TURF: EXIT THE REAL HORSE
Although a New Yorker, I now live out here in California where I am happy to say that, among other pleasures, children are permitted to enjoy a holiday with their families at the track, watching the sport of kings. Of course they cannot make a bet, which is highly proper, but they can watch sleek, beautiful horses carry flashy, colored silks in contests of speed, which are both exciting and entertaining. That's why I was delighted to read last spring that John W. Hanes, president of the New York Racing Association, was going to allow children into the New York tracks with their parents.
Now I am amazed to discover from your editorial, But Don't Go Near the Races! (SI, Aug. 11), that Governor Harriman was led by a resolution of the New York City Council to "suggest" that the New York Racing Association think twice about permitting children to go to the races with their families. Since then I understand that Hanes's very fine move has been rescinded.
As a close friend and admirer of the governor's, it is surprising to me that he would do this. I believe it's far better for children to accompany their parents to the races and enjoy a day together in the open than to be left home in the hands of an unfamiliar baby sitter, or even alone. It also gives city kids a chance to see real (not TV) horses, so fast disappearing from the city streets.
By the way, I am the producer of The Fiend Who Walked the West, the film which you mentioned in your editorial. I think if you take time out to sec the picture you will find it by no means a "gimmick" film. It is well acted, well written and, I hope, well made. It has terror in it, yes, but it also has humor and provides great entertainment.
HERBERT SWOPE JR.
Thank you so much for devoting a page of your fine magazine to the nasty television shows, movies and books to which our children are exposed.
Several years ago we knew some of the drivers at the Hamburg track, and Saturday mornings they let our 8- and 10-year-olds "drive" the horses. It was a big thrill and also a big thrill that night for our kids to sit quietly, outdoors, in a box and watch those same nice men drive their favorite horses. Shortly thereafter kids under 16 were barred from the track and our kids had to go back to looking at horror movies on television. It is not a change for the better.
Your point-blank comment about banning children from New York's race tracks and the typical boorish advertisements for TV and movies was excellent. Many states outlaw gambling, but the type of "entertainment" that is allowed on our screens is abominable. Thank you for an enlightening editorial.
RICHARD SCHAEFER, D.D.S.
DAWSON VS. WASHINGTON: REBUTTAL
"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men." So says Abraham Lincoln, and surely this great President, who delayed affairs of state lest he miss his turn at bat, would walk at midnight if the national game were removed from the nation's capital. Therefore, though a mere girl and not very brave anyway, I must protest the brutal and completely unfair letter of Mr. Clyde Dawson of Fort Stanton, N. Mex. (19TH HOLE, Aug. 18).
"Washington simply is not a baseball town," says he. The Senators are deeply entrenched in the public's heart; the problem is that the public is not entrenched in Calvin Griffith's heart.
Mr. Dawson claims to have done serious research. This I doubt, because of some of the things he declares or proposes. First, that the Nats are not making money. Ah, but they are making money; not much, the ballplayers are told at contract time, but a profit, and it looks as if it will be more this year.
Second, in one of his solutions, he suggests that the Buffalo Triple-A franchise be moved to Norfolk. Norfolk couldn't support a Class B. The Norfolk Tars, Piedmont League, folded in advance of the rest of the loop.
Third, in another solution, he suggests moving the Senators to Houston and placating the Cards with Chattanooga. What then becomes of the Nats' already skeleton farm system?
The only problems Washington has are an antiquated park in a rather nasty neighborhood and an antiquated attitude in a very nasty front office.
Mr. Dawson also says Washington's population is too transient and cosmopolitan for the big leagues. Are we to further impair our tottering foreign policy by denying the cosmopolitans a view of our national game, and deny the entire country the lift it gets by learning that a four-year-type transient has thrown out the first ball? What would become of that grand old line: "First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League?"
They may not be pennant winners, but they're ours.
Falls Church, Va.
Mr. Dawson says that it is foolish for Cal Griffith to try to uphold tradition. Mr. Griffith's repeated threats and broken promises show that he cares little for tradition or getting into the public's heart.
Mr. Dawson says that the Senators don't draw because there is too much else going on in Washington. Washington certainly supports the football Redskins. Besides, what does Washington have to distract fans that New York lacks?
As long as Cal Griffith is calling all the pitches for the Washington club the proper financial assistance needed to build a ball club will not be given. Mr. Griffith has the money, and so did his father, to build a better ball team if he would loosen his purse strings. The club will not hire a general manager and as a result most trades have proven very unfavorable. A ball club cannot improve under these circumstances.
Don't let Mr. Griffith make you think tradition is keeping him here. If he can find another city that will give him as much authority as he has here and at the same time make more money, then he will move. That is, if the American League is foolish enough to grant him permission.
WHAT MAKES A PHILUE FAN BOO?
I note with interest Richard Pollard's description of Phillie fans (SI, Aug. 11) as "America's most irascible fans.... For volume, technique and persistency their melancholy booing is unsurpassed in either league." As a Phillie fan who attends 10 or 15 games a year, I believe the causative factors can be analyzed:
1) Connie Mack Stadium is the world's most uncomfortable ball park. Leg room is unheard of, and many of the seats are broken, sloping downward from back to front, causing the fans to struggle to stay seated. And there are 58 wide and opaque posts stretching from upper roof to lower grandstand.
2) The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has some extraordinary rules. The sacred-ness of past-6:59-on-a-Sunday-eve must never be desecrated by baseball (though movies are fine), and everyone must wait months for the outcome of the second game to be determined. And the Commonwealth, with true paternalism, allows no beer to be sold to steady volatility when things go badly, limiting all to 25-cent Cokes. I suspect that many of the boos are, perhaps unconsciously, directed at the governor and legislature, neither of whom has seen fit to remedy the situation.
3) Loud fan noises in unison cause players on both teams occasionally to do interesting and unusual things. (What a shame that Ted Williams does not have the benefit of Phillie fans!) And evidently we Philadelphia fans have discovered something no other fans have discovered: when you put 24,000 people together in a ball park and have them all produce a sound calculated to frighten players, sportswriters and pedestrians within a 10-block radius of 21st and Lehigh Avenue—it's fun!
MARK N. FINSTON
New York City
GOLF: THE OLD FOUR BALL
Herbert Wind's lament about the turn of the annual PGA tournament from match to stroke play (SI, Aug. 4) prompted a pang of reflection. It was this same dollar sign that caused the demise of golf's greatest pro show. That was the old international Four Ball played in the 1930s at the now extinct Miami Country Club.
It was a better-ball event, match play in foursomes, and the galleries loved it. Horton Smith, Paul Runyan, Denny Shute, Johnny Revolta, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Jug McSpaden, Wild Bill Mehlhorn, Jimmy Demaret, Ben Hogan, Wiffy Cox, Olin Dutra, Willie Macfarlane, Willie Goggin, Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen were some of the great ones invited to play in the 32-team event each year.
Matches were over 36 holes and had the meadows full of sparkling foursomes. Par meant little. One or another team member was always going for the birdie. Low ball scores were usually deep in the 60s as the boys went all out on every shot.
The 8th hole was a fine place to check all fronts. You could watch play into No. 4 green, tee shots and second shots on No. 5, the long seconds into No. 7 (a testy par 5 that was birdied and eagled with abandon). No. 8, a 135 par 3 called the "doughnut," an island green surrounded by water, was played with stilettolike deftness. The ball was not bludgeoned with professional might, but caressed and scalpeled to the cup with touching effort that figured every blade of Bermuda between tee and lip. It was not infrequent for a foursome to come away with a total of eight strokes on the hole.
It was on the steps to the clubhouse that bouncing Jim Demaret, after carefully pocketing his share of first-prize money split with partner Ben Hogan, broke into song to entertain the partisan fans he had captured on the course.
Some of Florida's and the nation's best golf history was recorded at the Miami Country Club. And the top chapter, for my money, was the international Four Ball. I wish someone with the cash, courage and devotion to the game would revive it. It was golf's greatest tournament.
I thought you might be interested to see how the Hula-Hoop (SI, Aug. 4) has caught on here in southern California. The picture shows some of the more than 1,000 children ranging in age from 2 to 16 who recently competed at a "tournament" in (of course) Hollywood. Some of them had got to be thoroughly expert and twirled while tap dancing. What price Frisbee now?
S. W. BADGER
ROUND AND ROUND THEY GO, WHERE THEY STOP ONLY HOLLYWOOD HIPSTERS KNOW