Thursday, January 17, 2008

pity the poor historian (yeah, right)

One of the first things I've found is that the history of auto racing hasn't been done very well. That is, it hasn't been done much at all. Which leads to interesting questions.

Like who won the first race at Burnaby, BC's Digney Speedway back in 1948? The race was run by the Washington Midget Racing Association. Originally scheduled for July 7, 1948 it was postponed a day because of bad weather.

So July 8, 1948 was the first race. All the local newspapers (Vancouver Sun, Province and News-Herald) had Shorty Templeman the winner (even if the Sun had his name as "Templeton" in the headline, the rest of the story and box score had his name correct).

So why did the official WMRA record have the winner of that first 40 lap feature as Bob Vorbeck? The newspapers had him second. And the record book has the date as July 7, 1948. And the place as Vancouver (not Burnaby), BC.

Big perplexing problem I know but if you just want to get it right things like this can drive you nuts. (Pity the poor person who has to listen to, or read, a so-called historian.)

One reason why Vorbeck might have been in the record book was that a report in National Speed Sport News named him the winner. (Actually incorrectly typed as "Warbeck" but correspondent Johnny Wright seems to have sent in his B.C. reports written in long hand.) NSSN might have been the source for the research done to compile the records of the WMRA. Johnny and the NSSN had the date, July 8, correct though.

When I spoke with the man who did a lot of the work compiling the WMRA record book and mentioned the Templeman issue he was quite willing to change the winner from Vorbeck to Templeman. And here I'd spent a few years wondering, and asking, if some sort of protest had been lodged and the winner changed.

Apparently not.

Then George Hespe, a member of Golden Wheels (the vintage sprint car/midget car club out of Seattle, WA), emailed what appears to be the entire program of that first race at Digney Speedway from their archives. It's dated July 8, 1948 (in pen, of course) and the time in sheet and results all correspond with what was posted in the Vancouver Sun.

So the winner, as far as I'm concerned, of the first race at Digney Speedway (Burnaby, BC, Canada), Thursday, July 8, 1948, is Shorty Templeman.

And why does this matter? Well, at one point another driver was closing in on Shorty's all-time career win record and I figured Shorty deserved one more win just to make it a passing of the true benchmark. Well, that guy went past Shorty's number by a large margin so one more win wouldn't have made all that much a difference in that situation.

But the WMRA record should be changed. And I guess this post is the first case made to change it. It only took me close to ten years to get to this point on a 60 year old race.

History seems to have nothing but time.

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