The first part of this biography deals with a tragedy that happened to "Shoe" after he had finished his fantastic riding career, in which he had thousands and thousands of winners. Willie Shoemaker was, indeed, one of the greatest jockeys who ever lived.
Ironically, even after terrible accidents that happened to him (and every other veteran jockey) during his career, among his 40,000 trips around the track, it was an accident in Ford Bronco that did him in. Well, it didn't kill him, but it did the next worst thing: it paralyzed him for life. That is discussed in the beginning of this program, and some of it isn't complementary to the famous athlete.
One thing I like about these SportsCentury programs from ESPN is they give you all sides of the subject. Most of these people are big sports heroes, but they all have flaws as we all do. Here, Willie's biggest flaw - by almost unanimous consent - is how he reacted after the accident, suing everyone and taking no responsibility even though it appears he was drinking legally drunk. Shoe's image took a big beating......but he recovered, as this program shows and became more like the old Shoemaker everyone liked and respected.
Anyway, the rest of the program , from that point, covers his amazing career. There are many commentators who contribute to this program, all of the explaining why Bill Shoemaker might have been the best ever at his profession. They give strong cases, but one could make the same for a couple of other guys, too, such as his rival Eddie Arcaro. Shoemaker and Acaro, who were friends, are shown beating each other in a couple of big races.
Shoemaker's accomplishments can be read elsewhere. Suffice to say this SportsCentury episode was an extremely interesting look at a little guy who was a great, great athlete. As someone on the show said, "given his athleticism, had Shoemaker been 6 feet, 200 pounds he could have been a fantastic pro athlete in any sport." The last five minutes of this episode are very dramatic and will leave you with tears in your eyes.....guaranteed.
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