- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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As a jump-shooting star for the New York Knickerbockers during the'40s, part-time TV Sports-caster Bud Palmer missed out on today's huge bonuses and salaries. Now, as the city's official greeter, he finds things are even worse. "I'm theoretically a dollar-a-year man," he says, "but in my two years on the job I haven't received a dime. The city owes me two dollars." Palmer may get paid soon, since he is saving the city some money by putting a halt to the celebrating of special weeks, such as the recently proposed Pickle Week. "I happen to like pickles," he says, "but such silly productions only lower the city's prestige." Asked why he took the job, he replies that it's refreshing but admits that some mornings he looks in the mirror and shouts: "Hello, you refreshing sucker."
While members of the last-place Dodgers continue to lament the loss of Sandy Koufax, Manager Walter Alston maintains his religious faith in the promise of tomorrow's victories. Some of Alston's remarks on the subject, which originally appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, have been included in a booklet of special prayers distributed to synagogues around the country for use during the High Holy Days that start with the Jewish New Year on September 23. Alston had said that some ballplayers spend "too much time talking about what happened last year, or comparing this season with last. It's not only useless conversation, it's dangerous. Each spring I try to wipe my slate clean and start all over again [which is what Jews do on the New Year] and I think that the new spring is the most important in my life." Who knows what miracles Alston's faith may bring about? Maybe the return to action of a certain retired Jewish pitcher?
In two bloody matches in 1954 Rocky Marciano outfought Ezzard Charles—and collected $450,000. Now Charles is undergoing treatment at the Chicago Rehabilitation Center for lateral sclerosis, and Rocky is offering his services again, this time by donating a jeweled belt (worth $10,000) that he won on radio's computerized "tournament of champions." "Ezzard gave me two of the toughest fights of my life," says Marciano. "I just wanted to do something for a man I tremendously respect." Marciano says Charles did not ask for assistance and isn't broke, but adds: "We boxers don't have any organization to turn to when the medical expenses get too high, and we just have to help each other."
The plane in the picture is 3,000 feet above Kansas, and the goggled parachutist is that eternal he-man, Burt Lancaster, 54. The old grinner is filming a sky-diving epic called Gypsy Moth, and though MGM won't let him make an actual jump, much to his chagrin, he does simulate a few from five-story heights. Once a trapeze artist and acrobat, Lancaster stays fit with daily gym workouts and a three-mile early-morning jog while on location. He says he needs them to handle the strains of modern living. "We have moved out of the jungle," he says, "into a man-made jungle that is even more terrifying and demanding."
Back in 1946 Dick Sisler, now the Cardinals' first-base coach, played winter ball in Havana, and he hit some good ones. He also visited Ernest Hemingway. When The Old Man and the Sea came out in 1952, the old man had this to say: "I think of Dick Sisler and those great drives in the old park. There was nothing ever like him. He hits the longest ball I have ever seen." The boy who is the old man's companion in the book remarks that they had wanted to take Sisler fishing, but were too timid to ask him. "I know," says the old man, "it was a great mistake. He might have gone with us. Then we would have had that for all our lives." This bit of relatively ancient literary (and baseball) history has come to life for Sisler in the last few days, apparently thanks to a mention of it in The Sporting News. Sisler suddenly has had a burst of fan mail, a phenomenon seldom enjoyed by coaches—even those of league-leading clubs. Reminiscing, Sisler says: "It was amazing how much of a national hero I was in Cuba. I couldn't go anywhere without lots of people following me around. My wife and I went to the opera one time, and they stopped the show when they saw us walk in."
Like another famous Scandinavian, Olympic track immortal Paavo Nurmi always wanted to be let alone. Recently, though, speaking from and about the heart, the Flying Finn consented to be interviewed on television by President Urho Kekkonen, once the country's high-jump record holder. The subject was heart and circulatory disease. "I have often thought of those many Olympic winners who have, unknown to the world, died of these diseases," Nurmi said. Then he announced the donation of his considerable real-estate fortune to a foundation for research into the causes of the ailments. Nurmi himself has had a heart attack, but walked back to good health—one cure he is not likely to let his foundation dispute.
Billy Haughton really wanted to be a jockey, but he grew too fast. So he turned to sulky racing and last year won more money—$1,300,000—than any driver in trotting's history. The other day, after capturing a few stakes at the Carlisle, Pa. country fair, he switched to riding again, this time on a polo pony. At the nearby farm of Max Hempt, president of The Hambletonian Society, Billy played in a pickup game. He flailed away vigorously with his mallet, but failed to score a goal. "There's more excitement in this than in driving horses," he said. "I just wish I could hit the ball harder."