Read it: Sports Illustrated publishes the late Nack's memoir

January 08, 2019 01:37pm

Bill Nack, the prizewinning sports writer known for chronicling the life and death of Secretariat, left behind more than a massive legacy among his peers. Sports Illustrated, for which he wrote for decades, published in its Dec. 31 issue the memoir Nack was working on at the time of his death last April.

The piece is now online, too, and it focuses on the 1958 Kentucky Derby. That was Nack's first trip to Churchill Downs. As he describes, it was also his first solo venture away from home as a 17-year-old traveling to Louisville, Ky., where his uncle, Ed, was to photograph the race beside the Chicago Tribune's Dave Condon.

It's a story that shaped Nack's career, as he took an immediate liking both to the sights and sounds of the Churchill Downs backside. There was a chance meeting with the great trainer Ben Jones, whose six Derby wins still lead all conditioners. And back at the hotel, he saw Condon put words to paper.

"Seeing Dave tear out page after page of copy from his typewriter," Nack wrote, "I was suddenly struck by the quite romantic notion that writing about this sport — about this isolated island world, the nobility of these animals, about the way Ben Jones wore his fedora and growled his words and sat straight as a ramrod on his pony—might be a pleasant way to make a living up the road."

Days later, Tim Tam won the Derby, and Nack determined it "
the single most colossal experience of my youth." That's lucky for the rest of us.


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