First, of course,
is the U.S. national game.
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.
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
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."
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."
wrote Terrell, "create an entirely new game and call it 'tallboy'? Then let
basketball be given back to players of average size."
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
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.