Home -> John J. Newbegin -> The Jewel City -> Chapter XIX. Sports and Games; Automobile Races; Aviation

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Sports and Games; Automobile Races; Aviation

Exposition contests include nearly every branch of sport - National Championships of the A. A. U. - Two great automobile races, the International Grand Prix and the Vanderbilt Cup, already run - Polo and Golf - Sensational flights of the aviators - The International Yachting Regatta and other aquatic events - All-star baseball expected in the fall.

An account of the Exposition, and indeed, American athletic history for the year 1915, would be incomplete without a description of the sports programme. This outline of games and exhibitions includes nearly every branch of sport familiar to the American public, and its wide appeal has attracted many thousands to the athletic fields and gymnasiums of the Exposition. Although ten months of sport was originally intended by the athletic committee, this period has been somewhat abbreviated by circumstances, though a practically continuous performance has held sway since February 22.

International competition, at first intended in many branches of the programme, was generally abandoned on account of the European conflict; but the want of foreign representation has in no way lessened the quality of competition, or dampened the attractiveness of the summer contests. Some of Europe's star track men are entered here, in spite of conditions on the continent.

Perhaps the most popular attractions of the programme are the national championships, held every year under the auspices of the Amateur Athletic Union. At the convention of that body during November, 1913, prior to the death of its president, James E. Sullivan, it was voted unanimously to award all of the organization's events, with the exception of boxing, to the Panama-Pacific Exposition. These championships are the blue-ribbon events of the amateur world. They include track and field games, swimming, boxing, wrestling and indoor gymnastics. Three of these championships were staged in San Francisco before the opening of June.

In basket ball, the first of the national competitions, premier honors went to a California organization, the San Francisco Olympic Club. Next in line came gymnastics, followed by wrestling. Although these sports are not immensely popular with the athletic enthusiasts, generous galleries turned out to see the American champions in action.

The more important part of the Amateur Athletic Union programme was scheduled for the summer months, when the track and field championships are held. Facilities for staging these games are ideal. The cinder path, situated at the far end of the Exposition grounds, with unexcelled scenic advantages, is reputed to be the equal of any athletic stadium in the country. The oval measures one-third of a mile to the lap, with a 220-yard straightaway flanking the grandstand. The earlier games convinced Eastern athletes that there could be no complaint against facilities.

The senior and junior track and field championships of the Amateur Athletic Union loom up as the banner track events of the programme. National stars have signified their intention of participating in these games, and it will be surprising if many national records are not broken. In addition to these games, the International Olympic Committee, which controls all the modern Olympic meets, conferred upon the Exposition the right to hold the Modern Pentathlon, this being the first time it has been contested outside of the Olympic Games. In addition, America is to have for the first time the Decathlon, and the famous Marathon race originated in Greece centuries ago, and impressively revived during recent years by the more important athletic bodies of the world.

Besides the Amateur Athletic Union track and field games, an abundance of competitions, ranging from grammar school contests to collegiate struggles, was arranged. Among the first of these, the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Conference, was won by the University of California from a field of collegiate teams representing the entire Pacific Coast. Several high and grammar school contests have attracted spectators to the stadium. One thousand grammar school athletes entered the lists upon the Exposition cinder path, and staged a carnival that stands as a record in California, and approaches any American event of its kind both in the number of entrants and the class of competition offered.

Automobile racing, of the kind that thrills, was furnished by the Exposition during its early weeks. Two events of international importance were run upon the Exposition grounds, and in each instance attracted one hundred thousand spectators to the course. The first of these was the International Grand Prix, run in the rain and under other conditions far from ideal, over a four-mile course for the distance of four hundred miles. Sensation followed sensation in this feature, a final winner being supplied in the swarthy Darius Resta, who drove a Peugeot car for an average speed of fifty-six miles, 7:07:57 being his actual time. Other drivers of international reputation appeared in this struggle, among them De Palma, Hughes and Wilcox. Handsome prizes were distributed to the winners in these events.

The Vanderbilt Cup Race was staged over the same course on March 7, and brought out an equally attractive field. Running with the precision and dexterity that brought him home a winner in the Grand Prix, Resta repeated his victory in the Vanderbilt Race, coming home from his journey of three hundred miles ahead of such stars as Burman, Pullen, Wilcox and De Palma. Resta earned the reputation of being one of the most skillful drivers holding the wheel in this or any other country.

For six weeks, from March to May, polo held popular sway at the Exposition. Ten teams competed in a tournament which offered many valuable trophies. The contests were held daily and attracted thousands to a specially prepared turf field near the athletic stadium. The sport furnished thrilling competition throughout its period.

Perhaps the most famous team seen in competition was the noted four from Cooperstown, New York, bearing an international reputation. The Easterners, although weakened by illness in the ranks of their players, proved practically invincible. Another notable organization was the four representing the Midwick Club of Pasadena, California. In addition to the civilian teams, the United States army was represented by some fast fours, who provided thrill after thrill with their reckless but winning form in the saddle. Perhaps the most notable of the military combinations was the Fort Sam Houston four, which went through the tournament with practically an undefeated record. The army teams were granted certain handicaps, however, which gave them a slight edge in some of the contests.

Aviation, a branch of sport which claims a large place in the popular fancy, was not neglected by those who drew up the programme. Two world-famed aviators have performed before hundreds of thousands, though one of these, Lincoln Beachey, became a victim to the elements which he had so often defied. While giving an exhibition flight in a German Taube, Beachey fell to his death on March 14 when his monoplane crumpled at the start of a daring loop.

Nothing daunted by the untimely end of Beachey, a new luminary appeared in Arthur Smith, whose aerial maneuvers exceed in point of recklessness anything attempted by his predecessor. Smith thrills thousands in daily flights and skiey acrobatics, including crazy dips and loops, startling dashes to the earth and illuminated flights through the night air. (See p. 192.) Smith became in a day an attraction outshining, perhaps, any other single performer upon the huge Exposition programme.

Those who loved horse racing and grieved at the decline of the sport in California, were rejoiced at the announcement of some of the biggest harness and running events yet staged in this country. Two meetings were arranged for the Exposition schedule, a summer harness event, June 5th to 19th, and a fall running meeting, October 30th to November 13th. The Panama-Pacific is the first Exposition to make horse racing an outstanding feature of its activities. About $227,000 was set aside to be distributed in handsome purses and stakes for the events. A $20,000 trotting and a $20,000 pacing stake was put up for each meeting, with other sums ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. The four stakes of $20,000 each are the largest ever offered in any light-harness event, and insured entries of the highest class.

The race track is situated near the athletic stadium, and commands an unsurpassed view of the San Francisco Bay, together with the Marin County heights and the entrance to the Golden Gate. The grandstand seats thirty-five thousand spectators. The course, under scientific preparation for several months, was put in fine shape. The length of the lap is one mile.

One of the biggest golf events ever staged in this country was successfully managed by the Exposition. Five weeks of sport on the links around the bay counties, including high-class exhibitions by both men and women, were in the plans of the committee. Events included both professional and amateur contests, and seldom, if ever before, had a community of the size of San Francisco maintained so continuous an interest in the sport. Valuable prizes and trophies were offered for the different events of the programme. Handsome cups and medals were granted amateurs, while professionals were tendered purses of generous proportions.

Perhaps the banner event of the tournament was the amateur championship for men played on the course of the Ingleside Golf and Country Club. Players of international reputation were entered in this event, and as a result, the play offered sensation after sensation. The tournament was won by Harry Davis, of the Presidio Golf Club, after a struggle in which he eliminated such stars as Chick Evans, H. Chandler Egan, Heinrich Schmidt, and Jack Neville. Davis met Schmidt in the finals of the event and won only after a dazzling exhibition of driving and putting such as has seldom been seen on a California course.

In addition to the men's championships, the women were in the limelight for a week. Miss Edith Chesebrough won the finals of the first flight play over Mrs. H. T. Baker. Mixed foursomes, events for professionals, driving, putting, and approaching contests were all included upon the programme, with gratifying results.

Yachting was granted an appropriate position upon the calendar, the races scheduled including yachts, sloops and motor boats upon San Francisco Bay and the ocean waters in the neighborhood of the Farallones. Perhaps the biggest event upon the programme is to be the International Regatta scheduled for August 1st to 31st, an event intended to bring into competition practically every type of racing craft afloat. This has brought attractive entries from both Eastern and Pacific clubs.

Special events were also arranged. A schooner race, with a course starting from a point on the bay off the Exposition and extending to the Farallone Islands, is one of them. Perhaps the most attractive of these events, however, will be the long-distance race for yachts from New York to San Francisco. The boats are to sail along the Atlantic seaboard, reaching San Francisco via the Panama Canal. Several entries for this contest have already been filed, and it is expected that by the time set for the start, a first class field will be ready to weigh anchor. Handsome cups, furnished by the Exposition for winners in the different nautical events, include many valuable trophies.

Boxing, the professional phase of which was recently abolished by an act of the California legislature, found an important place upon the Exposition programme. Amateur events staged at the Civic Auditorium excited great interest. By a special arrangement with the Amateur Athletic Union, the Exposition management obtained the national winners of Boston for the San Francisco tournament. Accordingly, the best of the country's amateur glove crop exhibited their wares to big galleries. In the matter of championships, California and the Pacific Northwest obtained the chief honors, several of the Eastern ring stars falling by the wayside in their work.

Not to be found wanting in the completeness of their scheme, the Exposition directors are still busy with plans which promise many events of unusual attractiveness for the Fall. It is hinted that the winner of the world's baseball series, waged between the National and American leagues, will be brought to the Coast for an exhibition series in October, to play against an all star team. Other phases of sport during the Exposition period include rowing, lawn tennis, handball and certain types of football, though disagreements between the two largest universities of the Coast have made the autumn sport an uncertain quantity.

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