Louisville Magazine

APR 2012

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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138 Save the Date Pink Tie Ball® 8th Annual Saturday, September 15 Louisville Marriott Downtown REASONS WE LOVE DERBY No. 119: Joe Hirsch. 17th Annual Komen Louisville Race for the Cure® Saturday, October 13 New Location « Iroquois Park New 10K competitive race! Tat's him in the background, unmistakable in his dark shades, with that jet-black, slick- backed hair: Joe Hirsch. Te year is 1957. Te jockey at the center of the media squall is Bill Hartack. And the event is the Kentucky Derby. In the photo, Hirsch hovers behind and above the crowd; but, of course, he was at the center of that Derby just as he was of every Derby for more than half a century as the executive columnist of the Daily Racing Form. Until he retired in 2003 after 55 years on the beat, what Hirsch wrote in the Racing Form was gospel. Among turf writers, he was Matthew, Mark, Luke and John rolled into one. His pre-Derby column that analyzed the race and settled on a winner was not only a must-read but a must-bet, if only to save yourself from the anxiety of ignoring the master's advice. Hirsch must have written more words on For more information call 584-CURE or log on to komenlouisville.org. www.komenlouisville.org the Derby than Sandburg did on Lincoln. And yet his mantra remained: "I never met a Derby I didn't like." He was a fixture in the press box, held in awe by all — from Red Smith to the greenest newbie, like me in 1989 — and revered on the backside among horsemen. It's been almost a decade since Hirsch covered the Derby and three years since he passed away, but his presence looms over Churchill Downs come Derbytime like the haint of a Triple Crown winner. Te effects of Parkinson's disease were just starting to show on Hirsch when I met him. It was the morning after the '89 Derby, the year Sunday Silence weaved down the stretch [70] LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 4.12 CHURCHILL DOWNS INC./KINETIC CORP. PHOTO like a drunken sailor on shore leave, holding off odds-on-favorite Easy Goer over a sloppy track on a cold, sleety day. An astute journalist, Hirsch understood the better morning-after story could be found at Easy Goer's barn, and that's where I found him interviewing the former superhorse's trainer, Shug McGaughey. Tere were only three or four of us on hand, the rest of the press having descended on Sunday Silence's connections. Hirsch asked few questions; his very presence seemed to inspire McGaughey to cover all the touchy bases without prompt- ing. I remember scribbling notes furiously for my story to run in the Arkansas Democrat, not wanting to miss a word, and glancing over at Hirsch's notepad. He had two, maybe three, chicken scratches, which I assumed were a kind of personal shorthand he'd developed. I also assumed that he'd missed all the good stuff. His piece, I was sure, wouldn't have all the pearls I was so dutifully collecting. Te next day, I turned to Hirsch's column in the Racing Form. I was crushed. Why, he had it all! Not just the quotes — word for word — but the mood, the perspective, the understanding and forethought that comes from wisdom and a deep love of the game. He absorbed that interview, and horse racing, as if through osmosis, while I had covered the story like a court stenographer. Close but too removed. Joe Hirsch didn't just write about horse racing; he hand-delivered it. — KW

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