Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Legendary Football Team That Horse Racing Built-Part II

A outstanding post by Valerie at Foolish Pleasure on Steelers founder Art Rooney and his 2 day killing in 1936 at 2 New York Race Tracks has inspired me to write about my favorite football team and last year’s Super Bowl Champs the New York Giants.

For when you mention The Football Rooney Family, thoughts about the Football Mara Family are not far behind. Art Rooney was very close friends with Tim Mara, the original owner of the New York Giants, whose family still owns 50% of the Giants.

Just like Art Rooney, The Mara Family ownership of the New York Giants would not have existed if it were not for Tim Mara’s entry into the Horse Racing industry.

After dropping out of school when he was thirteen, Tim Mara became a runner for Thomas "Chicago" O'Brien, a major New York gambler. Mara delivered newspapers and worked in a book bindery by day; by night he made pickups and deliveries for O'Brien. Mara later opened up his own book bindery company, which fronted for his own bookmaking operation.

Soon, Mara worked his way up to his own enclosed space at Belmont Park and became a member of the local racing association. He handled as much as $30,000 in wagers in a single day, a large sum back in the 1920's.

Joe Carr, the NFL’s President, wanted a showcase franchise in New York and offered it to fight promoter Billy Gibson. Gibson declined but introduced Carr to his friend Tim Mara.

At the time Mara bought the Giants, he had never even seen a football game. But the promoters of the NFL knew that bookmakers were a type extremely “susceptible” to new forms of investment. They offered Mr. Mara the franchise and he accepted. The then 39 year old Horse racing Bookmaker Tim Mara paid $500 for the New York Giants in August 1925.

Mr. Mara also continued his bookmaking activities at the racetrack.

But his good friend Art Rooney would not bet with Mara. One Saturday, Mr. Rooney went to the old Empire City race track in Yonkers in 1936 and asked his good buddy Tim Mara to pick a winner for him. Mara gave him a 14-1 shot in the 1st race which Rooney reportedly bet $500 on and got back more than $7,000. His run of luck continued,and according to the NY Times obituary on Rooney, by day's end he had taken in more than $100,000. The next day, he went up to Saratoga, and on Monday, parlayed his $100,000 into more than $300,000. Exactly how much he made, as described in detail in Valerie’s Blog, depends on who you ask, but rest assured it was a lot (and this is depression era dollars we are talking about !).

Rooney once told sports columnist Red Smith,
"I had Tim Mara's figures but sometimes I'd see something the charts didn't see, like a change of jockeys or post position, and I'd use my own judgement.”

When Mr. Rooney came home that day in 1936, he told his wife, Kathleen, who was pregnant,
''We don't have to worry about money again.''

In Mara's honor, the Rooneys named their next child Tim. Chris Mara, a grandson of Timothy J. Mara, is married to one of Mr. Rooney's grandchildren, Kathleen.

Sources :

Mark Maske. War Without Death (Penguin Group, 2007) p. 15

Roberth H. Boyle. It's Just One Man's Family Sports Illustrated 09/25/72

Gerald Eskenazi. Art Rooney, 87, Founder of NFL’s Steelers, Dies. (NY Times 08/26/88)

3 comments:

Valerie said...

Very cool stuff! I smell a book in this somewhere. The Cardinals also have horse racing foundations, and isn’t it the owner of the Houston Texans a race horse owner?

SaratogaSpa said...

The Eagles, Bear, Lions and Cardinals all have foundations rich in horse racing. The history can sure fill pages in a book.

This fall Houston Texans owner Bob McNair sold Stonerside Stables to Darley, run by Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed.

thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

real good blog-it is interesting to read about the connections of old time sports owners to Horse Racing