“It’s a jungle in there,” visitors would hear the voice bellow as they entered the Canterbury Park grandstand. “Don’t go in without it.” The ‘it’ referred to was Big Jake’s Green Sheet and the voice was that of Jake Mauer. A Canterbury legend. Big Jake, patriarch of the Mauer baseball family, passed away on Aug. 11 at the age of 89. Jake sold his Green Sheet horse selections for $2 to the masses for many years beginning in 1985 until retiring about a decade ago. Maybe initially when the sport was new to Minnesota it was, but eventually it wasn’t, really the selections he was selling. Sure he had winners like anyone else. But those choosing to buy the sheet were paying for that interaction with Big Jake, that personality.
In the first days of Canterbury Downs the tip sheet hawkers were many. One by one Jake knocked them off until he was the last one left.
“Had the double,” he’d yell after race two. Did he really? He just drew the circle big enough to include the winners of each of the day’s previous races on the Green Sheet that hung on display on his stand per Racing Commission rules. The two bucks wasn’t for the winners the two bucks was for Big Jake. The hug, handshake or smile.
When Big Jake retired Kevin Gorg took over the tip sheet business selling his Power Plays selections. What color was Gorg’s sheet ? Gorg is savvy. He understood the legacy and the work that came before him. The Power Play sheet was also green.
“It’s the color of money,” Big Jake would proclaim as crowd approached him on their way to the track apron. He grabbed up that stack of cash from the day’s work, packed it in his case, rolled his stand to safety under the stairwell and was out the door and headed to St. Paul before the horses crossed the wire for race three. And the next racing day it started again.
“What a gem of a human being,” Gorg said upon hearing the news.
Big Jake was indeed a legend, both at the racetrack and in St. Paul where he and much of his family lived.
He was an important part of the race day experience. He added to the mystique, especially for those new to the track. Did this Big Jake really have all the secrets? It was worth two bucks to find out. Again, the experience. That’s what racing must be about if it is to create new fans that
turn into bettors.
Big Jake is in the Canterbury Hall of Fame for good reason.
During the slow part of the day before race fans began streaming in, those that had a chance to visit could always get a good story out of Jake. You might ask him for a sneak peek, maybe a winner to look forward to. The Green Sheet. You just did not go in without it.
Johnny Love provided his selections in the Star Tribune and he too had great respect for Jake.
“Jake Mauer was always the first person I saw walking through the Canterbury doors,” Love said. “We would rib each other with our picks, and then talk Twin Cities high school sports.” Mauer was a 3-sport star at Cretin High in St. Paul and went on to Mankato State on a scholarship.
“My favorite memory,” Love said, “was introducing him to me wife Shawn. He gave her the biggest hug, and she loved it! Of course he would continue that tradition. He’s a true legend at Canterbury Park. Two dollar tip sheets and free hugs.”