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Horse racing and baseball linked by 140 years of history

By Steve Davidowitz

It's snowing in the east again.

It's ice cold in the midwest and they're even doing the Luge in a small Russian town hosting the current cold weather Olympics.

Add all that together and it can only mean one thing: Spring is in the air.

Yes, Spring! Want proof?

Legions of major league baseball players are reporting for spring training in Florida and Arizona. Dozens of the best 3-year-old Thoroughbred racehorses are revving up for the Kentucky Derby in prep races every weekend.

This link between horse racing and baseball is not something conjured up just to bring two familiar spring sports together. The two sports have been linked together for nearly 140 years.

The Kentucky Derby -- and the rest of the American Triple Crown series -- began during the same few years when professional baseball was taking root in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York, St. Louis and the Derby's home town of Louisville, Kentucky. In 1876, the National League of professional baseball made its debut, barely a year after the first Kentucky Derby was won by Aristides.

As many baseball players, club owners, managers and coaches will attest, the relationship between the game of bats and balls and horse racing goes even deeper than the 19th Century when they became national sports. So says Paul LoDuca Jr., a former All Star catcher, now an expert commentator on TVG, one of two prominent satellite television networks broadcasting thousands of horse races every year.

"Horse racing is not just a bunch of jockeys riding fast, four legged athletes," LoDuca said. "For fans of the sport, it's an intellectually challenging game, just like baseball challenges fans who know how much thinking goes into what we do on the field."

 George Steinbrenner was the second Major League Baseball owner to start a horse in the Kentucky Derby, (AP)

Read more at ESPN


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