END OF A LONG, DIRTY ROAD
In the days when he was aide-de-camp to Frankie Carbo, prizefighting's underworld ruler, Blinky Palermo was a suave, pink-cheeked, well-nourished man enjoying the best of health, some wealth and high prestige. Now, despite the fact that he was ruthlessly indifferent to the welfare of his fighters and abandoned some of them after they were impoverished and insane, it is possible to feel pity for Blinky. His world is crumbling. Physically and mentally, he is a broken hulk. Since May 1961, when he and Carbo were convicted of attempting to muscle in on the earnings of Don Jordan, welterweight champion for a brief period, Blinky has known only trouble.
While Carbo stayed in prison, Palermo went free on $100,000 bail pending a series of appeals, the latest of which, a petition of certiorari, may be decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in the next few weeks. Some may say that the law's delays have served Blinky well but, seeing him, one doubts it. He has lost 25 pounds. He is haggard. There are enormous blue bags under his eyes. And small wonder.
His once favorite son, Frank Jr., is serving a long federal sentence for passing worthless checks and receiving stolen goods. Junior is also wanted in Youngstown, Ohio on a million-dollar arson charge. After spending $30,000 getting Junior out of jams, Blinky soured on the young man and turned his affections to another son, Fred Palermo.
Now Fred is in a jam. Jimmy Flood, a washed-up middleweight who has been in trouble with the law since he quit the ring, entered Fred's Philadelphia delicatessen late one recent night and demanded money. Fred shot him—accidentally, he says. Blinky arrived at the police station in a black Cadillac, accompanied by three burly bodyguards.
Why the bodyguards? Blinky is in even more trouble. Federal authorities have treated him much more solicitously than they treated Carbo. The word in the underworld is that this treatment is payment to Palermo for turning Carbo in. We may reveal now, since Carbo knows it anyhow and no added danger to Blinky is involved, that Blinky gave the FBI the address of the New Jersey mobster's house where Carbo was hiding. The FBI passed the word to the New York district attorney's office, which brought him to trial and won a guilty plea. Thereafter he was indicted on the federal rap which sent him to prison.
Blinky desperately needs those bodyguards. But if he goes to prison he cannot take them with him.
THE SHELTERED LIFE
Let those who sneer at hatchery-raised trout as pampered pets unable to fend for themselves when planted in a stream consider a recent report of Ontario's fish and wildlife department. Brook trout in a hatchery near Toronto, the report says, have developed ulcers from the stress and strain of hatchery life. Handlers are feeding the fish tranquilizers.
Controversy over the Bears-Giants championship game has not died, and one strongly argued aspect is the advisability of moving the annual event to some city where it could be played in pleasant sunshine and with good conditions underfoot.
Most support for the move comes from New York fans and New York writers (who had to cover the game in Chicago in an unheated press box); none has yet come from the Chicago area. That is not to say that only sour grapes are involved. At Wrigley Field on December 29 one end of the ground was frozen and slippery, and it was so cold that the players' hands were numbed. Why, it is asked, should pro football's biggest game not always be played in conditions permitting the best possible exhibition of football skills?
The players themselves don't seem to feel that way. Their working season now extends from July to the end of December. They expect to start playing in 90° temperatures and end in freezing weather, and in between to play good football in rain, mud and snow. We think that is the right attitude.
Even more important is the point of view of the fan who has followed his team all the way to its divisional title; he would never see the biggest game of all except by paying his way across the continent—or on television.
The trend toward more sport viewing on TV and less in the flesh has so far been fairly well resisted by the NFL with its black-out policy, but the proposed move of the championship site would be a significant concession to that trend, which, of course, history may prove to be irreversible. That doesn't mean we have to like it.
THE SLEEPING GIANTS
Since hotels and airplanes pretty much refuse to recognize the existence of persons more than 6 feet tall, playing on the road is more wearing on basketball players, as a class, than on other athletes. The so-called "home-court advantage" is to some extent a result of what might be termed "the home-bed advantage." So, anyway, thinks Pidge Burack, the stubby but empathetic manager of the Olympian Hotel in Los Angeles. The Olympian caters to the basketball trade. Featuring chefs who specialize in training table meals, it has become Los Angeles headquarters for many college teams and all but two professional clubs. Burack even has a sort of gym away from gym in the works—a complete training room with a trainer in residence.
This is all very fine, but it is the new wing of the Olympian that the players are awaiting so anxiously. In each of the wing's 30 rooms, the Olympian will install beds seven feet long.
Burack's move is, in fact, part of a trend. According to John W. Hubbell, vice-president of the Simmons Company, supersize Beautyrest mattresses were less than 6% of sales in 1951, reached 25% in 1963. If the trend continues, as Hubbell believes it will, and basketball players on the road find themselves sleeping well for the first time, gamblers will have to start figuring the bed spread into the point spread.
THE NEWS HAWKERS
The bald eagle, say its detractors, is a stupid, nasty-tempered scavenger and a rotten national symbol. Now a convention of American eagles has given the lie to the stupidity canard. Few of us humans have been aware of the recent kokanee salmon spawning time in Montana, but every half-bright bald eagle residing in 17 western states knew of it. That is better news dissemination than national network television and a pretty fair testimonial to aquiline intelligence. Apparently every unemployed bald eagle in the West turned up for the swooping and salmon-snatching exercises. Glacier National Park Ranger W. E. Welch counted 352, the most in years, in one 10-mile stretch along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. That is one-quarter of all the bald eagles in the western U.S.
MOST INVALUABLE TROPHY
Of all the football awards that sprout each season like dandelions after rain, those of the Washington Touchdown Club have established an unimpeachable reputation as the most dubious. Firm claim to this distinction was laid last year when the club in quick succession 1) chose Terry Baker as its Back of the Year, 2) discovered that Terry's basketball and studies would keep him from attending the presentation dinner, 3) gave the award to a player who could attend and 4) denied that it had chosen Baker. Now again, in one magnificent tripartite gesture, the Touchdowners have just about retired the Frank Lee Fickle Memorial Trophy. First, the Washingtonians, alone in the nation, picked nearby Navy as the country's No. 1 team—just before Texas routed the Middies in the Cotton Bowl. Second, they named Navy's Wayne Hardin Coach of the Year. Third, they telephoned Texas Coach Darrell Royal to tell him that Longhorn Tackle Scott Appleton had been chosen Lineman of the Year and was wanted at the club banquet.
When Royal told the club spokesman that Appleton would be at the Texas banquet that night, there was a lame pause at the other end of the line. "Well," the voice said weakly, "'in that case, who would you suggest we pick for Lineman of the Year?"
GAMES WORTH THE CANDLE
The biggest and fastest-growing participant sport in the U.S., according to The Athletic Institute, is volleyball, which had 20 million players in 1961, now has 60 million. That puts it a good 5 million ahead of cycling, which is next biggest.
Our candidate for the least-known sport of the past decade is smash, which has 10,000 players, the institute says. Smash looks like a cross between handball and ping-pong. It is played against multiangled walls and is sweetly exhausting. The players—one, two or four at a time—bang away at an overblown ping-pong ball and race madly around the court in pursuit of crazy rebounds. Among other virtues, it permits a lonely table-tennis fan to battle himself. Lawn-tennis players are especially partial to it because it offers such good practice in handling tricky, unexpected angle shots.
The newest accepted sport, just introduced in England but played in recent years on the Continent, has not yet reached these shores. It is curling without ice. Called roll curling, it is the invention of an enthusiastic Dutch curler, Johannes van der Eerde, who dreamed of playing all year round. A concrete engineer by profession, he produced a concrete that would make a smooth rink. Then he devised a curling stone with three large ball bearings on its underside. In winter the handle can be unscrewed from the top and screwed into the bottom so that the stone can be used on ice.
The very newest sport, it seems, is a variant of pool. It is played on an elliptical table with a single pocket, a cue ball, and nine balls in the rack. It is called Elliptipool. As explained by its inventor, Arthur P. Frigo Jr., a senior at Union College, the game's charm lies in the fact that the sum of distances from one focal point to the perimeter and back to the other focal point is always constant. It has one other charm that might help sales. The playing area is 52 inches by 57 inches—which is apartment size.
Dr. James B. Conant and Admiral Hyman G. Rickover may have doubts about sport's role in the American educational system, but Texas does not. Next September there will be a new high school in Garland, Texas. It is now being built. It has no student body. It has no principal. It has no teachers. What it has is a football coach.
HARK, A NEW BARK
One might assume that, since the American Kennel Club already recognizes 115 breeds of dogs, 24 of them sporting, we need no more. The last AKC acceptance took place in 1960, granted to something called a Hungarian Vizsla. But now the AKC is about to be assailed with demands for recognition of yet another. General Richard Mellon, who developed the new breed on his 20,000-acre plantation in the field trial country near Albany, Ga., calls it a Flint River retriever. It is a cross between a Labrador retriever and a cocker spaniel—which would seem to be an unlikely combination but has turned out a handsome, blue-coated dog of zest and competence.
Over 15 years of meticulous selection, General Mellon has produced fewer than 100 specimens of the breed that he considers acceptable. Called "blues" for short, they have been entered in field trials with encouraging success. Though the dogs are beautiful to the eye, they were bred primarily for hunting perfection, secondarily for field trial performance, in which they have done well.
Satisfied at last, the general is now about to make a dogged assault on the Park Avenue headquarters of the AKC.
THEY SAID IT
•Aja Zanova, star of the Ice Capades, on whether hockey players can switch to skating shows: "We had one fellow from Vancouver try out, and it took him about five years to make it. It took that long to get rid of the hockey stick."
•Cookie Gilchrist, Buffalo Bills' star runner, on how he was nicknamed: "My mother called me Cupcake; my father called me Doughnut; and the family settled on Cookie."