Frank Charney

Frank Charney's Sunday Postcard

Blacklick Valley's noted jockey, Bill Hartack (1932 - 2007)

The death of Bill Hartack, a former Blacklick Valley native and famous race horse jockey, was reported on Monday, November 26, 2007, by the chief medical examiner for the Texas town of Freer, Texas. At age 74, Mr. Hartack was found dead in a cabin while on a hunting vacation, a passion he enjoyed all of his life. He had never married, and reportedly led a reclusive life during his later years. Once referred to as Blacklick Valley's most famous athlete, he started out in the early 1950's as an unlikely candidate for the sports world. Weighing only 120 pounds and 5' 4" tall, it was unlikely he would survive in any contact sport like football, but thoroughbred racing fit his strong temperament and steel nerves. With half-ton horses surrounding him during a race to possibly cause serious injury, he would instantly decide to dart through quick openings in the pack to gain a strategic position in order to win the race.

Upon his 1950 graduation from Blacklick Township High School (see photo, where he is seen at the left of the front row), Bill had plans to work at the Johnstown Plant of Bethlehem Steel. Instead, he was lured to take a job as an exercise and stable boy at the Charles Town Race Course in West Virginia. After trying his hand in several horse races, he immediately became noted for his tenacity and competitiveness. This was the beginning of his spectacular rise as one of the greatest jockeys of all time, and become elected in 1959 to Racing's Hall of Fame at the age of 26. He won the Kentucky Derby five times—one among them being the 1957 Derby Race with the greatest goof in racing history. With his horse in the lead, Jockey Bill Shoemaker misjudged the finish line. This error of judgment allowed Hartack to overtake Shoemaker at the finish line and win the race by a nose. For a detailed description of Bill Hartack's background and death see the Washington Times obituary, here.

Also Bill Hartack's picture was featured on the front cover of the February 10, 1958 issue of Time Magazine, seen in one of the earliest articles published on the Home Page, here.

— Frank Charney

In the photo above, Bill Hartack is first left in the first row. Click the photo for a larger view.

The Skimhallo Gang
Jackson Township gives $20k check to NTAMHS
Valley video page updated


Complete index of Jon Kennedy's Jonal articles


Today's chuckle

Sometimes the professor with his bone becomes almost as dangerous as a dog with his bone. And the dog at least does not deduce a theory from it, proving that mankind is going to the dogs—or that it came from them.

—G. K. Chesterton


Thought for today

Because intimacy is available to entice (and frighten!) me, my life is not only bearable but also possible.

—Mark Galli, Christianity Today


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