In spite of this book's title, there are no horses to speak of in "Thirty Tons a Day." Self-proclaimed "hustler," Bill Veeck, Jr., who has been called the greatest public relations man and promotional genius the game of baseball has ever seen, decided to take a detour into the Thoroughbred business by purchasing Suffolk Downs, a run-down racetrack near Boston. This book is his story of how he renovated the racetrack, starting in 1969, then took on the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of the Massachusetts government to haul Thoroughbred racing, kicking and screaming out of the Dark Ages--or more accurately out of the Age of Puritans.He succeeded in his battles against the government (thanks mainly to the judicial branch) but was finally done in by his own holding company, Realty Equities. The bittersweet final chapter describes the farewell party he threw for his friends who had joined him in his two-year, and ultimately bankrupted racetrack venture. It was a wild two-year ride and Veeck is a very colorful character, even when he is talking about holding companies and Boston politics. During his tenure at the track, he had the pay toilets and artificial flowers banned from the facility, staged chariot races and livestock giveaways (Brahma bulls and a Thoroughbred). There was also going to be a reenactment of Custer's last stand, which alas was rained out (Veeck didn't have much luck with the weather during his tenure). He also inaugurated what was then the richest turf race in the world, the Yankee Gold Cup, won by the French horse, Jean-Pierre (so there are a few horses mentioned in this book, just not as many as you might be led to believe by the title).Read more ›
Bill Veeck became a legend in professional baseball by operating teams with the fans in mind - a novel concept then, as now - and tweaking the noses of the "Lords of the Realm" as he went along.
In the late-1960s, it appeared that his trek in baseball was over, so Veeck played a longshot, becoming president of Suffolk Downs, a Thoroughbred track near Boston, Massachusetts.
With comedic interludes - but oftentimes very biting commentary - Veeck and co-author Ed Linn chronicle the small victories and grand frustrations while operating a facility which carried the moniker, "Suffering Downs."
There are battles with an alleged corrupt system of politics at the local and state levels, a Boston-based media with its own personal agendas (vendettas) and racetrack owners in the region who had their eyes set on a larger slice of the pari-mutual pie, at the expense of Suffolk Downs.
Through the muck, Veeck was the consummate showman, having events like a chariot race, a Brahman bull "giveaway," a major stakes race - the Yankee Gold Cup - and an attempt to re-create Custer's Last Stand, while fighting for additional racing dates and to have children admitted into the track with adults.
After two years, Veeck's race was over, as the conglomerate which owned the facility toppled under the weight of financial ruin, while yanking profits out of the racetrack and tossing them into failing enterprises.
Published in 1972, there are a number of controversial issues discussed by Veeck that are still running as strong on racetracks as a Triple Crown contender. That is what makes the book as timely a read today as it was nearly 40 years ago.
People have to understand that Bill Veeck's skills as a promoter were not confined to the diamond. Here, as the owner of Suffolk Downs in Boston, he tries to reinvent horse racing. He does not succeed, but we have a lot of laughs watching him try. If you own Veeck's other two books, you have to have this one, too. Incidentally, the others are both back in print.
Veeck was one of the true great showmen of the 20th century. This book shows you the ins and outs of the racing business in the 1970's. Veeck had a sense of humor and needed it to deal with corrupt Massachusetts racing officials and politicians. Unfortunately guys like Bill Veeck have been squeezed out in favor of neutral corporate marketing machines. The world seemed like a funner, crazier more wide open place in the 70's. Maybe I'm just gettin old. Highly recomended.