The formula was simple: Merge stolen horses from Monmouth Park and a jockey who might have been a fifth grader at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School – cross your fingers and pray for hay. Throw in a publicist, three disgruntled OTB operators, a salsa dance instructor and two race fixers and you’ve got the makings of a first rate equestrian team. The league producing Cleopatra Whyte, warrior horse woman of Asbury Park legend, who, aboard the chimerical steed, Ethiopian Flicka, rode to a fourth place finish at the 1970 FEI European Show Jumping Championships.
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While the US halted the printing of the $10,000 bill and feet were mired in the mud of Woodstock, boxing mania swept through the West Side of Asbury. The son of a prominent Nicaraguan lawn service manager, Jose ‘Joey Blades’ Jardena was an obvious target when Sandinista rebels hijacked a San Carlos bound flight from Teterboro, NJ in April of 1969, ultimately putting numerous rounds through the budding boxing impresario’s body. After several years and as many surgeries, he would break ground in founding and forming Asbury Park’s first boxing institute. These (mostly) child pugilists, whether fastidiously trained or shockingly green, included 10-year-old Institute member Irv Abramson, who, fighting under the moniker ‘Kid Moskovitz’ earned a shot for the Super Mini Flyweight belt at the 1973 Parve Championships held at the Red Bank Armory in July of that year.
Fueled by the financial drippings of Neptune number runners and boosted by the next door neighbors of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, The Cookman Ave Kickball Club offered athletic asylum for a rising crop of rogue soul men, Pine Barrens vocal ensembles and federal witness protection program members. Helmed by a friendly consortium of hustlers, parole officers and former pee wee gridiron giants – this club, led by Dr. Jerry Allen, the godfather of the South Side of Toms River kickball scene, grabbed the Asbury kickball city title for three years running circa ’68-’70.
Having been rejected from both the Long Branch Speedway and Wall Stadium, this fruity blend of Monte Carlo pool boys, Deal Lake lifeguards, second deck cruise ship karaoke contestants, armchair drag racers and double-dutch runner ups were led by Akron, OH transplant and 1935 Soap Box Derby champion Maurice Bale Jr. With the team assembled at the intersection of Bond and Main Streets in Asbury Park, Bale declared it the gravity racing capital of the nation, even though there was less than a 2% gradient rise. The Bond St. Boxcar Racers were a fusion of its captain’s engineering genius and their limited economic means; utilizing left over balsa from the high school wood shop, stolen rod collars and borrowed steering wheels.
By 1971, Asbury Park, NJ, once a finalist for a Tree City USA distinction by the DEA, had succumbed to despair, laissez-faire and general malaise…putting a weighty lid on a city that once cooked up world changing talent. Enter Lee ‘Fort’ Lee. Already a living legend for his work at the Garden State Parkway’s Exit 102 toll booth; Lee channeled his talents for horse rustling, mountaineering and sailboat rigging into forming and coaching Asbury’s first tug of war club. Aiming to keep the kids off the streets, out of gangs and in the school house via the centuries old sport of tug of war. Lee, along with 1966 TWIF bronze medalist Nutley Jackson, forged a sporting society from which young Asbury men and women corkscrewing downward could ride the tug of war groove onwards and upwards.