Hoosier History Live is an independently produced new media project about Indiana history, integrating podcasts, website www.HoosierHistoryLive.org, and social media. Its original content comes initially from a live with call in weekly talk radio show hosted by author and historian Nelson Price. You can hear the show live Saturdays from noon to 1 pm ET at WICR 88.7 fm or stream the show live at the WICR HD1 app on your phone.

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Books by Nelson Price

Book cover of The Quiet Hero, A Life of Ryan White, by Nelson Price.

Indiana Legends book cover.Book cover of Indianapolis Then and Now, 2016 edition, by Nelson Price and Joan Hostetler, featuring photos by Garry Chilluffo.

Acknowledgments

Hoosier History Live thanks our partners who help the show to go on!

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May 18, 2024

An acclaimed race driver and a sportswriter: two lives cut short

A fan favorite even though he shunned publicity, hard-charging Bill Vukovich was the two-time defending champion at the Indianapolis 500 and on his way to a third consecutive victory in 1955 when he was killed during a horrific crash.

One of his closest friends was a nationally acclaimed sportswriter, charismatic Angelo Angelopolous of the Indianapolis News, who chronicled Vukovich's rise from a hard-scrabble childhood (and a family tragedy) to his triumphs at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Angelopolous had completed an eagerly anticipated biography of his friend before the sportswriter died at age 43, probably as a result of radiation exposure he endured as a pilot in World War II by flying over atomic bomb sites in Japan.

The manuscript of the biography of Vukovich went unpublished for nearly 65 years and remained in the closet of Angelopolous' nephew. But Vukovich never has been forgotten among Indy 500 history enthusiasts. A photo of the publicity-adverse driver covering his face in his Gasoline Alley garage after escaping crowds following his triumph in 1954 remains the bestseller in the Speedway's photoshop.

Now, nearly 65 years after Angelopolous wrote the biography, another acclaimed Indianapolis sports journalist, Mark Montieth (website: markmontieth.com), has edited and published Vukovich: The Man Who Wouldn't Lift. The subtitle refers to his aggressive driving style, reflected in his tendency to "stay on the throttle longer in the turns", as Mark puts it. Mark, who has written a prologue and an epilogue featured in the "rescued" book, will be Nelson's guest to share insights about both Vukovich and Angelopolous.

Vukovich, who was 36 when he was swept up in a five-car accident and killed, had grown up in Fresno, California. That's where, when he was 14 years old, his father committed suicide after foreclosure proceedings apparently had been initiated on his farm.

Tragedy followed the Vukovich family for generations. Bill Vukovich's grandson, known as Bill III, was killed at age 27 in a sprint car race in Bakersfield, California. Bill III had competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 1989 and 1990. His father (the son of Bill), called Bill Jr., raced 12 times in the Indy 500; he died in 2023 after suffering from dementia.

Angelo Angelopolous, the award-winning sportswriter, never got to cover the careers of Vukovich's son and grandson. An Indianapolis native and the son of a Greek immigrant, he graduated from Butler University and put his newspaper career on hold to enlist in the Navy during World War II, serving as a pilot. At the end of the war, he flew over bombing sites in Japan. The radiation exposure, according to Mark, eventually "resulted in a diagnosis of leukemia".

Mark Montieth describes Angelopolus as "handsome, humble, charismatic and married to a local model". Before his death in 1962, Angelopolus "did more than anyone to reveal Vukovich to the public", Mark writes. Although Vukovich(called "Vuky" by fans) distrusted most journalists, he befriended Angelopolous. The two spent hours together in garages at the Speedway and local restaurants.

His biography of his friend was, as Mark puts it, "unfinished business". Mark, who covered the Indiana Pacers for the Indianapolis Star, is the author of several books, including Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indiana (2017). He has been a Hoosier History Live guest several times, most recently on a show last September about basketball icon Larry Bird.

 

 

Latest Podcast Available!

April 20, 2024 -Hoosiers who claimed to witness Lincoln’s assassination Click here for podcast.

For a complete list of show podcasts and show enewsletters, please go to ARCHIVES on our website.

 

From the Hoosier History Live ARCHIVES . . .

Hoosiers who competed in early Indy 500s

This Hoosier History Live show was originally recorded on Apr. 30, 2016

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Driver Johnny Aitken poses with the Speedway Helmet, an early Indianapolis Motor Speedway trophy. 1910 image courtesy Mark Dill.After 22-year-old native Hoosier Joe Dawson won the Indianapolis 500 in 1912, he hurried from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to his family's home at 2828 N. Illinois St. to hug his mom.

Charlie Merz, the son of an Indianapolis police officer, survived horrific accidents early in his racing career to complete the final lap of the Indy 500 in 1913 - with his car on fire. He died in 1952 and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.

In 1919, the Indy 500 was won by popular Howdy Wilcox, a pioneer race driver born in Crawfordsville. His son Howard S. Wilcox, also known as Howdy, founded the Little 500 bicycle race at Indiana University in the early 1950s.

As the countdown continues to the 100th running of the Indy 500, Hoosier History Live will explore the colorful lives and careers of these and other early race drivers who had deep connections to Indiana.

Our guest was Indy native and lifelong racing enthusiast Mark Dill, the creator of firstsuperspeedway.com https://www.firstsuperspeedway.com, an extensive website about auto racing, including the sport's pre-1920 history.

Mark, who is based in Cary, N.C., has worked in marketing and public relations for various high-tech companies; he also previously worked for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and, when he was an Indiana University student, as news director of Indianapolis Raceway Park. Mark and his wife, Esther, own Mark Dill Enterprises Inc., which helps market the rapidly growing sport of vintage auto racing.

Mark Dill.Speaking of vintage: Many Hoosiers know a bit about Ray Harroun, a Pennsylvania native who won the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911 with a Marmon car made in Indianapolis. That race has been the focus of Hoosier History Live shows, including some with Speedway historian extraordinaire Donald Davidson. Donald was Nelson's studio guest on April 4, 2015 for a program that explored the impact of track announcer Tom Carnegie and popular driver Jimmy Clark, the "Flying Scot" who won the Indy 500 in 1965.

For this show, we will explore some Hoosiers whose legacies are not as well remembered by the general public today - as well as others such as Wilcox and Barney Oldfield, an Ohio native who, as our guest Mark Dill puts it, was "embraced by Indiana like a native son." A confidant of Speedway founder Carl Fisher, Oldfield (1878-1946) was a racing pioneer and showman who even starred in silent movies.

Although Harroun won the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911, the first lap was led by driver Johnny Aitken, an Indianapolis native whose life and racing achievements Mark also discussed during our show. (According to Donald Davidson's Official History of the Indianapolis 500 with co-author Rick Shaffer, Aitken stayed in front for the first four laps of the 1911 race.)

Mark also shared insights about Joe Dawson, the winner of the second Indy 500 who went home to hug his fretful mother, an anecdote celebrated in local newspapers in 1912. Described as a "simple, modest man", Dawson (at age 22 years and 10 months) remained the youngest Indy 500 winner for several decades.

According to Mark's research, Dawson lived with his parents in a house with "the 1912 version of a man cave" that featured college football and baseball pennants.

Driver Harry Endicott and mechanic Jim McNamara are shown in their Number-24 car at a road race in Elgin, Ill. 1912 image courtesy Mark Dill.Other early Indy 500s drivers we will explore include "Farmer" Bill Endicott, whose nickname, Mark says, derived from his ownership of a farm near Crawfordsville.

In addition to his firstsuperspeedway.com website, Mark oversees a Facebook page on the same subjects.

Earlier in his career, Mark was vice president of Nortel and, in that capacity, worked with former Indy 500 driver Scott Goodyear on sponsorships. Mark also is a regular guest and commentator about racing for radio and TV and has been active in the SportsCar Vintage Racing Association.

Before the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911, there were several other auto races at the Speedway after the track opened in 1909.

Some of these races were won by a talented young driver, Tommy Kincaid, who had been born in Indianapolis; he drove for the Indianapolis-based National Motor Vehicle Company race team owned by Arthur Newby. Our guest Mark Dill will share insights about Kincaid, even though he never raced in the Indy 500; that's because he was killed at age 23 at the Speedway in 1910 while testing his car. (If Tommy Kincaid had been alive in 1912, Mark suspects that he - rather than Joe Dawson, who hugged him mom after the victory - might have driven the winning car, which also was owned by National.)

Driver Joe Dawson of Odon, Ind., won the 1912 Indy 500 at age 22. Image courtesy Wikipedia.Barney Oldfield, who even starred in a Broadway musical, generally is considered to have been the first American auto racing celebrity. According to the website of the Henry Ford Archive of Innovation, Oldfield "helped to democratize not only racing entertainment, but also the automobile in general, as the vehicles moved out of the carriage houses and into backyard sheds."

The website also notes that Oldfield "flouted the conventions of his time, both on and off the track. He was notorious for his post-race celebrations, womanizing and bar fights."

Charlie Merz, who finished the 1913 race with his car on fire, later became a successful businessman, engineer and chief steward of the Indy 500. According to a description of the 1913 Indy 500 on Mark's website, Merz's car burst into flames just before the final lap. Instead of stopping, he "forged ahead for the final lap ... with the riding mechanic swatting the flames with his jacket."

Learn more:

  • Vanderbilt Cup Races - Author Howard Kroplick's website with information, images and events concerning the Vanderbilt Cup Races held on Long Island from 1904 to 1910.

  • The Old Motor - A vintage-automobile "Internet magazine."

  • Motor Sport Retro - A website that celebrates "classic motorsport, racing cars, motorcycles and gear.

 

Trivia prizes sought

Our "History Mystery" on air contest continues to be very popular!  If you are an organization or business that would like to contribute tickets or admissions, please contact our host Nelson at nelson@hoosierhistorylive.org.

Prizes must fit in a standard business envelope. Hoosier History Live prefers to "snail mail" prizes to our trivia winners. And If prizes are time sensitive, they need to be offered well in advance of the event so that we can get them out in time.

 


Who can you see in this “Hoosier History Live Photo Album” . . .

Swipe through these photos gleaned from the last fourteen years of Hoosier History Live production!

And would you believe that radio technology has completely changed tech wise since we first went on the air in 2008 at WICR?  Can you find Bobby Plump, Chris Gahl, Connie Zeigler, Tom Ridley, Bonnie Britton, Tiffany Benedict Browne, Eunice Trotter, David Baker, Lefty Huntzinger, Keira Amstutz, Cowboy Bob, Janie of “Popeye and Janie”, K.P. Singh, Pam Fraizer, and Dark Rain Thom? The voices of so many Hoosiers blended together over the years to make Hoosier History Live such a unique archive.

And thanks to Richard Sullivan of Monomedia for creating this group of images.


What people are saying about Hoosier History Live

 

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- Marsh Davis, President, Indiana Landmarks

 

"... a compelling and engaging project..." 

"Molly Head and Nelson Price are Indiana-based visionaries who have created a compelling and engaging media project with Hoosier History Live. Podcasts, website, enewsletter, and live call-in radio show; it’s all there!"

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"...always a great show"

“Hoosier History Live is always a great show.  We did a small  sponsorship as a gesture of support, and I didn’t think a little history show would have much impact. But many people mentioned to me that they had heard our credit on the radio.”

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"...a great way to represent what I do..."

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences with Nelson Price and the Hoosier History Live team. I feel being on the show was a great way to represent what I do with motorsports history. I am particularly excited by the show's new distribution through a podcast and making it accessible live through the Web.”

-Mark Dill, owner, FirstSuperSpeedway.com


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- John McDonald, CEO, ClearObject in Fishers, Indiana, Inc. Magazine’s fastest-growing IT company in Indiana for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

"...enthusiastic, curious and knowledgeable..."

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- James Still, playwright in residence, Indiana Repertory Theatre

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"Another Hoosier History Live endorsement from a Hoosier in California ..."

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Podcast listening, and Hoosier History Live copyright policies

We still do a live radio show every Saturday from noon to one broadcasting on WICR 88.7, but more and more of our listeners are listening to our podcasts, which are basically audio copies of our live shows. Our website is www.hoosierhistorylive.org, and you can sign up at our website to get our free weekly newsletter.

At the top of our newsletter and website we put notice, and links, to our newly published podcasts. We also provide a link to ARCHIVES, which is a list of our past enewsletters and published podcasts.

If you have a preferred podcast provider like Apple Podcasts or Spotify, you can use their search function to call up Hoosier History Live as well. Look for the yellow Hoosier History Live logo.

We copyright our work, and we have a crew of very talented people putting it together. But we WANT you to share it! We believe that learning should be accessible to everyone! You are welcome to copy, link to, or forward any of our Hoosier History Live material. Just please do not edit it! Our underwriter logos and voiced credits are on our material; and these underwriters make our work possible. 


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