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First, of course, is the U.S. national game.
BASEBALL: Research discloses that Robert Creamer, an associate editor of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, made predictions of uncanny accuracy at various times during the late 1950s. He correctly forecast the death of the minor leagues as then constituted and also foresaw the creation of a third major league made up of cities from Kansas City westward. As Creamer surmised, the function of the old minor leagues was gradually absorbed by the Little Leagues, the Pony Leagues, the industrial leagues and a few subsidized minor "training" leagues to bridge the gap to the majors.
Creamer did not foresee (nor did anyone else) the great baseball dilemma known as the "home run crisis." Home runs, as everyone is aware, became such a commonplace in the late 1950s that the game itself was threatened. Sluggers like Mickey Charles Mantle of the New York Yankees began to hit the ball out of the park with such regularity that the fans became bored and sometimes booed the very hits they formerly had cheered. Mantle, to take one example, hit 65 home runs in 1957, 72 in 1958, 98 in 1959 and 129 in 1960.
A council called by Frank Lane, then commissioner of baseball and its natural spokesman, and attended by the league and club presidents, could find no solution to the problem and were about to adjourn in admitted failure when a schoolboy ballplayer named Mordecai Brown Williams was interviewed by an Associated Press correspondent (who intended the dispatch as a humorous feature story) and proposed that the major leagues now apply an old rule of schoolboy baseball, namely the over-the-fence-is-out rule. Lane and the other baseball leaders pounced gratefully on this suggestion, and it was put into effect over the violent protests of some club owners and, of course, the sluggers themselves. After the excitement had died down, baseball became the game it had been at its inception, with emphasis on such subtleties as the bunt, the squeeze, the hit-and-run and the steal. The inside-the-park homer was now regarded as the pi�ce de r�sistance. Mickey Mantle, who had been bitter about the over-the-fence-is-out rule in the beginning, now concentrated on "the insider" and hit seven in one season before retiring to devote all his time to his turbojet automobile agency.
It seems incredible now that in the old days fans might travel miles to a ball park only to have the game postponed because of rain. The first of the all-weather parks was built here in Levittown in 1961. It was known as Kleinsasser's Stadium since it was the work of Theodore W. Kleinsasser, the distinguished architect still practicing in Boston, who designed it as part of his graduate work at Princeton University (where he had been a famous football star) in 1955. He had visualized the domed stadium for the old Brooklyn Dodgers, but Walter O'Malley, the Dodger president, after playing experimental schedules in Jersey City, N.J. and Yonkers, N.Y., sold out to the Levittown syndicate before anything could be done about a new stadium. Historic Ebbets Field in Brooklyn was purchased by the City of New York and used for girls' softball games and tug-of-war matches.
Aside from these changes, baseball has remained the game it has always been and the fans' reaction to it has not altered since the heyday of Branch Rickey. In this connection it might not be amiss (especially in view of the fact that the candidate is named for this baseball immortal) to quote the words of Mr. Rickey, speaking to the crowd at Kleinsasser's Stadium on his 90th birthday. Said Mr. Rickey: "Man may penetrate the outer reaches of the universe, he may solve the very secret of eternity itself, but for me, the ultimate human experience is to witness the flawless execution of that impertinent baseball stratagem known as the hit-and-run."
BASKETBALL: This popular spectator sport had to face a problem comparable to baseball's "home run crisis." Roy Terrell of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED must be credited with forcing authorities to do something about the domination of this ancient game by giant players. The formation (in 1960) of the Harlem 88s, a team comprising players of 7 feet 4 inches or more, was, as Terrell put it in the pungent language of the day, "the last straw."
"Why not," wrote Terrell, "create an entirely new game and call it 'tallboy'? Then let basketball be given back to players of average size."
The National Collegiate Athletic Association immediately seized upon this suggestion and adopted it, with the professional leagues quickly following suit. Old-fashioned basketball, with its low scoring, became extremely popular again, although it must be said that the new game of tallboy had (and still has) its share of devoted fans.
GOLF: For his research on this fine old game, the candidate has had the extreme good fortune of personally interviewing the dean of world golf writers, Mr. Herbert Warren Wind, whose flying golf cart is still a familiar sight at all major tournaments. Such is Mr. Wind's stature in the golf world that he is the only writer permitted to hover over the green while the contestants are putting.