Out of the Ball Park
Dedicated as we are to the contemplation of earthly affairs, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has no way of evaluating the full significance of the latest Soviet space shot which seems at this writing to have streaked right past the moon and into the sun field. As sportsmen, however, we cannot help emitting an enthusiastic if almost involuntary cheer when anyone steps up to the plate and knocks the ball clean out of the park.
As we said, we don't know quite what it proves, but we can't help wishing one of our boys had been at bat.
Predictions for 1959 being all the vogue these early January days, we mean to essay one of our own. It amounts to this: there is a slim, marginal, outside chance that the penalty for out-of-bounds golf balls may be reduced sometime fairly soon. It may—barring open rebellion by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland against the United States Golf Association.
As currently written, the penalty for lost, unplayable and out-of-bounds balls is stroke and distance, i.e., two strokes and back to the original lie. To most U.S. golfers the penalty seems fair enough for lost and unplayable balls. It discourages, at least, a too hasty judgment on whether your ball is really lost or is really unplayable. But out of bounds is out of bounds, U.S. golfers argue, and since no casual conclusion is involved, a one-stroke penalty would do nicely. And it had been that way, off and on, until 1951 when the USGA and the R&A drew up a unified code. The Scots, conservative and all that, insisted on equal penalties.
This May, at the third rules meeting between the two factions, the matter will be officially thrashed over for the second time. "There is a strong feeling in this country to reduce the out-of-bounds penalty and let the others stand," says an officer of the USGA. There is also support in Britain, acknowledges one R&A member, but there is an on-the-other-hand attitude, too. "It was tried some years ago here and was most unpopular," he said. "Some still feel if you reduce the out-of-bounds penalty only, the chap who loses a ball may look you in the eye and tell you he lost it out of bounds. If you buy that, you may give him a stroke."
Well, anyhow, even if the rule is changed, it will not go into effect until 1960. By next January, should our prediction be all wrong, you most likely will have forgotten we ever got your hopes up.
Is Football Educational?
When the legislators of Texas gather in Austin next week, they will be called upon to decide an issue of major consequence to the state's football future. The issue: Do intercollegiate sports constitute an educational activity? If so, the state auditor is ready to rule, state-college athletic programs in Texas can be supported by taxpayers' money; if not, state colleges must stop dipping into funds appropriated for educational purposes, must either make ends meet or constrict athletics.
What brought about the legislative policy issue was an investigation ordered last spring by the Texas lawmakers with a view to trimming expenditures for athletics in the 17 state colleges. The investigators must have thought they were on the right track when the president of Sul Ross Teachers College complained that football was devouring his budget, forcing him to curtail biology and risk censure from the accrediting boards.
The investigators promptly interviewed each of the other state college presidents, were shocked to learn that only two schools—the University of Texas and Texas A&M—break even on football. All the rest go into the red, use tax funds to offset the deficit. The six teachers colleges fare the worst, have been known to gross as little as $16.90 a game at the box office, together lose more than a quarter of a million dollars a year. At the same time, these six schools award (out of state funds) 447 athletic scholarships worth $240,016.
Is intercollegiate football educational in Texas? Our Texas correspondent underlines one argument that the proponents of continued state aid are planning to use: Texas athletes graduate from state-aided colleges to become the coaches of the 917 football-playing high schools of the state. An exasperated official predicts: "Just wait until the folks out at the forks of the creek hear about this. They sure won't want any politicians tampering with their football."
The debate in Austin should be worth watching—by fans, taxpayers and state auditors everywhere.
Oh, better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the God of Storms,
The lightning and the gale!
Well, maybe even a British Oliver Wendell Holmes would not have been quite that upset over the latest news concerning Sceptre. It must be admitted, after all, that her achievements on the high seas ranked somewhat below those of Holmes's cherished Old Ironsides. Still, it was a stunning blow to many to see it there, written out plain in the agony column of The Times: "Sceptre for Sale. America's Cup challenger 12-meter yacht Sceptre complete with racing sails and gear—offers exceeding ¬£15,000 to Sceptre Syndicate. Box H. 1256, The Times, E.C.4."
As London's penny press bloomed in wry headlines like the Daily Express' WANT A YACHT? British sportsmen could only hope that the eventual purchaser would be another Briton with a decent sporting sense. "She would make a very desirable trial horse for the next challenge," suggested Syndicate Chairman Hugh Goodson, timidly but hopefully.
At the very least, we might add, she'd make a nice boat for the kids to practice in—that deep cockpit and all.
Rush to the Rockies
With a fireworks display from the summit of Pikes Peak, the state of Colorado began, promptly at midnight on New Year's Eve, a centennial celebration that will last throughout 1959. Not that Colorado has a century of seniority over Alaska; it didn't actually become a state until 1876. The present celebration is of the discovery of gold in the old Colorado Territory and of the first mass settlement of the region, two events that took place in quick succession back in 1859. That century-old rush to the Rockies was so heavy that about 50 Colorado towns (not counting ghost towns) will reach their hundredth birthday this year.
Of the 500 events with which Colorado plans to mark its centennial, an impressive number are sports events. This is natural: the state itself is a staggeringly beautiful invitation to get outdoors and have fun there. This year Colorado will offer sports for everybody, in all four seasons. Golfers may choose among half a dozen important tournaments, including the National Amateur at Colorado Springs in September. The NCAA ski championships will take place at Winter Park in March, soon after the finish of the national Alpine championships at Aspen. The National AAU track and field championships will be held at Boulder in June, and the meet will serve as a qualifying event for Chicago's Pan American Games.
Russia's Olympic hockey team is in Colorado Springs right now to play Colorado College and the University of Denver. The world figure skating championships will be held in Denver in February.
There will also be basketball tournaments, swimming meets, water skiing, sports car rallies, pistol meets, boat races and plenty of samples of that native western sport, the rodeo.
There will be nonsports events as well. Business, science, education and the arts—all are planning to take part in the celebration. But a significant thing about the sports events is that nearly all of them would have taken place in Colorado even if there had been no centennial. It just seemed right to incorporate them into the festivities because they belong there. For attracting people, for entertaining them, for making an occasion special, you can't beat...well, Colorado knows this and is set for a happy and memorable 1959.
In French Equatorial Africa not long ago a tribesman captured a specimen of the world's biggest insect, bound its legs together with dried grass blades and sold it to an American. The American naturally popped it into a tin can and brought it to the United States. Now it lives in a big glass case in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where it attracts crowds of visitors. Many of them take one startled look and exclaim, "It's alive!" Others ask questions about the big bug and invent some interesting answers.
Woman: What do they keep him in there for?
Man: They're trying to find a female for him.
The center of all this interest is a male Goliath beetle (proper name: Goliathus goliathus). The museum is not trying to find a mate for it. Far from its hot African home, it has been spending recent winter nights in a bed, between blankets, to keep warm. It lives on bananas which it peels itself, and on bits of juicy pear. It likes English peas but doesn't care for asparagus. It drinks no water at all. John C. Pallister, a research associate of the museum's Department of Insects and Spiders, is the man in charge of exhibiting Goliath and is, in a sense, his keeper. Mr. Pallister thinks the beetle would enjoy a meal of mangoes if any could be found, but they are out of season.
Child: Why doesn't he fly, Daddy?
Father: They probably clipped his wings.
Goliath's body is more than four inches long and his wings—which are not clipped—spread eight inches. These dimensions don't sound large, but on sight they turn out to be impressive. Goliath is a much bigger bug than people are accustomed to seeing. The effect is perhaps somewhat like that of encountering a 200-pound baby.
Yet Goliath is more beautiful than frightening. His wing cases look like wine-colored velvet, and the fore part of his body is handsomely striped in black and white. His head is black, with black shoe-button eyes, and with a pair of horns at the very end of his nose. He uses his horns to push back a half-inch strip of peel when he wants some banana. When he arrived at the museum, after several days in the tin can without food, he weighed an ounce and an eighth on a letter scale. Pallister thinks that now, well stuffed with banana and peas, he weighs a good deal more.
Woman: That's a black widow, I suppose. Come on, Freddie.
The glass case is floored with green blotters and furnished with bare branches which Goliath likes to climb. He spends a lot of time high on a branch near the top of his case, where the air is warmest. (A thermometer down on the blotter reads 78°.)
Child: What would happen if he fell?
Father: He'd shake himself and go over and look at the banana.
Someone aims a light meter or a camera at the bug every few minutes, and occasionally a flash bulb is fired off in his face. None of this disturbs him. Recently a 12-year-old boy drew a good life-size sketch of him in pencil.
"The total life of these beetles has never been worked out," says Pallister. "They go through four stages: egg, grub, pupa and adult. The grubs live in rotten stumps and are eaten by the natives. The grub stage lasts about two years—probably longer—but the adult insect apparently lives only about two months. We can therefore expect our present specimen to die of old age within that time. Or he may die of improper care. After all, we're not sure just what he needs."
Child: What will they do when he dies?
Mother: Bury him, I guess. Maybe they'll stuff him.
Actually, they won't do either one. But they will mount him. Insects don't need stuffing.
The 59th Count
In a snowy Connecticut' wood the other morning a man named Roland Clement said, "Whoo. Whoo. Whoo. Ah-hoo-ah," and waited for an answer. "Whoo. Whoo. Whoo. Ah-hoo-ah," he repeated hopefully. "Ah, I can't fool 'em." Clement, who works for the National Audubon Society, was attempting to hold a conversation with a barn owl—a barn owl's vocabulary, apparently, is half locomotive whistle, half asthmatic model-A horn—but if a barn owl was about it was keeping its beak shut.
Along with 6,500 other bird watchers in the United States, Canada and Hawaii, Clement was participating in the 59th annual Christmas Bird Count, a benign descendant of the notorious Christmas Bird Shoot. The aim of the shoot was to pot as many birds as possible in a single day; the idea of the count is to reckon, by sight or sound, all the birds within a circle 15 miles in diameter, species and individuals, in a single day, and dead birds don't count. The 15-mile circle is so you won't count a bird someone else has counted (unless it flies over the border), and it is subdivided by the census leader who deploys his birders in small groups to get maximum coverage. Proverbial little old ladies in cozy little parlors do their bit by tabulating the birds at their feeding stations.
The count, Clement says, is of considerable scientific value, because it helps to determine the bird population at a time of year when birds are most nearly stationary. But it is, he adds, primarily a game in which parties try to count more birds than they did last year, or more than their neighbors, and is a grand opportunity to tramp with purpose through the outdoors.
In Clement's group were three adult human males and two Gordon setter puppies. The dogs were along for the run, but the men hoped that they would flush birds as they ranged across abandoned orchards and estates. They didn't but were excused on account of age and inexperience. The men, who had no such alibis, did little better, recording in seven hours 30 of the most ordinary species and 690 individuals, 320 of which were starlings. Down in the Cocoa-Cape Canaveral, Fla. area, on the other hand, 55 observers led by Ornithologist Allan D. Cruickshank amassed a record 194 species, including eight birds never before seen on a Cocoa count: reddish egret, long-billed curlew, stilt sandpiper, western meadow lark, black rail, gull billed tern, western grebe and Empidonax flycatcher. But the Connecticut count was not without its special rewards. One of the party learned several useful things:
1) Do not feel sheepish if you identify an airplane as a bird. Birders will tell you it is a gashawk but that you may not count it. This is a joke and you can join in the laughter.
2) Big birds are called "big fellas"; small birds are called "small stuff." Knowing birders employ these generic terms. Do not mix them up if you want to avoid reproving glances.
3) You may be asked to "roll down your car window and squeak a bit." This is not a joke. Do as you are asked. Any squeaky, unattractive noises, such as a kissing sound or a thin tooth-whistle, will attract certain curious birds and assure your popularity.
4) If a promising area is barren of avifauna do not complain. If you want to appear the in-group old pro, say: "Where they are not is just as important as where they are. It is hard to get these enthusiastic young birders interested in this. They just want to build up a big list." If your tone is solemn enough, you're in.
5) If your leader announces a lunch break, sneer faintly, and say: "You're pretty ladylike down here [or up here]. Why, up [or down or out] at [name a remote locale] we ate on the run." You'll be looked up to.
6) Identify a cat as a feeding station. This is also a joke. Birders tolerate just so much frippery, so use it only on the first cat you see.
On the Up and Up
He does a hundred pushups,
though He's thin and old and gray.
He doesn't do them in a row,
He does them one a day.
"Nice going, Jack. You just about 'advised' me right out of business."
"Great Scott! I hope he's on a comprehensive credit card."
They Said It
Perry Jones, U.S. Davis Cup captain, offering an explanation of why his team won: "It is not how you hold your racket, it's how you hold your mind."
Forest Evashevski, University of Iowa football coach, miserable with a 101° temperature, to his team before the kickoff in the Rose Bowl game: "If you're only as hot as I feel, you'll go out there and kill them."
Paul Brown, coach of the Cleveland Browns of the professional National Football League, reflecting on the will-to-win: "Everybody wants to win, and nobody wants to more than I do. I even want to beat my wife at croquet."
Al Wester, radio commentator at the Sugar Bowl, just keeping his gums moving at half time: "Well, folks, the great football we've been seeing in the first half of this game may give us some idea of the kind we can expect to see in the second half."