04/06/2015 4:27PM

Radio broadcaster Bill Garr dies


Bill Garr, a Southern California-based radio broadcaster whose shows included morning scratches, interviews, plus calls and results, died last week at the age of 98, according to his daughter, Jeannie Garr Roddy.

Garr had been retired for years and had been in poor health, preventing him from coming to the track he loved most, Santa Anita. It was from there where, in the pre-internet days, fans would tune in to Garr in the morning to hear that day’s scratches, tune in at midday for the daily double, and tune in at night for the call of the feature race, followed by a recap of the day’s results. He’d also host a call-in show on Saturday mornings, all for years on local station KIEV in Southern California.

Garr’s first live show from Santa Anita was broadcast on Dec. 26, 1959. For nearly four decades, he broadcast his show - a forerunner of today's racing shows - from Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, and Del Mar. He also worked  on local racing telecasts in the 1960s.

In addition to his exhaustive broadcast schedule, Garr was known for some of the corniest jokes at the racetrack, ones in which he took great delight in telling if only to see the reaction of his audience.

He’d remind you to have a hot dog, because you were “guaranteed to have a weiner.” After watching a horse named Forty Winks win, he called the horse “a real sleeper.” When Jerry Bailey was riding, he’d ask, “If Barnum runs a horse does he have to put Bailey on him?”

A viewing will be held at Douglass and Zook Chapel of Remembrance Funeral Home, 600 East Foothill Boulevard in Monrovia, not far from Santa Anita, next Monday, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

A memorial service will be held Tuesday, April 14, at noon at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1757 North Lake Avenue, Pasadena, Calif.

Garr was preceded in death by his wife, Jean. He was the brother of the late Louis Eilken, a former racing secretary at Santa Anita.

In lieu of flowers, Roddy requests donations be made to Shadow Hills Equestrian Therapeutic Riding Club.

additional reporting by Steve Andersen

William Garr More than 1 year ago
We miss our father dearly. Bill Garr loved his fans as much as the horses he announced. He was an ordinary man from a humble back round. Little known, Bill Garr was a war hero, devising the system which built and launched our liberty ships in four days, which he said was faster than the Germans or Japanese could sink them. And it was true. Bill Garr's war efforts in the US Flag Merchant Marine helped hastened the end of the great World War II. We miss him so much; he contributed so much. He asked for donations to be made to the United States Navy League, Navy Days L.A., phone number (310) 392-1275 for more information. Goodbye Dad. We love you. Your son Bill Jr., Mai, Bradley & Matthew
horseswriter More than 1 year ago
RIP Bill Garr. I met him in the early 70s and occasionally gave him the scratches when he phoned the HP racing office. He was enterprising and industrious -- and aside from his family and friends, I believed he loved horse racing more than anything on Earth. He served his love well. Does anyone recall he was a Whiz Kid on radio before WW II? I think the show was sponsored by Campbell Soup, and you had to be an awfully bright kid to handle the quiz questions.
larryzapeye More than 1 year ago
Hearing Bill Garr in the 80's & 90's on Saturday morning would pump me up to head to Santa Anita from the beach area. Bill made you understand that the track was a place to be live. His race calls where entertaining, his accuracy was not his forte, but they were legendary. He should be remembered for his respect for the sport of thoroughbred horse racing in Southern California. I spent a few years hanging in the press box & was able to talk one on one with Garr, he was a really nice man. RIP
Kelsey More than 1 year ago
My compliments to you for providing an article of a figure who was a horseplayer like most of us. Very classy regardless of the nitpicking crowd of commentators.
Gary Moore More than 1 year ago
Bill Garr I listend to him in the 90s and he would call the feature race rip Bill
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Two of you are confusing Bill Garr with Jay Richards of Horse and Jockey. I spoke with him on the phone a few times in the early 90's and he was the kind of person that would do anything for a fellow horseplayer. I hope one of the weekend radio shows plays one of Bill's stretch calls because they were epic.
Chris Myers More than 1 year ago
Not to sound mean but I can't believe he was still alive. But anyway in the 80's anyone who was a horse player in SO CAL who was betting in the area always was waiting for Bill Garr's stretch call. Anyone who played the horses at that time knows what I mean. He was an icon for SO CAL players in that era. RIP Bill Garr, you mean more to horse players at that era than you will know,
Ron Chan More than 1 year ago
Mr. hand boot & whip, I used to listen to his calls when radio is the only live communication if you are not at the track, btw, Harvey Pack at the track back in New York was a much better race caller. RIP.
Ed Gredvig More than 1 year ago
Bill was one of the kindest men you could ever know. We were paired in a golf tournament in the late 1970's and Bill showed up with clubs and bag from the 1940's. We had a blast that day laughing more than playing. Saw Bill & his family at Mijares last May and I can say you should be so lucky to live the life Bill did and have the great family around him when he passed. Bill Garr will forever be part of the fabric of Santa Anita. RIP Bill.
Steve More than 1 year ago
The scratch information and race results on his show were very useful, but his calls were terrible. He used to say "making a big move, flying on the outside, rolling past horses" or something like that, but many times the horse he was calling would not hit the board. I believe his wife Jean who was a realtor, was the main sponsor of the show. Anyway, rest in peace Bill, sorry your health prevented you from coming to the track in your later years