THE WORLD OF MR. DIZ
Mr. Diz, a rumpled railbird who died recently in Baltimore at the age of 66, was such a famous horseplayer in Maryland that three racehorses and a $35,000 stakes were named with him in mind. But he periodically swore off playing the ponies. "I got 27 reasons," he would blare in his big, homestretch voice. "Twenty-seven bona fide reasons. Number one is, you can go broke."
Mr. Diz had a thing about numbers: "I've been in 24 states and 22 countries. I was in nine campaigns in World War II. There are only seven honest people. There used to be 10, but three died." He never revealed their identities, though. "I took an oath," he explained.
Sired by an East Baltimore cantor, Mr. Diz started life as Frank Rosenfeld. At 12 he ran away from home to work a guess-your-weight scale on the carny circuit. Later on he just worked Baltimore.
His loopy nature quickly earned him the moniker Dizzy. But John Steadman, a sports columnist for the Baltimore News American, renamed him. "Everyone deserves respect," says Steadman. "That's the reason that I started calling him Mister."
You could usually find Mr. Diz hanging out at the federal courthouse, where he dispensed street wisdom. He also put in celebrity appearances at such important municipal events as the Turtle Derby, the Frog Jumping hop and the mayor's Hog-Calling Contest.
But his real element was the track. It was there that a colt once introduced him to carrots. "I been feeding him them," Mr. Diz said. "So one day I was a little hungry and tasted one. They're great!"
Mr. Diz's body looked like a second helping of mashed potatoes. Every morning he'd roll it into half a dozen sweaters and overcoats with as many badges and buttons pinned to the lapels. His favorite button read MR. DIZ, FRIEND OF KIDS.
He also befriended slow horses, betting them with money scrounged from his host of acquaintances. "I still owe $210,019.57 to my backers," he once said. "The list I got is 93 pages long."
A Pimlico executive was so touched by Mr. Diz's spending habits that he named a filly in honor of the man. Unfortunately, Almost Broke left her owners feeling just that. But she had a younger cousin, distinguished by four white feet. "Handicappers said any colt with all them white feet wouldn't never do nothin'," said Mr. Diz. "So they named him Mr. Diz."