By Bill Finley
Marshall Cassidy, the announcer at the New York tracks from 1979 through 1990, passed away Sunday at his home in Saratoga Springs, NY. He was 75.
According to friends of Cassidy, he died in his sleep. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Cassidy began his announcing career as the backup caller to Dave Johnson and then Chic Anderson. After Anderson passed away in 1979, Cassidy was promoted to the job of head announcer. In 1990, after the Saratoga meet concluded, he was replaced by Tom Durkin.
Over his years at NYRA, his calls could also be heard on WCBS radio, ABC, NBC, CBS and ESPN.
“He was my assistant for about five years,” Johnson said. “It was a real pressure cooker job because we were also doing the TV show on WOR at the time. In all that time, there was never a cross word between us. He was such a pro and such a good man.”
After leaving the announcers job, Cassidy worked on and off for NYRA as a racing official during the Saratoga meets. On Sept. 1, 2008, he ventured back into the booth and called a race at Saratoga.
Cassidy was known for his accuracy as a caller and for how he enunciated the names of certain horses. In a staccato fashion, there was often a brief pause between syllables and Cassidy liked to draw out the names. The name of the top filly Lucky Lucky Lucky became “Luck-Keeey, Luck-Keeey, Luck-Keeey.”
Cassidy's calls were usually straightforward, but when it came to Easy Goer, he showed some provincial pride. He was not “Easy Goer” but “New York's Easy Goer.” He wound down his call of the 1989 GI Belmont S., with the following words: “It's New York's Easy Goer in front.”
“I grew up listening to Marshall's calls and was always a big fan,” said Larry Collmus, who took the NYRA announcing job after Durkin left. “He had a classic and classy delivery that was so pleasant to the ear. When I became the NYRA announcer, Marshall and I developed a friendship that I'm so glad we had. He would visit me in the booth at Saratoga and would share so many great stories. Every summer Marshall and I would have dinner with Sonny Taylor [longtime NYRA racing official] and hearing their tales of the past was something special. I will miss Marshall and am so grateful to have had him as both an idol and a friend.”
“This is very sad news,” said Fair Grounds announcer John Dooley, who was an up-and-coming backup announcer at NYRA in the late eighties. “When I worked for the New York Racing Association, he really took me under his wing when I was starting off as a race caller. He was such a kind man, a great person. He took the time to help me, a wannabee announcer. It was because of him that I was eventually able to call races in New York. I owe him a real debt of gratitude.”
Cassidy came from one of the most prominent families in New York racing. His grandfather, Marshall Whiting Cassidy, worked as a head starter, a steward and as the executive secretary of The Jockey Club. He is credited with inventing the modern starting gate. Cassidy's great-grandfather, Mars Cassidy, was also a longtime starter at the NYRA tracks, as was Cassidy's great uncle, George Cassidy.
“I'm immediately stereotyped as a bright boy with a silver spoon in his mouth,” Cassidy said in 1974. “I have to overcome this image by proving myself with hard work. As many people loved my grandfather as many hated him. I don't want people to judge me off my grandfather, but for myself.”