Whether they are running for office or just getting a little exposure, politicians are wont to show up at ball games, fights, even track meets—but you'll rarely run into one at a racetrack, for which they affect a traditional repugnance. This comes to mind because the word is that Frank O'Connor, the Democratic candidate for governor of New York, has reportedly said that certain groups, including "racetrack people," would be kept out of his entourage. It goes without saying that if O'Connor is elected, he won't spurn the "take," but that's not the point and we're not picking on O'Connor, who's just being politically expedient.
The point is this: why, in this country, is racegoing still considered immoral or unseemly? In England, for instance, the Queen not only makes a point of going racing and enjoying it, she also owns a considerable stable; and the sport (or quasi-sport, if you will) is admittedly a bit more suspect there than here. Perhaps racing is not as clean and above-board as horseshoe pitching but, considering its essential nature, it has in recent years been well policed and relatively free of scandal.
As for "racetrack people," they come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of virtue. Some are noble, some are faintly raffish, some are crooks but, by and large, they have a certain charm and competence. As for politicians—we'll usually take racetrackers, be they hot-walkers or members of The Jockey Club, over them.
September 25, 1966
The six public high schools in Oakland, Calif. will play football this fall after all. When a special bond issue was voted down last June, it looked like Oakland would be the only big city in the U.S. without interscholastic sports (SI, June 27 et seq.); however, a fund-raising campaign by the Junior Chamber of Commerce has netted $24,652 to date, or enough for each school to play five games, as well as resume cross-country and crew. But the Jaycees are not resting on their oars. About $84,000 more is needed to bring back basketball, baseball, track, wrestling and swimming.
MESSAGE FROM MAURITIUS
In 64 countries, from Australia to Iceland, from Red China to Very White South Africa, Swimming World, a monthly published in North Hollywood, Calif., keeps competitive swimmers abreast of their sport. At this time of year, when the competitions wind up in most countries, Al Schoenfield, editor of Swimming World, usually hears from a random assortment of readers, some praising him and a good number giving him the what for. Even if Schoenfield publishes every clocking of every performer in an age-group meet, he can expect a letter from some wounded mother complaining that her child was slighted. If the water in a pool on the other side of the world is too cold, Schoenfield is apt to get letters telling him to do something about it. As he flounders in a sea of complaints, wondering if the whole thing is worthwhile, Schoenfield usually gets one letter that gives him heart again. The most recent came from a swimming devotee named Joseph Marnus Jacquette, who lives on the island of Mauritius, a small, over-populated volcanic splotch in the Indian Ocean. The letter reads:
"We humble workers and swimmers are very handicap in our little underdeveloped island, due that there is not a single coach or either a magazine or book concerning swimming for competition, an example so that our national record for the 400 meters is seven minutes, a pity you may say but it is our poverty and very long distance of a civilized country.
"Gentleman, for that in our Saviour's name we ask you: 1) what is the lowest price we can pay for your magazine (remember that a dollar is earn here by working two days), 2) can you give us the adress of a good American coach and of an American swimming club, if its possible the club adress where Mr. Don Schollandre trained."
Editor Schoenfield has sent Joseph Marnus Jacquette of Mauritius a complimentary subscription, plus all known addresses for Mr. Don Schollandre, and six Speedo swimsuits just like the ones Mr. Schollandre uses when swimming 400 meters in a little over four minutes. None of the seven-minute Mauritians are likely to turn up in the next Olympic finals with the Schollandres of the world, but, as Schoenfield sees it, it is his duty to help close the gap.
THE BEAR FACTS
A gentleman came into the office the other day and introduced himself as Robert W. Kneebone—grounds enough to hear him out. It seems that not long ago Mr. Kneebone, who is a consulting vice-president of the Texas National Bank of Commerce of Houston, was playing golf at Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper, Alta. He was about to make his fourth shot to the green on the par-5 13th when three large black bears came out of the woods and began horsing around on the green, if such can be properly said of bears. Undaunted, Mr. Kneebone chipped, and his ball rolled within a yard of the cup. One of the bears ambled over and picked the ball up in its mouth. Mr. Kneebone yelled at the bear. The bear stood on its hind legs, towering over the flag, turned its head to see where the shout had come from and the ball fell from its jaws and dropped directly into the cup. Allowing that it was a gimme putt in any case, Mr. Kneebone gave himself a par 5 and headed for the 14th tee. Thanks for dropping by, Mr. Kneebone.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
At the coin-flipping ceremony before the Baylor-Syracuse game a fortnight ago the following occurred:
1) Referee McDuff Simpson flipped the coin.
2) Syracuse Co-Captain Herb Stecker said, "Tails."
3) Simpson, without glancing at the coin, said, "Tails it is."
4) Syracuse Co-Captain Floyd Little said, "That's heads."
Which, in truth, it was. What Little forgot was that Syracuse had already won the toss. It is now common practice for colleges to have two coin-flipping ceremonies. The first, held well in advance at a prearranged place, counts and gives the coaches a chance to go over kickoff or receiving strategy with their players. The second, in full view of the crowd, doesn't count. It is held simply because it's part of football ritual.
We envision, with foreboding, the day when there will be two games as well. The first, held well in advance at a prearranged place, counts and takes the form of a controlled scrimmage to give the coaches a chance to go over strategy with their players. The second, in full view of the crowd....
THESE AND THOSE GUYS
As a matter of fact, if you listen to the sportscasters, the implication is that there already are two separate football games, apparently going on simultaneously. Except for Red Barber, who, for example, gave currency to "the catbird seat" and "rhubarb," and Dizzy Dean, who worked inimitable wonders with the preterit, play-by-play announcers have not notably enriched the English language. But in the past few years they've outdone themselves, solecismwise.
For instance, nowadays there's scarcely one that doesn't say something very much like this in the course of a telecast (the italics are ours): "You'd have to say that those Tigers can still beat these Lions down there, but they'll have to get that football if they're going to do it." The inference is that just beyond camera range—not down there, pal, down there—you'd have to say that these Tigers have no chance at all of beating those Lions because this football....
It's almost enough to make one yearn for Harry Wismer. Almost.
FACT AND FANCY
"Al Ferrara mastered Beethoven and Brahms when he was 16," the wire story began, "and now he is finally coming of age as a swinger."
" 'Mastered,' my foot," growls the Los Angeles Dodger outfielder, who looks more like a piano mover than player. When Ferrara gets a key hit, which he has done six times this year, the stories read, "Ferrara, who gave up a promising career as a concert pianist...." It's a hell of a human-interest bit they've got going, so why ruin it with facts?
It is true that every Thursday afternoon for nine years the late Guido Morvillo came to the Ferrara residence on East Second Street in Brooklyn. It is also true that after six years of having his knuckles rapped by Mr. Morvillo's pencil every time he butchered a sonata, Al Ferrara played in Carnegie Hall.
"But they got more than one hall in the place," he says. "This was a little one. Mr. Morvillo had a recital for his students every year and the parents came. He had taught my mother and grandmother, and they wanted me to play, so I said all right. I didn't hate it, but I was like a robot. You wind me up and I play the piano for an hour. Then I run out and play baseball."
The promising career came to a close in 1956, when Ferrara was 16 and Mr. Morvillo's visits began conflicting with the Lafayette High School baseball schedule. "I haven't touched a piano since," says Ferrara.
Nonetheless, such is the power of the press that Ferrara recently received an invitation to give a recital with the Philadelphia Orchestra. "They said to name my dates and my fees," he says. "I suppose I could play something simple, but it would take me a couple of weeks to memorize it."
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Dave Hart, the Pitt football coach who weighed his players underwater to determine their fat content because he wanted a "lean and mean team" (SI, Aug. 22), came up with another breakthrough last week. Since Pitt was going to play UCLA in Los Angeles Saturday night (11 p.m. Pittsburgh time), the team practiced at 10 p.m. Thursday, went to bed at 1 a.m. and ate breakfast at 12:30 p.m. Friday. Said Hart: "I've spoken to several doctors about this, and it just makes good common sense. If we wait until Friday evening to go on Coast time, the boys' bodies will not have had time to adjust."
Final score: UCLA 57; lean, mean, well-adjusted Pitt 14.
SAFETY IN NUMBERS
Beginning on page 42, Jack Mann takes a long, mournful look at the decline and fall of hitting. One of his findings: since a pitcher is no longer expected to hurl a complete game, at the first sign that he is losing his stuff in comes a relief pitcher, and as soon as he falters, in comes another warm body, ad infinitum and/or nauseum, until the poor, beleaguered batter doesn't have a chance.
Well, the other day Kansas City beat Cleveland 1-0 in 11 innings. A real old-fashioned, dingdong pitchers' battle, like in the days of Dean and Hubbell, and Mann can go soak his hypothesis? It was a pitchers' battle, all right—all eight of them. Sonny Siebert, who took the loss, worked a complete game, but seven (count 'em, seven) different men pitched the shutout for the A's, and not one of them had so much as an official time at bat. Bill Edgerton went the first five innings. Edgerton gave way to Catfish Hunter, who pitched two. Hunter was relieved by Ken Sanders, who lasted two and a third innings. Sanders was replaced by Joe Grzenda, who threw one-third of an inning. Grzenda went to the showers, and in came Wes Stock, who worked for another two-thirds of an inning (and, incidentally, got the win). Stock was taken out in favor of Gil Blanco, who faced one batter. And, finally, Blanco left, and in came Vern Handrahan, who hung in there to get the last out and preserve the shutout.
Way to pitch, gang.
THEY SAID IT
•Doug Weaver, Kansas State football coach, asked to describe his offense: "It's new. We put it in this year. So far, we call it ineffective."
•Dick Klein, Chicago Bulls president, on what he expects from the NBA's newest team: "I want a Chicago Bull to be a cross between a tiger and a water buffalo."