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OUT OF THE NEST
The football Falcons of the United States Air Force Academy are gradually getting to be rather big birds—the academy has never been averse to admitting fast, husky young men and its original star-loaded class of cadets are juniors this year—but a good many pin feathers remain among their fancy plumage. The Falcons' loveliest dream—beating Army or Navy—still seems far from realization, but for all that they are being shoved out of the nest with almost no warning at all this week and into big-time football competition: on Friday night they engage the Bruins of UCLA in combat at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
This spur-of-the-moment debut was arranged as the result of an unusual cancellation—the whole University of Florida football squad, which was to open the season against UCLA, came down with flu last week, leaving the Bruins with a crowd and a stadium and nobody to play. Athletic Director Wilbur Johns simply picked up a telephone, called his counterpart at the academy, Colonel George F. Simler, and asked for help. The colonel called together the academy's athletic council and Coach Buck Shaw—who seemed delighted at the idea—and one day later the game was scheduled.
In one sense the game may be less uneven than it seems—UCLA too, due to the peculiar regulations which followed the Pacific Coast football scandals, will not be able to play its seniors this year. Even so the Bruins will out-gun the academy team—which was beaten last year by Brigham Young, seventh in the Skyline Conference, and will, except for games with Occidental, George Washington and Detroit, content itself with playing neighborhood schools during the rest of this year. The academy's wing of cadets, which will doubtless be transported en masse to witness big games in the future, will stay in Denver this week: it would cost $98,428.50 to transport them to Los Angeles by airliner and the Air Force apparently would never think of sending them on a train. Thus constricted, they did their cheering in advance, sturdily chanting "Beat UCLA" every day on marching from the mess hall. The football players—21 juniors, 8 sophomores and 9 freshmen—began working, literally, like mad in the hour and a half they are allotted for practice. Win or lose, something new was being added to big-time college football.
The Global World Series, an annual tournament which determines the amateur baseball champion of the world, is baseball's equivalent of the World's Fair and is more notable for its novelties than for its baseball. Last year, for instance, one team fielded a left-handed shortstop and another loftily disdained to slide. In the third renewal which got under way at Detroit last week among teams representing Japan, The Netherlands, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Hawaii, Canada and the U.S., it was the Japanese who provided the most memorable vignette. When the Japanese pitcher hit a Canadian batter, he marched to the baseline, removed his cap and bowed his apologies. Detroit has seen better baseball this season, but 8,000 indulgent fans, many of them undoubtedly global minded, turned out for the opening game in Briggs Stadium and seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly.
The father of global baseball is Richard S. Falk of the engineering firm of the same name, which has headquarters in Milwaukee (the first two series were played in that city), and a dedicated baseball missionary. Falk, a frustrated sandlot pitcher, turned to sponsoring semipro teams after graduating from the University of Arizona in 1935, and readily became semipro commissioner of Wisconsin.
At that time, Falk now thinks, he was something of a Midwest parochialist. World War II—he was a Marine in the South Pacific—made him an internationalist. In 1951 he combined his old love of baseball and his new outlook to start talking up a global series. He got the go-ahead for his scheme from amateur baseball brass and, using his social and business position to obtain support from Milwaukee industrialists, raised $250,000 for the first championship which took place in 1955.
The series, won both times by the U.S., has been a going concern ever since, and Falk has national commissioners helping him spread his baseball gospel in some 20 states and territories. He is not aware of Russian teams, "but if they got them," he says heartily, "they're welcome to affiliate with us.
"You know," he continues with missionary enthusiasm, "baseball in America turned out to be something which people from many backgrounds and nationalities could play and which would give them a common language. I think the same thing could apply to nations. One of the oddest things which has happened to me is that I realized the Japanese aren't really like those I saw in those movies years ago. You couldn't find a gentler people. Now I didn't set out to find that out, it just happened because of those games we've had. We're all living a stone's throw from each other now and maybe a game like baseball will help us understand each other."