In historians' critiques of his role in molding the shape of our times, the fact perhaps will deserve no more than a fat footnote or two, but it is true that Dwight Eisenhower, commander of history's greatest military force and 34th President of the U.S., was a man given to profound enthusiasm for and eager participation in sport. Only a lame knee kept him from being a fine football player at West Point, and (in his own mind, at least) only a maddening inability to hit a curve kept him from pursuing his dream of playing professional baseball. He was an adept hunter of quail and partridge, as well as an honorable fisher of trout and bass. His bridge game was sharp, though flawed at times when his notoriously short temper exploded in the face of the one thing he could not abide in bridge—an indecisive player.
But it was golf that came to be Ike's Game in the minds of most people. That is ironic, for Dwight Eisenhower, the country boy from Abilene, had hardly played the game at all until he was in his mid-40s—when his peacetime Army career had sentenced him to an uninspiring tour of duty in the tropical ennui of the Philippines. He did not become a constant player until he reached his 50s—the commander of the Allied invasion of Normandy. In those days of killing tension he often relaxed at golf on a course near his headquarters.
When he was President—and in good health—a day seldom passed that he did not work out with his special set of Spalding clubs (each inscribed with five stars) and his personal supply of golf balls (each stamped MR. PRESIDENT). Often during the Washington twilight he could be seen punching out iron shot after iron shot across the White House lawn while grim Secret Service agents shagged balls. He had a putting green installed and soon created a storm of protest from animal lovers when it was learned that White House guards had been trapping and removing squirrels from the grounds because they had been digging at Ike's putting surface.
April 7, 1969
Indeed, golf became a cause cél√®bre during the Eisenhower Years. For one thing, the sport boomed in popularity—in part because of Ike's wholesome fanaticism for the game. But to critics of Eisenhower, golf became a symbol of vacuous and unimaginative government. One popular bumper sticker of the day proclaimed: BEN HOGAN FOR PRESIDENT! IF WE GOTTA HAVE A GOLFER, LET'S HAVE A GOOD GOLFER! The subject of golf had become so touchy by the end of Eisenhower's White House years that during the 1960 presidential campaign John Kennedy refused to be photographed playing the game—even though he was a better golfer than Ike.
During his presidency and in the years of his retirement, Eisenhower played often at Burning Tree in Washington, Cherry Hills in Denver, in Palm Springs and, of course, at the Masters course in Augusta. He frequently vacationed at a cottage built for him just 60 yards from Augusta's 10th tee. Among the furnishings were two of Ike's own paintings: one of Augusta's 16th hole, the other of his grandson David—in a golfing stance, of course.
Eisenhower's game was never really expert. Usually he was delighted to score in the low 80s, and he was positively ecstatic whenever he dipped into the 70s. Contrarily, of course, that famed blush of rage and a boiling stream of profanity would usually erupt at the slightest hint of bad fortune on the course. Indeed, Ike himself admitted that his first heart attack in 1955 was probably the direct result of a golf game at Denver's Cherry Hills being interrupted—twice—by insignificant State Department phone calls that forced him to leave the course and return to the clubhouse. "My always uncertain temper had gotten completely out of control," Ike recalled. "And this one doctor says that he had never seen me in such a state, and that is the reason why I had a heart attack."
A year ago, only a few weeks before his last series of heart attacks sent him to Walter Reed Hospital for good, Eisenhower was playing a round at the Seven Lakes course in Palm Springs with three golf friends—Freeman Gosden of Amos 'n' Andy fame, Leigh Battson, a Beverly Hills executive, and George Allen, long one of Ike's closest political confidants. On the 104-yard 13th hole, the former President hit a nine-iron shot off the tee, then watched in incredulous glee as the ball rolled into the hole. "Ever since the end of World War II," said Ike later, "I've been hacking around courses hoping that "this might be the day." For once, that 10,000-to-1 shot paid off for me."
TRIUMPH ON ICE
Not at any time since the Soviet occupation had Czechoslovakia been so united in its hatred of the occupiers as it was last Friday night. In the world hockey tournament at Stockholm the Czech team scored its second astonishing victory over the powerful Russians, who were in the process of winning their seventh consecutive world championship. In Prague jubilant throngs poured into Wenceslas Square waving newspaper torches and anti-Russian placards. Czechs painted bold denunciations of the Kremlin on building walls and even ransacked the Soviet Aeroflot office on the square. For three and a half hours they milled and shouted—young Czechs and old, women in shawls against the freezing rain, mothers with babes in arms, office workers and shop girls, cab drivers and overalled laborers.
Moscow reportedly was furious, and the embattled Dubcek regime evidently would have to placate the Russians and warn the public against further explosions. But at least for the glorious moment the nation could powerfully relish victory over its oppressors in a fair fight.
1.4 MILLION DOLLAR BABY
It turns out that a million dollars is really nothing. The NBA's Milwaukee Bucks zoomed past that once magic figure to $1.4 million to get Lew Alcindor, and the ABA's New York Nets, after losing out in the first round of bidding, came back with a too-late offer that guaranteed Lewie a total of $3.25 million (though, admittedly, Alcindor would be in his 60s before he received all of it). The 7'1½" superstar turned down the new ABA offer, repeated that he did not want to get into a bidding war and said that his financial advisers had made that clear to both clubs before bidding started.
The financial advisers were two wealthy UCLA alumni, Sam Gilbert and Ralph Shapiro, who are in business in Southern California—Gilbert in construction, Shapiro in securities. Longtime friends of UCLA athletes, they represented Alcindor without charge. A week ago Monday, Gilbert, Shapiro, Alcindor and Alcindor's father sat down in New York City with representatives of the Bucks and the next day met with officials of the Nets. There was a ground rule: make one offer, and that's it. By Wednesday, Alcindor had made up his mind. It would be Milwaukee, he said, because their bid was "easily the most attractive." As for the new ABA offer, Alcindor said, "A bidding war degrades the people involved. It would make me feel like a flesh peddler, and I don't want to think like that."
There is a 16-year-old high school basketball player from Englewood, Colo. who is 6'10" and still growing. Her name is Gwen Bachman, and she was the hit of the Women's National AAU Basketball Championship in Gallup, N. Mex. last week, where she starred for the Phoenix Westerners. Apparently the tallest woman basketball player ever (previously, the tallest girl player in the AAU tournament's 40-year history was only 6'3"), she scored 35 of her team's 63 points in one game and 24 of 49 in another, despite being double-and triple-teamed most of the time.
"Gwen has a good shooting touch," says Phoenix Coach Bob West, who persuaded her to join his Westerners for the AAU tournament after seeing her play in Colorado. "And she is just beginning to learn how to use her height to good advantage. Her teammates have not been feeding her the ball high enough or she'd score even better."
Miss Bachman, whose father is 6'10" and her mother 6' even, is a surprisingly well-proportioned girl and seems not at all self-conscious about her height. She says she wants to continue in basketball and hopes to pick up an athletic scholarship. At least 10 colleges strong in women's basketball have expressed considerable interest in her.
So has Jim Williams, coach of the men's team at Colorado State. "Boy, our recruiting system is really breaking down," said Williams when he was first told about Gwen Bachman. "I haven't even heard of him." When he was told that Gwen was a girl, Williams didn't bat an eye. "She's got another year in high school," he said. "Maybe in that time I can change the NCAA's thinking on female basketball participation. After all, women jockeys are coming into style."
THE LADY SAYS NO
Maybe girl jockeys are the thing now, but Bill Veeck's idea to have a Lady Godiva Stakes with girl riders (SCORE-CARD, March 17) at his Suffolk Downs track near Boston has met with opposition from a surprising source: Barbara Jo Rubin's agent. Miss Rubin has been one of the most successful joquettes thus far, and Veeck very much wanted her as one of the riders in the race. But Bryan Webb, the agent, said no.
"When the boys didn't want to ride against Barbara Jo in Florida," Webb explains, "we thought it was discrimination. I told Mr. Veeck an all-girl race would be discrimination against the men. He's putting up a $10,000 purse, and the regular jockeys will want a crack at that kind of money."
According to Webb, Veeck kept making better offers in an attempt to get Miss Rubin to ride. "I told him flatly," Webb says, "that if Barbara Jo rode at Suffolk Downs she would ride at the regular fees in regular races and take her chances against the other jockeys, the same as she has been doing."
THE EAGLE SCREAMS
In bidding held March 11 in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, a trucking executive named Leonard Tose offered $16,155,000 for the Philadelphia Eagles, currently owned by the financially troubled Jerry Wolman. Wolman, in a desperate effort to satisfy his creditors and keep the Eagles, is trying to sell $36.7 million worth of stock in Jerry Wolman Enterprises, a corporation that embraces, among other things, two taxicab companies, Connie Mack Stadium and the Spectrum sports arena. If he succeeds in raising the $36.7 million by May 1, the Tose deal is off. But if Wolman cannot raise the money, Tose will pay the $16,155,000 and take the Eagles, lock, stock and Joe Kuharich.
When Wolman bought the Eagles in December 1963 he paid $5,505,500. The difference between that price and what Tose has offered is an astonishing $10,649,500, which all by itself is more than any other pro football team has ever cost. The expansion Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints were inducted into the NFL for $8.5 million each. William Ford bought the Detroit Lions in 1964 for $6 million. When Pro Football Commissioner Pete Rozelle heard of Tose's bid, he said, "There is no way a price like that is justified, in my opinion, unless a man has great optimism in its future as a business investment. There is no way to justify it."
Why, then, has Tose offered so much? Well, he knew that two other would-be owners were bidding almost as high. He explains, "I'm rooting for Jerry to make it, but if he doesn't I don't want to be left out. I would like very much to have the Eagles, and that is the price."
WHAT A WATER HAZARD!
For those who cannot decide between golf and fishing as a favorite vacation pastime, Lieut. Ervin Dunn of the Idaho State Police may have come up with the perfect solution. While vacationing at an Oregon seaside resort. Dunn worked a screw eye into a golf ball and to it tied about 300 yards of fish line. He attached hooks and bait to the line about two feet from the ball. Then he teed up on the sand and drove the ball, line, bait and hooks out into the ocean. "The ball carried the line much farther out than I could cast," Dunn explained, "and I caught a variety of fish." He was asked what he would have done if he had hooked a shark. "Hit it over the head with a golf club," he answered. Probably with a sand wedge.
THEY SAID IT
•Denis Howell, minister with special responsibility for sport, on the question of British athletes competing in the controversial South African Games at Bloemfontein: "We shall not interfere with the right of any British citizen to travel where he wishes, including South Africa. But we are not providing financial support. I understand British athletes in Bloemfontein will be there as individuals, not as a team. Personally, I would not go to South Africa if I were a competitor. But the choice is up to the individual."