Esteemed media members Michael Veitch, Jack Whitaker and the late Barney Nagler have been selected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame's Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor.
Veitch, a Saratoga Springs native and graduate of Plattsburgh State University, has been covering thoroughbred racing for The Saratogian and The Pink Sheet since 1979. He is the author of two books relating to Saratoga racing, “Foundations of Fame: Nineteenth Century Racing in Saratoga Springs” and “Summit of Champions: Thoroughbred Racing in Saratoga Springs 1901-1955.”
A longtime trustee of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and a member of the Saratoga Springs History Museum's Hall of Fame, Veitch served as editor of New York Thoroughbred from 1983 through 1994. He has also written for The Racing Times, Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Record, Horsemen's Journal and Backstretch.
Veitch also has extensive television experience, co-hosting the popular “Down the Stretch” program on Capital OTB-TV for 16 years. Furthermore, he is the chairman of the National Museum of Racing's Historic Review Committee and a member of the nominating committee of the Thoroughbred Division of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. Veitch has also done work for the Breeders' Cup, producing the media guide for the 1985 edition at Aqueduct.
“Michael is the epitome of the dedicated professional journalist, and that dedication is matched by his devotion to what he believes is best for thoroughbred racing,” said Edward L. Bowen, chairman of the Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor Selection Committee. “His obvious enjoyment of the game is appealing, and contagious.”
Whitaker, a Philadelphia native and graduate of Saint Joseph's University, began his broadcasting career in radio before entering network television sports at CBS in 1961. Along with his distinguished coverage of the Triple Crown races, Whitaker is known for his reporting and commentary on golf's annual four major championships and was a studio host for the “NFL Today.” Whitaker moved to ABC in 1982 and served the network as a reporter for both news and sports.
A three-time Emmy Award winner, Whitaker also won an Eclipse Award for National Television Achievement in 1977. He received the Maryland Jockey Club's Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of thoroughbred racing in 1983 and was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2013, Whitaker was presented the Jim McKay Award for excellence in broadcasting by the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. Whitaker was portrayed in the 2007 ESPN film “Ruffian,” which was based upon the ill-fated match race between Ruffian and Foolish Pleasure at Belmont Park.
When Ruffian broke down in the race, Whitaker said: “A false step here and the years of planning and breeding and training and loving came to an end. A horse with the speed and stamina and heart … a horse, like the Bible says, ‘whose neck is clothed in thunder.'”
“I often think of Jack Whitaker as a poet,” said Bowen. “His ability to summarize a situation in a way that is both informative and highly moving is a special gift I admire very much.”
Nagler (1912-1990), a New York City native and graduate of New York University, wrote a newspaper column devoted mainly to thoroughbred racing and boxing for almost 40 years. Nagler began writing for The Morning Telegraph in 1950. In 1972, when The Morning Telegraph ceased publication, Nagler's “On Second Thought” column moved to its sister publication, Daily Racing Form.
Before joining The Morning Telegraph, Nagler worked as a radio writer for the “Colgate Sports Newsreel.” He also worked in the 1950s and 1960s as a television producer of sports events on NBC and ABC, including segments for “Wide World of Sports,” the Olympic Winter Games of 1964 and the Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree, England.
In 1978, Nagler received the Walter Haight Award for excellence in reporting on thoroughbred racing from the National Turf Writers Association. Nagler authored several books, including the racing titles “The American Horse” and “Shoemaker, America's Greatest Jockey.”
“I always enjoyed any contact with Barney,” recalled Bowen. “He had a sardonic way about him, of which humor was perhaps the stronger ingredient. He was incredibly knowledgeable.”
Previous selections to the Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor are Steven Crist (2010), Bill Nack (2010), Red Smith (2010), Charles Hatton (2010), Dr. Russ Harris (2011), Joe Palmer (2011), Jay Hovdey (2012), Whitney Tower (2012), Andrew Beyer (2013), Kent Hollingsworth (2013), George F. T. Ryall (2013), Jennie Rees (2014), Jim Murray (2014), Steve Haskin, Raleigh Burroughs (2015), Maryjean Wall (2016) and Jim McKay (2016).
The National Museum of Racing's Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor was established in 2010 to recognize individuals whose careers have been dedicated to, or substantially involved in, writing about thoroughbred racing (non-fiction), and who distinguished themselves as journalists. The criteria has since been expanded to allow the inclusion of broadcast journalists
Often referred to as the dean of thoroughbred racing writers, Hirsch won both the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Writing and the Lord Derby Award in London from the Horserace Writers and Reporters association of Great Britain. He also received the Eclipse Award of Merit (1993), the Big Sport of Turfdom Award (1983), The Jockey Club Medal (1989), and was designated as the honored guest at the 1994 Thoroughbred Club of America's testimonial dinner. The annual Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park is named in his honor. Hirsch was also a former chairman of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. He died in 2009.
The Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor Committee is comprised of Bowen, National Museum of Racing trustees Leverett Miller and Ken Grayson, Cot Campbell of Dogwood Stable, retired turf publicist Jane Goldstein and Dan Smith of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
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