THE KING IS DEAD
In February 1956 a fawn-and-white dog flew to New York from California for a testimonial dinner at the Savoy-Plaza Hotel. He sat on the dais wearing a gold paper crown and was served steak in a gold bowl by the captain of waiters while 200 humans ate turkey and made elegant speeches and presentations for five hours. The occasion was the retirement from the show ring of Ch. Bang Away of Sirrah Crest, the boxer who had won more best-in-shows—121—than any dog in history. Bang Away's splendid record was in no small part responsible for the boxer's becoming, in the last few years, the second-largest breed (largest—beagle) registered with the American Kennel Club.
After the dinner was over Bang Away went back to California to his master and mistress, Dr. and Mrs. Rafael C. Harris (Sirrah is Harris spelled backward) of Santa Ana, where he lived the easy life of a house pet and stood occasional stud. Despite his casual breeding activity, Bang Away had sired a breed record of 56 champions by this summer, including the fine bitch Ch. Baroque of Quality Hill, who won the Morris and Essex in 1955 (a boxer first) and her brother, Ch. Barrage of Quality Hill (SI cover, Feb. 11).
Two weeks ago, while the Harrises were sitting in their living room watching Bang Away romp, he keeled over and died. An autopsy was performed but proved inconclusive. Dogs do have heart attacks, but there was no evidence of one in Bang Away's case and the Harrises are reconciled now to the fact that they will never know what caused his death. He was eight years old—a getting-on age for his breed.
"It was quite a shock to us," said Dr. Harris sadly the other day. "We haven't gotten over it yet." Neither have dog fanciers. The Harrises have been receiving messages of condolence by the hundreds—from Canada and Mexico as well as all parts of the U.S.—all deploring the death of the king of boxers.
Baseball has still to produce its annual climactic drama at the World Series, but football (see pages 26-128) was new again, exciting again, and once more a catalyst to both Big Talk and small talk in the United States. A football season, like a hit play, or a bank failure, or a new fashion in women's clothes, always seems to produce one anecdote, one apocryphal tale, which spreads like wildfire and captures the attention of millions. The All-America conversation piece of the 1957 season may very well turn out to be a bit of business which was born at the Pittsburgh Press Club, and which, at the weekend, had barely started its inevitable journey to "21" in New York, Romanoffs in Los Angeles, and to pool halls, locker rooms, beer joints, and doubtless beauty parlors in Detroit, Savannah, Boston and Seattle.
Its perpetrators at the press club set it up for each new victim simply by starting a casual conversation about their favorite college football team, the Pitt Panthers. Most marks soon noted, if properly steered, that Pitt must take on Oklahoma, Army, Notre Dame, Penn State and Miami this year, among others, and at this point somebody offered to bet that the sum of Pitt's scoring this year will be greater than a figure derived by multiplying the scores of all its opponents in the same 10 games. Fancy odds were usually reached when the mark was encouraged to work the problem out for last season, when Pitt scored 142 points, and its opponents' scores, multiplied, were 13 x 7 x 14 x 14 x 7 x 9 x 13 x 7 x 7 x 7 or 5,010,435,612. Most bettors did not seem to see anything unusual about Pitt's games last year, or realize just what they were really betting against—the fact that Pitt, a stout defensive club, might very well hold at least one opponent scoreless this year—at which point the opponents' total figure would have to be zero, since even a million times zero is still zero. Some of them, aha, probably did not get hep until they read the sentence above.