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Before the Chicago Bears disposed of the College All-Stars 28 to 17 last week, some definite opinions had been formed about the 1964 professional rookies by the men who know them best: the scouts. This crop would not, it was confidently predicted, be remembered with as much relish as the Jim Taylor-John Crow- Dan Currie- Bobby Mitchell- Alex Karras- Lou Michaels group of 1957, or that banner corps from 1951, the year that provided Frank Gifford, Hugh McElhenny, Les Richter, Gino Marchetti, Ollie Matson, Bill George and Bill Howton, among others. What the All-Stars would be remembered for was the distinction of being the most comfort-driven group of recent years.
Several of the All-Stars were whipping around the campsite in cars either purchased with staggering bonus money or provided by coddling pro management. Players giggled at passes they dropped in workouts, made plans for that evening's assault on entertainment areas, then yawned at their busted signals. Said one high-priced pass receiver to an inquisitive spectator: "I got in pretty early—early this morning." For one of Otto Graham's last important workouts before the game, some key players were absent. Some were doctoring injuries, but some, frankly, had overslept.
FAITH OR WORKS
It is quite possible that Alvin Dark, the intense, religious manager of the San Francisco Giants, truly believes that Negro and Latin American baseball players lack the "mental alertness" of their white peers. Dark is a Southerner, and it would not be surprising if some doubts about racial equality linger in his psyche. Most of us carry a few bits of undisposable illogic from childhood into adult life.
This, of course, does not excuse a generalization of the sort Dark made—if, indeed, he made it. He was quoted by Stan Isaacs, sports columnist for Long Island's Newsday, as saying of Negro and Latin ballplayers: "They are just not able to perform up to the white ball-players when it comes to mental alertness." Dark has since said he was misquoted, and in a dramatic team meeting last week denied that he holds such sentiments. ( Willie Mays' reaction to Dark's short speech was to go out and hit two home runs.)
Whether or not Dark said what he is said to have said, the incident must be considered in the context of his baseball life. If he is short on faith, he is long on works. Both as a player and a manager, Dark has always been scrupulously fair to Negroes and Latin Americans. He has treated them as individuals, not stereotypes. He has knit together a club that was chaotically divided, partly by racial and nationalist hostility, at the time he took control.
With Dark's job in jeopardy as a result of the furor over the debated remark, it is significant that Jackie Robinson, his bitter rival on the ball field years ago and always uncompromising in questions involving prejudice against the Negro, quickly came to Dark's defense. Robinson knows the score in this area as few do and, under Branch Rickey, learned the hard way that works are what count.
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