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Sounds of Greatness: Johnny Parks calls Desperate Times’ stretch drive in the 1984 Gardenia Derby May 18, 2009

Posted by William Spear in >> Dramatic Radio, >> Radio Drama.
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In 1984, veteran sports announcer Johnny Parks was on-hand for the Gardenia Derby. Run annually on the second to last Monday in May in Roberts County, that year’s race featured three big, strong horses that were the class of the field – Marvelous Son, Beautiful Flowers, and All Aboard. All three had outstanding records and each was capable of capturing the first place Champion’s Wreath.

Another seven horses were entered with varying chances to win. But the eleventh horse was a scrawny affair with a spotty record – nine races with one win, no shows, and one place. Its name was Desperate Times. The horse’s owner once ran him in a claims race . . . but no one claimed him.

Nobody gave Desperate Times any chance of winning. Until the field entered the far turn. With a cheering crowd in the background, Johnny Parks was in the midst of the action:

PARKS: “Marvelous Son, Beautiful Flowers, and All Aboard are neck and neck and neck and Desperate Times may need a taxi to finish this thing. He isn’t even in the same zip code. Desperate Times is . . . hold on. Desperate Times is moving on the field. Cancel the cab, Desperate Times has caught the pack and knifes through them.”

The crowd saw the move made by Desperate Times and began to cheer on the horse.

PARKS: (OVER CHEERS) “Desperate Times has Marvelous Son in his sights and gives the big boy a black eye. Beautiful Flowers wilts under Desperate Times’ relentless attack. There’s only one horse left between Desperate Times and victory. Desperate Times is flying over the track and All Aboard is desperately trying to hold on. All Aboard inches ahead but Desperate Times answers the challenge. . . . HERE COMES DESPERATE TIMES.”

The crowd roared louder with each stride of Desperate Times. And Parks began to play off their emotion.

PARKS: (LOUDER OVER CHEERS) “All Aboard can’t believe he’s being caught and Desperate Times is anything but. It’s All Aboard and Desperate Times. . . . All Aboard is holding on for dear life but Desperate Times is a freight train. An express train that won’t stop until it wins. Coming to the wire and it’s All Aboard. Desperate Times and All Aboard. All Aboard and Desperate Times. Crossing the finish line it’s . . . DESPERATE TIMES.”

With one magnificent stretch drive, Desperate Times caught All Aboard and won the 1984 Gardenia Derby.

 ~ ~

Excerpted from The Passing of Johnny Parks (c) 2009 By William E. Spear.

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