10 STORIES THAT MATTERED: FAMOUS LAST WORDS
There’s no truth to the rumor that the retirement of an announcer is marked by a moment of silence, but maybe there ought to be.
Racetrack announcers provide the soundtrack of our racing lives, and they serve as an amalgam of what in most sports are two different jobs: play-by-play and public address. In the former role, they call the races, and the best of them do it with a touch of verve and humor that enhances the product. In the latter, they tick off all the particulars of a day at the races: scratches and changes, winners and payouts, wagers and carryovers.
In 2020 the Mid-Atlantic saw two of its longest-tenured announcers retire. Delaware Park’s John Curran left after 37 years at the close of that meet in October, and on December 30, Keith Jones closed the books on his 34-year career at Parx Racing.
While Delaware has announced already that Joshua Brown will take over for Curran for the meet likely to begin in May, Parx has not yet named its replacement though opening day of the 2021 meet is January 4.
These sorts of retirements always feel a little strange. When star athletes step away, they are feted with gifts and speeches. If they’re good enough, and famous enough, they even are celebrated on the road.
But horse racing is different. Most horses, jockeys, trainers slip away without a word. Often we don’t even know they’re gone, until someone muses, “I wonder whatever happened to…”
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Announcers, on the other hand, aren’t so easy to disappear, and there’s a bittersweet feeling when they leave. Three decades is a long time in a job, even one that for many is a dream job.
So while the tracks approached the challenge slightly differently, each gave its retiring racecaller the last word.
Earlier in the card, Curran was celebrated with the “Tribute to John Curran” race, prior to which he made a brief statement of thanks and following which he received a memento of his time in Delaware from Delaware racing chief John Mooney.
STORIES THAT MATTERED
Curran finished his career in the same straightforward way he’d always called races.
“That concludes our 2020 meet here at Delaware Park and my 37-year career” Curran said after the finale. “And it’s been a pleasure.”
Jones got something of a trifecta in his final race. First, he counted the race, and his career, down together.
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“Thirty-four years and now only four furlongs to go… now only two furlongs to go… now only one furlong to go,” he intoned as the race neared its conclusion.
One last time he was able to use a go-to phrase for an easy winner. “Unbridledadventure will visit ‘Romp City’ today,” he called.
And finally, his signature sign-off: “Thank you, and good night.”
Which, when you think about it, is perhaps, for both men, about as good a send-off as you could hope for: the last word, one last time.