Another Opening, Another Etc.
As the Lake Michigan herring gull flies, it is a half mile between Milwaukee County Stadium and McCormick Field, but, poetically, they are light-years apart. In the stadium, the Braves have won a pennant and a World Series and expect to win more of the same. On McCormick Field, 60 Marquette University football players practice with only hope as their insubstantial banner. No one cheers from the Wisconsin Viaduct above them. No one tries to peek through the soiled canvas screen lashed to the cyclone fence. As the old September sun approaches the horizon it throws the stadium—the Braves are taking batting practice preparatory to pasting yet another opponent—into deep shadow. But even in brilliant sunlight, the splendid prospect of the Braves' temple would not inspire the ragtag Marquette squad as they scuff, weary and parched, through the elm-leaf dust toward the showers.
Not one of the four seniors has ever been on a winning Marquette team. Caustic Milwaukeeans have turned their name like a rusty knife from Warriors into Worriers. Marquette has the longest losing streak in college football—20 consecutive games.
It would be heartening to relate that the student body and the Milwaukee fans have stuck with the Worriers through little thick and much thin, but such is not the case; attendance has sorrowfully declined. The faculty have stood staunch, if a little distant, but the alumni are exercising their mutinous privilege; last year Coach John Druze was hanged in effigy. Druze may take solace: Braves Manager Fred Haney was strung up last year, too.
"This squad has never let down," Druze sighs, searching for something positive to say. "It's been quite an experience, but then it's been a lesson in life."
So what if four injured backfield men, three of them veterans, won't start against South Dakota State Saturday. So what about Guard Mike Kirby's newly discovered ulcer ("They say they come from worrying," quips Mike soulfully). "It's there," says Captain Bill O'Connell mystically. "You just can't put your finger on it, but it's there. We've got it this year."
Intangibles, alas, only win ball games on the playing fields of Hollywood. South Dakota looks like Marquette's easiest game, but Coach Druze is not even promising a win Saturday.
Practice over, an assistant manager doles out dark-brown vitamin pills at the dressing room entrance. Each man dutifully pops one into his mouth as he enters the shower, as though concealed in the wondrous mixture of chemicals was the elixir of victory. Later, they go out into the soft twilight, where a Braves pitcher on the other side of the valley confidently throws his warmup pitches in front of the Milwaukee dugout, and comes the young sound of laughter.
The Name Is Johansson
Impending Autumn, the first stirrings of the black bass after summer's long lull, the Yankees and the Braves, Columbia and Sceptre, the soft sighs of football coaches contemplating Material vs. Schedule—these have set the mood of early September 1958. There was a time when a big fight—Rocky Marciano vs. Archie Moore, Carmen Basilio vs. Sugar Ray Robinson—would have been a major theme. This September: no fight of anything resembling title stature.