There has been some interesting discussion about who is the best polo player of all time. Personally, I would have thought that Adolfo Cambiaso would be the obvious choice of almost everybody. But it is not so. Other very knowledgeable people have their own ideas of who is the best. Two other names have come up already, Juan Carlos Harriott of Argentina, who won no fewer than 20 Argentine Opens!, and Cecil Smith of Texas who was a 10-goal player for 25 years!. Personally I like all three of these great players, although in different ways. Perhaps we can learn something from each of them. But there is one who is my personal all-time favorite, and I will talk about him first. Please feel free to post your own personal favorites. Maybe we all can learn something.
My point is, That reaching 10 is not the only valid criteria. There have been many players in history who did not play high goal polo. That seems to be the ONLY way one can get to 10.
Thanks for sharing your point of view with us. I think it is very important to realize that some of the greatest players in the game never reached a "10". There are many ways to contribute to polo, and many 4 and 5 goal players have contributed enormously to the sport.
My own personal favorite, Will Rogers, was only a 4-goaler, but he now has a polo field named after him in Los Angeles, and for a while he was named honorary mayor of Beverly Hills. I think Will could have been a higher goal player if he wanted to, but that was never his purpose. He just loved the sport and his enthusiasm was contagious. Most of the great Hollywood stars who played polo in those years either learned from or played with Will Rogers, and those stars include Walt Disney, Spencer Tracy, Leslie Howard, and Clark Gable. Because of Will Rogers and his friends, millions of people learned about polo and fell in love with the game. Will was probably old enough to be my great grandfather, but when I saw a photograph of Will sitting on a polo horse, it made me want to do it.
So please tell us more about your personal favorites, who they were, what they accomplished, and what they contributed to the game. Everyone here loves polo, and I'm sure we all would like to hear about them. If you have photographs, articles, or videos about them, all the better. Don't worry. No one will be offended. Most people here like either Adolfo Cambiaso or Juan Carlos Harriott, and the place in polo history of those great players is not likely to be threatened by anyone else anytime soon.
Personally I think the best way to clarify the issue of the "best polo player" going forward is to reinstate polo as an Olympic sport. Although Argentine polo will probably continue to be the world's best for the foreseeable future, having an Olympic polo tournament every four years would give players at all levels from all over the world the chance to test their skills and improve their game against the best. Studying the best, learning from the best, and competing with the best is the only way to become the best, and there is really no question that the best polo players in the world today are from Argentina.
GB seriously? This makes no sense to your originl query....
If there are over a 1000 views of this it is probably the 6-7 of us reading every notification that we receive every day...this has become like spam in my inbox. Forgive me for saying this...
In a recent post you wanted to assess how many potential wins Cambiaso could do of the Open…Then what? Let’s imagine he can win another 15, then what? Will you then elect him? On the basis of future? Or were you trying to assess how impossible it is for him to reach it?
And now you make a post about Olympic Polo…the return of Polo to the Olympic games will probably never happen….bad news huh?.... but besides that if it does return it will probably be utterly boring and this for everyone involved (players and spectators)…
Is it going to be really great to watch Argentina versus Sweden or Belgium (40 versus an 8 goal team)?
Have you ever watch a 28 goal team play against a 39 or 40 goal team? Have you seen the results of that kind of game? Not too much fun for anyone involved apart from the 28 goal having a great learning moment….
And then let’s say Polo is played every four years at the Olympics. What will it tell you about your original question which was who is the best player of all time? It will tell you just nothing…
There is a difference in Polo between the best team of all time, the best player of all time etc…
Additionally like a well know tennis players and winner of Roland Garros once told me: why win the Olympics when you have the US Open, Wimbledon and Roland Garros to win. Every sport has its own big cups and tradition. We have ours…
There have been 4 Olympic Polo moment but the main Polo tournaments to win in the world are:
The Argentine Open
The Hurlingham Open
The Tortugas Open
The US Open
The UK Gold Cup
The Queens Cup
The Camara Diputados
There are some more in the US, some more in Argentina, and Deauville…the rest is commercial…
No point of adding the Olympics…we have enough here really…And how would do you for horses in the Olympics? Who would pay for that? Sponsors? The cost would just be surreal…
Let's cut it short now and make some conclusions:
1. It is probably wise to say that there are some best players according to decades/phases of the history of polo.
I think that Sani’s mysterious friend has a unilateral view and gives very little room for other views. It is a known fact that the Polo played in the Open today and even at the level of other 20 goal tournaments such as the US Open in the US or the Gold Cup in the UK are far more competitive than in the 60s and 70s.
The horses are better. The top players have better strings, the number of top horses in a string are far greater than the 1-2-3 top horses of a top high goal player in the 70s.
The game has become more of industry with training, techniques, horse feed, breaking in etc at higher standards.
The players themselves today only do polo and play year round. Professionalism has become a real way forward and it only climbing.
So it is probably very hard to compare players from past decades to today, and vice-versa.
2. Polo players might tell you who their own preferred player of all time is according to:
- Have they seem him play?
- Have they had the privilege to play with or against the individual?
- Have they had the chance to meet the individual?
- Do they relate to the player because of a specific angle?
You like Will Rogers who by all means can never be the Best Polo Player of All time. The question you have raised is who is the best. Not the nicest or the most adored etc…No point of talking about the local hero or pro or king of the polo local scene, and on the basis that he could not afford high goal ponies would have had a chance to make it to the top because locally he was appreciated and was skilled…
The fact is simple: has the individual reached ten goals and what are his achievements. Derived from that we have all voiced our preferences….
Some preference might go to how you relate to a specific player. Often your own preferred position might come into judgement. Someone who plays back might say that Ernest Trotz might the best or Devreux Milburn.
Actually Tommy Hitchcock once said that the best team for the US would be a team made of: Devreux Milburn, Devreux Milburn, Devreux Milburn and Devreux Milburn….
Undoubtedly Juan Carlos Harriott has made a huge impact on the Polo community. Has left a huge impact on the memories that people have of him play, or his style, his fairness and attitude.
We will not have a game where we can measure La Dolfina against Coronel Suarez.
We will not see Memo Gracida play at back of Ellerstina.
Cambiaso cannot attend a Long Island game to play against Tomme Hitchcock.
Gonzalo Tanoira will not be coaching El Bagual.
Luis Lacey will not incorporate La Aguada as their new team member…..
The facts is are simple:
Harriott is a legend and has dominated the Open like no one else….Cambiaso is probably the most skilled individual of the game performing in what is probably the most competitive environment ever.
In the ages of Harriott if you were argentine from a good family, playing polo and you were 18 years old and on 2 or 4 goals you could make it far in Polo. Today if you are not 6-7-8 goals when you are 18-19 years old you get nowhere….
I have a preference for a classic Polo, pre-Cambiaso style, but cannot deny the skills that this guy has. It is amazing.
My preference goes for Carlos Gracida who has won with impressive records the top Polo cups. A great horseman, gentleman, superb style and a winner.
Sani: message to you mysterious friend: There was no Argentine dominance pre second world war. There were already some strong Argentine players. Pre-war polo was dominated by the Americans, The Indians, the English, and the military. At the most in the 1930s there were maybe 8 players a season from Argentina (Juan Nelson, Luis Lacey, The Trails, The Alberdis)…this is not dominance is this emergence. My question in the big wide open is that we should try to imagine what impact a no war situation would have had on the game…
I'm definitely serious. Reinstating polo as an Olympic sport would be good for all concerned, for many reasons. It won't hurt the Argentines to play with the rest of the world, and it won't hurt the rest of the world to play with the Argentines. Of course the Argentines will probably win most of the time, but there could be some great matches along the way. Other teams will inevitably get better, and that will push the Argentines to even higher levels of greatness. Nothing stays the same in international sports. Competition is good for everybody, and Olympic competition is like nothing else.
The last time polo was in the Olympics was 1936. Argentina beat England for the gold, and it was one of the greatest matches of all time. The future games will be even better.
If your friend does not think that was a "great" match, I am surprised.
Thanks for participating. Good luck with your polo.