Two-time Eclipse Award-winning broadcaster Tom Hammond and the late Eclipse Award-winning cinematographer Joe Burnham have been selected to the National Museum of Racing’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor.
Hammond, one of television’s most respected and versatile talents, began his racing coverage with NBC Sports in 1984 and was the network’s main racing host until 2017. Hammond’s horse racing coverage has included the Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness (G1), and Belmont Stakes (G1), as well as Summer at Saratoga and the Breeders’ Cup. He has also called figure skating, college basketball and NFL games for the network. From 1992 through 2013, he served as the lead play-by-play voice on Notre Dame Football on NBC.
Hammond’s association with NBC Sports dates to the network’s regional college basketball broadcasts in the late 1970s. His big break came in 1984, when he was hired on what was intended to be a one-time-only basis as a reporter for NBC’s telecast of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. That telecast won the Eclipse Award, and Hammond has been involved with NBC Sports ever since. Hammond won a second Eclipse Award in 1996. He also earned an Emmy Award for coverage of the 1992 Breeders’ Cup. Hammond has won additional Emmys for sports broadcasting in 1988, 1992, and 1996.
Hammond was the first recipient of the annual Outstanding Kentuckian Award given by the A. B. Chandler Foundation and has been inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. He was the Thoroughbred Club of America’s Testimonial Dinner Guest of Honor in 2008 and was presented the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters’ Joe Palmer Award in 2015. In April of 2000, Hammond was honored as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Kentucky, where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in equine genetics. In September 2001, Hammond was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame. Hammond is a native and resident of Lexington, Ky.
Burnham (1923-1994), a native of Norfolk, Va., was one of the most esteemed cinematographers and television producers in thoroughbred racing history, winning an Eclipse Award in 1972 for film achievement and being recognized by the National Turf Writers Association with the Joe Palmer Award in 1991.
Burnham filmed the sport of Thoroughbred racing in person through five decades and was instrumental in organizing and archiving decades of historical racing footage. He served as the producer for the Eclipse Awards for 17 years and director for the Thoroughbred Racing Associations Champions Film from 1960 through 1966.
Prior to his involvement in racing, Burnham earned the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army. He served in World War II and received a medical discharge after being injured at Guadalcanal. Shortly thereafter he moved to California and began working in the film industry. His association with racing began with filming the daily races and distributing them to Los Angeles television stations prior to the days of satellite transmissions. His early work also included a Warner Brothers short documentary on a jockey that was nominated for an Academy Award in photography.
Burnham developed his extensive collection of racing films into commercially available videotapes prior to his death in 1994. Notable titles included “Thoroughbred Heroes” and “Hollywood Park: Fast Track to the Hall of Fame,” as well as historical documentaries on the Santa Anita Handicap, Del Mar, and great moments in the history of Santa Anita grass racing. He also produced a popular CBS racing show with commentator Gil Stratton and a radio show that covered Santa Anita Park, Hollywood Park, and Del Mar. In 2015, Burnham was recognized with a plaque in the Arcadia Historical Society Thoroughbred Racing Walk of Champions.
Previous selections to the Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor are Steven Crist (2010), Bill Nack (2010), Red Smith (2010), Charles Hatton (2010), Dr. Russ Harris (2011), Joe Palmer (2011), Jay Hovdey (2012), Whitney Tower (2012), Andrew Beyer (2013), Kent Hollingsworth (2013), George F. T. Ryall (2013), Jennie Rees (2014), Jim Murray (2014), Steve Haskin (2015), Raleigh Burroughs (2015), Maryjean Wall (2016), Jim McKay (2016), Michael Veitch (2017), Jack Whitaker (2017), and Barney Nagler (2017).
The National Museum of Racing’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor was established in 2010 to recognize individuals whose careers have been dedicated to, or substantially involved in, writing about thoroughbred racing (non-fiction), and who distinguished themselves as journalists. The criteria has since been expanded to allow the inclusion of other forms of media.
The Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor Committee is comprised of Edward L. Bowen (chairman), president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation; retired Jockey Club vice president of corporate communications Bob Curran; National Museum of Racing trustee Ken Grayson; retired turf publicist Jane Goldstein; and Dan Smith, senior media coordinator of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.