Tropical Park racetrack opened the Florida season on Thanksgiving Day, but $2 bettors were left with little to be thankful for. Saul Silberman, Tropical's president, substituted the $3 daily double for the ancient, revered $2 ticket. Fans have been in anguish ever since. Silberman, who knows a fast buck when he sees one, announced with his customary mathematical proficiency that "the double will now pay 50% more." He neglected to mention that it is equally possible to lose 50% more.
Silberman is ambitious. He would like to see the minimum for all bets raised from $2 to $3. For the reckless he has already opened $50 daily double windows as well as $3 and $10.
Many double addicts like to "wheel" a horse in the first or the second race with all the horses in the other race. Such a maneuver will now cost the poor and downtrodden $36 a throw instead of $24, thus making them poorer and more downtrodden.
We hope Silberman loses his playsuit on this new move, and maybe he will. The daily double pool showed a drop from last year on the first two days of the innovation. The crowds, too, were disappointing, despite fine, warm weather. Maybe not enough people had $3 bills on them.
One Tropical fan, Mario Quintero, said dolefully, "All I know is that up to now I only needed one guy to get a dollar from to bet the double. Now I got to find two guys." William Miller, another Tropical bettor and a horseplayer for 40 years, asked: "Why don't they put vacuum cleaners at the entrance gates and sweep the money out of your pockets on the way in?" Just be patient, Miller.
GANG-UP ON SOUTH SEMINARY
A few months ago we printed a story about Tom Affinito, a graduate student at New York University who had written a term paper on the inane methods by which colleges recruit basketball players. Affinito invented a mythical high school senior, planted fake stories in papers extolling the boy's ability and, presto, recruiters started bidding for him. Consider now the case of David Kent Wells, a 17-year-old senior at Madisonville High in Kentucky. Wells, a halfback, scored 208 points this season and had a rushing average of 235 yards per game, best in the state. Such prowess was bound to attract the attention of football's busy recruiters, and it did. The doorbell began to ring at Wells's brown brick home on South Seminary Street in Madisonville.
Last week, however, college basketball coaches started moving in on Wells, and this bewildered him. The reason for all this is simple, silly and astonishing. In a nationally distributed magazine Wells was listed erroneously as one of the top high school players in the land. "I'm only an ordinary player," Wells confessed. What set the basketball recruiters on Wells's trail was his height as listed by the magazine—6 feet 11. If your grandmother is 6 feet 11 she is going to get visited, by the recruiters. So the boys moved in. Alas a little typo is a dangerous thing. Wells is 6 feet.
THERE'LL ALWAYS BE A MAGGOT
A. Bryant & Co. Ltd., of Thornton, England, advertises in The Fishing Gazette:
"The Best Maggots—to suit the angler of knowledge and discernment."
Anglers of knowledge and discernment use worms or dough bait.
Bill Veeck, one of the all-too-few men who truly understand the game of baseball, its players and fans, appeared on a New York radio show recently and recalled as warm an anecdote as we have heard in a long, long time. It concerns Larry Doby, whom Veeck brought to the Cleveland Indians in 1947 as the first Negro player in the American League.
"I can remember Doby's first time at bat," said Veeck. "He was nervous and hitting against a left-handed pitcher. He swung at three pitches and missed each of them by at least a foot. He walked back to the dugout with his head down. He was so discouraged that he walked right by everyone on the bench and sat in the corner, all alone, with his head in his hands. Joe Gordon was up next and Gordon was having his best year and this particular left-hander was the type that Joe usually murdered. Well, Joe missed each of three pitches by at least two feet and came back to the bench and sat down next to Doby, and put his head in his hands, too. I never asked Gordon then and I wouldn't ask him today if he struck out deliberately. After that, every time that Doby went onto the field he would pick up Gordon's glove and throw it to him. It's as nice a thing as I ever saw or heard of in sports."
Eddie Shack is a highly skilled forward who came into the National Hockey League with two imperfections: he had a very large nose and he was illiterate. For two years now, he has been the recipient of some sharp bench-jockeying. When Shack would bust across the blue line toward the goal, inevitably there would come a shout from the enemy bench: "Offside—by a nose!" The kindest remark was "Hey, Pinocchio, don't that thing weigh you down?"
There was nothing Shack could do about his nose, but with private tutoring provided by the Toronto Maple Leafs he set about conquering his illiteracy. We are pleased to provide the following progress report:
The other night Shack's team went against the Detroit Red Wings. The shouts—mostly from Detroit General Manager Jack Adams—began. "You can't even spell," yelled Adams. "You're so bright, you can't even read. How do you spell your name, Shack?"
With the score tied 1-1, Shack sun-fished through the Detroit line, picked up a rebound and slapped the puck past the Detroit goaler for a tie-breaking score. Then he skated full tilt for Adams' seat, paused dramatically, and said:
"You spell that S-C-O-R-E."
THE INSIDE TRACK
•Elgin Baylor, top scorer for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association, has been given a five-week reprieve from reporting to active duty with the Army. This allows Baylor to play in 23 more games than did his original departure time of Nov. 26. Laker officials estimate that if Baylor had left on the earlier date the team would have lost 60,000 people in attendance and revenue up to $200,000.
•Utah State, unbeaten and once tied this season, is really anxious to get a bowl bid. A representative of State flew to Houston to show the Bluebonnet Bowl selection committee films of State's 1961 games.
•The move of the Los Angeles Dodgers to their new Chavez Ravine park for the 1962 season has inspired the biggest advance sale in baseball history. Walter O'Malley already has orders for more than 12,000 box seats, thus assuring the Dodgers a gate of one million.
THE HOT POTATO
It is no longer big news when an owner of a team in the National Basketball Association fires a coach, and it is not news at all when Ben Kerner of the St. Louis Hawks fires one. Two weeks ago Kerner fired Paul Seymour and promptly replaced him with Fuzzy Levane. Seymour thus became the 17th coach that Kerner has fired in the past 15 seasons. On the surface it would seem that Seymour was fired because the Hawks, heavy favorites to win the Western Division of the NBA, could win only five of their first 14 games. But below the surface is a murky situation involving St. Louis' three superstars—Bob Pettit, Clyde Lovellette and Cliff Hagan.
These three Hawks averaged 71.6 points per game last year and Seymour felt that he could get even more points from them this season (and from the rest of the team as well) by adding rookie backcourtman Cleo Hill to the Hawk starting lineup. The big three, however, didn't care much for this addition. "I took my stand on Hill," says Seymour, "but they were too strong for me. I warned them once [to play along with Hill] during the exhibition season. I told them, 'Now look, the kid is staying,' and they went into their shells."
Apparently Pettit, Lovellette and Hagan believe that Hill, the Hawks' first draft choice, was getting too much publicity. According to both Seymour and Hill, the big three failed to rebound and hustle aggressively when Hill was playing. Cleo Hill, not surprisingly, is a bit confused by this attitude. Last week he said, "I'm not particularly interested in the St. Louis Hawks. I believe I'm on my way out—there's a deal coming up. I'm a hot potato."
Ted Simmonds, 12, is goalkeeper for Nottinghamshire's Worksop Sea Cadets' soccer team, and his performance to date has made headlines in England. Ted, 58 inches tall, has let in 204 goals in eight games (scores: 25-1, 33-0, 28-0, 34-0, 34-0, 11-3, 25-1 and 14-0). One famous pro manager was moved to remark, with typical British reserve: "There's something obviously wrong with the team's defense." But Ted is not giving up. "We'll carry on," he said. "And I'll try to move about a bit more."
THE SPANIARDS RETURN
For years the matadors of Spain and Mexico have been stabbing each other, on some occasions more effectively than either could stab the bulls. Several times conventions have been signed providing for an exchange of performers. In every case something occurred—perhaps only the great success of an "enemy" national—to break the pact of the moment.
The last one was broken in 1957, and neither Mexicans nor visitors to Mexico have seen a Spanish matador since. This has been sad for the North American afición, since the best matadors currently are Spanish. Now there is good news. A new pact was signed in Madrid last week. This winter the Norte Americano visitor will see Antonio Ordó√±ez, Luis Miguel Dominguín and other great Spaniards. Nor is that all. The highly informed aficionados of Mexico will at last be able to leave the Tupinamba and Taquito cafés and with their own eyes decide how to vote in the tauromachy election of the decade: yes or no, is Antonio a torero de época and the n√∫mero uno of the world?
LEGACY OF A MASTER
It is a long cast from the placid, slow chalk streams of England to the swift and often turbulent trout waters of America, and the arts of fishing them with a dry fly are quite as far apart. It has been fewer than 50 years, some of us were surprised to be reminded recently, since the Second American Revolution further separated the colonies from the mother country, a revolution fathered by a boy-size man named George Michel Lucien LaBranche.
Oddly enough, a European import, the brown trout, inspired LaBranche's development of the American style of dry-fly fishing. More discriminating than the native brook trout, the brown presented problems the American angler did not know enough to solve until, in 1914, LaBranche enlightened him in his classic, The Dry Fly and Fast Water. British emphasis on precise imitation of the natural insect, even to the shape of its eyes, was turned by LaBranche into emphasis on precise presentation of the fly.
"He was a superb tournament caster, in both distance and accuracy," his old friend Sparse Grey Hackle recalled last week, "and he was eligible for 'the charmed circle,' an old expression for those who could cast 100 feet with straight fishing tackle, but it was his stream casting that especially distinguished him. His 'tipwork,' by which he insinuated his fly through, around and under branches and stream obstructions, was beautiful to watch.
"LaBranche developed the art of 'reading the stream' so that American anglers would know just by looking at the water where a trout was likely to lie, instead of waiting for a rise and casting to it, as the British do. If there was no hatch he made his own, casting as many as 50 times to where he knew a trout waited."
Along with LaBranche, America produced such giants as Ed Hewitt and Theodore Gordon, fellow students of the trout. They are all gone now, and so is George LaBranche, who died November 18 at 86, his sporting will long since probated on the dancing surfaces of a thousand American streams.