Sam Spear, Iconic Bay Area Racing Figure, Passes At 72

October 25, 2021

BERKELEY, Calif. – Golden Gate Fields is saddened to learn of the passing of Bay Area media legend Sam Spear at age 72 following a lengthy illness.  Spear, born Nov. 3, 1948, in Oakland and raised in Alameda, was a lifelong horse racing fan who passed away Saturday at 1 a.m.  After graduating from St. Joseph’s Alameda and San Francisco State, he quickly became a major fixture at Thoroughbred racetracks throughout Northern California. 

Spear was employed in the racing industry for over four decades. He served as media relations director at Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows, assisting media personnel, horsemen, front side staff, owners, breeders, horseplayers, and fans. Sam thoroughly enjoyed helping others and was devoted to creating the best possible experience for those he encountered on and off the track. His affable personality quickly made him a “fan favorite” amongst fans and horsemen, and he was often seen chatting it up with turf club patrons and railbirds alike.

A close friend and confidant of legendary San Francisco native Joe DiMaggio, Spear often drove “Joe D.” to and from both Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields and ensured he was well taken care of throughout many race days in both the press box and Turf Club.

One would be hard pressed to find an individual who did more to promote Northern California racing than Sam Spear. Sam hosted and produced Bay Area racing’s popular race replay show on KTSF-Channel 26 that began in 1978 and ran until 2017. He also hosted “At the Track with Sam Spear,” a weekly radio program every Sunday morning that attracted a large following of listeners and some of racing’s biggest names as guests on the show. Spear had contacts with every newspaper and news station in the Bay Area, and successfully promoted horse racing through these channels.

Whenever leaving a voice mail, he would invariably tag each message with the admonition, “And we’ll see YOU at-the-races.”

Spear was described as a “human encyclopedia” for all things horse racing and Bay Area Sports—Giants, A’s, 49ers, Raiders, Warriors and more.  His uncanny ability to remember specific races, names, dates, and statistics was second to none.  Sam was a natural storyteller and enjoyed sharing memories from the past using humor, wit, and charm. Spear was also a big supporter of the younger generations and a mentor to many journalists, television/radio personalities and race callers who have gone on to be very successful in their respective fields of work.

The Golden Gate Fields racing community will never forget Sam Spear and the countless contributions he made to Northern California horse racing and the community at large. From all of us at Golden Gate Fields, we extend our deepest condolences to Sam’s family and friends.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for Sam Spear on Monday, Nov. 1 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Isadore Catholic Church in Danville, where Spear had resided for the past 20 years with his longtime partner, Barbara O’Neill.

For info on the Best Breeders’ Cup Seminar click HERE.

Mike Willman/Golden Gate Fields Press Office

Photo Sam Spears (Vassar Photography)

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