LITTLE LEAGUE AND BIG BUCK
Since shortly after its inception Little League baseball has been criticized as a game in which overly competitive adults drive small boys to tears and torment in order to satisfy their own egos. The charges have not been altogether unfounded, but neither are they altogether true. Many a boy and many a community have benefited from Little League play.
What is true is that the league is not just kids playing baseball for fun under adult supervision. It is a nonprofit operation, but it is also a corporation whose executives are salaried and thereby invested with a certain professional, as against amateur, interest in the sport.
This special interest is now illustrated by league officials' insistence that the country's 48,000 Little League teams be insured by a single company, American Casualty, a requirement that would seem to be inspired more by commercial than amateur motives. Last week in Iowa, Insurance Commissioner William E. Timmons declared the mandatory contract illegal and ordered it terminated. It cost more, he observed, than equivalent contracts available through local agents.
The response of Dr. Creighton J. Hale, national vice president of the league, was in keeping with the league's new mercantile look. No monopoly insurance, he said, "no more Little League baseball in Iowa." Which might be a good thing.
GOTTA HAVE HEART
Each year at the Thoroughbred sales, prospective buyers thoughtfully consider blood lines and conformation before deciding whether to bid on a particular yearling. But, as an occasional Carry Back proves, blood doesn't always tell. What the bidders should do, according to Dr. E. R. Trethewie, University of Melbourne physiologist, is give the horse an electrocardiogram. If he is to be another Man o' War, there on his chart will be a pattern that clearly tells the tale. And the same is true for human athletes capable of running a sub-4-minute mile.
Dr. Trethewie studied the hearts, lungs and other essentials of 10 4-minute milers. Common to all of them, he told the Australian Sports Medicine Association, "is the peculiar nature of their innervation." Innervation is the nervous stimulation of an organ, in this case the heart. In athletes like Roger Bannister and Kelso, the heart is innervated so as to make its contractions go progressively upward. Only 15% of so-called normal ECGs show the pattern that Dr. Trethewie found in 100% of his 4-minute milers. And, over a period of eight years spent studying the hearts of schoolchildren, he found that possession of the trait frequently goes with athletic prowess. Good lungs and high hemoglobin value help, too, but the heart is the most important factor.
Perhaps the Daily Racing Form and The Morning Telegraph should throw away their complicated past performance charts and print just the ECGs of the entries.
For the past several years duck hunters have been restricted by short hunting seasons and small bag limits. The reason, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been drought in the northern breeding grounds. Ducks Unlimited, dedicated to the preservation of waterfowl shooting, has insisted that the government's waterfowl count was far too low and that hunters were being penalized unnecessarily (SI, Aug. 20, 1962). Low limits caused many a sportsman to give up duck hunting, and last year sale of duck stamps dipped to 1,047,565, lowest since the years of World War II, when many a duck hunter was preoccupied with another kind of shooting.
This year the news is better. Ducks Unlimited says waterfowl production in Canada's prairie provinces is the best since 1957. Last week federal authorities predicted an increase in the number of ducks in all four flyways and recommended more liberal hunting regulations for the coming season. These will be disclosed in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, to sharpen the hunter's recognition of species and thereby prevent unnecessary and illegal kills, Fish and Wildlife has published Ducks at a Distance, an excellent pocket-size waterfowl identification guide that portrays 28 species of ducks and 10 of geese, most of the ducks in color. The booklet also gives typical habitat for each species and shows silhouette and flight patterns. It even attempts to imitate calls since, it points out, "not all ducks quack. Many whistle, squeal or grunt."
Copies are available free, from state fish and game departments and at sporting goods stores. We would suggest, though, that next year Fish and Wildlife make a good thing better—by issuing the booklet with each duck stamp and requesting that hunters carry a copy each time they go afield.
SALT WORTH PRESERVING
When John Cobb drove 394.2 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1947 he had a 14-mile track, smooth as glass. This year, as Craig Breedlove (see page 46) raced 428.37 in his jet-powered car he had only nine ½ miles, and four of them too rough for safety. Breedlove holds that a potash company, draining the south end for minerals, is leaving the surface salt a thin shell over a sea of mud. Now he has quietly opened a campaign to make the Salt Flats a national preserve. "It's the only place in the world where land speed records can be made," he says, "and it's a natural wonder. In 10 years it will be good for nothing but an atom bomb site."
The world's deepest known cave is Le Gouffre Berger, a pothole named for the Grenoble photographer and speleologist, Jo Berger, who discovered its 18-foot mouth 4,745 feet up in the Alps in 1953. Three years later an international team of spelunkers descended 3,681 feet into the limestone cavern and thereby set a world record for potholing
Then last year barrel-chested, bespectacled Ken Pearce of Manchester, England went down just as deep. He could go no farther because, like Berger, he was stumped by an underground river. The only way to go on would be to dive and swim, and that called for aqualungs. But Pearce, a teacher of metallurgy at Manchester's College of Science and Technology, has two main hobbies—pot-holing and skindiving.
A few weeks ago Pearce and a team of 12 volunteers from Britain stepped smartly down a narrow ladder into the heart of an Alp. Their quest: a world descent record.
They could carry no telephone lines, and so there was no way to communicate with them. Slowly, while wives and friends waited above, the 13 progressed downward through huge, dead, silent, black caverns. It was depressingly humid, and the temperature hovered at 40°. Waterfalls with drops of 150 feet drenched them. Over some areas they had to swim, others they managed to negotiate with rubber boats. Finally, they reached the underground river. It had taken a week of subterranean living.
Steve Wynne-Roberts was the first to put on an aqualung and dive in. Because of a severe earache he was forced to quit. Then Pearce dived and, using a depth gauge, measured the sump's depth as 40 feet. He touched bottom and thereby set a new world record of 3,721 feet.
On the 13th day the 13 emerged, their bristled faces and helmets making them look like coal miners just rescued from disaster.
"Scientifically they proved nothing," observed Jo Berger, "but it certainly was an exploit sportif."
Granting a certain prejudice, our personal candidate for this year's Miss America is Jeanne Swanner, 6 feet 2, eyes of blue, and oh, how she can shoot a basket. Miss Swanner is Miss North Carolina, is 19, and is the only Miss America contestant ever to hold a 37-point basketball scoring average. Indeed, in her high school days she twice hit 44 points in the Eastern 3-A championship tournament. Now an upcoming junior at Auburn University, she has led her sorority basketball team to the campus title for two years, finished second in shuffleboard, recently took up tennis and has been a lifeguard for two summers. It is hard to imagine a lifeguard one would rather be rescued by.
A HORSE NAMED VERNON
Will Rogers used to say that a rodeo roper owed 75% of his success to his horse. Riding the rodeo circuit just now is a combination of horse and rider that may well be the greatest of all time. The rider is Dean Oliver, world champion calf roper, and the horse is Vernon. He cost Oliver $5,000, a sum believed to be the top price ever paid for a horse by a professional roper. Vernon has proved to be well worth it. In their first week together, Oliver and Vernon took $3,745 in prize money.
Not since 1945 had the University of Idaho been a collegiate basketball power, but it was just that last season—thanks to a big fellow named Gus Johnson, who jumped and shot like a pro and finished well in NCAA statistics for scoring and was second in rebounding. For the first time, Idaho fans had good reason to look ahead to next season, when Big Gus would be a senior. Alas, last week Johnson signed with the Baltimore Bullets, an institution that does not insist on books as well as baskets.
TIPTOE THROUGH THE MELON PATCH
The antipathy of farmers toward deer hunters who shoot cows is well known and even understandable. But it seems to us that they go too far when they turn their shotguns on bird watchers.
The book said that buff-breasted sandpipers could best be spotted in fields near Bonner Springs, Kans. "Stop there," the book commanded. "As many as 50 in a flock may be found." Allured, and with book and binoculars in hand, Biology Professor David Easterla of Kansas City Junior College halted obediently. Nary a pipe did he hear, let alone see a flock. What he saw and heard was the anger of Otto Weldt, farmer, in whose watermelon patch he was crouching, for all the world like a man about to heist a watermelon. Farmer Weldt refused to believe, though Professor Easterla showed him the book and quoted chapter and verse on buff-breasted sandpipers, that anyone would go out of his way to watch an inedible bird. A likely story, he said, and hustled the prof off to court where, since he had in fact been trespassing on posted land, Easterla paid a fine of $16.80.
Next time Mary Martin is Peter Pan she might vary her flying performance with a jump balloon, a gadget now being developed for a variety of military and space uses.
The balloon is a bag some 20 feet high filled with helium. Below it is a suspension harness, much like a parachute harness, to support the jumper. Just flex your knees and push off. The balloon lifts you into the air to carry you a distance that varies with the wind. On descending, assume the impact position and push off once more. You'll soar.
One of our correspondents, Jane Rieker, tried it the other day in Northfield, Minn., home of the G. T. Schjeldahl Company, which developed the material of which the balloons are made. After scaring birds and awing golfers with prodigious leaps from mid-fairway to green, Miss Rieker came down ecstatic.
There is a hitch. The balloons cost $400 each, and nonflammable helium gas, pretty much unavailable to civilians, comes to $l a cubic foot—or about $300 per inflation. A jump balloon can be inflated with ordinary household gas, but there is no guarantee that one static spark would not send the jumper into piecemeal orbit.
The Schjeldahl people are studying their balloons as a means of traversing rough terrain and for low aerial survey work.
"They can research all they like," said Miss Rieker. "I just want to make like Peter Pan again."
THEY SAID IT
•Birdie Tebbetts, Cleveland manager, comparing young pitchers with veterans Early Wynn of Cleveland and Robin Roberts of Baltimore: "It's the difference between a carpenter and a cabinetmaker."
•Roosevelt Grier, 300-pound Los Angeles Ram tackle, on being asked if he had a middle initial: "No, but I've never been mistaken for anyone else."