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Pumping Plasma into Polo

A renaissance has overtaken a sport that nearly died when its rich patrons grew too old to play. Here it is at its best at Oak Brook

One of the best-kept secrets of sport is the astounding renaissance of polo. Nowadays even the metropolitan sports pages are loth to grant more than a stick of type to polo, and not without reason. For polo, like music, must be performed with tremendous skill to interest anyone except the performer.

The action on the following four pages shows a few of the only 17 polo players in the U.S. who can be considered of championship caliber. It is significant that not one of them is from Long Island or, more specifically, Meadow Brook. During the first 50 years of U.S. polo history, championship polo was the private preserve of Meadow Brook, with only minor intrusions from California and Texas. Tommy Hitchcock and the Whitneys, the Igleharts and the Guest brothers, the Gerrys and Mike Phipps and Laddie Sanford and the rest of the Meadow Brook crowd were to polo what the Impressionists and Paris were to painting.

Between the world wars, the Texans and Californians raised a challenge with players like Cecil Smith, Eric Pedley, Elmer Boeseke and Aidan Roark, and out of this challenge came the finest and roughest polo ever played—the unforgettable East-West matches of the '30s. For action and stomach-churning suspense and violence those matches were the equal of anything in sport. But middle age and taxes ended this era, and polo appeared to have died out.

So it seemed, but it was not to be. Small clubs sprang up in places that had never heard of Hitchcock, and players with no particular credentials other than their love of the game learned to pool their resources and ponies and play on a modest budget.

Throughout the summer at the Oak Brook Club in Hinsdale, just outside Chicago (where these pictures were taken), and during the winter at Boca Raton, Fla. the comparative handful of high-goalers play a brand of polo that would do credit to the old field at Meadow Brook, but the game no longer belongs to the very rich. The best players are now the pros and the horse dealers from the West. Their ability fused with the enthusiasm of the weekend players has pumped a great new vitality into one of the magnificent games of our time.

Polo frequently brings teeth-jarring collisions such as this one between Luis Ramos (in blue) and Del Carroll.

His nimble pony puts big Harold Barry (No. 3, in blue) of Detroit CCC in position for difficult onside backhand as teammates and Milwaukee opponents are caught out of position.

In race for ball, Barry beats Gus White Jr. of Milwaukee and sends an offside forehand, the standard shot of polo, booming far down the field.