Racing's Angriest Young Man And The Greatest Hits of 1961

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Though it's not easy to navigate I think it's worth your time to cruise on over to the Internet Archives to read the full text of The Best Sports Stories 1961. It includes pieces by Stanley Woodward, W.C. Heinz, Myron Cope, Red Smith, Blackie Sherrod, Dick Schaap, Tex Maule, Dick Young, Roger Kahn, Dan Jenkins and Lenny Shecter.

"Racing's Angriest Young Man" by Jimmy Breslin won "Best Magazine Story":

After the winner's circle ceremonies, Hartack came into the crowded jockeys' room. At Churchill Downs, everything is a rotting, soot-covered mess and the jocks' room isn't much better. It is cluttered and steamy and, at this moment, was mobbed with reporters. It didn't look like much of a place, but it always has been one of the great sights in a jockey's life. You love everything when you win a Derby and it is all one big thrill of money.

But Hartack came into the room with that quick, long stride of his and his brown eyes flashed. He gave the reporters a dark look and said nothing as he went to his locker. He was obviously about to make a scene. There was no sense trying to relate him to a shack in Pennsylvania now.

The explosion came the moment the first newsman opened his mouth. "Willie," he began, "when did you think you had the race won?"

"Jeeezl" Hartack snapped. "Don't call me Willie. That's disrespectful. The name is Bill. And that is a stupid question. I stopped answering that one forty years ago. When you ask me an intelligent question I'll answer you."

People are encountered in all walks of life with a chip on their shoulder because of harsh backgrounds. But you would have to be born of Murder, Inc. to be this angry after winning a Kentucky Derby.

For those who did not walk out on this blast, Hartack had a short description of the race, along with his usual course in journalism for those present. Reporters, he said, misquote him. And, he made it clear, newspapermen bother him. In fact, he didn't want to be bothered by anything except riding. Then he left to ride a horse in the eighth race. He finished second and was even madder after that. To hell with everything, Hartack says, except getting home first on a horse.