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Sharon B. Smith
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At the turn of the last century, harness racing drew larger crowdsand offered bigger paychecks than any other sport. Its stars werehousehold names, and Dan Patch was both the most celebratedand the richest. As successful as he was on the track, Dan Patchwas also America s first marketing machine: the horse who couldsell cigars, washing machines, stoves, automobiles, and animal feed, just by the presence of his name and photograph. The Best ThereEver Was examines the evolution of sports marketing through thelives of Dan Patch and the three men who owned him: an Indianabreeder, Dan Messner; M. E. Sturgis, who sold the horse for$20,000 (a fortune in those days) and spent the rest of his life tryingto buy him back; and Marion W. Savage of Minneapolis, whoseentrepreneurial skills presaged today s sports marketing geniuses.
Any athlete who can draw a 90,000-person crowd, offer up worldrecords, and then sell a coal stove with his name on it may wellbe the best by anybody s standards. A fun and fascinating read forsports lovers.
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