The family of the late Jim McKay, beloved by millions as the host of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” accepted the Robert and Anne Heighe Award for Excellence in Equestrian Journalism on his behalf the evening of November 10 at Harford Community College.
Accepting the award were members of McKay’s family, including his daughter, Mary Guba; son, Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports; and grandchildren James Fontelieu, Jackson McManus and Maggie McManus.
Guba shared stories of her father reminiscing about his first broadcast, at Pimlico, in 1947, and about his thirst to learn. She also discussed how passionate he was about four things in his life–his wife, Margaret; his children and grandchildren; the State of Maryland; and Thoroughbred horse racing.
In his remarks, McManus reflected on his father’s appreciation of Maryland and how coming home was the best part of his job. “He loved Maryland, and Maryland loved him,” McManus said.
Bill Boniface, the owner of Bonita Farm in Darlington who was McKay’s trainer and friend, also spoke at the award presentation. Boniface summed up the thoughts of the guests by saying, “Jim McKay was the best sportscaster that ABC or any other network ever had.”
The award was presented by the Hays-Heighe House, a public history site located at Harford Community College. The Hays-Heighe House was the centerpiece of Robert and Anne Heighe’s 225-acre Prospect Hill Farm (headquarters of their Thoroughbred breeding and racing operations) from 1921-53. McKay was honored with the Heighe Award for his years of coverage of horse racing and in particular the American “Triple Crown” series of horse races.
Previous recipients of the Robert and Anne Heighe Award for Excellence in Equestrian Journalism include Joe Kelly, William Boniface, Humphrey S. Finney and Pierre “Peb” Bellocq.
The reception menu featured foods from cities and countries that represented different parts of McKay’s life–his birthplace, Philadelphia, with cheesesteak sliders; the state where he made his home and the city where he was educated and started his career, Baltimore, with crab balls and Natty Boh in addition to international food connections including veggies with hummus (Mediterranean), baked brie (France), open-faced sandwiches with cream cheese and olives (Britain), eggrolls (China) and Swedish meatballs. The room’s decor featured a Maryland theme.
Sponsors of the November 10 event included Gold Sponsor MediaWise, Inc.; Silver Sponsors Jim McKay Maryland Million Day, Maryland Horse Breeders Association and Maryland Jockey Club; and Bronze Sponsors Fasig-Tipton and Loyola University Maryland. Friend Sponsors included Carol Allen, Denise Carnaggio, Martha Hopkins, Julie Mancine, Maryland Horse Industry Board, Patricia Perluke, Jan Roth, William K. Roth and Sharon Stowers, Ph.D. and Steve and Terry Troy.
An exhibit showcasing McKay’s life, titled “The Wider World of Jim McKay,” is on display in the Hays-Heighe House through January 12. Exhibit hours are Tuesdays from 1 to 3 p.m.; Thursdays from 3 to 5 p.m.; Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon and first Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Admission is free.
“The Wider World of Jim McKay“ exhibit chronicles McKay’s life from his Philadelphia childhood through his early journalism career and into his national and international work. His reporting on equestrian sports is one of the highlights in addition to his international reporting. Guest curator of the exhibit, Maryanna Skowronski, also executive director of the Historical Society of Harford County, worked closely with McKay’s family and friends, who provided photos, memorabilia and stories of his personal life and of his career.
Harford Community College is located at 401 Thomas Run Road in Bel Air. For more information, visit www.harford.edu/jimmckay or call 443-412-2144.