Jim McManus died at the age of 86 years young on Saturday just hours prior to the 140th running of the Belmont Stakes. While McManus (McKay was his professional name) is most associated with the man who brought us the unfolding events of the 1972 Olympics hostage crisis, he often said his greatest joy was covering thoroughbred racing and the Triple Crown events. Jim was the host that popularized ABC's Wide World of Sports for nearly four decades and brought the sights and sounds of the Olympics into American homes. During a career that "spanned the globe" for nearly 60 years, McKay was one of the greatest witnesses of 20th-century sports history.
McKay's first television broadcast assignment was a horse race at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore. It was the start of a love affair, which he shared with the nation each spring through his introductions to Triple Crown events for ABC Sports until NBC took over recently. It's a pity we now have to endure Bob Costas' linguistical vainglorious after being swayed by McKay's subtle balance.
Track announcer Dave Johnson worked with McKay during many horse racing telecasts.
"How many Saturday afternoons did we spend with Jim McKay?" he said from Belmont Park. "Maybe more than with family members. Never a cross word out of him, such a decent human being."
No more eloquent words can be spoken of Jim that what he once stated himself describing his passion, "There are few things in sport as exciting or beautiful as two strong thoroughbreds, neck and neck, charging toward the finish."
My Belmont wrap will soon follow...