Next Week, inresponse to presidential proclamation, the United States celebrates NationalYouth Fitness Week. It would be agreeable to report that the celebrations willconsist of a round of effortless push-ups by a citizenry 100% hale and hearty,but such is not quite the case. Like motherhood, physical fitness is held inuniversal high regard, but like the weather, it is more often discussed thanperfected.
In the rivenworld of today, it is an encouraging fact that East and West alike recognizethe vital dependence of national welfare on national health. There is,moreover, an apparent hearty agreement on both sides of the Iron Curtain thatfitness cannot be achieved by proclamation alone, or even by dictatorial fiat.As the chief executive of a democratic people, President Eisenhower can dolittle more about the fitness of his nation than call attention to its lack andhope responsible citizens will take note. The fact that many Americans aredoing so is amply attested by the story beginning on page 39 of thismagazine.
Even on theirside of the fence, however, Dictator Khrushchev and his predecessors have hadto recognize the fact that a nation's health cannot be simply commanded. Thisrecognition has given rise to a Soviet-wide sports program of enviabledimensions in which the people of Russia are urged rather than driven togreater fitness.
The most recentdevelopment in this program is the institution of a new Soviet award—theCommemoration Medal—which in Soviet sporting circles should be roughlytantamount to the Order of Lenin. It is given only to those Russian athleteswho can better the proven best in their line. Vladimir Kuts, one of the firstthree Soviet athletes to earn the medal, set a world record for the 5,000-meterrun of 13:35.0 in Rome in 1957, and any Russian hoping to win the medal in thefuture in that event must equal or better his record. The world's record forthe 100-meter dash is 10.1 seconds; the Russian record 10.3. The new standardfor Soviet medal winners will be 10.2. A decathlon man must pile up at least8,000 points to win; a high jumper must equal the height of 7 feet½ inchachieved by Yuri Stepanov, another pioneer medal winner.
It is the Sovietnotion that many a little Russian boy will dream of wearing the medal of Kutsand Stepanov one day and busily build his biceps in preparation. By the sametoken, though a different award, many a kid in the U.S. dreams of hitting aball like Ted Williams, and becomes a better and healthier school-teacher orstockbroker because of the dream.
It is up to anation to provide the opportunity and the incentive, but only the individualcan provide the body and the effort to keep fit. And though we may sometimeslong to beat him into shape, the carrot of encouragement, as any dietician cantell you, is far richer in vitamins than the stick of enforcement. One doesn'tgo out to play for the sake of a fitter nation; one goes out to play, and afitter nation follows.
Last Week thestudent body of the University of Montana fought it out in a campusdemonstration of a major political decision—the sort of thing that happenseverywhere, though often in less clear-cut terms. The football team of theUniversity of Montana (3,300 students) has long remained in the cellar of theSkyline Conference. Last year it lost 9, won none. The rickety stadium holdsonly 10,000, and the losing teams didn't draw anyway. The football staff needsmore money for football scholarships, among other things, if Montana is to getout of the cellar or, it might be, even remain in the conference. Montana'seconomic and political impasse—a development taking place everywhere—is thatcosts, even the costs of football scholarships, have been increasing whileincome has remained pretty fixed. Montana's athletic fund has been based onstudent activity fees of $10 a quarter. Of this, $4.80 went to athletics. Amongathletic costs were 64 fairly parsimonious football scholarships.
Two weeks ago theathletic staff asked the college administration to increase the activity fee sothat Montana could at least function under the same program as other schools inthe conference. The request was turned down, but Acting President Gordon Castlesuggested that the coaches sound out the student council about a studentreferendum on the issue. The election of new student-body officers was comingup in just eight days when the student council finally agreed to put an addedproposition on the ballot: "Are you in favor of a $5 increase in studentactivity fees for athletics?"
What the electionproved was that inflation is just as hot a question in campus politics asanywhere else. The basic issue was that if Montana wanted to scholarizefootball players, the students themselves would have to pay for them, $5 moreeach quarter, some $49,000 more a year than they had taxed themselves in thepast. All candidates for office studiously shied away from the matter ofincreasing activity fees. The campus newspaper remained noncommittal. Theadministration took no stand—Acting President Castle remarking, "This is amatter for the students."
Opposition to theincrease developed in the Forestry School—a big one at Montana—since autumnfield trips take the loggers away during many of the games, win or lose.Professor Homer Cooper, psychology, came out against the increase. Said he:"Certainly the athletic program needs more money, but it is better financedthan other programs." Students opposed to the increase gathered aroundProfessor Cooper. If any faculty members felt different, they maintained adiscreet silence.
The result wasthat the athletic staff had to do its own electioneering. Football Coach RayJenkins and Basketball Coach Frosty Cox began making soapbox speeches indormitories. A broken-down old car was festooned with jeering signs designed tosuggest that it had come over from Montana State College in Bozeman, hintingthat Montana College was going to replace Montana University in the SkylineConference. Athletes drove it around and plastered VOTE YES signs all over thecampus.
Spring footballtraining began the day of the election. Night before, the football staff spokefor the referendum at a men's dormitory from 6 until 8. They hurried across thecampus to a women's dormitory. Curfew was at 10:30, but campaigning went onuntil midnight. Meanwhile, later comers had arrived at the men's dorms. Thespeakers went back and electioneered until 3 a.m.
As footballpractice started the next day, Coach Jenkins, hoarse and bleary-eyed, lined uphis squad. "Am I safe," he blared, "in presuming all of you havevoted?"
One man hadnot—he had mislaid his activity card and been turned away at the polls. Stillin football garb, he trudged to the administration building, obtained acertified statement that he was a registered member of the student body,clomped back to the polls and voted.
For the increase,1,001; against, 839. Carried.
At the end of thefirst fortnight of the new season, the Kansas City Athletics were comfortablyabove their seventh-place finish in 1958, had collected 102 hits and consumed2,500 vitamin pills. They also drank more unstrained orange juice than in thepast, eschewed fried foods in restaurants, cut out pies and other desserts highin starch and sugar in favor of Spartan foods like ice cream. In the householdof Bob Cerv, whose batting average jumped from .190 to 294 in one week, thewhole happy Cerv family, consisting of the left fielder, his wife and sevenchildren, switched to whole-wheat bread.
And young KansasCity stars on the road, signing the check at expensive hotels, no longer atestrawberry shortcake for breakfast. They actually did so in the past. Or, atleast, one Kansas City rookie (unnamed in all accounts) did so this spring.That's what started the whole thing. Arnold Johnson and the officials of theAthletics decided that this "was hardly the necessary nutrition to startthe day, much less play a ball game on." They hired Dr. Carlton Fredericks,a radio lecturer on nutrition for the past 18 years, to advise the team on whatand how to eat.
Dr. Fredericks isa square-faced, dark-haired, intense individual of 48, born in Flatbush andeducated at the University of Alabama, whose fervent talks have theextraordinary flavor of colloquial American speech delivered in a preciseOxford accent. After one of his 45-minute discourses on the effects of vitamindeficiency, and the removal of vitamins from white bread, a listener is likelyto recoil from a slice of white bread as if it were a coral snake. Most ofFredericks' listeners are women; in fact, it was Mrs. Arnold Johnson whodirected her husband to the baseball possibilities of the nutritionist'sprograms.
Much of what Dr.Fredericks says is dietary common sense, artfully mixed with big medical words,discreet plugs for health foods he recommends and dark intimations that the bigwhite bread manufacturers have been attacking him. Addressing the Athletics atClearwater, Fla. last month under difficult conditions (a game with thePhillies was due to begin, and he had to talk to the team in left field duringthe Phils' batting practice) he nevertheless won their interest and promise ofsupport. "I didn't take that too seriously," he says, "because theymight have just raised their hands to get rid of me."
However, most ofthem subsequently came to him where he sat on the bench. The main point of Dr.Fredericks' advice was that, while no immediate effects could be expected,proper diet could make the team less prone to injury, able to recover morequickly after bruises or injuries, could reduce occupational hazards fromeyestrain to sore arms. Lots of baseball players go without breakfast or lunch,Dr. Fredericks said, because they say they are too tightened up to eat. Tothese he quoted the results of Air Force experiments that indicated handtremors increased as much as 1,000% if one went without breakfast. Before adouble-header, players often delayed breakfast until just before the game,perhaps eating a dish of icecream in the 20-minute interval between games. Butthat meant they went through five hours of intense physical and emotionalstress without needed food intake. For the between-games interval, Dr.Fredericks prepared a nonfat dry-milk milkshake for quick energy, really twoglasses in one, a half ounce of proteins, the same as in a helping of meat."A glass of this," he says, "approximates a small meal but will notgive the sense of being oversatiated which might disturb the players."
It cannot bedenied that Dr. Fredericks sounds occasionally like an old-fashioned medicineman. But baseball has always been a happy field for such. Enos Slaughter haslong been regarded respectfully by his colleagues for his diet of blackstrapmolasses, sunflower-seed oil and buttermilk. And in Kansas City the response tothe diet has been enthusiastic. "I don't feel as tired as I used to,"said Pitcher Russ Meyer. "In spring training I needed a snooze every day,but now I don't. I don't know if it's those pills or not, but that tiredfeeling disappeared after I started taking them." Mrs. Kent Hadley, thewife of the rookie first baseman (.286), says she has been studying thedoctor's works and finds them helpful, especially in the matter of a heartybreakfast.
Said Pitcher RayHerbert (1-0): "It's no strain for me. My only problem is pie. I've cut itout and have ice cream instead."
Legislation ofthe Hour
"Introduced in the Florida legislature: a bill making it unlawful for womentennis players to wear the Stars and Bars (or the Stars and Stripes, for thatmatter) on their tennis panties.
This Dodger was aladies' man,
Always in there clinching;
But now he's in the hospital;
He got himself hit pinching.
They Said It
Douglas Macarthur II, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, on hisfishing during a stopover in Okinawa: "I feel certain I have establishedsome kind of world's record. I caught a fish no bigger than the end of myfingernail, but managed to keep him hooked."
Fidel Castro, onetime pitcher, on hearing that theHavana Sugar Kings might shift their International League franchise: "Idon't want the Sugar Kings to go away from Cuba. I'll even pitch for them. Iwas not something like Baby Ruth, but sometimes I got nine zeros" (meaninghe occasionally shut out the opposition).
Gus Triandos, Baltimore Orioles catcher, mulling overa game in which he drove in five runs, was charged with two passed balls andcommitted one error: "At least I drove in more runs than I let in."
George Andros, San Francisco nightclub proprietor,launching a back-to-the-Polo Grounds drive: "Ever since the Giants camehere I've been asking myself, 'Why did the best brains in the country whorepresent Wall Street let the Giants leave New York?' Look—who goes tonightclubs? The sporting crowd, right? I'm a sports-minded citizen myself, buton the nights when the Giants are playing, I'm dying."
"Won't somebody come forward?"