Happy New Year
Bowl-game proprietors used to compete for New Year's Day teams in an old-fashioned open market. About this time every year they would be whipping telegrams back and forth across the country, trying to line up the strongest college clubs for their respective Bowls. Not any more. Most of the Bowls have given up the rigors of free competition for polite cartel agreements—with selected football conferences sending their top teams (except some conferences won't let the same team go two years running).
Last week football consumers learned something of what this system will offer them on New Year's.
Southern California was whacked 34-0 by UCLA—and became the Pacific Coast Conference's representative in the Rose Bowl. (UCLA was in the Bowl last year.)
Arkansas lost its second straight game—this one 7-6 to Louisiana State—but, with the best record in the Southwest Conference, was picked to play in the Cotton Bowl.
Nebraska, walloped 55-7 by Oklahoma, picked itself up to find it had been named to represent the Big Seven Conference in the Orange Bowl.
Happy New Year, everyone.
SI notes with satisfaction that the New York State Athletic Commission swung some businesslike punches of its own last week.
After listening to testimony from fight managers who said they had to make $100 "donations" to the International Boxing Guild's New York chapter whenever their tigers got a TV fight (SI, Nov. 22), Bob Christenberry's commission suspended two IBG managers and two matchmakers who seemed, on the testimony, most involved. It suspended two other managers for other rule infractions. And it promised to turn its preliminary inquiry on these matters into a hearing. Said Christenberry: "If the charges are sustained, additional discipline will be meted out."
SI notes with reserve something Bob Christenberry said next: "Conditions which have been alleged and uncovered in the inquiry cannot be permitted to continue. If they do persist, it would be better if boxing were ended in this state."
Ending boxing is not the solution. Too many people have a legitimate interest in a good sport. The problem is to clean up boxing's dirty business.
The Oriole's not for burning
Paul Richards was not burned at a stake in Baltimore last week, after all. Pilloried, perhaps. Hanged in effigy once or twice. But not burned.
Last Wednesday, Richards, the new general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, made a deal with George Weiss, the seasoned general manager of the New York Yankees. Richards traded Bob Turley, a young pitcher of infinite promise, Don Larsen, a young pitcher of limited promise, and Bill Hunter, a light-hitting, slick-fielding shortstop. In return, he received a package that included Gene Woodling, a fine veteran outfielder, two fair veteran pitchers and two promising young catchers.
News of the trade leaked Wednesday and broke formally Thursday. By Thursday night in Baltimore, fans were hysterical. Weiss, they wailed, had taken their man Richards and stolen their man Turley. Flames were kindling.
But a day later the fires burned lower. An urchin spotted Turley's Cadillac parked outside the pitcher's house. On its dusty surface he traced a more or less resigned epithet: "Damn Yankee."
The Orioles are not likely to win a pennant with the talent they got from the Yankees. But last year they finished seventh. What they may do is move as high as fourth and what they almost certainly will do is escape from seventh. Richards' move was not made on a long-range basis, but how many Baltimore fans would have continued paying to see a feeble team simply because the millennium was coming—also a long-range basis?
Weiss, of course, got just what he wanted, as is his custom. The Yankees needed young pitchers. Now they have them. Their 1955 pennant drive is under way.
There's an adage about trades, employed by the General Managers' Protective Society and designed to make all general managers look good at all times. "The trade," runs the adage, "will help both clubs." Here at last is a trade that, maybe, did. Stakes need not blaze in Baltimore.
Drama in West Jordan
The public has been so benumbed by the elephantine ceremonial amid which the manly art of self-defense is conducted, and has eyed the old postures and listened to the sonorous old pronunciamentos so many times that its sense of the ridiculous has deserted it entirely. Fight crowds simply sit with glazed eyes through organ recitals of "our national anthem"—as if this were exactly the right note on which to launch a session of beak busting—and through the referee's long, self-conscious and entirely useless preliminary instructions. Even so florid a ring announcer as New York's Harry Balogh could conjure up only a few dispirited catcalls though he often intones, "May the superior contestant emerge victorious" instead of, "May the best man win."
Something new and unconventional in the way of atmosphere and official attitude has obviously been needed for a long time and it is pleasant to be able to report that a beginning was made last week by the West Jordan (Utah) Athletic Association. This probably needs a bit of explanation. West Jordan, Utah is a hamlet of 2,107 souls near Salt Lake City. The West Jordan Athletic Association is, for all intents and purposes, a mink farmer named Marvin Jenson who has thrown up a wooden outdoor arena in a local cow pasture and who fosters and encourages, i.e. promotes, boxing there.
When the weather turns bad the West Jordan AA simply moves its fights to Salt Lake City and conducts them indoors there. Since Utah has no boxing commission or other regulatory board, these contests too are conducted according to the "rules of the West Jordan Athletic Association" and the boxers are solemnly informed of this fact before being sent out to remodel one another. Last week, in the course of its autumn program, the WJAA matched that fleshy and well drubbed old heavyweight Rex Layne with one William Boatsman, a muscular Portland, Ore. carpenter, and history was made.
It will come as no surprise to fight fans to learn that the Layne-Boatsman contest was a bad one. It was, however, so incredibly bad that it was marvelously entertaining. Layne set out in the first round to punch Boatsman's crew-cropped head loose and nearly succeeded so early that Boatsman took the simplest possible measure to prevent it—he grabbed Layne by the arms and tried to push him through the ropes. He kept at it for seven rounds, sometimes tripping his opponent to facilitate things. In all, he pushed Layne out four times; sensibly enough, he tried to make the fourth push the last. Noting that Layne's shoulders were on the ring apron and Layne's legs were draped over the lower rope, Boatsman cannily leaned out and began belaboring Layne's head with great vigor and determination. "Only good punching he's done all evening," bawled somebody at ringside.
This sort of thing, nevertheless, is counter to the rules of the West Jordan AA, and it almost caused a scandal. Mink-fancier Jenson leaped into the ring and expressed his sense of outrage by grabbing Boatsman. Boatsman straightened up and punched him in the belly. The announcer leaped through the ropes and bawled for the cops. No cops came into the ring, but most of the people in the front seats did. They milled and waved their arms. Layne got back on his feet and gave every indication of anger—in fact, he seemed on the verge of hitting Boatsman. Then Referee Ken Shulsen pushed off the dead hand of convention, announced that Boatsman was "mentally incapable of continuing the fight," and named Layne the winner.
It was new. It was different. It was dramatic. It was possibly true. The crowd was delighted—it stayed on, throwing seat cushions and old newspaper into the ring, and booing with joy, and finally went home talking of nothing else.
Dispatches from Australia
The tennis season did not, apparently, wind up at Forest Hills. It just got up a full head of steam there in readiness for the Davis Cup Challenge Round, which on some former occasions has been settled more or less peacefully only because the combatants were equipped with fragile rackets instead of elephant guns. The latest renewal of this delicate war is due next month, but the skirmishing began a few days ago—on the courts at Sydney and in the papers at Melbourne.
The opening volley, aimed at tennis in general and not necessarily at the question of Australia's ability to retain that coveted mug of silver, was fired by Frank Sedgman, a man who after two years of chumming around with Jack Kramer, should now know as much about losing as he used to know about winning. In passing judgment on the current crop of amateurs, Sedgman told readers of the Melbourne Sun that no amateur today—even an Australian—could be counted on to win a match before he stepped onto a court. Reflecting back, perhaps wistfully, to his own days as the world hero of the international sneaker set, Sedgman remarked that amateur tennis had not improved "one iota" since he began his professional career in 1953. The reason for this sorry state of affairs, says Sedgman, is a "certain wily American gent" who goes around buying up the best amateurs. "It is bad when the lure of professionalism overshadows the amateur game."
Now, Sedgman obviously can't be expected to remember everything he ever said. But perhaps he should be reminded that when that "certain American gent" approached him with an offer of nearly $100,000 to turn professional, Sedgman bid the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia such a hasty farewell that one might have thought all his countrymen (including those who chipped in $13,260 for his wedding present) had the plague. He gave out a nice, simple statement: "I decided this professional offer was too good to turn down."
Nevertheless,' the part of Forgetful Frank's utterances dealing with today's amateurs was unmistakably true. Never in recent years has the tournament picture been more of a puzzle. Mervyn Rose won the last Australian championship, Tony Trabert won the French crown. Jaroslav Drobny did it at Wimbledon. Lew Hoad took the title at Orange. Ham Richardson came through at Newport. Vic Seixas outlasted everyone at Forest Hills. Last week the unpredictable aspect of tennis in 1954 was underscored again during the New South Wales championships at Sydney, where the advance guard of the U.S. Davis Cup team was warming up for the Inter-Zone finals against Sweden.
Trabert went down in the third round to Australia's Don Candy, a second-stringer. Hoad, who has never completely regained the mastery he displayed in the last Challenge Round, was knocked out by 36-year-old John Bromwich. Rex Hartwig won the finals over Rose, a fellow Australian.
Still missing from this crazy mixed-up scene, but due soon, were Seixas and the American nonplaying captain (and SI's tennis columnist), Bill Talbert. Before Talbert could identify himself as the official spokesman for the U.S. invaders, Trabert got in his licks: "I'm not in top condition yet, but I think we'll do it this time, provided we can get by Sweden."
Certainly when Captain Talbert reaches his boys he'll find them amply fortified with confidence. All he'll have to do then is teach them how to win when it counts most. If they learn well enough—who knows?—Sedgman's benefactor, the "certain wily American gent," may drop around with a loaded fountain pen.
Storm in the desert
A couple of sports items of note have crept out of Arizona these past few weeks that warrant an attention not usually focused on that sunshine-rich but football-poor state.
The first had to do with the achievements of one Arthur Luppino, a 20-year-old sophomore tailback at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who has turned out to be one of the most accomplished running backs in college football this season. After the first six games of Arizona's ten-game schedule had been played, he had gained 892 yards from scrimmage, made 18 touchdowns and scored a total of 123 points, each of these figures the best in its category in major-college football this fall. With four games to go, Arizona enthusiasts figured Luppino had a splendid chance to break the national collegiate major-college records of 1,570 yards, 22 touchdowns and 157 points.
Publicity carried Luppino's name all over the country, even to Lubbock, Texas. And thus was spawned the second item of note, a football feud.
Lubbock is the home of Texas Tech, and Tech was Arizona's next, or seventh, opponent. On the following Saturday, as Tech was beating out a 28-14 victory over Arizona, Art Luppino's mouth was cut, his forehead bruised, his teeth loosened and one chipped. He was able to play less than a quarter of the game, gained only 25 yards and failed to score.
"Dirty football!" shouted Arizona supporters. The Tucson Towncats, a downtown group that avidly supports Arizona's football team and whose name is derived from the team's nickname, "Wildcats," rose in arms. Roy Drachman, a former Towncat president, called for breaking off athletic relations with Texas Tech.
"The time has come," he said, "to tell them to go to hell."
The hubbub and the to-do spread. But not, curiously enough, on the campus of the University of Arizona.
"Tech is one of the few good teams we play," said the victim himself, Art Luppino, "and they want to drop it." Wingback Wayne Mancuso said, "I wish they'd stop crying about the game. Tech didn't play any dirtier than any other team we've played. They played it the way it's supposed to be played—hard."
Luppino was back in the line-up the following Saturday against Texas Western. Nobody slugged him. Nobody knocked him out of the game. He gained 108 yards from scrimmage, scored two touchdowns, kicked three extra points. Arizona lost anyway, 41-21.
On Monday, Arizona's head coach, Warren Woodson, was on the grill at the weekly meeting of the Towncats. "Coach," a Towncat asked, "why did we pass on fourth down with two yards to go for a first down on Texas Western's five-yard line?"
All over the country, in spirit, football coaches winced. Woodson answered the question and then, seething, proceeded to do what every football coach in the country has wanted to do at one time or another. He told the downtown alumni off.
"You may not like it," he said, "but you're going to hear the truth. You think you are our supporters. You aren't. You're tearing the team down....I ask that you give us the privilege of coaching our quarterbacks. You have them in such a condition that they're afraid they are going to make a mistake almost every time they call a play....
"I know more about football than anyone here, and I'm smarter about football than you. Stay out of my business so I can do better."
He sat down. The Towncats stared for a moment and then rose as a body and burst into applause.
All over the country, in spirit, football coaches joined in.
The final item from Arizona was written in Tucson last Saturday when Art Luppino gained 180 yards against the traditional rival, Arizona State, made one touchdown, scored 10 points. His team won, 54-14, so for the moment the dust had settled in Arizona and the sun was smiling.
Walter Camp used to wait at least until after the Yale-Harvard game to announce his All-America selections. Modern pickers are not necessarily under such restraint. The NEA Syndicate issued its annual list last week—officially, the first of 1954:
End—Ron Beagle, Navy.
End—Don Holleder, Army.
Tackle—Jack Ellena, UCLA.
Tackle—Sid Fournet, LSU.
Guard—Bud Brooks, Arkansas.
Guard—Cal Jones, Iowa.
Center—Kurt Burris, Oklahoma.
Back—Ralph Guglielmi, Notre Dame.
Back—Dick Moegle, Rice.
Back—Howard Cassady, Ohio State.
Back—Alan Ameche, Wisconsin.
Unofficially, it looks like a grand year for almost all of these chaps. A well-in-advance copy of Colliers, dated Dec. 10, inexplicably reached a subscriber in Conway, Ark. last week. In nine choices out of eleven (including Arkansas' Bud Brooks), Colliers picked them the same way.
THE SUREST SIGN OF FALL
The trees are red, the hills ablaze,
The fodder's in the shock;
The turkey doesn't know it
But he's heading for the block.
The football season's on the wane,
December doth approach.
The frost is on the pumpkin
And the blast is on the coach.
Disgruntled grads are muttering
Across a frosty land;
The situation's fluid,
But they'll have it soon in hand,
The football team—they snarl—lost games
It should have won and so
It follows all too clearly
That the coach has got to go.
He lost, they note, to Notre Dame,
Ohio State, Purdue.
If Oklahoma trims him,
Then the lad is really through.
He's just as fine a person as
They'd ever care to know.
"...Don't get me wrong—I like him,But the bum has got to go."
And if I reach the pearly gates,
And climb the golden stair,
And catch the distant music
Of the harps upon the air,
I know I'll hear a booming voice
Within as I approach—"...We've had a crumby season,
Men, we've got to can the coach."
—Lenny Anderson in the Seattle-Times