Family Horse Sense
On the morning of Nov. 3, Bill Fielding, a 75-year-old harness race driver at Truro (Nova Scotia) Speedway, was having breakfast with his 99-year-old mother, Mary Sara, at their house near the track. Mary Sara asked Bill if he thought he could win his race that afternoon behind his pacing mare Beta Cassim. "I never drove her before, Mother," Bill said. "Betting on me would be a waste of money." But Mary Sara makes her own decisions about when to wager and on whom. Sometimes she puts her money on Bill and sometimes she bets against him. On this occasion she pounded her fist on the table and said, "Win or lose, I'm betting on you!"
Although bad weather forced Mary Sara to stay home from the track, she gave Bill $6 for an across-the-board wager on Beta Cassim, a 7-1 shot. Hill placed the bet, then went out and led wire to wire, giving him his first win since 1993, giving Mom a tidy profit of $20 and giving us all further proof that mother knows best.
Goodbye to a Gloveman
Hall of Famer Billy Herman often said that one of his successors as second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Charlie Neal, made the double play better than any man who ever lived, and to be sure, Neal turned the pivot with a godsent grace. Yet for all his fielding excellence, Neal, who died last week of heart failure at age 65, never attained the superstardom projected for him.
Before he debuted as a Dodger in 1956, Neal, a sinewy speedster who packed power in his 5'10", 160-pound frame, was dubbed the National League's next great second baseman. In '57 Brooklyn captain Pee Wee Reese went so far as to say Neal "could become the greatest player in the National League." And, indeed, Neal gave glimpses of that potential after going west with the Dodgers in '58. That year he hit 22 home runs, albeit over the L.A. Coliseum's short leftfield screen. The next season, after leading the league in fielding at second base, Neal batted .370 in the World Series as Los Angeles beat the Chicago White Sox.
But Neal never hit well again. Plagued by injuries and, perhaps, lethargy—"I quit on myself," he said after batting .235 in 1961—Neal was traded to New York in December 1961, where in his last hurrah he helped the Mets lose 120 games. A year later he retired, not the player he might have been, but one whom some still remember as a pivoter without peer.