Saturday, April 14, 2018

Obituary: William Nack

One of the great sportswriters of all time, Bill Nack, who worked for years for Sports Illustrated and best remembered for his work on Secretariat, has died at the age of 77.

Nack, then employed by Newsday,  spent practically 24/7 with the Secretariat crew during the 1972-73 years, and he documented their story in the outstanding Big Red of Meadow Stable, later titled Secretariat:  The Making of a Champion.  The fact few books have tried to tackle the Secretariat story since says it all about Nack's incredible writing skills.

Nack was also celebrated for his writing an obituary of Secretariat in 1990, a few months after the champion died, for SI called "Pure Heart."  It might be the best sports feature ever written.  This was the essay where it was revealed how large Secretariat's heart really was at the time of his death.

Great article.  I had visited Secretariat just 9 or 10 weeks before he passed, so I knew exactly how Nack felt.


Nack was born in Chicago in 1941 and then moved with his family to Skokie, Ill., at the age of 10. After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1966 and serving in the army, he moved to New York and worked with Newsday, covering sports, politics, and the environment for 11 years before joining Sports Illustrated, reported.
Among the many awards Nack won throughout his career were the ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sportswriting in 2017 and the 1992 Walter Haight Award for career excellence in turf writing presented by the National Turf Writers Association. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame's Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor in 2010.

Sports Illustrated as an obituary of him up:

William Louis Nack died Friday, at the age of 77, at his home in Washington, D.C., of complications from the cancer that he had been fighting for several years. He is survived by his wife, Carolyne, four children and several grandchildren. Nack was a towering figure in the history of sports journalism, a literary wordsmith and tireless reporter whose distinctive and soaring prose is revered by his peers and generations of younger writers. He stands among the best sportswriters in the history of the genre, and in many ways, among the best writers of any kind. When he stopped typing, he was a giant personality, full of endless good charm, disarmingly well-read and all times, given to entertain.

 The palette upon which Nack painted his most vivid portraits was horse racing, in particular, Secretariat. His story entitled Pure Heart, published in the June 4, 1990 issue of SIwas an emotional remembrance of the horse and the story that was the centerpiece of Nack’s career, Big Red’s run to the Triple Crown in the spring of 1973. Pure Heart, written several months after Secretariat was euthanized, was a passionate remembrance of a transcendent racehorse, but also of a man who had immersed himself in the story, and now found himself counting the passing of years and tasting the familiarity of his own tales.

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