The announcement that the third Patterson-Johansson fight would be held March 20 in Miami Beach had hardly appeared in print last week when a drearily familiar sequence of events began. The date was changed almost immediately to March 13. Then, further to confuse fans, the promoters released a mixed bag of fact and fancy on how and where the fight would be televised.
This kind of thing seems to be accepted as part of the promotional voodoo before big-time fist fights. The first Patterson-Johansson fight was preceded by a mishmash of skulduggery; the second was honestly promoted by Feature Sports Inc., but arrangements at the Polo Grounds were so badly bungled that some ticket holders had to climb fences and fight their way to their seats.
This third fight will be one of the most important ever held in this country. To the sport of boxing it offers the first chance to recover from the official exposure by the Kefauver subcommittee of the smelly and/or chaotic conditions that prevail. The members of the Miami Beach Boxing Commission had better see to it that the fight is run cleanly and well. We hope they are up to the job.
An editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that septicemia eohippus is found by many to be "a lingering malady," and is alleged by others to be "incurable." The writer adds a personal note: "My parents had led me to believe this sickness was an hereditary malady and essentially as stigmatizing as syphilis or atheism." Another name for the disease is equinosis. Some simply call it horse playing.
Early in the football season the Los Angeles Chargers' prospects looked bleak, and Owner Barron Hilton was depressed. To cheer him up, Sports-writer Bud Furillo and Assistant Coach Jack Faulkner ticked off all the reasons why the Chargers were certain to win the AFL Western Division championship. Hilton's spirits rose considerably. "If we win," he told the two cheermongers, "I'll buy you something real nice. What would you like?"
Furillo and Faulkner looked at each other. Both came out of the tough areas of Youngstown, Ohio—where street fights left them both with broken noses. "If you win," suggested Furillo, "why don't you buy Faulkner and me new noses?"
Hilton did and will. Furillo and Faulkner will check into hospitals any day now to accept their little tokens of the owner's esteem.
THE INSIDE TRACK
•Chuck McKinley misbehaved miserably in the Davis Cup tennis debacle, but his suspension (as the only amateur bad boy still in sight) probably will be brief. Feeling in sophisticated tennis circles is that McKinley is taking the rap for a series of court cutups who date back to the early Vic Seixas.
•College baseball coaches, anxious to keep pro scouts away from promising undergraduates, are planning a string of summer leagues. They feel this might induce the pros to keep hands off college stars while they acquire this added experience, instead of trying to lure them off campus with attractive bonuses.
•Football and track coaches at the University of Kansas are worried by reports that halfback-sprinter Bert Coan will transfer to St. Benedict's, one of the Midwest's small-college powers. Coan has been brooding over the conference ruling that cost Kansas the Big Eight title and made him ineligible for the first five football games of 1961 (SI, Dec. 19).
•The National Basketball Association has devised a moderately progressive program for stocking next year's new entries in Chicago and Pittsburgh. Current teams will be allowed to protect seven men on their rosters, with the other four open to selection by the newcomers. In addition, Chicago and Pittsburgh each will get one first-round and five second-round choices in the college draft. A good bet for the Celtics castoff list: longtime All-Star Bill Sharman, now 34 and hobbled by a leg injury—provided Sharman, who is seeking the right coaching opportunity, doesn't quit playing altogether.
•Sydney's large Italian colony failed to turn out to see Italy's Davis Cup team face Australia. Reason: Aussie tennis officials sent a "good will" ambassador to city's largest Italian sports club to warn its members to mind their manners. They did—by boycotting matches.
•Look for Bill Cutler to replace Parke Carroll as general manager of the Kansas City Athletics. Cutler, American League office manager, has been offered a five-year contract by New Owner Charles Finley and he is ready to accept.
•The first edition of the Caliente Future Book, which quotes odds on the $145,000 Santa Anita Handicap, makes Kelso a 3-to-1 favorite, Tompion and T.V. Lark 6 to 1, Fleet Nasrullah, Prove It and Bagdad 10 to 1, Divine Comedy 30 to 1. Biggest price is on a 5-year-old gelding named Big Jake. He's 1,000 to 1.
At 7 o'clock on the morning of August 3, 1960, a Wednesday, the news furnished the viewers of Dave Garroway's Today show included the information that trouble was brewing in the Congo, Harry S. Truman was warming to John F. Kennedy and Thomas Patrick Cronin was out of work. Cronin, a 45-year-old, slightly paunchy butler in the service of England's newly married Princess Margaret Rose and Antony Armstrong-Jones, had quit because, as he was saying, his professional standards had been grievously affronted by Armstrong-Jones's unorthodox notions of proper management of royal household affairs. All things considered, Cronin was sorry now he had left his job with John Hay Whitney at the American Embassy to take the exalted position.
Among those who heard Today's newscast that morning was Roy A. McAndrews, a wealthy Florida businessman, who was eating his breakfast at the time and who owns and operates a $4 million, gorgeous (green gravel in the cuspidors) jai-alai court in Dania, Fla., 20 miles north of Miami Beach. This frou-frou frontón is known as the Dania Jai Alai Palace, and the synthetic regality is emphasized by a highly restricted (16 seats) grandstand enclosure called the Royal Box. It is reserved for what McAndrews describes as "our VIPs" and is supposed to be staffed by a champagne-pouring butler.
On the morning in question here, McAndrews recollects, he was distressed about the Congo, delighted about Jack Kennedy, and keenly interested in Thomas Cronin's unemployment. "I sat there thinking," he says. "Here I had this Royal Box but at the time I had no butler. And here was a royal butler who had no job." A warm glow, subtle as the butter slowly melting into his toast, began to spread through McAndrews. The next day one of his most trusted aides was on a jet bound for London, a blank check in his wallet. Result: Thomas Cronin today is installed in a rent-free, maid-supplied, one-room efficiency apartment two blocks from the palm-surrounded, yellow-stucco-and-red-brick building that says HI LI on the roof and JAI ALAI on the wall. And though he knows next to nothing about that athletic fruit salad of handball, lacrosse, squash and pari-mutuel betting called jai alai, he is perfectly content. He is being paid $300 a week and he has all the opportunity he could desire to show off what he does know: butlering.
Cronin wasted no time. His first impression of the Royal Box, his new home, upon his arrival in late November, was that "it was a bit horrible and looked like a tomb." He set about putting the stamp of true royalty on it, and McAndrews, mindful of Armstrong-Jones's experience, gave him a free hand. Cronin found the white-plastic-and-terry-cloth sofas acceptable, but he replaced the black carpeting with gold (complete with the luxurious feel of three underlying pads), the black iron grille work with brass of a florid Florida design, and the bulky glass ashtrays with others upholstered in gold lamé. That done, he supervised the training of the restaurant waiters and grandstand-vending bar waitresses. "I have passed Mr. Eisenhower and Sir Winston Churchill through my hands without displaying my nervousness," he told them; "neither must you with the customers at Dania."
It was McAndrews' view that Cronin's first night was "a flawless performance." "I've never seen a man walk into a job cold like this and so overwhelm the people," he said with deep feeling. Among those the butler apparently overwhelmed in the Royal Box were an assortment of mink-wrapped ladies, world-weary gossip Hy Gardner, Jim Bishop, the author of The Day Christ Died, and Ed Lahey, a Washington newspaperman. Definitely overwhelmed were hordes of hoi polloi who swirled around Cronin between games asking if he would be so kind as to autograph their programs and dinner menus, shaking his hand in gratitude and addressing to him such remarks as, "How do you like America?" "My aunt was born in Ireland," "Is Princess Margaret a good housewife?" and "Let me say what an honor it is to meet you, Mr. Cronin."
"I'm sure," said Cronin later, "it was an equal honor for me to meet all those people, but for the life of me I can't imagine why an American is willing to queue up merely to shake hands with a butler. It just isn't the sort of thing that's done. But I must say for me it's a bloody sight better than quarreling with that upstart opportunist Armstrong-Jones—especially for the $34 a week he was paying me."
Certain basketball fans in St. Louis last week did not like the way things were going during a game between the Hawks and the Boston Celtics, so they threw eggs at the Celtic bench, hitting the players and Coach Red Auerbach. Red was understandably vexed. He called St. Louis a bush town and said the cops should arrest the fans and charge them with disturbing the peace.
We are, of course, against egg-throwing. But we must point out to Red and all the other coaches in professional basketball that they really have only themselves to blame for such behavior. They set the fans a poor example by acting like petulant children at games, dancing around in phony rages and fighting with referees at nearly every call on the floor. Only two weeks ago, before a nationwide television audience, Auerbach himself was so objectionable that Referee Sid Borgia was forced to throw him out of the Boston Garden.
If the coaches would stay on the benches, where they belong, the fans might leave their eggs at home in the refrigerator, where they belong.
BEATING THE SYSTEM
A man named King has the only sure way to beat the system at Las Vegas. He has put his theories into a gold-and-black booklet that purports to tell how to win at craps and now, at $2 a copy, is cleaning up at some 75 locations along the Vegas strip.
THE RUNNING ROBBER
One of the most dedicated athletes in the world surely must be Robert Poindexter, who solemnly and doggedly pursues his goal of a four-minute mile by running thousands of laps inside the walls of the Iowa State Prison at Fort Madison. Poindexter, 33, an armed robber, is in his eighth year of imprisonment, and all that time he has pounded away at the mile. His course is bounded by the walls of the prison; he laid it out by estimate, then added 30 paces for good measure. Running in heavy basketball shoes, he has been timed over this course in four minutes 16 seconds. Percy Cerutty, Herb Elliott's coach, has instructed Poindexter by mail. Archie Moore corresponds with him regularly, and even hired an attorney, who arranged for dismissal of a robbery charge pending against Poindexter in Omaha. Now eligible for parole, Poindexter has plans for his freedom all laid out. "The first thing I'm going to do," he says, "is find a real track—even before I leave town. I want to see what one looks like with my own eyes and try it out. I'd like to win a place on the United States team in the next Pan American Games. But if I don't make it, at least my running has given me self-respect and a new outlook on life."
WHILE PATRONS LOUNGE IN ROYAL BOX, ROYAL BUTLER CRONIN SERVES CHAMPAGNE