by Kent Sterling
The Indianapolis 500 is loved almost as much as an an iconic radio event as it is a race, and the guy who invented the Indianapolis 500 Radio Network was the same guy who sold the spots for it and hosted the broadcast.
His name was Sid Collins and he’s been gone since May 2, 1977, but there are few at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway unaware of his incredible impact on the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – a phrase he used first at the suggestion of a fellow employee at WIBC Radio.
Listening to Talk of Gasoline Alley host Donald Davidson talk about his old friend reminds us why the Indy 500 is indeed the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
People have asked me to reprint the incredible eulogy Sid delivered when Eddie Sachs was killed in a horrifying wreck in the 1964 race. Here is how he remembered his friend moments after Tom Carnegie notified everyone that Sachs had perished:
“You heard the announcement from the public address system. There’s not a sound. Men are taking off their hats. People are weeping. There are over 300,000 fans here not moving. Disbelieving.
Some men try to conquer life in a number of ways. These days of our outer space attempts some men try to conquer the universe. Race drivers are courageous men who try to conquer life and death and they calculate their risks. And with talking with them over the years I think we know their inner thoughts in regards to racing. They take it as part of living.
A race driver who leaves this earth mentally when he straps himself into the cockpit to try what for him is the biggest conquest he can make (are) aware of the odds and Eddie Sachs played the odds. He was serious and frivolous. He was fun. He was a wonderful gentleman. He took much needling and he gave much needling. Just as the astronauts do perhaps.
These boys on the race track ask no quarter and they give none. If they succeed they’re a hero and if they fail, they tried. And it was Eddie’s desire and will to try with everything he had, which he always did. So the only healthy way perhaps we can approach the tragedy of the loss of a friend like Eddie Sachs is to know that he would have wanted us to face it as he did. As as it has happened, not as we wish it would have happened. It is God’s will I’m sure and we must accept that.
We are all speeding toward death at the rate of 60 minutes every hour, the only difference is we don’t know how to speed faster and Eddie Sachs did. So since death has a thousand or more doors, Eddie Sachs exits this earth in a race car. Knowing Eddie I assume that’s the way he would have wanted it. Byron said “who the God’s love die young.”
Eddie was 37. To his widow Nancy we extend our extreme sympathy and regret. And to his two children. This boy won the pole here in 1961 and 1962. He was a proud race driver. Well, as we do at Indianapolis and in racing, as the World Champion Jimmy Clark I’m sure would agree as he’s raced all over the world, the race continues. Unfortunately today without Eddie Sachs. And we’ll be restarting it in just a few moments.”
Sid’s gift to describe the emotion of a moment was singular, but there are few who have had the grace to capture a moment like that.
We’ll have more from Donald every day the race day.