My brother Doug has long confounded our family with his eccentricities. “He listens to the beat of a different drummer,” my Dad would say. “He rigidly conforms to his non-conformity,” our Mother would admit. “No one else’s little bother is like him,” I’d complain before quickly adding, in response to my mother’s glare, “I mean ‘brother.’”
The most prominent way Doug differed from the family was in his refusal to root for the Phillies. Based on the first card out of the wrapper of his first pack of baseball cards, Doug took one look at a 1974 Topps card of Steve Garvey and announced that the Los Angeles Dodgers were his favorite team. For the next couple of years it just seemed odd that Doug checked the morning paper for West Coast box scores, covered his room in Dodgers paraphernalia and wore a blue LA baseball cap around the neighborhood. It became downright grating after the Dodgers eliminated the Phillies two years in a row in the NLCS to advance to the World Series. In frustration, after the second defeat in 1978, I defaced something in our house connected to the Dodgers. . . but completely forgot about it shortly thereafter.
Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda hailed from Norristown, PA, just a couple of towns away from my hometown of West Chester, PA. Even while Tommy managed the Dodgers, the Lasorda family still lived in the area and his brother operated, Lasorda’s Tavern just a short drive from our house. In the spring of 1979, my mother got wind of a rumor that with the Dodgers traveling to town for a weekend series with the Phillies, Tommy Lasorda was going to bring the team to his brother’s restaurant for an off-day, Thursday night dinner. I may have hated the Dodgers but I was still a baseball-obsessed adolescent who had never met a real MLB player in person, so when my mother asked Doug and me at the breakfast table if we’d like to meet the Dodgers that night, we both excitedly said yes. While Doug and I finished our breakfast in anticipation of leaving for school, my mother went to the phone book.
“Joey!” exclaimed my Mom, a mixture of hushed horror and outrage in her voice.
Completely bewildered, I asked with complete honesty, “What?” She held up the phone book and replied sharply, “There are things written in here that contain language that should never be used in this house!”
That jogged my memory. I vaguely recalled writing something the prior October about the Dodgers by the Lasorda’s Tavern display in the Yellow Pages. I must have written that the “Dodgers suck.” Attempting to end this argument quickly I explained with an air of authority, and a bit of condensation, “Mom, that phrase just means they “stink”. Everyone uses that word. It may have originally meant something else when you were a kid, but there is no sexual connotation to saying someone sucks.”
My mother simply glared at me, walked over to the table and set the Yellow Pages down, opened to a full page ad for Lasorda’s Tavern. Because she’d set it down on Doug’s side of the table, I couldn’t make out all the stuff written in ink, but my brother could. To this day, I can still picture him pointing at the page, completely doubled over with his head nearly disappearing below the surface of the table, convulsing with laughter so hard he wasn’t making any sound. I spun the phone book around and read a collection of filthy and vulgar descriptions of Tommy Lasorda. Frankly, I didn’t even know I knew some of those words. I sheepishly looked up at my mom and said, “I admit, those have sexual connotations.”
This caused Doug to tumble to the kitchen floor. My mom unloaded on me as I silently absorbed my punishment: No trip to meet the Dodgers and no collecting baseball cards for the entire season.
For the last thirty years, I’ve told this story, and many others like it, as a cautionary tale and example of the perils of having a little brother.
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Based on page views, the two most popular blog posts I’ve written were the entries a year ago describing the trip my wife and I took to last year’s Kentucky Derby. You may recall that through a series of improbable events involving peer pressure, the camaraderie of a Wall Street trading desk, and a co-worker who knew a guy who had a “horse-guy,” I ended up investing in a partnership which collectively owned a 10% interest in 2012 Kentucky Derby qualifier El Padrino. Last May, El Padrino may have stumbled out of the gate and, somewhat disappointingly finished in the middle of the pack, but his participation in the Run for the Roses allowed my wife and me to dress up, attend the Derby, enjoy copious amounts of mint juleps on an absolutely gorgeous day, and cross an item off my sporting world bucket list.
Although it’s entirely true that in contrast to my colleagues, I had buyer’s remorse the day in 2010 that I wrote the check for the El Padrino investment, their enthusiasm eventually dried up as well. By the time the fall of 2011 rolled around a year later, I had suffered my leg injury, the outlook at the investment bank we had worked at looked bleak, and the emergence of El Padrino as a racing candidate had yet to occur. So all of my friends followed my lead and passed on investing in the next annual syndicate.
It turns out that was a terrible decision. In contrast to the other 90% owners from the 2010 syndicate which owned El Padrino, we were the only ones that didn’t reinvest in the 2011 syndicate. It was a mistake because the 2011 partnership produced Verrazano, who horse racing fans know has been the Kentucky Derby favorite for the last five months. Entered in four different races this winter and spring, Verrazano has never lost a race, including winning the prestigious Wood Memorial. How lucrative has that been for Verrazano’s owners?
Consider our experience with El Padrino. Last winter he won a couple of low-grade races, finished in the money in a couple of others and as a result, we got back about 25% of our original investment before he ever ran in the Derby. Even though he’s since been retired after running just one more race after the Derby, once he turns stud, we will almost certainly get back our entire investment plus a little bit of profit. In horse racing circles, that’s a huge win.
Here’s how that compares with Verrazano: Due to his front-runner, undefeated status all spring, a portion of his rights have already been resold to a wealthy syndicate. (I believe, like a publicly traded company, rather than the existing shares trading hands, more “stock” was issued effectively returning capital to the original shareholders and diluting, but not removing their original interest.) I’m told the investors in the 2011 syndicate that we passed on have already made upwards of 10x their original investment and still retain massive upside should Verrazano win any of the Triple Crown races.
In other words, after buying shares in MySpace, we passed on Facebook.
* * *
As disappointing as it is to have missed on a huge investment win and the opportunity to return to the Kentucky Derby as an owner of one of the two pre-race favorites, I’ve left out one other piece of information, which, from my perspective, makes the story even more painful: Verrazano is the younger brother of El Padrino.
So there you have it – more than 40 years after I reluctantly watched my mother return from the hospital with Doug in her arms, little brothers are still mocking me.
Mop Up Duty:
Joe Peta is the author of Trading Bases, A Story About Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball* (*) Not necessarily in that order, a Dutton Books/Penguin (U.S.A.) publication currently available wherever books are sold. Here are three on-line booksellers you can currently choose from:
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