It has been the custom of Elmer Fisher to stop by the varsity locker room on his way to classes at Wayne State University in Detroit. To don shoulder pads and cleats? No, to take a free shower, put on a clean suit and rap with the guys a few minutes before going off to his studies. Actually, Elmer has never had time to learn to play football, though he does take a day off every now and then to sit on the bench with the team and watch. Next July, when Elmer is 65 and retires as a janitor at the school, he will take along three baccalaureate degrees—in sculpting, history and mortuary science, and a master's in fine arts. But no athletic letters.
On the other hand, the Better-Late-than-Never Society this week salutes Astronaut James B. Irwin, the moon walker, who finally got an E for his letterman's sweater 24 years after graduating from Salt Lake City's East High. Irwin, a member of the school ski club, though he never skied competitively, received his award "for the longest hop, skip and jump, for gathering the most rocks and carrying them the farthest," and for being the most "far-out student in the history of the school."
Now Pat Nixon tells us: the only fan letter she ever wrote was to Louis Norman Newsom, who, in case you don't recall, was called Bobo and pitched for the Washington Senators, among others, a few times. The First Lady was talking about the Senators—whom she supported "for years"—and recalled her letter to Bobo. "One day I was there and he was thrown out, and I didn't think it was fair," she said. "So, I wrote him a letter." His wife's flight of nostalgia notwithstanding, Mr. Nixon said last week he was switching from the soon-to-be-defunct Senators to the California Angels.
Here is an umpire watching his waistline. Somewhere is a watchbird named Fred G. Fleig watching the umpire watching his waistline. It seems Fleig, the secretary-treasurer of the National League, told Ump John McSherry before the season that he could not call 'em like he saw 'em until he lost 50 pounds. McSherry did, weighing in at a less-than-svelte 245 for his rookie year in the major leagues. Now that the season's almost over, John, you better watch out. Watchbirds watch in the winter, too.
October 3, 1971
Remember Augie Ratner, the perfectly healthy ex-featherweight boxer who advertised his own funeral in a Minneapolis paper to see what the attendance would be (SI, Sept. 6)? Well, old Augie got his answer. Hundreds of people from all over the country accepted. Jack Dempsey wired, "I'll go to yours if you'll come to mine." But, the most unusual note came from Johnny (Blood) McNally, 67, a charter member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame who in his heyday played halfback for the Milwaukee Badgers, Duluth Eskimos, Pottsville Maroons, Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers. "I'll be sad when you are dead," wrote Johnny, who proposed a plan to soften the blow. Why didn't they bet on which of them would live longest? 'The one who goes first loses a grand to the one who survives. The loser won't miss the money, and it will console the winner for the loss of a friend. May I live a long time and you forever." Augie accepted the proposal, and now he and Blood are having the $1,000 bequest put into their wills.
Evangelist Billy Graham is one duffer who tells it like it is. During a recent stop in Dallas to open the new Texas Stadium in nearby Irving, somebody asked Graham if it helps to pray when golfing. "Prayer never seems to work for me on a golf course," said the evangelist. "I think it has something to do with my being a terrible putter."
What do you do if you're a Texas zillionaire and can't buy "a decent bowl of chili in all of New York"? Well, if you're Clint W. Murchison Jr. and you happen to own a football team named the Dallas Cowboys, you build a restaurant on 49th Street and Park Avenue, call it—right—Dallas Cowboy, and make plans to fly in cauldrons of authentic chili from Texas for the grand opening this month. You also figure on a mess of smoked ribs, tacos and tamale pies and you build yourself "the longest bar in New York" to serve up them real Texas concoctions. Pretty soon you got every Texan in town dreaming he's home on the range. And belching.
Our One-That-Didn't-Get-Away award this week goes to 8-year-old Stéphane Feugueur from the French fishing port of Dieppe, on the English Channel. Little Stéphane bought a rod and reel in a local toy store, entered—along with 19 other anglers—the professional fishermen's annual tournament and caught 22 of the total of 48 fish that were landed.
It was 35 years since he had to flee his own land before Mussolini's invading army, and so Ethiopia's emperor, Haile Selassie I, perhaps had some special counsel for his nation's former marathoner, Abebe Bikila, about coming back from defeat. The two met recently in Addis Ababa for the premiere of a new film, The Ethiopians, by U.S. Producer Bud Greenspan, which recounts Bikila's Olympic victories in 1960 and 1964 and the auto accident in 1969 that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Reflecting on his Olympic victories, Bikila said, "When I ran, I ran for Ethiopia. When I won, I won for Ethiopia." It was the kind of thing the emperor might have said in 1936.