EVENTS & DISCOVERIES - Sports Illustrated Vault |
Publish date:



S. 3282

Senator Ed Thye of Minnesota took an action last week that could make him the patron saint of Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle and thousands of other professional athletes. What did Ed Thye do? He dropped in the hopper of the U.S. Senate a bill (S.3282) to allow professional athletes a special income-tax deduction "for depletion of physical resources." If the Thye bill goes through, the Congress of the United States will have written into law the recognition of a rather obvious point: that a professional athlete does give out eventually, just like an oilman's oil well.

Beautiful, Schemin' Squaw

Within Hours, a traveler heading westward from Nevada to the Pacific can pass from burning desert sands through mountains blanketed with snow and into valleys lush with greenery, for the area surrounding California's Sierra mountains offers weather and topography as varied as any in the world. Perched in the very heart of this climatic kaleidoscope is Squaw Valley, the relatively unknown winter resort that was picked as the site of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games.

Since the Games will be held in mid-February exactly two years from now, mid-February seemed a good time to look over the site. Hence, last week, Nevada newspaperman Guy Shipler joined a group of reporters riding a wayward bus along the 45 miles of mostly two-laned and often pockmarked road from Reno, the nearest city, to the valley. "Our self-guided tour," he wired SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, "made two points clear. First, though there has been no big construction to indicate much progress yet, there is little doubt that the valley itself and the Olympic village will be ready in time. Second, though the $8 million construction program will amply care for the athletes, it makes little or no provision for the 35,000 spectators who are expected to journey out to the site each day."

Shipler, like many another local resident, was most worried about the fact that present plans call only for a widening of the single road that is the only entrance to and exit from the valley. What would happen, they asked, if the kind of unheralded blizzard that brought death to the Donner party in the same region last century and held a Southern Pacific train snowbound for five days only seven years ago should suddenly blow up?

The weather in Squaw has been unseasonably mild this February. Last week it was raining in the valley when the reporters arrived, but on the chair lift just over their heads the clothes of passengers turned white with snow driven by ah icy blast of wind. A quick drop of temperature of even a few degrees could well have blocked their exit. Soft, moist Pacific air, whipped over the sharp mountain ridges, has been known to dump huge quantities of snow into the valleys almost without warning, giving the Sierras the highest average fall in the U.S. Ceaseless high winds in the area pile up the result in drifts that defy all removal equipment.

It is certain enough that there will be sufficient snow in Squaw Valley for the winter Olympians of two years hence. Chances are the spectators will watch them in crisp, fine weather. But what if a storm comes up? "These mountains," a valley man whose dog team has rescued many a stranded traveler told Shipler, "is like some women, schemin' and calculatin' underneath, but all you see is that still, soft beauty on a bright, blue-sky day. Then, first thing you know, she's changed her mind and the snow's comin' down horizontal and the wind's roarin' and she's got you pinned to the wall and you've had it."

Casey Warms Up

The spring training season is in its early stages, but Casey Stengel is already in advanced form. The Yankees' manager, like all men with a flair for comedy, revises his material to match the times.

At the Yankees' rookie school in St. Petersburg, Casey was admiring the booming drives hit by Deron Johnson, currently the most fabulous rookie the Yankees admit to having under contract.

"Reminds me of Judnich," said Stengel to no one in particular.

A baseball writer, puzzled, asked, "You mean Walt Judnich, the guy that played with the St. Louis Browns and Cleveland?"

"No, no, no," frowned Stengel. "He hits ' em like that thing the Russians shoot up into the air."

Oh, No!

If there's anything worse than being defeated by an ancient rival, it's having him be nice to you about it afterward. According to an alumni newsletter just sent out from Cambridge, no less than two Yalemen have recently made sizable donations to Harvard's stepped-up fund-raising drive. What made this difficult for some loyal Harvardmen to endure, in a year when the memory of a 54-0 defeat at the hands of the Big Blue still rankles, was the fact that one generous Yalie had noted on his $1,000 gift: "This donation is so completely unrestricted that I wouldn't object if you used it as a down payment on a couple of reasonably good football players."

Something New Every Day

The chubby Argentine with the firm foot and the gentle manner was unusually expansive the other afternoon as he guided his Chevy sedan through the traffic of Buenos Aires. Juan Manuel Fangio, balding at 46 but still the best race-car driver in the world, drove cautiously.

"I've decided to give up racing, little by little," he was saying to a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED correspondent who tagged along. "In short, I won't try to win the world title again this year. I plan to compete only in two or three races to which I am bound: through old loyalties. I now want to get out of racing altogether. All my time is taken up by my auto sales and service business."

Fangio drove on, his eyes attentive to the traffic. He kept a proper distance from the car ahead of him and on his side of the road, moving as discreetly as a fellow driving without a license.

After a time he went on. "I am not the world's best driver. There are plenty of good ones. I never won a' race because I am a better racer than my rivals. It's just that I drove the best car. When I won with a bad car it was simply because the other cars were worse than mine. There is no secret in driving racing cars. The clue lies in trusting the car and having confidence in yourself.

"However," added Fangio, "you learn something new every day."

Fangio might almost have had a premonition. A few days later, in Havana, he learned that his name and fame had made him a piece well worth the capture in the rough-and-ready chess game of Cuban politics.

Fangio was chatting with friends in the lobby of his Havana hotel Sunday evening. He and his Maserati had just turned in the fastest time trials of any for Monday's Grand Prix along the Malecon when a stranger shoved a .45 into his back and told him to march straight ahead. Outside was a waiting car. Fangio and his kidnaper were driven off at something more than the speed Fangio himself prefers in municipal traffic.

Telephone calls soon after presented an explanation of sorts. "This is the 26th of July speaking," the voice said. "We kidnaped Fangio." Why? The voice on the telephone gave no answer, but Cubans understood. Agents of the rebel leader Fidel Castro had found a way of proving in headlines the world over that President Fulgencio Batista can not insure the peace and safety of Cuba.

Monday came and no Fangio. As the 2 p.m. race time approached, rumor and counterrumor swept through Havana. Fangio had been released in a suburb. He was being hustled to the Malecon starting line with a strong police escort. Fangio had not been released after all. Meanwhile, the race got under way. No one will ever know who might have won, for not long after the start a small Ferrari plunged from the course, cutting down ranks of bystanders. Moments later, five more cars skidded on the course—oil, spread by rebel sabotage or from the racing cars themselves. The rest of the race was called off.

Wherever he was at that hour, Juan Manuel Fangio was entitled to feel more than ever attracted to his auto business in Buenos Aires.

Fat Purse for Cockell

Freedom of the press is a concept interpreted variously in the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Here it is considered fair comment when a boxing writer, serving as critic and expert evaluator for the fans, accurately describes a pudgy pugilist as "overweight and flabby" and holds that he did not train properly. It is indeed the American sportswriter's duty to report such deficiencies.

Don Cockell, the former British heavyweight champion who bellied his way through nine dreadful rounds against Rocky Marciano at San Francisco in 1955, picked up a $21,000 libel verdict against London's Daily Mail last week because the Mail had described him and another fighter as "two fat and horizontal lie-abouts...who went into the ring overweight and flabby, which is why both finished in the second round." Cockell, said the newspaper, had not troubled himself to train "as he should."

Much worse has been written about American fighters—the comparable Tony Galento, for instance—without a murmur of protest, but Cockell sued and won. Fat? He was just naturally thick-set, said Cockell, "overweight right from a child." Those belly rolls, explained counsel, were muscle. Train? "I trained as hard as I could," though, to be sure, he did not care for roadwork in wet weather and regarded running as "an occupational disease" which must be put up with.

So the jury found for Cockell, and British sportswriters now will think twice before they call a pot a pot. The inability of the British press to criticize fighters like Cockell adequately because of restrictive interpretations of libel may have something to do with the fact that insignificant nonentities like Cockell and Joe Erskine, champions both, are actually superior representatives of the sport in Britain.

The First Bounce?

Mrs. John Dusenberry, an attractive young archaeologist with New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, was supervising a digging in a muddy cemetery on the Greek island of Samothrace last spring when her native workmen quite suddenly burst into laughter. "A soccer ball," said one, beside himself with hilarity. "A volleyball," said another, handing her up a small, round object. "A basketball," cried the delighted Mrs. Dusenberry, being an American.

Necropolitan levity is not, of course, the usual thing with archaeologists and their laborers. It was produced here because the terra-cotta sphere had such a remarkable likeness to a modern ball. This, apparently, is sufficient in the rigorous and sober world of excavation to beget a bigger boff than a Bob Hope one-liner.

Because of other models Mrs. Dusenberry and her crew had found in the graveyard—such as miniature pomegranates—the ball was immediately accepted by all of them as a replica of something considerably larger. It was one and a half inches in diameter and was marked off in polygonal sections representing leather panels. Along one seam was a short, narrow ridge, flanked by rows of depressed dots. The ridge, Mrs. Dusenberry surmises, was the opening where the ancient Samothraeians inserted an animal bladder, and, after they blew it up, the ball was tied together with thongs laced through the holes, depicted as dots on the model.

Mirth aside, what was astonishing about Mrs. Dusenberry's discovery was that it was the earliest evidence of a pneumatic ball in history and, indeed, the only replica of one ever found. Until its discovery, the first reference to a pneumatic ball was contained in the writings of the Roman epigrammatist Martial (circa 100 A.D.), who refers to a follis or bladder suitable for use in games by the very young or old on account of its lightness.

Mrs. Dusenberry's ball was manufactured about 280 B.C. when Samothrace was the center of a celebrated mystery religion. The island had no commerce or industry to speak of then, making its living off the tourists who came there to be initiated into the beneficial mysteries of the cult. "There was no athletic significance to the religion," Mrs. Dusenberry says, "outside of the wild dances they presumably had."

The ball was found in the remains of a large jar in which two people had been interred. "One of them must have belonged to some ball club, I suppose," says Mrs. Dusenberry. She is versed in such matters, having been a Giant fan until the team moved west. "I gave it up then out of pique," she explains bitterly.

There is no hard theory accounting for the presence of the ball in the grave. One hypothesis is that the Samothraeians buried objects with the deceased which they used in life and which were to be employed in the afterlife or on the journey to the next world. Although one can readily imagine the occupants of the jar munching pomegranates while outward bound, Mrs. Dusenberry agrees that it is somewhat farfetched to expect that they were intended to play catch.

Never Say Fluke

Will fishermen in New England waters stop saying scup and start saying porgy? Will those around Chesapeake Bay refer to rockfish by their proper name, which is striped bass? Will Long Island charterboats cease advertising that fluke is plentiful when they mean summer flounder? If so, the Outdoor Writers Association of America, which has just published a revised list of proper names for game fish, will be grateful.

The Outdoor Writers are trying to put some order into the nomenclature of fish around the country and off its shores. To that end, they have compiled a booklet entitled Standard Check List of Common Names for Principal American Sport Fishes. (For copies, write OWAA, 7 St. Paul St., Baltimore 2, Md.)

It is high time, the writers suggest, that people stop calling the swordfish a broadbill. Regretfully, they also advise, it would be better to lump certain favorites of the legendary small boy with tin can of worms and bent-pin hook into one broad classification. Thus, the bluegill, stumpknocker, pumpkinseed and shellcracker henceforth would be known as sunfish.

In some cases the writers have put off taking a definite stand. They find fishermen about equally divided on the question of weakfish vs. sea trout, and so they have listed both names as acceptable for the time being.

An introduction to the list expresses the hope that writers and all others having occasion to discuss fish will go along with the new list and that, in time, all traces of sectionalism will vanish from fish stories.

In Washington, Dr. Lionel Walford of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to comment on the new list. "People," he said, "will probably ignore it. If you tell people in northern California that henceforth they are fishing for rockfish, they'll tell you to go soak your head. They'll go on fishing for striped bass."

The doctor got it backwards (the writers are trying to standardize striped bass and not rockfish), but his point is clear, nevertheless. Anyone for scup?

No Script

The Switchboard at station KTVT in Salt Lake City began humming almost as soon as the 90-minute show was over.

"Exciting," the callers said. "When will you have more?"

The calls were in response to an experiment made by Paul James, sports director of the station. He had televised a college wrestling match between the University of Utah and Brigham Young, on the hunch that old-fashioned, unrehearsed wrestling, in this case, college wrestling, would prove a welcome relief in the era of pro wrestling circuses.

The hunch stood up.

Next day the station was flooded with letters all asking for more such shows. James is pretty sure he'll do it again, although he might have to stage it outside the studio to handle the live audience. A crowd of 150—largest ever to watch college wrestling in Salt Lake City—turned up at the studio to watch the matches.


Who are these two posed together,
Both looking so pleased and so posh?
The one at the left's a squash champion,
The other's a champion squash.



Whoever thought anyone could keep up with the Joneses?


"Speaking of calculated risks, did I ever tell you about the 14 hole at...?"


They Said It

Glen Rose, Arkansas basketball coach: "You can tell interest has increased in Southwest Conference basketball this season. They've already hung two coaches in effigy."

Harry Stuhldreher, quarterback of Notre Dame's historic Four Horsemen, talking about his golf: "I was taught at an early age to get big scores, and I can't change for the life of me."

Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants, on completing a film for television: "That acting ain't easy. First they give you a script and then they ask you to learn it by heart. Then, worst of all, they make you say the words like you really mean it."