From the Sports Editor: Bachrad was one of a kind

Marv Bachrad

It’s difficult to imagine, but there actually was a time when Marv Bachrad didn’t know anything about horses or harness racing.

Bachard figured he was about 20 years old and had just gotten out of the Army when a friend invited him to go to Brandywine Raceway, the track that was just north of Wilmington.

“We got out of the car and started to walk toward Brandywine,” Bachrad said in an interview with Heather Vitale in 2010. “And Brandywine was a beautiful racetrack. You could hear Roy Shutt in the background saying an announcement …”

Bachrad didn’t know it yet, but it was the first of countless nights he would spend at harness-racing tracks in his lifetime.
When he died on Nov. 30 at the age of 82, he was considered a legend in the sport.

Bachrad was best known as a publicist and announcer at first Liberty Bell, then Brandywine and finally Dover Downs. But the Norristown, Pa. native was also a successful horse owner.

More than anything, however, Bachard was remembered as simply a genuinely nice man.

“Not an unkind word have I ever heard spoken about Marv nor did I ever hear Marv speak about another person,” said John Hensley, General Manager and Sr. Director of Horse Racing at Dover Downs. “He was the absolute greatest — the last of the harness-racing publicist breed and of his generation. There will never be another like him.”

Bachrad had to leave his Dover Downs’ job in June after 22 years when he began dealing with dementia. It was Denis McGlynn, who had been the track president at Brandywine, who brought the veteran publicist to Dover.

When he passed away, Bachrad was living in Phoenix, Ariz., where his brother, Allen, lives.

Hensley said there was no shortage of fond stories about Bachrad at his funeral before his burial in Jenkintown, Pa. on Tuesday.

“The rabbi said, the one thing about Marv, his humility was amazing,” said Hensley. “The amount of awards he won in racing — and we didn’t even know he was involved in racing (as an owner). … He never bragged that he won a $100,000 race. People that he sat next to in synagogue every Saturday morning never knew he owned race horses. He just was never one to speak about what he was doing.”

The form of dementia that Bachrad was dealing with affected his short-term memory. But Hensley said Bachrad’s physical health and long-term memory seemed to be just fine.

“He was just never a different guy,” said Hensley. “He was the same old Marv. And even when he was in assisted living, every day he’d say, ‘I’ve got to get back to work. I’ve really got to get back to work.’”

Bachrad leaves behind a long list of honors and awards from his career. He was inducted into three Halls of Fame, including one at Norristown High, harness-racing’s Communicators Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. He was presented with the Service to Youth Award, the Harness Tracks of America’s Dan Patch Award for excellence in communications as well as receiving a special appreciation award from the Delaware Standardbred Owners Association.

As a teenager, Bachard was so good at radio trivia shows that he reportedly had a closest full of sports equipment that he won as prizes.

He turned that prodigious memory into an encyclopedic knowledge of harness racing as an adult.

“Pedigrees, the lineage of champion race horses, he could remember the drivers who won certain stake races on certain horses on certain days,” said Hensley. “The interesting thing about Marv, which a lot of the racing folks don’t know, is he had the same knowledge of basketball — especially Philadelphia-area basketball.”

In another interview with Vitale, Bachrad was asked how it feels when people call him a ‘legend.’ He just laughed.

“I’ve been around so long,” he answered, “I guess there’s no other words to describe.”

Windett remembered

One of the more poignant moments of the fall sports season was Cape Henlopen High winning the DIAA Division I field hockey state title just two days after the sudden death of Bill Windett.

Windett’s daughter, Kate Austin, is Cape’s head coach while his wife of 40 years, Debbie, is one of her assistants.

Just like when Debbie was coaching at Caesar Rodney High, Bill was a regular at the Vikings’ practices and games.

The Wilmington native died quietly his sleep on Nov. 14 at the age of 65.

Bill taught at Dover Air Force Base High, CR, St. Thomas More and St. Vincent Pallotti. He coached a number of different sports along the way while also serving as the athletic director at St. Thomas More.

Odds & ends

• Before downstate teams’ current streak of four straight DIAA Division I football state titles (three by Smyrna, one by Sussex Central), Henlopen North teams had won only four Division I crowns in the previous 35 seasons.

• Special Olympics Delaware is holding several basketball skills competitions downstate in the coming week. The events will be held from 10:15 a.m.–12:30 p.m. at Sussex Tech on Tuesday; at Caesar Rodney High on Friday; and at Milford Central Academy on Dec. 18.

• The Maxwell Club recently named its Mini-Max Award winners for each of Delaware’s high school football programs. The award is based on football performance, academics and community service.

The downstate winners were: Jackson Rall (Caesar Rodney), Patrick Tkach (Cape Henlopen), A.J. Angello (Delmar), Jordan Magee (Dover), Nicholas Chafardon (First State Military), Reshawn Turner (Indian River), Ja-Juan Reid (Lake Forest), Dalton Perdue (Laurel), Rahshawn Price (Milford), Montrell Jones II (Polytech), Dorian Steger (Seaford), Saleem Wormley (Smyrna), Isaiah Barnes (Sussex Central), Michael Norsworthy (Sussex Tech) and Brock Keeler (Woodbridge).

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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