CLOUD THE SIZE OF A MAN'S HAND
We have been force-fed so much favorable comment on Shea Stadium, the new ball park of the New York Mets, that we feel compelled to give one of our nonconformist correspondents the courtesy of minority space. He says bluntly, "I don't like the park. The players are too far away, and there is none of the intimacy of the Polo Grounds or Ebbets Field. You can't see pitchers warming up because the bullpens are hidden by fences. The crowds are poorly handled. Parking is more chaotic than it has any right to be at a modern stadium. The superscoreboard, constantly blinking publicity messages, is a superirritant. The whole place is phony."
An all-out drive has begun to "restore the United States' overall supremacy" in the Olympic Games. Franklin L. Orth, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army and head of a special Olympic committee, described the plan last week and said it would "involve thousands of people and eventually millions, along with the latest business methods available." He said, "The necessary facilities can be furnished for all sports through a cooperation of effort by municipalities, counties and the Federal Government in a planned program." He cited figures on the Soviet Union's expenditures on sport and added, "We will beat them with our own United States system. It will take a lot of time, effort and money to put it over in 1968 or 1972." He called the program "our big test to determine whether democracy can compete with a regimented society."
We admire sport for sport's sake, but we recognize, as Mr. Orth does, the desirability of Olympic victory, and we applaud efforts to further America's chances for winning gold medals. Yet we feel Mr. Orth and his committee may have overlooked certain facts.
May 17, 1964
One is that victory in sports does not necessarily mean victory in the political scene. Or doesn't Mao Tse-tung read the sports pages?
Another is that Russia is not necessarily the prime challenge to U.S. Olympic superiority; the world is. In men's track and field in Rome in 1960, seven countries whose combined population was only slightly larger than the Soviet Union's (Germany, Italy, Poland, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Ethiopia) won twice as many gold medals as Russia and exactly one more than the U.S. did. America's athletes are not getting worse; the rest of the world is getting better.
Third, like it or not, Americans favor sports that have commercial value. Blocs of dedicated amateurs compete in gymnastics, speed skating, weight lifting and the like, but our most popular sports—baseball, football, basketball, golf, horse racing, harness racing, bowling—are commercial giants, and only one of these is an Olympic sport. Broadening the base of American participation is a laudable idea, but it will be difficult and perhaps not necessarily good to wean the youth of the country away from the diamond, the gridiron and the links, the familiar arenas.
Finally, Olympic victory is splendid and American preeminence is something we all want, but the program Mr. Orth recommends to achieve this end sounds more like a copy of the Soviet Union's regimented methods than it does like "our own U.S. system."
WHEN THE GOING WAS WORSE
John Zanhiser, pitching for the Behrend Campus of Penn State against the Penn State freshmen a few days ago, was hit in the elbow when the rival pitcher tried to pick him off first base. John was also the losing pitcher, but all in all he considered himself fortunate. He remembered the last time he pitched against the Penn State freshmen. On the first play of that game he was spiked on the ankle as he covered first base on an infield tap. After a 10-minute time-out for recovery, he went back to the mound. His first pitch was lined back at him and hit him on the other ankle. He took another 10-minute respite and doggedly returned to action. There was a close play at home plate, and John had to cover. The opposing base runner, trying to score, slammed into him and knocked him halfway to the dugout. He was revived and told to sit on the bench, "where you will be safe." A batter fouled off a fast ball toward the dugout. Zanhiser' jerked his head back to avoid the foul ball, smacked his head against the concrete wall of the dugout and was down for the count again.
He also was the losing pitcher in the 26-3 game.
IT'S WARMUP TIME
Walter Hewlett, a 19-year-old Harvard sophomore from Palo Alto, Calif., won the Greater Boston college two-mile run the other day in 9:23.8. That is hardly spectacular time, but it was a note-worthy win. Hewlett warmed up for the race by running 12 miles from Harvard Square to the track in Waltham, Mass., where the meet was held. He arrived five minutes before his race began.
"I felt I needed the work," Hewlett explained. "There's a shorter route—it's about 10 miles—but I came a longer way-over the Newton Hills, the reverse from the way the Boston Marathon goes. I ran into a few traffic tie-ups and the hills tired me somewhat, so that delayed me a little. I really wanted to get to the meet earlier so that I could have a little breather. After all, I ran 16 hard miles the day before."
BACK INTO BATTLE
The Olympics will put the National Basketball Association player draft at a disadvantage this year because of the late, date of the Games (October). Drafted college seniors who are on the Olympic team will miss preseason pro practice and will be correspondingly slow in working their way into the regular lineup. One such senior is Walt Hazzard of UCLA, the Los Angeles Lakers' first choice. To compensate for Hazzard's adjustment period the Lakers have hit on a gimmick that would protect them and help the box office, too. They are planning to lure Hot Rod Hundley out of retirement to play until Hazzard is ready. Hundley, who retired after the 1962-63 season and is now a representative for the Converse Rubber Corporation in the Southeast, was one of the most colorful players in college or pro ball. He played in a couple of exhibition games in Charleston, W. Va. just a few weeks ago and still looked good enough for the NBA.
TO TWIN OR NOT TO TWIN
Hialeah Park, the best racetrack in Florida, has been the only holdout there against that deplorable development in horse racing, the twin double, and we commended the officials of that track for their wisdom (SI, April 13). Now the word is that Hialeah officials are wavering in their resistance to a gimmick they said they did not like. Hold that line, Hialeah.
WHY WESTWARD HO?
Even though National Hockey League President Clarence Campbell said flatly a few weeks ago that "no expansion of the league is contemplated" and despite evidence supporting Campbell (SI, May 11), there are new rumors that the NHL will indeed expand, all the way to the West Coast and as soon as the 1966-67 season. "The way is now clear for expansion to the West and to Los Angeles in particular," said a high official of the Western Hockey League in Seattle last week.
Such talk by minor-league officials wanting in on big-league loot and status is one thing, but when Stafford Smythe, president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, supported the statement, the minor-league claim began to look more and more like the real thing.
Smythe indicated that Vancouver is the key to expansion and said that his club would build an $8-million, 20,000-seat arena in Vancouver if the city would provide the land. Then Harold Ballard of the Maple Leafs said that if the Vancouver deal goes through it would enable the NHL to absorb that city, Los Angeles, San Francisco and possibly St. Louis.
The question then arises: Why would the present six-team NHL, playing to 93.3% of capacity all season long, want to take on the huge increase in travel costs that expansion to the West Coast would entail? Simple. Sports' big daddy, network television, is back in the picture. CBS used to carry NHL games, but viewers got tired of watching the same four teams having at each other over and over. (Toronto did not appear at all, and Montreal only once a year.) But with four new teams making the NHL a 10-team coast-to-coast attraction, league officials feel certain that a major network will snap up the package.
Both the Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens have television commitments with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, but it is assumed that both clubs would cancel that arrangement if one of the big U.S. networks came up with a significant offer. With any kind of assurance at all from a network, the NHL may well vote westward ho at their meeting early next month in Montreal.
SEAT OF SORROW
The Commissioner of Recreation in Mount Vernon, N.Y., recently took steps to acquire some of the old grandstand seats from the Polo Grounds, which is being torn down, for use in the city's stadium. What is intriguing about this small bit of intelligence is that Mount Vernon's Commissioner of Recreation is John Branca. He has a younger brother named Ralph who, you may recall, once pitched in the Polo Grounds.
EIGHT MEN IN A BOAT
On early form, MIT will not be the crew that will go to Tokyo next fall to represent the U.S. in the 1964 Olympics. And does this discourage MIT Coach Jack Frailey? It does. But just because the MIT shell tends to row off in all directions, it isn't going to keep Frailey out of an Olympic blazer—he hopes. Frailey has a plan for taking some of the good oarsmen from the boats of this season's also-rans and creating, in effect, an all-star crew.
This scheme may jar the stripes right off the ties of the traditionalists. Until now, there has been one way, and one way only to select our Olympic crews. Take the best crews in the country, put them in a boat race, and the winner goes.
But Frailey and some of the other more adventurous coaches began wondering what would become of a boat if you were to pull some of the weaker oarsmen and replace them by big, strong, talented fellows from a different boat.
Why, the boat would go to pieces, insist the traditionalists. The only way a crew can move its shell with speed is after weeks and weeks of rowing together until the oars sweep out with the synchronized beat of a hopped-up grandfather clock. Frailey is of a mind that raw talent is more important than the form beautiful. So, following the IRA championships at Syracuse next month, and after the front-runners have officially entered the Olympic trials, Frailey hopes to recruit 24 of the best from other crews, take them up to Laconia, N.H. for two and a half weeks and try to put together two, or possibly three, boats to enter the trials.
"We'll put in a lot of small-boat work [pairs and fours]," says Frailey, "to determine the best men. Then we'll take the eight fastest rowers, put them in one boat and see what happens."
But what about style and form and all that? "Overrated," is what Frailey has to say about form. "And we don't intend to change anybody's style. We'll just teach these men to do things properly. That's what counts."
Now just suppose Frailey's mixed breeds do well, maybe even win. What do you suppose he would have done if he had put together a crew from the best, rather than the worst IRA boats?
THEY SAID IT
•Maxie Rosenbloom, former light heavyweight champion, asked if he ever threw a fight: "Never. Once some gamblers made me a very attractive offer to take a dive in the second round, but I turned them down—I couldn't go the distance."
•The Rev. Dr. Felix B. Gear, of Decatur, Ga., newly elected moderator of the Southern Presbyterian Church, on his recreational activities: "I have hunted deer on occasion, but they were not aware of it."
•Jack Patterson, University of Texas track coach, asked how he would handle a shotputter like Texas A&M's Randy Matson, if he had one on his squad: "I wouldn't do anything except polish his shot for him."