|Daily Racing Form|
|Monday, November 3
|Remembering what others can only imagine|
By Kenny Rice
Special to ESPN.com
They are separated by 2,000 miles and seven years in age, but retired trainer Charles Schick of St. Petersburg, Fla. and Eddie Logan, who still runs his shoe shine stand at Santa Anita, have a common bond -- Seabiscuit.
"Haven't seen the movie, I saw the 'Biscuit himself," boasts 94-year-old Logan, who has been shining shoes at Santa Anita Park since the track opened Christmas Day, 1934. "I was here when he was making the history, knew it was something special right then and so did anyone else who saw him run. George Woolf and Red Pollard (Seabiscuit's jockeys) both sat right here and I shined their shoes many times" He laughs from deep inside, "And both were good tippers. That George Woolf was a very classy man, he was."
"I'll never forget him walking toward me, slow and easy -- not a mean trait," Schick, the younger of the pair at 87, recalls vividly of the legendary horse. "Seabiscuit just wanted to eat and sleep. War Admiral just wanted to run."
Breaking into history -- twice
George Schick at the time was a teenager straight from Queens, New York and a hint of the borough remains in his speech. He had just taken a job with trainer "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons when the legendary trainer acquired Seabiscuit.
"There I was eager and ready and Mr. Fitzsimmons brings me over to see this new colt they had. Well, he wasn't a looker but he was bright, you could see it in his eyes. His hair was long and he looked more like a Mustang than a Thoroughbred.
"We got the saddle on him and he took to it quickly, but he had to be prompted every day, reminded of why he was here. He was like these ball players today who play a lot better than they practice," Schick pauses and laughs about the memory. "Maybe he was just way ahead of us all and knew he would do it when it counted. But at that time I can't say he was special or anyone thought he was special but he did have potential."
Schick stayed for one year with Fitzsimmons, leaving to accept a better offer from trainer George Conway to go to Maryland and help him break some new horses. "I was making five dollars a week when I broke Seabiscuit, but when I went to work for Conway I was getting sixty dollars a month with room and board. I couldn't pass that up."
Not only did he have a financial gain, he was on the verge of becoming a little known player in two of the most well-known racehorses ever.
"War Admiral walked over and from the get-go he was striking, strong, professional. Put a saddle on him, take him to the gate, he learned the fundamentals instantly. He was on the bit from day one, just the complete opposite of Seabiscuit. War Admiral was a star immediately, while Seabiscuit had to catch up with him, but he did eventually."
Schick has read Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling book and has seen the Gary Ross-directed movie. He appreciates both, but wishes there could've been a mention about his role with the two great horses. "Most grooms, stable hands never have gotten attention. I didn't expect a big mention, but it would've been nice to know the early work with both of them in their formative years would be recognized. What makes me feel bad is I'm the only one left who remembers that, all the guys I worked for and with are gone."
Schick has toyed with the idea of writing a book, one that would disagree with a key point in both the Hillenbrand book as well as the movie -- that Seabiscuit was unwanted until he was discovered by trainer Tom Smith and owner Charles Howard.
"I was right there the day Seabiscuit left Mr. Fitzsimmons' barn and he wasn't thrilled to see him go, he said 'I'd like to have worked with him some more.' I was right there, had gone over to see a couple of friends. He was a great trainer who had 50 horses to work with, that's hard to concentrate on just one. But Charles Howard and Tom Smith (owner and trainer) had a small stable and it worked out for the best because they could devote the attention Seabiscuit needed."
As far as who was the best, Schick says that can never be answered, even though Seabiscuit defeated War Admiral in the famed match race that was the 1938 Pimlico Special.
"I think (Charles) Kurtsinger, who was a great rider, made a mistake in letting Woolf get that easy lead. Woolf put it over on him. Seabiscuit had to have loved that and War Admiral had to have hated not being closer. I'm not saying War Admiral would've won that match race, but those horses shouldn't have been a head apart. In my mind they never were."
"I made some money on the 'Biscuit myself. But I wasn't the only one. Even when he was a big favorite it was worth it. It doesn't seem like much now, but if you could get three, four, five dollars back on Seabiscuit you could feed your kids back then. That's why he was loved. People trusted him a lot more than any stock market."
Logan has lived many lives. He played professional baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League and went on a barnstorming tour with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. He later was a sparring partner for Archie Moore. He still has a vise-like handshake, a man who has worked hard with a memory just as strong. He has met them all at his shoeshine stand -- from Hollywood royalty like Bing Crosby, Tyrone Powers and Don Ameche to horse racing's greatest horsemen.
"Bill Shoemaker was my favorite jockey and treated everyone with respect, a true gentleman. And Charlie Whittingham was my favorite trainer. He would send me over a check for $1500 at the end of every meet just for shining his shoes. And the stories he could tell. Plus he gave more than a few tips on his horses, made $500 on one of them. I miss them both."
"Now my favorite horse was the 'Biscuit and I've seen them all. He made everything come alive when he ran. People say 'Haven't you seen the movie?' Well, I don't have anything against movies, but I got all the information from Pollard and Woolf about how great he was right up here," he smiles as he taps his forefinger to his head. "I don't need a movie, I saw the 'Biscuit when he was in the paddock and on the track and I'll never forget that. Anybody who ever saw the 'Biscuit run can never forget it."