Sports-Loving Governor Robert B. Meyner of New Jersey recently presented the 1954 Spingarn Medal, highest award of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to Publisher Carl Murphy of Baltimore, head of the Afro-American Newspapers. Then, to the surprise of all present, the young governor proceeded to give the NAACP a solid rap on the knuckles.
"I notice," he said, "you have not deemed it suitable to award the Spingarn Medal in the field of athletics. But it is my belief that Negro athletes, in this sports-loving nation of ours, have done a great deal to break down old taboos and prejudices. I am thinking of such persons as Jesse Owens, the track star, who confounded Adolf Hitler's racial theories by running away with Olympic prizes in Berlin. Adolf was so mad he left the stadium.
"I am thinking of Levi Jackson, who became the captain of the Yale football team and a member of one of the exclusive Yale societies; of Jackie Robinson, the first Negro ballplayer to be admitted to the major leagues, thus establishing a precedent which has been followed generally; and of Joe Louis, who surely was one of the greatest boxers and greatest champions in the history of the ring.
"It seems to me that such men as these have played a most important role in Negro progress and, by earning the enthusiastic admiration of millions of Americans who love excellence even more than they nurse prejudice, have advanced the cause of equality of opportunity for all Negroes."
RETURN TO GRACE
The boxing fan, a wistful waif among the forces which rule his sport, was seated during the week at a bountiful table which served not one but two desserts. Archie Moore, the well-groomed light-heavyweight champion, came into his first big pay-night and undisputed right to a heavyweight-title shot in a brief encounter with Bobo Olson (see page 50). And Vince Martinez, the grounded welterweight, took soaring flight once more against tough Cuban Jesus (Chico) Varona in Syracuse, home town of new welter champion Carmen Basilio.
Martinez, unable to fight since last December because of a managers' boycott (SI, May 30), bears an extraordinary similarity to Moore. He is a superb boxer, whose handsomely chiseled features show none of the stigmata of his trade after 44 fights. He can punch with left hook or right cross and sets his opponent up for these with frosty deliberation, unruffled by bull-like rushes, fending them off with a persistent, tantalizing jab as impenetrable as vault steel.
He thinks as he fights, too. Against the urging of one corner adviser that he finish off the dangerous Varona quickly, Martinez insisted on boxing the Cuban a full 10 rounds to a unanimous decision (see page 56).
"After my layoff," he explained in his dressing room afterward, "I needed those 10 rounds." His punching, in fact, sharpened as the fight progressed. To prove that he could do it he combined a left and right to drop Varona for a count of two in the closing seconds of the fourth round.