Wednesday, June 24, 2020


On Monday, via trainer Paul Kelley, we learned harness racing's defacto Chief Historian Joe Fitzgerald passed away.

To say this was unexpected - and to the the many of us who chatted with Joe over the years, shocking and sad - was an understatement.

Joe was a very private guy, but that didn't stop him from talking to just about anyone who liked or watched the sport of harness racing. His tweets were a tour de force, and if this sport was as watched  as the big ones he'd probably be a (reluctant) popular figure. He absolutely loved the sport, and his knowledge of it was as vast as his prodigious vocabulary.

I'll definitely miss him for that, but I'll mostly miss just chatting with him, and his good nature overall.

Joe was a wonderful writer. A wordsmith. And his articles on various websites are testament to that.  But for a guy who could write like that, he sure didn't flaunt it. Sometimes with me - not a wordsmith, obviously - he'd gently reference a line that wasn't quite right, or an incorrect word. I'd look at it and realize how stupid I was, but he never did it to make me feel stupid. That wasn't him. That was the antithesis of him.

I don't know what Joe did for a living (and I am sorry I never asked) but I think he'd be at home on a shop floor because his good natured needling and humour would take him far. I remember when Donald Trump won the Massachusetts primary, and me knowing Joe's disdain for him, tweeted something about "You Massachusetts types love the Donald, Joe!" He replied in jocular fashion, playing along, just like he always has since. He'd fire back to me something about Trudeau at times that was laugh out loud funny, giving it back to me.

Joe appeared to be an amateur hobbyist type person in Astrology. Me, being, well not that, again would ask silly questions like, "Joe, if Mars and Mercury are retrograding, does that mean I will hit a pick 4 tonight?" What I'd get back was pure Joe.

I am pretty sure if I lived in Boston I'd want to hang with Joe, because he was Joe. And if you loved harness racing, you were automatically a friend. You were in the club. Joe's club.

I remember years ago speaking to someone in the sport who had a title of some sort. I told him that harness racing history is not really documented; we can't find what we're looking for (especially with even historical horse lines behind paywalls). I asked about the sport creating a harness racing wiki - a funded project with hands on deck to document the sport; to live on the web forever.

Today I think about this even more because we lost Joe. He - unpaid of course - was doing that for us, almost each day. Now he's gone. And others will surely follow, leaving us to pick up the slack, when few of us are capable. I don't know why I should - I am just a fan with a blog - but I find that troubling.

I'll miss your tweets Joe. But I'll miss you as a person even more. You were a fantastic guy. God Speed.

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