Negotiations seem to be complete for the owners of Yonkers Raceway to purchase a controlling interest in Roosevelt Raceway. All that remains is for the New York State Harness Racing Commission to approve the deal. We believe it is a bad deal and that the commission should refuse to approve it.
Roosevelt and Yonkers are the two largest trotting tracks in the country. Between them, they control racing in the sport's most important and prosperous market from late March to late November. This market was monopolized once before; when it was revealed in 1953 that a single group owned both tracks, a state commission ordered the monopoly dissolved because it was clearly detrimental to the public interest.
More than a year ago, the State Investigation Commission disclosed a long list of irregularities in connection with capital improvements at the Yonkers track that were partially financed with state money. The SIC's findings were forwarded to State Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz for possible prosecutions, and the state legislature was sufficiently upset to repeal the law committing state funds for capital construction at trotting tracks.
Under the circumstances, it is ridiculous that there should be serious consideration of allowing the Yonkers management to purchase control of another track. Yonkers should be obliged to clear itself of the SIC's charges as a condition of keeping its own license. Finally, any sophisticated observer of the New York racing scene knows that there are strong political forces involved in the projected deal—strong enough to force its approval by the harness commission. The final decision, therefore, will be made by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. We hope that even if his racing commission says yes, the Governor will say no.
BET $50, LIVE LONGER
When asked their secret of longevity, octogenarians are apt to mention raisins and carrots or bourbon and cigars. Mrs. Mabel Shaw, who has just celebrated her 81st birthday at Hollywood Park race track, has another system: she believes that betting on the horses is the elixir of youth. "It keeps me feeling good and keeps my mind working," she says. "It's like going to school."
Mrs. Shaw has attended every racing session at Hollywood Park since it opened on June 10, 1938 except for two days in 1954 when she was ill. (She sent a friend to the track with her bets on that occasion and hit a $40 winner.) She also has not missed a day of harness racing in Los Angeles and occasionally visits Santa Anita and Del Mar.
"I don't believe in systems or tips," Mrs. Shaw says. She is her own handicapper. "I'm very tired when I get home from the track in the evening, but I stay home at night and figure out my bets for the next day. Sometimes I stay up until midnight just working away." And how does she do. Like most horseplayers, Mrs. Shaw is coy. "I just got home a few minutes ago," she told a reporter the other day. "I bet eight races and had six winners. I made $700 or $800 one day last week, but then I might go back the next day and lose it all. If you go to the track to make money, you might as well stay home."
On a recent Thursday Mrs. Shaw put $50 and $100 (she never bets a mere $2) on horses ridden by Willie Shoemaker, her favorite jockey and lost both bets. Is she annoyed with Willie? Not at all. "Two days later," she says, "Willie rode four winners and I had them all. Willie is the cutest little doll I ever saw. His clothes are always fitted just so and his hair is neat. He always looks perfect."
A FIRM MAYBE
True to the traditions that have come to govern amateur tennis, the 56 delegates representing 41 nations at the Stockholm meeting of the International Lawn Tennis Federation registered a loud, firm maybe to the question of open tennis. Faced with a practical, workable plan (backed by the U.S., France and England) to try open tournaments next year, the meeting "agreed in principle" but preferred to wait in practice, and put the whole problem off for another year.
The decision (if decision it was) followed the pattern predicted by Martin Kane in these pages a fortnight ago (Open the Door, Stockholm!, SI, July 10). The delegates' opinions ranged from the frankly pro-open views of USLTA President George Barnes ("I sincerely believe open tennis is in the best interest of the game") to the bland and casual unconcern of Pakistan's A. H. Khokhar ("We are so far away we do not really understand").
What escaped general notice, however, was the fact that the Soviet bloc may in the end decide the question of whether tennis players should be capitalists on the courts. In a close vote, the 39 ballots of the Communist countries might block the two-thirds majority necessary by federation law to change a basic rule. And how would the Soviet bloc vote? "We do not recognize professionals at all," said chief Russian Delegate Dmitri Gosudarev last week. "In any socialistic system the need is for active participants, not paid entertainers."
As in many East-West arguments, this reduced the question of open tennis to one of semantics—and, oddly enough, provided some hope for a solution. As England's J. Eaton Griffith said last week, "If we do away with the words 'amateur' and 'professional' and call them all players, that automatically cuts out the need for any question of open tennis."
The final answer perhaps lies in just such a common-sense approach. The official British announcement last week that "the All-England Club will now have to give careful consideration to the nature of the championships to be held at Wimbledon in 1962" may herald the first firm application of that uncommon common sense.
A GOOD DECISION
Sonny Liston has now been suspended indefinitely by the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission because of his latest arrest in Philadelphia and despite the curious court action that freed him (see right). Cynics are saying the suspension will last until his manager, Georgie Katz, lines up a fight for him. Taking away Sonny's license when he has no prospects for a bout, they claim, is like suspending Don Drysdale for the month of December.
The cynics may be right. However, it is only fair to point out that if the commission had not suspended Liston, it would have been accused by the same people of making a deal. We believe the commission made the right decision. Liston should not be allowed to fight—certainly not for the heavyweight championship—until he demonstrates decent behavior for a reasonable period.
Twice before, in times of trouble for Sonny, clergymen have tried to help him, and have failed. Now, under the auspices of Father Edward Murphy, Liston will spend the next three months in Denver, living in the rectory of a Catholic church, learning to read and write and, hopefully, learning to become a law-abiding citizen.
This has been a fortnight of truly original jurisprudence. First there was a Philadelphia judge's decision exonerating Sonny Liston (SI, July 10) because Sonny was guilty only of "errors of judgment." Now comes the news from Sweden that Olympic Runner Dan Waern has been cleared of charges of professionalism by a stretch of similarly creative thinking. Waern admitted, and Sweden's equivalent of our AAU confirmed, that on several occasions he received "relatively large sums" of money for running. But the Swedes voted, 11-0, to clear him, on the premise that other "amateurs" around the world are being paid at least as much money for competing and are not being punished.
THE WIND (CONT.)
The gusts and gales of Candlestick Park, revealed to a nationwide TV audience that watched the All-Star Game last week, were something of a shock to a lot of American Leaguers who had never played in San Francisco before. Considerably bolder than National League players, who know there is no escape, the American All-Stars were loudly critical. Roger Maris said that if he had to play 77 games in Candlestick (as the Giants do) he'd quit baseball. Rocky Colavito said he'd quit, too. Jim Gentile insisted he would never again play there. Dick Howser claimed it was the worst ball park he had ever seen. There were complaints about the fine dust that clogged players' eyes and about the way batted balls took strange, wind-blown trajectories. Paul Richards said conditions were next to impossible, and Mickey Vernon said they were the worst in the majors.
San Francisco Giant Manager Alvin Dark had a statement, too. "There's nothing wrong with our ball park," said Dark. And then, referring to the record number of wind-induced errors in the game, he added the clincher: "It showed Little Leaguers all over the country that anybody can make mistakes." You're right, Alvin—they can and they did.
'ARDENING THE 'OOTER
To know Prizefighter Terry Downes is to know about his nose (" 'ooter," he calls it, which is cockney for "hooter") because the fortunes of one determine the fortunes of the other. If the 'ooter is caught a sharp crack, Terry often loses the fight; if not, he may win it. Last January in Boston Paul Pender fought Terry and gave the 'ooter such a sock that it bled over everything and the referee stopped the fight. Last week, in a London rematch for the world's middleweight title (in Europe, Massachusetts and New York, at least), the odds were 7 to 4 that Pender would find the target again and retain his championship.
But Terry's ingenuity was not reckoned with. In the classic manner he soaked his 'ooter in brine to toughen it. His plan was to press a body attack against Pender, meanwhile hiding his nose, and at first he was reasonably successful. In the second round he caught Pender with a left hook to the chin and in the sixth wrestled him to the canvas. Still, though he suffered a cut over his right eye, Pender looked the stronger. In the eighth Pender caught Downes with lightning lefts, but the Britisher kept coming—"like a nightmare," Pender said later. In the ninth, his best round of the fight, Pender hit the 'ooter repeatedly, but it held up. Then, to the amazement of the 10,000 fans, Pender quit. "I can't let him go out," his trainer confided to the referee before the 10th round began. "I caught cold, and it took everything out of me," said Pender.
There will be a third match soon in Boston. Presumably, Downes will be pickling his 'ooter in salt water from now until opening bell. And Pender (we hope) will be careful to keep his hooter clean and dry.
JUST A SIMPLE HORSE
On the morning of the International Trot at Roosevelt Raceway last Saturday, Driver Roger Vercruysse was talking about Kracovie, the French trotting mare who is fond of goats. "Kracovie is nervous," he said. "She is not the horse she was in Europe. She is not eating and her silhouette is like that of a Paris fashion model. To be thin is all right for the girls at Dior, but not for horses. Kracovie is not a star, you understand. She is just a simple European horse. All these visitors to her barn are very bad for her."
Kracovie, meanwhile, showed no signs of nervousness at all. Nor did she later during her warmups or during the race itself. Before it started, Vercruysse glowered at the sky, still dark and drizzly after a day's steady rain, and grumbled, "Pas bon." Kracovie seemed as nervous as the Eiffel Tower.
In the mile-and-a-quarter International, she met two fine U.S. trotters, Su Mac Lad and Merrie Duke, Italy's Tornese, Canada's Tie Silk and another French mare, La Charmeuse. Most of the way, Kracovie trotted easily in third place, saving ground on the rail as the American pair skirmished on ahead. Merrie Duke tired in the last turn and broke stride in the stretch. That left Su Mac Lad and the simple, underfed, overexposed Kracovie to battle it out to the finish.
Well, the poor thing came within a nose of catching Su Mac Lad. If her condition gets any worse, she will probably beat the tar out of him in this week's Challenge Cup at Roosevelt.