SI Vault
October 27, 1958
Oedipus at Half Time
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October 27, 1958

Events & Discoveries

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In the Bag

The sportsman of the year, insofar as the Tea Council of the U.S.A. is concerned, is Bill Skowron. He is, says the council, because of the enormous quantities of tea that sluice down his throat every day. And he is, the council adds in perhaps a subaltern thought, because of his "outstanding performance as sportsman and athlete and for his exemplary standards in physical training." The award, the first such signal appointment by the tea people, went to the Yankee first baseman a few days before the World Series. Skowron's three-run homer in the seventh game, you better believe it, bothered the Tea Council not a jot.

The council elected a sportsman of the year to help dispel a common (but unworthy) notion that tea drinkers are either Englishmen or people who waggle little fingers while sipping. But first they made a list. Archie Moore drinks tea, and he was on the list. But Archie, in his "aborigine diet," also drinks raw eggs whipped up in orange juice, which made his credentials a little oddball. Floyd Patterson drinks tea, but Floyd is an Arthur Godfrey fan, and Arthur's selling coffee nowadays. Johnny Podres and Clem Labine drink tea in the National League, and Don Larsen and Enos Slaughter drink it in the American. Bill Sharman of the Boston Celtics drinks tea, and Ron Delany does too, for that matter. But Bill Skowron not only drinks tea, he made a 250-station radio broadcast to that effect last spring. Bill was a shoo-in when the ballots were totted up.

Bill drinks loose tea or tea in bags that look like first-base sacks. He drinks it (sometimes with sugar, sometimes with lemon, sometimes with both, never with cream) at the rate of four cups for lunch, four cups for supper, two cups at bedtime and three cups in the locker room before games. "It helps me to relax," he says. "Tea supplies a lift for athletes," says Jerry Sherman, the PR man for the Tea Council of the U.S.A. "And it's not followed by the depression that comes with—well, with that other beverage." Bill Skowron says he drinks that other beverage at breakfast. He does not drink intoxicants except for celebrations. He says he helped himself to champagne on the flight back from Milwaukee the other day.

The sportsman-of-the-year presentation was made to Bill at New York's Waldorf-Astoria during the National Food Editors conference. About 150 women were present, and everybody was drinking a heady brew of Ceylonese, Indian and Indonesian tea leaves. "I had never talked to so many women before," said Bill, "and I was pretty nervous." "Let's go into the bar first for a minute," said Jerry Sherman. "I don't mind if I do," said Bill, and he ordered a ginger ale. Bill was still nervous, so he returned to the conference and had a cup of tea. Then he had another. And another. And another. Bill was beaming when presentation time rolled around. "I certainly am honored to be here..." he was saying, and he was the picture of lift and relaxation not followed by depression.

Test of a Taunt

For the past month, nine variously qualified individuals have been trying with 16-ounce gloves, for the lure of many prizes, to analyze the old taunt: he couldn't punch his way out of a paper bag. And they've been trying manfully, pragmatically, in the full view of millions of housewives on a TV show called County Fair (NBC, 4:30-5 EDT); that is, the bag's in full view, the individuals are battling unseen within. As we go to press, these have flailed and failed: Halfback Frank Gifford; Actor Jacques Bergerac; Welterweight Tony Di Biase; Columnist Earl Wilson; former Heavyweight Champion James J. Braddock; Actor Richard Coogan and three husky volunteers from the studio audience.

The bag is as big as a telephone booth and is made of six-ply paper. The County Fair people contend that the bag is made of the same stuff as cement, flour, feed and fertilizer bags. "And we use a fresh bag each time, yes, sir," said a bright-eyed County Fair assistant. Back in the days when County Fair was a radio show the paper barrier was broken. But it took four inspired hands churning in concert to do it. "A honeymoon couple," said the assistant reverently. "Skinny little people, too."

The last man to fail was Coogan, who portrays an upright marshal on a TV western called The Californians. "I'm the slowest draw in the world," Coogan said last week, fondling his .44. Coogan weighs 193 pounds, stands 6 foot 3 and is handsome to a fare-thee-well. "I was a terrible after-school scrapper in Madison, N.J.," he said as he was stripped of boots, jacket and gun belt.

"Gifford hit harder than anybody," the assistant told Coogan. "His reactions are fantastic and he timed his punches. I thought that old bag had had it; the seams were going. This is not an impossible thing, Dick. The honeymooners did it—skinny little people."

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