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Had the sportsman's line been of a strength greater than the rules permit? Had a helper assisted the man before the fish was alongside? In game fishing circles ugly rumors were afoot.
Never mind who called the Pinkertons into the case. The agency never divulges the name of a client in an undercover job, even when, as in this instance, the job dates back more than 20 years.
Pinkerton headquarters dispatched an agent to infiltrate the Long Island boating set. Equipped with a liberal expense account, he chartered a handsome yacht and gave lavish parties aboard for almost a month, his ear alert for scuttlebutt. Hang the cost, he would get to the bottom of this smelly fish matter! In the end, happily, the Pinkerton agent absolved the sportsman of cheating, and with a sigh of relief the moguls of game fishing approved the new record. The job had been done without an iota of fanfare, in the characteristically silent style with which the Pinkertons at this moment may be closing in on your high school football team's doctor if he is trying to beat the insurance company by requiring a dozen visits from a lad who has sprained his thumb.
Out in the field, away from the sober atmosphere of New York headquarters, Pinkertons often put away their blue business suits, address one another by their first names and informally refer to themselves as Pinks. Unlike the Cincinnati Reds, who once timorously changed their nickname to Redlegs, the Pinkertons are' not going to be cowed out of their birthright by any Johnny-come-lately organizations such as the Communist party. Pinkerton tradition is strong, and it is nowhere more in evidence than among the lowly guards who take tickets at a stadium or check credentials at the door of a locker room. Gate-crashers find them impervious to their wiliest persuasions. In 1952, at the first Marciano-Walcott fight in Philadelphia, a would-be crasher approached a Pinkerton old-timer named Cap Murphy and informed him that he was one of Walcott's seconds. To support his claim, the man carried a water bucket and a silk robe on which Walcott's name was stitched in red letters.
"It's a good thing you're not carrying Walcott's trunks," Murphy said firmly, "or he'd be embarrassed as hell going into that ring tonight."
Pinkerton guards are aware, of course, that the gate-crasher confronting them may be a Pinkerton plainsclothesman testing their reliability, but as I myself was to discover when I joined up at the Memphis Open, the mere act of putting on a Pinkerton uniform is an ennobling experience, one that calls a man to his duty. There are no ifs, buts or howevers in vow No. 2 of the Pinkerton guards' 10-part credo: "I shall take complete charge of my assignments, remain on duty under all circumstances until properly relieved and—without fear or favor—execute all orders and enforce all rules." Clifford Roberts may be director of the Masters golf tournament and a man of stern presence on the Augusta National course, but when he neglected to wear his badge and official green blazer one sweltering day, he got what was coming to him. In rapid succession, Pinkerton guards kept him away from the press building, the trophy room and the grill, though they knew his face as well as they knew their own mother's. What's more, Red Blaik and his Army football squad were refused admission to the 1956 Army-Navy game when they turned up at the wrong gate. The Pinkerton on duty eventually stepped aside, but not until he had summoned a superior who thought the matter over and decided that the enraged coach and his players were a necessary appurtenance to the event.
To understand firsthand such rigid devotion to duty, I flew south in June to make my debut as a Pinkerton. It seemed essential to be one in order to grasp fully the spirit of the agency, so I had studied the company's operation carefully and drawn up a list of assignments that carried a potential for danger. Eliminating these, I asked to be attached for a couple of days to a golf tournament. Golf spectators scheme to great lengths to get into a tournament free, often sneaking onto the club grounds by riding like Mafia victims in the trunk of an auto, but once on the course they behave themselves.
Nevertheless, they require expert crowd control—for two reasons. The first is that the average spectator rarely attends more than one tournament a year and therefore, being unfamiliar with tournament environment, is apt to take a false step that could cost a golfer thousands of dollars. The second reason for crowd control is that pro golfers at heart are not entertainers. If the purse money were right, they would prefer to play their tournaments on the moon, before any settlers have arrived. Most galleries annoy the golfers, simply because most tournaments are policed by amateurs—as a rule, by marshals who are recruited from the membership ranks of local clubs and who are more intent upon watching the play than upon keeping order. But wherever the Pinkerton golf specialists are hired, the tournament pros become downright sunny, a phenomenon that seemed to be worth investigating firsthand.
As luck would have it, Agent A.D. Trecost, the legendary hound for details, had become in middle age the Pinkertons' leading expert on golf tournament security and would be traveling from his New Orleans office to take command of the Memphis Open. (In the South and the Southwest, nine tournaments had contracted for the Pinkertons' service this year, thereby establishing the southern leg of the golf circuit as the most orderly on the tour.) As I had mailed Trecost my measurements so that he could have a uniform made up, my principal fear was that he would view with disgust the addition of a 5'5" guard to his force.
"Your physique is tremendous for us!" he lied diplomatically when I arrived in Memphis on that Friday afternoon. "You're all right. You're athletic! From your measurements, I thought you'd be...well, you don't look like you have malnutrition."