Ingemar Johansson has now returned to Europe, another defeated European heavyweight. Lately he has seemed a bit restless—understandably so, because the Internal Revenue Service has been clumsily stalking him as if he were one of America's 10 most wanted criminals.
Hangers-on, time and Nat Fleischer probably will all appraise him differently as a heavyweight. But as a character in sport, Johansson has left us with something to remember and be thankful for. His right hand jolted the boxing crowd out of its apathy in 1959 and made Floyd Patterson realize that he wasn't quite the fighter that Cus D'Amato had told him he was. Ingemar has been called "the man of the hour," "a breath of fresh air," the man with "the hammer of Thor," a "gracious loser," and assorted other things. We called him Sportsman of the Year 1959, and don't regret it.
THE ANSWER WAS ABSENT
"It will take a little getting used to," said an editorial in The Gazette of Montreal, "but tonight when the Stanley Cup final series begins there will be no team wearing Montreal's famed 'bleu, blanc, rouge' on the ice." WHAT HAPPENED TO CANADIENS? asked a Gazette Inquiring Photographer. HABS PLAN SHAKEUP AFTER CUP OUSTER ran a Star headline.
We suspect that a shakeup will come to the Canadiens before they lace on their skates next October, but we also think we know what happened to the Canadiens. Maurice Richard retired. Montreal began to assert its superiority in the National Hockey League in 1943-44, the first full year of play for Richard. In the 18 seasons that Richard skated for Montreal, the Canadiens made the finals of the Cup 13 times. Richard was more than goal getter, he was Dr. Spock, Big Daddy, Mother Hen to all the little Canadiens. Do not be surprised if, in the next few years, the Canadiens, sans peur but also sans Richard, skate very hard, draw big salaries, remain a gate attraction and fail to win another Stanley Cup.
THE PRICE OF HAPPINESS
Kansas City not only was a bad ball club last year, it was an unhappy one. Even before the regular season began, Manager Bob Elliott had made himself unpopular with his players. He treated Hank Bauer and Dick Williams like a pair of rookies when he caught them in a bar during spring training. When he overheard some of his players in the shower organizing a golf game after a tough exhibition game defeat, he bawled them out and banned golf for the rest of the season. Once the season began, Elliott's reluctance to go on the field and support his players in arguments with umpires wiped out what little esteem he still enjoyed.
This season the Athletics have a new manager, Joe Gordon, and a new general manager, Frank Lane, both of whom are ready to fight any umpire or each other. They also have a new owner, Charles O. Finley, who hopes Gordon and Lane will somehow make the Athletics better. In the meantime, Finley plans to make them happy. Recently he spent $4,000 entertaining the team at a fashionable restaurant in Palm Beach. At dinner he handed out $150 clock-radios to all team members. He also announced that if the team finished in the first division he would tear up all contracts and give each player a better one, retroactive to the start of the season.
This gesture, which if carried out could be illegal, is typical of Finley's consideration for his players. At the start of spring training he changed all Saturday night games to Saturday afternoon and rescheduled some Monday home games, thus giving the players regular days off during the season (golf permitted). He also promised that the players' wives could accompany their husbands on at least one road trip this summer.
All of this has made the Athletics very, very happy. They will lose again this season, but with a smile.
ON THE BEAM
We don't mean to alibi, but it had been at least five months since we had swung a club, and besides we were seven stories above the street. So it's small wonder we didn't break any course records when we used a new invention called the Golf-O-Tron the other afternoon. The Golf-O-Tron is the handiwork of M. R. Speiser of S. & M. Products Company, Inc., of New York, and its main virtue is that you can play 18 holes in a space the size of your living room. It works like this: when you blast a ball it hits a nylon net about 18 feet away, and the speed with which the net kicks back, together with the angle the ball takes, does something funny to four electric eye beams. The electronic impulses thus registered are digested by the heart of the Golf-O-Tron, a computing machine about the size of a huge TV set. How far the ball was hit is shown by numbers on a screen facing the golfer, while moving lights passing over a representation of a fairway indicate whether you hooked, sliced or pounded down the middle. We shanked a few times in a kind of experimental way and found out that if you don't hit the net, the computer placidly ignores the shot.
If you hit your drive reasonably straight and far, though, you subtract the yardage from the total yardage of the hole and then hack away with an iron. Coming to within 25 yards of the green counts as landing on it. A sheet of paper shows the distance of hypothetical holes and par for each. As for putting, we were conceded two putts per green, which seems eminently reasonable; but in some locations where the machine is set up, the golfer will move to a special area and have to putt out.
Mr. Speiser, a nongolfer but an expert at electronics, worked three years to perfect the machine. Twelve of them will be set up throughout the country by June, and they are expected to go big at military bases, airports, bowling alleys, driving ranges and even at golf clubs (for use when a gale is blowing). They cost $5,500.
EAST IS WHERE?
The schedule of the National Football League, released this week, has two surprises: 1) the Dallas Cowboys will play as a member of the Eastern Conference, and 2) the new Minnesota Vikings will be in the Western. Both teams had been slated to play a swing schedule, i.e., play each team in the league once, each other twice. The Eastern Conference, which had its choice of the two teams, voted for Dallas, principally because Dallas has no major league baseball team playing in its stadium. Had Minnesota gone to the Eastern Conference, six of its seven teams would have had baseball-football scheduling conflicts.
The addition of the Cowboys to the Eastern Conference still creates scheduling difficulties, hence the other surprise: the New York Giants open at home in Yankee Stadium September 17—the earliest home opening for the Giants in at least 15 years. Normally, New York stays on the road for the first three games, clearing the way for the Yankees in case they make the World Series.
A SWINGING TOWN
There is one town in America where boxing, viewed dismally elsewhere, still is dearly loved. The town is Pocatello, potato capital of southern Idaho, where amateur fights outdraw even football and basketball.
Pocatello was host last week to the national AAU boxing championships. It is a small city (pop. 30,000), but for three nights and two afternoons crowds ranging from 2,000 to just short of 6,000 elbowed into the Idaho State College gym to see these fights. The big homecoming football game last fall drew 5,000. The largest basketball crowd last winter was 3,500. Pocatello appreciates boxing.
The appreciation is based on the way boxing has been presented to Pocatello. It is quite different from what you see on your television screen. In a mere 10 years, which is how long Dubby Holt has coached the Idaho State College boxing team, Pocatelloans, whether of town or gown, have become remarkably sophisticated about boxing. They understand its skills and subtleties, and they are just as quick to cheer a good loser as to applaud a winner. At Pocatello fights there is no booing. Audiences are perhaps 40% women, many of them faculty wives. Aware that the boys are protected by amateur rules and vigilant officials, the ladies feel no fears that they may be watching a brutal exhibition. They feel instead that they are watching an exciting sport, which is what boxing ought to be.
Visiting coaches and fighters learned quickly to love Pocatello. "Never saw so little smoke and so many brooms," marveled a Chicagoan, looking about the tidy gym.
"It looks like we've found a home," said Art Norris of the AAU.
Boxing couldn't find a better home.
A BIT TOO HORSY
Jacqueline Kennedy, famous for her fashion sense, has slipped on a point of taste in the horse world. Recently, in formal fox-hunting attire (dark Melton coat, buff-colored breeches, black derby and boots), she attended the Piedmont Fox Hounds Point-to-Point races in Upperville, Va. However—as some members of the set observed—to appear as a spectator at the races wearing riding clothes is as ridiculous as wearing a tutu to watch a ballet performance. A Jackie defender pointed out that she had been hunting that morning and probably did not have time to change. "One makes time," was the firm reply. "Or, at the very least, one changes the formal hunt coat for an informal tweed one."
As we feared (SI, March 27), the stage is now set for one politically oriented group (led by Democrat bigwig James P. Clark of Philadelphia) to gain a monopoly over harness racing in Pennsylvania. The state commission met in Harrisburg last Wednesday, and two of the three commissioners (both Democratic political appointees, neither of whom has previously shown any interest in the sport) proposed and passed three motions in a few minutes. The first awarded a racing license to Clark's group, the second decided not to consider any other applications for licenses, the third was a move to adjourn. To all three motions, Commission Chairman Lawrence Sheppard voted "no" and lost.
What this means is that Clark's group (the Liberty Bell Racing Assn.) now has the only license to run a trotting track in Pennsylvania with pari-mutuel betting, though the commission was authorized to grant four licenses by the state legislature. The next step in solidifying the monopoly will probably be taken in May when the same two commissioners are expected to approve another license for a group which will rent the track Clark intends to build and run its race meeting right after his. Then all racing will be conducted at Clark's track, and he will, in effect, control all racing. This, we repeat, is the same kind of setup that led to scandals in New York and Illinois a decade ago.
When Lawrence Sheppard was appointed to the Pennsylvania commission, we were delighted that a veteran trotting man would have an important role in guiding that state's racing program. It would be a shame if, instead, the sport were turned over to politicians, regardless of party.
•The successful $615,002 bid by NBC for the 1961 National Football League championship game was attained when Commissioner Pete Rozelle allowed open bidding on game for first time. Players in title game will divide $100,000 from take, while rest of money, save league's cut, will go to players' pension fund.
•Despite elimination of former champions Cary Middlecoff and Jimmy Demaret, top pros Julius Boros and Dow Finsterwald, and leading amateur Deane Beman, by controversial 40-player cutoff point, Masters authorities will keep rule in 1962.
•Frank McGuire, basketball coach of North Carolina, has few friends among Atlantic Coast Conference coaches, seems constantly at odds with Carolina's Athletic Director Chuck Erickson and will pack his bag when good offer comes along.