Posted Dec. 21, 2016
We present a series of tributes to our colleague Bill Mooney, a truly inspirational figure in our ranks, from friends and fellow members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.
Bill is nearing the end of his valiant fight with cancer, and his remaining time with us is short. The way he has conducted himself throughout his life, including the months that passed after he was diagnosed, led to the creation during Tom Pedulla's presidency in 2015 of the Bill Mooney Award for displaying courage in the face of tremendous adversity. President Alicia Wincze Hughes approved a request for these tributes, and as you are about to see, the response has been great.
Following the tributes, there is more about Bill's life, his achievements and his contributions to our calling.
We have admired your gallantry to "not go gentle into that good night." If, however, you perceive a journey’s completion, settle in for the ultimate victory of peacefulness. God bless you.
-- Ed Bowen
You’ve submitted a treasure trove of stories over the years by digging deeply into the “why?” instead of lingering on the “what?”. Your dedication to your craft and to the sport of horse racing is unparalleled. I wish we would’ve known each other better, but I enjoyed talking with you the other day and know that you will carry God’s grace with you wherever you are. Much love,
-- Donna Brothers
Though I have never had the pleasure of meeting you face to face, I nevertheless want to extend my wishes and let you know that you have been an inspiration to me for your courage, your strength and your good spirit. Thank you. For everything you have done in every aspect of your life, personal and professional. Very sincerely yours,
I am forever grateful to Bill for unknowingly steering me to a career in racetrack publicity and turf writing. First he convinced me to do an article for The Thoroughbred Record and made sure it got published. Then he recommended me for a job in the Oaklawn Park press box that inadvertently led to a position at Canterbury Downs during the inaugural season. Like so many others, Bill was unable to get me completely out of the barns, but thanks to him I am able to blend racehorses and race writing into a fun-filled career and lifestyle. So many thanks to Bill!
-- Liane Crossley
I met Bill Mooney in June 2002 when I started at Thoroughbred Times. Of course, his credentials were impressive: Author, Eclipse Award winner, New York Times reporter, etc. What stuck out most, though, is two months later when I saw his name showing up on Mountaineer press releases ahead of the West Virginia Derby. As a young reporter who "grew up" at Thistledown, I worried that I'd lose my roots among the roses and dogwoods of Kentucky. Seeing a colleague like Bill embrace Mountaineer gave me confidence that the Sport of Kings doesn't always have to be covered in its palaces.
-- Ed DeRosa
Bill, your courage has been a tremendous inspiration to all of us. Be strong and know your legacy will always be in the hearts and minds of your friends and colleagues in the NWTAB.
-- Bob Ehalt
When I was a young turf writer just starting out, Bill took the time to befriend me and mentor me. We shared a passion for the obscure side of racing. Like me, he loved to explore the sites of old, abandoned racetracks. A trip to Berkshire Downs, anyone? He's a person with a big passion for the game and an even bigger heart.
-- Bill Finley
Hey Bill, your courage and dignity have made a lasting impression on us all. You are truly an inspiration! Godspeed my friend.
-- Tom Hammond
Bill has been a dear friend to me and my son for more than two decades. Bill and I wrote for the same magazines, The Backstretch and Thoroughbred Times, and I'm proud to say that Bill won his second Eclipse Award for a story he did in my short-lived magazine, Thoroughbred Style. Bill and I have both had one single piece of fiction published. The two stories not only appeared in the same magazine, but on adjoining pages. We always get a kick out of that. Bill has a wonderful perspective on being real about what we do -- he once told me we write stories about horses running in circles. Yet I've always admired Bill's hard work to do his beautifully written stories. He does his homework and he gets it right. What more can a writer do? Bill and I spoke recently on a subject dear to both of us - the New York Giants. He's as obsessed as my son and I. How could I not love him? As Bill continues his brave battle, he has taught all of us a valuable lesson of what courage and determination really mean. He is one tough man.
-- Bill Heller
Your courage is an inspiration. Wishing you comfort, satisfaction and peace of mind as your journey continues ever more.
-- Ed Golden
I was not in the game when you were near the top of it. But your work is among that work I'll read and reread to learn to get right. I was privileged to have an e-mail exchange just last week with you, Bill. Your attitude was precisely what I would have expected: gracious, uplifting and grateful. We have too few people like you in the sport - no, in the world! Bill, you may be nearing your personal finish line, but we all have been privileged to witness your run. I hope I can approach the final furlong of my own race with similar grace and courage. Peace.
-- Richard Gross
While I have many wonderful memories from my years knowing and admiring Bill Mooney, it's an early one that really says a great deal about who Bill is, why he has been important to racing journalism and further solidified the respect of his peers in the NTWAB. Twenty years ago, writer Stephanie Diaz was announced as the winner of both Eclipse Awards for writing available in 1995: magazine and newspapers. Questions arose about the articles. Several people quoted in the stories said that they had not been interviewed by Diaz or that they had never said some of the things that appeared as quoted material in Diaz's pieces. There were allegations of plagiarism. The NTWAB became involved and spent thousands of dollars on lawyers' fees -- I recall it being north of $40,000 -- to investigate and represent us in this matter. Many NTWAB members felt strongly about the developing controversy and spoke out about what looked to be violations of basic rules of journalism, but no one was more passionate than Bill. He was incensed, particularly that Diaz blamed editors for some of the issues. The NTWAB was partially successful. The magazine award was vacated by an arbitrator, though we asked that both be taken away, and Bill deserves some of the credit for personally never taking a step back and for keeping the organization involved.
I will forever be in debt to Bill. He supported and encouraged me when I was a younger writer covering racing and through some difficult years I had during my time at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. He set a great example of how important first-hand research can be when he discovered that the New York Racing Association's media guide was wrong crediting Sylvester Veitch with holding the record for most wins by a trainer at Saratoga. Bill is a fine writer and historian, a very good person, friend and mentor. I am so happy that our paths crossed many years ago in the press box at Saratoga Race Course. Lucky me.
-- Mike Kane
Years ago, when I wrote for Daily Racing Form, I spent a lot of time at the Keeneland Library -- researching stories, reading about pedigrees, etc. Never was I there that Bill was not also in the building. I always admired his strong desire and will to spend hours digging for nuggets that might make a story just a little bit better. His readers were the beneficiaries of his hard work. I imagine that like myself, Bill is not a fan of Twitter. Why say something in 140 characters when you can say it in 2,000 words? Because in depth is not just how Bill wrote, in depth describes Bill’s character.
-- Dan Liebman
Not only has Bill excelled as a writer and reporter during his distinguished career as a turf writer, in my mind he is greatest racing historian of our time.
-- Neil Milbert
Here on the threshold of man's greatest adventure, I say bravo for handling it all with such class and dignity. You have been an inspiration for all to face our toughest challenges boldly. Thank you for all the beautiful word-pictures you created for our education and our entertainment. For myself, I have long appreciated your eye for detail, your ear for story, and your steady proving that language can resonate like music. Go in peace, my friend.
-- Eric Mitchell
As a co-worker, competitor, and friend of Bill Mooney for the last three decades I can attest that (apologies to Carly Simon) “nobody does it half as good as you.” During that time, I was always in awe of the thoroughness and quality of Bill’s work. It was great to work with Bill but very frustrating to compete against him. At times, when I was in a position to edit any of Bill Mooney copy, I knew I could take a short cut and not do the requisite fact-checking, both due to to Bill’s relentless pursuit of facts and his accuracy. At some point, we grew apart professionally and personally, but in recent years rekindled our relationship. During our Ramsey lunches, Bill continued to impart his insightful observations of our industry, especially some the absurdities, along with many enjoyable stories and a healthy dose of humor . His adventure over the last two years should be a motivating factor for anyone who finds themselves in a seemingly impossible position, no matter the circumstances. Thanks Bill.
-- Ron Mitchell
If aspiring young turf writers asked for an example to follow, I would point to Bill Mooney, to his determination to unearth information, make certain of its accuracy and write it well. I also would tell them Bill is a fine writer but a greater man, prized for integrity, character and class. He is among the best of this, or any, era.
-- Tom Pedulla
As a long time journalist and wordsmith, you understand how hackneyed the term "one of the good guys" can be. In your case, the only change I would make is to print the word GOOD thusly. Although our time was brief, I always looked forward to and appreciated our annual visits in the Saratoga press box, in the days when turf writers and good writing was appreciated. Godspeed my friend.
-- John Pricci
It’s a rare individual who can look beyond his own adversity and suffering to cater to others. Bill Mooney has been an encourager and comforter to those around him, as well as his turf media brethren, during his health battle. His strength of character is an inspiration, and one that leads me to commend the NTWAB for instituting in 2015 the Bill Mooney Award for displaying courage in the face of tremendous adversity. The courage and class Bill Mooney has displayed throughout his ordeal is uncommon in nature. It is fitting that this award be given out when a person’s generous spirit under extreme adversity is so evident that it calls to mind our unforgettable friend Bill Mooney.
-- Mary Rampellini
Your writing has been an inspiration to so many turf writers. When I first came onto the scene in the 1970's at The Blood-Horse, I read your stories with avid interest and a little bit of envy. You were able to make nonfiction exciting and interesting. Thank you for the great stories through the years! With gratitude,
-- Julie Howell Turner Sarno
Bill Mooney embodies the best of the what a turf writer and turf publicist are; he is the consummate professional. Even better, he is an extraordinary human being. He is a true gentleman, and a man of integrity, honesty and decency. I am proud to call Bill my colleague, and prouder still and delighted to know he is my friend.
-- Lynne Snierson
One manifestation of Bill's courage is an ever-present sense of humor.
"When I finally check out," Mooney recently wrote, "I'd like to have racetracks around the country to have a moment of noise for me. Not silence. Noise."
Almost last, but certainly not least, we note that Bill was presented the 2012 Walter Haight Award at the NTWAB Annual Awards Dinner. A link to the excellent dinner program story about Bill's colorful career and achievements is here.
In conclusion Bill, three cheers to you, and thank you for all you've done for the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters and for displaying courage in the face of tremendous adversity.
-- Compiled and edited by Dick Downey