Bill Nack wrote for Sports Illustrated, ESPN and Newsday.

Bill Nack, whose book-turned-film on 1973 Triple Crown-winner Secretariat is considered a classic of turf insight and eloquence, died Friday at his home in Washington, D.C., after a struggle with cancer, according to his wife Carolyne.

Mr. Nack, who grew up in Skokie and helped plan the 50th reunion for his Niles East High School class, was 77.

He most famously wrote for Sports Illustrated, where his 1990 article about Secretariat, titled “Pure Heart,” is considered a marvel of sports storytelling. He later freelanced for outlets including ESPN and GQ.

He credited his sportswriting career to a Christmas party in 1971, when he was working as a news reporter at Newsday.

“Everybody was pretty well into the eggnog,” he’d later recall.

Urged on by other newspaper staffers, he jumped on a table and amazed the revelers with this equine incantation: “Aristedes, Vagrant, Baden-Baden, Day Star, Lord Murphy, Fonso, Hindoo, Apollo, Leonatus, Buchanan, Joe Cotton, Ben Ali, Montrose, Macbeth, Spokane, Riley, Kingman, Azra, Lookout, Chant, Halma, Ben Brush, Typhoon the Second, Plaudit, Manuel and Lieutenant Gibson.”

Those would be the winners of the Kentucky Derby from 1875 to 1900.

Bill Nack began his sportswriting career at Newsday and later wrote for Sports Illustrated, as well as writing books. | Facebook

He continued for dozens more names, all the way through 1971 winner Canonero II. He’d begun memorizing Kentucky Derby winners as a boy, when horse-racing transfixed him.

Until that Christmas party, he’d been excruciatingly bored with his job covering Long Island sewer problems and other municipal issues. But after witnessing his Christmas recitation, Newsday editor David Laventhol — a horse-racing fan — offered Mr. Nack a job covering the track.

His best-selling biography of Secretariat was released in 1975 as “Big Red of Meadow Stable” and rereleased in …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun-Times – Sports


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