For years polo players in American wondered about the identity of the shy, moustachioed young man who avoided cameras and never attended the post-game parties. Sue Sally Hale was that “young man.”
[Click Here to see others on the list of the 150 Greatest Female Athletes of All Time for 2016.]
“Sal” Hale, as she was called, was born to Oscar-nominated screenwriter Grover Jones and former ballerina Susan Avery. In childhood, she rode her pony in the hills above a polo field, where she first saw the game.
She quickly developed a high level of skill, and began playing in competitions. But the U.S. Polo Association tournaments banned women from competing, so for nearly two decades Hale played as a man under the name A. Jones.
She resorted to disguise after a visiting team refused to play against her. She pushed her hair under her helmet, flattened her breasts with tape and wore a loose, man’s shirt. Her moustache was supplied by make-up artists her stepfather knew in the film studios. After games she would quickly leave the field, go to her trailer and change. Nobody knew of her subterfuge, but occasionally a guest might wonder where that chap Jones had gone.
Hale was sturdily built and as a polo magazine once reported, “could ride like a Comanche and hit the ball like a Mack truck.” She had married in 1957, and her husband, Alex Hale, supported her disguise. He witnessed her fury when she was barred and later recalled: “She was not just temporarily angry, but permanently mad at the whole world.”
After imploring the U.S. Polo Association to change the rules and threatening to disclose her male masquerade, she was finally sent a membership card in 1972. Hale described receiving the membership card as “the greatest moment in my sporting life.” She continued to tweak the sport’s snobs and once played a game riding a mule, to prove that the animal had intelligence.
Her determination to demonstrate her prowess led her to ride in games through all five of her pregnancies and once, to finish a game after breaking her leg. She recalled the thrill of “going down a field with seven head of horses broadside, getting bumped by 900lb of horse and man, and just holding that line steady for two seconds to make the shot.”
After she began playing openly as a women, she was threatened by male players. She told them: “Gentlemen, better boys than you have tried.”
Susan Sally Hale, polo player and trainer, born August 23 1937; died April 29 2003.
Kim Soo Nyung – One of JanetTV.com’s 150 Greatest Female Athletes of All Time!
Sport: It’s A Female Thing!