California used to be fondly proud of Art Aragon, the welterweight known as Golden Boy. He had Hollywood looks, and he won an impressive number of victories over carefully selected opponents in the prize rings of the state. Lately, California has been having sour second thoughts.
On Dec. 18, Aragon was scheduled to fight Dick Goldstein in San Antonio, but the fight never took place, Aragon having developed a slight fever on the night of the bout. Goldstein then accused the Golden Boy of offering him $500 to take a dive in the fourth round (SI, Jan. 7). Lie detector tests and concomitant evidence resulted in Aragon's being banned in all NBA-regulated states and in the withholding of his 1957 California license. Last month a California grand jury indicted him on a charge of trying to fix the San Antonio fight, and last week a jury convicted him. Sentence is to be handed down March 21 and the rueful Golden Boy could receive up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both. It appears in any event—as a California official put it—that Aragon's boxing future is "very doubtful."
The prosecution offered a comment on the verdict. "Very definitely," said Deputy District Attorney William J. Ritzi, "the jury opinion indicates the thought that boxing is very dirty and should be cleaned up."
Illinois boxing commissioners have long taken the stand that nothing is wrong with boxing in Illinois. "If we had a local problem here," Commissioner Lou Radzienda has asked, "do you think we'd sit on our butts?"
The definitive answer came last week from Governor William (Billy the Kid) Stratton, whose appointments to the commission have always been notable. Notably, for instance, Radzienda, who is a friend of bookies. Notably, also, Frank Gilmer, who refereed the first Basilio-Saxton fight. Stratton's third: William Henry Feigenbutz, who came to aldermanic prominence in the reign of Mayor William Hale Thompson of Chicago and whose first connection with boxing was, appropriately, in the days when it was illegal and he was a trainer. Governor Stratton flipped a dollop of whipped cream on this strawberry by reappointing Radzienda.
Feigenbutz, it must be admitted, sounds like a commissioner, a man who is fiercely for the right and has no idea what's wrong.
"I'm for good clean fights," says Feigenbutz. "I'll do anything to straighten out the mess—if there is a mess."
And then, thinking back on his career, he recalls the time when he was Big Bill Thompson's alderman for the 45th Ward.
"I took my job seriously," he says. "Every Sunday morning I would drive through the alleys in my ward to see if they were kept clean by the garbage men. I had the cleanest alleys in Chicago."
Let Commissioner Feigenbutz regard Chicago boxing as a dirty alley.
SKELETONS AT 80 MPH
It is doubtful that any of man's contrivances give him so shocking an acquaintanceship with speed as a "skeleton"—the 3½-foot, 150-pound, tubular steel version of childhood's sled—which is used to run the curving and precipitous Cresta course at St. Moritz. Last week the cream of the Cresta runners—a daring brotherhood which includes barons, dukes and greengrocers—flung themselves, one by one, down the course's icy trough in the Grand National, biggest race of the season. Most of them reached fantastic speeds. But, as usual, none came close to the king of skeleton racing, a lean, 38-year-old former Royal Canadian Air Force wing commander named Doug Connor.
In winning the Grand National, Connor reached speeds close to 90 miles an hour. This was as expected. The winner, now the owner of an English aircraft engine overhaul company, has been racing only five years, but in that time, he has cut 6/10 of a second off a Cresta record which stood for 17 years (56.7 seconds for 1,320 yards, set by U.S. Airman Billy Fisk) and has won and rewon every major race.
The Cresta skeleton is a rigid sled with razor-sharp runners, and the driver steers and brakes it simply by shifting his weight and dragging the spiked toe of a heavy shoe behind him. How does one react as the sled plummets with its human cargo down the steep and glass-slick ice? To find out, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Correspondent Tom Dozier got coaching from Connor, and then, donning leather elbow and knee pads, helmet, shatter-proof goggles and steel hand shields, he took a skeleton down Cresta's swooping curves himself.
"For sheer thrill and the exultation that results from the conquest of fear," he reports, "there is nothing like the Cresta Run. The course is an ice-paved, five-foot ditch which drops 514 feet in its 1,320 yards. The steel skeleton, which weighs, with rider, about 300 pounds, simply takes off downhill at a speed horrifying to someone who is lying with his face three inches from the rushing, brutal ice.
"The sensation of tearing into vertically banked, 90° Battledore [one of the course's big turns] and then being thrown into the jolting whoosh of Shuttlecock [the next] before you have time to think is bad enough. But as you come out of Shuttlecock, smashing your steel-protected hands against the icy walls of the run, you zoom down a terrifying straightaway, directly at a narrow passage under a highway bridge. Then into a short, hard turn. Then into a narrow hole under a railway bridge and into two wrenching small curves called Scylla and Charybdis. By then you begin to feel it's almost over—and fly into a terrifying plunge called Cresta Leap, where the skeleton actually leaves the ice for half a second, and then—finally—into a long curve and past the finish line.
"Sweating in the freezing cold but exultant, I fell off into the snow and listened to my time over the loudspeaker: 69.3 seconds. A long way from Connor's 44.6 for that section of the course but O.K. for a novice. I was just a little shamefaced to learn that Baron von Oertzen, a World War I flying ace who now lives in South Africa, had come down just ahead of me and had beaten my time by a 10th of a second. The Baron is 63 years old.
"Connor says there are only two requisites to Cresta running: fearlessness and concentration. You must also know the course and have fast reflexes. But all I know is that the thrill is overwhelming and that there is nothing quite like looking back up from the bottom and wondering how—and why—you did it."
Correspondent Dozier did earn a couple of incidental rewards. Any man who finishes the Cresta Run (86 veterans and 161 novices last year) may wear in his lapel the Cresta's red-and-white badge of honor, which entitles him to 1) instant identification by fellow members anywhere in the world and 2) a 20% discount on champagne at St. Moritz' Kulm hotel bar.
The trout's stature as a game fish, and his place in literature and in the hearts and minds of generations of anglers, hinges largely on 1) his beauty, 2) his willingness to rise to an artificial fly and 3) the fact that he is strangely selective in his choice of insects and even worms and is difficult to catch. For hundreds of years he has provided man with a charming mystery. But in California, fishermen by the thousands have dispensed with sporting suspense: the state puts 7.5 million hatchery fish in its lakes and streams annually, and anglers have discovered that every one of them is a sucker for what might be described as a Dagwood bait—liver and Velveeta cheese.
Liver's appeal is easy enough to understand, since the trout are fed on it in hatchery ponds until they are planted in open water. Nobody seems to know just why they lose their caution when confronted with a piece of Velveeta, but ever since a 12-year-old began catching trout with it in San Francisco's Lake Merced the word of their easy gullibility has spread like wildfire. Last week, in an attempt to save both fish and fishermen from their own baser instincts, the California State Fish and Game Commission held a hearing at which the public was invited to show cause why both baits should not be forever banned.
"We'd save money if we just built fishing ponds at each hatchery," said Commissioner Carl Wente, a fly fisherman. "If all the public wants is fish, give them a net. We'd save on overhead. I never thought anyone would be so low as to use liver."
If male fishermen were abashed by this indignant summation—as some of them seemed to be—they were still stubbornly opposed to any ban of cheese and liver. To counteract it some of them asked their wives to advance a mom-ish and politically potent argument: that women and children are generally unskilled in the use of flies and lures, find natural baits distasteful, and, after all, have rights too. "It's a lot to expect the average woman to go fishing with worms," said Mrs. Armine Howey, a housewife of Summit, Calif. "They wiggle. Have you ever seen a hellgrammite? They're horrible." But males spoke up too. George Parker, chairman of the San Diego Fish and Game Commission, advocated "any kind of bait to get that 75¢-a-pound trout out of the water."
In the end the commission decided to ban liver—and, in fact, all meat of any bird or mammal—as trout bait but to allow cheese for at least another year. Although no mention was made of the fact, any other decision would doubtless have caused great pressure from commercial interests, since California fishing tackle jobbers have laid in $2 million worth of a new, unspeakably delicious bait: cheese-dipped salmon eggs.
Ah, Theodore Gordon! Ah, Izaak Walton! Ah, yummyness!
THE WAY WEST
In the previous chapter, the Brooklyn Dodgers were still located in Ebbets Field with a lease running through the 1959 season, but President Walter O'Malley was restless. He had gone on record as saying: "In 1960, we are going to play a full schedule of games somewhere other than Ebbets Field."
O'Malley had made it abundantly clear that the Dodgers' old home with its 32,000-seat capacity was substandard in terms of today's and tomorrow's baseball economies. If the place were filled for each of the Dodgers' 77 home games—an obvious improbability—the team would play to scarcely more people in a season than the Braves have averaged in their new Milwaukee ball park.
A third generation Brooklynite with all the local chauvinism of the species, O'Malley kept saying he wanted to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn. He has even filled the Dodger coffers to the point where they can afford to put up $4.5 million toward a new home in Brooklyn, but it will take about $8.5 million to build the kind of 50,000-seat stadium he wants, with a rollback plastic dome for all-year, all-weather sports. The additional funds would have to come from a public bond issue authorized by the City of New York. According to O'Malley's timetable, the project must be under way by next October, since it will take at least two and a half years to complete.
The feeling has been—particularly among the authorities who will have to okay such a municipal project—that O'Malley must be bluffing. The Dodgers move out of Brooklyn? Impossible.
Last week they had reason to think again as the latest installment of the Dodger saga was released. In a surprise deal cooked up between O'Malley and Philip K. Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, the Dodgers acquired the Cubs' Pacific Coast League franchise in Los Angeles along with Wrigley Field, the Los Angeles Angels' ball park. Reduced to its simplest terms, this meant that O'Malley had bought the Dodgers a prospective new home in Los Angeles on the contingency that New York City fails to make a new Brooklyn ball park feasible by October.
Only it isn't quite that simple. Take the seemingly elementary problem of moving the Dodgers from a playing field in Brooklyn to one in Los Angeles. First, they must have the unanimous consent of the seven other teams in the National League. And because of the expense of traveling to the West Coast for a short series of games, the other teams would be unlikely to consent unless one other of their number moved to a relatively nearby city. That focuses momentary attention on the New York Giants, whose Polo Grounds are to be torn down after the 1962 season to make way for a housing project. In lean years only the Giants' lucrative interborough rivalry with the Dodgers has saved them from financial migraine. When it was the turn of Horace Stoneham, owner of the Giants, to speak, he spoke: "After all, if we couldn't retain our rivalry, New York might not be so attractive."
As the possibility of major league baseball hove into view, Los Angeles was in something of a swivet. The local folk quickly conceded that their Wrigley Field, with a mere 24,000 seats and very little parking space, was too small for a community of nearly 5 million potential ball fans. They were already talking about spending $30 million to bulldoze an attractive site out of a narrow canyon called Chavez Ravine just a spit and a holler from city hall. There would be seats for 50,000 and parking space for 20,000 cars—a must in this completely motorized metropolis. It was even suggested that with the coming of the jet age, when the Atlantic and Pacific coasts will be only three or four hours apart, New Yorkers could get to a Dodger game in Chavez Ravine in less time than it now takes to reach Ebbets Field.
Five hundred miles to the north, San Francisco, the ancient rival of Los Angeles, was enjoying the same rosy dreams. Several years ago the city voted a $5 million bond issue to build a major league park in the downtown area just in case one of the eastern clubs might be interested in settling there. Last year the Boston Red Sox bought the San Francisco PCL franchise, but they could probably be persuaded to part with it if a National League club would put up something in the neighborhood of $3 million.
The next chapter in the serial will now have to be written by the City of New York some time before next October. Should they fail to get busy, O'Malley and his Dodgers will almost surely head west like so many other overcrowded, ill-housed Easterners. In that event, major league baseball will be a coast-to-coast reality no later than 1960.
NINE POINTS, CONTINUED
The big ten (more formally, the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives) has finally agreed on a code for financial aid to athletes that adds up as a practical marriage of realism and idealism. It took a year to prepare and revise (SI, Oct. 29), and even so four of the member colleges (Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State) had strong reservations when it came to voting for it. In slightly better than 10 pages, it lays down a set of rules—and penalties—that closely parallel many of the Nine Points for Survival advanced by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and Herman Hickman last August.
The crux of the Big Ten program is that it limits financial aid to a "student-athlete" to whatever it will cost him to get an education at the college he chooses. Hereafter, he is to get only enough money to cover room, board, books, tuition and such essential expenses as laundry. Any money he earns either on or off campus must be deducted from the total aid supplied by the college; and likewise, any money his parents can reasonably be expected to provide will also be deducted. What he earns during vacations is his own to keep, but any job he holds must be legitimate, i.e., he must actually do the work and receive no more than the going rate for that job.
"The important thing I see in this," says Assistant Big Ten Commissioner William Reed, "is that it is tied up with an educational principle. If we can get recognition of that principle—that athletics is a form of educational experience—it would solve all the other problems. It would distinguish college sports from professional ball."
Well, it is a good start, and the whole country will be watching to see how it works.
He puffed out his chest
At the strongmen's convention,
And set a new record
For airborne ascension.
"Well, Nostradamus, now do we get home?"
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
•Casey and K.C.
Casey Stengel, who not long ago said he contemplated no trades, shuffled off nine players to Kansas City for one strong-arm pitcher (Art Ditmar) and one possible relief pitcher (Bobby Shantz). For the A's, it was a hefty transfusion of major league blood, type O (for ordinary). It may relieve Case of the need for carefully dealing a tricky deck of pitchers again.
No one yet knows how fast Ron Delany can run the indoor mile. In the National AAU meet, Fred Dwyer and Laszlo Tabori, who hoped to beat him with a killing pace, took turns leading the pack, misjudged the pace (too slow), saw Delany sprint by in the last two laps for a comfortable (4:07) victory.
•A Lift for Navy
Navy, often a football power, has been held back in basketball because of its 6-foot-4 "ceiling" on midshipmen. Last fall Navy raised the ceiling to 6 feet 6; now the plebe team has four men over 6 feet 4, has won 13 straight.
•Campbell's Alligator Soup?
Seeking a site for a try at his own speedboat record (216.2 mph), England's Don Campbell may turn to Lake George, N.Y. He turned down Lake Okeechobee, Fla.: "It wouldn't do Bluebird much good if we hit an alligator at 250 miles per hour...wouldn't do the gator much good, either."