Among thespectators at the Russian-American dual track meet in Moscow was Parson BobRichards, the pole vaulter, present in his new role as director of the Wheatiesphysical fitness campaign. His program, run in conjunction with the U.S. JuniorChamber of Commerce, is designed to lead millions of American children intosport by means of running, jumping, baseball throwing, bicycle racing,wrestling—all manner of natural and primitive games that children playanyway—until they graduate to track or baseball or whatever organized sportthey like.
Russian moppetshave no Wheaties for breakfast. They eat kasha, which is barley porridge, andby the time they grow old enough to participate in the mass sports program theyhave hardly any breakfast at all, merely a cup of tea, and bublichki, a sort ofbagel. All credit for Soviet athletic triumphs consequently goes to the vaststate-sponsored program, to the 38-billion-ruble sport-and-public-healthbudget, the 200,000 "voluntary" sports associations with 19 milliondues-paying members.
Parson Richards,who once taught sociology at the University of Illinois, believes a nation'sphysical condition is related to its whole outlook on the world. A man who isrundown, harried and fatigued is more apt to suspect his neighbors and toimagine deep plots and conspiracies than one in good health. A nation whosecitizens are in good health should have a balanced perspective aswell—"There is a relation," says the clergyman earnestly, "betweenour physical fitness and our total fitness, our mental state and our wholeperspective on life."
From this pointof view, the findings of his Russian trip were mixed. There is an obviouscontradiction between Soviet claims of the general well-being of Russians andthe hysteria of Soviet foreign policy. Richards had been invited to Russiaseven times in the past, to what he believed were propaganda meets, but thistime he barely got in, his visa limited to 10 days and his research confined toa hurried glimpse at Moscow's mass sport facilities. Plainly Russia's enhancedphysical well-being hasn't changed the old morose state mind of that existedbefore the 1,500 stadiums were built.
On the otherhand, he says, "Russia certainly does have mass participation insports." The Children's Stadium beside the Lenin Stadium was jammed withsmall, kasha-eating basketball stars. Near the Dynamo Club 75 girls werepracticing broad jumps. "Think of it!" he says. "I doubt if thereare 75 girl broad jumpers in the United States." There are 3,000 womenathletes in Russia for every one in the United States, but he predicts theAmerican women will easily win the next dual meet because of the challenge thisone presented. "We can do better under our own system.... But we have gotto find ways of stimulating our existing programs. And we must have summerprograms to take up the slack when schools close and all youthful sportsactivity slumps."
Bud Wilkinson, Duffy Daugherty and Bowden Wyatt, looking like a trio ofmuscular Senators, appeared last week before Senator Kefauver's subcommittee onmonopoly to speak against the bill exempting professional sport from therestrictions of the antitrust laws. Their reason : the unfairness of theprofessionals' draft of football players, who (unlike baseball players beingsigned for the first time) have no freedom of choice. The Senators went intoprivate session, decided to table the bill—which kills it.
The onlyprofessional firefly-catchers in the U.S., and maybe in the whole world, are ahundred or so Baltimore small fry whose working hours—when they feel likeworking—run from suppertime to sunset on warm summer evenings. The kids areemployed on a piecework basis by the businesslike McCollum-Pratt ResearchInstitute of Johns Hopkins University, which needs live fireflies for researchinto certain biological processes. Last year it used half a million ofthem.
The institutepays 30¢ a hundred to smalltime operators and 10¢ per gram (no dead ones, now!)to subcontractors who deal in bulk. For six hours a day, in season, a graduatestudent maintains a collecting station on the Johns Hopkins campus where hedoes the counting, weighing and paying. He also keeps records, because at theend of the season the child who has brought in the most gets a $10 prize.
The arrangementpleases both the institute and the kids. It is the parents who are apt to findthe going tough. The children catch the fireflies in nets supplied by theinstitute, and of course the best place to transfer a netful of bugs to abottle is in the house. More than one father has sacrificed half a night'ssleep to the sheer fascination of watching a few escaped fireflies crawl about,flashing busily, on his bedroom walls. They can't be swatted, of course,because maybe tomorrow they can be caught and sold.
A firefly, oddlyenough, will live for a week if you keep him in the refrigerator. This is finefor the catchers, who otherwise would have to make daily deliveries to thecampus. But their mothers often have to fight down a light touch of nausea onfinding a jarful of drowsy lightning bugs right next to the whipping cream.
The onlyremaining hazard is having to catch the bugs for your child if he turns out tohave poor luck himself. This emergency usually occurs when some neighborhood12-year-old recruits a labor force in the 6-to-10 age bracket and pays them offin Popsicle halves. (He then sells the bugs to the institute at a generousprofit and also gets credit toward the season prize.) The older kids go racingaround in the dusk, netting fireflies at a great rate. Then the younger kidsset up a howl because they didn't catch enough bugs and everybody got aPopsicle except them. It is here, of course, that Daddy must take over; andover the years many a winded father has won his Popsicle on the playing fieldsof Baltimore.
This year'sprices represent a substantial advance of 2¢ per gram and 5¢ a hundred overlast year's. The institute boosted the rates voluntarily, hoping to avoid labortroubles. At the peak of the 1957 season several of the top operators, offendedby the rumor that they mixed BB shot with their fireflies to increase revenues,called a strike and picketed the Johns Hopkins campus.
The entrepreneursof College football are content, for the most part, to let the game sell itsown tickets without benefit of hucksterism. "Siwash vs. Rutgers, Saturday,2:30 p.m." is about as far as they feel they have to go to draw acrowd.
Lately, however,the difficulties besetting the Pacific Coast Conference and the encroachment ofthe pros have left many a West Coast stadium seat vacant on Saturdayafternoons. What to do? In California, the answer is omnipresent: call in apress agent. Result: a four-color blurb just released to Stanford alumni whichmakes an afternoon at the game sound like a whole cozy week for the family on adeluxe cruise to Nassau.
"The perfectsetting for pleasant fall afternoons," croons the Stanford clarion."Family atmosphere ideal...wonderful eating and shopping establishmentsadjoining the campus...easily accessible by plane, train or car. You will beenjoying exciting football games played by the colorful Stanford Indians andmost of the top teams in the nation and, while thrilling to the play, you willfind many added attractions to make your day a satisfying experience.... Comeand watch the Big Red meet the best."
(For news of asport which has been forced to bar the kiddies of the family, see page 23).
A suburbanupbringing, Williams College, Yale Law, a commission in the Navy, a passion fortennis and a taste for Ivy League charcoal suits—no matter how you figure it,this is not the classic background for a fight promoter. It is,nevertheless—the bewilderment of the bunch at Stillman's Gym to the contrarynotwithstanding—the precise background of one William Paul Rosensohn, formervice-president of TelePrompTer Corp. and presently mastermind of the upcomingworld title bout between Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson and Roy Harris,the pride of Cut and Shoot.
Lean, blue-eyedRosensohn, who was obviously born to serve Madison Avenue and not the prizering, explains the discrepancy in these words: "I've been a sports nut aslong as I can remember. You name the sport and I'm a fan." By way ofproving the case, Bill cites a time when, at Uncle Sam's behest, he wasteaching navigational mathematics at New York University. "What I was doingon the side," he says, "was handicapping the horses."
Pleased at hisown astuteness in forecasting race results, Bill decided to market hisforesight under the slogan "Win with Willie." Picking some likelywinners, he had some handbills printed up and passed them out free to establishhis reputation. "It was a wonderful day," he remembers. "I had fourwinners and two places with good prices. I felt that I was now an establishedtipster and made plans to sell my selections." Next day, armed with a batchof new handbills, the future promoter marched out to the track only to findfour enterprising merchants already cashing in on his new reputation with theirown "Win with Willie" tip sheets.
That ended BillRosensohn's career as a tipster. Since then he has discovered a host of ways tomake money out of sports, mostly through television. But the old skill at thetrack has not deserted him. One of the first things Bill did when Contender RoyHarris came to Los Angeles was to take the wide-eyed Texan out to HollywoodPark to try his luck on the ponies. A knowledgeable amateur tout urged the boyfrom Cut and Shoot to put a hunch bet on Texas Idol in the first race, butRosensohn countered with the quiet suggestion that he and Roy share a $2 ticketon Blue Bay. It paid $6.10.
A few minuteslater Jockey Willie Shoemaker, another Texan, strolled up to meet Roy and sharehis confidence in his own mount, Equi Host. Bill Rosensohn waited politelyuntil The Shoe went away, then equally politely urged Roy to parlay their $6.10on a horse named Ancient Pistol. It paid $14.50. Total take at this point:$43.50.
"Howlong," asked Roy, "can a person keep up these parlays?"
"Oh,"said the lean young fight promoter, "you can go on and on."
"Let'sgo," said Harris.
And so they did.On the third race it was Fleet Blue at $7.10 (total: $149.10). In the fourththey went conservative, indulged in a small bit of profit-taking and put $50 towin and $50 to place on Kid Robin. He came in by a nose, paying a mere $4.40and $3.30. By now the team winnings stood at $241.60 for the original $2investment. "We have the winning habit," said Roy Harris, "we can'tlose."
"There wasonly one thing to do then," said Bill Rosensohn, a man whose businessacumen more than matches his passion for sports, "and that was—get him outof there."
Up Cut andShoot
Last week, whenyou could still send a letter for 3¢, the town of Cut and Shoot, Texas (pop.194) was receiving its mail through the post office at Conroe, five miles away.The fame of Roy Harris (see above) has changed all that.
Postmaster GaryWilliams of Conroe has announced that Cut and Shoot soon will have a postoffice all its own. It will be located in the corner of a grocery storebuilding.
"There willbe a cancellation machine with the name Cut and Shoot," said Mr. Williams,"and that should satisfy many people who have been disappointed becausethey couldn't get the postmark on their letters."
Mr. Williams hadjust one bit of advice for patrons of the nation's newest post office: put 4¢stamps on letters, please.
Quid Quo, OldPro?
Tagged out offsecond was a kid,
A rookie rash and cocky.
The hidden ball was in the quid
Of Baseman Bridges, Rocky.
--John Stuart Martin
They Said It
Senator Estes Kefauver commenting on the testimony ofMichigan State's Coach Duffy Daugherty, latest of the sports figures to lightena senatorial investigation: "I hope you have a great season, CoachDaugherty. You have caused more merriment here than Mr. Casey Stengel."
Yatsuo Higa, representing Tokyo newspaper Mainichi,which signed up the St. Louis Cardinals for a postseason tour of Japan: "Itold Stan [Musial] he would wreck Japanese baseball. All Japanese will try tocopy his stance and never hit the ball again."
Paul Anderson, former world's champion weight lifter,now a 355-pound wrestler with ambitions to fight Heavyweight Champion FloydPatterson: "If I get the chance to fight Patterson, I'll do it from asquatting position—like I wrestle. He could hit me in the body all day and nothurt me. In the clinches, I'd use my body weight."
NEWS ITEM: Willie Hartack may lose the jockey championship in 1958.
"Even the horse marines can't save him this year."
WILLIE THE SHAH