Two of the best and brightest communicators in harness racing - who just happened to be hosting the TV show at the nation's flagship track last night - were finalized as ballot candidates for the Communicators Hall of Fame election this summer. The Directors of the U.S. Harness Writers Association voted to put on the ballot Meadowlands superstars Bob Heyden and Sam McKee.
Heyden, who was nominated by five USHWA chapters, fulfilled on that support with a first-round nomination. A graduate of the famed New York City "finishing school" for harness racing, Sports Eye, Heyden has progressively shown more and more sides of his talent, and thus has been given progressively more responsibility for the Jersey oval. Unrivaled in his knowledge of the facts and figures behind the game, Bob has also won many awards, the one meaning the most to him being a Communicators Award which he fashioned in loving tribute to his late friend, the Hall of Famer Stanley Dancer.
McKee succeeded John Pawlak in the Raceway Park Toledo announcer's booth in the mid-80's, and yesterday he found himself in a first-round ballot dead-heat with the very same Pawlak, necessitating a second vote. There, the student edged the master by one vote, putting Sam on this year's ballot (and making Pawlak the early favorite for the 2013 Communications ballot spots).
McKee, a graduate of the county fair circuit in the manner of another of his microphone idols, Hall of Famer Roger Huston, spent valuable time between Toledo and The Meadowlands a a jack of all trades at the thoroughbred Detroit Race Course, working his way up the corporate ladder there.
Today Sam, who also calls the races at the Grand Circuit stops in Delaware (OH) and Lexington (KY), has refined his microphone skills to the point that he simultaneously gives the crisp positional call required by the casual fan while also blending in moments of insight about certain horses in favorable or unfavorable positions that are important to the handicapping expert.
Both Heyden and McKee, in addition to being partners at The Meadowlands, also share pedigree reading duties at the huge Standardbred Horse Sale in Harrisburg each November.
Bob Heyden and Sam McKee will be the ballot candidates for the Communicators Hall of Fame; their voting will coincide this summer with the candidates determined as finalists for the Living Hall of Fame, to be decided over the July 4 weekend at Goshen NY. USHWA members and the Living Hall of Famers vote for the new Living Hal of Fame candidates; the writers' organization alone makes the decisions for who joins their hallowed Communicators Hall.
by Jerry CONNORS for USHWA