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AS WAS POINTED OUT a long time ago, he who lives by the sword is very apt to die by the sword. Paul Brown, the scholarly coach of the Cleveland Browns, discovered last Sunday that this is true even in the rousing days of modern science. His electronic version of pro football (SI, Oct. 8) fell afoul of an electronic answer, as the New York Giants tuned in Brown's broadcast to his quarterback and cried appropriate warnings to the Giant defense. Brown finally gave up his sending in disgust and went back to the old-fashioned system of relaying plays to the team via messenger-boy guards, who are not susceptible to interception. Whether this marks a reversal of the worldwide trend to automation or not remains to be seen, but it has certainly set back science as applied to football. However, as always, it may be expected that the scientists will come up with an answer. Indeed, Giant General Manager Ray Walsh was probably right when he said: "If this trend continues, the No. 1 draft choice of the Giants next year will be the valedictorian of MIT."
THE SOUND OF BOOING
DON NEWCOMBE, the Brooklyn Dodgers' huge, shambling fast-ball pitcher, is a man born with an awful passion, the thirst for greatness. He is not a cunning man or a cautious man; he is, for all his size and outward impassivity, a sensitive and emotional fellow who rages blindly in moments of self-doubt. He went into the 1956 Series a defendant. In his 10 years in organized baseball he has performed awesome feats: in the last days of the nerve-racking 1951 pennant race he beat the Phillies one night, pitched six innings of winning relief against them the next day. This year he led all big league pitchers with 27 victories. But he had never won a Series game. "Newk," the Dodger fans muttered, "loses the big ones."
The muttering grew to the proportions of accusation after he was knocked out of the box in the second game of the Series at Ebbets Field. The first human who spoke to him after he left the mound—an incautious parking lot attendant near the ball park—jeered at him. The bedeviled giant swung at his tormentor and was charged, amid a wash of publicity, with assault. When he faced the Yankees again, in the last and deciding game of the Series, he was as cruelly trapped by the tricks of fate and his own pride as a bull beset by the picadors.
Stress and the burning drama of the moment and the babble of the banks of humanity stacked up around him, however, seemed to inspire him. He had control. He had tremendous speed. "I don't think I ever saw Newk have more stuff," said Catcher Roy Campanella after the game was over. Twice, with a man on base, he threw the ball past Mickey Mantle and sent him down swinging on third strikes. He threw as well to the Yankees' amazing Yogi Berra. But Berra, one of the most uncanny hitters in baseball, stroked two home runs on two successive times at bat. Both were pitches that the average batter would have almost certainly ignored. The first was a waste pitch, chin high. The second a fast ball below the knees. On each occasion Newcombe had thrown two strikes before being hit. But once more he was relieved; this time as he walked to the dugout the stands booed him. Newcombe plunged out of sight—and wept.
Nobody said what should have been said, afterward, better than the Yankees' Whitey Ford. "Why? Why should they boo a fellow who did so much for the Dodgers this year? If it hadn't been for Newcombe they wouldn't even have been in the Series. It was awful. They have accused Don of being a choke-up pitcher. That's unfair. He won 27 games and no one could do that and be a choke-up. Even today he pitched well. He was overpowering our guys. It's great we won but I feel sorry for Newcombe. He deserved better treatment from the fans. Those who booed should be ashamed."
And so they should.
AT THE PLATE, IN THE CLUTCH
THE BASEBALL FAN'S estimate of a player may range from a mental note in shorthand ("That bum") to a string of batting averages and RBIs admiringly learned by heart. Now and then some deep-dedicated fan goes beyond the newspaper's daily statistics and constructs a rating system of his own, as elaborate as his skill or his fancy can manage.