Seabiscuit: An American Legend [With Headphones]

Seabiscuit: An American Legend [With Headphones]

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Overview

Seabiscuit was an unlikely champion: a roughhewn, undersized horse with a sad little tail and knees that wouldn't straighten all the way. But, thanks to the efforts of three men, Seabiscuit became one of the most spectacular performers in sports history. The rags-to-riches horse emerged as an American cultural icon, drawing an immense following and becoming the single biggest newsmaker of 1938 -- receiving more coverage than FDR or Hitler. Laura Hillenbrand beautifully renders this story of one horse's journey from also-ran to national luminary.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739375556
Publisher: Playaway
Publication date: 05/28/2007
Product dimensions: 4.88(w) x 7.78(h) x 1.14(d)

About the Author

Laura Hillenbrand has been writing about Thoroughbred racing since 1988 and has been a contributing writer/editor for Equus magazine since 1989. Her work has also appeared in American Heritage, ABC Sports Online, The Blood-Horse, Thoroughbred Times, The Backstretch, Turf and Sport Digest and many other publications. Her 1998 American Heritage article on Seabiscuit won the Eclipse Award for Magazine Writing, the highest award for Thoroughbred racing. She is currently serving as a consultant on a Universal Studios movie based on this book. Born in Fairfax, Virginia, Laura lives in Washington, D.C.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: The Day of the Horse is Past

Charles Howard had the feel of a gigantic onrushing machine: You had to either climb on or leap out of the way. He would sweep into a room, working a cigarette in his fingers, and people would trail him like pilot fish. They couldn't help themselves. Fifty-eight years old in 1935, Howard was a tall, glowing man in a big suit and a very big Buick. But it wasn't his physical bearing that did it. He lived on a California ranch so huge that a man could take a wrong turn on it and be lost forever, but it wasn't his circumstances either. Nor was it that he spoke loud or long; the surprise of the man was his understatement, the quiet and kindly intimacy of his acquaintance. What drew people to him was something intangible, an air about him. There was a certain inevitability to Charles Howard, an urgency radiating from him that made people believe that the world was always going to bend to his wishes.

On an afternoon in 1903, long before the big cars and the ranch and all the money, Howard began his adulthood with only that air of destiny and 21 cents in his pocket. He sat in the swaying belly of a transcontinental train, snaking west from New York. He was twenty-six, handsome, gentlemanly, with a bounding imagination. Back then he had a lot more hair than anyone who knew him later would have guessed. Years in the saddles of military-school horses had taught him to carry his six-foot-one-inch frame straight up. He was eastern born and bred, but he had a westerner's restlessness. He had tried to satisfy it by enlisting in the cavalry for the Spanish-American War, and though he became a skilled horseman, thanks to bad timing and dysentery he never got out of Camp Wheeler in Alabama. After his discharge, he got a job in New York as a bicycle mechanic, took up competitive bicycle racing, got married, and had two sons. It seems to have been a good life, but the East stifled Howard. His mind never seemed to settle down. His ambitions had fixed upon the vast new America on the other side of the Rockies. That day in 1903 he couldn't resist the impulse anymore. He left everything he'd ever known behind, promised his wife Fannie May he'd send for her soon, and got on the train.

He got off in San Francisco. His two dimes and a penny couldn't carry him far, but somehow he begged and borrowed enough money to open a little bicycle-repair shop on Van Ness Avenue downtown. He tinkered with the bikes and waited for something interesting to come his way.

It came in the form of a string of distressed-looking men who began appearing at his door.

Eccentric souls with too much money in their pockets and far too much time on their hands, they had blown thick wads of cash on preposterous machines called automobiles. Some of them were feeling terribly sorry about it.

The horseless carriage was just arriving in San Francisco, and its debut was turning into one of those colorfully unmitigated disasters that bring misery to everyone but historians. Consumers were staying away from the "devilish contraptions" in droves. The men who had invested in them were the subjects of cautionary tales, derision, and a fair measure of public loathing. In San Francisco in 1903, the horse and buggy was not going the way of the horse and buggy.

For good reason. The automobile, so sleekly efficient on paper, was in practice a civic menace, belching out exhaust, kicking up storms of dust, becoming hopelessly mired in the most innocuous-looking puddles, tying up horse traffic, and raising an earsplitting cacophony that sent buggy horses fleeing. Incensed local lawmakers responded with monuments to legislative creativity. The laws of at least one town required automobile drivers to stop, get out, and fire off Roman candles every time horse-drawn vehicles came into view. Massachusetts tried and, fortunately, failed to mandate that cars be equipped with bells that would ring with each revolution of the wheels. In some towns police were authorized to disable passing cars with ropes, chains, wires, and even bullets, so long as they took reasonable care to avoid gunning down the drivers. San Francisco didn't escape the legislative wave. Bitter local officials pushed through an ordinance banning automobiles from the Stanford campus and all tourist areas, effectively exiling them from the city.

Nor were these the only obstacles. The asking price for the cheapest automobile amounted to twice the $500 annual salary of the average citizen‹some cost three times that much‹and all that bought you was four wheels, a body, and an engine. "Accessories" like bumpers, carburetors, and headlights had to be purchased separately. Just starting the thing, through hand cranking, could land a man in traction. With no gas stations, owners had to lug five-gallon fuel cans to local drugstores, filling them for 60 cents a gallon and hoping the pharmacist wouldn't substitute benzene for gasoline. Doctors warned women away from automobiles, fearing slow suffocation in noxious fumes. A few adventurous members of the gentler sex took to wearing ridiculous "windshield hats," watermelon-sized fabric balloons, equipped with little glass windows, that fit over the entire head, leaving ample room for corpulent Victorian coiffures. Navigation was another nightmare. The first of San Francisco's road signs were only just being erected, hammered up by an enterprising insurance underwriter who hoped to win clients by posting directions into the countryside, whose drivers retreated for automobile "picnic parties" held out of the view of angry townsfolk.

Finally, driving itself was something of a touch-and-go pursuit. The first automobiles imported to San Francisco had so little power that they rarely made it up the hills. The grade of Nineteenth Avenue was so daunting for the engines of the day that watching automobiles straining for the top became a local pastime. The automobiles' delicate constitutions and general faintheartedness soon became a source of scorn. One cartoon from the era depicted a wealthy couple standing on a roadside next to its dearly departed vehicle. The caption read, "The Idle Rich."...

Table of Contents

Preface11
Part I
1.The Day of the Horse Is Past17
2.The Lone Plainsman41
3.Mean, Restive, and Ragged58
4.The Cougar and the Iceman83
5.A Boot on One Foot, a Toe Tag on the Other106
6.Light and Shadow131
Part II
7.Learn Your Horse153
8.Fifteen Strides172
9.Gravity192
10.War Admiral212
11.No Pollard, No Seabiscuit233
12.All I Need Is Luck258
13.Hardball277
14.The Wise We Boys298
15.Fortune's Fool323
16.I Know My Horse338
17.The Dingbustingest Contest You Ever Clapped an Eye On351
18.Deal366
19.The Second Civil War384
Part III
20."All Four of His Legs Are Broken"407
21.A Long, Hard Pull425
22.Four Good Legs Between Us434
23.One Hundred Grand452
Epilogue467
Acknowledgments484
Notes497

What People are Saying About This

William Nack

Laura Hillenbrand has written one of the best sports biographies in the history of the genre. Prodigiously reported, beautifully crafted and touched throughout with lyrical grace, the book is a marvelous narrative of non-fiction that reads like a novel. From the starting gate to the wire, Seabiscuit is one memorable read.
—(William Nack, author of Secretariat: The Making of a Champion)

Reading Group Guide

Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed Seabiscuit’s fortunes:

Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to the western United States and became an overnight millionaire. When he needed a trainer for his new racehorses, he hired Tom Smith, a mysterious mustang breaker from the Colorado plains. Smith urged Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price, then hired as his jockey Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, half-crippled, and prone to quoting passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over four years, these unlikely partners survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit from a neurotic, pathologically indolent also-ran into an American sports icon.

Author Laura Hillenbrand brilliantly re-creates a universal underdog story, one that proves life is a horse race.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Seabiscuit 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
ClicksClan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure it was going to be my kind of thing as I'm not interested in horses or racing, but I did enjoy it.It was really quite sad at the epilogue - felt a bit choked up.Felt it probably could have been edited down quite a bit - there were lots of people and races which could have been glossed over.Really have got a sense of the suspense during the race descriptions.