THE CALIFORNIA TRAIL
Not since the days of the Indians and the Conestoga wagons had the California Trail been so beset by perils and confusion. Los Angeles seemed just a tiny sand-hill town again, out on the edge of nowhere, its destiny uncertain, its citizens beset with doubts about their future. In Brooklyn, eyes that had acquired the westward look-were lowered again to the realities of Flat-bush and Ebbets Field. For all the Dodgers knew, carrier pigeons might be on the wing to California with the final news of where the team was going; in the meantime, modern communications appeared to have entirely broken down.
In the total absence of hard facts, strange discussions flourished. A Los Angeles County official revealed in tones of deepest shock that it would take $8 million to build a stadium where the Dodgers seemed to want it, in Chavez Ravine. This, he went on, would make it impossible to build the $6,500,000 zoo which some Angelenos preferred to National League baseball. Councilman Charles Navarro raised another question: what about mineral rights on the site of the proposed ball park? There seemed to be a largish pool of oil there; would this be Dodger property if the club moved in?
Even Mayor Norris Poulson seemed to be strangely in the dark. The best that he could tell his worried citizenry was that some team would eventually come. In San Francisco his colleague, Mayor George Christopher, was a bit more confident—after all, he had the Giants safely in the fold—but even so said querulously that it would certainly be better if California had two teams.
No doubt it would—and California was willing. Already the Giants had $2 million in their pockets for pay TV in the San Francisco area, another $350,000 for radio rights and more than $50,000 worth of advance ticket orders. Warming to their new-found heroes, San Francisco merchants were launching a "Say Hey! Cocktail," Giants shirts and caps and candy bars, and a Giants welcoming ball.
Brooklyn's Walter O'Malley seemed to hear neither the happy clink of coin around Nob Hill nor the worried noises of the Angelenos. He went hunting in Wyoming, and it took the cream of the Pony Express to find out where he was—which turned out, appropriately enough, to be up along the Continental Divide, at Rawlins.
Mayor Poulson promptly sent his ace negotiator, Harold C. McClellan, with a briefcase full of trading trinkets to try, once and for all, to close a deal. Obviously, the suspense couldn't last much longer. O'Malley's deadline for a decision—set by the National League—is October 1.
MOST HAPPY FELLA
As he lounged on a bed in Manhattan's fashionable St. Regis Hotel last week, wearing his thick, warm coat of muscles and a pair of red-figured white shorts, Pete Rademacher seemed as dreamily pleased with the world as a bottle baby with a tank car of warm milk. The lumps, bruises and contusions which were his only reward for fighting Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson were gone. So, it became immediately apparent, was any psychic trauma he may have incurred. Despite the fact that Patterson knocked him down seven separate and distinct times in Seattle last month, he has decided, in retrospect, that the champion is his pigeon; furthermore, he strongly suspects that he will be able to lure that luckless athlete into the ring again to separate him from his title.
In saying this, of course, he was saying that he has decided—"under the proper conditions," and with the sanction of that curious commercial enterprise, Youth Unlimited—to go on fighting professionally. It is extremely doubtful that his proper conditions exist at present. He conferred with IBC officials while he was in New York but nothing seemed to come of it. There was at least one good reason: when Jim Norris offered him $20,000 to fight any one of four leading heavyweights, Rademacher assumed the promoter really meant $50,000 and said so. But if the custodians of Madison Square Garden were critical of his sense of values, he remained placidly delighted with the whole disordered universe, including the IBC, and confident that things would go Rademacher's way in the end.
"I don't want to waste a lot of time fighting fellows I can knock out in a round or so," he said. "The IBC mentioned the No. 2 man, Zora Folley. Well, I beat him once [an amateur fight which was stopped because Folley got a bloody nose]. Eddie Machen—he's got about the same style. Willie Pastrano—he's a boxer and I like boxers; he's fancy, but he can't hurt you. That South American fellow, Alex Miteff, could. He's more of a puncher, but I'd fight him if it had to work out that way. I had lunch with Jack Kearns too this week. I have the impression that he's thinking of something for Joey Maxim. But I have a time limit on all this—maybe a year—and my real interest is working back to Patterson."
He rolled over on his stomach and peered happily across the footboard of the bed, apparently at a glistening future. "Who can he fight—and draw any kind of a gate—but me?" he asked himself. "I was ahead of him for four rounds," he went on, giving himself a couple not included in the official score. "I know in my heart and mind that the thing that beat me was condition. I was so busy promoting the fight that I didn't have time to build endurance. Patterson's speed stunned me but he didn't really hurt me. Look at me. My shoulders got tired, though, and so did my legs. I won't fight again until I'm ready to go 10 rounds."
If there was a certain illogic about this blithe interpretation of both the past and the future, it was difficult to say so, pointedly, to a man who had just turned the most illogical concept in the history of pugilism into a fullblown championship fight. Nevertheless, it was necessary to ask the large young man on the coverlet why he thought he could beat Patterson.
"He's easy to hit," he said. "I hit him with jabs all night. If the punch that knocked him down [and Rademacher will never agree that the champion tripped] had been two inches lower the fight might have been over then. As it was, it took his feet right out from under him." But he was contrite enough about the right he threw after Patterson got up—the punch the newspapers billed as his best of the fight. "I wasn't excited at all. I'd been taught what to do and I set him up. I feinted the left and walked up on him. Do that and you can't miss with the right. But I missed—he turned his head and it just grazed him." He sat up on the bed and put his arms on his knees.
"I saw the movies of the fight yesterday. They last 21 minutes and I was sweating all over the whole time. I kept seeing openings for the right. Rademacher didn't throw it."
OF MEN AND MACHINES
In case you have been worrying about the possibility that the calculating machines are imminently ready to take over from man, you'll be reassured to know that the machines are again bickering among themselves.
The latest story begins with the idea of a University of Pittsburgh publicity man named Beano Cook. He arranged for the university's IBM-650 computer to predict the results of Pitt's opener against Oklahoma on September 21. The keepers of the machine fed it a mass of data (weight and accomplishments of players, etc., etc.) on which the machine ruminated electronically, and in due course came the prediction: "Pitt by six points."
Apprised of this, Oklahoma's press agent, Harold Keith, decided to have his school's own new IBM-650, locally and affectionately known as The Idiot, make an educated guess on the same game. "Oklahoma 2 to 1," The Idiot said brightly. Oklahoma experts quickly converted this statement into a 12-6 or 14-7 margin for their team.
On statistical and scientific grounds, the Pitt people deplore The Idiot's findings. They feel that Oklahoma must have given him too much feed-back stuff about that 40-game winning streak—overlooking the fact that a lot of players who won for Bud Wilkinson in 1953 and 1954 aren't in Oklahoma uniforms any more. But, perhaps unscientifically, the Pitts are inclined to hedge. "Even machines," sighed Harley Thronson, IBM district manager in Pittsburgh, "can be affected by local pride. If I wager, I think I'll have to bet on Oklahoma."
The chilly waters of Puget Sound and other tidal inlets of the northwest coast contain the biggest octopi in the world—some of them are 15 feet in diameter and weigh 125 pounds. The skin-diver who encounters one of these monsters below the surface—even though they are rather shy creatures—almost invariably develops a burning impulse to swim away as quickly as possible. But three years ago a set of hardier divers decided that this natural discretion was nonsense and that they were simply avoiding a lovely new sport—underwater octopus wrestling. Although they have pursued this curious method of exercise in what one of them calls a "blaze of obscurity" the sport has spread fast—more than a hundred divers can now boast of having pulled an octopus to the surface.
In a small way, in fact, octopus wrestling has even become a competitive sport: last May a team of divers from Oregon visited Puget Sound and engaged in an octopus wrestling meet with Washington divers in the waters off Tacoma's Point Defiance. Thirteen beaked, eight-armed monsters were hauled up and thrown into rowboats and, because it seemed more sporting, none of the divers wore Aqua-lungs. Since state law governing spearfishing forbids sticking an octopus with any sharp instrument, none of the divers was armed.
Nobody has yet been drowned wrestling an octopus and very few octopi have been harmed, since skin-divers react to them much as anybody else—once they have gotten an octopus into their rowboat, thus scoring a victory, they wisely throw it back into the water. Puget Sound enthusiasts consider that anybody with a little sporting blood can wrestle an octopus and herewith list a few simple rules.
The beast should be brought into the open before the first hold is applied—throwing a little rock salt into its lair will bring it forth. At this point the diver begins grabbing tentacles with one hand and holding them in a bunch with the other—something like getting clothes off a line in a high wind. If the octopus fastens more than three of his tentacles to a nearby rock let him go—nothing in the world will pry him loose. If he wraps his tentacles around you don't worry—they leave no marks. But never, never let him peck you with his sharp beak. And never turn your back on him after getting him riled up. Once you have him—or he has you—just swim to the surface and you've got him licked. Actually, it's no harder than fighting your way out of a taffy pulling machine.
On a fall afternoon in Maryland some years ago now, a 31-year-old jockey with a face like a gnarled moon leaned down from a horse in the paddock at Pimlico and whispered to the coterie around him, "This is my last ride." And, as is supposed to happen in stories of this kind, the horse won. Thus Raymond (Sonny) Workman, back in 1940, ended his jockey career with a wisp of final glory.
This week, Sonny Workman got his name in the papers again. Along with Walter Miller (riding years: 1903-08) and Ted Atkinson (still very much up), Sonny was elected to the Jockey's Hall of Fame at Pimlico. Pictures of the new members will be painted and pinned alongside those of Isaac Murphy, Earl Sande, Tod Sloan, George Woolf, Johnny Longden and Eddie Arcaro.
In case your mind borders on forgetfulness, Sonny Workman is the man who rode Equipoise, Whichone and a garland of other fine horses while under contract to Harry Payne Whitney and his son C. V. Those were the days when Workman, besieged by a pressing weight problem, ran mornings to keep himself down to 114 and rode so hard in the afternoons that he spent eight pairs of breeches a season in straining combat. He won more than 100 stakes, 1,100 races and $2,800,000.
Today he is three times a father, four times a grandfather, an 85 golfer and a successful businessman. In racing's floating colony, most ex-riders stay on and train horses or become officials. But Workman, who saved his money, owns a group of apartment buildings in Washington, D.C. Although his blond hair has been shredded thin by 48 years of life, his weight has climbed to only 124, most of it still concentrated in his chest.
Last week, as Workman posed for pictures, he made a quiet statement: "I don't go to the races too much anymore. When my friends are going I might send along a bet. But I don't go. I don't like crowds." And he added in the tone of a man explaining his compensating interests: "I have two daughters who are happily married. I have a son, too, Raymond Jr. He's 18."
Someone asked Workman if his son would be a jockey. "No, I don't think so. He's 6 feet one and weighs 180 pounds. He looks down at me and says, 'Hi, Daddy.' It scares me."
Game No. 73" was the laconic listing on the ticket. But for the sentimentalists in the stands—who ranged from Toots Shor to the gauntleted motormen on hand to pilot the special subway trains after the final out—the game last Friday night was far more than that: it was the last night game that the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants would ever play against each other in the Polo Grounds.
The game was as routinely played as a spring exhibition—no ceremony, no lump-in-the-throat handshakes, no backward look at a great tradition and rivalry that dates into baseball's antiquity. The Brooklyns' Johnny Podres shut out the Giants quickly and humiliatingly 2-0 with three hits, sometimes throwing so quickly his catcher barely had time to squat between pitches.
In the right-field stands the young man with the yellow sport shirt and the bold eyes watched contemptuously. Wasn't he upset at the imminent departure of the team for San Francisco? "Me?" he snapped. "Naw! Why should I be? Here's the way I look at it. If I want to go to San Francisco, I don't hafta ask Horace Stoneham. 'N' if Horace Stoneham wants to go to San Francisco and take the whole flimflamming Giant team, he don't hafta ask me. Ya know what I mean? I mean, sure, I like the Giants, but if they're not here I'll go see the Yanks."
Farther back, three taciturn oldsters with rimless glasses and pale, wrinkled city faces sat quietly smoking pipes. They sat apart from each other and watched the game without emotion. An intruder wondered if they were holdovers from the McGraw era. The first one smiled. "No," he said carefully. "It's just a nice night for a ball game and it's the only one in town." The second shook his head. "I'm from the Willie Mays era," he responded. "I'll miss him. Not the rest of these donkeys." The third twinkled in the eyes. "I started coming here when Mel Ott played. And I guess I got in the habit. Now, I'll have to get out of it."
Finally, it was the ninth inning and Willie Mays had just struck out on three pitches. The loudspeaker sputtered. "Attention, please. At the conclusion of this evening's game, spectators will please remain off the playing field. Thank you." The remark stirred the fan in the yellow sport shirt. "Now, if that ain't a hot one," he pronounced. "Whotta they saving it for? Gonna graze cows here next year?"
A QUESTION, PLEASE, ON THE RED MYSTERY SHOE (SI, SEPT. 9)
When Stepanov and Kashkarov
Step into their shoes,
Stepanov steps high enough
To create front-page news.
Kashkarov, who has the stuff
To go as high, or higher,
Then takes off after Stepanov
With burning sporting fire.
Between the two they pierce the blue,
Twin partners to the eagle;
A stirring sight indeed to view,
But—is it strictly legal?
"Gracious! Obviously they don't count untidiness."
CURRENT WEEK AND WHAT'S AHEAD
Despite recent unpleasantness, Milwaukee is going confidently ahead with plans for a civic celebration of its first Brave pennant. Items: Lake-front fireworks on clinch night, parades when the Braves leave for the first Series game and when they return. Coming out of mothballs are the street decorations left over from the last time the pennant looked like a cinch.
•New York Plans Ahead
So far, the newest Yankee, Old Sal Maglie, has been of only minor use to the Yankees in their stretch drive, but his major usefulness lies ahead—he brings the Yankees a profound knowledge of Milwaukee batters.
•The USLTA Holds On
After a special committee recommended approval of an open pro-amateur tournament (and urged that it be carefully thought over) the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association hastily vetoed it. The committee found overwhelming public sentiment in favor of an Open, but a majority of the tennis fathers saw it as a dangerous and subversive idea.
•Trapping the President
Vacationing President Eisenhower took one look at the trap-pocked (132 of them) Newport Country Club and groaned. His best hole was the par-5 first, which he shot in four. After that: "Let's not talk about it."