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PERIL AT YELLOW RIVER
After the Yellow River Raceway disaster in which 12 spectators were killed and more than 40 injured, drag racer Arnie Beswick testified that Yellow River, an unsanctioned track, was "completely unsafe" and that he and other nationally known drivers compete at such " Mickey Mouse places only because that's the way we make a living. We've got to have exposure."
Perhaps. But if drag racing is really the legitimate sport it claims to be, the national associations that purport to govern it should agree at once on certain firm rules, the simplest and most effective of which would ban from sanctioned drag tracks any driver who competes in outlaw races at wildcat strips.
Bill Veeck, the old baseball hotshot, is the new president of Suffolk Downs, the horse track near Boston, and he plans to put the same kind of jazz he popularized in baseball into Thoroughbred racing. His target is the fans, as it was in his ball parks in Cleveland, St. Louis and Chicago. As a starter, he has established a flat $1.50 admission charge for both grandstand and clubhouse. Last season a clubhouse ticket cost $2.50.
"It's daring and probably a little bit stupid," Veeck says, "and it may cost us as much as $350,000. But the way I figure it, anybody who comes in here should be able to enjoy all the facilities.
"When I ran a baseball team, I never had a stadium club or anything exclusive like that. I had picnic grounds in the outfield, and they were open to everybody. This is the same idea. Why should certain customers enjoy air conditioning while everybody else in the place swelters?"
Veeck also plans to upgrade the quality of the racing. He'll stage a $200,000 turf race, the 2-mile Yankee Gold Cup, on June 28. It will be the richest and longest turf race in the country. He is thinking, too, of a Lady Godiva Stakes for fillies, ridden by lady jockeys (presumably dressed in silks), in which the winning rider will receive a bonus of a million trading stamps.
He is refurbishing the plant with fresh paint and new designs ("Dream," he told his architects, "and I'll dream along with you"), and is spending $200,000 to modernize the rest rooms ("Next to a winner, what a bettor likes is a clean rest room, especially the women").
He is also in the market for a steam calliope, which figures.