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Tributes pour in to honor Meadows announcer Huston

November 01, 2019
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An era will end Saturday when Roger Huston, “The Voice” of The Meadows for the last 44 years, calls his final race card at the track (first post 1:05 p.m.).
 
At 77, Huston is cutting back his workload. He’ll still call the Little Brown Jug, which he’s done since 1968, and he’ll announce races at a number of county fairs. But his day-to-day presence will be reduced.
 
And what a presence it has been. Not only has Huston called more than 188,000 races in his career, but he’s also been an effective ambassador and champion for harness racing, attracting many new fans to the sport through his distinctive calls and enthusiasm. Fittingly, the Hall of Famer has accepted a position as ambassador for the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association, returning to his Ohio roots.
 
He seldom refuses an assignment, calling races throughout North America and journeying to Dublin each year to announce Ireland’s premier event, the Vincent Delaney Memorial. But a race needn’t be high profile to lure him; he once called a homespun Pittsburgh affair known as “The Undie 500,” which featured humans, possibly inebriated, racing in their skivvies. That one may not make his career highlights list, but all who heard his call remember it.
 
Huston is prolific to be sure, yet he also brings to his work a Cosellian quality, rare among announcers, that infuses even the most humble event with importance. When he calls a race, it’s historic — and we’re thrilled to become part of that history.
 
Now, on the eve of his final call at The Meadows, horsemen are offering tributes and remembrances. Some are veteran Ohio and western Pennsylvania horsemen. Others are winners of the Jug or the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids. A few are both.
 
If you’ve never been on your feet, you better get up now to join these horsemen in thanking Roger Huston and celebrating his career.
 
“We’re not just losing a man; we’re losing an icon He’s the SportsCenter, the Chris Berman of harness racing. His knowledge and dedication to something that he loves are unsurpassed. I’ve always looked forward to Roger’s announcing every day, to his thunder and his fire. The statistics he compiles are instrumental to the game. With today’s technology, I hope there’s a group that will keep that going.”
— Aaron Merriman, four-time national driving champion who’s co-located at The Meadows and Ohio tracks
 
“He’s the reason my dad took me to the races for the 1976 Adios. I had no background in horses, no interest in horses, but when I heard Roger calling the stretch duel between Armbro Ranger and Keystone Ore, I was hooked. I thought, I’d like for that guy to scream my name. He’s been my No. 1 supporter, even introducing me at my Hall of Fame induction. When I won the Jug with P-Forty Seven (2005), he was the happiest guy in the winners’ circle — tears running down his face, big hug. That meant a lot. It will be weird driving races and not hearing him.”
— Dave Palone, harness racing’s all-time “winningest” driver
 
“When I was 17, I skipped school to go to the Jug. I had no pass, no parking — the Jug barn wasn’t even built then. So I’m walking up the road, and I hear Roger holler, ‘They’re going to the gate.’ It made my hair stand on end. He makes the whole experience more special. In 2017, I had three horses at The Meadows for Emerald Highlands Farm on Adios Day. We won the Adios with Fear The Dragon, we won an Adioo Volo division, and we won an Arden Downs split. Roger couldn’t let that go: ‘Three in a row at The Meadows!’ That put the cherry on top.”
—   Brian Brown, Delaware, Ohio-based trainer
 
“I’ve known Roger just about my whole life. I remember first meeting him when I was 8 at the Ashland County Fair and later hearing him call the Jug. He really loves harness racing; you can tell by the way he calls the races. Things won’t be the same without him. After I won my first Jug with No Pan Intended (2003), I told Roger, ‘I’m glad it was you who called my first Jug win.’”
— Hall of Famer David Miller, five-time Jug winner and former member of The  Meadows drivers colony.
           
“Roger is Meadows racing as far as I’m concerned, and I’m lucky enough to call him my friend. It’s truly a loss for The Meadows. At the same time, I’m happy for him taking on his new role in Ohio. He’s had a tremendous impact on the sport and on me personally. When I watch replays and hear him screaming my name, it makes my job fun.”
                        — Mike Wilder, Ohio native and longtime driver at The Meadows
 
“On behalf of all our horsemen, I want to thank Roger. He’s been harness racing’s No. 1 fan, and we really appreciate all his hard work in promoting racing. He’s in the Hall of Fame for a reason.”
— Kim Hankins, executive director, Meadows Standardbred Owners Association
 
“I’m from Ohio, and my first harness racing experience was listening to Roger’s calls at the Jug. That was the most exciting thing. We moved to western Pennsylvania even before Roger arrived at The Meadows; I remember having dinner at his house when we were kids. It was great to have an announcer of his stature at The Meadows; just his being here brought us publicity. That’s been important for all our careers. What he’s brought to our sport is unfathomable.”
                        — Norm Parker, The Meadows-based trainer
 
“I’ve actually been thinking quite a bit about his departure. I’m trying to appreciate hearing him now, because when he’s gone, people will really miss him. My father grew up in Pittsburgh and, I assume, went to The Meadows in the ’70s. Roger was the announcer then, so to me, he connects my generation to my dad’s generation. Something feels good about that, knowing I’m listening to the same announcer. I don't know what it will be like here when he’s gone, but it certainly will be different. Roger is as much a part of The Meadows as anyone or anything ever.”
—   Mark Weaver of Weaver Bruscemi LLC, who treasures Huston’s calls of his two Jug wins (Limelight Beach in 2014, Filibuster Hanover in 2017) and his 2018 Adios title with Dorsoduro Hanover. (MSOA)
 
 
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