THE TEST OF A CHAMPION
America's racing fans, who seem to number millions, finally had their match race. The upshot is controversy, a feeling that nothing was settled and a nagging sense that Swaps either was physically unfit or should never have been matched against Nashua in the first place. This is not surprising. No match race has ever proved anything with certainty. No match race has ever satisfied anyone completely. And, surprisingly, only a few have ever represented a real duel.
But I do believe that the Swaps-Nashua affair came closer to a real match than any other match race I have been privileged to witness. I definitely reject the possibility, apparently adhered to by many who should know better, that Swaps aggravated his old injury shortly after leaving the starting gate. I agree with SI that that clumsy swerve was an attempt by Shoemaker to throw his horse into a better position and not a stumble or misstep by the horse. Of that I am sure.
However, I am equally certain that Swaps did not run his best race. That beautiful animal can do a lot better than that. It was not his day, agreed, but then the test of a champion, arbitrary though it be, is to run like a champion in every race. In recalling this race let's remember this: a horse is a horse—it is not motivated by glory or money or sectional chauvinism, but by its own primitive instincts of which you and I know next to nothing. So a horse race is always subject to uncontrollable factors and a match race, because it is something the horse is not used to, especially so. I believe Nashua to be the greater horse. Others fancy Swaps. Well, that difference of opinion makes a horse race and we have witnessed a great one for which no alibis are necessary and none should be made.
THEY WILL MEET AGAIN
Swaps lost. I don't believe that he was sound when he ran against Nashua. That horse cannot be beaten by six lengths by any horse when he is sound. Tenney and Ellsworth are too gentlemanly to stand up now and make an alibi. But to me Nashua still is just one thing: the second-best horse in the country. But let's not get anguished about it. The two will meet again many times as 4-year-olds and if Nashua has to give away a few pounds as the result of the match race I can only say it serves his supporters right.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
IN MY OPINION
As I write this the famous match race is history. Nashua was the convincing winner, but I think that despite Nashua's win he is not a better horse than Swaps!
The victory was not that of the horse but of the rider. Eddie Arcaro rode the most brilliant race I've ever seen. It is my opinion that Arcaro could have won the race on either horse!
WM. D. SHERMAN
•The italics are Mr. Sherman's—ED.
THE THIRD ROUND
Just because Nashua won the match race doesn't mean he is Horse of the Year. After all, that left the rivalry at one apiece. Another race would decide the true champion.
Well the big race is over and it proved nothing—both horses are still champions.
MRS. M. C. HELM
THE POOR PUBLIC
The Nashua-Swaps match race proved once again the general public in this country knows nothing about horse racing. It was obvious Swaps never could whip Nashua in a match race. Class has to tell in a match. In fact, in many ways Swaps played Chuck Davey to Nashua's Kid Gavilan. Shame on the experts who should have known better than to pick Swaps but who were too lazy to think.
Apparently the reasoning used by the public to make Swaps the favorite was based on two premises—he had won the Kentucky Derby and his times had been faster than Nashua's. The public can't seem to fathom that while the Kentucky Derby is a wonderful show, as a true test of horses it is a joke more often than not. This has to be for several reasons. It is run much too early in the year and secondly it is a mad scramble more often than it is a truly run race....
The public seems to be equally in the dark about time. Thus no consideration was given to the fact that Swaps's "sensational" times were made on the California tracks. The poor public doesn't realize that California's tracks have been souped up out there to enable the horses to post sensational times and thereby presumably prove they are better than the eastern horses. So, the suckers turn out to see these world-record breakers and assorted wonder-speed horses for whom excuses invariably have to be made once they get out of the Golden State.
Now we hear that Swaps injured himself right after the start of the race. If this is true, then Shoemaker must be characterized as malicious for having forced a horse that had injured itself to run a mile and a quarter; he should have pulled the horse up. Of course, if Shoemaker didn't know when the horse was hurt (assuming for the moment he was), then how can anyone be sure he hurt himself at the start, in the middle of the race, or a stride before he reached the wire? Swaps may never be the same again as the result of his race with Nashua but if he isn't, it will be for the same reason that John P. Grier wasn't after his classic race with Man o' War.
But, try to tell the man in the street that the horse who won the Kentucky Derby isn't the country's best (with the possible exception of that one out in California who just ran a mile in 1:23 or some such absurd time). He just won't believe you until that day arrives when Barnum's famous expression no longer is true. And, that's why the smart boys took Nashua at 9-5 in the Caliente Futures Book.
•California tracks do indeed have a phenomenal record for speed. All seven world records in these most commonly run distances have been set in California since the end of World War II:
Still, Swaps has turned in some fast times on both his trips outside California. He ran the Kentucky Derby in 2:01 4/5, tying for fourth fastest time in the Derby's mile-and-a-quarter history; and he broke the Washington Park turf course record for a mile and three sixteenths (and tied the American record) with 1:54 3/5 in the American Derby at Chicago.—ED.
LIGHT ON THOSE CONTRADICTIONS
My congratulations on the Swaps-Nashua story (SI, Sept. 12) which I have just read. It is superb reporting and answers every question that I, as a man who reported races from the press box for 10 years, would have asked after viewing the race on TV and reading the contradictory comments in the press. It is couched in the lucid and simple language which I thought had all but disappeared from sports writing too. A very, very superior job from every standpoint.
That was a masterful piece of horse reporting...Finely done, particularly the paragraph where you reported the battle scream of Arcaro as Nashua sprang from the gate. Swell.
CLARENCE P. WOODBURY
South Bend, Ind.
I am a bit disturbed by a number of recent communications in THE 19TH HOLE in regard to the brilliant articles by J. P. Marquand dealing with the difficulties of Happy Knoll Country Club.
Quite a number of readers have written to you requesting guest membership cards in Happy Knoll and, I notice, they have been granted. This is quite in keeping with the general tenor of SI.
May I respectfully request, though, that SI sell guest memberships in Happy Knoll for the sum of $1, all proceeds from which sale shall be turned over to the United States Olympic Fund? And, to start the ball rolling toward Melbourne, I am enclosing my check in that amount....
•SI is grateful to Mr. Romney for a new idea in contributing to a fine cause and, having forwarded his check to the Olympic Fund, welcomes him as Happy Knoll's first paying guest.—ED.
WILDLIFE ON THE GREEN
I'm afraid Irwin L. Stein's "conservationist" (E & D, Sept. 5)—whose
"...putt was purposely missed,
Absurd, but strictly legal.
He is a conservationist
And will not shoot an eagle."
—is still a stinker for:
Unless he missed another putt,
His record still is dirty.
I know he spared the eagle, but
He now has shot a birdie!
JACKSON C. ALLEN
I am glad to report that Mrs. Emma Gatewood, whom you "patted on the back" in your Aug. 15 issue for hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, is now on her way through New Hampshire. I met her on top of North Carter Mountain about a week ago. I casually asked her where she had come from, and when she replied that she had come from Mt. Oglethorpe, Georgia I almost dropped.
She complained that the New Hampshire trails were not well marked. In fact, two days before I met her, she had got lost after dark in the rain, and curled up under a pine tree and fallen asleep....
END OF A HEATED DISCUSSION
Could you please inform me if Dr. Roger Bannister has run the mile since the Mile of the Century at Vancouver and, if so, what was his time?
I was in the midst of a heated discussion—one side saying that Dr. Bannister ran the mile fairly recently in 4:11 (in some charity or exhibition meet), the other side saying that he has not run the mile since his retirement and that it was Wes Santee who ran the 4:11 mile....
H. E. QUICK
•Dr. Bannister has not run the mile in official competition since the Mile of the Century. He ran a metric mile at the European Games in Bern, Switzerland on Aug. 29, 1954 and won it in 3:43.8. But the metric mile is only 1,500 meters. The mile is 1,609.3 meters. Wes Santee ran a 4:11.1 mile in a special invitation meet at Toronto on Aug. 20.—ED.
WITH THE WIND GONE
Charles (Mile-a-Minute) Murphy (SI, Sept. 5) ranks among the greats of bicycling, but his record of 60 mph has been beaten—by Alfred LeTourner, who rode 108.92 miles per hour at Bakersfield, Calif. in 1941. LeTourner was paced by Ronney Householder in a racer on a concrete highway, riding at a speed of one mile in 35 seconds on a 2% upgrade. It required three miles to get up speed, four miles to stop after the record was made. The rear wheel on the bicycle turned 22½ times per second, carrying the rider a distance of 159 feet per second.
The bicycle was a stock product fitted with an oversized chain-wheel sprocket and a very small rear sprocket. The racer was equipped with a shield to permit LeTourner to ride with the minimum wind resistance. This feat is possible only when the bicyclist is able to sustain pedalling sufficiently long to reach maximum rpm and probably represents something near the practical gearing that can be obtained in a bicycle.
THE 10-GOAL MAN
I read with much interest the Sept. 5 article on Cecil Smith, which rates him as the finest polo player who ever played, with the possible exception of Hitchcock....
Polo is naturally the most difficult of all games to play, for not only must a man be a good horseman and a steady hitter (at the full gallop and at all angles) of fast moving balls often bouncing high off the ground but he must have the rare faculty of being able to size up any situation in a fraction of a second and to place himself in the most favorable position either on offense or defense. It is fair to state that the 10-goal man is one who can think of 10 elements at a time and coordinate his action accordingly, while the one-goal man can think of only one thing, trying to get to the ball.
The player must know the ability of each player on the field, the relative speed of the ponies, the position of those who are in or may get into the radius of play, who can get to the ball first, how far the various players can drive the ball, how likely they are to miss the ball, what the chances are of losing a goal if an action fails, whether his partner can ride the dangerous opponent off the ball, if it is better to play a long drive or to shorten the distance while waiting for his partner to get further ahead of his opponent, and 50 other things interrelated with these....
I had the good fortune to play from 1897 to 1917, the heyday of polo, playing in big polo with and against all the best players, including the Big Four, and also those in England.
Hitchcock is probably the best No. 3 who has played. Milburn stands out as a fine No. 4, but only when he had a No. 3 who could take care of the openings he was so prone to leave....
If I were asked to give my opinion as to who is or was the best polo player in the world, I would say that Larry Waterbury is the man. He could and did play every position in the highest class play, and he and he alone could hold his own against the best man in the world at any position, under all circumstances.
He was a hard rider but not a rough one. He had all the strokes. But more than all he had that finesse which so many of the top men failed in, that finesse which is far better than rough riding....
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Being an avid polo fan, I enjoyed the Cecil Smith story better than anything in your magazine to date. I came to know Cecil when he started to teach my brother polo and through the Open games when they played on the Hurricane teams with Stephen Sanford, Peter Perkins and Roberto Cavanaugh.... The one additional thing that should have been mentioned in regard to George Miller, Cecil's early benefactor, is the sign he had painted on the stables at Miller Field in San Antonio: "Don't want nothing but a good polo pony...Signed, Geo. Miller."
Thanks to Richard Meek for the fine photo of Cecil.
ROBERT M. SHEERIN
San Antonio, Tex.
Would you please thank Jane Perry for her wonderful article on Dyker Beach, Brooklyn's Mad Golf Course (SI, Aug. 22). As the architect of this course I think her research was good, even though she missed a few things about the early days.
I recollect with deep emotion dodging golf balls during the last days of construction, listening to the gripes of at least a thousand golfers, testifying in the courts and listening to the low-down on myself, the golf course and the park department in the bars along 86th Street. Of course, it is not really true that I got out of the country and into designing golf courses in South America to dodge the Dykerites. They were pretty frank in their remarks to me, but still they were my friends.
The training I got at Dyker was so good that I went through three revolutions in Venezuela without batting an eyelash. The one I ran into in Colombia was different. Even my training at Dyker did not prepare me for that one. I was building the 36-hole course for the Bogotà Country Club and living in the old clubhouse. When the shooting got to the 18th fairway there was nothing that I learned at Dyker to keep me from being scared and I appealed to the American Embassy to get me out. They did, along with many others. Two weeks after I left they burned the clubhouse.
It would make me very happy if you would use your influence to secure for me a membership in the Happy Knoll Country Club. Many clubs in the past have granted me honorary memberships. If you could get me on the greens committee, possibly as chairman, I promise not to use the position to borrow bent grass seed from the greens keeper or to use the crew to fix my lawn. If you could arrange this, it sure would raise my social status in our group. I would like to live those days at Dyker all over again. Greetings to them—a great bunch of guys and dolls, those Dykerites.
JOHN R. VAN KLEEK
•All is serene on Happy Knoll's Greens Committee at the moment, and there are no openings. However, Mr. Van Kleek is hereby cordially welcomed as a guest member.—ED.
SOLUTION TO LAST WEEK'S
HORSE & AGE
TRACK & YEAR
Golden Gate '50
El Drag, 4
Golden Gate '50
Fleet Bird, 4
Golden Gate '53
Golden Gate '50