Tributes to Stanley F. Bergstein

Tribute from Harness Tracks of America   

Stanley F. Bergstein, the only person twice inducted into the U.S. Harness Racing Hall of Fame, died of heart failure in the predawn hours of Wed., Nov. 2 at his home in Tucson, AZ. At his side was his son Al, Al’s wife Megan and a hospice care specialist. Daughter Lisa and her husband Craig, along with grandson Michael Hentschel, were also in Tucson for the end of Stan’s amazing life. His death comes just 17 months after his beloved wife, June, died just four days after the couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. The loss to the harness racing world is immense. Bergstein was incomparable. “He could have done anything,” said friend Tom Aldrich in 1999. Instead, Bergstein chose to devote his boundless energies to harness racing — in just about every capacity imaginable. Aldrich, the President and Chief Operating Officer of Northfield Park near Cleveland, OH, was a former executive assistant at the Harness Tracks of America (HTA), the organization Bergstein joined in 1961. “Imagine all the things he’s done,” Aldrich said of Bergstein. “He could have been an author. He could have been a humorist. He could have been a diplomat. He could have been a religious leader, a politician, a journalist, a fashion editor… He could have been a recruiter, a headhunter, a talent agent.” As it was, Bergstein was a writer, innovator, broadcaster, race announcer, hall of famer, master of ceremonies, editor, race secretary, mentor, collector, spokesperson, horse owner, pedigree reader, consultant, auctioneer, ambassador, dean, humorist and sage. He was best known as the Executive Vice-President of the HTA, a job he held for 50 years. In February of 2011, he was named Executive Emeritus. 

Obituary from the Chicago Tribune   
Stan Bergstein, executive vice president of Harness Tracks of America from 1961 to 2011, excelled at multi-tasking long before the phrase entered the American workplace vocabulary. “The things Stan was good at he was great at,” said Phil Langley, president of the United States Trotting Association and director of racing at Balmoral Park and Maywood Park. “His contributions to harness racing will never be duplicated.” A resident of Hinsdale (from 1963 to 1978), Mr. Bergstein was an administrator, writer, editor, publicist, race announcer, TV commentator, auctioneer, pedigree expert, event planner, innovator and ambassador for the sport he dedicated his life to. The only person to be inducted into both the Harness Racing Hall of Fame and its Communicators Hall of Fame, Mr. Bergstein, 87, died Wednesday, Nov. 2, at his home in Tucson, Ariz. He had suffered serious cardio-pulmonary problems in the past year. “Harness racing lost its most respected voice,” said Bill Finley, editor and publisher of the newsletter Harness Racing Update. “Never has one man ever contributed such an amazing array of talents to the benefit of harness racing. Never has one man earned so much respect and admiration in harness racing. Never has one man labored so long and hard for the betterment of harness racing.” Mr. Bergstein retired as HTA executive vice president in February. Shortly thereafter the United States Harness Writers Association announced that it would honor him for lifetime achievement at its 2012 awards dinner in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 12. A staunch advocate of forging closer ties between standardbred and thoroughbred racing, most notably in regards to medication abuse and drug testing, Mr. Bergstein began writing a column for the thoroughbred publication Daily Racing Form in 1948 and continued to contribute columns through mid-September. “He could have done anything,” said Tom Aldrich, president and chief operating officer of Northfield Park near Cleveland and one of Mr. Bergstein’s many proteges. “I can’t imagine what harness racing in this continent would have been like without him.” Mr. Bergstein was born in Pottsville, Pa. He served in the Army during World War II, walking onto Omaha Beach a few days after the Normandy invasion and engaging in combat. After his discharge, he enrolled in Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. After graduating, he became track announcer at Maywood, which inaugurated pari-mutuel harness racing in Illinois in 1946. In 1948, he was hired by Abe Saperstein to work as an announcer and publicist for the Harlem Globetrotters, traveling throughout America and abroad with the team for five years. Subsequently, he worked as race secretary and track announcer at now-defunct Sportsman’s Park, which had added the standardbreds to its racing program in 1949 and was the Midwest leader in the sport. Mr. Bergstein left Sportsman’s in 1961 to become executive vice president of Harness Tracks of America, a federation of the country’s harness tracks. He opened an office on North Michigan Avenue. Seven years later he added the title of vice president of publicity and public relations for the U.S. Trotting Association, the governing body of the standardbred sport. He also became editor of the USTA’s award-winning monthly magazine, HoofBeats. During this period Mr. Bergstein was the announcer for harness racing’s two premier events, working two years at the Little Brown Jug and starting a 17-year stint at the Hambletonian. He also inaugurated the World Driving Championship, a yearly series of races involving harness drivers from the U.S. and Europe with competition on both continents. In the mid-1970s, Mr. Bergstein stopped working full time for the USTA and started commuting from Chicago to New York to do a weekly harness racing show on WOR-TV. The show continued for 12 1/2 years. He relocated HTA’s headquarters to New Jersey, then again to Tucson when he moved there in 1994. He became a mentor to many of the students in the University of Arizona’s racing industry studies program, including HTA general counsel Paul Estok, who succeeds him as executive vice president. His wife died 17 months ago, shortly after the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary. Mr. Bergstein is survived by a son, Al; a daughter, Lisa Bergstein Tremback; and four grandsons. 

Tribute from The Daily Racing Forum   
Stan Bergstein, a harness-racing titan who advocated for cooperation between the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries to solve the sports’ common problems, died on Wednesday morning at his home in Tucson at the age of 87, according to a family friend. Bergstein had been suffering from health problems for the past year, and died under the care of hospice, surrounded by his immediate family. Bergstein stepped down in February after 50 years as the executive vice president of Harness Tracks of America, the Standardbred industry’s trade association. He was immediately appointed as the organization’s first executive emeritus, and continued to advise the association and write guest columns for the Daily Racing Form until the weeks before his death. The only person to ever be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame and its Communicators Hall of Fame, Bergstein worked in a wide variety of roles at racetracks, auction houses, announcer’s booths, and racing publications, and he maintained extensive collections of harness-racing books and artwork. He was widely respected not only in the harness industry, but also in the Thoroughbred industry, and he served as a mentor to generations of young racing professionals through a close association with the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program, located in Tucson, for the past 40 years. Bergstein was a forceful proponent of forging closer ties between the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries, most notably in tackling medication abuse and problems with drug-testing. In dozens of commentaries, Bergstein maintained that the Standardbred industry’s problems were — or would be — those of the Thoroughbred industry, and that neglect of a problem in one sport would damage the other. Bergstein borrowed from the Thoroughbred industry early in his career, incorporating claiming races as a racing secretary while working at the Chicago tracks in the 1950’s. At the time, the harness racing industry did not run claiming races, and they are now as commonplace in Standardbred racing as they are in Thoroughbred racing Bergstein also spearheaded the creation of Standardbred Investigative Services, a security agency modeled on the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. A native of Illinois, Bergstein attended harness races as a young man and received a journalism degree from Northwestern University. He was the former executive editor of Hoof Beats magazine, and the former vice president of publicity and public relations for the United States Trotting Association. The U.S. Harness Writers Association was scheduled to honor Bergstein at its 2012 conference this winter for his lifetime of service to the industry. “There are few people in the sport, and certainly none of the younger generation, who do not revere Stan Bergstein for his unprecedented accomplishments in harness racing,” said Jason Settlemoir, the president of the writers’ association when the honor was announced. “Honoring him at our 2012 dinner seems a small ‘thank you’ compared to what he has done for harness communications, racetracks, and just the entire sport in general.” 

From the legacy memorial web-site created by Al Bergstein: