Sea Charger is one of MacPhail's more successful stallions; Ouija Board, winner of the National Stallion Stakes at Belmont this season, is a colt from his second crop. General Staff, at 4, won $121,000 with eight victories, six of them stakes and, upon retirement to stud, was syndicated for $250,000 with MacPhail retaining approximately a third interest.
MacPhail walked briskly into the stallion barn, ostentatiously ignoring General Staff, greeting Sea Charger loudly and affectionately as he opened the stall door and held out a carrot. Across the way General Staff's ears shot forward as MacPhail fed Sea Charger, remarking, with sidelong glances at the General, "These are the finest carrots I've seen in years. Absolutely delicious."
In a moment General Staff's ears lay back and he started to paw the stall floor and snort in a tentative kind of way. MacPhail ignored him, stroking Sea Charger, feeding him carrot after carrot. The pawing became more pronounced.
"Pawing doesn't get any carrots," MacPhail declared without turning around. "I don't pay off for pawing. Kicking is what gets carrots around here. Let's hear some kicking." There was silence for a few seconds, except for Sea Charger's munching. Then the whole barn seemed to tremble as General Staff let fly with a hoof at the wall of the stall.
"Now that's what I call kicking," cried MacPhail, promptly shutting the stall door on Sea Charger and hurrying over to General Staff. "That's the kind of kicking that will get a horse carrots around this barn." He opened the door and started to feed General Staff.
I watched, and after a moment I said, "How did you find this farm in the first place?"
"Well," said MacPhail, handing me a carrot, "I decided that I wanted a farm back in 1940 when I was with the Dodgers. I tried to find one within commuting distance of New York. I looked all over Bucks County, Pa., New Jersey, Connecticut and New York state but couldn't find enough land for what I had in mind. Finally my friendship with Alfred Vanderbilt led me to Maryland. I looked all over the Eastern Shore, then one day a real estate agent took me to this place. It was pretty run-down, the house was in terrible shape, but the terrain was beautiful and there was running spring water in every field. I asked my friend, Bill Terry of the Giants, and my brother, Herman, to fly down and take a look at the place. They agreed with me that it had great possibilities." He took a bite of carrot. "Aren't these good?" he asked.
"Delicious," I said. The three of us, General Staff, MacPhail and I, stood munching for a moment and then I asked, "What's the theory behind this operation here, I mean raising purebred cattle and Thoroughbred horses?"
"You can't make money on a farm this size with a purebred Aberdeen Angus herd alone," said MacPhail. "It had been my idea that a combination of purebred cattle and horses could be successful from an economic standpoint—in Maryland. Maryland is not a cattle state. To raise beef cattle successfully, you've got to be able to raise cheap feed."
"When you're starting from scratch as a breeder of Thoroughbreds," I said, "how do you go about it, especially when you haven't had any real experience?"