Just call me Bill

April 13, 1959
April 13, 1959

Table of Contents
April 13, 1959

Ask Him Anything
Wondrous Wall
Florida Derby
Wonderful World Of Sport
They Call It Baseball
  • HERE, beginning with a few ideas on what one can expect in 1959, Sports Illustrated presents its fifth annual preview of the major league season, with pictures in both color and black and white, scouting reports, schedules, statistics and features

The Umpire
Scouting Reports
  • Even in an inflationary economy there is no safer and better return on your money than the 40¢ profit you get in the fall from the dollar you bet in the spring that the Yankees will win the pennant. New York will win again in 1959

  • The White Sox feel that this is the year the Yankees can be beaten. If such a feat is possible, this is the team that can do it, if only someone would start hitting home runs. The rest of the pennant-winning ingredients are all there

  • Let the small letter i represent the American League. The Yankees, of course, are the dot, so the best the Boston Red Sox can hope for is a place near the top of the stem. Much depends on whether life truly begins at 40 for Ted Williams

  • Colavito, Minoso, Piersall, Power and Martin are about as colorful a crew as you will find in baseball. The team as a whole isn't nearly as good as the perpetual second-place finishers of a few years ago, but it's going to be more fun to watch

  • Every spring the Tigers promise much, but when summer rolls around they deliver little. This year they are keeping quiet, hoping that this team of many stars can finally do what everyone feels it should do—contend for the pennant

  • The Orioles' outstanding pitching and good defense should guarantee a fight for any opponent. Last season they finished sixth, but a good sixth, just three games out of the first division. To finish in fourth place, then, is their goal for 1959

  • The fury of mass trading is just about over, and the Athletics are a lot closer to that glorious day when they will be able to boast 25 major leaguers on the roster. Nevertheless, a .500 season for Kansas City is still a remote possibility

  • The road to the American League cellar is paved with the good intentions of the Washington Senators. Baseball magnates feel it needs a major league club in the national capital, but Cal Griffith provides only the palest imitation of one

  • An original statistical report

  • The Braves are not too blasé to appreciate those fat World Series checks every fall. With a well-rounded band of seasoned players and the richest pitching resources in the league, Milwaukee will not be easily beaten. But it can be

  • The Pirates will be a stimulating team to watch this summer as they throw strong pitching, superior defense, sharp hitting and fast legs onto the field. They'll be nearly everyone's sentimental favorite and might just win it all

  • Talented young players with great arms, blazing speed, sure instincts in the field and powerful bats in their hands are the trademark of the 1959 Giants. Sophisticated San Franciscans are in for excitement if the pitching holds up

  • The great power teams of 1956 and '57 are gone, but so is the bad pitching that wrecked them. Changed also is last year's squad, which was unbalanced in the opposite sense. Now the Reds plan to field a ball club with a smoother blend

  • Bad days have fallen upon the St. Louis Cardinals, and the bright promise of two years ago has been faithless. The effects on the club of uncertain, divided direction and erratic trading policies are now being felt. Busch has a loser here

  • Heavy trading during the past two seasons and a thorough search of the farm system produced last year a hard-hitting lineup that gave the Cubs the best team they've had in a long time. There is, however, still lots of work to be done

  • Walter O'Malley made all the money he expected to last year. Now it's time for the Dodgers to start playing ball. This is too good a team to be fooling around down in the second division. It should be a more pleasant season for Los Angeles

  • The good old days for the Phillies were in 1950, when Manager Eddie Sawyer led the club to its first pennant in 35 years. Those days are gone, and the Phillies are back in eighth place. Once again it's Sawyer's job to take them on and up

Horse Racing
Motor Sports
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

Just call me Bill

Jockey Hartack's ability and arrogance have made him the storm center of the season

This guy has gotten too big and too smart. He'll never ride another horse for me."

This is an article from the April 13, 1959 issue Original Layout

The speaker was Fred W. Hooper, president of the American Thoroughbred Owners Association. The object of his ire was William John Hartack Jr., one of the most successful jockeys in the world and the problem child of horse racing who has the mount on this year's Kentucky Derby favorite Easy Spur.

It was last February 21 when Hartack astounded Owner Hooper and Hialeah's biggest crowd in two years. He had gone to the post on Hooper's Greek Circle, a 4-to-5 favorite. At the post Hartack said his horse was sore and asked a veterinarian to look him over. The vet examined the horse and pronounced him fit to race. Hartack, however, disagreed and refused to ride Greek Circle. The Hialeah management, worried about television time commitments (TV is the new apprentice dictator at U.S. race tracks), ended the delay by scratching Greek Circle, costing themselves a new pari-mutuel betting record. There was $136,089 bet on Hooper's runner which had to be returned. When Hooper went down to the track to find out what was wrong, Hartack walked away; all he would say was "the horse is sore."

The soreness has never been proved or disproved, but the fact is established that Fred Hooper and a lot of other racing people are sore—at Hartack. He has become the most controversial character in American racing, and American racing doesn't like controversy. He is the Ted Williams of the turf, and, indeed, he professes great admiration for Williams. Hartack was on the same plane as Williams a few weeks ago but didn't care to introduce himself; "I'd like to meet him, but I didn't know how to approach him," Hartack said the other day. "I've always admired him. A couple of times when he spat at the fans he was right. And when he was fined, I think he was right, too. If the fans would only put themselves in his shoes and have to take the guff and stuff they'd go crazy. But as I say, I don't want people coming and introducing themselves all the time."

The Greek Circle incident was only one in a series which has been building Hartack's unenviable reputation. The latest occurred at Gulf-stream Park, where they are running now. Hartack rode in four races, and suddenly told the clerk of scales to take him off his remaining mounts. He failed to ask permission of the stewards, and was fined $100.

The story was headlined as another instance of Hartack's bad behavior, but the jockey's agent, Chick Lang, has a good explanation: "Billy had ridden a 2-year-old in a three-furlong race the day before. Two hundred yards out of the gate he was hooting and hollering and his upper denture fell out and into the mud. He's very self-conscious about wearing his plate, and he had another denture at home. He wore it out to the races the next day and it cut the inside of his mouth. The story in the newspapers said his mouth was full of mud and so he canceled his rides. But his mouth was full of blood, too, and that's why he canceled."

Hartack's personality first became a matter of serious public discussion last September when he and apprentice James Johnson had a post-race fight in the jocks' room at Atlantic City. He drew a 15-day suspension for that, as well as censorious comment from Charles Hatton, a senior racing correspondent, who wrote gravely in The Morning Telegraph: "Jockey-ship as a profession has dignity, a tradition of sportsmanship imparted to it by such great little men as Isaac Murphy, Sir Gordon Richards, Earl Sande, (Eddie) Arcaro, George Woolf, Johnny Longden and Charlie Elliott. Small in stature, they were big enough for success. Hartack, nor any other rider, has the right to jeopardize the higher repute of jockeyship. He will remain Willie here until such time as he matures to Bill." (This last was an allusion to the diminutive which Hartack dislikes—William, Bill and Billy are all right with him, but not Willie.)

Hartack is not afraid to sustain a running feud with the press. Earlier this year, when he was about to serve a 10-day suspension for careless riding, he read in the Miami Daily News a statement by Racing Reporter Dick Kumble that "Hartack bounces up and down like a rubber ball and amazes purists by winning as many races as he does." The jockey retorted on a Miami TV show that "I knew him [Kumble] when he first came around the track. He didn't know anything then. He wouldn't know a horse if he slept with one."

Hartack has quarreled with owners, trainers, jockeys and reporters; now he is at odds with officials. His own attitude is other than remorseful: "I know racing has given me a chance to make a lot of money [over $1 million], but I also know that I'm in my position in racing today because of the fact that I get the horses down in front. Some say that racing has given me everything. It did not. I do not fit into racing's plans, racing fits into my plans. Take a look through the years and you'll see that if you are not near the top in racing then you are not wanted."

This undiplomatic independence is the key to his hard-to-get-along-with disposition. That, and, some say, a slightly swollen head. There is, however, a warm side to his character. His 19-year-old sister, Maxine, who is at the University of Miami, says, "I think he is terrific. He gives me everything I want. For Christmas he gave me a lot of new clothes. And he gave me a beautiful opal ring."

To some of the help at the Miami Springs Villas, right across the street from his home, Hartack appeared alone during the Christmas holidays. "I looked up from tending bar," said one of the workers, "and here came Bill, alone and carrying a bottle of champagne. The kid that everyone says is inhuman, cold and detached thought enough to come and give me champagne and a good tip."

Racing people across the land argue about Hartack. Writers proclaim that "he can't be bigger than the game," but this is sanctimonious nonsense. Racing has already a too-pronounced tendency to reduce itself to a drearily overcommercialized operation designed to fill the pockets of promoters and state tax collectors. The game should be rough and tough enough to have room for a few arrogant characters—and should also know how to keep them in line.

Nowadays people talk about Arcaro's sportsmanship, but Eddie used to be a very rough rider indeed. He once was suspended for a year, and now he thinks that was a turning point in his career.

As for Hartack, he is a cock of the walk, and maybe his feathers are about to be singed, too. Meanwhile, the only question which preoccupies the racing public is, "How many winners did he ride today?"