The Shoe came into this world fighting for life. On August 19, 1931, in Fabens, Texas, William Lee Shoemaker came into this veil of tears at a whopping 2.5 pounds. Willie was so small, he was put into a shoe box (ain't that ironic? The Shoe in a shoe box) and put into an oven to keep him warm. He was not expected to make it through the night , but somehow he did. And the world, particularly the horse racing world, was better for it. This would not be the only life or death fight Shoe would have in his life. He was almost killed twice on the race track and again after he retired from riding when he rolled a Ford Bronco over while driving while drunk, which left him paralyzed from the neck down. Through all this adversity, Willie Shoemaker never gave up and he never felt sorry for himself. He said, "You've got to play the hand you're dealt, and I was dealt this one". As one of his big rivals, Eddie Arcaro said, Shoe "is a tough son of bitch".
As a full grown man, Willie Shoemaker stood a towering 4ft 11in tall and tipped the scales at 96 pounds. He was a small man in a world of small men. At the time he retired as a jockey, The Shoe had won a record 8833 races, won the Kentucky Derby four times, the Preakness twice and the Belmont Stakes five times and, surprisingly, never won the Triple Crown of horse racing. He rode over 40,000 mounts and won 1009 Stakes races and his mounts earned over $123 million.
His biography is very interesting and I just touched on a few points of his life in this post. If you'd like to learn more about Willie, bookmark this page or click on through. It's a nice piece about a man whose legacy will live for a long time to those who knew him as The Shoe and to those of us who are proud to share a name with William Lee Shoemaker - the Little Man Who Came Up Big.
**Photo from si.com**