NEW YORK vs. MOSCOW
With world-famed Polo Grounds due to be converted to apartment buildings one of these years, the New York Giants have been scouting for a fresh ball park anywhere from The Bronx to California. Last week the Giants got a handsome offer to stay right in town. The Manhattan borough president, Hulan Jack, outlined preliminary plans for a vast new stadium he hopes to construct—with the assistance of private capital—in the heart of New York's West Side, within a good home run blast by Willie Mays from the Hudson River. The house that Jack wants to build on stilts astraddle a freight yard would cover an area of 2 million square feet, seat 110,000 in triple-decked stands and have parking facilities for 20,000 cars. The cost: $20 million. The Giants admitted that they were "deeply interested."
But Mr. Jack, who promised to have a citizens' committee discuss the venture with Giant Owner Horace Stone-ham before the week was out, was hardly planning to stop there; his dreams are not limited to baseball. Attracting the Army-Navy football game to New York is one of his plans. So is playing host to the next available Olympics.
Mr. Jack and his town will have to move fast. The 1960 Olympics have already been awarded to Rome, and the 1964 Olympics, at the moment, are heading toward any one of half a dozen great cities long at work to lure the event their way, cities like Detroit and Tokyo and Mexico City—and Moscow. To see how serious they are, one has to look no further than page 24 of this issue; construction of the magnificent 100,000-seat stadium in Moscow is already well under way and is only one part of a Russian super sport center which covers 334 acres—an area sufficient to cover Mr. Jack's mid-town Manhattan from Times Square and Grand Central Station up to Rockefeller Center, comfortably taking in the Broadway theater district on the side.
If New York or any other city hopes to beat that, it is time to get done with the talking, pick up hammer and shovel and get to work.
AGAINST THE TIDE
On Saturday morning, when Ken Venturi held a 66-69 and was four strokes ahead of Cary Middlecoff in the Masters, Calvin Griffith, president of the Washington Senators, called on Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States. Griffith presented Ike with a 1956 American League season pass, good for any game in any of the league's parks, in keeping with a family and baseball tradition begun in 1912, when old Clark Griffith gave a season pass to William Howard Taft.
Ike and Cal talked for about 20 minutes. Ike asked Cal how many games the club was going to win this year and Cal hedged. "More this year," he said, "than last." He struck a note of hope by observing that there were several young ballplayers on the club and that "by May the boys will be acclimated and we should know how we'll do."
The President said it was important for young people to get into sports and mentioned his own interest in the subject. That brought them to Little League ball.
It was fairly desultory talk, because on Saturday morning the minds of most sportsmen were turned briefly away from the mysteries of the coming baseball season to the more immediate mysteries of golf in Augusta, Ga. And, as sure as a six-inch putt, that's the way the preoccupied conversation in the White House turned. The baseball man and the golfer President wound up talking about golf.
THE LITTLE TIGER
Not all championship golf is played in the vortex of public excitement that whirls around the Masters (see page 28) and the other classic events on the male calendar. Topflight women amateurs such as Barbara Romack, who decorates this week's cover, often carry on their rivalries with little but the tall trees and the singing birds crowding the fairways and watching.
When Barbara Romack and her six teammates set sail across the Atlantic in late May to defend the Curtis Cup in the biennial series with the British women's team, they will hardly be more conspicuous than any other group heading for a close look at the English greensward. Each will have to abandon her normal routine for the best part of a month—Coed Pat Lesser, the National Amateur Champion, will be absent from her studies at Seattle University; Polly Riley will leave her job as assistant to a division manager at the Convair airplane plant in Fort Worth; Jane Nelson will take a furlough from schoolteaching in Indianapolis; and so on. Of them all, none is more earnest about her work, and her golf, than pretty Barbara, who must put aside her new life insurance business for awhile.
This can be the year of crisis in Barbara's golfing career—the season in which she discovers, at the ripening age of 23, whether she can recapture the 1954 form that made her the most promising woman amateur in some years. That was when she won the California State and the U.S. Amateur. But last year, when she was just on the verge of becoming an international sports celebrity, she failed to win a major tournament. Thinking it over on a practice tee at Sacramento, Calif. last week, Barbara lazily swung her four-iron and told SI's Dick Pollard: "I couldn't get a putt down when I needed it. I know how to putt, so there was nothing I could do about this fault. It was just between me and God and the green, and we didn't get together."
Barbara thereupon spanked a practice ball 150 yards down the fairway. "After last year's National Amateur I came home and made a vow not to pick up a club until I really felt like it. I'd lost the zest for golf. I didn't play for four or five months. Then I went to the Crosby [the Bing Crosby pro-amateur tournament]. I've been a little tiger ever since."
Unlike most of her famous predecessors in the amateur echelons, Barbara snubs the thought of converting her golfing talent into income. "I'll never turn pro, and I'll never quit playing," she insists. "I don't like the forced traveling the pros have to do. I like to leave my game on the course and have fun afterward. And I don't want to lose my love for the game by making a living out of it." That is where her job as a life insurance saleswoman is such a help. It keeps her in clubs and Pontiacs and plenty of smart clothes.
Right now Barbara is pondering her wardrobe for the boat trip to England. "You have to dress formally every night, and I don't want to wear the same thing."
Somehow, Barbara's plans bring to mind, by contrast, an essay on women's golf written by Britain's Lord Wellwood back in 1890. Wrote his lordship: "We venture to suggest 70 or 80 yards as the average limit of a drive...not because we doubt a lady's power to make a longer drive, but because that cannot well be done without raising the club above the shoulder. Now, we do not presume to dictate, but we must observe that the posture and gesture requisite for a full swing are not particularly graceful when a player is clad in female dress."
Obviously, his lordship had no reason to anticipate anything quite like Barbara, the clothes she wears and the way she cocks her club before belting a drive 220 yards down the middle.
FORECASTS AND PHILOSOPHIES
The Melbourne Olympics are still several months away but forecast and argumentative heat about them crowded even the baseball headlines last week.
Item: Senator John Marshall Butler of Maryland proposed a weird solution to the threat of Russia's state-subsidized competition at Melbourne. "We should do everything humanly possible to ban Russia and her barbaric goon squads from the 1956 Summer Games," he said. "These unprincipled disciples of the devil walked all over our youth at the Winter Olympics.... If American Olympic officials fail to protest the participation of the Russians...they will have automatically branded themselves as rank hypocrites." Senator Butler's analysis seemed to assume Russian "victory" at Melbourne and U.S. "defeat," yet—
Item: Emil Zatopek of Czechoslovakia, perhaps the most celebrated of Iron Curtain athletes, announced his guess as to the over-all winner at Melbourne—"the United States followed by Russia." Zatopek added that the United States would "of course" defeat the Russians if a dual meet were held. "American athletes are the best in the world," he said, "and they would be even better if more recruiting was carried on among American youngsters."
Item: Avery Brundage chose a text of his own—one that placed him considerably closer to Zatopek than to Senator Butler. Since, in the Brundage philosophy of sport, athletes and not nations "win" the Olympics, he was not overly concerned with the prospect of the U.S. "losing." "No country has better material than the United States," said Brundage. "No country has better facilities, no country has better coaches, and there is no reason why our athletes should not win if they are willing to apply themselves, work hard and make the sacrifices that are necessary for victory."
Ban the Russians from the Olympic Games? Brundage approaches such a question with old-fashioned missionary zeal based on old-fashioned American confidence in the strength of American products—whether in pig iron or ideas: "For 60 years...the International Olympic Committee has been preaching the tremendous value of national programs of physical education and competitive sport to any country, in building stronger and healthier boys and girls and making better citizens. Communist countries have adopted this idea enthusiastically. (Their motives will not be analyzed here....)" Moreover, "in Communist countries, sport provides an outlet, and sometimes the only outlet, for natural competitive instincts....
"It is not the strength of other people that we in the United States need fear. It is our national complacency and the softness in life, brought on by too much prosperity. If Russian success in the Olympic Games arouses us, and the rest of the world, to correct our own weaknesses and shortcomings it will serve a very useful purpose."
SAINT AND SINNERS
A man like Avery Brundage (see above), who often finds himself on the unpopular side of an argument, sometimes seems fated to be misunderstood. Moreover, for such men even applause can carry slightly ominous overtones.
So it was, last week, when the Republic of San Marino conferred upon Brundage a knighthood in the equestrian Order of St. Agatha, which entitles him to a military salute in San Marino. Brundage was pleased. He recalled that a couple of years ago San Marino invited him to be honorary president of its philately society. "They are great stamp collectors," he says.
They are also great admirers of St. Agatha, and rightly so. Had it not been for her there would be no Republic of San Marino. It would have survived as just another little wine, cattle and stone-producing community in the heart of Italy. St. Agatha lived in the third century, was martyred in Catania, Sicily in 251. You will ask why a Sicilian should be a patroness of San Marino. Here is why:
In 1739 the papal troops of Cardinal Alberoni entered San Marino with the conniving aid of a parish priest, and San Marino lost its independence. But only for three days. The Sanmarinese rose in arms and threw out the papal troops. The date of expulsion was February 5, which is dedicated to St. Agatha. And so, in memory of the event which restored the Republic, on every St. Agatha's Day the parish priest of Serravalle—parochial successor of the conniving priest—must carry a heavy picture of St. Agatha 10 miles uphill to the top of San Marino. Behind the burdened priest the people follow, singing the praises of St. Agatha and shouting epithets at him. No one may help the priest if he stumbles. The worst insult anyone can hurl at a Sanmarinese is "You helper of the priest on St. Agatha's Day!"
St. Agatha, like Sir Avery, was much abused but stuck to her principles. She was a beautiful and wealthy Christian girl and a staunch opponent of the pagan King Quintianus, who sought to force her to recant and to take over her wealth for himself. He tempted her with presents and flatteries but "she rejected all with disdain." He then turned her over to a courtesan, saying, "Subdue this damsel to my will and I will give ye great riches." After 33 days the courtesan quit. Quintianus had Agatha bound and beaten with rods, then flung on a bed of hot coals.
Nothing so dreadful as Agatha's trials has yet happened to Sir Avery, but he might consider. San Marino is now a tiny Communist island in a democratic sea. Its people still honor the Christian saint, to be sure, and the order is based on her illustrious staunchness. But it is conferred by Communists wearing the Christian mask to their own purposes. St. Agatha is being used. Is Sir Avery?
"I'll accept, naturally," Brundage says. "They're very active in sports, you know. They support very good sports programs in their schools, give a lot of money for it. This award to me is in a sense a tribute to international sports. There's no importance attached to the fact that San Marino is a Communist country as far as I'm concerned."
All right, Sir Avery, but be prepared to defend yourself at all times.
TEA FOR TWO
In the course of his visit to Russia for a report on Moscow's burgeoning sports program (see page 24), Horace Sutton paid a call on the former weight lifter who is now Vice-Chairman of Sports and Physical Culture of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, one Mikhail Mikhailovich Pislak. Over a glass of tea in Pislak's office, the two exchanged cigarettes (Parliaments for papirosi) and sports magazines (SI for Physical Culture & Sports).
Minister Pislak gave his estimate of Russia's Olympic prospects: "We will be better in Melbourne than we were in Helsinki. There has been some improvement in track and field. We're getting better in rowing and weight lifting and we haven't lost our position in gymnastics. We are better in fencing and shooting but we are still weak in swimming." Then came a surprise. Since it was first included in the Olympic program in 1904, Russia has never won a gold medal in boxing. This year, they hope to. Their top candidate: Richardas Yushkenas, a 238-pound, 24-year-old Lithuanian, currently the USSR's heavyweight champion.
With Parliament and papirosa smoke hanging overhead in a coexisting cloud and good will firmly established, Sutton ventured to ask if the minister would match Yushkenas "with our own champion, Rocky Marciano."
The answer came after a short pause for propaganda identification: "We have no professional athletes. Therefore, the match would be impossible."
COFFEE IN THE HAY
There is nothing like a good cup of coffee, many people brightly say, but it is a stimulant forbidden to race horses. Shortly after Morning After, a Maryland 3-year-old, won the first race of his brief life last month the Maryland Racing Commission had a puzzle on its hands. How did Morning After, who can't cook well enough to boil water, get caffeine into his system?
At a hearing which resulted in a six months' suspension for Trainer James McGee there were explanations of uncertain plausibility. Why, before that race, said Owner Gough W. Thompson, there was "a convention of coffee drinkers at the barn," as would be natural on a chill, rainy day. It was entirely possible, the defense contended, that someone had spilled coffee into Morning After's drinking bucket. And, Thompson said, Morning After, a superior mudder and consensus favorite, went off at $2.20—too low a price to inspire chicanery. What's more, he said, if you want to dope a horse give him something substantial, like cocaine. "Giving him caffeine," Mr. Thompson brooded, "would be like giving milk to a man who needs a shot of gin."
There was no suspicion of Owner Thompson and there was no effort to prove that Trainer McGee had anything to do with the caffeine. McGee, who was up against this caffeine business once before in 1945, was suspended only because he had not guarded the horse well enough to prevent the ingestion of caffeine whether by accident or not. McGee has asked the courts to revoke the suspension.
Dr. John A. Herculson, commission chemist, said it would be a perfectly simple matter for a horse to pick up drugs by nibbling around in dirty straw. Once he had a case of a horse, a nonsmoker, who continually showed nicotine in his tests. It turned out that his trainer was a constant tobacco chewer and a careless spitter.
Well, Morning After, caffeine-free this time, ran again at Bowie the other day. He won by four and a half lengths and paid $9.20. And a racing reporter, wandering into the receiving barn a few days before the race, found it dirty, relatively unguarded (no one knew who he was and no one asked) and crowded with people smoking, chewing tobacco and drinking coffee.
Into the welter of expert and amateur guesswork on the pennant races each spring comes the chill voice of the odds makers, unsentimental characters in Las Vegas and elsewhere who set preseason betting odds. The latest Las Vegas line:
For the record, the 1955 Las Vegas line picked the Giants and Indians.
They should have won the relay race,
With runners lither, lanker.
The trouble was, their anchor man
Forgot to hoist his anchor.
"Well, it is a little too muddy for gardening, isn't it?"
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
Still puffing from the exertions of his fourth sub-four-minute mile (3:58.6), Australian John Landy startled an admiring Melbourne crowd with a statement that he thought his best Olympic distance might be 5,000 meters instead of 1,500. "I shall enter both, however," he added, and trotted off for a weekend of chasing butterflies.
While U.S. tennis officials continued to shuffle and reshuffle prospects for the 1956 Davis Cup team without solving anything, a visitor from Australia dropped a few forceful names: Hoad, Rose wall, Fraser, Cooper, Anderson, Emerson. "They will give Americans," said Donald Ferguson, president of the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia, "rugged competition."
It's tune-up time for entries in the Indianapolis "500," and two famous teams which haven't had much luck are preparing to try again. The Novi V-8 Specials, unsuccessful in eight attempts, will be back—this time with rear drives. Italy's Ferrari, unseen at the brickyard since the dismal showing four years ago, unveiled a car specially built for Indianapolis.
While other track enthusiasts were looking forward to June and some stirring duels in the longer distances, followers of the sport's most rapid runners had eyes for only one meet: the Drake Relays, April 27-28. It is then that Bobby Morrow, Jim Golliday and Dave Sime may get together for the greatest sprint test since the days of Jesse Owens, Ralph Metcalfe and Frank Wycoff.
With Avery Brundage still "honestly concerned" over their ability to handle the 1960 Winter Olympic Games in a "first-class way," the determined sponsors of Squaw Valley got the additional $4 million they needed from the California legislature, prepared to go ahead with plans "to stage the Winter Olympics better than they have ever been staged before."