Sam Spade Goes to the Dogs

The luck of the Irish, Dick Andrews believes, has helped him recover the loot after Miami's big jewel robberies and led him into greyhound racing, where a farfetched series of events brought him one of the richest prizes in the sport
July 19, 1970

On the night Teddy's Kim ran in the final of the $50,000 Irish-American Stake, Dick Andrews, superstitiously clothed in a green Italian silk sport coat and the odor of Green Moss cologne, stood at the bar at the Biscayne Kennel Club in Miami and wondered if his hand would stop shaking long enough for him to lift a glass of Irish Harp beer to his mouth. "Oh, hell," he said to the bartender, who knew him, "the luck of the Irish got us this far, the luck of the Irish will take us all the way." The bartender shook his head. "Dick," he said, "with the luck you've had, I wouldn't be surprised to see Teddy's Kim win this race with ease and then turn into a statue of pure gold. And now would you want me to hold that glass of beer to your lips so you might sip a little?"

Although the owners of the other dogs probably were equally as nervous, they all had years of experience on Andrews and his partner, Phil Ceccarelli. By any yardstick, the two are novices, in the game more for pleasure than for profit, although they wouldn't mind matching in purses what they push through the sellers' windows.

Ceccarelli, a 54-year-old Italian American with a face the Irish Tourist Board could use on a travel poster, is the maitre d' at the Place For Steak in Miami. He is also the partnership's midwife. He and Andrews have one bitch, Lovely Solitaire, and Ceccarelli has delivered all four of her litters. He doesn't mind that most of the greyhound people think he's just a little wacky. "I know one veterinarian who shakes his head every time he sees me," says Ceccarelli. "What's so special about helping a dog deliver pups? Put an animal in the woods and she doesn't have anybody helping her. Big deal."

Andrews, 33, is an insurance adjuster working out of his own office, sort of a nonviolent Sam Spade specializing in major jewel thefts. Since 1966, armed only with nerve and an extraordinary set of underworld contacts, he has recovered more than $1 million in stolen property. In value alone his largest recovery was a $600,000 collection of Chinese jade stolen from the Norton Art Gallery in West Palm Beach. Andrews, acting on a tip and accompanied by federal agents, turned up the jade piled in a rented haul-it-yourself trailer in Hollywood, Fla.

"It was a real complicated deal," Andrews said. "I found out that the jade was stolen for a guy who planned on shipping it out of the country. But as soon as I heard about it I ran an ad in the paper offering a $10,000 reward. That scared the guy off. From what I can gather, when the thieves showed up with the jade the guy told them they had to hold it for a week. I don't think they were too happy. They found the guy floating in Biscayne Bay. Then I guess they just took it to Hollywood and dumped it. What else could they do with it?"

Large as it was, the jade recovery did not bring Andrews the notoriety that finding one small coin did. In May 1965 six hooded men crashed the seemingly impregnable Gothic walls of the Sterling Memorial Library on the Yale campus. After handcuffing the guard, Bill Riordan, to a radiator, they made off with more than $1 million worth of rare coins, including perhaps the most famous coin in the world, the Brasher Doubloon, once owned by George Washington and now worth at least $100,000. For 2½ years law-enforcement agencies pursued the thieves and the coins, but with small success. They did arrest a man named Riesen in Chicago for possession of some lesser coins, but there the trail ended.

Then Andrews, working on another case in Miami, heard that the doubloon was nearby and the people in possession wanted to unload it. "You hear a lot of things in Miami," says Andrews. "After all, the best thieves in the world live here. Also, the guy with the doubloon couldn't sell it. It'd be like trying to sell the Mono Lisa."

Through his contacts, Andrews made an appointment for the transfer of the coin, and then he called the cops. One of the problems of an insurance adjuster is that the first question the cops ask is: "Who stole it?"—which is reasonable. But the adjuster walks a tight line between helping the law-enforcement agencies and destroying his contacts, many of whom are honest people with an ear in dishonest places. Andrews told the cops he'd make a full report after the recovery. He recovered the coin on a Friday night, and he wasn't scheduled to deliver it in New York City until Monday morning. "Now what the devil do I do with it?" he asked himself. Finally, he taped it high inside his right leg and-left it there for 60 hours. "After I got the coin, I went over to see Phil," said Andrews. "He collects coins, a real nut about them. And here I had the most famous coin in the world and I couldn't show it to him. When I told him later he almost flipped."

On Monday, Andrews turned the coin over to Yale's insurance company in New York. Then he flew back to Miami, sat down and wrote his report in verse, an art form in which he displays something short of mastery. He entitled it Ballad of the Brasher:

All that glitters is not gold,
And some that is cannot be sold.
Such then found its way to the Windy City,
Causing Mr. Riesen to be arrested—oh such a pity!
But the gold recovered was not of the stature
Of that lovely doubloon made by Mr. Brasher.
The Chicago coin fanciers then were afraid,
So they decided the doubloon should be sent to Dade.
The writer was called in the dead of night,
And awakened with a most terrible fright.
They spoke of the coin and of many dollars,
It was obvious they were numismatic scholars.
They bragged of how they took it from Yale,
And now it was being offered for sale.
Four months of discussions through Mother Bell,
Two of the six were very hard to sell.
We finally agreed on that certain price,
And you know how it is to deal with such lice.
But not to recover it would have been like treason,
And most of all that was my reason.

It was about the time of the doubloon robbery that Andrews and Ceccarelli started thinking about buying their own greyhound. Andrews had been born in New York City, but just after the end of World War II his parents took him and his younger sister, Betty, to Ireland. His father, William, a motorman on trolleys, was from County Meath. His mother, Mary, was from County Louth. The children fell in love with Ireland and begged to stay, and a short vacation stretched out to one of 16 months. One of Andrews' grandfathers had a greyhound past its racing prime, and the boy claimed it as a pet. Each day they would go out into the fields and hunt rabbits. In Ireland children are permitted to attend greyhound races, and Andrews was fascinated by the sport. Back in New York, however, where all the greyhounds are buses, his interest shifted to swimming—as a lifeguard in the summer, as a competitor at school in the winter. He was captain of his team at Fordham. Then the Army grabbed him, and when that was over he headed south to Miami. "Like most soldiers just getting out, I didn't know what direction my life would take," he says. "When I first got to Miami I worked a while as a lifeguard. Then I found out I wasn't supposed to be saving lives, I was supposed to save old ladies from boredom at night. I quit."

Fleeing elderly romance, he took a job as an insurance adjuster with James A. Kennedy, and when Kennedy retired two years ago Andrews took over the firm. It was Ceccarelli, a neighbor, who rekindled his interest in greyhounds. At first both were content just to bet. Then one night they decided that if they were going to keep on feeding dogs, they might as well own one. Phil Willmott, who runs a public racing kennel, was enlisted with orders to find a good dog but an inexpensive one. He found Lovely Solitaire, a young female still in Ireland, who had just come into season. She wouldn't be able to race for four months, which made the price right. Andrews and Ceccarelli laid out $1,200 for the dog, the shipping costs, the crate and the quarantine. That was the first time racing people told them they were crazy.

"The only thing wrong with the dog was her name," Andrews said. "Lovely Solitaire. I'd be out on some insurance case in somebody's home and I'd notice racing programs with Lovely Solitaire's name circled. The people didn't know anything. Just a hunch. Anybody who ever owned a solitaire must have bet on the dog. They kept knocking her price down. When she won she should have been paying 20 to 1, but by the time all those hunch players got done, she'd be down to 4 or 3 to 1."

For all these problems, Andrews and Ceccarelli did well enough with Lovely Solitaire to get their money back, and when one night she came out of a race with injured legs and a veterinarian said she'd never race again, they decided, reluctantly, to sell her. But the best offer was $300. "Phooey to that," said Ceccarelli. "She's worth $500, at least. We'll breed her ourselves."

"Where will we keep her?" asked Andrews.

"No problem," said Ceccarelli, once again thumbing his nose at greyhound traditionalists. "I'll just take her home with me." That proved to be fine for the dog, but not much of a boon for the pet rabbit at the home behind Ceccarelli's. The rabbit ran loose. All day Lovely Solitaire would lie on the fenced-in back porch watching it. At night, when Ceccarelli returned from work, he'd take out a long leash and walk the dog. One night they passed the rabbit hiding in a nearby bush. Lovely Solitaire moved with the speed of, well, a greyhound. "Oh, well," Ceccarelli said, "somebody would have run over it sooner or later anyway so I don't feel so bad."

Andrews began searching for the right dog to breed to Lovely Solitaire, and he finally selected Groover, an unproved stud owned by Bill Ewalt. For $100, with Andrews and Ceccarelli looking on, Ewalt performed the marriage ceremony. "Why did you pick Groover?" Ewalt asked. He's a veteran greyhound owner-trainer and spent considerable time helping the tyro owners. "Because he's got great Irish and Australian lines," said Andrews. "You guys may be new in this business," said Ewalt, "but you sure aren't stupid." Then they took Lovely Solitaire home, where Ceccarelli announced that he would act as midwife. "All you have to do," he told Andrews, "is be the bartender."

With that over and two months to wait for Lovely Solitaire to whelp, Andrews went back to work. Not all of his cases are the size of a doubloon. One day one of the 40 companies he serves asked him to investigate a claim for a stolen diamond ring. Andrews made an appointment with the man who had lost the ring. "The guy was a little wacky. He looked like a cupcake in a beret," he said. "When I got to his house he was stoned, and all the while I was talking to him he just kept getting more stoned."

It turned out that the man—call him Henry—had been drinking heavily one night and when it was over he accepted a ride from two strangers, who as a reward for their good deed stole his ring and then left him stranded on a highway. Later, apparently after second thoughts, they returned, picked him up and drove him home, where they drank beer for several hours more. Then when Henry fell asleep they robbed his house.

"This guy was something else," said Andrews. "All the time I was talking to him he kept babbling about writing to the Russians, buying an Alaskan airline and that he was going to kill his ex-wives." Andrews left, telling Henry he'd do what he could about his claim. But Henry couldn't wait. He returned to the same bar where his troubles had started and began abusing and threatening the customers. Finally one of the customers became annoyed, picked up a bar stool and belted Henry unconscious. When he came to, another ring and all his money were gone. A second claim was made. Henry eventually got $700 on his first ring and $50 in cash, and that was all. "We pointed out to him that we thought it was rather imprudent to invite two people into his house who had just robbed him," Andrews said.

"I've had easier cases," he added. "Like the time I traced a missing movie camera to the Bahamas. Some people had put a deposit toward the rental of a camera and then took off. They were making an underground movie, something called The Naked Truth. When I got there they still had four days of shooting to do, so I agreed that if they'd give up the camera without a fuss, I'd let them finish the movie. It went well until the last day. Then an extra failed to show up, and they said they'd have to postpone doing the ending for a few days. I said I couldn't wait—and what was the extra supposed to do?"

The extra, he was told, was supposed to don a voodoo mask and peer in on the last scene, which was very frank, through a porthole.

"With his clothes on?" asked Andrews.

"Of course," said one of the moviemakers, indignantly. "After all, all you can see is his head."

"O.K.," said Andrews, "give me the mask. I'll play the part." A few hours later, the movie completed and his dignity intact, he and the camera were on a plane for Miami.

The two months of Lovely Solitaire's pregnancy passed slowly, but at last the day came and Ceccarelli called his partner. "Bring the booze, I'm going to play obstetrician," he said. There was a nearby private kennel run by two elderly sisters, and they had given the partners permission to use it as a maternity ward. There it began, Ceccarelli drinking and delivering, Andrews pouring and pacing. Three of the first five puppies breeched, and Ceccarelli nonchalantly turned them around. The first few came every 20 minutes; then they began to come more slowly. After 13 hours the head count had grown to 11. About then a minister, a tiny Pomeranian in his right hand, came in. "I heard about it, so I came over to pray for you," he said. "How many has she had?"

"Eleven," said Ceccarelli. "I think she is done."

"No," said the minister. "She will have one more. I will pray that it is a healthy one." Then he made his mistake; he set down the Pomeranian. In a flash Lovely Solitaire had the strange pup in her mouth. The sisters squealed in horror.

Ceccarelli moved quickly. He grabbed Lovely Solitaire and removed the pup, which, surprisingly, was undamaged.

"Oh, thank you, Lord, for saving my little doggie," said the minister.

Ceccarelli looked at him. "What are you thanking Him for? I'm the guy who took it out of Solitaire's mouth."

Four hours later the 12th pup arrived. "I don't know how that minister knew, but he knew," said Ceccarelli. "We waited four hours between the 11th and the 12th, and Dick and I figured it was all over. But he kept insisting there would be one more. I'm glad he didn't think there were going to be two more."

The pups were kept at the kennel until they were 3 months old and tearing the place apart and then were shipped to a ranch in Texas. When they were 16 months old they were brought back-to Miami and turned over to Jerry Alderson, who sent them to school.

Teddy's Kim came out of that first litter, the seventh born. She was a slow starter, but once she mastered her lessons she became the star of the lot. And like all stars, she is temperamental, racing well only when started on the extreme outside, from the No. 8 box. Started inside, she'll knock down everything in sight getting to the outside. That usually means at least three rival dogs.

In May 1969 the partners entered their ace in her first race of prominence, the matinee inaugural at Flagler. She drew the 8 box and won easily. In 28 starts she won five, placed second three times, was third twice. But in August she suffered severe injuries to both hind legs and was out of action. "That's it," the experts told the partners. "You can forget about Teddy's Kim." As usual, Andrews and Ceccarelli ignored the experts. And last January, after a six-month layoff, Teddy's Kim was entered in the Irish-American.

The Irish-American Stakes is the brainchild of James C. Knight, president of the Biscayne Kennel Club. After one unsuccessful attempt at an international match, with Australia, he decided, in 1960, to try the Irish. At first the idea met with a somewhat cool reception. Dr. John Patrick Maguire of the Irish Racing Board said he suspected his country's dogs wouldn't do well against those in America.

"Well," said Knight, knowing his Irish, "if you are afraid to compete, so be it."

"Give me a minute to confer with my associates," snapped Dr. Maguire. It was a short conference. Thirty seconds later he said the challenge was accepted.

The rules were drawn. Thirty-two dogs of Irish breeding would compete against 32 from the United States, each group in an elimination series that would put the top four from each country in the final. The winning dog would net $23,000. (Next year it will be $30,000, the fattest purse for a single greyhound race in the world.)

The night of the final race brings a fine touch of the green to the Biscayne oval. Shamrocks and leprechauns adorn the walls, the program is printed in green, and signs proclaiming CAEDE MILE FAILTE (a hundred thousand welcomes) hang from the rafters. Julian Cole, the Biscayne publicity chief and one of the world's pudgier leprechauns, also decided that a few pretty girls wouldn't hurt the production, so a Rose of Tralee beauty contest was inaugurated this year. First Cole had to win permission from Ireland, because the Rose of Tralee contest is part of the annual county fair in Kerry, with entries from Irish-American clubs in America. Since there was no such club in Miami, Cole needed special dispensation from Kerry officials. His plea was so successful that he was invited to Ireland in the fall to be one of the contest judges there. "I view it as an opportunity to prove the goodwill between the United States and Ireland," Cole pontificated. "Also, it will give me a chance to kiss the Blarney stone and as many Irish broads as I can catch."

Approval won, Cole began placing ads in southern Florida papers seeking lovely young females of Irish descent. The winner would get a free trip to Ireland. The first entry was from a man. The second was from a 69-year-old widow. Cole ruled both ineligible because they had neglected to submit pictures. The third entry was from a nun, the fourth from another male, who said he was a member of the yacht-club set. "That might make him eligible," said Cole. Finally a winner was selected. She was Eileen (Peg) Nugent, an Emory University coed. Her father was a Miami sportscaster. "She's a real beauty," said Cole. "Also, it's a public-relations coup."

"There are four elimination races. How many times do you think we can draw the 8 hole?" Andrews asked.

"I don't think the odds are in our favor," said Ceccarelli, "but after what Teddy's Kim has been through she's earned the chance."

For the first three months after her injury, the dog had been unable to get out of her crate under her own power. In January she began schooling again, and when Andrews and Ceccarelli, with Alderson, put up the $200 fee for the Irish-American, greyhound people thought they were mad. In the first elimination race Teddy's Kim drew the No. 8 box and won easily. She drew No. 8 for the second race and won. In the semifinal it was, well, No. 8 again, and she won in a breeze.

And then she drew No. 8 for the final.

The night of the final the Andrews and the Ceccarelli clans gathered early at the track for dinner. With Andrews were his wife Barbara, his sister and brother-in-law, Betty and Pat Brady, and his cousins, Bridie and Eli Meyer, who had flown in from New York. For openers, Andrews sprayed them all with Green Moss cologne. Then he insisted they all drink Irish Mist.

"Dick," said Pat Brady, fingering the $16 he planned to bet, "who do you like for a second dog?"

Andrews looked at the program. "This sounds crazy," he said, "but the one that scares me the most is P.Q. Surname, the 5 dog. And she's the longest shot in the race, 12 to 1."

Brady nodded and went to the sellers window. He bought three $2 tickets on Teddy's Kim and then a $10 perfecta ticket, coupling Teddy's Kim and P.Q. Surname, in that order. To win a perfecta, you have to select the first and second dogs in the exact order.

At the start Grenoble broke out of the 4 box on top, with Teddy's Kim. running happily on the outside, second. Grenoble's lead held up until the stretch turn, and there Teddy's Kim took over. There she stayed, winning by two lengths. P.Q. Surname finished second, and Pat Brady almost passed out.

The perfecta paid $245.50. A $10 perfecta ticket was worth $1,229.

"Betty," Pat stammered, grabbing his wife's arm. "Betty, look at this." He held out the perfecta ticket.

"Later," said Betty. "First let me watch my brother get his trophy."

"But, Betty," said Pat. "This ticket."

Finally Betty looked. "Oh, my," she said, grabbing the ticket. "Here, let me hold it. You're too nervous."

"But I'm broke," said Pat. "I have to cash that ticket to get some money to bet on the other races."

"Here," said Betty. "Here's your $10 back."

"Oh, nuts," said Pat, having just lost $1,219.

Downstairs, Andrews and Ceccarelli had gathered in their trophy and their check and were working their way back through the crowd. "You know what, Dick?" said Ceccarelli.

"Yeah, you're going to get drunk."

"Of course, but that isn't what I mean. I just figured out what the odds were on drawing the No. 8 box four races in a row. They're 4,095 to 1."

ILLUSTRATION ILLUSTRATIONYou hear a lot of things in Miami if you're a good listener. ILLUSTRATIONWearing a voodoo mask, Andrews played an extra's role. ILLUSTRATIONIn a flash Lovely Solitaire had the minister's strange pup in her mouth.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)