THE TRUE PICTURE
The handling of the Clay-Liston fight in Lewiston, Me. was, in a word, bush; its coverage by much of the press, TV and radio has verged on the hysterical.
Many of those watching the fight in the arena failed to see the short, fast right to the jaw that nailed Liston, and among them were numerous reporters. But when a reporter does not get a good look at something that happens he is supposed to go out and question someone who did. Instead of which, in this case, a number of reporters either wrote the first and most sensational thing that came into their heads, or they wrote in a way they thought would please the people who had made Liston the sentimental favorite, or they twisted the facts to justify their own mistaken prefight pick.
Television was no better. With a chance to provide more than half a million closed-circuit viewers with the best seat in the house, TV's unimaginative camera placement was almost guaranteed to shut off the punching action of both men except when they were broadside to the camera. Unfortunately, at the moment of the knockout, Liston's back and head virtually obliterated Clay's right. This led many viewers to jump to the conclusion that there had been no action, no punch. And if someone who saw the punch with his own eyes tried to convince one of these viewers he was apt to be met with the unbelieving stare reserved for those who foolishly challenge Article I, Section I of the New Faith: "If it ain't on TV, it ain't so."
June 6, 1965
As for the radio broadcast of the fight, it can be briefly dismissed as merely unintelligible.
Of course, a predictable assortment of publicity seekers, nuts and opportunistic politicians quickly got into the act, one as badly informed as another. Those who previously had wanted abolition of boxing as being too brutal now want it outlawed because the Clay-Liston affray proved boxing too soft. Ignorant and pompous statements fill the air between Gene Tunney and the halls of Congress.
We find much of the reaction to the fight more depressing than the official blunders in the Lewiston ring.
Skateboarders in San Diego have found the dream course. It is the ramp of an 11-story auto-park building, and the building is equipped with an elevator for the return trip, just like a ski lift. The only trouble is that the operators of the auto park do not welcome skateboarders, who are thrown out on sight. Says one ejected skateboard enthusiast: "They shouldn't let cars in there. It's too good for them."
The Soviet Union, which has handed out ultimatums of its own in years gone by, got one handed to its tennis team late last week. The trouble began earlier in the week at the French tennis championships where two Soviet players, Tomas Lejus and Anna Dmitrieva, acted disgracefully to avoid meeting South Africans. Their purpose was protest against South Africa's racial policy, but in the manner of it the Russians only succeeded in advertising the flaws in their own society.
Lejus played so poorly in a match against Bill Hoogs of the U.S. that it was obvious he was trying to throw it. The crowd booed angrily and Lejus reversed his form and won. Then he promptly excused himself from meeting South Africa's Cliff Drysdale on the grounds he had hurt his ankle. Miss Dmitrieva was more forthright. She simply threw her match to Australian Fay Tayne in straight sets to avoid playing South Africa's Annette Van Zyl. The fakery was so outrageous that U.S.S.R. Team Manager Simon Belitz-Geiman showed actual fear when asked point-blank if the orders for such shenanigans came from his government. "You should not ask me that question," he mumbled to a reporter.
Thirty-six top international tennis players, appalled by the Russian performances, petitioned Wimbledon not to permit the Russians to play there later this month unless they promised to play tennis, not politics. Wimbledon officials promptly forwarded the ultimatum to Belitz-Geiman. The Soviet manager said he will answer by the end of this week. He needs the time, he explained, to seek guidance from Moscow.
ARMS AND THE MAN
Eddie Fisher, the White Sox relief pitcher, has in the past distinguished himself by a remarkable ability to imitate Donald Duck (page 26). Since there is a limit to the pinnacles to which one can aspire—even with the most perfect quack—Fisher has now found himself a new gambit: he is the major leagues' first-arm-wrestling manager. His promotion is his teammate, Dave Nicholson, the strong-boy outfielder who has been arm wrestling ever since he was 14 "when we used to hang around the restaurant down home."
The arm-wrestling championship of the majors was, Fisher decided, vacant. There was scattered support for Dick Stuart of the Phillies, but Stuart says he is retired. He abandoned the sport in 1961 after a particularly strenuous evening gave him a sore arm which, he intimated, affected his fielding. With Stuart out of the picture, Fisher has challenged First Baseman Ken Harrelson of the A's to meet Nicholson—whom he has proclaimed champ. Harrelson wrestles only when the mood is on him, but he just might pick up the challenge when the two teams play next in Kansas City. He figures that he has been in 300 to 400 matches, from locker rooms to bar rooms, and the only loss he has suffered in his career was to a pro football player, 270-pound Curt Merz of the Kansas City Chiefs. Last winter, while playing ball in Venezuela, Harrelson collapsed a table beating an opponent, and he fondly recalls the match in a Savannah bar a couple of years ago when he "messed a guy's arm up."
Harrelson, in short, fears no major leaguer, and that goes for Nicholson. "I don't see any that can beat me," he confides. "Ballplayers bet on me."
Pour a shot or two of bourbon into a glass. Add a spoonful of salt and a spoonful of sugar. Place the concoction in an atomizer and spray it all over yourself. Light a pipe and put on gloves. You are now ready to go fishing. So says Bill Woods of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. According to Woods, biologists have found that fishermen's hands impart an odor to bait that is frightening to fish. Thus fishermen scare away fish without knowing it. However, biologists have also discovered that fish like the smell of salt, sugar, tobacco and bourbon, hence the advice given above. "Any angler can be successful," says Woods, "provided his technique doesn't smell."
MORE FORMALITY, PLEASE
Since Gene Stallings became head football coach at Texas A & M earlier this year, approximately 60 players have left the squad. Stallings blames this on "natural attrition," but others have blamed it on Stallings' adherence to the hard-nosed methods of his idol and former boss, Bear Bryant. Last week, however, is appeared that players might be quitting simply to avoid hazing by the school lettermen's association. This came to light when Grimes County Sheriff Dick Johnson found two Aggie sophomores, Harvey Ermis and Lawson Howard, hopping around near a lake. The boys were blindfolded and handcuffed. Their ankles were bound, and they were manacled to one another by a chain around their necks secured by four locks. "We thought this was rather inhuman," says Sheriff Johnson. "Those boys could have walked in that lake and drowned."
Stallings himself was upset by the incident. A member of the lettermen's association, he gave a talk to the group's leaders. "From now on," says Stallings, "there will be a more formal type of initiation."
REPRIEVE AT AINTREE
The population explosion has made it profitable to ride roughshod over traditional sports sites. Ebbets Field, ex-home of the Bums in Brooklyn; Jamaica racetrack, home of some of the most fanatical horseplayers in racing history; and the Polo Grounds, historic battlefield for baseball, football and prizefights, are now housing developments.
Aintree, outside Liverpool, for 126 years the site of England's toughest steeplechase, the Grand National, was similarly threatened. Mrs. Mirabel Topham, whose family has leased Aintree from the Sefton family for the past 100 years and who bought the 300 acres in 1949 from the present Lord Sefton, has been trying to sell it to Capital and Counties Property Company, Ltd., which wants to put up a housing development there.
Lord Sefton got an injunction against Mrs. Topham, who appealed. Last week the court of appeal of the House of Lords decided that the clause in the Sefton-Topham contract of sale, providing that, as long as Lord Sefton was alive, the land was never to be used for anything but horse racing and its appurtenances, was adamant and legal.
This does not yet mean that the Grand National will be held there again. Mrs. Topham has been losing money on the Grand National. It is to be hoped that other entrepreneurs may continue racing there profitably and traditionally. Meanwhile, wizard for the Lords Justice of the House of Lords court, who, steeped in tradition, have preserved a big one.
Those bedeviled souls managing such determinedly third-division ball clubs as the Mets, the A's and the Yankees may find some solace in the torments of a Little League manager in Lubbock, Texas. This fellow, who shall remain mercifully nameless, noticed his right fielder playing too deep. "Come in!" he yelled, gesturing wildly with his bottle of tranquilizers. Moments later he glanced back at right field. It was empty. "Where's my right fielder?" he cried. "Right here," responded a wee small voice from the bench. "You told me to come in."
CAUGHT IN THE ACT
It is pleasant to note that the American Horse Shows Association has picked up its flyswatter and flicked the wrists of six of its members. Caught at the Aiken Charity Horse Show last April, five of the netted were found guilty last week of cruelty to Tennessee Walking Horses and the sixth, the show's judge, was declared guilty of failing to disqualify horses with raw or bleeding sores between the hoof and ankle. It is a barbarous custom in Walking Horse circles to blister or burn a horse's pasterns to enhance the fancy show gait (SI, Dec. 14, 1964). Judge J.B. Smith and exhibitors J. Monroe Johnson and J. A. Holt Jr. received the sharpest tap; they are unable to judge, show or take part in any recognized event until July 20, 1965. Ralph Hensley, Bruce Bishop and Dr. Stephen Brown, also charged with treating their Walking Horses inhumanely, were disbarred only until June 20.
Honeyed as the sentences were, they still represent a long-overdue effort on the part of the association to halt Walking Horse abuses before federal legislation does it for them.
JUMP FOR YOUR LIFE
A frog named Dan'l Webster won fame 100 years ago when a young reporter, looking for gold, found instead a local legend concerning the notorious jumping frog of Calaveras County. Mark Twain's first literary success established an annual event that celebrated its centennial last week with 10 bands, bagpipes and 50,000 spectators. The winner, with an impressive 14-foot 9-inch vault, was a Lafayette, Calif. bullfrog named, for some unexplained reason, Hops. Hops won $300 and a life of leisure. His owner raises frogs for eating and only winners go to pasture. The losers go to pot.
THEY SAID IT
•Bob Devaney, football coach, asked why he does not demand a lifetime contract from Nebraska: "I had a friend with a lifetime contract. After two bad years the university president called him into his office and pronounced him dead."
•Early Wynn, pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians and crusader to legalize the spitball, insisting the pitch is no physical hazard for hitters: "It's dangerous only to batting averages."
•Roger Ginsberg, young golf pro, promising a gin-and-tonic party if he won the $16,000 Dodge Open: "If it's champagne with Tony Lema, why not gin with Ginsberg?"