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The Manduke Baldwin Polo Field


 

Manduke's cowboy saddle arrives at the polo field (left) to be taken off for the last time (right) by his son, Peter Baldwin.

On Christmas day, 2002, The Maui Polo Club lost one of its own. Legendary polo player Richard "Manduke" Baldwin.
Below is the story that made the front page of The Maui News. It was copied with permission from The Maui News and Valerie Monson, a staff writer for the local paper.

The Maui News. Monday January 13 th. 2003.
By Valerie Monson.

MAKAWAO -- The crowd at the Haleakala Ranch polo field was as big Sunday afternoon as it's ever been in its 50-year history, but the horse they were waiting for was the one with no rider.
Nearly every kamaaina family and cowboy on the island had come to honor the late Richard "Manduke" Baldwin, 91, the eminent cattleman and rancher who was the leader of the legendary Maui polo team of the 1950s that was feared by players from all over the world. Baldwin died Christmas Day after several years in failing health.
As the riderless horse came to a halt, Baldwin's saddle was untacked for the last time by his eldest son, Peter, and a high-spirited chapter in Maui's history came to a close. But to insure that those memories will never be forgotten, the grassy arena off Kekaulike Highway was officially renamed "The Manduke Baldwin Polo Field" and the throng was assured that the great horseman had truly moved on to greener pastures. "Polo heaven is where all polo players go when their chukker here is up," said Frank Crozier, before launching into an imaginary play-by-play of a Maui match that featured Baldwin and his famous teammates, Oskie Rice and Gordon von Tempsky.
From the edge of the crowd, Mary Evanson found herself drifting back to those simpler times on Oahu where families would gather at Kapiolani Park or the old Honolulu Stadium to take in the weekend matches  and to marvel over the men from Maui. "Even when we lived on Oahu, we always used to cheer for Maui , Maui no ka oi!" remembered Evanson. "My brothers used to get the broken mallets and play bicycle polo."

As a girl, Evanson even went to the matches in the 1930s where she found herself developing a crush on a young up-and-coming player named Manduke Baldwin.

"They were all so athletic and handsome," said Evanson. "Everyone loved the polo players."

Sometime in the early 1950s, Baldwin converted the Haleakala Ranch baseball field into a polo arena where he, Rice and von Tempsky began perfecting their moves. The annual three-month season was held on Oahu so that meant the Maui team had to send its stable of polo horses ,nearly 20 of them in all , to Honolulu on a ship.

To keep the horses in shape, a handful of ranch cowboys moved to Oahu for the season where they exercised them regularly.

Harold Amoral, who later served as foreman for 21 years under Baldwin, was one of them. The ranch paid for his entire family to go with him to Honolulu for polo season. It was worth the effort.

"Maui was the best," said Amoral. "They were hard to beat."

Teams came from Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and the Mainland to challenge the Hawaii horsemen from Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. Even the Army, stationed in Honolulu, had a team.

Awee Simpich, whose father was a friend of Baldwin's father, volunteered to help work out the horses. "It was very competitive," she said.
Come the weekend, she was in the stands. "It was quite the social event, too," she said. "People would get dressed up. It was very colorful."

Most of the time, Baldwin, Rice and von Tempsky would fly to Oahu on Friday and come back home Sunday, victorious more often than not. In action, Amoral said the men and their horses were in perfect sync, thanks to frequent practices with ranch cowboys. During matches, the Maui trio would call out their commands in Hawaiian.

Manduke Baldwin, whose favorite horse was Kaupo Joe, was the best of the threesome, rated as a "seven-goal" player. Peter Baldwin said the rating system was not based so much on scoring ability, but overall talent on the field. "Manduke had the skills as a horseman," said Peter Baldwin. "He was such a good rider. He would often arrive before the ball and had the ability to get the horse stopped and turned around and running immediately. He was an average mallet man, but a way above average horseman."

And, judging from the hundreds of family and friends who milled around the rest of the afternoon swapping Manduke stories, he was an above average man, as well.

Sam Kaai blew the conch shell and dramatically cut the maile lei with an adze that left a mark in a gorgeous piece of wood from a koaia tree that Peter Baldwin earlier picked from his Piiholo ranch. Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawaii offered music from the old days as only they can.

Baldwin's widow, Haku, listened and accepted condolences along with the rest of her family. The riderless horse disappeared from view and the polo field was reborn.

For Manduke Baldwin, the chukker was over, but the match will go on.


Manduke's polo boots, cowboy saddle with raincoat and his rawhide lasso at the memorial, draped with maile and other leis.