Golden Chance for Sports World

Westbrook Pegler

Press and Sun-Bulletin/December 13, 1946

Tom Clark, the United States attorney general, has invited sports writers from all sections of the country to meet in Washington and form a national organization to encourage “millions of American youngsters” to take more interest in clean sports and other recreational activities.

My colleague, Bill Corum, announces his intention to be there and his personal conviction that “the world of sports has a golden opportunity here, not to say a challenge.”

Mr. Clark’s invitation relates that his idea emerged from a recent national conference on the prevention and control of juvenile delinquency, and Bill Corum writes that “any impetus that sports is able to give the movement would be the most important crown that it could mold for itself.” 

I am a little skeptical as to the possibilities, believing that the strange, hard little chippies that I see hanging around the Waldorf when certain crooners and moaners are performing in the Wedgwood Room, and certain notorious Hollywood characters are in residence in the Tower, would be indifferent to any appeal from the most eloquent sports writer that ever lived, and that the fault lies not with these ominous young guttersnipes but with the parents who let them run wild. 

They are a cult, and a national cult at that. Some of the demonstrations of mass hysteria which they have presented here on high-pressure Hollywood occasions deliberately engineered by moving picture promoters have had about them a psychological reminder of the children’s crusade. 

I HAVE BEEN watching children’s fads for 50 years, including the affectation of silly hats, droopy socks and idiotic mottoes painted on flivvers, but this country, in my time, never saw anything quite like this bobby-sox and swing-music mania. 

They seem to go absolutely crazy over a voice or the squeals that some outwardly ingratiating secretly motivated musician evokes from a clarinet or a horn. They run in packs like those strange, mad rats in Norway 20 years ago which were described as racing wildly across country and plunging off a cliff into the sea. They are insensate. God only knows what they are after, and a bellman at the Waldorf, looking at a bunch of them loitering in the dark the other evening, said “Look at them! Every time some Hollywood bum moves in they seem to smell it and they hang around all night—for what? Autographs, yes. but still they hang around. Well, mine isn’t here. She is home.”

NOW I DON’T know what the sport writers could do about that, but one thing they could do is to draw a line again between sportsmen and the trash called sports, and between the world of sports and the underworld. That line has been obliterated by writers who should have maintained it. 

On two occasions recently I have observed a strange reaction on the sports pages. Once, after reading several rather hurt references to the presence of Hollywood “jerks” around Leo Durocher’s dressing room and the cavalier treatment of baseball reporters at the Brooklyn ball-yard, I made a careful investigation of the crap game at Durocher’s New York apartment in which a sucker was clipped for a fortune by George Raft, the synthetic tough guy of the moving pictures, who not only plays gangster roles in the films but, by choice and the commitment of long social habit, has made himself an underworld character. 

MORE RECENTLY, Judge William G. Bramham, the retiring commissioner of the minor leagues of professional baseball, announced that he had discovered “moral laxity among certain officials, players and fans,” instances of intimidation of players by thugs with an interest in gambling, and collusion between players and bookmakers. 

These were matters that baseball reporters themselves should have found out and exposed, and, in view of familiar symptoms and associations in New York, there is no excuse for a complacent assumption that such things can’t happen in the major leagues as well. 

Judge Bramham’s reward, however, was a political response in which he was ridiculed and rebuked for waiting until he was about to retire to disclose conditions which were not denied or even investigated by the sport side, but were minimized and, in a word, dismissed. 

IT HAPPENS that the same juveniles who read sports, if juveniles still do read sports, read at least as eagerly the radio and movie features and are getting a diet of “glamour” and scandal presented in a way that makes licentiousness seem attractive. 

Not since the Fatty Arbuckle case has any Hollywood reporter broken an initiative news story, although, in the meantime Hollywood, and this includes radio as well as movie entertainment, has developed an underworld of its own as evil as any other that we have ever had. 

People who are paid to be reporters and are rated as “experts” become or aspire to become “celebrities” themselves and succeed, at best, in their journalistic line, in becoming press agents.


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