Huston Comments On Career

Published: December 3, 2008 06:51 pm EST

Roger Huston never really dreamed of being a harness racing announcer. As he was getting ready to graduate high school in Ohio, he thought more of becoming a teacher, which would leave him time in the summers to train and drive horses at the county fairs.

Had Huston stuck to that plan, this much is certain - harness racing would not be the same. Next week, on Thursday, December 11, if all goes according to schedule, Huston will call race number 150,000 in his Hall of Fame career. No announcer anywhere has called as many races.

Huston, who is best known as the voice of The Meadows in western Pennsylvania and the Little Brown Jug at the Delaware County Fair in Ohio, called his first race during his senior year at Xenia High School in 1960. Since then, he has called events at 125 different locations in 17 states and five foreign countries.

Not every event involved harness racing. He’s called pinewood derbies, baby derbies, frog races, pig races - even a race between the two Pittsburgh inclines, which he did from a helicopter. From 1976 to 1982, he was the public address announcer for University of Pittsburgh football and basketball games.

But harness racing is where Huston made his name, although his start came as a surprise. His uncle, Don, who was a longtime race-caller himself, was scheduled to work a Sunday matinee card at the Clinton County Fairgrounds in Wilmington, Ohio.

Prior to the races, he called the 17-year-old Huston to the announcer’s booth, and told him to watch over things while he went to the bathroom. Uncle Don didn’t return.

“I guess we’d discussed being an announcer, but we really hadn’t talked too much about it. We definitely didn’t talk about it that day,” Huston said. “With two minutes to post, they told me your uncle is not coming back, so you better memorize these horses; you’re going to announce your first race. I did, and it was atrocious. It didn’t discourage me and by the time we got to the fifth race I was doing pretty good.”

After graduating from Wilmington College in 1965, Huston put his teaching plans on the backburner to call races at the Red Mile in Lexington. In 1967, he began calling races at Pompano Park in Florida and for the Little Brown Jug. In 1976, he landed at The Meadows.

“I can say this a hundred times about the entire career, I never dreamed it would go this long,” said Huston, who started doing public address announcing while a senior in high school. “I never dreamed it would be this big or anything like that. I just thought I’d be a county fair announcer. When I started going to the Jug in the 1950s, I never thought, ‘Hey, I want to call this race.’ I just never really thought about it. It just continued to grow.”

Huston, despite the number of races he has called during his career, does not hesitate when asked the most memorable. It is Dragon’s Lair’s upset of Nihilator in the 1984 Breeders Crown at The Meadows.

“When you have something that’s a favourite, there are many reasons involved,” Huston said. “He was a local horse I’d promoted all year long. Everybody said we were crazy when we said he could beat Nihilator. And it was a great horse race. They tried to double-team him; they hung him to the quarter; they came after him with everybody. Dragon’s Lair and (driver) Jeff Mallet just put them away. That’s the one I remember the most.”

Huston knows his fervent style of calling races has not won him fans across the board, but makes no apologies.

“I’m proud when people say I put as much enthusiasm into each and every race, but it’s also the thing people hate most about me,” Huston said. “My uncle tried to get me to change the style and I was uncomfortable doing it any other way. I have no regrets about the way I announce horse racing.”

He also is proud of helping Sam McKee, now an announcer at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, break into the business.

“When I started working with him, he was 10 years old,” Huston said. “That’s been a big thrill to see him develop over the years. That’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of doing in my life.”

Huston, who for the past 15 years has used Halls eucalyptus cough drops to keep his throat moist while calling races (“I usually get three or four races per cough drop; they really do the job,” he said), plans to slow down in the upcoming years, but not leave the announcer’s booth.

“I have no plans to quit,” he said. “I realize I’m going to have to back down to some degree; it will probably be a little next year. But I have no plans of retiring or anything like that. I’ll just go as long as the good Lord is willing and keeps me healthy.”

(Harness Racing Communications)



The pleasure derived from Roger's race calls has immeasurable.

I've been listening to him to for the last two years, and it's a shame that access to his calls hadn't been available decades earlier.

His gusto, talent, good humor & geniality, bluntness, and dedication to his sport is without peer. Only the brilliantly meticulous Peter Berry at Mountaineer even comes close.

To Roger - and Roger's partners in the booth - if you're reading this, thank you. I hope to get to The Meadows next year, in 2009, but until then, I'll be listening. With gratitude.

Mr Huston is one of my favorite race callers. Sometimes at work I'll watch races at The Meadows just to hear his calls. Hope you announce 150,000 more races!

Greatest race caller ever !!! Roger brings a level of excitement to each race he calls that no one else can come close to. Too bad we never heard him announce any of Somebeachsomewheres races !!!! I could only imagine one of his catch frazes as the Beach rolled under the wire. Congrats Roger

Congratulations Roger on what will be your 150,000th race call.

Concerning your comment that the enthusiasm you show for each and every race is “also the thing people hate most about me”, I would say that it is one of the reasons we find the Jug afternoons in Delaware, Ohio to be some of the most enjoyable each and every year. Every race leading up to the LBJ final on those Thursday afternoons is called with the same excitement year after year – and we love it!

May you call many more.