It's been a cold winter, the cost of living is up, and the front-page news that a citizen has an obligation to ponder involves such gritty matters as Berlin, Iraq, Red China and a possible steel strike. But there are ancient reassurances in the air. The sun is definitely warmer, grass is sprouting, buds are shaping up and quiet reports have been coming in of the annual crocus miracle. All these reassurances arrive not a moment too soon, and we are delighted to add a fresh one, most timely at this season: baseballs really do curve.
The authority for this is your government in Washington, which announced it this week in a bulletin of the Department of Commerce, Lewis L. Strauss, Secretary. Not only do baseballs curve, says Commerce, but they curve in relation to the spin on the ball, not the speed behind it. And no ball, regardless of what the .200 hitters will tell you, curves more than 17.5 inches off the true plane between mound and plate.
The scientific source for it all is Dr. Lyman J. Briggs, director emeritus of the Bureau of Standards. Dr. Briggs, an 84-year-old atomic scientist and baseball fan, conducted his overdue investigations at the bureau and at that shrine of experimental baseball, Griffith Stadium. And the best curves, he says (you can paste this in your hat), result in a ball spinning 1,800 rpm and traveling 68 mph. More speed, within the reach of any major league pitcher, helps not a jot.
What Frank Lane wants Frank Lane does not always get. What Frank Lane wants right now, among oh, so many other things, is a third baseman for his Cleveland Indians, and he may have one in young Gene Leek. Leek had played seven college games this spring (and was batting .408) until Lane talked him off the University of Arizona campus and ball team. In 10 games with Cleveland he has batted .307 and fielded flawlessly. But there is no joy in Tucson, where Leek's old coach, Frank Sancet, is rankling over Lane's fast rustle. Sancet thought that the least Lane could have done was to wait until the college season was over.
"What were we supposed to do?" retorted Lane. "Let somebody else grab him?"
College baseball coaches have long regarded major league scouts the way cattlemen used to regard sheepherders when they heard the first bleat coming—with, well, antipathy. Their ranges have been invaded before and they will be in the future. The most sensible words on the general subject were spoken last week in a letter from a college official quoted in The New York Times . "If a boy is in college primarily to get an education and plays ball on the side," the letter said, "it's not likely that he'll sign a contract before he graduates. The fault lies with the colleges that make their athletes think that their mission in life is baseball.... If a boy thinks his mission on a campus is baseball, why shouldn't he go somewhere else if he can do better for himself?"
Leek got a $30,000 bonus for going somewhere else. Among the lessons of this is maybe one for boys who think their mission on a campus is to play football. Who ever heard, yet, of the National Football League paying such a bonus? Could be enough to make a fellow switch to baseball.
The Ring of the Future