THE 1991 COMCAST Triple Crown Ball had all the makings of a glittering evening. Bob Hope was the honorary chair who couldn't attend, but co-chairs Lynda O'Dea and Frank Deford did a great job. Deford, editor of the all-sports tab, The National, and the national chairman of Cystic Fibrosis, is a man Jim McKay introduced as one of the best sports writers in the country.
I had the pleasure of sitting with Deford and his wife, Carol, Frank and Faith Riggs, Pat Krongard and Harvey and Ann Clapp, owners of that fine Mt. Washington restaurant, Cafe des Artistes. Nearby were Susan and Charles Offutt, Stephen Burch, Sen. and Mrs. Vernon Boozer, Katy Voss and Bob Manfuso, Jan and Ordell Braase, Joe DeFrancis and Rebecca Raynes, Bill Fogel and Carolyn Burridge, Jean and Ken Wilson, Ray Haysbert, Mark Hopkins, George and Carol McGowan, King Leatherbury, Joan and Billy Boniface, Barbara Manekin, Kip Mandris and Terry Ezrine, Clarisse Mechanic, Eileen Rehrmann, Alan Rifkin, Brooks and Connie Robinson, Nancy and Chick Lang, Henry Rosenberg, Father Joe Sellinger, Pam Shriver, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Meeker and last but never least, the lady who chaired the first Triple Crown Ball, Margaret (McKay) McManus.
Comedian Tim Conway put on a fabulous show. But I must tell you, I had met him earlier at Pimlico, allegedly to interview him. Have you ever tried to interview a comedian about a subject you know little about, horses? He was very funny, but what happens is that he's so outrageous that you become a comedian too, so nothing is accomplished. I did learn that he writes most of his own material, loves to be a guest track announcer, wanted to be a jockey, has seven children, owns eight horses and declares he has a serious side.
Four years ago, he and his jockey friend, Chris McCarron, and McCarron's wife Judy, founded the Don McBeth Memorial Jockey Fund. The fund, which Conway and jockeys from all over the country contribute to, has assisted about 140 injured jockeys or those with medical needs.
Lots of Baltimore businesses sponsor "A Day at the Races" for friends and clients while the horses are running at Pimlico. (Included in the deal is lunch and a race named after your company.) I joined the Fernandez family -- Jeanne, Mario Sr. and Jr., Peter and Carmen -- owners of Delta Graphics, the official graphic designer of the Preakness Week program, poster and ads, for a celebration party at the track. According to Sandra Cuneo, Preakness Celebration's executive director, Delta's posters were a tremendous hit with poster collectors.
Guests who dine in the Maryland Jockey Club are really more into watching horses than people. But a few eyebrows did raise when comedian Phyllis Diller walked in with the owner of Arlington Park, Joe Albritton, who turned out to be the owner of the Preakness winner, Hansel.
Congratulations to two of my favorite sports people, ABC's Jim McKay and Sam Lacy, who worked at the Afro American for 38 BTC years, many of those years as sports editor. Both picked up awards from the Maryland Jockey Club at the Alibi Breakfast last Friday morning. McKay, who is the long-time emcee of this delightful breakfast, where owners and trainers talk about the performance of their horse in the Derby and what they expect of the horse in the Preakness, was surprised when track owner Joe DeFrancis gave him a special award. And I bet Lacy was surprised when he got home with his pewter plate and saw that someone had spelled Afro -- "Airo."
Phoebe Berman, widow of Dr. Edgar Berman, hosted her first Preakness party in years and had some special newlyweds as her guests of honor. Mr. and Mrs. Jack Whitaker -- he's with ABC Sports -- have been married for about six weeks and seem divinely happy. Both had been single for many years.
Again this year, Preakness Village was a smashing success. It has the air of a large garden party where most people stroll from tent to tent to greet friends. (Most of the tents are friendly, just a few are not.) I spotted Blue Cross Blue Shield's Carl Sardenga and Karen and David Wolf, Care First, chatting and greeting guests at their lovely tent. Nearby, BG&E exec George McGowan looked dazzling in a beautiful teal silk linen blazer. Dick Birkmeyer was the gracious host of the AT&T tent. And my buddies from Winner Distributors, Mark Winner, Jim Gardner, George Acton and Bernard Wynne, were picking winners like "Dr. Fish" at the Maryland Million tent.