|The media room begins to fill up on race day.|
When I first started coming to the Indianapolis 500 in 1966, I thought, someday, I'd like to work in that place, meaning the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Al Bloemker was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Director of Publicity when I became director of communications at the United States Auto Club, just up the street from the Speedway. We were only blocks apart in distance but far apart in many ways.
Al was all Indianapolis 500, 12 month of every year. He didn't have to contend with NASCAR's Brickyard 400, or IndyCar's Grand Prix of Indianapolis, or an Indy Lights race two days before the Greatest Spectacle in Racing or all the other events that now fill the annual calendar at IMS.
He had been at IMS 33 years before I got to USAC in the summer of 1978, and I figured that if he decided to retire (he was already 72), I'd apply for his job.
|The red carpet.|
When I left USAC to become Morning Call sports editor in October of 1980, Bloemker was still plugging along. He stayed until 1987, largely because he got some assistance from guys like Bob Laycock and Bill York, who were always out front while Al spent most of his time in his office. Bloemker died in 1996 and the room from which journalists work today has been named the Albert Bloemker Media Center in his memory.
I never knew, when I accepted my first collect call to The Call's sports department from Eddie Sachs on a Sunday night in 1960 or 1961 or when I checked into the old Hotel Warren in downtown Indianapolis in May of 1966 for my first Indianapolis race covering local driver Mario Andretti, how much this place would mean to me a half century later.