Tim Mara

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Tim Mara, front left.

As the 2012 Super Bowl champion New York Giants enjoy a ticker-tape parade in Lower Manhattan, here’s a classic 1934 photograph of Tim Mara, a grade-school dropout and bookie who purchased the rights to the franchise for $500 in 1925. In this picture, Mara (1887-1859) is at a familiar haunt, the Jamaica Race Track in Queens, conducting some business. A passage about the team patriarch from Barry Gotteher’s The Giants Of New York The History Of Professional Football’s Most Fabulous Dynasty:

“As a youngster on New York City’s Lower West Side in the early years of this century, blond, pink-cheeked Timothy James Mara had no time for games. To help support his widowed mother and himself, he rushed from his morning classes at P. S. 14 to his afternoon newspaper route along Broadway. After a hurried dinner, he was at the Third Avenue Theatre every evening working as an usher. ‘It just got to be too much for a thirteen-year-old,’ he later recalled, ‘so I quit school.’

Timmy Mara was ambitious. Delivering his newspapers to the St. Denis and Union Square hotels, he was fascinated by the color and confidence of the well-heeled bookmakers who flourished le’gally in those days of plenty. At fourteen, Timmy started working as a runner collecting small tips if the bettor won or 5 percent commissions if he lost and by the time he was eighteen he was taking book himself. He opened a bindery for legal manuscripts on Nassau Street, but, within a few months, he was doing more bookmaking than bookbinding. Affable, gregarious, and honest, he made friends and customers easily; so easily that in 1921 he decided to close his successful downtown office and open a betting enclosure in the most exclusive section at Belmont Race Track. It was a bold and risky venture, but despite some early losses including $60,000 on a fillie named Sally’s Alley in 1922 Mara survived to build one of the best businesses and reputations in New York. Win or lose, Tim Mara was always good for a smile and a joke. ‘Where did you get that one from?’ he’d bellow to a prospective bettor. ‘If that animal wins, I’ll give you my watch.’”

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