Preacher Roe's cheerful admission that he indeed used the outlawed spitball during his major league career (SI, July 4) has raised a clatter in baseball circles as remarkable in its own way as Roe's confession.
Take the way Sportswriter Gayle Talbot of the Associated Press attempted to summarize professional reaction: "Baseball men...feel the veteran spoke out of turn and say they would not have violated such a sacred pledge.... Baseball writers, many of whom knew all along that Roe was dipping into the old saliva, are aggrieved that they permitted themselves to be scooped. There is a sort of unwritten law within the profession that certain things, such as a player's drinking habits and cheating on the field, are not discussed in print."
Now this is, at first superficial glance, a commendably moral attitude, but it has a cynical ring like the 11th commandment ("Thou shall not get caught"). The fact that Roe broke the letter of baseball law does not seem to disturb such professionals so much as the fact that he talked about it.
Perhaps the unwritten law, if written, would read: Thou shall see and hear but thou shall not report. It's safer that way. And easier.
SHAGGY HORSE STORIES
Of course, the headline racing news of the weekend is that Swaps had another breeze victory in the $57,750 Westerner at Hollywood Park while High Gun romped home in the $56,000 Brooklyn Handicap at Aqueduct. We should be the last to wish to detract from the lustre of these victories—triumphs of the favorites, witnessed by tight-packed audiences, read about by millions and thoughtfully pondered by the hundreds of thousands of serious mathematicians who try to figure out some way of winning on horse races. But three of our favorite horse stories of the week involve thoroughbreds you never heard of.
The first begins with a long-shot bettor named Mrs. Titus Haffa, the wife of a millionaire Chicago appliance manufacturer. Mrs. Haffa generally goes to the Arlington Park track on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There, on a sweltering weekday afternoon, she observed in the fourth race a horse which struck her as having no chance at all, an undersized 6-year-old mare named My Red Geflen. "When she came out on the track," said Mrs. Haffa, "I decided that the poor skinny little thing didn't have a chance." She accordingly bet $100 on My Red Geflen. As if inspired, the animal came from nowhere in the stretch to win her first race in two years. She paid 140-1. This earned $14,000 for sympathetic Mrs. Haffa and, she explained, made her "just about even for the season."
The second incident concerns Trainer Holley Hughes and an 8-year-old gelding named Fulton. Fulton had won one race in three starts this year (and won only $740 last year) before being entered in an event appropriately titled the Forget Hurdle Handicap at Aqueduct. Hughes tried to scratch Fulton. But he had forgotten that the Forget Hurdle was no longer a stakes race (in which a horse can be pulled out of the lineup 45 minutes before post time) but a handicap race requiring 8:30 a.m. notice and reasons for scratching. So the stewards refused to listen to Hughes's reasons, and demanded that Fulton run. Run he did, like a steamboat round the bend, a terrific race, with the favorite tossing his rider, the whip knocked from Fulton's jockey's hand and Fulton winning by a neck to earn $6,880.
The next day, in the fourth race at Aqueduct, a trainer tried to scratch an oldster named Coriantumr. Coriantumr received his unlikely name because his owner wanted one that would reflect the names of his five grandchildren. In five starts this year Coriantumr had not received enough attention to get his name spelled right. Perhaps because Fulton's victory had gone to their heads, the stewards insisted this animal likewise at least circle the track with the others. It would be pleasant to report that Coriantumr won. In fact, he did, prancing out of his stall, waltzing around before taking off and whizzing around the track to beat a field of favored 3-year-olds by three lengths, paying $9.10.
WAY DOWN YONDER