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SC Rewind: On The Record With Stan

Published: February 17, 2018 9:55 am ET

Last Comment: February 21, 2018 12:58 pm ET | 8 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind Robert Smith continues his monthly offering in the "Golden Memories" series. His piece today recalls a time many years ago, long before the age of technology, when one of the great race announcers of the day preserved a bit of history with each and every race he called.

Stan Bergstein through the years (USHWA)

A few years ago the world of harness racing lost one of its greatest "assets" with the passing of Stan Bergstein on November 2, 2011. To say that he was incomparable would be a gross understatement. Certainly anyone who was ever fortunate enough to even meet this man, probably retains some special memory or image of him. I did not ever get to meet him in person but have "known" him for over 60 years and retain some special memories of this remarkable man.

Back in the 1950's my father had his then stable star racing at the Michigan tracks which at that time included Hazel Park, Northville and Wolverine. The top announcer of the day was Stan Bergstein, and he was there. When you experienced one of his calls you had to be thrilled and impressed. He knew the breeding background of most horses; he also did his proverbial "homework" on owners, drivers and even trainers who were not listed on the official program in those days.

Long before the days of virtually any audio or visual technology, Stan Bergstein made it possible to "relive" one of his famous race calls. He had his live calls recorded and made it possible to replay them by purchasing a record, the kind you play on a phonograph player or as we called them back then just a record player. When someone purchased one of his 78 RPM records, he "dressed" it up and gave quite a synopsis rather than just the actual race call. They included the bugle call to the post, the complete post parade introduction with all horses, owners and drivers. In a post-race commentary he went over the race and often gave a few "tidbits" about the horse and its connections. He sure knew how to put things together.

My father purchased a number of them with the theory that when no racing was being held during the long winter months (but the bills were still coming in) he could enjoy a virtual trip to the races without leaving home. It was simple; just play a record.

Way back when, it was my job when company came for Sunday dinner (or on other occasions) to play a record or two for our visitors. My father was not exactly what you would call "handy" and even putting a record on the turntable was a bit out of his physical "talents". Many's the time I loaded up a record and played it for what I hoped was an appreciative audience. I was thrilled each time, and never grew tired of listening to a record regardless of how many times I had heard it. My hope was always that maybe they would ask for an encore.

For decades those old vintage records resided in a dilapidated cardboard box in the basement, many times moved and often almost forgotten. Unfortunately without thinking our old record player went 'bye bye' many years ago, it probably fetched at least 50 cents at a yard sale. Despite not hearing them in forever, I could still recall most of the horses and driver's names, and of course the outcome of the race.

In June of 2009 after an SC website post, I emailed Mr. Bergstein on his 85th birthday, simply to wish him the best of the day. I also took the opportunity to recall his now memorable recordings, but I did not mention any actual names, including who my father was. He soon emailed me back with special words of appreciation. The following is an excerpt from his message:

Mr. Smith: "I hope I can convey the depth of my appreciation for your wonderful letter, and let you know how great a way it is to start off a special day. I remember the Detroit days well, with men like your father and Harold Wellwood and other skilled Canadian horsemen who were good friends adding their talents to the meetings at Northville, Wolverine and Hazel Park. You taking the time to write means much to me, and my heartfelt thanks for making 85 have special significance. I thank you for your good wishes. I have a hunch the old records will still work well. A good friend named Pat O’Brien who worked at KLA Sound in Detroit and was my sound man at all the tracks made them, with quality that lasted."

A few years ago thanks to Internet shopping and places like Amazon that offer special things, I purchased a brand new record player. It was again time to crank up the turntable and spin the old 78's! (and a few 45's). A new generation of the family got to enjoy or at least they were polite enough to listen to what a good race call sounded like. I also have a number of other vintage discs featuring such famed race callers as "Doc" Baker and Max Robinson.

Our level of technology may have been pretty low compared to today but we loved it just the same.

Who Is It?

Can you correctly identify the person in this week's photo? The answer will appear during the coming week.

February 21, 2018 - 12:58 pmThe identity of this week's

The identity of this week's Who Is It was Jim Muttart as stated by a number of astute readers. He was a native of Summerside, P.E.I. and eventually made his way to Ontario where he was a prominent trainer and driver for several decades. Thanks again.

February 17, 2018 - 10:31 pmI had the good fortune of

Rick Karper SAID...

I had the good fortune of meeting Stan Bergstein and like you I had occasion to write to him. He always took the time to respond in detail. He had a way to make you feel important.

February 17, 2018 - 8:10 pmnice article --- photo is Jim

nice article --- photo is Jim Muttart (nobody else except Eddie Munster had fangs like that)

February 17, 2018 - 3:10 pmJim Muttart

John Hill SAID...

Jim Muttart

February 17, 2018 - 12:57 pmJim Muttart from the glory

W Doug HIe SAID...

Jim Muttart from the glory days at Greenwood (in my opinion the greatest racetrack ever in Ontario).

February 17, 2018 - 11:06 amJim Muttard

Jim Muttard

February 17, 2018 - 11:05 amJim Mutttard

Jim Mutttard

February 17, 2018 - 10:42 amGrowing up in the New York

Growing up in the New York area I knew about harness racing from the weekly Racing from Yonkers and Roosevelt Raceways shows on channel 9 before the Meadowlands even existed, it was a pleasure to hear Mr. Bergstein with Frank Wright and then Spencer Ross bring the sport to this then teenager. Later on I actually got the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bergstein and sharing about 5 minutes of his time, the way he spoke to me, a person he didn't know, just showed the class the gentleman had. I can't believe he's been gone for almost seven years now.

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