SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Heywood Hale Broun, Bernard Stanley “Bert” Morgan, and Damon Runyon have been selected to the National Museum of Racing’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor.
Broun (1918 ̶ 2001), a New York City native, was a prolific broadcaster and journalist who also spent time as an actor, producer of jazz records, and author of three books. Broun’s father, Heywood Broun, was a well-known newspaper columnist in the 1920s and 1930s and founded The Newspaper Guild. His mother, Ruth Hale, was the nation’s first female movie critic. A graduate of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, Heywood Hale Broun joined the staff of the New York tabloid PM as a sportswriter in 1940. His journalism career was put on pause by World War II, during which time he served in the Army. Following his service, Broun returned to PM and also wrote for its successor, the New York Star, covering a variety of sports, including horse racing.
In 1966, Broun was hired by CBS and began providing color commentary for the Triple Crown series alongside Jack Whitaker. He also became a fixture on the CBS Evening News and later worked for ABC. Broun accepted his initial TV job with CBS after a Broadway play in which he was appearing, “Xmas in Las Vegas,” closed within a week. Broun became a popular TV personality, known for his prominent mustache, colorful sports jackets, command of language, and distinctive commentary. He appeared in the films “The Odd Couple,” “For Pete’s Sake,” and “HouseSitter,” as well as television shows “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “The Patty Duke Show.”
Broun was a fixture in racing both in print and television. Writing in the New York Times in 1994, Broun said of thoroughbred racing: “To be great, a horse must have metaphorical wings. In mythology we punished wax-winged Icarus for flying too close to the sun, but in recognition of the nobility of their singlemindedness, mythology has let the chariot horses of Apollo traverse the sky. Race horses do not chaffer over money, get into bar fights or endorse horse blankets and aluminum shoes. They combine strength, grace, beauty and speed as perhaps no other link in the Darwinian chain can manage (cheetahs have funny-looking shoulders).”
Prior to Secretariat’s 1973 Belmont Stakes, Broun wrote: “There were times when he didn’t seem so much on tiptoe as flying slightly above the earth, like one of those horses ancient Greek gods used to ride when in a hurry to get back to Olympus.”
Morgan (1904 ̶ 1986), a native of England who arrived in the United States with his parents at the age of seven, was one of the most prominent and respected photographers of thoroughbred racing and American society in the 20th century. He photographed his first horse race — the famous 1923 international match race between Zev and Papyrus at Belmont Park — while still a teenager. By 1930, Morgan was the official photographer for the Social Spectator and the Metropolitan Opera of New York City. In the 1930s, he began photographing the racing action and social scene at Hialeah Park in Florida.
In 1940, Morgan was hired as the official photographer for the tracks in New York (later the New York Racing Association), a position he held until 1961, when he left NYRA to make Florida his year-round home. Known for photographing the races from vantage points and chronicling celebrities and other prominent members of society at the tracks, Morgan’s work appeared in national publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Town and Country in addition to numerous newspapers and wire services, including The Associated Press. Morgan’s son, Richard Morgan (1935 ̶ 2012), joined him in 1956 and formed Bert and Richard Morgan Studio. The father and son worked together until Bert’s death in 1986.
Morgan’s photos are among the most important archived works in American racing. The Keeneland Library acquired more than 300,000 of his negatives in the 1960s and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame also owns numerous Morgan negatives and prints. In addition, more than 800,000 of Morgan’s society photographs are now licensed by Getty Images and the New York Historical Society owns a collection of his images. Morgan, who photographed 55 editions of the Kentucky Derby, was the inaugural recipient of the George B. Featherstone Photojournalism Award for Excellence in Equine Photography from the Thoroughbred Record in 1984. His photography has been featured in numerous books, including Horse Racing: The Golden Age of the Track and Seabiscuit, among others.
Runyon (1880 ̶ 1946), a native of Manhattan, Kansas, enlisted in the Army at the age of 18, participating in the Spanish-American War. While in the service, he wrote for the Manila Freedom and Soldier’s Letter. Following the war, he began working for newspapers in Colorado, specializing in sports coverage. Runyon moved on to New York City in 1910, and for the next decade covered professional baseball and boxing for the New York American. Looking for a change of pace from the baseball beat, Runyon traveled to Saratoga Race Course in 1922 and quickly became one of thoroughbred racing’s most impactful writers.
In addition to the races, Runyon provided unique perspective on the jockeys, trainers, owners, gamblers, and gangsters who frequented the tracks, many of whom evolved into dramatized characters in Runyon’s fiction such as the Arnold Rothstein-inspired Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls.” Twenty of Runyon’s stories, including “Guys and Dolls,” became films. Others of note are “Lady for a Day,” “Little Miss Marker,” “The Lemon Drop Kid,” “A Slight Case of Murder,” and “Money from Home.”
In 1922, Runyon crafted the following poem about future Hall of Fame jockey Earl Sande, which appeared in the Aug. 13 edition of the American under the header Saratoga Chips by Damon Runyon:
Sloan, they tell me, could ride ’em;
Maher, too, was a bird.
Bullman a guy to guide ’em in—
Never much worse than third.
Them was the old-time jockeys.
Now when I want to win
Gimme a handy
Guy like Sande
Ridin’ them horses in!
Fuller, he was a pippin,
Loftus one of the best—
Many a time come rippin’
Down there ahead of the rest.
Shaw was a bear of a rider.
There was plenty of done—
But gimme a dandy
Guy like Sande
Drivin’ them horses home.
Spencer was sure a wonder,
And Miller was worth his hire.
Seldom he made a blunder
As he rode ’em down the wire.
Them was the old-time jockeys;
Now when I want to win
Gimme a handy
Guy like Sande
Bootin’ them horses in!
Runyon covered racing through 1936 before moving on to other beats and focusing more on his fiction. Of that year’s Preakness, which was the final major race he covered, Runyon wrote: “We discovered something else about Pimlico that we never knew before. We always tore for the train as soon as the big race was over and our copy out of the way, so we never knew what happened thereafter. Saturday, we remained to the very last and learned that the bugler sounds Taps to indicate the end of the meeting, and the band once more plays Maryland, My Maryland. It’s a great place, that Pimlico, the last of the old, old places.”
Runyon was voted the J. G. Taylor Spink Award by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 1967. He is also a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Since 1979, the New York Racing Association has played host to the Damon Runyon Stakes at Aqueduct.
Previous selections to the Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor are Steven Crist (2010), Charles Hatton (2010), Bill Nack (2010), Red Smith (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), Jim Murray (2014), Jennie Rees (2014), Raleigh Burroughs (2015), Steve Haskin (2015), Jim McKay (2016), Maryjean Wall (2016), Barney Nagler (2017), Michael Veitch (2017), Jack Whitaker (2017), Joe Burnham (2018), Tom Hammond (2018), Charlsie Cantey (2019), Billy Reed (2019), Pierre “Peb” Bellocq (2020), William Leggett (2020), Walter Haight (2021), Jack Mann (2021), and Jay Privman (2021).
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 consideration of other forms of media.
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, who died in 2009, was also a former chair of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Nominating Committee and the founder of the National Turf Writers Association.
The Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor Committee is comprised of Edward L. Bowen (chairman), author of more than 20 books on thoroughbred racing; Bob Curran, retired Jockey Club vice president of corporate communications; Ken Grayson, National Museum of Racing trustee; Jane Goldstein, retired turf publicist; Steve Haskin, Secretariat.com and longtime BloodHorse columnist; G. D. Hieronymus, retired Keeneland director of broadcast services; Jay Hovdey, five-time Eclipse Award-winning writer; and Dan Smith, retired senior media coordinator of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
For more information about the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, including upcoming events, please visit www.racingmuseum.org or call (518) 584-0400.