SI Vault
September 19, 1955
World Series prediction, Straight sets for Tony, Afield with the lachrymose Basenji, Philly's fans find something to laugh at, Detergent for dirty business, Salt flat solo
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September 19, 1955

Events & Discoveries

World Series prediction, Straight sets for Tony, Afield with the lachrymose Basenji, Philly's fans find something to laugh at, Detergent for dirty business, Salt flat solo

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It seems a shame to have to make excuses for such fine young tennis players as Hoad and Rosewall, but the fact remains that neither of them seems able to muster their best tennis unless the Davis Cup is at stake. At Wimbledon this summer neither could get to the finals, and Trabert became the first man since Don Budge to walk off with the title without losing a set. Trabert did it again last week at Forest Hills. In seven matches he won 21 consecutive sets and finished off the week's work by thumping Hoad 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals and by beating Rosewall 9-7, 6-3, 6-3 for the crown next day.

To be sure, Trabert's game was better last week than it had been during the Challenge Round. At times, especially in his match with Hoad, he may have been playing the best tennis of his life. His services were deadly accurate, and his volleying, which had lacked authority against the same player two weeks before, was completely effective. It cannot be said that Hoad did not try. He must have tried, for he led 3-0 in the first set. But it must be said that when Trabert squared the score and went ahead, Hoad was a most indifferent player. "My boy just didn't fight," said Harry Hopman later. "Don't ask me why." Rosewall, a fine tactician with superb ground strokes, finished off Vic Seixas in the semifinals, and against Trabert went down fighting. He left the impression that if his game was "down" it was chiefly because Trabert was "up" in every department.

If it were not for the immovable evidence of his Davis Cup defeat, Tony Trabert, as the French champion, Wimbledon champion and U.S. champion could lay full claim to the title of best amateur around. But the season isn't over yet. This week the amateur tour moves to California for the Pacific Southwest championships, where the Cup rivals can expect to meet again. The Pacific Southwest title lacks the importance of the Davis Cup and the prestige of the Nationals, but it might produce a good rubber match or two.

Jack Kramer, the old pro, will be watching. "I've got something cooking," he said, "but I'm not ready to talk about it yet."


There are few men who do not long to stun their fellows with some burst of fiendish ingenuity—the man who first dyed an elephant pink was firmly in the grip of this desire and so, of course, was the fellow who first filled a hotel-room bathtub to the brim with lemon Jell-O. It seems inevitable that a good many bird hunters will emerge from their local movie palaces in coming months aglow with this same emotion, and that they will obtain, or at any rate try to obtain, a Basenji (pronounced bass-EN-gee) as a gun dog and companion in the field.

At first impact this could seem like a capital idea. A motion picture entitled Goodbye My Lady, adapted from a novel of the same name by the late James Street, is currently being filmed at Albany, Ga., and when it is done the silver screen will suggest that a Basenji can locate quail as easily as a bloodhound can trail a wet goat. This is a fascinating thesis, for the Basenji is a canine curio; it originated in Central Africa during the dawn of civilization (it is depicted on stone carvings dating back to 4 000 B.C.) and was a companion of the pharaohs in Egypt. It is relatively rare—there are less than 1,000 in the U.S.

It is a handsome little dog—males stand 17 inches, females 16 inches at the shoulders—with sharp ears, a sharp muzzle, a tightly curled tail and a short, silky, lustrous coat of red and white, or black, white and tan. But the Basenji's peculiar charm stems from the fact that he is genuinely different from most dogs. He does not bark, although he can scream with terror, chortle with happiness, snarl and occasionally emit something which sounds like a yodel. He keeps clean by licking himself like a cat. He has no canine odor. And, when unhappy, a Basenji is reputed to shed real tears. A hunter equipped with a four-footed sideshow of these proportions would obviously never lack a gallery.

There is, furthermore, no real reason to doubt that a Basenji can be used in quail hunting. A California veterinary student named Dick Willett owned a Basenji (now unfortunately defunct) which he describes as the only quail-hunting dog of its breed in North America. Historically, the dog has been a hunter of small game, and it has a fine nose. But the facility with which Lady, heroine of the forthcoming movie, hunts quail should not be used as a yardstick by eager bird hunters. Lady is not one dog, in fact, but 12—some male, some female, and all made up with grease paint to look relatively alike. Only one of them, a dog named Mecca which had some preliminary training in the quail business in Mexico, has even the remotest aptitude for hunting. Mecca, however, is not very hot. The rest do not know a bird from a pizza pie. One of them does achieve a sort of point—it has been trained to raise one foot when a trainer taps its leg with a stick. Another engages in a fight with three hounds (all the dogs have their mouths taped shut), and others are on hand to record the various odd Basenji vocal effects for the sound track.

By dividing the chores and training each dog to perform one small function of the action demanded in the script the moviemakers feel certain they can deliver a quail-hunting Basenji to the screen—although there is now some doubt that Lady will, as the scenario demands, weep on parting from a small boy who finds her wandering in the woods. Despite the urging of five trainers, not one of the 12 Basenjis has shed one tear, and Albany is full of a rumor that the make-up department will resort to glycerine to achieve the necessary effect. A bird hunter, of course, might not mind a dry-eyed dog—one which wept at the sight of game, in fact, could be downright embarrassing. But all in all it seems only fair to suggest that any hunter who takes the field with a Basenji would do well to keep a setter in reserve, just in case.

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