West, by God, Virginia
While Elgin Baylor, their best player, sat on the bench in his street clothes, the Minneapolis Lakers lost to the Cincinnati Royals 95-91 in Charleston, W.Va. last week.
A few weeks before, Baylor and two other Negro players had been denied rooms at a Charlotte, N.C. hotel where the Lakers had planned to stay. "You fellows can stay here," Baylor heard the room clerk tell a white teammate, "but the colored boys have to go somewhere else. This is a nice, high-class hotel."
" Bob Short [the Lakers' owner] assured me that this wouldn't happen again," Baylor says. "I told him that if it did, I just wouldn't play." In Charleston it did happen again, so Baylor sat the game out and he said he would do it again, even if it cost him an entire year's salary.
"I still can't figure out what Elgin's so excited about," Short claimed. "We had reservations at the hotel and there was a slip-up of some kind. We had no indication anything like this was going to happen. He should have played. I think it would have been better for him to show he could rise above the situation. If Elgin had played, we would have won. Look at the score."
We have, and we think Baylor played his finest game by sitting firmly on the bench. We think he won something there, and that rising above a situation is often just another way of avoiding it. It would have been easy for him to show Charleston that he is a superior basketball player. But it was a more important and difficult job to accept the responsibility of eminence and to show Charleston, and remind all of us, that he is an average American—proud, uncommon, high-class.
After Musical Jack
Whenever reporters asked Theodore Francis Atkinson, 42, if he could recall the name of the first winner he ever rode, a distant smile would cross his face and he'd say, "Yes, sir. No jockey alive ever forgets that first one. Mine was named Musical Jack. May 18, 1938. Beulah Park, Columbus, Ohio." The other afternoon, as he wiggled into a set of purple silks and popped a gold cap on his head, Ted Atkinson had very little idea that he was about to ride his last one. Vet's Boy. January 10, 1959. Tropical Park, Coral Gables, Florida.
He left the jockeys' room and went to the tiny paddock, slapping his whip against his right leg as he walked. Statistically, Ted Atkinson was going to join a post parade for the 23,660th time. The start was no different from any other. He ran his left hand up along the back of his head to make sure his cap was on firmly and pulled his riding goggles down over his eyes. The field of nine broke, and he rated his mount third, three lengths off the leader. At the head of the stretch he was second and by the middle of it he was leading. But Vet's Boy was tiring badly. To his right Atkinson could see a horse striking at his lead, pulling right alongside. He whipped furiously and the two horses went under the wire together. Ted Atkinson and Vet's Boy were the winners—by a nose.
Statistically, it was winner number 3,795 for a fellow who had once been a laborer in the casserole division of the Corning ( N.Y.) Glass works. He went out for one more race and finished eighth, but when he reached up to get his saddle and cloth he felt an immense pain in his sacroiliac. As he said later, he "betrayed the pain [concealed it from the fans] by the way in which I walked." Later he made a statement: "The people in racing, the owners, trainers and bettors, deserve nothing but the best.... It's no use going on feeling like I do.... There's no sense riding downhill to nowhere."