The World's Fair, opening this week, will be partly the scene of, and partly the occasion for, a strenuous spring and summer of sports in New York. Many of the tryouts for next fall's Tokyo Olympics will be held at the fair, in the 18,000-seat Singer Bowl and in the World's Fair Pavilion, which seats 2,100. Because of the fair, the Olympic Committee scheduled more trial events in and around New York than have ever before been held in a single region. The tests are expected to draw vaster audiences than usual, with personnel and equipment for accommodating them available at the fair.
If fairgoers become alarmed by whatever the chillingly titled Fun House of the Future holds in store for them, or if they become sated with refinement in the House of Good Taste, they can turn to the simple and familiar pleasures of athletics.
Tryouts for the U.S. boxing team will take place on May 18, 19 and 20 in the Singer Bowl, followed by judo trials on June 12 and 13 and wrestling (Greco-Roman and freestyle) August 24 through 28. Fencing tryouts will be staged July 12 through 14 in the World's Fair Pavilion.
Other Olympic tests are scheduled away from the fair, but conveniently near enough for out-of-towners who want to see the city as well as take in the trials. Track and field competition will be held July 3 and 4 in 22,000-seat Downing Stadium on Randall's Island, located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, beneath the Triborough Bridge. Fanciers of female shot-putters will find them on Randall's Island a month later on August 6 and 7.
April 20, 1964
Rowing trials will be held at Orchard Beach on Pelham Bay in The Bronx, singles and eights races July 8 through 11, followed by fours, pairs and double sculls August 26 through 29.
Gymnasts will compete for a trip to Tokyo at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point on the near north shore of Long Island, August 26 through 29. August 25 through 29 water polo trials will be held at Astoria Pool, in Astoria Park near the fair. Swimming and diving trials will begin immediately thereafter, from August 29 through September 7. Cycling track events (August 31 through September 3 at Kissena Park Velodrome) and volleyball (September 2 through 5 at Queens College) will also be in Queens. Canoeing trials are planned at Orchard Beach September 12 and 13. Cycling road races—the only Olympic tryouts to be held on Manhattan Island—will be run in Central Park September 5 and 6.
This adds up to what the fair committee calls "the 59 Olympic Days" of final and semifinal trials, involving over 2,000 athletes. The fair administration put up $350,000 to get the Olympic tests. Olympic trials taking place at the fair itself are free to those attending the fair. Tickets for events elsewhere can be obtained on a first-come-first-served basis through the Department of Parks, Fifth Avenue and 64th Street.
Several AAU championship events will also be staged at the fair. AAU judo takes place May 1 through 3 in the Singer Bowl; gymnastics May 7, 8 and 9 at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, junior weightlifting May 23 and 24 in the Pavilion and wrestling June 22 through 26 in the Singer Bowl.
Besides events connected with the fair, New York has sporting riches of its own. Shea Stadium, new burnt-orange-and-turquoise home of the New York Mets, is in Flushing, close enough to the fair to be a part of it. On Randall's Island the International Soccer League will play Wednesday and Sunday nights from May 31 to August 9. In Forest Hills, not far from the fair, the West Side Tennis Club will be host to the tennis Nationals from September 2 to 13.
Visitors to the fair can combine sightseeing with game-watching, for some kind of game is always going on in New York, often in unlikely places. There is boccie, for instance—an Italian version of the ancient game of bowls. New York's Park Department provides no fewer than 74 boccie courts. The visitor can even combine dinner with boccie, for Fellin's Restaurant on the south edge of Greenwich Village has its own court right on the premises.
Better known is stickball, a game derived from the same roots as baseball and cricket, though played in crowded streets with broomstick and rubber ball. Rules vary, anarchically. Generally a batter gets from one to three swings, and balls caught on the rebound from a tenement wall are outs, as are balls that land on fire escapes and rooftops. Sidewalk scouts look for "three-sewer hitters," batters who can slug the ball past three manhole covers, the length of a block. (When Willie Mays used to play with the kids in Harlem, he was said to be a four-sewer hitter, but then he was a grown man and a major-leaguer.)
Cricket can be watched at Randall's Island. There a United Nations team (which practices on the U.N. lawn) plays West Indian teams. It is all very pukka, with tea breaks and white uniforms.
A far more strenuous sport is racing in 1,680-pound lifeboats. On May 28, from a vantage point on Bay Ridge, Brooklyn overlooking the Narrows, you can watch crews from the U.S. and several foreign nations compete for a world's championship.
For visitors who might want to participate in games as well as watch them the Park Department provides 636 baseball and softball diamonds, 795 rowboats, 459 tennis courts, 936 basketball courts, 1,943 handball courts and 11,055 swings. Celebrity hunters may want to catch a game of the Broadway Show League, mostly composed of teams from various theatrical productions. They play softball Thursday afternoons in Central Park near West 63rd Street. Leading attraction of the League "C" Division (for girls) last year was the Playboy Club Bunnies. The Bunnies were often criticized by other members of the BSL for always arriving late. "That happens because the girls stay up till 4 or 5 a.m.," former Manager Bobby Bennett (a male) explained. "Some are working. I once tried a bed check. Once."
For a look at the incongruous sight of wildlife in New York City, go to Staten Island and the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge in New Springville. The ferry to Staten Island provides a splendid view of New York and the Statue of Liberty and still costs only a nickel.
Staten Island has one of the best of the city's golf courses, La Tourette. Weekday fee is $1.75, but do not expect Brook-line's Country Club: New York courses are always crowded. At the Dyker Beach course, residents, bringing cards and gasoline lanterns to play by, often begin queuing for tee-off times at 2 a.m.
For horseback riding, Staten Island, at Clove Lakes Park, provides pretty surroundings. One can also ride along the beach at Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn or even canter in view of midtown Manhattan skyscrapers in Central Park, where a riding stable on West 89th Street will rent you a mild-mannered dobbin for $5 an hour.
Archery in Manhattan can be practiced in a surprisingly appropriate setting. High on a hill on the north tip of the island, overlooking the Hudson, Inwood Park offers a range near which Indian artifacts are still found. Real live Indians play lacrosse, the game their ancestors invented, at Prospect Park in, rather quaintly, Brooklyn.
You can fish in New York, too. At beaches frequented at dawn by surf casters, fishermen can try for striped bass and flounder. There is even an annual Elks Club fishing contest for children in Central Park beginning the first week in August.
Another event for children in the Park is the model sailboat regatta. Held June 13 at a pond reserved exclusively for the purpose, it is one of the largest regattas of its kind anywhere.
Those interested in somewhat larger boats will discover an entire fleet at City Island in Long Island Sound. A well-weathered hunk of real estate completely surrounded by boats, City Island has 11 marinas, six major boating and yacht clubs, a fishing fleet, marine-supply stores and a famed seafood restaurant, Thwaite's Inn. It also has outboards for rent at about $10 per day.
Between visits to the fair you can do any of the following: bicycle on 50 miles of bicycle paths, watch lawn bowls at Central Park's Sheep Meadows or at the Parade Grounds in Brooklyn, play football (touch or tough) at one of 86 fields, hook and slice at a golf driving range in Pelham Bay Park, watch field hockey or roller hockey, pitch horseshoes, attend model airplane flying competitions, ride a pony for 15¢ (if you are under 12), see a Rugby game at Van Cortlandt Parade Field, roller skate at Wollman Rink in Central Park (skates rent for 25 to 50¢), bowl, play table tennis, pool or croquet practice basketball at outdoor courts and watch boxing and wrestling at Madison Square Garden.
If you overdo it, take cheer. Robert Moses has announced that Simmons Beautyrest mattresses can be rented at the fair.