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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Famous & 65

October 13 Pat Day, jockey

After retiring in August 2005, Day is still the all-time leading rider at Churchill Downs and Keeneland Race Course in his adopted home state of Kentucky. He won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey four times over his decades-long career, and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1991.

His riding style has been described as patient, much to the chagrin of many critics who dubbed him Pat (I’ll Wait All) Day. But plenty of trainers appreciated his gentle hands, giving him 22 rides in the Kentucky Derby. His single win in the race came on Lil E. Tee in 1992 after favorite A.P. Indy scratched. He was sixth on a wet track the year that his mount, Tabasco Cat, would go on to win both the Preakness and Belmont, the two other Triple Crown events.

Day admits to serious drug and alcohol abuse in the early years of his career. In the early 1980s, he became a born-again Christian, earning the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1985 for high standards of personal and professional conduct. Many of his best races were in the latter half of his career, including the day at Arlington Park in 1989 when he won eight of nine races and set a North American record.

Tip: How did old-time jockeys lose weight before their races? They would bury themselves in the manure pile up to their neck. The warmth of the decaying manure would act like a steam bath, sweating them down to race weight.

October 15 Toriano “Tito” Jackson, singer, instrumentalist

Big brother to Michael, Tito Jackson was the third of ten siblings born to steelworker Joe and devout Jehovah’s Witness Katherine. When he got caught playing his dad’s guitar at age 10 after breaking a string, Joe demanded to hear him perform. His playing earned him his own guitar, and soon after Joe formed a singing group comprised of Tito, Jackie and Jermaine.

The kids performed in grocery stores and at school functions, then moved to talent shows when Tito was 12. About that time, 7-year-old Michael joined in as lead singer and they won the Amateur Night competition at The Apollo Theater in August 1967. Joe started working part-time at the mill and got them a recording contract with Steeltown Records. Two years later, the Jackson 5 signed with Motown Records in Detroit, and the rest is history.

You’ll never hear Tito playing guitar on any of the group’s records with Motown; all the instrumentals had to be performed by session musicians according to their contract. In 1976 when the group left Motown for CBS Records, Tito began playing and writing songs with his brothers. Tito later performed solo, did some session work himself and managed his sons in a musical group called “3T.”

October 20 Keith Hernandez, first baseman

The Burt Reynolds look-alike was a first baseman who played most of his career with the Cardinals and the Mets. His hitting was 31 percent above league average, and he got Gold Glove awards in 11 consecutive seasons, a record for a first baseman.

Hernandez grew up in California, but he’s not Mexican, as many assume. His father is Spanish and his mother, Scots-Irish. A standout player in high school, he sat out his senior year over a dispute with his coach. Scouts noted his “poor attitude,” and he headed off to Jr. College for a year of play before being drafted a dubious 783rd in the 41st round in 1971 by the Cards. Sometimes it’s those late picks that really pay off.

Hernandez shares a birthday with superstar Mickey Mantle, and insisted on having a number that ended in “7” like his hero. Wearing number 37, he won National League MVP in1979, an honor he shared with Willie Stargell, the only time in history two players were awarded the exact same number of points by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He became a regular .300 hitter, and the Cards triumphed in the 1982 World Series, where he hit a home run in game six, and batted in eight runs over seven games.

Despite outstanding play, a dispute with manager Whitey Herzog got Hernandez traded to the Mets in 1983. Herzog said the first baseman had become a cancer in his team and he never regretted the trade. Later, Hernandez admitted it might have been his cocaine use that put him on the outs, and he testified that about 40 percent of players were using the drug at that time. He says he quit using it after getting traded.

Hernandez had a great career with the Mets wearing number 17 (37 had been retired for Casey Stengel), and is widely considered the greatest fielder among first basemen in major league history. With the Mets, he won the 1986 World Series and was named team captain the following year. His reputation was as a “party hard, play harder” pretty boy with a great arm and a vicious swing. However, even the best begin to age, and back, knee and hamstring issues forced a decision not to re-sign him after his contract ran out in 1989.

In retirement, Hernandez has published four books, did some acting work and served as a broadcaster, as well as supporting many charity organizations. He has a special fondness for funding the Alzheimer’s Association after losing his mother to the disease.

October 24 James and Jonathan di Donato, open water swimming

Identical twins Jonathan and James di Donato (the Tiger Twins) swam 28 miles around the island of Manhattan to become the first to manage the feat using the butterfly stroke in 1983. It took them nine hours and 43 minutes to succeed. Training included a 16.5 mile butterfly swim from Ft. Lauderdale to Pompano Beach and back. The duo trained three hours a day.

All that training leads to a buff physique, and for these athletes, hard bodies led to becoming finalists in Cosmopolitan’s first male centerfold contest. Later in their careers, they set a record distance for swimming the butterfly of 47 miles.

If you’d like to give their record a go, you’ll need to get in shape. Their workout routine started by swimming four hours in the ocean wearing drag suits and 1-pound wrist weights. Dryland training included 3 miles of sprint interval runs, plus 20 sets of 50 pushups finished with countless sit-ups using  20-pound weights on their chests.

One last tip: sharks can be a problem in open water swims. The Tiger Twins added soap flakes to their wetsuits to put the beasts off their scent.

Click below for the other articles in the October 2018 Senior Spirit