Some years ago in this space we introduced, briefly, two of our longtime special correspondents, Jack Tobin (Feb. 1, 1965) and Theodore O'Leary (Jan. 10, 1966). Last week we asked them for a fuller report on themselves and their activities, and we are pleased to note they are in fine fettle.
O'Leary, 68, our man in Kansas City, still covers a good portion of the Midwest. A 1932 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Kansas, he played basketball for Phog Allen.
"To me," O'Leary recalls, "James A. Naismith was less the inventor of basketball than a mustachioed, middle-aged man who fooled around teaching fencing and wrestling and taught a boring hygiene class required of all UK freshmen. Adolph Rupp was just another second-string guard on one of Allen's greatest teams. When I was 12 or so, one night I sat behind the Kansas bench and watched Allen's oldest son, my best friend, pin a 'Kick Me' sign on Rupp's athletic supporter."
O'Leary coached basketball himself, at George Washington University, for two years, then went to work for the Kansas City Star, writing book reviews and features. His most notable piece for us is probably the one on the last days of Stan Musial's career.
"I am nearing my 20th year with SI and my 44th as a book critic for the Star" he said last week. "My library has reached 60,000 volumes. Trying to induce the exit of a raccoon that had gnawed its way into the house, I had sufficient supplies to build a high, winding lane to the door, constructed of volumes of O'Hara, Marquand, Bellow, Roth, etc. (It didn't work.) I have now reviewed probably 3,500 books, and one trend I have noticed has been an upsurge in the quality of those dealing with sport, a fact I attribute primarily to the influence of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. In literature, I believe and hope, Gresham's Law works in reverse: good writing drives out bad.
"I have been playing tennis now for more than 58 years and every year have found it more of a comfort and physical stimulant. Contrary to the popular belief, I think that as you grow older you want to watch less and participate more." Ted says his life also includes "handball, dachshunds, cats—only recently discovered—and martinis. I have relied for years on two sovereign cures: martinis for any internal ailment and bay rum for anything that hurts on the outside."
Also in good shape is L.A.'s Jack Tobin, 57. "Our association is now pushing 25 years," he reminds us, and Southern California being what it is, there has been a lot of wear and tear.
"I've searched for skateboarders in flood-control tunnels, sought out hikers in Death Valley, worked World Series, Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, Olympic Trials and Olympic Games. I've had to call Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Don Rickles at home," he says. "And I have solved more logistical problems than you'd think anyone could create. How about trying to get Rose Bowl credentials at 10 p.m. on New Year's Eve? Or locating a rented car a writer left in the Los Angeles International Airport parking lot, with only the license number to go on? And Neil Leifer, illegally taking photographs on the infield at a U.S.-U.S.S.R. track meet, shouting, 'Help me, Tobin! They're taking me to jail'? A few years later Elroy Hirsch, then with the Rams, is yelling, 'That's your photog lying in the middle of the field,' and Leifer is once more in the custody of the fuzz. The 1967 Super Bowl, when the L.A. airport was fogged in and New York called and said to find another airport and hire two jets to fly the film out. Two jets. Sunday afternoon. The second quarter...."
Well, as we said, Tobin is bearing up valiantly. He had to give up the executive vice-presidency of the computerized ticket firm for which he worked, though. Just as he had to give up, among other jobs, being a star investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and the vice-presidency of the since-departed L.A. Toros soccer team. Being our man in Los Angeles is all a man has time for.