MENDER OF IMMORTALS
After Dr. George E. Bennett died at 77 last week a photograph was found in a desk drawer of his Baltimore office. It showed Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Hen-rich, Charley Keller and Frankie Crosetti in their Yankee uniforms and was inscribed: "To Dr. George, the man who made this picture possible." Most men would have hung it prominently on a wall, but Dr. George was modest.
The inscription was true. DiMaggio was remembering an injury to his elbow. Dr. Bennett removed loose cartilage, caused by Joe's long throws, from the tendons. Henrich and Crosetti had remodeled knees, Keller a repaired ankle. Without the skills of the famed Johns Hopkins orthopedic surgeon, the careers of all four, and of many others, would have been ended prematurely.
Big league clubs sent their players to Dr. Bennett because he was more than a gifted surgeon. His medical skill was supported by an extraordinary knowledge of baseball (he had played on a semipro team). He knew, for example, that a shortstop's most difficult play is going into the hole to scoop up a drive. When he gets the ball he must pivot on his right leg to make the long throw to first base. So when a shortstop came to him with a bad right knee, Dr. Bennett simply recommended that the shortstop become a third baseman.
Another time it was a pitcher who wrote that he had lost his fast ball. Dr. Bennett had operated on the boy's arm a few months before. "I figured he was favoring it by pushing the ball and not throwing it," Dr. Bennett recalled. He wrote a brief prescription: "Cock your wrist." Two days later a telegram arrived. "It worked," the wire said.
Larry MacPhail believes Dr Bennett was responsible for the Dodgers' 1941 pennant. Whitlow Wyatt's control went sour, and MacPhail appealed to the doctor. "Build a mound in the bullpen," Dr. Bennett said. MacPhail scoffed but did it anyhow. That year Wyatt won 22 games. The doctor believed Wyatt's throwing motion was perfect and "had a movie made of it to show other pitchers.
Not only baseball players but other athletes flocked to Dr. Bennett's office. Eddie Arcaro says the doctor saved his career. Among football players he treated were John Unitas, Ray Berry, George Shaw and Don McIlhenny.
At a testimonial dinner in 1958, athletes he had helped paid tribute to him, some tearfully. Joe Garagiola relieved the tension with a remark: "After listening to that all-star team of players Dr. Bennett has mended," he said, "I'm sorta sorry I didn't break my leg."
THE BROKEN-BAT BRIGADE
The trend to ultralight fishing tackle is as nothing compared to the burgeoning use of ultralight bats in baseball. More and more players are going to the featherweight stick under the assumption that a quick, lashing swing will propel a ball farther than the more ponderous movement of the old, massive, thick-handled models, the kind Ty Cobb used.