And now Mickey is gone. The sadness of this inevitability is more apparent when you remember what he was—not the limping, sporadic shadow of the last few years but the superhero of super-heroes to an entire generation of small boys. Some of them lived in Tenafly, N.J. and, while the following, reprinted from The Echo, school paper of Tenafly High School, is as impudently funny as most good high school humor, it also reflects the rather extraordinary hold that Mantle had on a very large segment of American youth:
Once upon a time there was a Mickey Mantle fan club at Tenafly High School. It all began as a classroom lesson in parliamentary procedure. The names have been omitted to protect the guilty, but the official minutes of the meeting remain to tell the tale. They read in part as follows:
"We, the members of this class, in order to form a perfect fan club, honor Mickey, insure a .300 season, root for a better team defense, promote the Yankees' general welfare and secure the blessings of victory to ourselves and the other fans, do ordain and establish this constitution for the Mickey Mantle fan club." Mickey Mantle was made honorary president, and the club passed a resolution that "he shall forever reign supreme."
March 10, 1969
Next, the club members rose and recited their pledge of allegiance. "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the greatest in America, and to the Yankees for whom he plays, one team, under Skipper Houk, unbeatable, with homers and victories for all."
As soon as everyone sat down, the president entertained a motion that the club anthem be sung at the beginning of each meeting by all "true" members. One student suggested that the word "insane" be substituted for the word "true," but he was reminded that if he didn't like it he could always join the Russian club. The motion was passed unanimously and the assemblage rose to sing, "My Mickey 'tis of thee, sweet team of victory, of thee I sing. Field where Bambino played, where Gehrig history made, where Mickey for years has played, the King of Smack."
In time, the fan club, too, was smacked, but it shall not be forgotten. One memory shall live on, that of the club banner (a picture of Mantle in red, white and blue pinstripes) fluttering in the breeze, and the inscription above the blackboard, E PLURIBUS MICKEY.
And that's it from Tenafly. So long, Mantle. Hey, how good is this kid, Bill Robinson?
RUN, PHIL, RUN
Philip C. Wallwork, safety director of the Automobile Legal Association, has directed the following stern admonition to joggers:
"Motorists have enough to contend with on snow-covered streets littered with cars without worrying about hitting members of the muscle fraternity.
"With sidewalk plowing a thing of the past, joggers should be forced off the streets until spring. A tuned-up muscle is of little use in a cast."
DON'T YOU DARE DUNK
A high school basketball game played recently in Columbus, Ohio began with a free throw. During pregame practice a couple of East High players violated the "no dunking" rule by stuffing the ball through the basket. The referee saw them and, because the rule is against dunking at any time, called a technical foul. It was enforced as soon as the buzzer sounded to start the game. A Whetstone High player stepped to the line, shot, missed and the game went on.
Coach Bob Hart of East High said he was not surprised that the call had been made and he made no protest about it. "I've told our kids repeatedly about the rule," Hart said. "I don't suppose they'll need to be reminded again."
Hart's support of the referee is commendable (and big news in itself, since most basketball coaches jump on officials if they so much as say, "Nice day, isn't it?"), but we wonder about the extent of the rule. If a referee is walking down a street and sees a couple of varsity players stuffing the ball during a two-on-two game in a playground, does he make note of it and the following Thursday night call a technical against Weequahic High?
LIFT THAT DESK
Sixty percent of the people in a doctor's office are there because they are underexercised. So claims Bob Spackman, trainer at Southern Illinois University, who as a countermeasure has written a book about exercises that anyone can do at almost any time.
For instance, says Spackman, when you are on the phone, squeeze it as though it were an empty tube of toothpaste. When you are waiting for a traffic light to change, try to collapse the steering wheel by pressing it in from both sides. Or try to push yourself into the back seat by jamming your feet against the floorboard (you might set the hand brake first, before you try this one). At work, try pulling your desk together by grabbing it at the sides. Or try lifting it with your feet.
Spackman's favorite exercise is the simplest. He sucks in his stomach, holds it in for six seconds and then relaxes. "Repeat it three times," he says. "It will keep your stomach muscles firm. You can throw away your girdle."
Spackman, whose book, Exercise in the Office, was published last November, was once the trainer for the old St. Louis Browns and has long stressed both isometric and isotonic exercises. "Exercise will not keep you from growing old," he admits, "but it will prolong your active years."
It didn't help the St. Louis Browns, we're sorry to say, but it may help you.
WATERS OF FEAR
Despite warnings (SCORECARD, Jan.27), scuba divers continue to die in Florida's water-filled caves. Late in February two young servicemen explored the infamous Blue Springs Boil, a cavern off the St. John's River, and became the 11th and 12th divers to die in that one cave in one year. Both were experienced open-water scuba divers and both had plenty of air left in their tanks, yet they apparently succumbed to "cavern fever," the panic that can strike a man unused to cavern diving when he loses his bearings and cannot find a quick way out and up to the surface.
There had been talk of putting up fences to keep divers out, but the vast number of caves makes such a project unfeasible. Still, can't fences be erected at particularly dangerous places, like Blue Springs Boil?
Despite their decline on the market, conglomerates are still moving in everywhere, and sport is not being overlooked. Gulf & Western Industries recently worked out a merger with Chicago Thoroughbred Enterprises (which runs two racetracks in Chicago), and now National Industries has moved to acquire Churchill Downs, offering $30 a share in a stock purchase bid. The conglomerate must buy all shares tendered to it by the stockholders if at least 50% of the shares are tendered (if less than 50% of the shares are tendered, National has its choice of buying or rejecting them). Thus, if all 383,292 shares are tendered, National—a Louisville-based corporation with holdings in retail stores, manufacturing, transportation and oil—will have to pay out $11.5 million.
About 12% of the stock is held by the 11 men comprising Churchill Downs's board of directors, who last week were understandably uneasy about National's move. Y. Peyton Wells, who owns 3,034 shares, would not give his own reaction to the offer but said he thought the board would try to take a united stand, one way or the other. Louisville Hotel Owner J. Graham Brown, a director for 32 years and the largest stockholder (26,817 shares, worth $804,000 at National's $30 bid), said he would not be for any deal that would take the Kentucky Derby away from Louisville, though no mention of moving the Derby had been made (a National spokesman said the proposed acquisition "would continue control of the Derby within the Kentucky community").
Another board member, A. B. (Bull) Hancock, who owns 2,110½ shares, said he did not want the Derby to become a strictly commercial enterprise. "If necessary," he said optimistically, "we'll form a new group and buy it ourselves. We've run it all right so far—maybe not so good for the stockholders but in the best interest of the Derby. I'm not willing to sell to the first outfit that comes along. We don't want to become part of a conglomerate."
Maybe not, but unless a second group comes up with a higher bid, the question of whether or not National Industries gets the track is in the hands of the stockholders.
Governor Raymond Shafer of Pennsylvania has had to propose a state income tax. Needless to say, he hasn't found too many supporters, though he may have come up with one in Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno, a gambling type who will never placekick a conversion for a tie if his team has a chance to run the ball in for a win. Shafer proposed a 3% tax but, as he likes to tell it: "I asked Joe whether we ought to have a 1% tax or a 2% tax, and he said, 'Go for two! Go for two!' "
STEAM CAR ROUND THE BEND
Bill Lear's plan to enter a steam car in the Indianapolis 500 (SI, Feb. 3) has been stalled, though not abandoned. The overwhelming snows in Nevada have halted construction on the test track Lear is building, and it cannot now be finished in time for adequate testing before this year's 500. Buzz Nanny, corporate vice-president, says, "We will go ahead and build the racing car and run it and show it, but we won't race at Indy this year. As for next year, we'll take a look and see."
There have been rumors that the Lear people were having trouble with the steam engine, but Nanny says they have been getting fine results. (Along with the racer, they have been working on a steam car for the California highway patrol and have been "under pressure from the bus and car people to produce something along that line.")
As for reports that boilers have blown up, Nanny explains, "We are testing several types and we run them to destruction to find what their parameters are—though none has actually blown up. Everything is fine. We simply decided that with the setback in weather we were spreading ourselves thin, and it's not efficient."
When Kansas City lost the Athletics to Oakland after the 1967 baseball season, its citizens found some solace in the realization that they would no longer be bedeviled by Charles O. Finley, the Athletics' exuberant proprietor. But now they have discovered that Charlie O. is still the legal owner of the scoreboard in Municipal Stadium, where the new Kansas City Royals will play until their own modern stadium is ready, presumably in 1971. Finley indicated that he wanted to be paid $50,000 for his scoreboard or else—according to rumors—he would dismantle it and give it away to a school or college. ("And he's just tough enough to do it," said a Kansas City official.)
The city hates the thought of paying $50,000 of the taxpayers' money to the man it loves to hate, but a new board would cost $200,000 and could not be installed in time for the season. Reluctantly, the city council took steps to appropriate the required amount.
Replying to criticism that there had been too much delay in settling the scoreboard matter, City Councilman Sal Capra said, ruefully, "You've never dealt with a man like Charlie Finley."
THEY SAID IT
•Horatio Luro, successful Thoroughbred trainer, on why he will not train his wife's horses: "When you train a horse for a lady, sometimes it loses. So you make excuses. You can call the lady by phone and explain. When you hang up, the conversation ends. For your wife you can go home to make the excuses. Maybe the conversation never ends."