SI Vault
August 07, 1961
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August 07, 1961


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"When I was a lad," he said, "and just starting to play professionally, I wanted the two things every athlete wants, fame and money. With Real Madrid I got both, more of each than I need. I have received, as the old flamenco song puts it, 'Love, tenderness and wealth.' Money isn't everything in my life. I am happy where I am."

Add our awe and respect.


The strike of backstretch employees that broke out suddenly at New York's Aqueduct race track was a silly sideshow combining irregular labor practices on the part of Local 917 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, evasion of real responsibility on the part of the New York Racing Association and stiff-necked stubbornness on the part of some horse trainers and owners. After a week of inconvenience to racing fans—many of whom stayed home—of loss to stable-hands and other track employees, and of some violence, the strike gradually petered out. There is no assurance, however, that the problem has even been faced, let alone resolved, and renewed union activity is expected when the horses go back to Aqueduct after the Saratoga meeting (see page 20). There is also a chance strikes will spread to other tracks throughout the country.

What is the problem? The men who cool out horses after training or racing, who exercise them in the mornings and who do their housekeeping in the barns live under a loose paternalism. Owners and trainers with whom they have had friendly relations for years sometimes give them a handout to supplement their wages, which vary widely from barn to barn. A number of them have no other skills and are illiterate and could not command much in the labor market. However, some were sufficiently dissatisfied with their lot to respond eagerly when New York Local 917 of the Teamsters began organizing them last September. The union was authorized by the State Labor Relations Board to hold elections stable by stable, to determine whether it could act as bargaining agent. Up to Thursday, July 20th, the union had won 19 elections, lost 12 and five were in dispute. Then, claiming that its members were being threatened with firing, while trainers charged intimidation, the union called a strike—without waiting for completion of the elections. The union demands were $75 a week for hotwalkers, $95 for grooms and $125 for exercise boys, a six-instead of seven-day week with provisions for overtime and recognition of the union as agent.

Trainers and owners were up in arms, and cried bankruptcy. Small stables that regularly go into the red have a case. Big stables that rarely show an annual profit either but have tax benefits on their losses have less of a case. The New York Racing Association, which runs Thoroughbred racing in the state, assumed a pose of neutrality, but the union claimed that it was extremely active behind the scenes in helping to break the strike.

We believe that the union had no business calling the strike before it had won fair elections, but that owners and trainers must join the 20th century and deal responsibly with accredited representatives of their employees. We also think that the NYRA and the state (which takes in about 5350,000 a day from Thoroughbred racing) share a duty to help settle disputes and maintain the sport without strife.


A "rocket start" was used in the National Association of Left-handed Golfers amateur tournament at the Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C. last week. The purpose was to play a huge field—256 golfers—on one course between morning and evening in four days. Action began at 8:30 a.m. on all 18 tees simultaneously—128 golfers for the morning round, 128 for the afternoon. The rocket blasted off at the clubhouse and whap, whap, whap—like the Rockettes, almost—went the lefties. Naturally, there were complications—as when foursomes were backed up by a high-handicap player who spent time in the rough on the hole ahead or by a stubborn one who refused to abandon the search for a lost ball. But the tournament went off on schedule, with players keeping score from where they started, and the winner was Ed Sweetman, of Greensboro, with a 293.

The rocket start has a strong advocate in the lefties' president, Norman James. "The average golfer is delighted with the system," says James, who does nearly everything right-handed except when shooting golf or hitting a baseball. "It's just habit to start on No. 1 and finish on No. 18. If we renumbered every hole, what would be the difference? Purely psychological." Anyway, it worked in Greensboro.

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