Stop me if you have heard this before, for I have a sneaking hunch I’ve already said plenty on hunch bets. But I’ve always been a staunch believer in going against the odds and leaning toward sound wisdom — like the color of the horse or a cousin’s favorite number.
Dew Drop Morgan, who left us in November, was all the richer for playing his age in the daily double on his 49th birthday on one of his annual pilgrimages to Saratoga. He made quite a score, raking in more than $2,400 and change on a $10 wager.
Dew Drop always liked his chances and why not? He cheated death twice behind enemy lines in World War II and again on the operating table in New York City.
He once took a hit in blackjack standing 17. He busted, but never flinched as they dealt him another hand.
The odds were never very good that Dew would outlive his three brothers, given his passion for death-defying acts like bobsledding and other feats of daring. But, lo, he easily was the last Morgan boy standing by a good 10 years.
Mount Van Hoevenberg tried its best to break the bones and spirit of a Derring-Dew. Veteran bobsledders could point to just about any curve on the old mile chute and offer a twist of fate involving the Iceman reincarnate. His sleds bore the scars of many a losing battle with the unforgiving serpentine slide. Through it all, though, he emerged a champion bobsledder and a popular figure on the international sports scene.
In business, Dew Drop was a poor man’s Toots Shor, the renowned raconteur and New York City saloon-keeper of the fifties and sixties — a character straight out of the pages of Damon Runyon. Dew, with the aura of an entertainer, brought the little city of the Adirondacks to life each night while orchestrating the Lullaby of Broadway.
No celebrity — sports or otherwise — worth his salt would pass through Saranac Lake without stopping at Dew’s for dinner, a drink or to pass the time. The aspiring actress Faye Dunaway worked one summer for Dew on her way to fame a few years later in the movie classic, Bonnie and Clyde.
NFL Hall of Famer Ernie Stautner and Dodgers’ pitching great Johnny Podres were regulars. Muhammad Ali stopped by for pizza one summer night on his way back from Buster Crabbe’s camp.
It was first and foremost a sports establishment and definitely the place to be at World Series time, especially if Dew’s beloved Yankees were in the Fall Classic, as they were with regularity from 1947-64. Dew was known to dish up free hot dogs and refreshments to patrons present whenever a Bronx Bomber hit a home run. At the rate Mickey Mantle and his cohorts were sending baseballs flying out of the Stadium, it’s a wonder Dew Drop survived to see another October.
The Series would always end with a big splash — either Dew Drop (alias the Yankee Dipper) or Dodger diehard Chuck Pandolph (a fellow bobsledder and mixologist a few doors up the hill on Broadway) would take the plunge off the Saranac River bridge. It was great theater and regardless of who won, both good-natured fellows would eventually wind up in the drink.
Dew had a heart as big as the outdoors. I can recall one time our high-school basketball team was in Potsdam for a game and for no reason other than we were from Saranac Lake, Dew treated us to a lobster dinner at his place, the Dew Drop Up.
He also ran a nightclub in Plattsburgh called the 13 Morgans on the Lake Shore Road. Perhaps it was his humble beginning on the farm, but Dew never seemed to worry about money. A waitress once had to remind Dew it was payday and his reply was “take it out of the register.” A trusting soul, but not always a good businessman.
Of course, with so many friends, Dew figured he could give you the shirt off his back and be clothed in the warmth of his countless connections.
He was a great booster of Saranac Lake sports — from his own Little League team aptly named Dew Drop’s Little Yankees to the college teams in the area. In the early seventies, he rounded up a group of hoop standouts — mostly from Paul Smith’s College — and went on to win the PBA Basketball Tournament in Plattsburgh.
Forrest was his real name and he was fiercely proud of it. He went to his grave believing that Forest Evashevski was a better football player than his much-heralded Michigan teammate Tom Harmon. Although Harmon won the Heisman Trophy in 1940, Evashevski was the team’s captain and its most dynamic personality, Besides being the greatest quarterback Michigan legend Fritz Crisler ever coached, Evi was the catcher on the baseball team, senior class president and an honor society member. And he had a great fan in Dew Drop Morgan.
We could write volumes on Dew Drop, but the business at hand is the Kentucky Derby. While poring over the names and past performances of today’s hopefuls, I had a hunch Dew Drop would have gone heavy on the WWII Connection — Normandy Invasion, the War Pass colt Revolutionary, and Lines of Battle, out of War Front. Then the old bridge-jumper no doubt would throw in Verrazano to complete the superfecta.
That’s 5-3-11-14 if you’re scoring.