Category Polo

Sydney Smith, Polo’s Gift to Baseball

When I hear the name Sydney Smith, my thoughts fly to the English wit and cleric (1771- 1845) whose letters are among the most delightful ever written. However, there is another Sydney Smith who, while not so quotable, is still interesting. Born in 1883 in Smithville, South Carolina, a small town just south of Camden, […]

Polo Widows

Louise Astor Van Alen Mdivani Alexis and Serge Mdivani, two Georgian princes who fled to Paris after the Soviet invasion of their birthplace in 1921, excelled at marrying wealthy women and creating polo widows, the latter skill financed by the former. In 1931, Alexis Mdivani married Louise Astor Van Alen, but in 1933 he dumped […]

Pig Sticking

I was reading about polo in India and the role played by the British military in bringing polo from India to England, and thence to the United States, when I came across another British sport in India that involved a spear rather than a mallet, and an enraged boar rather than a ball. Pig sticking […]

Disentangling Hockey and Polo

Today, hockey and polo are fairly distinct sports. No one confuses the two. But in the early days of both sports, especially between 1880 and 1900, it wasn’t so easy to sort things out. In the beginning, “hockey” had nothing to do with ice. Also called “hookey” or “hawkey,” it was a centuries-old field game […]

Mary Duncan Sanford

December 9, 2003 I am easily distracted. The other day, in search of information on polo player Stephen “Laddie” Sanford, whose Hurricanes won the U.S. Open five times in three different decades, I learned that Laddie had graced the cover of Time magazine, knew Cole Porter, played polo on Long Island and in Hollywood, summered […]

Polo Cookies

August 2002 About midway through the second chukker, one of the tournament organizers gave us each a chocolate chip cookie. He had made 200 the night before, for the players and their families after the match was over. I asked him if this meant there were now 198 cookies, and he said, “No, there has […]

Cheever Cowdin and The Son of Dracula

I was researching J. Cheever Cowdin, a polo player of note, when Google directed me to a Spanish-language site dedicated to horror films and this photo of Louise Allbritton as a southern heiress waiting for a warm glass of milk in The Son of Dracula (1943). Needless to say, I was fascinated by this turn […]

Marjorie LeBoutillier

I have a special affection for extraordinary people who have been largely, and unfairly, forgotten, and one of my recent favorites is Marjorie LeBoutillier, a polo player of great ability. She first surfaces in Aiken, South Carolina, in Harry Worcester Smith’s Life and Sport in Aiken and Those Who Made It (1935), in which he […]

Henry Babcock, Yale and Polo

Henry Denison Babcock Jr. had the world by the tail. His grandfather, Samuel D. Babcock, was a wealthy businessman with a home on Fifth Avenue, a “country seat” at Riverdale-on-Hudson, and memberships in the Metropolitan, Union and Manhattan clubs, the New York Yacht Club, and the Country Club of Westchester County. Henry’s father, Henry Babcock […]

Griswold Lorillard and Polo’s Westchester Cup

Nathaniel Griswold Lorillard became famous for something he didn’t do, and has been almost completely forgotten in connection with something he actually did do. To begin, he was born in clover. His father was Pierre Lorillard IV, head of a tobacco company that had been thriving since 1760 (and thrives to this day). The lad […]