Youngsters today are getting an earlier start with the Little Leagues and Pony Leagues but the further prepping stages for would-be professionals must be entirely overhauled before we are ready for the eager Bill Shea.
TENNIS: KNOW THYSELF
My heartiest congratulations to Bill Talbert (The Kramer Cast Lacks a Plot, SI, July 6).
I have been watching tennis matches for many years—back to the Budge-Quist era—and honestly believe that Gonzales has that rarity in any sport magnetism, that is hard to explain, and sometimes even harder to recognize. I have often likened him to Ted Williams, a loner who believes in himself and doesn't give a darn about what others think.
This trait is fast disappearing in every phase of sports, and I for one will probably take up knitting when Williams and Gonzales retire.
FAY Y. HOLDER
THAT'S RACING—COUNTRY STYLE
The coincidence of the two articles in your June 29 issue, one on Billy Haughton (In Quest of the Golden Fleece) and one on a racing ostrich (The Birds and Beasts Were There), recalled a tale that is a part of the midwestern racing saga.
We have, out here in the hinterland of harness racing, a recruit from the show-horse racket whose lack of experience is compensated by exuberant enthusiasm. This lad answers to the name of Micky, but his driver's license is issued to E. O. Ellis, Maryville, Mo. The locale is the grounds of the Northwest Missouri Fair at Bethany. Time: 1954. Plot: moonlight race between hoppled pacer and ostrich.
Out here where we race horses in the daylight, a backward thing to do in these times, our fairs usually present variety entertainment in front of the grandstand each evening. In 1954 the Bethany people booked an outfit that staged a number of animal acts, among them a race between ostriches hooked to bastard-sort jog carts. Somehow Micky fell afoul of the animal-act man and a discussion ensued as to the comparative speeds of ostriches and hoppled pacers. From this point things fell into a natural groove, and a match was made between one of the birds and Micky's 11-year-old Johnny Spencer, p. 2:07.
An agreement was reached on a distance of a furlong from a walk-up start of about 100 yards. The ostrich man came off second-best in the matter of post position, although this was his fault as he maintained that his bird was somewhat rail shy and wanted the middle of the race track.
This race was, for the most part, contested in the moonlight. What transpired on the upper turn above the ? pole is known only to the contesting drivers and the citizen of somewhat astigmatic vision who was assigned to the starting chores. They finally hove into view in the moonlit stretch. The ostrich changed position at every stride, but old Johnny was on the pole and pacing as if the ghosts of all his ancestors were right at his tail.
Some ground was lost by the ostrich as he pursued his wobbly course, guided by being swatted about his hinder parts with a rolled-up newspaper, which his driver swung with all the �lan of a raceway cowboy.