THINGS TO COME
A convair with a six-foot-high baseball painted on its side came rumbling out of the deep purple haze of early evening over Los Angeles' International Airport. Barely had it landed when baseball's No. 1 space traveler, Walter O'Malley of Brooklyn, scrambled from his seat, hustled to the doorway and stood blinking in the glare of television lights and flash bulbs. As he did so, a roar went up from several thousand throats. Two bands tried manfully to drown each other out in rendering Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Photographers bellowed and cameras ground. Los Angeles, it seemed obvious, was O'Malley's. O'Malley flung wide his arms and beamed.
Everything that happened in the next few days seemed to confirm O'Malley's stage sense. O'Malley said the 1958 Dodgers would do okay, and the airport crowd cheered. O'Malley discussed indemnity payments to the Pacific Coast League with PCL President Leslie O'Connor, and the press applauded his fair-mindedness (although no one seemed to know what agreement, if any, had been reached). O'Malley visited the city council, and three councilmen who had opposed the Dodger move to Chavez Ravine turned up wearing "Welcome, Dodgers" neckties.
But it was when O'Malley toured the Los Angeles Coliseum that the logic of major league baseball's move to the Coast seemed most happily evident. It will take until 1959 to build the new Los Angeles Dodgers ball park in Chavez Ravine. Meanwhile, O'Malley indicated, the Dodgers may have to get along with such existing facilities as the Coliseum. Now, critics may sniff at the Coliseum's potential foul lines (shortest in the majors), but it is hard to sniff at the likelihood that when the Dodgers open the season on April 15, approximately 100,000 fans will be on hand to cheer them on.
Walter O'Malley, all smiles, had the look of a man who knew his new bride was rich, faithful and could cook.
HUMILITY IN CALIFORNIA
The california Golden Boy, Welterweight Art Aragon, was convicted last March of bribing an opponent to take a dive and was sentenced to jail. Out on appeal after a shattering night in the lockup, Aragon seemed to have undergone a remarkable personality change. Hitherto more brassy than golden, he seemed to have lost his facility for the irreverent wisecrack. Now the Golden Boy seemed to be trying to think before he spoke. He started to say something to reporters, then cut himself off.
"No, that would be flip," he said. "That's what got me into trouble. I got tried for being flip."
A California appeals court reversed Aragon's conviction last week, not because it necessarily believed him innocent but because the results of a lie detector test (which Aragon flunked) had been improperly introduced in evidence and because it felt the trial judge's instructions to the jury had been prejudicial.
The old-style Aragon would have greeted this reversal with a sassily triumphant wisecrack. But the new Aragon said gratefully, "I've never felt so humble." He may even have meant it. The past year was one of adversity.
Now Aragon wants to return to the ring. There are two hurdles in his path. The district attorney may decide to retry the case. The California boxing commission, noting that Texas suspended Aragon after being persuaded that he did indeed offer a bribe there, may choose to honor a sister commission's verdict and refuse him a California license.
If Aragon gets past these hurdles he will have good reason to feel humble. He will have good reason to turn his back on such cronies as Babe McCoy, the fence who became a matchmaker-fixer, and Frankie Carbo, the Murder, Inc. killer who became boxing's underworld lord. He might even learn to take a sporting chance in the ring and not try to insure his bets.
A WORD TO THE WISE GUYS
The small lesson Art Aragon may or may not have learned from his experience with dirty business and the courts can be extended to cover the whole field of boxing and, in fact, of all sport. It is a commonplace defense of boxing's dirty business that the sport traditionally attracts rough and ready types, rough in their ethics and ready for any kind of crookedness. Hence it is considered no great fault in a boxing man that he may from time to time have a cup of coffee with a Frankie Carbo. This is, in fact, the everyday defense of a Muggsy Taylor (recently reinstated as a Philadelphia promoter) or a James D. Norris (currently our leading promoter). Boxing commissions affect, as a matter of course, to accept the defense as a valid one, though many commission members are lawyers and all are presumed to be intelligent.
But every so often he who runs may read in the headlines of such events as the pistol impeachment of Albert (christened Umberto and known as Boom-Boom) Anastasia, who was murdered last week in a New York barbershop. The Anastasia murder makes it apparent that it is no less than indiscreet for a Norris or a Taylor, or any other entrepreneur of a sport that makes a pretense of decency, to keep company with mobsters. All sports in which gambling is an important factor, except boxing, make at least some earnest effort to keep the mobsters out. If not out, at least inconspicuous.
It is significant, therefore, that the New York police, investigating the murder of the man who directed murder for Murder, Inc., turned immediately to the questioning of men who were associated both with Anastasia, who was very high in the modern version of the Mama, and with boxing men. It is significant that the name of Frankie Carbo, Public Enemy No. 1 of decent boxing, popped instantly into the headlines. Norris and Taylor and Carbo have known each other for a score of years. Carbo, indeed, used to work for Anastasia as a kind of lethal clerk or errand boy.
Last week SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reported the kind of company Muggsy Taylor keeps. Twelve names of gangsters, all nationally notorious, were mentioned as admitted friends of Taylor, who is now once more licensed to promote boxing in Pennsylvania. This week, when Anastasia was murdered, the police questioned two of them—Frank Costello and Little Augie Pisano. Most of the others are now dead.
Muggsy Taylor, who used to send Christmas cards to Al Capone and began his sporting career as an Atlantic City steerer for a gambling joint, will very shortly take his place once more as the most distinguished of Pennsylvania boxing promoters. He will very likely, as in the past, have his name sounded in your living room by a television announcer as the honored associate of the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president) in the promotion of a big fight.
A TIP ON NIKOV
A proper russian named Grigori Gogoberidze has been lurking about Moscow's harness racing track, the Hippodrome, and has found it a slough of bourgeois immorality. Writing in Sovietskaya Kultura, the organ of the Ministry of Culture, Gogoberidze wields an abolitionist's ax at the tote board, which he considers the engine of racing's evils. He envisions instead a more seemly time when the Hippodrome will "be filled with genuine admirers of horses whose interests have nothing in common with betting." But he finds that the Ministry of Agriculture, which supervises breeding and racing, does not think it "expedient" to abolish pari-mutuel betting at present. "Why?" cries Gogo. "Profit!" he replies, darkly.
Gogo's description of the Russian racing scene has the quality of a Hogarth etching. "Drawn by a sick passion," he writes, "by the temptation of quick and easy gain," the bettors cajole the drivers in an effort to get them to disclose the next fix; phony tipsters prowl the grandstand, touting a different horse to each innocent and collecting commissions from the winners. The races rob youth of time as well as money, impoverishing some to such an extent that they turn to crime. He passionately inquires, brandishing a sheaf of tearful letters, how many become drunkards at the track bars, how many lose their wives and jobs.
But perhaps the high, ruinous times at the Hippodrome are not quite as Gogo depicts them. He mounts his soap box in the name of culture, but there is an intimation that he might be, after all, only a disgruntled two-ruble bettor. "Before you bet on Nikov," Gogo warns his readers bitterly, "first find out if he is drunk or sober."
AUTUMN JUNGLE OUEEN
For good, wholesome community entertainment—safer than a bonfire, cheaper than a carnival—you can't beat a runaway elephant. At least it has worked out that way around Windham, N.Y., where a 2½-ton, 13-year-old female elephant named Siam (see page 33) ran away from home on October 16 and threw two whole counties into a delighted uproar.
Windham lies in the Catskill Mountains, which probably offer the best terrain in the United States for a circus elephant to live in quietly, temporarily retired from public life. There are roots and berries and all sorts of leaves, which elephants love. There is plenty of water. The mountains are just the right size—too high for people, no trouble at all for elephants. If Siam spotted a posse laboring up the slope toward her, she could be three valleys away by the time the men had covered a few hundred yards. ("She doesn't run, she walks," said one searcher wearily. "But man, she takes awfully long steps.")
Hundreds of people, including housewives, journalists, state troopers and schoolchildren, took to the hills to find Siam. On sunny days the woods have throbbed with search parties, and overhead a farm machinery dealer named Virgil Phinney skimmed the ridges, flying low in his Piper Cub. Whenever he spotted Siam he threw out a roll of toilet paper as a signal to the hunters on the ground. As the long streamer writhed through the autumn air, various groups converged slowly on the spot beneath it. Sometimes they just found each other; but sometimes they found Siam. When this happened nobody seemed to know what to do except watch as the elephant strolled away again over the mountains.
Mr. Phinney logged some 15 hours of flying time in his search for Siam, and probably spotted her more often than anyone else. He reports her liberty look as a fit and happy one. "You should see her slide down a mountainside. If the bushes aren't too big, she just sits down on that big, broad bottom and scoots down the slope, using her forefeet as brakes."
Siam ran away in the first place because some galloping horses frightened her. She was being led to water (along with two other cow elephants named Delhi and Bombay) by her trainer, Alfred Vidbel. Mr. Vidbel and his wife, Joyce, had settled down on a Catskill farm to train the elephants through the winter. In the summer, they travel with a circus. The Vidbels are practically the only people who took their elephant hunting seriously. Siam belongs to the circus, not to the Vidbels, and she is valued at $12,000.
"We have a phonograph record with the call of a bull elephant on one side and a hippopotamus roar on the other," said Mr. Vidbel. "So we drove a sound truck up a mountain road and played the elephant call, but we got no answer.
"Then I loaded Delhi and Bombay on their trailer and hauled them into the woods. I was sure that if Siam heard them squealing and snorting, she'd come. But no matter what I did, I couldn't get a sound out of them. They clammed up on me."
Mr. and Mrs. Vidbel have spent their days in the mountains, carrying a rope and following Siam's enormous tracks. Their hope has been to get one end of the rope around the elephant's leg and the other around a sturdy tree. Once they got Siam staked down, they believed, they could lead her home with an elephant hook.
Sometimes, as the Vidbels climbed the slopes last week, Virgil Phinney sailed over them in his Piper Cub, throttled down the engine and shouted a word of encouragement or guidance. On the ground they were apt to encounter an impromptu safari, its members carrying such odd equipment—for an elephant hunt—as a .22 rifle, bird-watching glasses and a picnic lunch.
Siam has knocked over a few stone fences in her wanderings—her tendency is to walk through them instead of stepping over—but aside from that she hasn't done much damage. More than one farm wife has glanced out her kitchen window and seen the elephant pass harmlessly down the lane and out of sight.
When, on the 13th day of her freedom, Siam ventured down from the cold Catskill heights and was finally made secure, with the help of a chain, by Mr. Vidbel and others, Vidbel's expectation was confirmed: knowing Siam, he was pretty sure she would eventually grow tired of roots and berries and even freedom and would be heading home again to a good meal of grain, hay, carrots and potatoes.
Nothing in the sedate world of cruising yachtsmen is more carefully hedged with legality and circumspection than the charter of one's own boat—even to a close friend. Terry Jaeger, advertising director for Kennecott Copper, member in good standing of the New York Yacht Club and owner of the 52-foot schooner Serene out of New York, is a careful and traditional yachtsman. He rented out his lovely teak-planked ship for a fortnight or so last August to Joseph Schmitz of Chicago with all the formalities that were due, including the approval of the broker, inspection of Mr. Schmitz' merchant marine master's license, a personal chat with Schmitz and a sailor-to-sailor shake to seal the bargain. Jaeger and Schmitz are not likely to be as intimate again. Serene (see opposite page) is now weeks overdue and presumably far at sea.
The Coast Guard is sure Serene didn't sink offshore—they'd have found wreckage by now—and Jaeger is equally certain she didn't sink at sea. "Serene is a stout ship. They could lock themselves below and she'd sail them around the world," he said positively. Indeed, Jaeger is beginning to believe that he may be the victim of a thing rare in the 20th century. "I think it may be piracy," says Jaeger, whose personal serenity is understandably missing. "I've been talking to an admiralty lawyer and he thinks that that's what it might be. Anyway, we're looking it up. He says he can't remember ever having run across a case.
"The penalty for piracy," Jaeger adds, with a hint of satisfaction, "is death."
A seafaring man strolled into a sporting goods store near the Baltimore waterfront a few days ago and asked, in the most matter of fact tones, for a couple of pieces of unusual fishing equipment: some 600-pound test line and 500-pound test leader. "You going after whales?" asked the clerk, a little uncertainly. "If they'll bite," said the sailor. He wasn't kidding, and his request was not quite as unusual as it sounded. Steamboats were not made for fishing, but a real fisherman will not quit trying just because he is on a steamboat or because his mates feel (as most of them do) that he is "nuts—real nuts." There are few sporting goods stores that do not get occasional visits from sailors wistfully bent on curious equipment.
Fast ships tend to make bad fishing platforms; thus fishing sailors tend to ship on 12-knot freighters or plodding tankers. In essence, their method is simplicity itself—they just hang a fish line off the stern, check it from time to time, and hope.
For small fish, heavy butcher's cord will sometimes suffice—the line is made fast to a bitt and a slipknot tied in it farther along as a strike indicator. Some sailors, however, go for bigger game-sharks and barracuda—and one school of thought uses metal cable or chain for line and incorporates an automobile shock absorber into it to take up the jolt of big fish striking against the ship's speed.
An Alcoa executive reports that seamen in the company fleet have a rude but ingenious method of tiring big fish, which are not easy to get aboard a moving steamship—they attach a keg of nails to the line, throw it overboard, and let the fish "battle against that for a while."
The most common lure for steamship fishing: a piece of towel or canvas hung on a No. 12 hook. The lure regarded as a certain fish getter: a clergyman's collar.
Our plays win on the blackboard,
No scrimmage is our rule;
We beat our foes by air mail
In Correspondence School.
—IRWIN L. STEIN
"By the way, what's your blood type?"
CURRENT WEEK AND WHAT'S AHEAD
•The Trials of Tatum
Coach Jim Tatum has had a rough row to hoe since he returned to North Carolina, his football teams losing nine of 16 games, but last week he was really in the tall weeds as a result of dismissing three athletes for "conduct not becoming football players." The student paper promptly denounced him for "worse than Machiavellian tactics." Moaned Tatum in reply: "They just don't want football here."
•Filling the Vacuum Tube
Their Dodgers and Giants are gone, but New Yorkers will, most likely, still be able to watch the miniature version of the National League game on the TV screen. The Phillies are about to close a deal with WOR-TV to telecast 78 games to New York next season.
•Distaff Basketball in Rio
The U.S. won the World Women's Basketball Championship at Rio de Janeiro, defeating Russia 51-48 after both teams had reached the finals unbeaten. The U.S. squad was drawn from girls at Iowa Wesleyan and Nashville Business College.
•Near East Olympics
With Egypt a notable absentee, Lebanon had an easy time winning the Second Pan-Arab Games, which were contested for two weeks among nine Near East nations in Beirut's new Camille Chamoun Sport City. Lebanon won 31 gold medals to runner-up Tunisia's 24.