Sunday, October 3, 2010

MARYLAND MILLION DAY: Sasscer Hill Goes To The Races

 A jazz band greeted arriving patrons.


The 25th annual Maryland Million drew a crowd of 23,367, the ninth best in its history. I’ve never seen more perfect weather –  sunny, very light breeze and upper sixties. In the past, I’d be on the rail, or at just outside the paddock, staying close so I could soak up the action – hear it, see it, feel it.
This year, I was chained to my table selling copies of FULL MORTALITY.  My personal philosophy of life: everything’s a trade off. I was thrilled to be signing my mystery book, but sad to be away from the horses.

My lifelong friend, Kitsi Christmas, showed up to help manage the cash during the sales. 
 John Scheinman meets Kitsi Christmas

 She is a member of the famous -- or infamous, depending on which Christmas you are talking about – family of Maryland horsemen.  Her father was the trainer of the legendary Gallorette, her aunt was the first woman racing columnist in America and there’s more to say, but I’ll stop here.
Laurel had a Maryland Million hat giveaway yesterday, and Kitsi and I spent much of the day pointing toward the location of hat distribution and/or the closest restroom. We felt useful. 
I’m accustomed to this sort of thing, due numerous book signings.  But Kitsi, sitting at a table with a display of books and two signs explaining, “NEW HORSE RACING MYSTERY ON SALE NOW!” was incredulous. About the time the fiftieth person asked us if we were giving out the hats, she finally snapped.  
“No.We are selling books!” The poor man did not buy a book; he bolted. 
Around twelve-thirty we got hungry, and I got us two dubious looking slices of pizza from the track’s food court. We ate some at the book table.  We did not feel elegant. 

Then John Scheinman brightened our day tremendously by showing up and rescuing us from the pizza.  

He parked himself next to the table, yelling like a newsboy in a Sherlock Holmes scene, “FULL MORTALITY.  Get it here.  FULL MORTALITY.”  More people scurried away.
But Scheinman got Tom Ventsias to give me a pass up to the press room. Following Tom’s directions, I found a narrow doorway with a tiny sign and pointing arrow that said “Press Box.” Inside and around a corner, I faced what looked like a small freight elevator door.  I pushed the button – there was only one.  Noise, distant banging, and a thump later the door opened.  Wow, a real live elevator operator with a cap.  He opened the door by hand and was concerned when I wasn’t on his pass list. I convinced him I was legit, and up we went. 
News media, chart makers, and stewards closely watch a Million race. Notice the chain across the window? Is it there to keep newsmen from throwing themselves out the window when they bet the wrong horse?  Or is it because they didn’t know my book is finally published and they were afraid I would jump?

Boy did those press guys have a spread – crab cakes, salad, deli-ham, sliced beef, and cheese.  Fresh fruit and Dove bars. I was so excited to finally make it into the press box, I could hardly stand myself.  Probably nobody else up there could either.  But I was in rare air, high in a place where the likes of Beyer, Haskin and other journalistic greats get to hangout. 

Chart maker and chart caller respond to Sasscer’s annoying photo taking.

 I ran around taking pictures, then loaded a plate up with crab and coleslaw.  Back in the tiny, jolting elevator,  when the operator slammed us to a stop at the bottom, I was afraid the food had become a hair ornament. It hadn’t, and Kitsi’s eyes lit up when she saw those crab cakes.
After tossing the remnants of the pizza into the trash, we scarfed down the cakes and slaw.  Several people stopped at the table and wanted to know where they could get crab cakes. 
“I don’t know anything about crab cakes,” Kitsi said. “Would you like to buy a book?”  
Happily, we sold a healthy number of copies, while Maryland pulled in a good handle and experienced a most excellent day of racing!

A tractor trailer rolls in a rock band to please the crowd.


Anonymous said...

I'm getting to be a regular in this column!

-- John S.

Vincent H. O'Neil said...

Marvelous blog and a great story! I've heard about the "press box" so many times, particularly in horse-racing movies, but I didn 't know it still existed -- and that it has crab cakes! Congratulations on the book sales and the fun day at the races.

RhondaL said...

Looks like you had a fanTAStic day!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Congrats, Sasscer. Next time you get into the press box, you'll be an old hand. Ask those journalistic greats for a photo op WITH YOU--and sell them a book. :)

Unknown said...

Very cool, Sasscer. Can I say I knew you when? And it was so good to see Roscoe a few photos down. Yay for you.

Sasscer Hill said...

Hey, thanks everyone. I am so glad you enjoyed the post. Those crab cakes were awesome!

Ellis Vidler said...

What a fun day--crab cakes and horses and your book. Sorry you missed the horses though.