Because of the burlesque that football recruiting has become, attempts to be serious about it always sound like lawsuits against hot dog factories, and everybody goes home laughing. The pity is that it has reached such a state. Last week Frank Howard of Clemson and Marvin Bass of South Carolina wailed in harmony against Army's Paul Dietzel (SI, May 28). Dietzel had bagged two South Carolina prizes who had already indicated they'd play in-state. "Makes me so mad I just don't feel like paying my taxes," growled Howard. "Pepsodent Paul is trying to get the cream of our crop," cried Bass. Dietzel stoutly defended free enterprise and the taxpayer's money (Army, he said, recruits solely on funds earned at the gate).
There was more. Army's outriders had hit Tennessee, too, and one coach declared that if Dietzel was calling his players Chinese Bandits they ought to call him Genghis Khan. Previously, SMU's Matty Bell objected heatedly to a U.S. Navy plane's Easter weekend flight which carried four SMU recruits to Annapolis for a "visit." Kentucky cried raid against Miami and Purdue. Kansas and Kansas State dueled over a 190-pound tackle. And on and on.
We find these charades ludicrous, but so are they odious and demeaning—to school, to coach and to player. Often they smack of impropriety. It is time they were stopped.
The limbs of professional baseball players are not as pretty as those of Marlene Dietrich, but they are nearly as valuable and deserve comparable care and devotion from their owners. They don't get it. Instead, ballplayers tend to be lovably indiscreet, fetchingly quixotic. Mickey Mantle, with the kind of limbs he has (fragile), is given to kicking water coolers when flustered. Willie Mays used to hurry home from the Polo Grounds to join the neighborhood stickball games in which he'd blithely dodge fire hydrants and taxicabs in the pursuit of fly balls. Uncle Wilbert Robinson would have been killed had not a grapefruit been substituted for the baseball he was to catch as it dropped from an airplane. The grapefruit splattered on Uncle Robbie's head. Duke Snider ruined his arm trying to throw a ball out of the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Latest zany is Frank Thomas, strongest (and maybe the only) hitter the New York Mets have, daring rivals to test their speedballs against his bare hands from pitcher's mound to home plate. Thomas caught Don Zimmer's fastball recently and escaped without injury, holding up his horny hands in a grand show of defiance. Thus encouraged, he is ready to take on the best arms in the league, and has, in fact, made the challenge. For the sake of the Mets, who need all the unbroken bodies they can find, we hope he gets no takers.
NOTHING LIKE A CLAIM
Those of us who like clear-cut decisions had one last week in the Belmont Stakes (see page 14), but for a few minutes after the race it seemed drearily probable that a foul claim or inquiry would intercept the official result. This didn't happen, praise be, but within the last year 18% of the nation's Thoroughbred races, with a value of $50,000 or more, have been marred by claims and inquiries. By contrast, in 1960 the proportion was 5%.
The foul claim enjoys full voice today for several reasons, foremost of which is that jockeys are riding for steadily increasing purses. Sometimes a rider will claim foul in a close race simply in the hope the patrol film will show something; or, when his horse is clearly second best, he may be tempted to overtake the leading horse by illegal methods, figuring that at worst he will only be relegated to second place. Some track stewards draw their conclusions solely from what they see in the patrol films, and though these films are a definite technological advance, their quality varies from track to track. Patrols still lack three-dimensional lenses. Late-afternoon shadows play tricks. Oddly, when most personal fouls are committed on the inside, or blind side, no track has yet seen fit to put camera towers in the infield.
Small wonder the stewards and their findings have been inconsistent. As for their penalties, we wonder if it might be wise to revive the old disqualification rule: if a jock's number comes down, it comes down all the way—not to second, but to last. And stiff suspensions would be a sure cure for frivolous tries at winning a race in the movies.
Politics and love, as waged by the French, have long mystified the non-Frenchman, and he will be equally mystified at what they are now doing to bridge. They have dragged it from amongst the tea sandwiches and off the commuter trains where it belongs and are taking it to court. L'affaire, says the French bridge magazine, Le Bridgeur, is "too complex" to report on, but we're going to try.
Two years ago a Mme. Albarran, widow of a bridge star and owner of a bridge club, accused two other celebrated players, Bourchtoff and Delmouly, of "forming too close a pair" (i.e., cheating). Almost immediately things began to not happen. Bourchtoff and Delmouly, surprisingly, did not sue for slander. The Fédération Fran√ßaise de Bridge did not allow them to play tournament bridge for a year for not revealing the accusation. And it has not allowed Mme. Albarran to play any tournaments for two years, presumably for having created a scandal.
Mme. Albarran, obviously the member of this group who likes a little action, is now taking the Fédération into court on grounds that it has caused her "prejudice, personally and professionally." She refuses to discuss it further ("My lawyers won't let me; I don't know why, but they won't"), and neither will Le Bridgeur, La Fédération, Delmouly or Bourchtoff. This undiscussed case, resulting from an unexplained accusation, will soon go into court, with a former Prime Minister of France, M. Edgar Faure, representing Mine. Albarran. M. Faure is described as helping with "'one aspect of the case, which aspect is not divulged," because, Mine. Albarran says, "I asked him. And also for a thousand other reasons."
There now, Bridgeur: what do you mean, "too complex"?
SOME RAIN DID FALL
Seminole Indians staged a mock rain dance on the edge of the parched, smoldering Florida Everglades last weekend and—as if truly on call—the showers came. They were scattered but gave relief to weary fire fighters who had battled the blaze across 60,000 acres of Everglades National Park (SI, June 4). By Sunday, park spotter planes reported all clear.
But even as relief came to the Everglades, fires flared afresh on its west coast, threatening the National Audubon Society's 6,000-acre Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary 30 miles south of Fort Myers. The fire had burned 100 acres of the sanctuary's 900-year-old cypress forest, the last big stand of virgin bald cypress in the U.S. Rallying to the new threat, local citizens provided bulldozers and draglines, and firemen worked side by side with state foresters.
At 3 p.m. Saturday an inch of rain fell, and this time the white men danced as the fire, 100 yards from the nearest big trees, subsided. But it still burns underground in the dry peat and could pop up again anywhere. The big rains, badly needed to end the danger and bring wildlife back to the parklands, still did not develop. "These scattered showers are welcome," said one ranger, "but what we need is a real frog-strangler."
AIN'T DOWN YET
Farrugut High of Knoxville, Tenn. has neither track nor track team, but it does have Robert (Handyman) Galbraith. Robert is a basketball star who is loth to be idle. With time on his hands during the track season, he foraged into a neighbor's discarded lumber pile and with the salvage (and some clever action with friction tape) constructed hurdles, jumping pit and vaulting uprights in his backyard. From a nearby field he chopped himself a cane pole ("never had a real one"). A discus was borrowed from a neighboring school, and his uncle loaned him the family heirloom, a Civil War cannonball, which you couldn't tell from a standard shotput but for the hole in the center.
Robert of Farrugut entered small meets unattached, perfecting his style, waiting his chance. Then last week he. went to Nashville for the state decathlon championships. Was Galbraith sensational? Did he win medals? Did he break records? No, he pulled a leg muscle and withdrew from the last six events. Was he downhearted? Well, yes. But down he was not. He hurried home to Knoxville where there were still two places for him in the Farrugut High dance band, known as "Dr. Al and the Patients." Handyman Galbraith writes his own songs, sings them and triples in brass on the saxophone and trumpet.
THE INSIDE TRACK
•The American Football League may vote this month on expansion into Atlanta and New Orleans, effective 1963. The league will add two teams or none. Tulane is believed ready to rent the Sugar Bowl to an AFL franchise.
•East Germany has been denied visas for the world wrestling championships in Toledo, June 21-27, but there will be no complaints from the Communist bloc: this is election year for the international federation and the Reds want to be in on the vote.
•Dean Look, former Michigan State star, is quitting baseball (Savannah of the Sally League) to try pro football with the AFL Buffalo Bills. He says he got tired of riding buses through Georgia in 110° heat.
A PITCH IN TIME
Chapel Hill, N.C. has a Little League that is really small. One team in the league had one Negro boy. The team didn't mind, but the league's board of directors was all aquiver at the thought of a Negro child in such proximity to whites. Roy Cole, board chairman, suggested to Coach Tom Seism that he drop Jerry Gardner; the board "decided it was traditional," he said, that Negroes could not play in the league (one thing about tradition, it doesn't usually take any "deciding"). Seism refused, and last week the board terminated the season.
This is when Chapel Hill's social conscience came to the rescue. A new organization, supported by the ministerial association, announced it would replace the Little League program and permit desegregated teams. The news prompted a general outpouring of appreciation. Especially from Coach Seism, who explained that Gardner is the only player he has "who can throw the ball from the pitcher's mound to home plate."
The American wife is up against some really discouraging competition from the White House these days. A defeatist she most certainly is not, yet it must sometimes occur to her that the chances of having Pablo Casals in to fiddle for friends is remote. Jacquelinitis is fortunately only a temporary affliction, but it tends to recur with certain headlines like ulcer pains. We are pleased to report, then, that a member of our staff recently hit upon an effective panacea. He was able to secure for his beloved a ride, at racing speeds, with none other than Juan Manuel Fangio, the world auto-racing champion five times over. Mr. Kennedy's charming wife has had many rich experiences, but never this one.
Admittedly, Senor Fangio made the 5,400-mile trip from Buenos Aires to the racecourse at Lime Rock, Conn., not to entertain ladies, but to promote the British Motor Corporation's Austin 850 and Austin Cooper cars. Nevertheless, Fangio granted our young friend a spin in an Austin Cooper, the quicker of the two cars (top speed, 90 mph), and threw the little machine into a full-power slide at every corner. After two laps the lady's eyes were shining. "Fantàstico" she said to Fangio, who knows little English. "Mucho gusto," replied Fangio, as well he should, for he had cured the lady of one malaise—and given her another.
THEY SAID IT
•Willie Mosconi, on the rise of billiards: "Now, I'd like to put pool in nice places with plush carpets. Put it in the light where everyone can see and enjoy it."
•Jack Reams, manager of Archie Moore, reflecting on Moore's draw with Willie Pastrano: "It proves that not all the thieves are fighters and managers."
•Marv Levy, California football coach: "Roger Stull is our best punter. He also is the only man we've got who can snap the ball back on punts. You have to admit it's an interesting situation."