Monday, January 14, 2013
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has announced that the 2013 AIAA Pendray Aerospace Literature Award has been won by Ronald F. Probstein, professor emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brookline, Mass. Probstein is being honored for his “Seminal contributions to hypersonics, synthetic fuels, water purification, and phsysicochemical hydrodynamics.” Dr. Probstein's most recent work is Honest Sid: Memoir of a Gambling Man, a story of bookies and bettors, fighters and fixers, players and suckers set against the often-romanticized backdrop of Depression-era New York. Click here for more information on the Pendray Award.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
When my father Honest Sid was bookmaking on the New York streets he often took me with him. His idea of what he thought a seven-year old needed to know is described on pages 99-100:
"You remember what I told you a parlay was? You bet on one horse to win and you take those winnings and put it onto another horse to win." "I know what a parlay is, Dad." "Okay. You make a two-dollar win parlay bet on Sideline in the first race and Roadrunner in the second race. They both win. Sideline pays $8 and Roadrunner pays $6. How much do you get? Work it out so I can see what you're thinkin'." "That's easy, Dad. It's $24. Sideline wins $8, so I can put four bets on Roadrunner. Then Roadrunner pays $6 for each of my $2 bets. So I get $24. But I like the other way you taught me better." "Okay, so do that, but let me hear what you're thinkin' again." "Oh, Dad, I just multiply the winning price on both horses and divide by two." My father stood silent, leaning against a car and waiting for me to continue. "Okay, so Sideline pays $6. Roadrunner pays $8. Six times eight is forty-eight. To get the answer I just go two into forty-eight. It's twenty-four. Putting his arm around me, my father pulled me toward him and with a big smile said, "That was great, kid, but tomorrow I'm gonna see how you do when we start bettin' across-the board." With that he pulled a dime out of his pocket and gave it to me, adding, "You won it."
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Barry Mitchell of CUNY TV interviewed Honest Sid author Ronald Probstein for his program "Science and U!" on 12/27/2011.
ForeWord Clarion has reviewed Honest Sid and awarded it 5 out of 5 possible stars! The review notes that the "engaging memoir" is likely to find favor with a large audience, and praises it as "tightly edited and concisely written", with "Dickensian settings and characters" and dialog between them being "spot-on". Read the entire review in PDF form here: http://www.probstein.com/Clarion_Review_Honest_Sid.pdf
Kirkus Reviews has written up "Honest Sid, Memoir of a Gambling Man" saying it "Loved" this "delightful life story" is imbued with "appealing nostalgia" that "brings to life a place and time now long gone". Read the complete review here: http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ronald-probstein/honest-sid/
Thursday, October 6, 2011
On pages 64 to 67 of Honest Sid I wrote about one horse parlor in NYC that my father took me to when I was five years old. Such a betting parlor was "illegal" but there were dozens spotted throughout the City all with the sufferance of the police who were paid off to turn their heads the other way. Although their were differences in the locations and physical characteristics of the horse parlors all of them had features common to Charlie Goodheim's parlor described in the book. On p. 65 I write about my experience:
My father took my hand and together we walked through the back door [of the cigar shop] into Charlie Goodheim's horse parlor. With its cement floor and bare stone walls, it looked like it had once been part of a garage. Men in suits with fedoras pushed back off their foreheads stood around alone or in groups, or sat on folding wooden chairs lined up in rows facing a long chalkboard running nearly the length of one wall. All eyes were on that chalkboard. A man in shirtsleeves, wearing earphones connected to a long wire stood on a platform in front of the board, erasing numbers and writing down new ones.... Along another wall two men wearing green eyeshades sat behind the silver bars of the cashier's cages, counting out money with a snap and a flourish while a staccato voice coming, through a speaker box described a horse race in progress. A heavy pall of cigarette and cigar smoke hung over the room. The customers seemed subdued, speaking quietly if at all, but the atmosphere was electric.
On p. 66 I describe one of the race descriptions that came through continuously:
In the sixth at Hialeah—the flag is up! They're off and running... Into the final turn and Ladybug is ahead by a length... Blue Devil is coming up fast on the outside... They're into the stretch! Neck and neck—and it's Blue Devil by a nose at the wire." The announcer stopped talking for a few minutes after the race, and my father pointed to the chalkboard. The Board Marker was listing the payoffs... numbers next to the horses' names changed as the Board Marker continually erased and entered new figures. My father said, "He's changing them numbers to show how the odds shift before a race. It depends how much dough people bet on a horse. The more they bet that he's gonna win, the more the odds go down."