REVERSION TO TYPE
In the old days, when prizefighting was illegal here and there, the laws were evaded by the use of barges as arenas. Fighting is quite legal these days in Florida, but some ambitious promoters feel hampered by the existence of boxing commissions, which have rules about proper matchmaking, physical examinations and other safeguards. Well, the barge, or a reasonable facsimile, is back, and many safeguards are out. A liner called the Orange Sun now puts out of Miami on Saturday nights, chugs beyond the three-mile limit and stands by while an evening's card of boxing is presented in a below-decks salon. The fighters punch it out in a 12-by-16-foot ring billed proudly as "the world's smallest." It is the sort of ring that encourages slugging and discourages footwork and other defensive subtleties of boxing. One recent passenger was Willie Pastrano, light heavyweight champion and a superb defensive boxer. "Boy," said Willie. "How'd you like to fight Sonny Liston in that ring?" No one said he would.
Customers are charged $5 apiece for the Saturday-night trips, which begin at 9 o'clock and end about 3 a.m. For patrons who are not fight fans, there are other diversions: slot machines, blackjack, a crap table and, of course, a calypso band.
All of which seems to duck the law, so far as it exists in the state of Florida. But one wonders what would happen if, in a bout supervised only by what the promoters factitiously describe as "The High Seas Commission" (which is no commission at all), a fighter should be killed. Would it then become a federal case like a murder on the high seas?
June 14, 1964
SCULLY'S WAY AND ALLEN'S WAY
Some of the superstitions of baseball are amusing and some, like the injunction against mentioning the fact that a pitcher has a no-hitter going, are downright irritating, especially when observed by broadcasters. We have said it before (SI, May 13, 1963) and we say it again, because when Sandy Koufax had not only a no-hitter but the third of his career on its way to history, it went un-mentioned, except by coy insinuation, on some broadcasts. But not, praise be, on Vin Scully's report to Los Angeles Dodger fans. He has been steadfast in calling a no-hitter a no-hitter from the start of his announcing career.
"There are a lot of youngsters on our club that throw very hard," Scully said the other day. "It is not uncommon for one of them to have a no-hitter going through four, five or six innings. If I did not call them I would be talking nonsense most of the time. Why, the other night Koufax and his teammates were talking about the no-hitter during the game. Why shouldn't I?"
One of the old school, though, is Mel Allen. Just recently, during the broadcast of a Yankee game, Allen received the line score of the Mets-San Francisco game in which Jack Sanford was surrendering no hits. "In the seventh inning," Allen babbled, "Jack Sanford is pitching the type of game every pitcher dreams of having."
THE FISH WHO COME FOR DINNER
Naturalists are familiar with, and wary of, the dangers inherent in introducing a species of animal or even plant into a new habitat. The pestiferous nutria, brought into the U.S. from southern South America 65 years ago, today contaminates millions of acres. The water hyacinth, native of tropical America, chokes vast expanses of Florida's lakes and rivers and requires constant, expensive control. Now another South American intruder, the deadly piranha of the Amazon River basin, has become a potential menace. Florida naturalists, who say the piranha probably would thrive in that state's subtropical waters, are worried because piranhas turn up from time to time in Florida pet shops, though it is illegal to bring the fish into the state. They are sold to fish fanciers who want something more spectacular than guppies and goldfish in their home aquariums. But should some gentle aquarium owner, wanting to get rid of his pet piranhas and reluctant to kill them, ever dump a loving couple into a river the consequences could be most serious. A school of piranhas can reduce a swimmer to a skeleton in seconds.
Piranhas are easy to come by in the pet shops of New York, where they are not banned, and that seems to be where the Florida fish sellers get them. What is needed, most likely, is federal legislation banning piranhas from the entire United States. Who needs them?
A PLEA FOR EQUITY
The tough Southeastern Conference has recruited a remarkable number of super-tall basketball players in recent seasons and this has set Jeff Beard, Auburn University's director of athletics, to thinking, sort of. After considerable intellectual travail, Beard has come up with a suggestion that we think is jim-dandy. He proposes that the NCAA permit colleges to recruit their basketball players by the linear foot—limiting each school to so many feet of players per year. This, he says, would be more equitable than charging each school with one recruitment for each player with a scholarship, regardless of his size. Under the Beard system, he points out solemnly, a school would be permitted to recruit, say, 120 feet of basketball players. A coach might then choose to bring in 20 6-footers or, if he liked, 40 3-footers.
Those exquisite moments of imaginary triumph that are essential to a normal boyhood have been depicted superbly by William Steig in a series of drawings he called Dreams of Glory. And now, it seems, they can come true. Tommy Watson, a Kansas City 14-year-old, will assure you of that. During a recent round of golf at the Kansas City Country Club, Tom played his father, Ray Watson, one of Missouri's best amateurs, Jim Sallee, Tom's school golf coach, and Club Pro Stan Thirsk, who was good enough to qualify for a sectional round of this year's National Open. When it was over Ray Watson had a 78, Sallee a 74, Thirsk a 70. Tommy shot a three-under-par 67 and birdied the last two holes.
ROOM AT THE TOP
A cloud even smaller than a preteen-ager's bra looms on the sports fashion horizon. Currently exciting the swimsuit buyers is a topless bathing suit for women—the very one that Rudi Gernreich predicted in our Bold American issue (Dec. 24, 1962). Naturally, Gernreich is the designer, and the suit has aroused the interest of Neiman-Marcus in Dallas. At Saks Fifth Avenue a cool buyer said: "It's certainly a suit for the individual." From the Southampton Bath and Tennis Club: "I don't think we'd allow it."
The rugged lifeboat and the dainty racing shell are vastly dissimilar vessels, but until the other day they had one thing in common. The crews who raced in either of them were assumed to be purely amateur. This was true of the crews on the Charles and the Thames and it was true of the seamen who annually, since 1927, except for World War II years, raced in lifeboats in New York Harbor, cheered by hundreds watching from pleasure craft and the shore. This year the lifeboat races were canceled and, unfortunately, charges of professionalism lay behind the cancellation.
Crews representing Standard Oil of New Jersey and the Norwegian Merchant Marine have dominated the race in recent years. Esso won the last two races, and the Norwegians took the event in the five previous years. This year only these two crews showed any interest in competing.
A spokesman for the disillusioned dropouts explained that "the race long ago ceased to be an amateur event, a race to show the prowess of the ordinary seamen taken from their ship and put into 2,600-pound lifeboats." The Norwegians and the Standard Oil people, he went on, kept crews ashore for extensive training and put rowing equipment on their ships for training at sea. Other merchant lines did not want to spend the money or time in port required to do that.
Loren F. Kahle of Standard Oil, chairman of the race committee for the past two years, said he thought the charges of professionalism were unfair. It strikes us that way, too. It is well-known that training a Harvard eight costs money and no one thinks of the Harvards as anything but simon-pure. Furthermore, well-trained lifeboat crews are an asset worth having, and the merchant lines could do worse than invest in them.
Problems of orthography seldom occur in hunting, but they are about to, it seems, because of the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission's program of importing exotic game animals. The prospect arose last week when a Siberian ibex gave birth to twins.
What is the plural of ibex? New Mexico newspapers, holding that the plural of index is indices, have, with a certain logic, been calling the twins ibices. Webster permits ibexes, ibices and even ibex, in that order of preference. "The plural of ibex is ibexes," says Dr. Frank C. Hibben, professor and member of the commission.
We report, therefore, that the commission now has five ibexes, eight oryxes and eight orthographically uncomplicated kudus in the Albuquerque zoo. Under federal law none of these, except the ibex twins, can be released in the wilds, but their offspring can be. The ibex twins may be the first released for eventual public hunting of rare beasts in the semi-desert country of New Mexico.
SOMETHING IN A NAME
Few secrets of war or peace are better kept than the details of a bookmaker's book—even in Britain, where betting with bookies is legal. But the day before the recent Derby, Billy Hill, England's biggest turf commissioner, opened his future book to a reporter for The Sporting Life. It was the first time any outsider ever had been permitted such a view, and it revealed that Hill had excellent reason to root against Santa Claus, the favorite. At that time the book said that a Santa Claus win would cost Hill $310,814. Santa Claus did win.
A common view of the bookmaking business holds that the bookies try to balance their bets and odds in such a fashion that they will emerge with a profit no matter what horse wins, and that they avoid disaster by laying off dubious bets with other bookmakers. Well, they do try, but Hill was handicapped by a number of factors. For one, as a matter of pride, he does not hedge bets but rather does a large business with bookies who lay off with him. For another, Hill's book was badly out of balance because there were so few nonrunners (scratch money goes to the bookie) and because no horse came in at the last moment from Ireland or France, as usually happens, thus leveling things up.
Finally, the favorite had a name, Santa Claus, that caught the public fancy—unlike Roquefeuil, whose name is unpronounceable to Englishmen, a fact that helped make him the least-backed horse in a field of 17. A total of only $92.40 was bet on Roquefeuil and had he won, Hill would have profited by more than $280,000. As it was, he stood to lose if any of seven horses out of 17 came in first. Santa Claus had been favored even in the future books and was the first winter favorite to win the Derby since Dante did in 1945.
"My book would have looked better if Santa Claus had been named Tom Jones," observed Hill.
In a recent issue of the Saturday Review dedicated to "Design in America," Walter Dorwin Teague picked the 20 best industrial designs since World War II. In addition to such classics as an Olivetti Lettera 2 typewriter and an Eames chair, Teague picked eight items from the realm of sport: the Head ski, the Scott ski pole, a Honda motorcycle, a Porsche 904, two Russian target pistols, a Triton sloop and a Boston Whaler.
The high percentage of sports items, Teague explained, was because more design talent is applied to sports articles than to anything else. "Leisure-time equipment is much more important to us than the everyday furniture of our lives," he said. "This is why, perhaps, some business executives will spend considerably more time, thought and effort in improving their golf games than in improving the techniques of their businesses."
THEY SAID IT
•Willie Galimore, Chicago Bears' halfback who has been timed in 9.6 for 100 yards: "When Sam Huff is chasing me, I can do 8.8."