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THE GREAT ARTIFICER
One of the most romantic names in boxing in its Golden Age of a few decades ago was that of Jack Kearns, as he was known to the public, Doc Kearns as he was known to friends, or John Leo McKernan as he was born and christened. It was rather symbolic of his career that he should have had three names. He had at least as many personalities, all of them roguishly charming, all perfectly controlled to cope with the situation of the moment. When he died this week at an age (80) that he persistently denied, he still was filled with dreams of exploits that would match his triumphs in prizefighting—in which he managed such great champions as Jack Dempsey, Mickey Walker, Jackie Fields, Joey Maxim and, to an extent, Archie Moore.
At the end he wanted to lead a labor union of all professional athletes—prizefighters, of course, but also jockeys, baseball players, football players, golfers, and what have you. He would thus have become the czar of professional sport. To this end, he studied at the feet of, naturally, Jimmy Hoffa. He had been turned down by more respectable labor leaders. "Over my dead body," said President George Meany of the merged AFL-CIO, when Kearns broached the idea to him.
Kearns was trying, at the same time, the biggest con of all. He sensed the advance of Death and he sought to talk Death out of it. Asked his age, he would underestimate it and speak glowingly of his golf game. One of the great champagne swiggers of an earlier time, he abandoned the cup. At the last, he did all the right things—but the oldest trick in fate's bag outfeinted him.
Well, come to think of it, perhaps not. Doc is still one of sport's immortals.
SPECTER HAUNTING BASEBALL
For the next few years, baseball's club owners, who care as much about soccer as they care about polo, will be studying the European football game as biologists might study a strange and dangerous virus, seeking to prevent its spread. For Britain's High Court has ruled that the peonage system by which soccer players are tied to one team until traded (without their consent and often against their wishes) is illegal.
In American baseball, justification for the same system has rested on the argument, which has a sensible ring, that the end of peonage would be the end of many a baseball club, that the best players would be bought up by the richer clubs and that the less wealthy teams would be depleted of talent, perhaps forced to disband. Even so, the system runs counter to both the British and American sense of justice—though it has been upheld from time to time in American courts.
Now there will be opportunity to see whether it works for the betterment or the impoverishment of a game that is organized very much along baseball's lines. And to speculate where the wealthy New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s would be in the standings if they were able to bid for players in a free market.
EXILE TO PARADISE