Baseball + Horses = Memories + Hope By Bernard Kroviak, CDC Gaming Reports April 10, 2022 at 11:39 am Now that the baseball lockout is mercifully over and the Kentucky Derby is around the corner, with the grass beginning to turn green and the days to lengthen and soften, I think it’s time to talk about how great this time of year really is. Back in the 1930s, my Aunt Nellie came to the United States from Poland. She knew very little about sports – indeed, about most things American – but she was a dedicated radio listener from more or less the moment she arrived, and as a result almost immediately got hooked on Cleveland Indians baseball. She followed the Tribe religiously, and, as a very young boy, I was fortunate to have experienced a ballgame with her. We sat behind the third base dugout and cheered ourselves hoarse as our beloved home team whomped Al Kaline and the Tigers. Those memories have stuck with me for all these many years, as I am sure similar memories have for other longtime fans. I was sad and shocked, and yet count myself fortunate, to have been at the 1956 game in which our outstanding pitcher, Herb Score, was hit in the eye by a line drive. The experience was terrifying to me as a ten-year-old, but the memory will stay with me forever. The Len Barker perfect game in May 1981, only the tenth in baseball history to that point, was another highlight. I was lucky enough to be at that game, as well, sharing a cold and rainy evening of baseball with several of my teacher colleagues. Who could have known, as the game slowly progressed, that we would ultimately wind up witnessing a truly historic event? And then Rick Manning squeezed the last out in center field, and we all knew what we’d just seen. Now that they are the Guardians, I imagine many Tribe loyalists are sad. But time passes and changes happen, and the Indians will always be in our hearts. We will treasure their last Championship, in 1948; the epic 2016 World Series and their other appearances in the Fall Classic, in 1995 and 1997; the American League record 22-game winning streak in 2017; and the seven straight years of home sellouts, an incredible 455-game streak that ran from June 12, 1995, to April 4, 2001 and which will always be a highlight for any true fan of the Tribe. Now, in 2022, Cleveland has the second lowest payroll of any team in the Major Leagues, so the recent glory days of Cleveland baseball are likely a thing of the past, but we still hope for a return to the wonder years of the 1954 World Series and those amazing streaks of not too many seasons ago. Baseball has been around way too long to fade, and, as the saying goes, hope springs eternal, especially in the hearts of the Cleveland faithful. And hey, on Opening Day every team’s record is 0-0. There are other baseball games that live in my memory bank, as well, like being in Chicago during the late 60s, sitting in the Wrigley field bleachers as one of the original Bleacher Bums and watching poor, saintly Ernie Banks lose game after game. Years later, that iconic field game me an even better thrill, as I sat with my son Brad and watched a night game from a suite overlooking home plate, thanks to a well-connected friend who was able to get us a corporate box. The big races leading up to the Kentucky Derby have begun, and the excitement of one’s horse qualifying for the Run for the Roses is growing. These preliminary races include such favorites as Smile Happy, Simplification, Mo Donegal, and many, many others. The hope that one’s horse will run at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May is naturally one of the reasons many owners get into this fabulous game, and their anticipation must be off the charts at this time of year. And, yes, Bob Baffert is still not able to be a part of this, but many of his best horses have now been transferred to other trainers in hopes that they will to be able to qualify, including his best shot, Messier, a likely Derby favorite should he win one of the prelim races. Hope still prevails for the many dozens of other 3-year-olds wanting to run in America’s great race. I still get tingles remembering sitting in the Churchill Downs infield watching Barbaro’s win in the 2006 Derby, which gave me one of my largest winning wagers. His subsequent breakdown in the Preakness, and the lengthy and diligent effort to save his life, was a saga followed by millions of people across the globe. And who could ever forget the fabulous Secretariat’s 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes to secure the 1973 Triple Crown, or the excitement that American Pharoah gave race fans when he won the Triple Crown in 2015, being the first such winner since the legendary Affirmed in 1978. These memories will stick with those who follow horse racing forever. For me, the 1989 Preakness will forever stand out. In that race, Derby winner Sunday Silence hooked up with Derby favorite and second-place finisher Easy Goer in a memorable stretch run. Matching each other stride for stride in perfect symmetry for the entire length of the final 1/8th of a mile, Sunday Silence won by the smallest of margins, barely a nose, in what, I feel was the greatest horse race of my lifetime. I’ve touched before on how the process of foaling, and of naming the new foals, can be fun and exciting. Pairing the process with both baseball and horse racing can be exhilarating, at least for a guy like me. At one point, my little racing collective purchased a young filly from my partner Anne and old trainer Andy. The filly had already won two races. Because of their love of baseball, and her mother’s name, Striking Girl, they gave her the moniker Strike Number One. We raced Striker for several years, and she continued to win races for us. Once she retired, we bred her. We gave two of her foals baseball-themed names, Brad’s Number One and Strikemoutbernie. Baseball and horse racing have always been in my life, and I’m pleased to still have them both with me and to have another chance to add to the thrills and memories they’ve given me. So as this time of year rolls around again, I count my blessings that I’ve been able to be a part of these two wonderful sports. My hope is that everyone has treasured memories, whether of sports or something else, that they, too, can relive, especially as our world seems to be turning a bit darker by the day. Hope and memories can help us overcome a lot, and couldn’t we all use a little help once in a while?