The Voice of Santa Anita

Rudolph Alvarado's biography on Joe Hernandez named finalist for 2009 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award

By Yvette Robertson
Published on LatinoLA: March 31, 2009

The Voice of Santa Anita

The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez: The Voice of Santa Anita by Rudolph Alvarado has been selected as a finalist for the 2009 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award presented by Castleton Lyons and Thoroughbred Times. The award is presented to the best book published in 2008 about some aspect of the Thoroughbred industry.

The winner will be revealed at a special reception at Castleton Lyons Farm in Lexington, Kentucky on the evening of Sunday, April 5. The winning author or authors will receive a $10,000 award and a custom designed Irish crystal trophy.

In announcing the decision coordinating judge Audrey Korotkin commented, "This was an especially tough competition. The three finalists were chosen out of seven semifinalists that represented a wide range of genres. We assessed the quality and merit of each book based on a variety of criteria, from the clarity and elegance of the prose, to the logic of the organization, to the knowledge of the author about his or her subject."

Alvarado's biography chronicles the life of Joe Hernandez, the legendary announcer who called the great races of Seabiscuit. Hernandez became one of the sport's leading race callers during the Great Depression, when many Mexicans and Mexican Americans were being repatriated to Mexico. Before collapsing at the microphone in 1972, Hernandez called 15,587 consecutive races at Santa Anita Park, a string that stretched back to the track's Christmas Day opening in 1934.

T. D. Thornton, who was the winner of last year's award and on the judge's panel this year, noted that, "The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez pulled me in like a vacuum. It's not just a fine piece of racing literature, but an exhaustively researched historical document that details the origins of West Coast racing, the art of race calling, and one man's struggle to break through racial barriers at a time when the odds were stacked mightily against minorities. The meticulously detailed source notes are a valuable inclusion, and the bonus CD that highlights Joe's race calls is an extra-nice touch--especially the haunting inclusion of 'Joe's Last Call,' in which a tape recorder was inadvertently left running to detail Hernandez's eerie collapse at the microphone during the final race of his career."

In regards to the selection, coordinating judge Korotkin wrote, "Painstakingly researched over a number of years, this book attempts to bring to flesh and blood a man known mainly through his voice, a man who kept much of his life shrouded in half-truths. Hernandez created his own 'narrative'--his personal history as he would have wanted it to be--which he adjusted to fit his needs. The author discovers not only the truth of that life but explores its unique traits, those traits that drove Hernandez to professional successes even as his personal life suffered."

The Dr. Tony Ryan Award was founded in 2006 by Castleton Lyons, a prominent thoroughbred breeding farm in Lexington, Kentucky, and Thoroughbred Times, a leading racehorse publication also located in Lexington. The award honors Dr. Tony Ryan, founder of Ireland-based Ryanair airlines, who died in October 2007.

Commenting on the achievement, Alvarado stated, "I am deeply humbled to be named a finalist for this prestigious award. To be included in this year's list of finalists is in itself quite an honor. I would like to thank all of those who supported this project along the way, especially Joe Hernandez's son, Father Frank Hernandez and Joe's grandson, Michael Carpenter. I am also grateful to Castleton Lyons and Thoroughbred Times for sponsoring this award."

Additional information about the book, Joe Hernandez, and the author can be found at

About Yvette Robertson:
I am the marketing coordinator for Caballo Press of Ann Arbor, an independent publisher located in southeastern Michigan. We specialize in books relating to Latinos/as.
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