Horse racing still driving passion for ESPN/ABC analyst Goldberg


May 13, 1999|By Milton Kent

More than 40 years later, Hank Goldberg remembers the pained expression on his father's face the day he told him he wanted to buy a car. Not so coincidentally, it was also the day Goldberg told his old man he had been introduced to horse racing.

Goldberg, a racing analyst for ESPN, was drawn to the sport as a teen-ager by a friend whose uncle worked at Monmouth Park, and he hit a $450 double on his first trip to the track.

Goldberg's father was a sports columnist, and when he told his dad that he wanted to get a set of wheels, the father naturally asked where he had gotten the money.

"He looked drained," said Goldberg yesterday. "He said, `Oh, boy, you're hooked.' And he was right.' "

Since that first winning bet, Goldberg, 58, has led a life as varied as the ponies and fillies he covers, selling advertising in both New York and Miami, where he has called Dolphins games on the radio, as well as anchoring a sports news show.

Goldberg also is host of a drive-time sports radio call-in show in Miami, but is best known nationwide as "Hammerin' Hank," ESPN's NFL odds man, as he appears on "SportsCenter" during the season to pick against the spread.

But it's horse racing that fuels his passion. ESPN officials brought him on five years ago for their ESPN2 "Sports Night" show, and when they asked what his secondary sport would be, he wasted no time answering.

"Most people don't come into an all-sports network and say, `Give me horse racing,' but I like the people and the game," said Goldberg. "It's a challenging sport because you're participating as well as watching."

Goldberg's accuracy led producers at ABC, ESPN's corporate parent, to add him to their Triple Crown team, and he'll analyze Saturday's Preakness alongside some of the legends of sports broadcasting.

"I sat in a production meeting in Louisville [for the Kentucky Derby], and I looked across the table and saw Jim McKay and Al Michaels. Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed," said Goldberg.

Goldberg, who co-anchored yesterday's post-position draw show, says the team surrounding filly Silverbulletday, which drew the 14th gate, seems to be most disappointed.

"They put a lot of emphasis on where she drew. I can't say I blame them that much based on what happened in the Derby," said Goldberg. "It's an unusual year because you have so many horses who want to be in the same spot coming off the first turn. It's amazing that something serious didn't happen in the Derby, because there was sure a lot of contact."

There will be more from Goldberg and Kim Goodwin, who will analyze the race for Channel 2, in this space tomorrow.

Say what?

Let's be charitable and say that analyst Bill Walton "reached" a little the other night during TBS' telecast of Game 2 of the Milwaukee-Indiana NBA playoff series.

Walton said a Bucks win would be the biggest in the franchise's history, which would pretty much have negated the games they won on the way to their 1974 championship series appearance against Boston, not to mention the little matter of their 1971 title series sweep over our own Baltimore Bullets.

To his credit, Walton quickly noted the error of his ways, but the whole thing serves to punctuate the point that too many analysts, in an attempt to get themselves noticed or quoted in the national paper, say blunt and often erroneous things when simple statements will suffice.

Coming up lame

Make of it what you will, but last Thursday's Orioles-White Sox game on Channel 54 didn't even win its time slot.

The game, won by the Orioles, finished behind two tabloid shows, "Real TV," which did a 6.7/19 and "Hard Copy," which got a 4.4/11.

Mystical schedule

Just in time to showcase new draft choice Chamique Holds- claw, the WNBA's Washington Mystics will place a six-game package on Home Team Sports this season.

The first HTS game airs on June 19 from Orlando, with three July home games against Utah, Charlotte and Cleveland also airing. HTS will carry the final two road games, against Orlando and New York in August.

Dei Lynam, a sideline reporter for Turner during the NBA playoffs, will do play-by-play. The team and HTS have not yet settled on an analyst. Last year's six-game slate, which aired on Washington's Channel 20, drew a 1.7 average rating, which is about what the league got for its national television average on NBC.

Week's ratings

The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore during the past week (R-Rating; S-Share):

Event Day Ch. R/S

O's-Tigers Sun. 13 7.1/20

O's-Tigers Fri. 54 6.9/13

Lakers-Rockets Sun. 11 4.5/10

"NBA Inside Stuff" Sat. 11 4.2/13

O's-White Sox Thu. 54 4.0/11

"NBA Showtime" Sat. 11 3.9/12

T'wolves-Spurs Sun. 11 3.7/11

Kings-Jazz Sun. 11 3.7/9

76ers-Magic Sun. 11 3.6/10

Suns-Blazers Sat. 11 2.9/9

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