During the middle of August, Saratoga is host to two events in sport as traditional as the stately elms which line its quiet streets—quiet, at least, 11 other months of the year. First comes the Travers, the oldest stakes race in America; then the Saratoga Yearling Sales.
This is an article from the Aug. 6, 1956 issue
On their eve SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in this issue moves into the spirit of the occasions with four pages of color depicting Saratoga as it is today and an article by Frank Sullivan describing how it got that way.
This marks the first appearance of the famous essayist and humorist in this magazine, and it could hardly happen with a better subject. Saratoga is where Frank Sullivan was born (in 1892) and where he lives now. In the meantime, he won his reputation as columnist, magazine writer and author of books in what he calls a state of "contented oscillation" between Saratoga and New York. When Saratoga gets too quiet, he goes to New York; when New York gets too noisy, he goes to Saratoga.
But Saratoga is his home town and where his heart is. Few people, if any, have had the chance to know the town so well. As he recalls in his book, The Night the Old Nostalgia Burned Down, he earned his first money there, at the old Saratoga race track (where in 1864 the first organized race meetings of more than one or two days' duration set the pattern for the longer meetings now standard at tracks all over the country). For six years on August Saturdays, he worked in the betting ring with a cigar box and three tin cups. With the cups he dispensed water; with the box he collected tips (for the water, not on horses). At the end of that time he had to find summertime employment elsewhere. His voice had changed, and the track superintendent considered him too mature for the job of "pump boy." He came up with a job even more essential to the Saratoga economy, if not so helpful to his own—pasting labels on spring water bottles.
Saratoga's claims to fame are many: a battle, a trunk, hotels, horses and water. I think as you read his account of how Saratoga earned its reputation you will enjoy seeing once more how Frank Sullivan, now its first citizen, deserves his.