In the 171 years since Mont Blanc was first climbed, some 20,000 people have reached its summit, but never, until last week, by way of the Grand Pilastre. This impregnable bastion is a 5,000-foot precipice, 60,000 inches of rock and green ice jutting to the crest, towering just west of the shimmering, impassable Brenva Glacier.
Studying the Grand Pilastre, Walter Bonnati, 27, Italy's foremost climber, wondered why it had never been climbed. He suggested trying it to Tony Gobbi, a 43-year-old former lawyer, a master of ice climbing, as Bonnati is of rock climbing. Gobbi said he'd think it over. Five minutes later he said yes.
On July 31, Bonnati and Gobbi set out without advance notice, and that night pitched their tent at the 10,725-foot level on the plateau beside the glacier and directly below the massive wall that had never been climbed. Bonnati now understood why it had not been. "It looked bad," he said. "Our legs shook a bit."
6:30 a.m. Aug. 1. The climb began with the two men carrying 18 pounds of equipment, including 30 ice hooks, 40 rock pitons, five wedges, two ropes, two rope hooks, an Alpine tent and food consisting of sugar, chocolate, biscuits, condensed milk. Smooth rock rose 1,500 feet directly above them. Beyond the rock lay a 1,500-foot expanse of rock and ice, and above this, 2,000 feet of ice. There was not the faintest handhold on the smooth rock except in a narrow hollow funnel that ended in a half-dome.
Roped to Gobbi, young Bonnati led the way up the perpendicular funnel at the rate of about 15 inches a minute. At the dome, he could find no handholds nor any way out. The climbers had passed the point of no return; they could not climb down. Bonnati could not see the rock face on either side of the funnel to learn if a crevice existed on either side. He could not reach out to drive a piton into the rock face without toppling backwards into the void. After an hour he thought, "I can't stay here until my strength fails," so he lunged out blindly to the right. There was a small projection for a handhold and a crack for his right foot. "I was really very lucky," he said. On the left side of the funnel there was no projection of any kind.
After 12 hours, or 10,800 inches, Bonnati and Gobbi perched on a narrow ledge below an overhang to spend the night. They tried to eat, but could not swallow. The sound of water running inside the rocks tormented them all night.
Dawn, Aug. 2. Overhead lay the worst 50 yards of the climb, 1,800 inches of absolutely unclimbable rock, jutting forward at a 110° angle, a sheer drop of 2,000 feet below Bonnati edged sideways in search of an escape route. He said, "It was the worst fear I ever had to overcome."
Finding a crack in the rock face, he hung backward, pounding in pitons. Hour after hour the two men hammered pitons into the rock, clawed up, pulled out the pitons and hammered in more. They left one behind as a marker for future climbers.
Above the overhang, they were halfway up Grand Pilastre. On the ice, Gobbi took the lead, climbing at the rate of about two feet a minute. That night they wrapped their tent around them in an ice cleft. Again they could not eat; their throats were swollen shut.
Dawn, Aug. 3. Only 2,000 more feet, or 24,000 inches, lay above them in an ice-covered cliff. In a final push they mounted it at the rate of six feet a minute, topping the crest of Grand Pilastre at 10 a.m. Eight hours of routine climbing lay ahead, and at 6 a.m. they reached the top of Mont Blanc.
They had accomplished one of the greatest feats in Alpine history, surmounting the most forbidding, most dangerous and most spectacular flank of the highest mountain in the Alps, and finding the first new route to its summit in 87 years.
RULE OF THUMB
The recent furor over National League umpiring has given rise to a new baseball statistic. Just before he was fired as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bobby Bragan protested bitterly against the Frank Dascoli umpiring team (umpires work in four-man teams; each team is named for its senior member). Bragan claimed the Dascolis were unjustifiably short-tempered and had tossed out 30 of the 40 men bounced out of National League games this season.
Warren Giles, president of the National League, rejected Bragan's protest and denied his figures, but obstinately refused to issue any official recounting of thumbings by his four umpiring teams.
Giles should have known better. The baseball fan likes nothing so much as a new pile of rich, ripe statistics to play with. Herewith, then, as a public service, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED presents Bounce Standings, an accurate account of this season's umpiring activity to last week. The figures do not include six American League and nine National League players who were expelled automatically from games for fighting, but only those who personally roused the ire of the ump and saw his thumb.
Maybe the Paparellas and the Dascolis could meet in a Bouncing World Series, with a suitable trophy, perhaps a gold-plated thumb, for the winners. It would be called the Bobby Bragan Trophy, naturally.
The city of San Francisco, a gay old girl with a good deal of money, seemed to be having last-minute qualms about marriage with that fortune hunter from the East, the New York Giants baseball club. As her first flattered excitement at love letters from the Polo Grounds began to subside, a good many of her citizens began to wonder 1) if the Giants were really anything much but Willie Mays, 2) if an American League team mightn't prove much more compatible—San Francisco has produced scads of American League stars, 3) if they really wanted to put civic funds into a baseball park, 4) if they really wanted to pay to watch baseball on Skiatron and 5) if they wouldn't be sorry when that grand old minor league baseball name—the San Francisco Seals—vanished forever.
But despite the skittishness of the bride-to-be—a natural enough reaction in a wealthy older girl contemplating a second adventure in matrimony—the wedding finally began to seem certain. The marriage broker, Mayor George Christopher, remained firm. He sent a letter of definite intent to the Polo Grounds: the city (which badly needs a new stadium) proposed to build a 45,000-seat baseball park and rent it to the Giants for 7% of box-office revenue; the city would operate its parking lots and let the Giants profit from in-the-park concessions. The ambitious uncle of the groom, Horace Stoneham, sighed with satisfaction, prepared to lay the proposal before his stockholders and planned to come to San Francisco to mediate further soon. An autumn wedding is anticipated.
MIST IN CHICAGO
The last time we tuned you in on Trainer Jimmy Jones of Calumet Farm (SI, June 24) he was getting ready to quit the East for Chicago in a particularly happy state of mind about his 2-year-olds. Well, so far this season Calumet horses have won considerably more than a million dollars for the stable, and Jimmy Jones is still in a happy mood but he has still not used many of those 2-year-olds. A SPORTS ILLUSTRATED correspondent caught up with Jimmy the other day at Washington Park just as he was uttering one of his customary low moans about the way handicappers load the weight on Calumet horses. Jones had just saddled his 3-year-old filly Rosewood for the Misty Isle Handicap, and the mist gathered in Jimmy's voice. "See that Romanita, the No. 4 horse?" he asked. "Going in at odds of 6 to 5 carrying 122 pounds. If she were our horse she'd be 1 to 2 with 126 pounds. Yes, sir, don't waste your money on our horse, the 4-horse is too good."
One minute and 35 seconds later Calumet's Rosewood, carrying a modest 110 pounds (most of it Willie Hartack), came home at odds of 5 to 1 and added another $13,025 to Calumet's earnings for the year. Jones put down his binoculars. "Excuse me," he said. "I have to go down to the winner's circle."
Ten minutes later he was back, composing his face into grave lines for a discussion of those Calumet 2-year-olds. "Well, you might say we have a nice-looking group of 2-year-olds but they're awful slow to come to hand. They're nice horses but they're having trouble with ankles and ligaments. Oh well, anybody who messes around with young horses is going to have this kind of trouble."
Sipping a gin and tonic without gin, Jimmy went on: "I know I said a couple of months ago that our 2-year-olds would go to town in the fall. Well, thing is, we haven't needed them. If we used 'em hard now it would be at the expense of next year. The form we're trying to reach with each of them is a very delicate thing, more delicate than a lady's wristwatch. I'd say our best 2-year-olds are Kentucky Pride, Tim Tam and Temple Hill. They're Derby candidates, but you can't tell what injuries will do."
Somebody remarked that Kentucky Pride had run twice and won twice, the first time by five lengths and the second time by six, and had already been named by one knowledgeable race writer as "a cinch to win next year's Derby." "Yes," said Jones almost with sadness, "he looks like he'll come along."
Somebody brought up turf races. "Turf races make me nervous," said Jimmy. "They're just plain dangerous. Three years ago we raced a good horse, Mark-Ye-Well, at Washington Park and he came up lame and never started another race. The horses kick up divots; you can't replace them. And when the grass is wet it's too slick for racing. You take an awful risk."
Ah, yes, observed an observer, but wasn't the American Derby, a turf race worth about $104,000, coming up August 31 and didn't Jones have an eligible 3-year-old named Iron Liege who doesn't seem to mind whether he runs on dirt, water or possibly even broken glass?
"There's a lot in what you say," said Jimmy, "and I won't say Iron Liege won't run in that race. When they start handing out that kind of dough you got to think two, three times. You got to think 20, 30 times. It's a borderline decision.
"It's like Kipling says: 'There's times that you think you mightn't, and times that you know you might. But the things that you learn with the yellow and brown, they'll help you a lot with the white.'
"Don't use those two last lines, though. Kipling was talking about his girl friends and it might make him look bad." And Jimmy waved himself off.
Tens of thousands of fight fans are currently engaged in a fascinated remote-control psychoanalysis of the Olympic heavyweight champion, Pete Rademacher, who will fight Floyd Patterson, the real heavyweight champion, in Seattle this month. What sort of martyr, they want to know, not only books himself a battle with a lion (see page 10) but takes care of financing the spectacle too? Last week a good many citizens of Charlotte, N.C. had reason to believe they had discovered a bubbling spring of the purest dope; one Neil Wallace, a 30-year-old heavyweight who is essaying a local comeback, came home after training, dining and engaging in long conversations with Rademacher at his Georgia camp.
"What," he was instantly asked, "are Rademacher's weak points?"
"Pete treated me awfully good in Georgia," he said. "I'd rather discuss his strong points."
"What are they?"
"He's big and he can hit."
"Can Rademacher be hit?"
"I sure liked the food down there," said Wallace. "Lots of steak and beef stew."
"Is Rademacher poised? Tricky?"
"Pete seems to be a wonderful guy. He has a good thing going for him."
"What did the people in Georgia think of him?"
"They kept saying, 'He beat the big Russian [Lev Moukhine of the Russian Olympic team], didn't he?' "
"Do you personally feel he has a chance?"
"I wouldn't like to say. Pete was too nice to me."
"If you were fighting him tomorrow, who'd you bet on?"
"Now that's different," said Wallace (who won 18 of 21 professional fights, and then took a seven-year layoff because of brittle hands). "I'd sure like that chance for about one one-hundredth of what he's giving Patterson. Like I say, Pete's a good boy. I'd be inclined to bet on myself."
While the Chicago White Sox were sneaking up on the New York Yankees and the five-team melee continued in the National League last week a premature football game stole the stage in the Midwest. Some 75,000 sat in wet content in Soldier Field, Chicago to watch the New York Giants, champions of the professional world, down the College All-Stars 22-12. (The White Sox, playing Detroit at Comiskey Park earlier in the day, drew 7,938.)
It was, of course, pro football's annual reminder and appetite-whetter for the season to come, and the game went as most of these games go—the pros sparred for a quarter analyzing the All-Star offense and defense, and then, discovering that the All-Star secondary was no match for professional pass patterns, gave the collegians some painfully effective lessons in the subject, with the veteran passer Charley Conerly as head instructor. For the All-Stars, Stanford's John Brodie played quarterback with aplomb, passed nearly as well as Conerly and, justifiably, was selected as the most valuable of the collegians.
At the half, last year's most valuable All-Star player received his trophy. He was Bob Pellegrini, the Maryland linebacker, and he was as confused as the current All-Star secondary defense. He thanked his coaches and teammates and parents and wound up by saying, "But most of all I owe thanks to my dog." This caused a rustle of questioning in the wet stands and was never explained to the 75,000. According to the script, what Pellegrini meant was, "But most of all I owe thanks to my God."
One of the big problems in advancing American tennis is just spading up the ground: finding, in the vast reaches of the country, the young players who ought to be guided, encouraged and watched. Some of the best help yet to turn up in solving this problem has come from the National Junior Chamber of Commerce. Its fourth national tournament for juniors and boys wound up at Santa Monica, Calif. last Saturday after beginning, weeks ago, with local tournaments in which 40,000 young players took part. Those who survived the state eliminations were sent on to Santa Monica—and they arrived there from 45 states, Alaska and Hawaii.
The two champions this year are Paul Palmer of Phoenix, Ariz. (boys) and Allen Fox of Beverly Hills, Calif. (juniors). Fox and Larry Nagler, of Roslyn, N.Y. ( who also reached the junior finals), will automatically be added to the USLTA's Junior Davis Cup Squad, the rest of whose members are already assembled and under the guidance, for the next four weeks, of William F. Talbert and Jack Bushman.
The cost of this year's tournament—$15,000—was covered by Motorola, Inc. The local Jaycee groups provided organization and manpower, and the entire effort came off resoundingly well: 40,000 kids got a pat of encouragement and a chance at tournament play. And the Jaycees reached all the way down to the small-town, grassroots level where many of the country's best athletes are found—-a level tennis has rarely reached in the past.
The runner touched first
And it promptly exploded;
He should have remembered
The bases were loaded.
—CHARLES E. HALL
"Now let me get this straight—they pay him a salary of $70,000 and then toss him out of the game?"
CURRENT WEEK AND WHAT'S AHEAD
•The West: 1-2-3
Detroit, once the monarch of all the unlimited hydroplaning she surveyed, was shut out in the Gold Cup. Seattle entries finished one (Miss Thriftway), two (Shanty I), three (Maverick). Best Detroit could do was fifth (Short Circuit).
Apprised that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip will attend the Oct. 19 Maryland-North Carolina football game during their state visit this fall, Terrapin Coach Tommy Mont vowed, "We got pretty badly licked last year (30-6), but it won't happen again this year."
•Something Old, Something New
For the 21st straight time U.S. women defeated the British for the Wightman tennis cup. More newsworthy: a Negro, Althea Gibson, represented the U.S. for the first time. This made the Chevy Chase, Md. club a hesitant host, so the matches moved west of the Alleghenies—another first—to Sewickley, Pa., outside Pittsburgh, where they made a profit—the first since World War II.
Ray Eliot, Illinois football coach, reflecting on a trip behind the Iron Curtain a couple of years ago, told a congregation of fellow coaches at the University of Virginia that he was in a position to advise them: "Get down on your knees and thank God even for the alumni."