Track of dreams
Dreams die hard: Montreal wants another baseball team, Hartford wants another hockey team, and Hinsdale wants another harness track.
Maybe not everybody in Hinsdale, but Bill Faucher does, and Faucher’s not the sort to be taken lightly. He’s part businessman, part politician and all horseman, a passion that began on his parents’ farm in Southbridge.
The 74-year-old Faucher moved to Hinsdale after he married a local girl. That was 50 years ago when the harness track was open and his stable of standardbreds included a pair of claimers named Sure Show and Sea Train that grossed over $1.5 million. He raced his own horses and retired in 1987 with 1,485 wins.
Faucher is a former state senator and businessman who founded Faucher Paper and helped several other entities get started, including Ed’s Tire, Phantom Fireworks and the Route 63 Convenience Store. He has a knack for making a buck.
Now he’s putting his money into an OTB parlor a mile south of the old racetrack and will use it as a wellspring to finance and build a harness track. He owns 51 percent of the enterprise and the Western New England Harness Horsemen’s Association owns the rest.
“This was something I’d been preaching to them. They need to create their own business and generate their own purse schedule. You can’t be successful piggy-backed on another business. You gotta survive by yourself.”
The walls are up, and the building is scheduled to open on November 1, perhaps sooner.
OTB parlors make money by getting a piece of the action on every simulcast wager placed at their building. The bets are made either on-site or by telephone. “Ours will be dedicated accounts. Everything will be bonded,” Faucher said of the phone wagering, making a reference to the fiasco that happened at the bankrupt track.
He doesn’t expect huge crowds and the building will hold 50. There will be snacks but no restaurant, and bettors can bring their own booze. “We’ll have a refrigerator, they can bring their own drinks but take them when they leave, and that’s perfectly all right with me.”
Along with comfortable seating and tables and counter tops, “I’ll have a nice porch. Somebody gets frustrated, they can go outside.”
His half-dozen employees might include Richard Johnson, the former general manager at Hinsdale Race Track. “Funny you should mention that name. He’s married to my niece. I’ve asked him if he’s interested.”
It’s not nepotism that would land Johnson the job. He knows the business from the ground up and kept his wits in a volatile working environment under owner Joe Sullivan III.
Faucher stressed his OTB operation won’t be something out of a shady Elmore Leonard novel. “The harness business has been very good to me. I’m going to set a good example, I want a real first-class outfit.”
Faucher is lean and alert and working in Maine, where he’s the starter on the fair circuit in towns like Skowhegan, Presque Isle and Topsham. He rides in a Cadillac ahead of the horses trotting behind him waiting to race.
“I’m in charge right up to when the gate folds and we’re off. You’d be surprised, some of these guys, what they’re doing ... .”
Behind the OTB building is 170 acres of forest that extend uphill and out of view. “On top there’s nothing but a plateau. I have spoken for the property and hopefully it’ll become available in August.”
There’s no turning back. The cards have hit the table and Richard Faucher is all in.
At Fenway Park on Monday, I was in the same box seat I had one week ago. Ace Ticket wanted $232, but StubHub had it priced to move at $110. It pays to shop around.
A rain delay provided the opportunity to browse the souvenir shop and circle some gifts for the crazy Red Sox fan in your family. A bottle opener carved from a game-used bat will cost you a mere $150, and cufflinks made from authentic Fenway Park seats are but $170. An authentic seatback that thousands of sweaty backs have rested against is only $350 and these plastic molds are great for winter sledding.
Baseball Notes: Felix Doubront has a mean streak that serves him well. After Rays’ shortstop Yunel Escobar singled twice off him Monday, Doubront plunked him with malice aforethought. ... It’s taken less than five weeks for Tampa’s Wil Myers to go from being a minor leaguer to clean-up hitter. This North Carolinian is the real deal, and he reminds me of a baseball version of Tom Brady. ... The Red Sox got the starting pitcher they need in Jake Peavy to contend with Tampa down the stretch, and the Rays got reliever Jesse Crain, who had a 0.74 ERA with the White Sox before he went on the disabled list a month ago. If he gets healthy, the Rays will have the right-handed setup man they need to complement southpaw Alex Torres and his 0.29 ERA.
The old barn where Eddie Shore’s Indians hockey team played in West Springfield will be the venue for the third-annual Hockey Day at the Coliseum on Aug. 10. Sponsored by the Springfield Hockey Heritage Society, the event will attract former fans and players to reminisce about the days when the American Hockey League was a barnstorming circuit composed of players on the cusp of making the six-team big-time. The cost is $20 and includes a catered lunch. There will be raffles and merchandise for sale. For more information, call Lou Bordeaux at (413) 650-7447.
Squibbers: During last Sunday’s rain delay in Baltimore, Jerry Remy was asked when he started wearing a moustache. With the Angels when he was a rookie, he answered. “Moustache, no moustache, I’m still ugly. It doesn’t make a difference one way or the other.” ... That was 45 pitches by Barry Zito in the first inning against Philly on Tuesday. He left after three innings and took the loss. ... I have to agree with the New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick that Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano is a “minimalist superstar.” Dustin Pedroia is half the size and twice the player. ... Nice to see John Hennessy will be back in the booth with Brock Hines for the upcoming UMass hockey season on WHMP. Hennessy is a former NHL broadcaster and his pairing with Hines ensures a top-notch description. ... Word’s out that Minutemen coach John Micheletto has a new goalie this season, and we thank the hockey gods that a possible savior has been found. ... We hear that with a little help from his friends, Pioneer basketball coach Dave Hastings might survive the palace coup. ... Daniel Nava being called out at home plate on Monday reminded me of my coach Red Ball, who had trouble pronouncing his “r’s” and when infuriated would remove his glasses and yell: “Hey Ump, you wanna bowow my gwasses, you’re missing a pwetty good game!”
Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.