The Death of Jean Behra
With skies leaden and the 5.1-mile course as damp as the spirits of the drivers who raced in it, Britain's Tony Brooks last Sunday won the Grand Prix of Germany over the AVUS track in West Berlin.
Brooks pressed his Ferrari to a 143.5-mph average. A crowd of 75,000 was on hand to watch. It should have been a great occasion.
But while speeds were high, morale was low. The day before, during a warmup for the Grand Prix, a downpour hit the track, and France's finest race driver, 38-year-old Jean Behra, found his Porsche fishtailing off the banked north turn at 110 mph. The car nosed upward and soared. Behra was projected even higher and, clutching at a wasteland of thin air, smashed against a pole and died of head and neck injuries.
In his honor next day, two Porsches dropped out of the Grand Prix and the sporting world mourned another of the truly fine and courageous men of racing. Behra was not endowed with the innate talent of men like Ascari (killed 1955) or Fangio (retired 1958) or Moss (still active), but he had skill and an unflinching determination, often coupled with recklessness, to win. Among his victories were the classic races of Pau, Bordeaux, Bari, Nurburgring, Aintree and Sebring. At Sebring he was teamed with Fangio, and he was expected some day to take over Fangio's crown.
Said Stirling Moss after Behra's death: " Berlin's AVUS is the worst track in the world. It is dangerous, it is uninteresting and it requires a minimum of driving skill." Every word might be true, but what Stirling Moss was really expressing was the grief of racing men for the death of Jean Behra.
Two Out in Chattanooga
Like a lady with a purple past, baseball has lived with the memory of its Black Sox scandal for 40 years. That memory was dredged up again last week with the news that two players in the Southern Association had been attempting to fix games. Punishment was swift. One player, Waldo Gonzalez, was booted out for a year. The other, 33-year-old Jesse Levan, the leading hitter of the Chattanooga Lookouts, was thrown out forever.
It was in early July that George Trautman, president of the minor leagues, heard that certain members of the Chattanooga team were being bribed to lose games. Trautman questioned every man on the team and excused all but five, Levan and Gonzalez among them. The investigation of these five men continued all month, and when it was done, this is the story Trautman had:
When the season began, Sammy Meeks was first base coach for the Mobile Bears. One day, Meeks said, Levan invited him into a cocktail lounge where another man was waiting. The two men told Meeks he could earn some easy money if he watched Chattanooga's shortstop, Waldo Gonzalez, before every pitch. If Gonzalez was standing erect, the pitch would be a fast ball. If Gonzalez was bent, it would be a curve. Meeks could then alert the Mobile batter what to expect.