GOT THE HORSE RIGHT WHERE?
This is an article from the Oct. 2, 1978 issue
The most famous half-dozen thoroughbreds of the past couple of years have been Affirmed, Alydar, Forego, Seattle Slew and Lebón-Cinzano or, if you prefer, Cinzano-Lebón. Cinzano was a superior horse who raced in Uruguay before being brought to this country where, presto, he ran as a ringer under the name of an inferior import, Lebón, and paid $116 for $2 at Belmont Park on Sept. 23, 1977. The man indicted for masterminding the coup was Dr. Mark Gerard, a well-known racetrack veterinarian who once attended Secretariat.
Last week Gerard's trial concluded in Nassau County Court in Mineola, N.Y., with sentencing scheduled for November. Gerard was found guilty of two misdemeanors, for false entries "in a contest of speed," but was not convicted on felony charges of stealing Cinzano and attempting to defraud Lloyds of London of $137,000 in insurance. Gerard could get two years in jail, but the verdict is certain to be appealed by the vet's attorney, F. Lee Bailey.
No thinking person, however, expects the Lebón-Cinzano case to evaporate. Gerard will fight to have his practicing license reinstated, while the New York Racing Association will fight to keep him barred from its grounds at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga because of the scandal brought to racing by the Lebón-Cinzano switch. And Cinzano is still around. He is currently owned by Jack Morgan, the young trainer in charge of Cinzano when he was entered in two races under the name of Lebón. Morgan hopes to race Cinzano again, and should that come to pass, the expected crush of curiosity seekers will only sustain the embarrassment felt by the guardians of the breed.
NEW USE FOR OLD CHESTNUTS
Though it's a bit like closing the barn door after the horse is gone, Belmont officials would have been able to detect the Lebón-Cinzano switch beforehand if the horses had been registered in a new identification system. Or such is the contention of Equine Services, Inc. of Broom-field, Colo., a company that has come up with an electronic scanning device that can positively identify any horse by its chestnuts, those calluses on the inside of the legs. Like fingerprints, no two chestnuts are alike; moreover, chestnuts do not fade as do tattoos or brands.
Known as Easy Scan, the device is the brainchild of Vern Taylor, who began wondering about ways to identify horses after a mare of his was stolen in 1971. Easy Scan consists of a portable scanning gun and a computer pack, sells for $3,950 and is being marketed to veterinarians and others who can chestnut-print horses for a suggested $35 fee. All the data is fed to a computer bank in Broomfield, where it is accessible to law-enforcement agents and racing officials.
DOCTOR ON CALL
It was not the kind of save that goes into the record books, but when Doc Medich, the Texas Ranger pitcher, leaped into the stands at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium last month and revived a heart-attack victim by administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and heart massage, his performance could not have been more impressive. Indeed, the reaction was so widespread that Medich, who holds a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh, agreed to conduct classes in cardiopulmonary resuscitation for Ranger players and front-office personnel.
Apparently, not all his students were paying close attention. On a recent commercial flight to Milwaukee, the Rangers were sitting in the coach section with the other passengers when the plane encountered some severe turbulence. "Don't worry about a thing, folks," Catcher John Ellis announced. "We're all CPR-trained on this team. If anything happens, we'll beat on your lips and blow on your chest. You'll be all right."
Later Medich revealed he had flunked Ellis in the course.
Out for a day of billfishing in the Gulf of Mexico on a recent weekend, C. E. Littlefield, his two sons and a friend found more action than they had anticipated. Twenty-five miles out of Port Aransas, Texas, Littlefield spotted what looked like some huge denizen of the deep splashing merrily in the early-morning sun. "Sailfish!" he cried. But just as excitedly the "fish" shouted back, "Hey, throw me a line!"
Several anxious minutes later the Littlefields boated their first catch of the day, which turned out to be Homer Roberson III, 19. "Y'all got a drink of water?" he said. Checking the heavens, an astonished Littlefield had one question. "Where'd you come from?"
Well, it's a long story—16 hours long, to be precise. Homer's odyssey had begun shortly before sunset the previous day. A crewman on the private fishing boat Puddin, he was standing alone in the stern when the craft, tooling home to Port Aransas, suddenly lurched and, he says, "I just fell overboard." No one aboard saw the mishap and Roberson's shouts were drowned out by the engine noise. "I was waiting for them to turn around and come back and get me," he says, "but they kept on going."
Recalling a tactic he had learned in a Red Cross life-saving class, Roberson took off his pants, tied knots in each leg and filled them with air. His impromptu water wings "worked all night." And a long night it was as the Puddin, a Coast Guard helicopter and several other rescue craft searched the area in vain. "They were all around me, private yachts and charter boats," Roberson says, "but they didn't see me," even though he was "lit up like a candle" by the phosphorescence of plankton in the water.
"Yeah, I saw the movie Jaws," says Roberson, "but I tried not to think about that." It wasn't easy; at one point, a large fish that "could have been a shark" bumped him, scraping the skin on one of his bare legs. He says, "I just kicked the thing and it went away." Later, a tanker that "just got bigger and bigger" bore down on him, passing so closely that "I could have hit it with a rock."
Just before dawn Roberson found himself surrounded by dorsal fins. But to his relief it was merely a school of passing porpoises. Then, at 8:45 a.m., came the Littlefields and the cry "Sailfish!"
Back at the dock, Roberson wolfed down two hamburgers, two grilled-cheese sandwiches and a pile of French fries and washed it all down with a bottle of champagne provided by a welcoming committee.
None the worse for his adventure, the next day Homer celebrated his deliverance like a true son of the sea. He went fishing.
PORKERS AT THE POST
Sooooweeee! Hide the kids and guard the corn crib, the latest rage on the tractor-'n'-terbacky trade-show circuit is pig racing. Don't grunt. When the critters first waddled to the post at last year's Farm Progress Show ("The World's Fair of Agriculture"), more than 45,000 two-legged rooters jammed the Heinold Hog Market's tent for the three-day race meeting.
"There are three things people feel about pigs, all false—that they are dirty, dumb and slow," says Roy Holding, an adman who doubles as trainer of the Heinold Pig Racing Team. Not only do the young porkers learn the Pavlovian ground rules in just two weeks, he says, but they also "develop a keen competitive spirit," trying to bump one another off course as they charge out of a five-pig chute and race down a straightaway track to a feed dish 40 feet away. Their lickety-split gait is called the "forward skedaddle."
Going into this week's Farm Progress Show in Taylorville, Ill., the full-dress excitement of race day—bugle, racing silks, electric tote board, photo finishes—was expected to inspire the odds-on favorite, a fleet little sow named Chicago Merc, to go the distance in a record 2.9 seconds or better. "That's equivalent to a 5.7-minute mile, you know," Holding proudly notes.
The Heinold team has had numerous offers to race elsewhere, including on The Tonight Show, but it has so far limited its season to one fall meeting because the piggies tend to eat themselves out of contention in a matter of weeks. Other trade-show exhibitors do not miss the competition. Indeed, when the porkers debuted last year, they hogged the show "by outdrawing the fair's other attractions, including country singer Jimmy Dean. Which was only porcine justice, because the Texas crooner also happens to be owner of the Jimmy Dean Meat Co., Inc., America's leading purveyors of pork sausages.
Doc Counsilman, the 57-year-old Indiana University swimming coach who has trained more than his share of Olympic champions and world record breakers, plans to make a big splash of his own. He has decided to become the oldest person ever to swim the English Channel. "I would like to do for marathon swimming what has been done for marathon running," he says.
As a warmup—and to qualify for membership in the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation—Counsilman recently slipped into Lake Monroe, which is near the Hoosier campus, and swam eight miles in the respectable time of four hours, 22 minutes, 54 seconds. "I knew I'd make it," he says, "but I didn't know I could do it and feel so good the next day. Something like that swim changes your self image. You don't feel quite as old as you did."
By taking on the Channel, Counsilman hopes to promote marathon swimming as the ideal exercise for the coronary set. "A lot of people can't jog when they get older," he says, "because it hurts their joints. But you can get into the water and swim because water holds you up."
Counsilman, himself a gimpy victim of the jogging craze, speaks from experience. Four years ago, overweight and suffering from high blood pressure, he began working out every morning for two hours in the Indiana pool. He lost 62 pounds and became a national sprint champion in the AAU Masters' swim program. But now, he cautions, "I question the benefit of sprints because they could precipitate a heart attack. So we've started a trend away from sprints to endurance swimming for older people."
Counsilman would also like to "help clarify some of the phony-baloney that's been going on with some swimmers, including Diana Nyad and her recent attempt to swim from Cuba to the U.S. Nyad's a very mediocre swimmer with a very good publicist, that's all. Promoters have gotten into marathon swimming and it has become a big problem. We've got to put in rules that are uniform throughout the world."
Counsilman's proposals: "You can't swim with the current. You can't hang onto the boat. You can't swim in a shark cage because it pulls you along. You can't swim in back of a big boat because that sucks you along. You can't get out of the water. And you can't use artificial aids such as flippers, snorkels or hand paddles."
As for his own attempt to better the feat of William E. Barnie, who crossed the Channel in 1951 at age 55, Counsilman says, "The swimming team thinks it's a great idea, but my wife Marge doesn't like it because she thinks the water is too cold. But if the conditions are ideal, I know I can swim that far." For a possible try in August, when the average water temperature in the Channel rises to a nippy 61°, he plans to train in Lake Monroe through the fall and early winter and "just hope I don't freeze."
Meanwhile, Counsilman is warmed by a remark made by Jay Hersey, one of his former sprinters, after the intrepid coach completed his eight-mile swim. "Jay told me, 'Doc, you're a tough son of a bitch.' And you know, maybe I am. At least I feel that way."
Leave it to Las Vegas to turn one of America's most quaint and cherished institutions, the office betting pool, into a high-roller's spectacular. "Vegas is supposed to harbor some of the best sports handicappers in the world," says Sonny Reizner, the sports book director for the Castaways hotel, "and we decided to find out once and for all who really is the world champion."
The result is the Castaways First Annual Pro Football Handicapper's Championship Contest. Anyone with the $1,000 ante could enter, and ultimately 56 plungers, one-third of them from out of state, decided to risk both funds and face. The Castaways kicked in an additional $4,000 to round off the total pool at $60,000.
The rules are simple enough. Each Tuesday during the regular NFL season the Castaways posts its official opening line for that week's games. The entrants then have 48 hours to make their picks for all 14 games, and each week the results are compiled, updated and posted for all to see. First prize for the contestant with the best won-lost record against the line at season's end is $42,000, or 70% of the total pool. Second prize is $9,000, third $6,000 and fourth $3,000. As a bonus, anyone picking 14 of 14 in a given week is awarded $10,000 by the Castaways; anyone picking 13 of 14 gets $5,000.
Though many noted handicappers have entered the contest, including columnists Larry Merchant and Lem Banker, no one has yet cashed in on the bonuses. In the third week of the season, Dick Sheridan, a casino pit boss, picked 12 winners out of 13 on Sunday only to miss out on the $5,000 prize when the New England Patriots, favored by 17 points, were upset by the Baltimore Colts 34-27 on Monday night.
Reizner, who expects the pool to overflow with 300 or more entrants next season, says, "We're separating the men from the boys." Well, not exactly. After three weeks, the co-leader with a sterling 28-11-3 record was Ruth Bridges, a Las Vegas housewife and one of only two women contestants.
THEY SAID IT
•Doug Carr, Texas A&M linebacker, who is 5'10" and plays behind a defensive line that averages 6'4": "I just ask them to lean over so I can see what's happening."
•Hank Stram, ex-Chiefs and Saints coach: "When I got into the coaching business, I knew I was getting into a high-risk, high-profile profession, so I adopted a philosophy I've never wavered from. Yesterday is a canceled check, today is cash on the line, tomorrow is a promissory note."
•David Rubinstein, marketing director of the Pittsburgh Penguins, on the loss of Defenseman Tom Edur to the Jehovah's Witnesses: "We got compensation from God. Two miracles."