FUN AND MR. FRICK
Some old fashioned fun was injected into baseball the other day, and it was such a startling innovation that a cry of alarm went up and a neck went out at the office of Ford Frick, baseball's high commissioner.
It all started with a foot race before a game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis between the Cards and Dodgers. The race, a 50-yard dash for "The Lead-Foot Trophy," was between the rival catchers, Del Rice of the Cardinals and Rube Walker of the Dodgers, who enjoy a joint reputation as the slowest men in the National League. Rice overcame Walker's early lead to win by several feet and a hilarious time was had by all. Unfortunately some sportswriters reported that Eddie Stanky, the St. Louis manager, had "picked up a load of side bets" and that "the Dodger lads went for a bundle." Commissioner Frick, reading these reports, shot off a wire to Managers Stanky and Walt Alston "ordering" them to supply all details forthwith. The details turned out to be that no "bundles" had been wagered, no "load of side bets" picked up by Eddie Stanky. There were a few small bets, but they added up to no more than $50. In New York, Commissioner Frick thereupon withdrew his neck and closed the case.
The incident caused Sports Editor Dan Parker to suggest in the New York Mirror that "baseball has lost a) its sense of humor and b) its identity as a sport." Baseball, said Parker, is neither a religion nor a way of life, although, in the Parker view, most of the fun has gone out of it on the playing field. No Casey Stengel lets a sparrow out of his cap, no Al Schacht goes through pitching motions in top hat and tails.
All is serious, most of the time, and it's no wonder a little fun, plus some extravagant reporting, frightened Mr. Frick.
CHURCH AND BASEBALL
Although, as Dan Parker says, baseball is not a religion, a group of ministers in Huntington, W.Va. believe the game can help bring people to church. The Huntington Ministerial Association has begun a 20-week radio sponsorship of the "Game of the Day" and will broadcast such between-inning messages as: "Go to church Sunday" and "You need the church and the church needs you." The ministers have agreed not to sponsor the "Game of the Day" when Cincinnati home games are being broadcast under a brewery's auspices. On those days, Huntington fans will hear the familiar message: "Step right up and say Burger Beer."
SOCCER: GRADE A
Ebbets field in Brooklyn was occupied on a recent evening not by Brooklyn Dodgers but by some of the best soccer players in the world. They were members of two crack teams from Nuremberg, Germany, and Sunderland, England, and they had come to Brooklyn to play a game climaxing a U.S. tour that included other exhibitions in Kearny, N.J., New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis. As it turned out, the Brooklyn game was the tour's most exciting demonstration of the arts and sciences that make soccer the No. 1 game elsewhere in the world.
The game (it ended in a 1-1 tie) also proved that Grade A soccer played against the comfortable accommodations of a major league ball park will draw a good crowd even in the U.S. This one numbered 15,450, small potatoes as compared to the crowds of 100,000 overseas, but considerably above the Dodger average for the early baseball season. It was a knowing soccer crowd, too, sophisticated enough to cheer and boo in just the right places and address such international stars as Len Shackleton of Sunderland and Max Morlock of Nuremberg by their first names.
Together, the two teams gave the Ebbets Field patrons an educational evening. Nuremberg played the short-passing, brilliantly deceptive game for which it is celebrated; Sunderland emphasized the long-passing attack that is typical of the modern English game.