IT IS difficult for one who is not a "synchronized swimmer" to describe synchronized swimming ("Ever hear of it, Mac?") as a sport, without, shall we say, a certain unsynchronized crassness of tone. The activity is now officially recognized by the A.A.U. Its followers fondly hope it will be included in the Olympic Games. There is no denying that it furnishes a good many young ladies, and even a few young men, in the U.S. with good, healthful exercise. But it was hard, hang it all, not to look around for Billy Rose while watching the national championships held last week in a swimming pool at Santa Monica, Calif.
There was good reason. Synchro-swimmers engage—singly and also in teams of two and four—in exactly the same kind of contortions which are employed by the chorus mermaids in aquatic shows. Synchro-swimmers costume themselves, if possible, even more gaudily. Under the rules of synchro-swimming, a singles competitor spends six minutes cavorting to music, and in so doing executes stunts with such official labels as the Kip, the Dolphin, the Swordfish and the Catalina.
In the championships last week, a Stephanie Witt of Monrovia, Calif. leaped into the pool dressed in a black bathing suit decorated at the navel with a silver trombone, and black stockings adorned with musical notes in silver. Her performance was entitled "A Salute to Glenn Miller," and as she porpoised and splashed she made frequent salutes to the sky. Another young lady wore plaid kilts, plaid stockings and a plaid hat with a feather, and poised with two fencing foils before taking her initial dive. Her act was entitled "Scotch & Water."
The championship went to 19-year-old Joanne Royer who shot an arrow weakly into the pool before diving and demonstrated in the course of something called "The Huntress" that her toenails were painted bright green. She curtsied gracefully to applause, and after the judges made their decision the various girls kissed each other damply. Of course, if the drive to keep American youth out of the soda parlors is to succeed, a good deal of this sort of thing must and will go on.
Secrets of Athens (Ga.)
THIS IS an age when the personal loyalties of ballplayers command attention; as soon as a rising major leaguer piles up enough home runs he can cast about and take his pick of them. This breakfast cereal has the vitamin-packed supercharge he needs. This cigaret suits his taste zone. This bubble-gum wad fits his jowl, and this bat feels just right in his hands. Business representatives with pens in their hands will come arunning to sign him up—representatives from just about everywhere, that is, except the Hanna Manufacturing Company of Athens, Ga. Hanna has been making Batrite bats for 28 years, but as Hanna sees it there is no reason for their chasing anybody.
As long as other bats are being made, including Hillerich and Bradsby's 70-year-old favorite, the Louisville Slugger, a sudden rush to Hanna is unlikely. Yet it happens that this season, proud Hanna has had four major leaguers—four world-champion Yankees—begging for bats.
Hanna and the Yankees met two years ago. "Some fellow name of Molinax or Molinux came to training camp talking about Batrite bats," recalls John Mize, who was then pinch-hitting gloriously for the Yankees. "I had used them way back in semipro ball. In 1952 I began hitting with Batrites—good, hard bats. They wouldn't dent or split. They eventually broke, of course—pitchers are always borrowing your bat. I did a book, How to Hit. Murray Kaufman, who helped me, wrote Batrite thinking they might be pleased to have their bat mentioned. Anybody else would have jumped, but I don't think we even got an answer. Must be funny people."
Yankee Outfielder Hank Bauer borrowed one of Mize's bats, and straightaway ordered his own. Three more Yankees have taken up Batrites since (although one says sheepishly, "Maybe you'd better not mention my name. I've already endorsed another bat.") Casey Stengel is willing to say that there is no better bat made. But Hanna does not hurry. "I wire for bats," says the baffled Yankee road secretary, Bill McCorry, "and then a week, maybe two weeks, they get here."
But Hanna is willing to defend its odd ways. "We're down here in a red brick and frame building—used to be the Georgia Railroad depot," says Dan Greer for Hanna. "We're a stone's throw off the beaten track, you might say. We used to make shovel handles. Then we got to making bats to give Louisville a little competition—21 models in our professional, quality line. But we don't go in for this promotion much. We'd rather put the money in the bat. If our bats are harder, maybe it's our secret treatment. We don't hold seances over the bats, nothing like that. It's chemical. I guess you'd call it a secret, though most anybody could find out if he cared.