SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
February 19, 1979
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February 19, 1979


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After a two-year investigation, the Justice Department last week announced the indictments in Boston of 21 men, including three jockeys and two trainers, for conspiring to fix horse races at six tracks between 1973 and 1975. The indictments came six weeks after the convictions in New Jersey of five jockeys and two owners on similar charges. As in both the New Jersey case and a series of indictments last year in Detroit, much of the evidence was supplied by Anthony Ciulla, the convicted race fixer who, under federal protection, continues to detail his activities to officials in New York and Philadelphia (SI, Nov. 6, 1978).

The Boston indictments totaled 51 counts. Those named included Joseph M. McDonald, a fugitive also wanted on charges related to the interstate transportation of stolen property, and Howard T. Winter, 49, of Somerville, Mass., who, has reputed links to organized crime and is serving an 18-to-20-year sentence in the Worcester County House of Correction for extortion.

The jockeys indicted were Norman Mercier, who recently rode his 2,500th winner, Eddie Donnally and Guy Contrada. According to the indictment, Donnally was beaten up after a mount he had been bribed to hold won a race at Suffolk Downs. The indictment says that McDonald wanted Donnally killed and his body placed on the backstretch as a warning to other jockeys.

Donnally is also an accomplished writer. In an article for The Baltimore Sun Magazine about race fixing, he evocatively described jockeys as "artists who painted with quicksilver strokes of violent motion on an oval brown earth canvas." He also wrote, "Like all sidewalk jocks maneuvering for position, they liked to win and were trained to win. But somewhere between the gate and the wire, the American Dream, like a lot of over-raced horses, broke down."


Save for some Machiavellian scheming on the part of its outmanned rivals, the track team at California's Occidental College might have achieved a conference win streak even more impressive than the 25-year reign enjoyed by Kenyon College's swimmers (page 32). Occidental's track dynasty began in 1946 when Coach Payton Jordan started scheduling more dual meets against Pacific Coast Conference (now the Pac-10) powers and fewer against other schools in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. After thus honing itself against tougher competition, Occidental would routinely wallop everybody in the SCIAC championships.

To cut Occidental down to size, other conference schools pushed through a rule that the championship would be determined by dual-meet standings instead of by the SCIAC meet. On a fateful weekend in 1964, Jim Bush, who had become the Occidental coach two years before, decided to save his best men for a meet the next day against Stanford (where Jordan was then coaching) and entered second-stringers in a double dual meet against SCIAC foes Pomona and Whittier. Occidental came in last and was charged with two losses, with the result that it ended the season as runner-up to Redlands, which had lost only one dual meet—to Occidental. It didn't matter that Occidental subsequently won the conference meet. Its streak of 18 conference titles was broken. Occidental won the next 11 SCIAC championships before losing in 1976 to Pomona-Pitzer. Had it won in 1964, its streak at the time would have been 30, not 11.

Jordan, still at Stanford, has become a coaching legend. Bush has achieved fame at UCLA, where he has coached since 1964. He insists today, "I never lost any conference title at Occidental. Anybody who says otherwise is wrong." The man who coached Redlands in '64 doesn't dispute him. "Occidental was the best team that year." says the splendidly named Ted Runner, now Redlands' athletic director. "Our championship was a paper thing. It was strictly politics. I've always been embarrassed about it."

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