PETERS: Hall Induction Spurs Memories
The induction ceremony for the class of 2007 members into the National Midget Hall of Fame ceremony held in January brought back any number of memories regarding some members of the illustrious group.
Perhaps the most colorful is Danny Kladis. One never knows what the glib Greek might come up with next. Watching Kladis on the race track was always a new excitement.
His niche was with the midgets and while he operated out of his Chicagoland home, he raced everywhere between the Rockies and the Appalachians.
While making a number of attempts at Indy, Kladis’s participation consisted of a sole race — the first post-war event when he drove a flat-head Ford V-8 to finish 21st. Kladis is the sole-surviving driver from that race, and is now in his 90s.
Thus, we move along to another standout — Roscoe “Pappy” Hough (1902-1995). At the peak of his career, Hough had a fleet of five midgets competing along the East Coast. They were best known as the Little Pigs, for their ugly appearance.
Yet, Hough was more concerned with winning than in cosmetic luster.
On occasion, he would dispatch cars to different tracks to run the same evening, as he saw little virtue in all of his cars competing against one another.
The “Pappy” nickname was derived from his leadership role one winter while competing in Texas. Hough’s personality and leadership saw him as a take-charge chap among the group of East Coast drivers who ventured West. Hough pushed the 10 or so cars in his caravan to make the next race, possibly a considerable distance away when all travel was on two-lane highways.
When Hough decided on a rest stop, the other teams had time for a very brief nap. Asked how he stayed awake, Hough said he’d light up a cigarette and if he started to doze off, when the cig burned to his fingers he was up, alert and ready to move on.
When midget racing began to slow a few years after World War II, Hough turned to stock cars. He dabbled with NASCAR during its early years, competing in 18 races between 1950 and 1952, and three more contests in 1955 before drawing his driving career to a close.
When Hough was in his 80s and we called, we were often informed that he was out in his Gasoline Alley shop in Paterson, N. J., working under a car on its CV drive or U joint. He swore that he remained limber by giving his joints a rubdown with WD 40 each evening before going to bed. I kid you not.
His speed was not restricted to race tracks, for more than one passenger riding with Hough swore he would never accompany the New Jersey daredevil again.
While in his late 80s, Hough was making old timers get-togethers in Chicago or Indy and he still resorted to driving straight through.
The last trip, made to Indy, nearly broke his heart, as his passenger insisted that they stop for the night at a motel, and there he was only 60 miles away from the intended destination.
In his late years, Hough donated money to a vintage museum or for other racing needs. He explained that racing made the money for him and “I’m now paying back some of it.”
When asked to name the best driver he ever employed, without hesitation, Hough named Art Cross.
Hough was a great credit to the sport and well deserving of the recognition offered by the Midget Hall of Fame. Hough lived to the age of 93.
Another inductee was the laconic Texan, the one and only Lloyd Ruby. His illustrious career with midgets began in 1946 and he competed throughout the 1950s before moving on to USAC’s champ car division.
During his time with the midgets, his racing activities were widespread; reaching across Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Missouri, Illinois, etc, with even a short stint out East.
Without a doubt, Rube is best remembered for his Indy 500 runs, where he was a top contender, leading the race on a number of occasions only to be plagued with one problem or another.
While victorious elsewhere, he never notched a coveted Indy 500 triumph, though he did score seven top-10 runs; the best being third in 1964.
Unfortunately, for many fans, among his 18 starts, one quickly recalled is the 1969 show, when during a pit stop while leading, the car lunged forward while the refueling hose was still inserted. The sad mishap resulted in a 20th-place finish.
Ruby’s down-home nature, plus his racing skills endeared him to countless fans and placed him among the most popular drivers.
When not overseeing some oil interests, Lloyd has been a regular on golf courses.
Come May, he can be found “Back Home Again in Indiana” as he visits with a legion of friends, that is, when not on the Speedway’s golf course.