THE PRICE OF INDIGNATION
Attendance at most major Thoroughbred racetracks was higher than ever in 1961. An exception was Tropical Park in Coral Gables, Fla. During the first half of its current 43-day meeting, attendance fell off by 8% and betting was off 6% compared with last year.
"It is clearly an economic condition, nothing else," says Saul Silberman, president of Tropical Park. But the economic condition that he blames seems not to have affected most other tracks. The mutuel handle at the nearby Flagler dog track is up 7%.
Perhaps other things are responsible. Silberman raised admission prices for the grandstand from $1.75 to $2, increased the cost of parking from $1 to $1.50 and, most significantly, upped the traditional Daily Double bet from $2 to $3. Silberman should recognize that bettors are peculiar people—or they probably wouldn't be bettors at all. They'll bet any money they happen to have or can raise on what they think is a good bet. But they'll back away like frightened deer from anything they don't like. We think they don't like Tropical's increased costs, and we think it's a good sign. Sport is famous for kicking the feathers off the goose that lays the golden eggs. It's pleasant to see the goose strike back once in a while.
BELLS ARE RINGING
Nobody needed to send to Australia last week to know for whom the bell tolled at Kooyong Stadium in Melbourne; it tolled for amateur tournament tennis and the din was deafening. One Australian newspaper described the straight-sets defeat of Nicola Pietrangeli and Orlando Sirola in the Davis Cup Challenge Round as a farce, and the word was apt for all amateur championship tennis at this point. Of the world's so-called "amateurs" Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Neale Fraser, who won so effortlessly at Melbourne, are probably the only three left whose games can be considered of championship caliber. One has already retired, and the other two are making plans to sign with the pros. How long after that will the diehard opponents of open tennis go on arranging and organizing national and international "championships" with no champions to play in them? If Melbourne proved anything last week, it proved that the time for open tennis is long past due. Gentlemen, the bell is ringing, and it's for you.
A lot of people are going to be surprised to learn that our Sportsman of the Year, Jerry Lucas (see page 22), is not as tall as Wilt Chamberlain. When Lucas was in high school in Middletown, Ohio, he was 6 feet 7½. As his reputation grew, the nation's press apparently decided he should grow, too. "Lucas is 6 feet 9," said an Ohio paper. "He's 6 feet 9½," said the Associated Press. "Six feet 10," said The New York Times. "Seven feet," said a Midwest paper. "It was ridiculous," says Jerry Lucas, who has often appeared to opponents to be seven feet tall but is still 6 feet 7½ and isn't likely to grow any more.
THE INSIDE TRACK
•Boston boxing promoters are trying to build up a St. Patrick's Day fight between old Archie Moore and Tom McNeeley. Part of the buildup will be a January 22 bout between McNeeley and one of his recent sparring partners, Don Prout, for the vacated New England heavyweight championship.
•If the American Football League should fold, the National Football League probably would move the Pittsburgh Steeler franchise into Houston and the St. Louis Cardinal franchise into New Orleans.
•At least two teams, Hawaii and San Francisco, will drop out of the new American Basketball League at the end of this season. Hawaii is not making money, and travel to Hawaii is costing the other seven teams in the league considerable sums.
•Avelino Gomez, the 33-year-old jockey who recently moved his tack from Canada to Florida, will shortly be riding even more winners than he has in his first three weeks in this country (15 winners in 80 mounts). Gomez recently has obtained the services of Agent Goldie Mitchell, who was responsible to a large degree for the successes of Ted Atkinson and John Ruane.
MEN OF TREES
As small boys of all ages know, there is a tiny corner of England called Sherwood Forest. Here, for centuries, a fine stand of English oak concealed fine English stags who were pursued at one time by a band of fine English brigands led by Robin Hood. Now, hark you, some knave has said that the English oak is too weak and puny, and that the Queen's foresters should march into Sherwood Forest and plant American oaks instead.
But England has a worthy champion in Sir Shane Leslie, a verray parfit knight who leads a battle group called The Men of Trees. Sir Shane is something of a tradition himself, having been around for some 76 summers; but apparently he feels his work has just begun.
"Let us plant an English oak and an American one side by side," he thundered last week, "and in 500 years we will know which is the better." Someone suggested that the enemy might not be willing to wait that long. "Precisely," countered Sir Shane, "they know only too well that time is on my side."
THE TEMPLE REOPENS
After 910 days without those real, vital and elusive qualities that make up pal-ship, New York's sporting and theatrical crowds moved "back" last week to the new $3.5-million Toots Shor restaurant on 52nd Street between Sixth and Fifth avenues within—as somebody said—"spitting distance of '21'."
The opening-day crowd was virtually the same as the closing-day crowd that said goodby to "the old joint" in June of 1959. Jackie Gleason, with a red boutonniere, was there; Whitey Ford, "a 25-game crum-bum," was there; Yogi Berra was there; Allie Sherman and his football Giants were there. There were minks and finks, flacks and hacks and off-Broadway actresses who will never get off off-Broadway. Everyone, it seems, was there, lured to the new temple by the exotic incense of the Shor personality.
Artistically, the new Shor's is exactly like the old Shor's. The main bar is "the meeting place" and, like the proprietor, it is round, loud and right in the middle of everything. The old gang was happy to be jostled, insulted and slapped by Shor, to be overlooked by the head-waiter and served by the revered bartenders—Eddie, Frank, Bob and Ziggy. No one really knows where Eddie and Frank and Bob and Ziggy have been for the last two years, but it was suggested that Shor farmed them out and had them on 24-hour recall all the time.
Everything was the same, even Shor, who at one point walked to the bar, beat his fist on it four times for quiet and shouted, "How lucky can you be, to be in here with me, you lucky, creepy bums."
Last week Toronto's influential newspaper The Globe and Mail pointed a strong editorial finger at National Hockey League President Clarence Campbell. The Globe and Mail said, "Innumerable Canadian boys follow [hockey] with breathless interest. The liberal education they are now getting in violence, foul play, disregard of rules and authority, and general bad sportsmanship is, in a sense, a national disgrace."
The reason for the editorial slap at Campbell was a recent incident involving Jack Adams, the general manager of the Detroit Red Wings. During a game at Detroit, Adams stalked to the press box and loudly criticized Referee Eddie Powers, who was officiating the game, and Carl Voss, the NHL's referee in chief.
When informed of Adams' outspoken comments, Campbell tried to coat the affair with whitewash. "This is not a matter for discipline," he said. "...He [Adams] isn't going to intimidate Voss. Adams can have an alley fight with Voss anytime he wants and can choose his own weapons. He's entitled to that.... The only thing that gave it [the incident] a bad color was where it happened. If it had happened in the street or in an alley, no one would have said a thing about it."
Is Mr. Campbell, who normally runs an orderly and exciting league, encouraging owners and general managers to lay for referees in alleys? If he is willing to endorse such blatant and outspoken attacks on his officials, it will not be too long before hockey finds itself out in the alley, too.
YOU TARZAN, ME HOUSE DETECTIVE
There is a whole race of people who do nothing but keep an eye on things. Some of them, like avalanche rangers and DEW-line sentries, are probably necessary. Others, like cops, are a calculated risk. And then we have the watchbirds of public morals, who are simply born, like Venus on the half shell, though not so gracefully. Of these last, we have an example in a librarian of the Downey Unified School District outside Los Angeles.
This sharp-eyed cat, while browsing through the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs, concluded, with some horror, that Tarzan and Jane had been living in the great outdoors √† deux—√† trois, if you count Boy—all these years without benefit of clergy. And, lest some lusty 8-year-old latch onto the pair of pigtails at the next desk and attempt to do likewise, the librarian began removing Tarzan from the bookshelves.
Well, there are lots of things that are missing in the jungle, like marriage licenses and rabbit tests and even desk clerks, although some of the better trees may well be patrolled by gorillas with derby hats and cigars. Anyway, we think the librarian ought to put the books back, if not on constitutional grounds, then at least so as to avoid being linked with three of the more famous moral ferrets of the past 15 years: 1) the keen historian who tried to ban Yankee from Olympus and Charles Beard's The Republic on the grounds that they would exert undue influence on voters during an upcoming election, 2) the Alabama state senator who put the kibosh on that book about the white rabbit that married the black rabbit and, finally, 3) the theologian who 11 years ago announced that the doctrine of the Assumption was ridiculous, because the Virgin Mary would have run out of oxygen at 18,000 feet.
OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
There were, in the past year, some memorable moments in sport that might better have been forgotten. Ignoble, uninspiring, never uplifting, they nonetheless lent a pleasantly jarring note of spice to the sport year:
Notre Dame kicked a field goal after the game was over to beat Syracuse.
An Archie Moore fight in Montreal was called off for the unhappy but refreshing reason that nobody seemed likely to show up to watch it.
Stu Miller got blown oft" the pitcher's mound in Candlestick Park in San Francisco during the first All-Star Game.
In his big-league debut Rookie Pitcher Sam McDowell of Cleveland broke two ribs making a pitch.
Discus Thrower Jay Silvester smashed the world record by 13 feet and became the first man ever to throw the discus more than 200 feet, only to have the record disallowed because the field tilted downhill.
Manager Paul Richards of the Baltimore Orioles tripped over the top step of the dugout during a game and fell flat on his face.
On the Pali in Oahu, Hawaii, small-car warnings were posted along the road when the winds coming in off the Pacific got too gusty.
A $30,000 oceangoing yacht sank in four feet of water 50 yards from shore during the Mazatlàn race.
After the Houston Oilers beat the San Diego Chargers in the American Fool-ball League championship playoff, a disgruntled Charger player sat on a referee.
Plate Umpire Tom Gorman called for a look at the ball from Pitcher Frank Sullivan. Sullivan lobbed it in toward the plate, and Batter Richie Ashburn smacked it down the first-base line. "First pitch I've seen above the waist all year," explained Ashburn.
Prospects for 1962 continue bright. Parachutist Jacques Istel plans a combination skydiving-skiing race in which teams of three will parachute from a plane, land on top of a hill and ski down. Winner will be the first team of survivors to make it from plane to bottom of hill. Happy New Year.