Durkin’s Last Call: A Storyteller Who Will Be Missed

by | 08.29.2014 | 8:55am
Tom Durkin will call his last race Sunday at Saratoga

When NYRA track announcer Tom Durkin hangs up his microphone on Sunday, it will be the end of an era for many race fans.

So much has been written in tribute to the announcer's 43-year career that Durkin quipped Tuesday he's considering coming out of retirement, just so he can announce it again. Durkin was honored in a special tribute at the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame induction ceremony Aug. 8, and included in the red jacket ceremony alongside D. Wayne Lukas and H. Allen Jerkens in the Saratoga's winner's circle Aug. 22. Add this to countless interviews he has patiently granted to national and local press, he has cemented some sort of celebrity status many race callers do not achieve.

“This last month has been the most gratifying time in my life,” Durkin said. “I've been completely overwhelmed by the sentiment of people—the depth of their sentiment and the breadth of people who have wished me well. It kind of makes you feel like you did ok with your life.”

To someone like me, the accolades make sense. My only access to the sport early on was through national television broadcasts in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and because of this, I don't know that I heard a race called by anyone other than Durkin or Dave Johnson for several years.

For a newcomer, their energy as the field turned for home was infectious. Their voices seemed to swell with surprise or admiration just as my arms broke out in goosebumps. Durkin was also good at noting the implications of the way a horse was traveling, or a jockey's posture, and taught me how to look beyond the silk colors of the leader. It was part of telling the story of the race—and he is a master storyteller.

“Some people are managers, some people are builders, some people are protectors,” Durkin said. “Everybody's got a certain thing that they are qualified to do, and have a natural tendency to do. I think being a storyteller comes easy to me.”

As Saratoga employee Bob Giordano pointed out to me, Monday will be the start of a new story for Durkin while being the end of an epic for the rest of us. I for one, am sorry to close the book, but thankful to have gotten to read it.  Enjoy some final moments in the booth and at Saratoga with Tom Durkin.

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