Skip to main content
Original Issue


Downs for Churchill?

By a tradition that dates back to the mid-19th century and is itself as stuffy as a Victorian parlor, Presidents of the United States absent themselves from a sport that has long been hailed abroad as one worthy of kings. No corner in all of England is more respectable or sought after than the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, where the taint of divorce can mean exclusion; yet on her last visit to this country Queen Elizabeth was dissuaded from attending a horse race at Belmont Park on the grounds that it might shock many Americans.

If any such Americans exist, we on this magazine are inclined to believe it is time they were shocked, for we ourselves are shocked at such absurdity. We believe, moreover, that the time is at hand to put a stop to it.

Sir Winston Churchill, a man of some distinction in world affairs and a fancier of horseflesh whose enthusiasm for the turf ranks second only to that of his Queen, is coming shortly to this country to pay a call on President Eisenhower. He will arrive, as plans now stand, just two days after the running of the Kentucky Derby.

At the risk of presumption, we respectfully suggest that Ike send Winnie the dispatch that robust old sportsman would surely like to receive: COME A COUPLE OF DAYS EARLIER AND LET'S BOTH GO TO CHURCHILL DOWNS.

We'd be glad to arrange for tickets, or give up our own if need be.

Sanity and the '60s

West coast football fans have been grieving for years over the pummeling their teams have been taking from the Big Ten; last week their grief increased as, with burning ears, they listened to the sounds coming from Big Ten country.

In Columbus, Ohio the 80-man Faculty Council of Ohio State University has voted a haughty no to the idea of any more trips to the Rose Bowl—and has instructed its delegate to the next Big Ten meeting to oppose any renewal of the long-standing West Coast-Big Ten Rose Bowl pact. Ohio State's alumni magazine, shooting its cuffs and picking the lint off its crossed knees, paraphrased the faculty's thinking. "Signing a contract with the four successors of the Pacific Coast Conference is actually dealing with those whose flagrant violations of rules brought the probationary action that stung them into breaking up their Conference.... Rose Bowl pressures led the Pacific Coast Conference into dissolution after one of the rottenest scandals in the annals of intercollegiate football."

Before the Coast could recover from that one, the University of Illinois senate joined the chorus and voted against further participation in the series (in its two trips to Pasadena the Illini rolled up 85 points to 21 for the opposition, so their boredom with the whole thing may be understandable).

Minnesota, which has never gotten to the Rose Bowl, also sniffed it didn't want to go to that horrid old place anyhow, but Northwestern University came to the aid of the bleeding, battered Coast with a vote to continue the annual junket to Pasadena. The student paper then dropped a new bung starter with an editorial entitled "Quit Rose Bowl," and advising: "It is entirely hypocritical for a faculty which repeatedly says it wants a sane athletic policy to allow one of its committees to follow a line which leads toward continued overemphasis and professionalization of college athletics, which is what the Bowl means." The editor went on to reveal he was against beer, too, excoriating "a week-long organized beer orgy in California," which he said characterizes Rose Bowl trips.

Meanwhile, back out West, Stanford University busied itself on another tack and sought to protest that it did, too, want to play winning football and remain in big-time collegiate sports. Any rumors to the contrary have been "irritating the hell out of us," shouted Assistant Athletic Director (and former coach) Chuck Taylor. Stanford pointed to a $125,000 remodeling of the press box as proof positive of its "re-emphasis" intentions.

All this conversation, of course, reflects the trials and mental tussles of college presidents and faculties and athletic authorities as they search for their own solutions to the problem of sanity for the '60s. It is pretty generally agreed that sanity, if it is not to amount to insanity, must involve enough income from college football to pay the costs of collegiate athletic programs in general. Beyond that point the disagreement sets in.

At week's end retired President Robert Gordon Sproul of the University of California offered a statement of principles which might be equally applicable for the Pacific Coast and its new four-member Athletic Association of Western Universities and the Big Ten itself. He believed in "all forms of athletic competition ... as an integral and important element of American university life, for I am convinced that these extracurricular activities have made and are making a significant contribution to student and alumni fitness and to public health and morale, providing always that they are not carried on in a setting, an atmosphere and a spirit which permit, if they do not encourage, the corruption of young men."

The bickering, meanwhile, was proving livelier than the last few Rose Bowl games themselves. The Big Ten votes at Ann Arbor in late May, at which time it must decide whether those West Coast ruffians are worthy of being soundly trounced each New Year's Day at Pasadena.

The Great Sea Lion Dilemma

Sea lions are seals with ears, but their hearing is wretched and their olfaction and sight apparently aren't too keen either; sea lions get to know each other by rubbing noses. Sea lions are so insensate, in fact, that they trample their pups to death if they get under flipper. The 20,000 lions which inhabit the California coast are therefore insensible to a dark plot in Sacramento which threatens to put them in very hot water or to blast them right out of it.

Early this month the California State Senate passed a resolution calling for the Department of Fish and Game to exterminate 15,000 sea lions, a resolution heavily lobbied by commercial fishing interests. One witness went rather out of his depth at a committee hearing when he suggested that a neat, cheap and easy way might be to depth-bomb them. He was apparently unmindful that a human seems to have superior olfaction to a sea lion and that the disposal of 15,000 massive, stinking carcasses could be an expensive and unpleasant task.

Whether or not sea lions do indeed ruin fishing is a question that is currently stirring up considerable debate along the West Coast. The late Paul Bonnot, a marine biologist who specialized in lions, once wrote:

"It is understandable that commercial fishermen, sportsmen and seashore resort owners take a dim view of the activities of the sea lions. On occasion they rob and tear up nets and other types of commercial gear and thereby incur the wrath of the fishermen. They scare fish away from favorite angling areas which does not endear them to sportsmen. The resort owners, of course, are affected financially by the exasperation of the sportsmen, and they sometimes use the sea lions as a palliative to explain a periodic absence of catchable fish or to console some of the tyros among the cash customers who have failed to make a catch.... As it becomes more difficult to catch fish, it is human nature to ascribe the condition to some agency not related to human activity...."

Bonnot also cited the case of two sea lions shot in the estuary of the Klamath River "because they were killing salmon." When their stomachs were examined, it was found that same were full of lampreys, the salmon's most voracious natural enemy. Fish and Game's biologists have found, in fact, that a sea lion's food is about 75% "rough" fish, or those which nobody but a bigger fish, or a sea lion, will eat.

Fish and Game would like to trim the herd, but certainly not by 15,000 (almost an impossibility) nor by depth bombs (inhumane and messy). "The department can do it now," says Pauline L. Davis, chairman of the Fish and Game Committee of the State Assembly, which considers the resolution next. "The reason it doesn't is because it fears the strong sentiment of the people against it."

As Mrs. Davis reported that her mail protesting the proposed carnage was so heavy that it looked like the resolution might be defeated, Fish and Game heaved a guarded sigh. "We're not about to buy our machine gun as yet," said one edgy official. It is, indeed, a far, far better thing to face a few surplus sea lions than a few outraged sea lion lovers.

Scotland's Sandy Saddler

The British Walker Cup selection committee has run into the embarrassment of riches that selection committees dream about: it has discovered a superb unknown golfer, and has still been able to leave him off the team, TOO MANY PLAYERS ARE TOO GOOD, ran the headline in the London Observer.

The headline referred to a 23-year-old, 135-pound Scotsman standing 5 feet 3 inches who is named Sandy Saddler. Scotland's Sandy Saddler is not to be confused with the American featherweight fighter of the same name you may remember for his gifted thumb and elbow work—though the power he generates in his slight frame might put you in mind of another vest-pocket American, lefthander Bobby Shantz. In the words of one British golfing authority, Sandy "takes a great, determined belt at the ball, and sometimes almost swings himself after it in his determination to get it into orbit." At the finals for the Walker Cup selections he also astounded everyone by finishing second to the amateur champion Joe Carr, with a remarkable 293 to Carr's 290.

Since Britain has won the Walker Cup once in the past 37 years it might be expected that the selectors would elect Sandy at once. But the Daily Telegraph's golf expert, while describing Sandy's performance as dazzling and brilliant, added "it is inconceivable that he should be seriously considered" for the Walker Cup team. "His achievement," wrote the Observer in dead seriousness, "is one which will long live with him. In another age of selection, it would almost surely have gained him a place."

Why not in this age? Sandy's principal difficulty was "his limited experience of first-class play." The son of a prosperous baker in the gently declining old city of Forfar in eastern Scotland, Sandy is himself a fully qualified baker, renowned for his confectionery and wedding cakes. He began playing golf at 15, won the Forfar club championship at 18, the first year he was allowed to compete, and has since knocked off the Angus County championship and lowered a lot of course records, but remained unknown outside his part of Scotland.

"He really came to light too late," complained the London Times, in the midst of general praise for the Walker Cup team that was selected last week without him. In all this there was plainly evident the old British dislike of being surprised, even by the discovery of a badly needed champion.

With the Greatest of Ease

Only four years ago Walter Patterson, a friendly young fellow from Nashville, won a Big Ten championship in gymnastics while a sophomore at the University of Iowa. Now, at 24, he is a flying trapeze performer in Ringling Bros, circus, and every evening his wife, a pretty girl named Ruth, leaves their 3-year-old daughter with a baby sitter and goes off to be shot out of a cannon.

This is undeniably an unusual fate for a college athlete, but it makes a certain amount of sense when Patterson explains it, as he did in his dressing room in Madison Square Garden the other evening. Walter shares the room with about 50 other male acrobats, jugglers and wire walkers; it is a large and lively place. The walls were hung with costumes in unbelievable shades of green, pink and orange, and every time the door opened circus music blasted in, for the performance was already under way.

"At Isaac Litton High School back in Nashville," said Walter, removing his shirt, "I was too small for football, so I tried tumbling and trampolin instead. As a gymnast I won an athletic scholarship at Iowa, and I met Ruth there in a sophomore English class.

"Ruth had grown up in Davenport, Iowa and knew nothing of either sports or the circus. But she was related to the Zacchini family—they are the people who have themselves shot out of a cannon—and she introduced me to them.

"I was curious, and the first thing you know I let them shoot me out of the cannon. Then Ruth and I got married. This was still our sophomore year, but suddenly I was a married man and had to earn a living. We left college and went into show business."

Walter is the catcher of the flying trapeze act, which means that he hangs upside down from his trapeze and catches the other performers as they come off the main trapeze in somersaults or pirouettes; he swings them out and back once, and then they return to their own trapeze. The catcher is usually a heavyweight, but Walter handles the job easily though he weighs only 150 pounds. His partners are Ray Humphreys, a 30-year-old Australian (155 pounds) who is the star of the act; Billy Ward, a broad-shouldered Missourian of 52 who has been a trapeze performer since 1925; and Eva Nemedi, 27, a girl from Hungary.

As Walter pulled pink trunks over his pink tights, Humphreys and Ward came in and began putting on similar gear. "At the time we left college to travel with the Zacchinis," said Walter, "they didn't need any more cannon balls so I took up the trapeze. But the cannon was always around, so naturally both Ruth and I got lots of practice being shot out of it. We have even been shot out of it together. It fires twice, you know, in rapid succession. Here in New York another girl is working with Ruth, because New Yorkers like lots of girls in the acts. But later on my wife and I will be shot out of it together."

Ray Humphreys pulled some blue coveralls over his immaculate pink costume and, thus disguised as a workman, went out to check the rigging of the trapezes. Billy Ward covered his tights with the garb of an 18th-century gentleman (in orange and silver) and left to appear in Display 16, which the program describes, in part, as a "Super-Spectacle Blending the Beauty of All Nations into a Fairyland of Rainbow Radiance."

"You don't have to train especially hard to be a flyer," said Walter, taping his wrists with cloth, which gives his partners a better grip on them. "The act itself keeps us in good shape. We can smoke, but it probably wouldn't be wise to have cocktails before dinner if you're going to perform that evening."

A few minutes before their cue, the four flyers assembled backstage. Holding cigarettes in their mouths, the men swung their arms back and forth to warm them up, then did a few handstands. Miss Nemedi primped a bit—she is an extremely pretty girl—and they were ready to go.

The band, as always, played waltzes for the flying trapeze performers, and the crowd, as always, gasped at the brilliance and pure precision of the act. Back in the dressing room after it was over, the men were only slightly out of breath. They had done their night's work in five minutes. Everything had gone well except that the humidity of the air had made the trapeze bars a bit more slippery than usual.

"Our daughter, Lora Ann, likes to watch the performances," said Walter, getting dressed. "Of course she can't do much herself yet, being only 3. We have started her on the trampolin, though. I'm going off to see her now. Then I'll go over and help out around the cannon. When my wife is one of the cannon balls, I like to make sure that everything is in good shape."

Duffer's Choice

I'd rather have a caddie cart
Than a caddie live;
Don't care for any witnesses
To count the strokes that I've.


"If this is the right town and the right night, and if the fight's still on, and if you've got a ring in there, and if anybody still cares, would you let us in, please? Cus sent us."


"Circulate in the paddock.... Talk about bluegrass, blood lines and the ante-bellum days.... Boast about Kentucky bourbon...and remember—don't drink anything but juleps."


They Said It

Sam Snead, bewailing and slightly exaggerating the extent of changes being made to toughen the Winged Foot course at Mamaroneck, N.Y., for the U.S. Open, an event he has never won: "Some of the fairways will be so narrow that even I'll be able to jump across them."

Paul Douglas, U.S. Senator from Illinois, paraphrasing Psalm 137 in promising he would not ask for any more federal money if the Senate authorized $500,000 for Chicago's Pan-American games: "May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth and may my right arm wither if I do any such thing."

Joe Gordon, Cleveland Indians manager, keeping his feet on the ground while his team (winner of six of its first seven games) keeps its head in the clouds: "They're not the greatest ball club I've ever seen, but they think they are."