Cardinals Baseball Club, family & friends gathered yesterday at Cringila Hotel (or the South Pacific as it's known to most) to remember the life and times of legend Sam Pianegonda. As befits the status of such a man, he had one final part to play.
A quick look at the TAB screens drew the eye of many to a particular horse running at Ballarat, horse number 7 On The Cards. At this place, on this day, this was a horse that had to be backed. Far from being favourite, the assembled crowd knew that this was going to be a symbolic gesture to Sam, his final punt at his favourite watering hole. George Carpathious quickly organised a whip around, five bucks each or whatever loose change people had, quickly netted approx $130 to stick on the nose of this old nag. Bet placed, everyone sat back and quietly kissed this money good-bye.
Sometime later, attention is drawn back to the screens, the race is about to start. The gates open and out jumps our champion, looking like it's got an appointment at the glue factory after the race. It probably did because it came out running like there was no tomorrow. A bit of interest starts running through the pub, although most of it is mumbling that the dopey horse has come out too soon and won't last the distance. However, someone says it's only 1200m, it might be a chance here. Coming round the turn and it's still in front, the shouts of hope are starting to attract attention. There's a couple of chasers but they aren't making up the ground. On The Cards is out in front by a couple of lengths. 200m still in front, the crowd is on it's feet. 100m it's still in front, the crowd is screaming at the screens, On The Cards, On The Cards, go you good thing! 50m, 20m, 10m done! This horse has had an extra jockey chasing it down the straight. The noise has lifted the roof off the pub, the TAB is paying out $10.90, arrangements are made for a healthy donation to the charity tin on the bar, a couple of hundred on the tab for the arvo's drinks and the sizeable balance to be donated to Sam's beloved Cardinals.
No one can believe what's just happened but you can't make this stuff up. We've all witnessed what can only be Sam's final play!
Somewhere looking over us, Sam & Shirley are smiling and laughing and cheering On The Cards!