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19TH HOLE: The readers take over


Alas, that Mr. W. W. Wacht has withdrawn his lawsuit against the handicap committee of the Pines Ridge Golf Club (E&D, Aug. 4). Whether he realizes it or not, surmises and conjectures on the might-have-been of his defense of his golf handicap (34) would have relieved the spiritual boredom of 19th hole bull sessions across the country for many moons to come.

Supposing Mr. Wacht had pressed his suit and won? What would have happened next? He couldn't have sought financial compensation—the committee had improved his handicap. Could he have had the club's charter revoked? Could he have demanded that the handicap committee be selected by the Supreme Court? If such a precedent were established: a) Would there have been any guarantee that the handicap committees across the country might not spend most of their waking hours in court? b) Might the day arrive when the Supreme Court would be obliged to create a Golf Handicap and Tournament Division (GHTD)? c) Might the court some day be required to decide on our national champion? It's all very confusing to me and I'm sure plenty of others.

But let us not think for one moment that Pines Ridge is the only club with handicap troubles. There are many regular handicap tournament players whose handicap and proven ability to score bear little relationship to each other. The number of those who wittingly have turned their backs on their consciences and played "even," for as little as $1 to $5 Nassaus, when they knew their only chance of losing was to have a heart attack is legion. Yet if a wallet were left on the dressing table they would be sanctimoniously horrified at the suggestion of taking 15 bucks out of it and saving their victim the grief of certain defeat.

Of course, the ideal would be to cure the condition at birth. Make a USGA handicap obligatory for entry in any handicap event. In gathering data for the initial handicap it would be the responsibility of the handicap committee to check, with the cooperation of the pro, that the best, not the worst scores were handed in. Once the USGA handicap had been established, only scores made in the tournament play would be used in keeping the handicap active. It would be the obligation of the handicappee to report to the USGA any and all scores he made in tournament play.
Newport, R.I.

There have been a number of articles written and a quantity of words spoken in the last few years about why minor league baseball is failing to pay its way. Everything from television to dirty uniforms has been given as a reason, but to no real satisfaction. To my mind, the trouble does not lie in television, poor baseball parks or any other thing that has to do with the game itself. It is a change in the American way of life.

Before World War II and even for a short while afterward the American public was a nation of watchers. Of course, tennis, golf, bowling and a few other sports were conducted at the participant level but, in general, the city man got most of his relaxation from watching other people play baseball, sail boats, or any number of other things.

But times have changed. America has become a nation of doers. A little observation of facts will prove this. More pleasure boats are owned by Americans than was thought possible 10 years ago. Many areas cannot build bowling lanes fast enough to fill the demand. The number of public tennis courts has tripled. Swimming pools have become abundant. Better roads and easier-to-use camping equipment invite the weekend camper, hunter and fisherman. Add to this the colossal baseball program for boys that includes Little Leagues, Pony Leagues, Teen-Age Leagues and others, and what have you got?

It can be summed up easily. The baseball season is also the time of year that is most inviting for all types of sporting activity. Why should a guy with a boat in the driveway, golf clubs in the car, bowling ball and tennis racket in the closet, a trunk full of camping equipment, two boys in the Little League and a body full of energy left over from shorter working hours pay to sit and do nothing but watch a mediocre game between men he doesn't know?
Abilene, Texas


I'd like to make some comment on your E & D columns of July 28. They were delightful reading. The chaps who wrote them should be congratulated and their salaries raised.

"Fe fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman; be he alive or be he dead, I'll break his bones to make my bread." Well, I don't think we feel exactly that way about the Englishmen who are going to sail their Sceptre in the forthcoming America's Cup races here in September. You can't help but admire the sportsmanship of the Britishers all through the frustrating years and their spirit of keeping everlastingly at it. It isn't their fault if we know how to make faster boats or know how to sail 'em better. Evidently they've got a pretty fast boat themselves in Sceptre. I'd be a bit surprised if she won, but if she does I certainly shan't go into any hair-tearing routine over the matter.

The left-handed Methodist parson, who apparently plays an excellent game of golf, refused to go AWOL from church to play in the last phase of a golf tournament which he probably could have won. But he made up for it in part by preaching a sermon on golf and the Scriptures, in which golf made a pretty good showing. But he failed to say anything about taking the Lord's name in vain even on a golf course. He may have come to the conclusion that there are some things better left unsaid.
San Antonio

I thank you for that wonderful article on the swordfish (SI, July 28).

I am especially interested in swordfishing. My father and I have been trying our hardest to land one for seven years. My father has hooked three, all off Santa Catalina Island, but we have still to land one. I am not bragging, but any fisherman who can set a hook in a broadbill has a lot of fishing skill.
Ventura, Calif.

The late Sir William E. S. Tuker and George W. Garey between them held the world's broadbill record for a good many years, with fish caught off Tocopilla, Chile. One of Tuker's prized possessions was a small broadbill sword, not over three inches long. This was stuck in the skin of a normal-size swordfish, near his mouth, and was removed when the fish was captured. It was a normal sword, corresponding in all its proportions to the large ones found on adult fish, and seemed to indicate that a broadbill attains its mature form when it is of an extremely small size. This does not check out with the assumption made in Mr. Lineaweaver's excellent and interesting article.
Carlsbad, N. Mex.

•On the relatively sketchy evidence gathered so far by ichthyologists, the most warranted assumption is that the swordfish does not assume his mature form until he has grown to between four and six feet. However, it is not inconceivable that some maturation differences could exist among geographical areas.—ED.

On a recent visit to Managua I was told that when Lake Nicaragua became landlocked from the Pacific Ocean thousands of years ago the swordfish and sharks adapted themselves through generations to the fresh water. Both varieties are reputedly vicious but somewhat stunted, making for very little boating or swimming on this 100-mile lake.

Incidentally, a unique sport is practiced by a few plantation owners. They have tree platforms near the mouth "of the Tipitapa River which overhang the water, and after chumming with a little bloody meat they use revolvers for shooting the sharks. It takes a great deal of skill to correct for the angle of refraction.

Perhaps Mr. Lineaweaver has some information on swordfishing there.

•There are indeed man-eating sharks in the fresh water of Lake Nicaragua but no species likely to have evolved from the swordfish. The shark belongs to a more primitive family (Elasmo-brandchii, or cartilaginous fish without bone structure) and has great ability to adapt itself to a variety of environments.—ED.

Congratulations to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for being the first nationally published magazine to devote a full-fledged article to one of the greatest guys in professional baseball today, Frank Thomas (SI, July 28).

I have known Frank personally for nearly three years. In that time I can truthfully say that he has never let anyone down. I remember vividly an incident last summer where he and his wife had dinner with a friend and me instead of going to a parade with some of his teammates. Of course, he got a free meal, but the fellows who went to the parade got $60 each. That meant a lot to me.
(no relation)

I used to think that you were against Pittsburgh. Thank you for the story and for proving me wrong.
Glen Dale, Va.

Roy Terrell does an outstanding job. I read his articles just to see how he is going to express himself. The recent one on Frank Thomas was excellent. I imagine Thomas is a similar type of person to Gene Littler, the golfer. Actually, they look a lot alike.
West Hartford, Conn.

In Yankee Stadium the other night the Boston Red Sox were beating the Yankees 5-3 in the 11th inning when they were struck down at 11:59 p.m. by the New York State curfew law. The game was stopped, the score returned to what it had been at the end of the 10th (a 3-3 tie) and it became necessary to play the whole thing over from the start at a later date. I'd like to know more about a law that allows this foolishness to happen.
New York City

•All this happened because a law was passed in 1919 not to forbid, but to allow, baseball to be played on Sunday. It was called the Sunday Baseball Bill and the arguments for and against it were hot ones back in March 1919, just four months after the end of the first World War. According to the papers of the day, "baseball enthusiasts, labor representatives and diamond stars back from battling the Hun" turned up in Albany to speak a good word for baseball. "I ask you to pass this bill," pleaded one orator, "in memory of the men who will never get back to the diamond, the men who have made the Great Home Run."

The opposition played on patriotic themes, too, claiming that "Sunday baseball means the Germanization of the United States." This was a somewhat slanted reference to the fact that Sundays in Europe, including Germany, were not so much days of rest as holidays, when people hiked, boated, played games and in general had a pleasant time.

The law made baseball legal only after 2 p.m. on Sunday, giving everybody time to get home from church, have a big dinner and take the trolley to the ball park. Since the first night game was still 20 years away, nobody foresaw that extra innings on Saturday night might spill over into the early minutes of Sunday morning. All this explains why, 39 years later, the Red Sox lost their two 11th-inning runs and on Sunday will have to play over again from the start a game they almost certainly would have won. Similar laws are on the books in Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia: no baseball after 11:59 p.m. on Saturdays. The trend to Saturday night baseball continues, but nobody expects the laws to be changed. Recently, in a belated act of common sense, the American League changed its rule to match the one already in effect in the National League (the Pirates and Phillies also have a 6:59 p.m. Sunday curfew to live with). Hereafter, games interrupted by curfew will carry on, first chance, from the point of interruption. But that Red Sox-Yankee game—nope, all over again.—ED.