SI Vault
Edited By Joe Jares
February 13, 1978
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February 13, 1978


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Laura gave up four points in that final minute, but University Lake still won 33-29.


When Gordon Jones, turf writer and handicapper for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, arrived at Santa Anita last Thursday, there was a message: "Some guy who says he's Richard Nixon wants you to call him." Knowing that the ex-President seldom, if ever, calls reporters, Jones dialed the number skeptically.

"This is Richard Nixon," said a voice hesitantly. "I am calling to say I think you wrote a very sensitive piece about George Allen in today's paper." Jones had told of meeting Allen when the handicapper was track captain at Whittier College and Allen was football coach. It was one of the few complimentary stories to appear about the former Redskin coach, a longtime friend of Nixon's, since he had been named to take over the Rams.

The reporter reminded the ex-President that they had met previously, that his father had been president of Whittier when Nixon was a trustee. Nixon then began to philosophize on coaching and leadership. On Vince Lombardi: "A lot of [his players] thought he was a mean S.O.B. and they cussed him for the way he drove them. But they won with him...." On George Allen: "He is tough and players don't always love a coach for that. But a coach doesn't have to be loved to win. He has to be respected.... He isn't much for a pat on the back for reporters. He's more golly and gee and a milk shake, and I don't think most members of the press are that way."

Which brought him to, "What I want to know is why a nice Whittier College graduate like you is covering the horses. I think you might want to move up from horse races to political races.... It's all right to cover the horse races, but don't bet on them because you can't beat them."

Jones, a former USC journalism teacher who is billed by his paper as Professor Gordon Jones, pondered the advice—for all of five seconds—before rushing to the press-box pari-mutuel window. He won that bet and the next and the next—a $263 exacta—and finished with more than a $1,000 profit for the day to go with his exclusive story.


If we ignore the mythical claims in behalf of Abner Doubleday, there remain only three North Americans who invented a sport from scratch. One was Dr. James Naismith, the Canadian who conceived basketball. The second was William G. Morgan, who created volleyball in Holyoke, Mass. The third died last week in Encino, Calif. at the age of 74. His name was Leo Seltzer; the game he invented was Roller Derby.

Seltzer was a theatrical and sports entrepreneur, a marvelous American original. For a time he promoted Walkathons, with such unknowns as Frankie Laine and Red Skelton serving as emcees. Then he hit upon his roller skating scheme in Chicago in 1935. It was an instant success and with the help of television enjoyed two great boom periods after the war.

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