial place of Molly Pitcher, heroine of the Battle of Monmouth (New Jersey) back in 1778. An organization calling itself The Friendly Sons of Molly Pitcher feels that Molly should be buried in New Jersey. The Sons are, of course, residents of that state.
"Molly married the Carlisle barber, which is why she is buried there," according to Joseph Graham, Beloved Founder of the Friendly Sons, which he organized so that "the commuters on the 7:57 out of Red Bank [New Jersey] could get to know each other better."
Carlisle wants to keep Molly where she is. "They consider her a tourist attraction," says Graham, snorting.
Graham tendered Carlisle a swap: Jim Thorpe's Olympic medals for Molly's remains. The fact that he did not have Jim's medals was no deterrent to a man like Graham. He wrote to King Gustave VI of Sweden, where, in the Olympics of 1912, Thorpe won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon, and explained the proposed deal. The king, a sympathetic man, but shrewd as well, turned the problem over to the Swedish Olympic Committee. The committee replied that after Thorpe's disqualification for professionalism he was required to surrender his medals to second-place finishers. It just so happened, though, that the committee had cast bronze replicas of the medals to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Games and, the secretary wrote, it was his pleasure to send one of these memorial plaques to The Friendly Sons of Molly Pitcher.
Would Carlisle swap plaque for cadaver? "No," Carlisle replied gravely, and posted a 24-hour guard around Molly's resting place to fend off a possible raid by the friendly ghouls, who have given more than a hint of their intent by adopting a shovel as their emblem.
Brandishing his shovel at the Sons' annual golf dinner, Graham pledged action. Meanwhile the plaque has been turned over to Jim Thorpe's daughter, who is just delighted to have it.
DEPENDS ON HOW YOU LOOK AT IT
What does the world outside the U.S. think of Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston? Judging by foreign press reports, the image is—as they say on Madison Avenue—confused.
France-Soir stressed Liston's criminal past. Its headline: L'EX-GANGSTER SONNY LISTON A ENCORE MIS FLOYD PATTERSON K.O. AU 1ER ROUND. "The heart has its reasons," the account of the fight began, a lead that no American sports reporter could write. All America went to bed disappointed that Liston had won, France-Soir said, because no one likes "les mauvais gar√ßons."
The British press, on the other hand, all but ignored Liston's background, except in the case of the London Daily Telegraph, which urged fair play for the champion. "He might not be the most likable of world heavyweight champions," the Telegraph conceded, "but there have been, and still are, many people in boxing less deserving of sympathy and support."
Liston was hailed as a "savior" in Tokyo. Sankei Sports argued that boxing had declined since Joe Louis retired because he was followed by champions who were too "normal." Now Liston, with his "abnormal" background and criminal record, heralds "the dawn of another golden era in professional boxing," Sankei Sports proclaimed, because he will satisfy the fight fan's "taste for the abnormal, savage and brutal."
The Italian press reported the fight in straight news fashion but reserved editorial comment for Cassius Clay, whom it remembered as the Olympic gold medal winner of 1960 at Rome and who, it presumed, would be Liston's next opponent. Cool, lofty II Messaggero prayed: "May Patterson's terrible defeat serve as a warning to blustering Clay." The Communist organ L'Unit√† was kinder to Clay, declaring that "Big Mouth Cassius" is but the tool of the financiers who own him and "must respect the wishes of his masters," who dictate his boasting. He is, in fact, an "intelligent, serious boy," said L'Unit√†.
The Soviet press did not mention the fight at all.
JIM'S SUNNY DAY
When James E. Fitzsimmons retired as Wheatley Stable's trainer in June, he was gone, it seemed, for about five minutes. Last week he was back at the track, celebrating his 89th birthday at Monmouth Park, N.J., surrounded by most of the adult members of the large (70-odd) Fitzsimmons clan. They were all guests of Amory Haskell, Monmouth president, who twice led the singing of Happy Birthday, once at a private luncheon for 120 assorted family members and friends, and later for the 19,254 track customers, who stood up to cheer. Sunny Jim had a marvelous time. "I feel good, and the gang is having a good time," he said of himself and family. During the morning he chatted with Monmouth jockeys about his 77 years in racing and held a television interview. He lunched, heartily, on salmon salad and cake. The cake, a lavishly decorated masterpiece shaped like an open book, weighed a hefty 89 pounds, one for each Fitzsimmons year. Later he presented a silver plate to the winner of the race named in his honor: erstwhile rival trainer Jimmy Jones of Calumet Farms. Although he seldom bets, Sunny Jim took a $2 ticket on a 3-year-old named Rajam, owned by Mrs. Edith W. Bancroft, daughter of the late William Woodward, for whose Belair Stud stable he had trained such champions as Nashua. "Just a sentimental bet," Mr. Fitz protested. Sentimental? Rajam paid $5.
THEY SAID IT
•San Diego Charger Coach Sid Gill-man, on one of his rookies: "He doesn't know the meaning of the word 'fear.' Of course, there are lots of other words he doesn't know either."
•Pirate Manager Danny Murtaugh, asked where he thinks the Pirates will finish this year: "In Los Angeles or San Francisco, I forget which."