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October 04, 1954
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October 04, 1954



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Even the King and Queen of Thailand joined the crowd?which rose in the mist and rain and roared happily as they stepped into the royal box. (Due to the fact that nobody may sit higher than they, the royal pair had seats 100 yards from the action and had to watch through binoculars.) By the time Cohen and Songkitrat were in the ring the noise was deafening. The crowd was splendidly partisan. "Use your right! Use your right!" it shrieked at Songkitrat in unison after the fight began. "Songkitrat," called the loudspeakers after the fourth round, "is not at all tired!"

Unfortunately, however, Songkitrat was quite tired?and, after the sixth round, when Cohen broke his nose, was bleeding as well. But he was cheered deafeningly until the end of the fight. The whole stadium rocked with whoops of laughter before the 10th?Cohen misplaced his mouthpiece and the inspired announcer cried: "They are looking for his false teeth." Songkitrat dissolved in tears after Cohen's hand was raised but the dripping 70,000 still seemed happy, excited and full of national pride as they departed?after all Songkitrat hadn't been allowed one kick to the mid-section and had obviously missed the title only because of the curious customs of the baffling and inscrutable West.

Beisbol's Mel Allen

During the baseball season some 12 to 15 million Latin Americans, beisbol lovers all, tune in their radio sets several times a week to hear a toro-voiced Norteamericano broadcast major league games in Spanish. These millions will be joined during the World Series by many of New York's 800,000 Spanish-speaking residents who follow the game best in their native tongue.

The game is big news south of the border, and interest in recent years has risen sharply as so many Latin American players have come up to the big leagues. There have been 79 Latin American major leaguers, starting with Cuban William Bellan, who played third base for Troy and New York in the American League back in 1871-73.

The announcer who keeps Spanish-speaking America al dia with big-league baseball is broad-shouldered Buck Canel, a swivel-tongued, fortyish man with a slender black moustache. If you can imagine Mel Allen talking Spanish, that's Canel, who speaks English too, because he was born on Staten Island, a short sea voyage south of Manhattan. His Spanish father and Scottish-American mother (a MacAllister) made him bilingual from toddlerhood, the Staten Island Advance put him into the news business, and in 1936, after seasoning with the Associated Press and Havas, he started broadcasting for NBC's new Latin American division.

Canel broadcasts with respect for their sophistication to some of the hemisphere's fiercest fans, most of them ardent followers of the Chicago White Sox, whose roster includes Alfonso Carrasquel of Venezuela, Saturnino Orestes Minoso of Cuba, Sandalio Consuegra of Cuba and Manuel Rivera, born in New York of Puerto Rican ancestry. Thus, though his program is billed as The Game of the Day, 90% of the time it is a White Sox game.

The problem of whether to root for the Cleveland Indians, because of Al (Alfonso Ramon) Lopez, a Floridian whose father, like Canel's, came from Asturias, Spain, or for the Giants, who have a Puerto Rican pitcher in Ruben Gomez, is not one for Buck Canel to resolve. He walks a tight line to preserve a neutrality the Swiss would envy. One reason may be that he goes south every year to cover the Winter League in Latin America and is then within easy reaching distance of whoever might wish to criticize him personally. He has, furthermore, a deep regard for his audience's right to its own opinions.

"They know the game and the players," Canel booms, "and maybe a little bit better than the average fan up here. Naturally, they're most interested in Latin American players but more than 40 percent of all major leaguers have barnstormed down there at one time or another. I figure I have 12 to 15 million listeners, though it's impossible to be sure because anyone can pick up short wave. About 50 stations rebroadcast me."

The language makes for confusion at times. Canel has had to answer such questions as: "Is George Kell a brother of Carrasquel?"

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