President Kennedy sent his special message on natural resources to Congress last week, and it turned out to be a message of great good cheer for everyone who cares about the outdoors. It called for a national program and prompt, strong action to save America's as yet unspoiled open country. It placed outdoor sports and recreation on the same level of importance as, say, the hydroelectric development of our rivers.
Two hours after the message was read, Stewart Udall, Kennedy's energetic Secretary of the Interior, called his department heads together. "We have been given the opportunity to equal and excel the conservation record of Theodore Roosevelt," Udall said. "Let's get busy."
Udall told his men to prepare a detailed, practical program to benefit every part of the country. The deadline: two weeks.
Ralph A. Kennedy, a pencil salesman and later sales executive who was born in Hopkinton, Mass. and died in N.Y. City last week at the age of 78, suffered from a wonderful obsession. It was to see how many different golf courses he could play. After 47 years (he started in 1910 and ground to a halt in 1957) his total was 3,150—as unassailable a record, we warrant, as ever was posted in sports. He played all 9 or 18 holes of each course and tried never to shoot the same course twice. He was chagrined to learn that No. 3,036 was the same as No. 1,002—Jumping Brook near Asbury Park, N.J. Naturally, he counted it only once.
He played at Guayaquil, Ecuador, where fissures in hard-baked clay fairways sometimes swallow the ball (no penalty besides loss of the ball). At Negritos in Peru he found the fairways and greens were sand and the ball (painted black) had to be dug out after each lofted shot.
No. 3,000 was, by design, St. Andrews. There, at the age of 69, he shot a formidable 93. Requiescat.
BREAKING THE TAPE
The other day an interested coed asked John Mariucci, coach of the University of Minnesota hockey team: "Why do hockey players tape their sticks?" As is too often the case in sport, an honest question got a flip answer: "Because they've always taped them, that's why." As a onetime Chicago Black Hawk, Mariucci could have told the coed that tape protects the stick when it is swung into a slap shot, and gives the stick-handler better puck control. If he had, she might not have written the school paper to suggest that a better use could be found for the $500 the university spends each year on tape.
Bob Cousy, the articulate 11-year performer who elevated the professional basketball player to whatever stature he may have today, spoke harshly in Los Angeles the other evening; and when Cousy speaks about the National Basketball Association, everyone listens.
"The owners are going for quantity instead of quality," began Cousy. "Now they're talking about increasing the schedule, which is ridiculous. We ought to play fewer games and devote more time to promoting them. I'm fed up with playing basketball. There isn't a player in this league who isn't dragging. This has been the worst year for travel yet.
"The Los Angeles Lakers," Cousy went on, "make the rest of us look like we're on a Sunday outing [The Lakers will travel 100,000 miles this season]. They're on the road constantly. I saw them waiting to get out of Chicago. They were bushed."
Cousy's team, the Boston Celtics, is sure to be in the playoffs, but that does not make Cousy happy: "The playoffs are a farce. We play 79 games to eliminate one team in each division, now they even added two games to the playoffs. Instead of the first round being the best of three games, it's best of five. Then a best of seven for the division and four of seven for the championship. You can't expect the players to sustain any drive. The playoffs should be abolished. A 50-game season is enough with the division champions meeting in a true World Series."
Maurice Podoloff, the president of the NBA, answered much as any league president would. "The spectators like the playoffs, so they are not a farce."
HAND IN GLOVE
Lefty Gomez, the old Yankee, was in there pitching last week before the U.S. Tariff Commission in Washington. A representative of a sporting goods company, Lefty testified that the U.S. market was being flooded with Japanese baseball gloves. "In the past couple of years," he said ominously, "more and more youngsters have been using imported gloves and mitts."
Lefty's fears were borne out by statistics. Imports of baseball gloves rose from 137,000 in 1957 to 2,412,000 last year. Over the same period, American production slumped from 3,334,000 to 2,653,000. "It's the difference in price," Lefty admitted. A glove an American manufacturer sells for $16.95, for instance, can be duplicated by his Japanese counterpart for $5.95. What Lefty was asking, of course, was that domestic manufacturers be given greater tariff protection.
The situation brings to mind a remark of Casey Stengel's. "Those Japanese players will never make it in the big leagues," he said. "Their hands are too small." But their gloves and their prices seem to be just the right size.
How important to the U.S. are—or should be—international victories in sport? That tricky question, usually begged by politicians, got a forthright answer from Attorney General Kennedy last week. He said: "We don't want to read in the papers in the coming years that our country was second to the Soviet Union in the Olympics and then four years later that it was third or fourth or fifth. We want to be first."
AFL VS. ND
Colleges have been complaining for years that pro football scouts try to recruit players while they are still on campus. Now the situation has been reversed, or at least bent double. Bud Adams, owner of Houston's American Football League team, says Notre Dame Coach Joe Kuharich "lured away one of my best prospects, Mike Ditka of Pitt, and led him to the Chicago Bears of the NFL. I don't plan to say anything directly to Notre Dame, but I have already spoken to a friend of mine, George Strake. George, one of the 50 wealthiest men in the world, is on our board of directors and a big Notre Dame benefactor. It seems to me George can do a better job of telling Notre Dame that Joe ought to spend more time with his own team and let the National Football League take care of itself."
LET 'EM EAT FRENCH FRIES
Roger Moens, Belgian world record holder for the half mile, likes his steak. When he arrived in New York to compete in the current indoor track championships, he was taken to a track writers' luncheon, where he was served a triple lamb chop. Moens—not internationally famed for his courtesy—held out for a thick steak. Then he wanted to know what he was going to get for running, and he was told, "A gold watch—if you win." "I think I'll take the next boat home," Moens grunted.
After lunch Moens went to his room at the Paramount Hotel, convenient to Madison Square Garden, where athletes competing in the Garden often stay. Moens, along with Valeri Brumel and others in the meet, was treated by the AAU to a single room there—usual daily rates $7 to $11. He also had the standard $10 a day for eating and incidentals allowed all our visiting foreign competitors. Moens could either return $8 of the $10 and sign for everything he ate at the Paramount or he could blow the entire allowance in outside restaurants. The Paramount itself has no restaurant—only a coffee shop where a man can get a thin, sliced steak, French fries, salad, roll and butter for $1.95, but no triple lamb chops or double sirloins. An athlete's craving for thick steaks strikes us as neither reprehensible nor unreasonable, but on $10 a day Moens would not eat many in New York in 1961, even if he rode the subway.
As entertainment Moens was offered a ticket to a dog show. He growled and got a basketball ticket instead. After finishing second to George Kerr in the Matt Halpin Half Mile of the New York Athletic Club meet, Moens flew back to Belgium.
"That fellow wanted money, not meals," said Dan Ferris, director of the AAU. Roger evidently felt he didn't get either.
THE INSIDE TRACK
•Without a rash of tips on "the club to watch," the first rites of spring training would seem colorless. Everyone's tip this year: the Los Angeles Dodgers, loaded with pitching, power, speed and depth.
•Watch for Hialeah to cut date for releasing Widener Handicap weights from six weeks before race to two. Reason: in past late-developing horses got edge from handicapper. Yorky's recent Widener win under ridiculous 116 pounds caused furor among other horse owners.
•If the University of Minnesota changes its policy and votes to send a Big Ten team to the 1962 Rose Bowl, the man behind the move will be O. Meredith Wilson, the school's new president.
•Soviet Premier Khrushchev has reproved commissars in Kiev, Novosibirsk and Voronezh for squandering rubles on plush sporting palaces to compete with Moscow's Lenin Stadium. Build houses, Nikita has told them.