Stan Bergstein, (not-so-) arguably the greatest executive in the sport of harness racing over the last 50 years, and the only 'double Hall of Fame' honoree, will be spotlighted at the U.S. Harness Writers Association's (USHWA) Dan Patch Awards banquet in late winter 2012.
Bergstein first came to prominence as a race caller in Detroit and Chicago, but it soon became apparent that this was a young man who possessed an enormous array of talents, all of which served the burgeoning growth of harness racing just after mid-century.
After revolutionizing the racing office world with the popularization of claiming races, Bergstein "stepped up" to simultaneously handle several positions at the U.S. Trotting Association, including executive editor of Hoof Beats magazine -- and he was the one who changed the acclaimed magazine from largely black and white reportage to the acclaimed color feature publication it still is today.
After Don MacFarlane established Harness Tracks of America as a prime resource for racing operators during his 1954-1961 presidency, HTA hired Bergstein as executive vice president, and this year marks his 50th in terms of service to the association -- 49 as executive vice president, and then, in deeply begrudged admittance that time may have a toll on even Stan Bergstein at 86-years-young, this year in the newly created executive emeritus position.
As its name implies, Harness Tracks of America is an invaluable resource for its member associations, offering surveys and detailed analysis -- and transcripts -- of the sort of questions track management needs.
But he also did so much more, including forming an allegiance in 1974 with the University of Arizona and its incipient Race Track Industry Program, the first opportunity of its kind to specifically prepare young women and men for careers in the equine industries, of all breeds.
Bergstein realized the opportunity to synergize an annual conference with these budding executives, and, through his many connections, assured the annual Racing Symposium the very best of speakers, on overall management theory and on the "hot button" issues of the day. Perhaps not ironically, when his family needed to relocate to warmer climes, Bergstein chose Tucson -- the home of the U. of A.
Bergstein was able to tap into so many good people because he has been an ecumenist, an explorer of good ideas regardless of crossing typical industry thinking, within and without harness racing, at a time when (still) many people think that if racing put together a firing squad, it would form in a circle, and then point inward. Nobody but Stan Bergstein could possibly be a regular columnist in the Thoroughbred Daily Racing Form, the statistical "bible" of the galloping sport.
For this type of leadership, inquisitiveness, exploration and innovation, Stan Bergstein was voted into the Communicators Hall of Fame in 1986, and one year later, elevated to the sport's highest honor, induction into the sport's Living Hall of Fame. He still is the only double Hall of Famer.
"There are few people in the sport, and certainly none of the ‘younger generation,' who do not revere Stan Bergstein for his unprecedented accomplishments in harness racing," Jason Settlemoir, president of USHWA, said. "Honoring him at our 2012 dinner seems a small thank you compared to what he has done for harness communications, racetracks and just the entire sport, in general."
In later years, Bergstein has vowed that he would not travel east until the temperature reached 70, but seeing that the 2012 USHWA banquet is likely to be staged in Florida, where the writers just held a successful weekend a few weeks back, it is all but assured that Bergstein will make the trip, to be justly honored by USHWA and to receive the warm personal praise of his many friends (some of whom started on the opposite side of the table) and longtime colleagues.
by Jerry Connors, for the U.S. Harness Writers' Association