Since Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed to the post in 1921, there have been only two other commissioners of baseball—A. B. (Happy) Chandler and Ford C. Frick. Now Frick is about to retire and his successor must be found.
Among Frick's swan-song recommendations to the two league meetings in Phoenix last week was one that baseball's owners restore to the office of commissioner the absolute power that Landis enjoyed. Reports from the closed-door meetings indicated that the owners were looking favorably on the suggestion. Let us consider the implications.
Baseball never enjoyed the confidence of its followers more than when Landis ruled—partly because of his personality, partly because he exercised his powers so firmly. That confidence scarcely diminished when Chandler succeeded him, even though the owners, who had chafed under Landis' dictatorial reign, gave themselves the power to overrule the commissioner. Chandler was tough enough to buck openly some of the owners, sided with the ballplayers against the owners when he thought it right and was fired before his term expired in 1952. Frick, a most amenable fellow, succeeded him.
Now the owners, after making the gesture of restoring full power to the commissioner's office, can appoint either a Landis type or a Frick type—can, in short, make the gesture an honest one or a fake. Which do you think it will be?
THE BRAIN DETERGENT
Very probably the most important financial consideration in the future of professional sport is pay TV, in which a person who wants to see a baseball game, a fight or even an opera, pays for it. Under such an arrangement a good heavyweight championship bout could well gross into the tens of millions one of these years.
Naturally, this represents a threat to the TV networks and to the movie industry, both of which have, by and large, reduced entertainment to its lowest common denominator because that is where the big buck lies. And so it was that, in the recent election, network TV and the movie industry joined forces to combat pay TV in California, where Subscription Television, Inc. had made a small but promising start. Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants had arranged to broadcast their games over pay TV via Subscription Television.
But in last week's election California voters were presented with something called Proposition 15, which asked the voters to outlaw pay TV. It seemed most unusual for voters to have to decide on such a matter—quite as much as if Standard Oil could get a ballot proposition that would make it unconstitutional to buy anyone else's gasoline. The voters were brazenly brainwashed in a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign which represented that pay TV would drive free TV off the air. There were full-page advertisements showing wistful moppets being told by guilty parents that they could not afford to turn on Captain Danger, or whatever the favorite kids' show might be. The voters wept and outlawed pay TV—at any rate, pro tem.
The allegation was, of course, an untruth. But so was it a fraud when television was rigging quiz shows. Does anyone wonder why the CBS purchase of the New York Yankees seems so ominous?
LET'S IMITATE THE JAPANESE
It took less than an hour for a 60-stall wooden barn at Laurel racetrack to burn down last week. Killed by the fire were 34 horses, valued at about $250,000.
Laurel President John Schapiro issued a long statement intended to show that every possible precaution had been taken to prevent such a tragedy. He announced that the destroyed barn would be reconstructed of "impregnated and slow-burning wood." Concrete block would be cheaper and really fireproof, he conceded, but horsemen prefer wooden barns because they are not as damp as concrete structures.
President Schapiro might take a tip from the Japanese, who stable their horses in wooden buildings, too, but construct them so that there are two doors for each stall. One door opens inside the barn, the other leads outside. In case of fire, the horses are led out to safety. A Japanese groom, at Laurel for the International on November 11, reported that although there have been two major fires at Japanese racetracks in recent years, no horses died in them because of the dual stall openings.
What with the speed of jet airplane travel and the fact that the International Dateline is east of Sydney, Australia, Golfer Jack Nicklaus was able to beat Bruce Devlin 67-70 in the Australian Open playoff, fly to Hawaii and, during a three-hour wait between planes, take a swim in the surf. Both the golf and the swim took place on the same Sunday morning.
A golf fan approached Nicklaus in Honolulu and asked, "How did you make out in Australia?" Nicklaus looked at his watch. "In just about five minutes," he said, "I will beat him by three strokes."
HUNTING AND FISHING BY EAR
The electronic age of sport is upon us, recent developments would indicate.
The quail hunter who does not know how to work his dogs may now attach a three-ounce transmitter to his dog's collar. When he loses sight of the animal, the transmitter will tell him where the dog is and what the dog is doing, at distances up to half a mile. A varying signal indicates the dog is running. A steady signal indicates that he has stopped and is, presumably, on point.
Biologists of the Florida State Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission have similarly bugged wild deer to learn more about their movement patterns, feeding and resting periods, range distances and cover preferences. So far they have learned that the deer have a very limited "home range" of about one mile.
Something similar is going on with Texas deer.
And in Wisconsin's Lake Mendota, transmitters smaller than the eraser on a pencil have been introduced into the stomachs of white bass in an experiment intended to establish a workable system by which such fish as, say, salmon can be tracked far and deep.
A VOTE FOR DOPE
France's mountain-climbing, skiing Minister of Youth and Sports, Maurice Herzog, called upon the French Senate last week to outlaw and severely punish doping in sport. He was not referring to horse racing but to human competition.
"There exist," Herzog told the Senate, "veritable assassins even among the coaches of amateur clubs, who go so far as to give intravenous injections to 18-year-old youths. I am appealing to you not only as senators but as fathers."
Herzog was shouted and voted down. A doctor-senator argued that there were not enough doctors in France to make the necessary tests of blood, sweat, saliva and urine. Communist senators accused Herzog of introducing police to the playing fields. And in the end the senators amended his bill in such a way that it would authorize the use of drugs in sport, provided the drug was prescribed by a doctor. (And at racetracks, if prescribed by a veterinarian, perhaps?)
The administration of stimulants to athletes is, in fact, commonplace in European sports, but most especially in cycling. Cyclists talk openly to each other about the virtues and dangers of doping. It is strongly suspected in boxing, where fighters have been known recently to faint in the ring without other apparent reason.
Disappointed but undefeated, Herzog announced he would carry his fight to the National Assembly.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
After letting it cool in the vaults for a required 30 days and then some (to give other potential challengers a chance to speak up), the New York Yacht Club accepted the challenge of Australia's Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron to race for the America's Cup. Not wishing to be hurried again as they were last time, when the interval between challenges was only two years, the New Yorkers said they would be happy to meet the sailors from down under, but not until 1967.
We are happy to hear it. Three years should give the Aussies time to build a better boat than the English (they could scarcely build a worse one). It should give the Americans time to improve upon Olin Stephens' great Constellation (if that is possible) and even to find a new designer or two.
Most importantly, it should give the race committee time to ponder changes in the conduct of the racing itself. The first change we suggest is in the timing. The absurdity of holding trials off Newport during the steady sou'westers of August for races to be held during the uncertain blows and dead calms of September has become apparent during three successive challenges. We suggest that the committee find a way to restore the racing to its proper season, which is midsummer, even if they have to hold the trials the year before. And while they are at it, they might drag that starting buoy some five miles closer to shore. Its present location was determined entirely by the needs of the huge J boats of a day long gone.
GET THEE BEHIND ME, TEXAS
The loyalty of Coach Robert Lee Dodd to Georgia Tech, with whose football team he has been associated for 34 seasons, is well known. The depth of that loyalty was revealed only last week. Seven years ago, he told the Atlanta Touchdown Club, he turned down a fabulous offer to leave Tech and coach at the University of Texas.
A Texas multimillionaire, representing a clutch of Texas multimillionaires, telephoned Dodd one night in 1957.
"What'll it take?" the caller asked. "You name it. You get it. We want you as our coach."
"No, thank you." said Dodd.
The multimillionaire called every night for a week.
"He offered me cash money, oil wells, a millionaire's house, and I can't remember what all," Dodd said. "And if I hadn't been 49 years old. and so happy in Atlanta, and so reluctant to have to prove myself all over again to those Texans, I might have taken it."
Resigned at last to Dodd's immovability, the Texan asked him to recommend a coach.
"I told him one man to get, a winner from his first day as a player and a coach. I told him, 'Get Darrell Royal.'"
Texas did, of course, and under Royal has won or shared in four Southwest Conference championships, gone to six bowls and last year won the first national championship in the school's 81-year history.
Georgia Tech owes Bobby Dodd one million acknowledgments of gratitude. So does Texas.
THE FRIENDLY KILLER
The number to call in Seattle when you sight a pod of killer whales in Puget Sound is MAin 2-0563—and a surprising number of people, ranging from ferryboat captains to housewives with good marine views, do call it. The purpose is to notify Ted Griffin, director of the Seattle Marine Aquarium, who yearns to house a killer in a 150,000-gallon saltwater pool he has in readiness. He is equipped to respond to calls instantly in a fast boat loaded with nets, traps and tranquilizer guns.
What Griffin wants with a killer whale is to prove a theory—that the killer is among the most intelligent of all large mammals of the sea and that, like the porpoise, it has kindly feelings toward mankind. Since Eskimos and Indians, who know them well, believe that killer whales are singularly vicious, Griffin may have trouble with his theory, but in the meantime he has given Seattle a new spectator sport: whale watching.
THEY SAID IT
•Hank Bauer of the Baltimore Orioles, on being named American League manager of the year: "I've been wondering how things would have turned out if we had won the pennant. Yogi wins it and gets fired and Keane takes it in the National and quits after the Series. It looks to me like finishing third was the way to do it this year."
•Ben Schwartzwalder, Syracuse University football coach, after listening to Dartmouth's Bob Blackman tell of an epidemic of boils that affected 17 of his players: "I knew the Ivy League was serious about its football, but I didn't think they would stoop to germ warfare."