In recent days the Yankees played to 413 customers at home, finished 10th and last, and canned Red Barber—which is not wholly a non sequitur. Of course, Barber was not dismissed just because the Yankees had a lousy season with him at the mike, but because they had one broadcaster too many; because he was at times imperious; and because he had gone out of style.
Phil Rizzuto, Jerry Coleman and Joe Garagiola, the other Yankee announcers, are all former ballplayers—which is the trend. The idea is that since they played the game, ex-ballplayers know it better and listeners will therefore benefit from their expertise. (Ex-ballplayers are also more promotable—a word, incidentally, which Barber wouldn't dream of uttering.) Although this is sometimes the case, too often ex-ballplayers make good ex-ballplayers; they are not necessarily qualified reporters, nor do they always speak English. However, because a sportscaster has not played big league ball it does not follow that he uses fewer solecisms or knows what he's talking about.
Barber is a first-rate reporter: the game tells him what to say. As he has said: "Bill Klein used to tell his umpires to umpire the ball. In much the same way, I have always tried to broadcast the ball." He is also that rarity nowadays—a literate, articulate man. Last week he phrased it memorably: "Radio and television have forgotten all about the most beautiful thing I know next to human love, and that's the English language." Or, to quote Vin Scully, "Red never used a careless word; he felt that he had a responsibility to the listener."
By firing Barber the Yankees have shown they couldn't care less.
It is easy to put the knock on TV, and we have delivered a few in our day, but when TV does do a good job who bothers to applaud? Well, one night last week TV did a bang-up job, and we would like to give it the hand it deserves.
After National Guardsmen and city cops armed with shotguns quelled a riot in a Negro section of San Francisco the night of Sept. 27, an 8 p.m. to-6 a.m. curfew was imposed. But Mayor John F. Shelley felt that unless further steps were taken the riot would flare anew. One suggestion was that if the Giants-Braves game in Atlanta, which wasn't scheduled to be televised, could be shown in San Francisco, many rioters might stay home to watch it.
Mayor Shelley called the Giants and asked if the game could be televised. The Giants said it was fine by them, but that the station carrying their games, KTVU, was in Oakland—not Atlanta. Chub Feeney, the Giants' vice-president, then called Frank King, the general manager of KTVU. King said he would see what he could do. Two hours later he called Feeney back and told him arrangements had been made with KTVU's sister station in Atlanta, WSB-TV, and that the game would be on live in San Francisco starting at 6 p.m.
However, only five hours remained before game time and the telecast wouldn't be of much use if nobody knew about it. The mayor's office thereupon wired the newspapers, announcing the telecast and expressing the hope that "residents of the riot-troubled districts...would remain at home and watch the game." The story made several late editions.
Next it was Willie Mays's turn. Willie made a tape over the phone that was played on nine radio stations. "This is Willie Mays..." he said. "You know Channel 2 is carrying a special program tonight between the Atlanta Braves and the Giants at 6 o'clock. I, for one, wish and hope that each and everyone will be tuned in and wishing us well. Of course, I'll be out in center field trying to do my best at all times."
The Giants waived rights fees, and their announcers, Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons, performed without pay. KTVU waived air-time charges and the Giants' four sponsors agreed to assume any out-of-pocket expenses.
It is, of course, nearly impossible to determine who watched the game, and what those who did would have been doing if it had not been on, but the rioting stopped shortly after 6 p.m.
THE UNHELD TONGUE
When he was sentenced, George Brookes, 26, a window cleaner residing in Third Cross Road, Twickenham, England, cried out: "This shatters me. It never should be life. A month, yes." The sentence imposed upon Brookes was not to life imprisonment, as might be supposed, but to permanent banishment from the grounds of his favorite soccer team, Fourth Division Brentford, a London club—for shouting obscenities.
Brentford has been an unfortunate team to root for, as it most generally loses. "I've been going along to watch them loyally for years, hoping they would improve someday," Brookes says. Indeed, he has been supporting Brentford since he was 4 years old. That's a lot of dismal afternoons on the terraces, and we raise a pint to young Brookes when he says, "I admit I said the words. It only happened because I'd had a few beers. You can't watch Brentford sober."
In various cities in the U.S. it is possible to lift the phone and Dial-A-Prayer, Dial-A-Stock, Dial-A-Movie, Dial-A-Saint (you hear a short biographical sketch of the saint of the day), and listen to a recorded message describing President Eisenhower as a Commie, but in only one city can you, in effect, Dial-A-Surf. If in Los Angeles—where else?—you dial 379-8471, you will hear a recording like this: "This is the L.A. Parks Department with the morning surf report. South Bay beaches: air 65, water 65; wind is NE by 6. Skies are sunny and the visibility is two miles. Waves are one to two foot, and the shape is poor. Swim or surf by manned lifeguard tower."
DOING TURTLES A TURN
Some women crochet bedspreads and some raise African violets. Mrs. Al Szuch of Reno Beach, Ohio hatches snapping turtles under the lilac bush in the front yard. Mrs. Szuch is married to a man in the bait-selling, fish-cleaning, turtle-purveying line, and about five years ago she got to thinking that an awful lot of snapping turtles were being taken out of Lake Erie. The Szuchs alone accounted for 1,000 last spring, and it seemed to Mrs. Szuch that it might not be long before they disappeared.
"I began to collect the eggs as they were cleaning the turtles," she says. "I took about 100 and buried them in the sand under a lilac bush. I forgot about them, and one night in September we were sitting on the front porch when I noticed half a dozen turtles moving across the lawn. The next morning they were all over the place." Encouraged, Mrs. Szuch refined her technique: she put the eggs in a box of sand under a light, releasing the little turtles, when the time came, into the Cooley Canal.
Baby turtles aren't the only wild creatures Mrs. Szuch has, so to speak, taken under her wing. There is also, she says, "this here red fox named Charlie. I raised him from a pup and, funny thing, he don't know he's a fox. I love him." Charlie the fox repays her love by guarding the turtles. When they try to climb out of the fish box where Mrs. Szuch keeps them, Charlie nudges them back with his nose. "I don't think he eats any," Mrs. Szuch says. "Maybe I should count them, but I think he'd rather have a dish of fruit cocktail."
RINGING IN THE OLD
The other day ABC ran the film of the Floyd Patterson-Henry Cooper fight, which was held in London on Sept. 20, and for many viewers it was like seeing an old movie. Against the rather obliging Cooper, whom he knocked out in the fourth round, Patterson looked remarkably like the exciting, decisive Patterson of seven or eight years ago, not the confused, limited Patterson who was stopped twice by Sonny Liston and once by Cassius Clay.
Patterson, too, believes he has regained much of his past mastery. "I'm glad it showed," he said last week at his training camp in Marlboro, N.Y. "I don't want to make any big deal out of one fight, but I know I felt different, more capable. I was thinking in the ring for the first time in years. I guess you can say my mind went out to lunch and stayed away for seven years. In the past I tried to think and worry about too many things when I should have been thinking only about my fights. My camp was no help, either. I had eight men with me, but they only added to the confusion. Each one worried about his cut. Was he getting enough? Was the next guy getting more? One guy made $250,000 in five years. Then, when he thought I was washed up, he sued me because he didn't think he got enough. Well, the rats left the sinking ship.
"The only one who was loyal was Ernie Fowler. [Fowler came to the Patterson camp in 1960 as second chauffeur.] When I decided my back was O.K. and that perhaps I should try one more fight, Ernie and I began training in a small gym on Long Island. From the start it was like beginning all over again. First thing Ernie said was, Floyd, you've been fighting as if your right hand was sick, so let's concentrate on it. Another thing, your footwork is bad. You've got in the habit of bringing your right foot too far forward and it ties up your movement. Another thing, you're too flatfooted. I argued, but Ernie won out, and it was for the best. I asked him why he hadn't spoken up before. He told me he was just a little man and that his advice would just have added to the confusion. Maybe so. I don't have it all back, but I feel happy and satisfied for the first time in a long while."
Patterson will get another chance to show how far back he's come in December or early January, when he is supposed to take on Karl Mildenberger, perhaps in New York. Welcome back, old buddy.
THE NEUROLOGICAL TRAIL
The University of Plano, founded in 1964 outside of Dallas, is fielding a football team for the first time this year. In the words of a Plano (pop. 3,700) city councilman: "We hope it will be worthy of our high school team." Plano High won the state AA championship in 1965; Plano U. (enrollment 172), which is playing touch football for the time being, hasn't won a game.
"Plano will have to measure up athletically," says Dr. Robert Morris, Plano U.'s president. Dr. Morris presides from an office in what was once the Malaysian pavilion at the New York World's Fair; transported to Texas, the building now houses offices, classrooms and the Plano U. library. He had hoped to get the Danish pavilion, but a Connecticut restaurateur was willing to pay for it. Malaysia donated its building; in gratitude, Plano U. has established a perpetual scholarship for a worthy Malaysian.
"We have two arrows in our bow," says Dr. Morris. "We're building a strong liberal arts college in the traditional sense, and we are taking a new approach to the academic side with a neurological approach to education. Simply stated, we bridge the gap from the first zone, the mind, to the third zone, the body, by accentuating the intermediate zone, or the neurological zone. Many students with fine minds and fine bodies don't live up to their potential for one simple reason: the pathways between the two are underdeveloped. The whole neurological exercise blends into physical exercise, thus the importance of sports in our curriculum."
Blazing the neurological pathways at Plano U. is Athletic Director Paul (Daffy) Dean. "I've given him the grand total of four athletic scholarships," says Dr. Morris, "and he's already got a good catcher and a good pitcher. You've got to get strength down the middle first."
Although the flesh of the Plano Trail-blazers—as the football team is aptly named—may be weak, spiritually they're willing. Plano U. has eight cheerleaders and has had a bonfire. "It had a double purpose," says Dr. Morris. "To instill the good old Trailblazer spirit and to burn up all that debris resulting from the construction of our campus."
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Ryun, Kansas sophomore and world record holder for the mile and the 880, asked his foremost goal: "I'd kind of like to win a varsity letter."
•Ron Santo, asked what knowledge Manager Leo Durocher imparted to his 10th-place Cubs: "Well, one thing, we all learned some new words."