A FEDERAL COMMISSION-NOW
The death after a fight in Baltimore of Boxer Ernie Knox, in the circumstances reported on pages 16-21, must be counted one of the sleaziest and most shocking scandals in prizefighting history.
Inevitably, the tragedy has revived pleas for the abolition of prizefighting, generally from politicians and editorialists who know little about the sport. But the men with authority in boxing seem intent on being the abolitionists' best allies. Most of them have proved themselves irresponsible, or worse.
We are usually the last to have anything to say in favor of governmental interference with sport, but we believe that unless boxing is given a strong federal commissioner, and soon, its prospects of survival are dim.
October 28, 1963
With the Winter Olympics fast approaching, the American Broadcasting Company has started a lively series of 15 television programs on the history, the personalities and the skills of the world's outstanding winter athletes. The film clips of heroes and heroines from past Olympics are fascinating. Watching Sonja Henie win her third straight gold medal at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936, one cannot believe that those whimsical, six-inch jumps and matronly spins made a world-beater. By the same token, Gretchen Fraser, winning America's first skiing gold medal in the slalom at St. Moritz in 1948, looks like a live caricature of how to come in last at Innsbruck in 1964.
To explain modern technique, ABC has guests like U.S. Olympic Coach Bob Beattie on Alpine skiing; Carol Heiss on figure skating; former world champion Stan Benham on bobsledding. Except for a few small lapses (the presentation of ski-jumping is cut off before the jumper soars into his final position), the experts make their subjects simple and understandable.
In this otherwise excellent series, there is, alas, one recurring distraction. At the end of each program, various American athletes of Olympic ability come on to shill for funds to send the U.S. summer-games team to Tokyo. Granted the U.S. Olympic Committee needs money. But Jim Beatty, John Pennel et al., however skillful they may be on the field, are hesitant and wooden when running off a sales pitch. And their slogan—"Raise the colors more in 1964"—is about as un-Olympic an idea as you can find.
EGG ON THE FAIRWAY
The Professional Golfers' Association announced matter-of-factly the other day that a Mr. Al Lew of Sacramento had won the PGA's annual hole in one contest by making a hole in one on the 385-yard 15th hole at the Bing Maloney Golf Course. Mr. Lew used a 4-iron to score his ace, the PGA said. That was it. Period. No further explanation as to what manner of man is Al Lew. Does he always use a 4-iron for 385-yard shots and if so, what the devil happens when he hits the ball with his driver? Perhaps the 15th at Bing Maloney runs down the side of a mountain. Is the fairway made of concrete?
Turns out the PGA made a little mistake. Al Lew shot a hole in one, all right, but it was on the 16th hole, which is only 157 yards long. That means Mr. Lew is not the winner, since many holes in one longer than that have been registered with the awards committee. Unfortunately, the trophy has already been shipped to Mr. Lew, and now he will have to return it. The PGA will announce the true winner shortly, just as soon as it wipes the egg off its face.
Well, we've got another campaign by a group of businessmen who think it would be nice if a rival were forced to give his product away free. This one comes from California, where Walter O'Malley, shrewd owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is wiring up some 20,000 California homes to receive pay TV on Dodger games next summer. Comes a group called the California Crusade for Free Television, backed by $500,000 in pledges from the owners of 800 California movie theaters, to launch what it calls "an all-out crusade to place the issue of preserving free home TV to a vote of the people." The reason the Crusaders are crusading, they say, is because pay TV constitutes "an imposition upon the public to force them to pay for TV programs which they now receive free."
Let's ignore the fact that none of these 800 theater owners thinks his own movies ought to be piped free into people's houses. Let's just remember, this time and always, that professional sports are a product, produced at considerable investment risk by private businessmen. The teams and their exhibitions are owned by these private businessmen. What the Constitution says about private property is that a man can do with it as he pleases. It pleases Mr. O'Malley to send his product into 20,000 homes, at a price. And we suspect it would please the 800 theater owners, too, if they could just get a piece of the action.
Consider Maximillian Cat. Ancestry? Pure alley. Enthusiasm for the opposite sex, neuter. Orange with white-tipped paws, Max lives in Victoria, B.C. with Derek Rhind, a photographer, and his wife, Barbara, a medical illustrator.
Two years ago, for laughs, the Rhinds entered Max in a fancy cat show in Edmonton, Alta. His redemption price, sort of like a claimer in horse racing, was $1. In the course of the show, Max sipped water from the judges' water glasses and put his paw around their necks with feline affection. To the amazement of all, including his fancy competitors, he was named best in his class.
The Rhinds figured they had something, and they entered Max in shows in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton again. He won 64 ribbons and four best-neuter-cat-in-show awards. In competition with purebred Siamese and Burmese cats, Max has never taken less than 94 out of 100 points. The American Cat Fanciers Association of Austin, Texas designated him regional neuter champion of North America.
Now the Rhinds have retired Max. "There's nothing left for him to win," says Derek. "Let him do what he wants. Besides, we missed him when he was away at those shows." Max cannot retire to stud, but he can pass many a long winter night purring about his achievements over the better-born.
HOW MANY CHAPTERS?
You remember the story. How Athol Graham tried to break the world's land speed record three years ago and died in a crash on the Salt Flats at Bonneville? How his wife Zeldine scooped up the broken bits of his racing car and slowly stitched them together again? How Zeldine told young Otto Anzjon, her late husband's mechanic, that he would drive the mended racer to a new record?
Zeldine Graham knew this was not so, that Anzjon was dying of leukemia; but she played her role so well that Anzjon dreamed of setting a new record almost to the day he died. There the story might have ended, but Zeldine has not let it. Soon after Anzjon's death, she hired a new driver, Harry Muhlbach. Together, they showed up at last summer's Bonneville National Speed Trials. Muhlbach drove the rebuilt car through a series of pace runs and said it was ready.
On a dismal, overcast dawn two weeks ago, Muhlbach rolled the car out on the Flats, aimed it down the line and gunned the motor. How fast he was going when he crashed is unclear. Muhlbach thought it was about 395 mph, the U.S. Auto Club said it was more like 200 mph. In any event, the racer's brake parachute accidentally popped out and the car skidded sideways for more than a thousand feet, rolling over twice. Miraculously, Muhlbach was unhurt.
The crash ignited a storm of protest among racing people at Bonneville. The most pertinent words were spoken by Anthony Granatelli, a Studebaker test-driver: "Everybody who knows anything about racing realizes that Mrs. Graham's car isn't engineered for this run. It's frightening for us to know that thing is running out there."
But on the Flats, Zeldine Graham already was methodically collecting the jagged pieces of her broken racing car. "Oh, God," said Granatelli, "I hope she doesn't race that thing again."
Last week members of New York's Joint Legislative Committee on Sports and Physical Fitness listened with deep feeling to a report by school teachers and coaches whose athletic programs were hamstrung by lack of money. The report could not have fallen on more receptive ears—the Committee itself had prematurely run through a $30,000 operating budget, and a deputy state controller noted that the books listed debts of $4,000, assets of 77¢.
Whither the 30,000 clams? Well, there was that physical fitness movie they had made; and there were all those investigative committee meetings. Now, in Manhattan, you don't investigate fitness just any old place, you go over to Toots Shor's restaurant and chew the sirloin fat—about $400 worth. Then, occasionally, you like to get out of town, see what other sports are talking about. Committeemen therefore batted off to Las Vegas (some $350 in odds and ends there like attendance at the Liston-Patterson fight), San Francisco ($150), even up to Saratoga Springs ($280). Altogether, some $4,000 has gone up in smoked salmon, lodging and travel in the last six months.
Unfortunately, the committee has yet to come up with much beyond this expense report. Its members do know, to be fair, that per pupil New York City school gymnasiums are 40 square feet undersized. And they do believe that when a slithery blonde named Ann Bitters recently demonstrated the salubrious effect of body rhythm in an Albany hearing room, she made a real contribution. So, though newspaper editorials were grumbling about its zesty modus vivendi, the committee was still hard at work last week. But with only 77¢ in the till, its members—who have asked for a new appropriation of $10,000—were having sit-ups and coffee for lunch.
TOO MUCH OF A BAD THING
Having been rankled for some time by the trend in horse racing toward commercialism at the sacrifice of quality, we were gratified to be joined in protest last week by John Hay Whitney, co-owner of Greentree Stable. At a dinner in his honor given by the Thoroughbred Club of America in Lexington, Ky., Mr. Whitney hit racing's problem right on the head. In fact, he hit it on both its heads: 1) the business promoters and 2) the tax-hungry politicians who have taken an increasing hold on the nation's tracks.
"The spirit of racing is in jeopardy wherever and whenever sportsmen lose control," said Mr. Whitney. And even as he spoke, the New York State Racing Commission, for revenue purposes, forced its tracks to extend their season to December 7—longest in the state's history—when running conditions can be filthy and even dangerous.
"To check the slide of racing toward the level of professional wrestling," said Mr. Whitney, "racing commissioner-ships must not be passed out as political plums. Men qualified to administer the business of racing are not necessarily qualified to administer the sport of racing." As examples, he cited the spread of betting gimmicks like the twin double and Pic-Six, which may increase the mutuel handle but push racing farther toward a blind lottery. Mr. Whitney also deplored nine-race cards, as well as management that is "more concerned with the publicity value of fast times and track records than with the soundness and well-being of horses."
The racing men at Lexington—and elsewhere—having deservedly honored the right man, would do equally well to honor and implement Mr. Whitney's sound advice.
THEY SAID IT
•Green Bay Packer Halfback Paul Hornung, sitting out a suspension for gambling, to a football-pool winner at the Evansville (Ind.) Quarterback Club: "You should feel good picking 20 out of 25. That's a lot better than I used to do."
•Clown-faced Welterweight Luis Rodriguez, on his unique profile: "When I am a baby, my mother tells me all the time I am beautiful. Now, I look in the mirror each morning, and I say, 'My mother, she wouldn't lie to me.' "
•George Will, British Ryder Cup team member, on one of his partners in the Sahara Invitational Golf Tournament at Las Vegas: "Incredible fellow. He was all over the course but never on the fairway. Every time I looked up he was coming over a sand dune. I didn't know whether to call him Lawrence of Arabia or Rommel, the Desert Fox."