by Bob Heyden
What’s in a name or a bio? Well, in the case of John Campbell, and Hall of Fame baseball player Johnny Bench, not a lot early on.
Campbell was the top driver of the 20th Century and remained at the top of the game well into this century.
Bench was named the catcher on the “All-Century Team” celebrated during the 1999 World Series.
But early on, neither got much respect from biographers.
In the 1973 USTA Guide, John Campbell is listed as 6’2″, 170 Lbs., from Charlottetown, PEI, with royal blue, white and orange colors and a birthdate of 6/25/34.
At least they spelled his name correctly.
Not so with the first ever Topps Baseball card of Johnny Bench. Widely considered by most baseball observers of the past 30-50 years as the game’s best catcher, his first baseball card in 1967 read John Branch.
Trevor Ritchie on Campbell
Two-time Canadian Driver of the Year Trevor Ritchie on John Campbell:
“I tried to emulate him as much as possible. Tactically, he was far and away the best driver I’ve ever seen. I’d watch him religiously to learn. He could make speed, keep a horse quiet, anything. And his longevity at the top is incredible.”
Ritchie retired three years ago and just turned 61.
Remembering Herve Filion
The things I remember about my 30 years plus of knowing the late Herve Filion include:
• Hot Hitter in 1979, the first standardbred to better three quarters of a million in a single season.
• Filion winning on back-to-back nights in 1981 at Yonkers and then Liberty Bell with Eastern Skipper, with yours truly in attendance at both.
• Caressable winning the 1985 Breeders Crown. Bill O’Donnell not making it in time and Filion winning his first Breeders Crown.
• Taping Filion with my hand held movie camera in 1975 — in my second year at Rutgers — with a horse named Rozella.
• 989 Meadowlands wins.
• Filion making it to all three days for the September, 2005 Stanley Dancer wake and funeral.
• The 1981 Sweetheart won by Filion at 90-1 with Willow Bust, who was later placed second by the courts.
• July 31, 1987 — the second million dollar babies night, when Filion yielded the all-time earnings lead to John Campbell.
• Grades Singing taking on pacers and still winning in New York.
• Filion jumping on the back of a horse called Cafe Ole when the lines broke early in the race in the late 1970s, if I recall correctly.
• Sokys Tiger, a one-eyed horse in the Hopeful series.
• Dorunrun Bluegrass.
• Filion as the only man to spend better than half his life as a Hall of Famer.
• Handing over the dash title to Dave Palone at The Meadows.
• Roosevelt Raceway reunions.
• Filion at the celebration of the leading drivers at Yonkers late in the last decade….
• Nansemond on the Jug videos.
• Keith Waples talking about by Filion with pure reverence.
• Eight Filion brothers in the same race.
• Armbro Tiger.
• Capital Hills Farms
RIP Herve Filion. You were truly one of a kind.
40 years since Jim Tallman’s plane crash
On Aug. 31, 1977, a small plane went down killing the pilot and harness racing driver Jim Tallman. The plane had taken off from Westchester County Airport. Jim had won nearly 1,000 races and almost $6 million in purses, mostly on the Yonkers-Roosevelt circuit, but had moved to the Meadowlands for its first year of operation and held his own against the sport’s premier drivers. He made his home in Nicholson, PA and was survived by his wife Lucretia and two sons — Doug and Jimmy, Jr.
Two of Tallman Sr.’s major victories were the Arden Downs with Lauras Image in 1972 and the 1974 Battle Of Saratoga with Armed Yankee.
Youngsters in the Meadowlands Pace
Montrelle Teague was 20 in 2011 when he won his elimination with Custard The Dragon.
Richie Silverman was 21 in 1986 when he finished fourth with Masquerade in the Pace final and 23 in 1988 when he finished 11th with Paladium Lobell.
Mario Baillargeon was 21 in 1979 when he raced in the Pace and failed to get money with Most Happy Collins.
Bruce Riegle was 23 in 1978 when he was fourth with Brittany Road.
Yannick Gingras was 24 in 2004 when he made his Pace debut with 9-5 favorite Timesareachanging, who was second best.
Tim Tetrick was 25 in 2007 when he debuted — and won — with Southwind Lynx.
Walter Case, Jr. was 25 in 1985 when he finished 11th with New Bret.
He “mite” be the lightest driver ever
The original “mighty mite” Jim Marohn, Sr., was in action at the Meadowlands on Sept. 2, 1976 when the track opened. He drove the hustler to a third-place finish in his first Meadowlands assignment. At 100 pounds, Jimmy is believed to be the lightest driver ever to appear in a Meadowlands pari-mutuel race (Julie Krone was in the 1987 Plimpton series, but that was a non-betting event).
Cam you believe this?
Cam Fella retired on Dec. 10, 1983 and moved into the all-time numero uno spot among pacing earners — just edging by Rambling Willie who had eeked by Niatross that year. But Cam Fella did not win the two biggest purses he raced for in his career.
On April 23, 1982 in the $300,000 Goudreau, named for the late Shelly Goudreau, Cam Fella eighth placed seventh due to interference..300g
On Aug. 8, 1982, in the $221,000 Slutsky at Monticello, Cam Fella was second to Bo Scots Blue Chip for $221,000 in this, the former Monticello OTB Classic.
Eight missed out on million-dollar glory
There were 12 drivers in the 1980 Woodrow Wilson won by Land Grant and Del Insko, but eight of 12 drivers in this field never did reach the pinnacle of capturing a million-dollar event:
Abe Stoltzfus was 11th with No No Nero; Joe Marsh, Jr. was eighth with Arties Dream; Bill Popfinger was seventh with New York Motoring (ps – Billy was second to Nihilator in the other two million tests in 1984); Joe O’Brien was third with Neros BB; Rejean Daigneault was 10th with Mannart Full Speed; Jack Kopas was fourth with Areba Areba; Jack Parker, Jr. was favored with Slapstick and finished fifth; Shelly Goudreau was second with Armbro Wolf and Bill Herman was sixth with Surmo Hanover.
Hall of Fame memories
In 1953, the first year that horses — the immortals — made it into the Hall of Fame, Hambletonian went in of course, as did Peter The Great, who topped the list in the voting.
The announcement came on Dec, 5 of that year, and was made by E Roland Harriman, then president of the museum. Six in all went in. Axworthy, Dan Patch (the only pacer), Peter Volo, Guy Axworthy and Goldsmith Maid. All inducted had to be deceased and an immortals room was set aside for the proper exhibition of statues and memorabilia. Those almost making it in year one included Single G, Maud S, Nancy Hanks, Star Pointer and Lou Dillon. If you’re wondering why the name of Greyhound wasn’t here, he was still alive and well at that point.