On Christmas day, 2002, The Maui
Polo Club lost one of its own. Legendary polo player Richard "Manduke"
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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