SI Vault
July 14, 1958
Who's Excited?
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July 14, 1958

Events & Discoveries

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Who's Excited?

It would be premature to speak with certainty, but it seems to us either that baseball's bad tempers are enjoying a recession or that its cool collectedness is having a recovery. A look last week at the Umpire Bounce Averages (an index that is ours exclusively) showed both National and American League thumbers off the pace. Last year, you may recall, National League umpire teams bounced players at the fairly feverish rate of 2.20 fellows a week. So far this season they are running at a slightly decelerated 1.75. In the American League, traditionally evenly disposed officials have carved down last year's 1.50 dismissals a week to a well-moderated .83.

Even individual statistics show mellowing. The National League's terrible-tempered Dascolis (who alone last year bounced almost as many as the whole American League) are coasting along at a temperate .67 a week. Their final average last year was 1.29. The award for Most Marked Improvement must be accorded the American League's Paparellas: .63 bounces a week last year, .17 this year.

What is the reason for it all? There are theories and theories. Maybe National League umpires, embarrassed by our '57 report, spent the winter searching their souls for evidence of churlishness. Maybe the weather is better this year. In any event, an explanation is easy to spot in the American League. With the Yankees leading by 11 games, who's excited?

Never Say Dry

"Boating enthusiasts remain enthusiastic in the face of almost any annoyance—sunburn, engine trouble, lakes full of reckless drivers, or flat tires on their trailers; and the toughest breed of boat lovers in the country is in Albuquerque, N. Mex. Over the Fourth of July weekend, they faced the ultimate inconvenience: disappearing water.

Gathered on the shore of their shrunken Lake Jemez, many of them watched a lone boatman struggle across a quarter of a mile of mud to place his single-seat hydroplane on the tiny pond that remained and ride it around in sad little circles. "Some men," said one observer, "go down with their ships. That poor guy went down with his lake."

The good old days were just a few weeks ago when Lake Jemez was a glittering sheet of melted snow: five miles long, a mile wide and 87 feet deep. On weekends there had been as many as 150 boats—kayaks, rubber rafts, motorboats, cabin cruisers up to 24 feet long and sailboats of various classes. One Sunday 15,000 people appeared on the lake shores, many of them just to marvel at so much water.

For Lake Jemez did not exist at all until this spring, and it may not return for years. Big as it was, it was hardly more substantial than a mirage. It was created by an extra-heavy snowfall last winter in the mountains north of Albuquerque. When the snow melted, the U.S. Army's Corps of Engineers caught it behind a dam on the little Jemez River. What had been mostly a dry canyon was suddenly a cold and shimmering lake, right in the middle of a land whose annual rainfall averages 8.68 inches. Albuquerque's boating boom was on.

From the very beginning, though, the bust was in sight. By an ironic provision of the interstate water agreements, most of the water in Lake Jemez belonged to the neighboring and omnibibulous state of Texas. Weeks ago the engineers pulled the plug in Albuquerque's lake and started it draining off down the Rio Grande. But Albuquerque, as one boatman put it, "had got intoxicated with all that water." With the lake draining out from under their very keels, the local boatmen formed the Albuquerque Boating Club. Its purpose was not to organize regattas but to find ways of keeping Lake Jemez in New Mexico if it should ever reappear.

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