Boxing, and its possible abolition, continues as the debate of the moment in sport. The wave of protest that began when Benny Paret received his fatal injuries in the ring swelled again after another boxer, Tunney Hunsaker, was badly hurt last week. The New York State legislature has appointed a committee to investigate the sport. The Vatican has unofficially described boxing as morally wrong, though it limited its charges to the professional game and absolved amateur boxing. A New York Times sports-writer, Robert L. Teague, appearing on David Susskind's Open End television show, argued that boxing should be banned on moral grounds—claiming that since the aim of boxing was for one man to beat the other senseless, or at least helpless, the sport appealed to the coarsest side of human nature and should be prohibited.
Cus D'Amato, manager of Floyd Patterson, heavyweight champion of the world, defended boxing. "You talk as though it was something real," David Susskind laughed. "It is real," said D'Amato. "It's ugly," said Susskind. "It is not ugly," said D'Amato and launched into a defense of boxing as a sport, with its subtleties of offense and defense, its patterns and strategies, its reliance on the courage and dedication of the fighter, its testing of a man alone. Someone mentioned the injuries and deaths. "They happen in every body-contact sport," D'Amato said, "despite every effort on the part of all interested parties. Unfortunately, they happen."
Others argued that boxing, of all sports, gave the best break to minorities. It had helped the Irish in America a century ago (when help-wanted signs said flatly, "No Irish Need Apply"). It had helped the Jews and Italians. It is now helping the Negroes and the Caribbeans. Even Robert Teague admitted this. "It is the opportunity for the low man on the ethnic totem pole," he said. "Boxing is a short cut to money, prestige, status, power."
We feel it is that, and more. It is not a gladiatorial spectacle, despite that frequently voiced charge. The gladiators were not free men. They fought because they were ordered to. And they fought to kill. A boxer's aim is to win—a significant distinction—and he goes into the ring on his own, with no weapons but his skill and courage. No athlete is better conditioned than a topflight boxer. None works harder to achieve. None depends more on himself. As we noted last week, a boxer runs a considerable risk but he stands to win a great deal, too, and not merely money.
Boxing is a hard sport, but it is a sport and a valid one.
LOST BY A BLOODY NOSE
A New York horseplayer who has had the in-and-out luck of all horseplayers suffered an unusually wry casualty loss last week. He favors doubles, parlays and that complex maneuver, the If and Reverse, which is too complex to explain here. Be content to know that he bet an If and Reverse on Daddy R in the eighth at Laurel and Mighty Fennec in the seventh at Gulfstream. Daddy R won his race handily, which meant that the horseplayer would take home $55 on a $10 investment if Mighty Fennec could come through, too. The race chart in The Morning Telegraph the next day described what happened: "Mighty Fennec worked his way up fast on the outside, appeared to have dead aim at the winner midway on the final turn and then bled from both nostrils and lost all chance of continuing his bid." Our man went at once to his neighborhood tavern and If'd and Reversed a Martini with a stinger.
MR. JUSTICE WHIZZER
Byron R. (Whizzer) White, the former All-America and All-Professional football player recently appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Kennedy, "wrote" his first opinion in an interview with Seattle Times Sports Editor Georg N. Meyers:
"The little town I grew up in, everybody played sports. When I got to college, going out for sports was the thing to do—in the sense that people thought you ought to go out if you had the capability. I am reasonably certain that there are several things sport does for you. It is good fun, and that is not to be sneezed at. It is healthful, in the main, and that is not to be sneezed at. It is the one way to get some absolute experience. Even though it is an artificial and manufactured environment, you are constantly being exposed to critical situations which require performance under pressure, and you have to respond."
The fiber-glass people, not satisfied with boosting Pole Vaulter John Uelses over the bar at 16 feet and smack into a controversy of international scope, are now invading the baseball world. A California firm has produced a fiber-glass bat and the results, claim the makers, are positively amazing. With such as Mantle or Maris wielding one of these things, it wouldn't be a question of 60 home runs a season—that would be for a Pearson or a Wills—it would be more like 100. Don't scream. Neither Mantle nor Maris nor anyone else will get the chance to use a fiber-glass bat in anger. The rules of baseball specify that a bat must be made of wood. This year.
THE NFL SCHEDULE
The National Football League schedule for 1962, which was made public last week, shows some radical changes from past seasons, primarily in the Eastern Division. For the first time in ages the New York Giants, the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles will not play a round-robin, home-and-home series late in the season on the prime dates of the competitive year. Charges in the past that such schedule-rigging was deliberately—if legitimately—designed to guarantee maximum attendance in the key city of the league, New York, have been denied but never dismissed. Now, apparently in the interest of more equitable on-field competition, the three strong clubs of the East will have their first go-round in, logically, the first half of the season. Pete Rozelle, the NFL commissioner, reported that an IBM machine was used to help draft the schedule. Rozelle said: "This equipment quickly proved the validity or nonvalidity of our scheduling pattern in many instances." In other words, the computer has pointed out the obvious.
UP, UP, UP!
Barron's, the business and financial weekly, reports that in 1961, when consumers generally were a bit cautious about spending, sales of sporting equipment went up 4% to $2.24 billion, which is an increase of 100% since 1951. New records were made in sales of fishing tackle, firearms, baseball equipment, golf clubs, golf balls, winter sports equipment and sports accessories. Sports stores anticipate a further 6% increase in 1962, when they expect customers to spend $610.9 million on pleasure boats, $392.9 million on cameras and film, a large part of which is used to snap the family in action, and $185.8 million on bicycles, the last item a cheery sign of the booming interest in fitness.
NO SENSE RUSHING
The National League has discovered that "temporary" is a word with a certain elasticity where baseball stadiums are concerned. The Dodgers, awaiting Chavez Ravine, played temporarily for four years in the Coliseum. The Giants were a season late vacating Seals Stadium for Candlestick Park, a move they sometimes wish could have been temporarily averted forever. Now the Houston Colt .45s admit that their revolutionary $22 million domed stadium (SI, March 26) won't be ready in 1963 after all. At least the Colts have a novel excuse: they have to install a sprinkler system that is capable of washing radioactive dust from the roof.
Houston's problem is actually a bit more involved than that. The Department of Defense has allocated $750,000 toward equipping the 66,000-seat structure as a mammoth fallout shelter. Because of further engineering complications brought about by the necessity of incorporating fallout specifications into the basic stadium plans, Harris County (Houston) and Colt officials are putting the bite on the government for $1.25 million more. All of this takes time.
"There's no sense in rushing this thing," says Judge Roy Hofheinz, chairman of the Colt executive committee and the law east of the Pecos. "We want to do it right. Oh, we could still complete the stadium by 1963, but that would cost an additional $6 million and those funds aren't available right now." There was a rumor that the delay might endanger the Houston franchise, but Hofheinz says there is nothing to it. "Warren Giles, the National League president, has been down here and he is aware of the situation. He's not pushing us. He's a reasonable man. We'll simply play in Colt Stadium for two years instead of one as originally planned. This is a brand-new stadium that cost us $2 million to build; it will seat 33,000 and we think it's one of the finest ball parks in either league. You can call it a temporary stadium if you like, but it's big league in every way. There will be no hardship watching baseball here in 1963 or 1964."
Maybe not, but we were kind of anxious to get under that roof. And speaking of new stadiums, has anyone been out to Flushing Meadows lately? Is there really a new stadium being built there? Or have Casey Stengel and the Mets found another permanent temporary home in the Polo Grounds?
Boating people, who were as depressed as anyone else last week by the annual filling out of income tax forms, got more bad news from the feds. If the Revenue Act of 1962 gets through Congress in its present form, a boat no longer will be deductible for entertainment unless the boat is primarily used for business. And, no matter what business he is in, the owner will have to pay a graduated federal tax for ownership of a boat: a basic rate of $5 for a 14-to 16-footer, $2 more for each foot over 16.
The first point may be defensible, and the new tax scale is not unreasonable in some cases. A yachtsman who sails federal waters (everything washed by tide and navigable from the sea) has the use of government-dredged channels, gets hauled out of trouble by the U.S. Coast Guard and now can enjoy some lovely national parks along the seashore. Why shouldn't he pay back the country for these benefits?
But the man who owns an outboard runabout on Lake Wapagog in Wisconsin gets nothing but another bite in the wallet. This man, and the approximately 4 million like him (at least as many as those who use federal waters, makes no use of federal marine facilities and gets no direct or indirect benefits—as a boatman—from taxes levied against boatmen in Oregon, Michigan, Cape Cod or Chesapeake Bay.
ONE FOR HARRY
The American Football League's Harry Wismer scored a coup in his battle to gain recognition from the National Football League when his New York Titans met the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles in Great Neck, N.Y. last weekend—even though the teams were pickup squads, the game was basketball, and the Titans lost 94-90.
HOME A WINNER
When Tom O'Reilly went to the hospital for surgery last January they took his husky voice away from him and gave him a slate and pencil. The first thing he did was to write a joke that made the doctors and nurses laugh. Then he called for a typewriter and, in high good humor, resumed writing his racing column in the New York Herald Tribune, date-lining it, Pillsville, New York.
Tom O'Reilly cherished everything about horse racing: the stables before dawn, the early morning workouts, the breakfasts at the track kitchens, the talk of trainers and grooms and exercise boys and jockeys and touts and the $2 bettors who gathered every night at a certain drugstore in Greenwich Village, where Tom lived, to rerun the day's races. It was O'Reilly's contention that more solid sense often was spoken in such company than was expressed on a good many days in the halls of Congress.
O'Reilly was no stranger to the pari-mutuel windows and, for all the information that came to him at track breakfasts, he was no luckier than the next man. And yet, taking everything into account, what he gave and what he received, how he took the good times and the bad times, it could be said of him when he died last week at "Pillsville," at the age of 56, that Tom O'Reilly went away a winner.