He was there from the beginning.
From Santa Anita's opening in 1934 until his passing in 2009, Eddie Logan was a link that encompassed generations. When Seabiscuit and George Woolf were at the track, so was he. In the days that featured Noor and Citation matching up, he was there as well. As Swaps, Bill Shoemaker, Native Diver, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Charlie Whittingham, John Longden, Milo Valenzuela, and countless others were holding court, Logan showed up for it all.
Born in 1910, Logan had already experienced adventure long before making his way to the racetrack. He played in the Negro League during his youth and also tried his hand at boxing. But, life at the racetrack became his destiny.
When Santa Anita opened in 1934, excitement reigned over the Southland, and it is safe to say many wanted to be a part of Opening Day. Logan was among those present for the occasion, but not as a trainer, jockey, or groom. He found work as a shoeshine attendant, with his stand right there on the grounds. What Eddie did not know at the time was he had embarked on a journey towards becoming one of Santa Anita's greatest icons. "When Doc Strub opened the place in '34, he asked me to come work and I've been here ever since," Logan said.
For the next seventy-five years, Logan did his job, and he did it well. A Santa Anita press release conveyed how Eddie "greeted all of his customers with a customary smile and a work ethic truly borne of another era." He became popular not just for his hard work, but also for his geniality. "He had that great sense of humor and he'd make you laugh," remembered Richard Mandella for the Los Angeles Daily News in 2009. "He said his dad always told him. 'Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open, and you'll learn something.'"
The customers that visited him included popular faces at the track, like Shoemaker, Pincay, and Whittingham. Logan himself remembered that Whittingham "would send me over a check for $1500 at the end of every meet just for shining his shoes. And the stories he could tell. Plus he gave more than a few tips on his horses, made $500 on one of them."
Logan himself shared stories he accumulated thanks to his long tenure at Santa Anita, talking about the folks in racing he interacted with and his days in the Negro League, giving all who encountered him a glimpse of the past.
Here's just one of his baseball stories that he told the Los Angeles Times in 2006. "I played with the Homestead Grays and the Kansas City Monarchs, and caught for Satchel Paige when he was in his prime," Logan said. "I played exhibitions with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig all around the country. It was Gehrig who told me not to try and pull that outside pitch but to slap it the other way. He helped raise my batting average twenty points."
Many came into contact with Eddie, who was the one constant figure at Santa Anita for decades. Jockeys, trainers and management all came and went, but Eddie could be counted on to be there.
"He's just a wonderful, wonderful man," said Jack Disney, a former sportswriter and horse racing publicist to the Los Angeles Times in 2006. They don't come like him anymore."
Said Mandella at the same time: "I've been getting my shoes shined by Eddie, thirty-four or thirty-five years or so. When I started coming around, he was already a legend. I had to stand in line behind Whittingham and Shoemaker and [Walter[ Guerra and them."
Logan dispensed sage advice about caring for shoes to those working in the stables, stating what leather was up against on the backside part of the track: "Salt, brace, alkali, and urine."
As the years went by, people "would go out of their way to find his shoeshine stand," according to the Los Angeles Times. The man they met was more than someone who showed up to work. What they all saw was an individual who forever wove himself into Santa Anita's history.
Logan continued working well into his 90s. After years of service, he was given a much deserved tribute: Starting in 2006, the Eddie Logan Stakes (formerly the Hill Rise Stakes) became part of Santa Anita's winter/spring meet schedule, and Eddie himself presented the trophy for the first three editions of the event before his passing in early 2009.
His loss was felt by many. Then-Santa Anita president Ron Charles perhaps summed it up best. "Eddie loved racing and the people in it. He was indeed a window to our past and although he lived a long and healthy life, we just wish we could have had a lot more time with him. I think all of us will cherish our memories of Eddie and what he meant to Santa Anita," he ws quoted as saying in The Blood-Horse.
In late 2019, after sending out Encoder to victory in the Eddie Logan Stakes, trainer John Sadler talked about the popular man who is missed to this day. "I would like to mention Eddie Logan, the race was named after him. A great man. I hope you're watching upstairs." Continuing on, Sadler remembered how Logan "had a history of being a real racetrack character...He always had something good to say."
Another honor was bestowed upon Eddie, for the Eddie Logan Suite at Santa Anita bares his name. In the present day, his shoeshine stand is still near some of the track's offices not far from where patrons can enter the grandstand by John Henry's statue. The stand now serves as a monument to a man who embodied hard work, longevity, and the good in humankind.
Across from it is a plaque saluting Eddie. Everyone who walks between those tributes will learn of a captivating storyteller, an existence filled with happiness, and a man who positively impacted countless lives.
Blood-Horse Staff (From Santa Anita Press Release). "Santa Anita Icon Eddie Logan Dies at 98." The Blood-Horse January 31, 2009 https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/150247/santa-anita-icon-eddie-logan-dies-at-98
Cherwa, John. "Eddie Logan is Remembered as One of Santa Anita's All-Time Great Characters." Los Angeles Times December 29, 2019. https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2019-12-29/eddie-logan-remembered-as-one-santa-anitas-true-characters
Rice, Kenny. "Remembering What Others Can Only Imagine." ESPN.com November 3, 2003
White, Lonnie. "His Place to Shine." Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2006
Daily News (no author listed): "Former Negro League Player Eddie Logan dead at 98." Los Angeles Daily News. January 31, 2009. https://www.dailynews.com/2009/01/31/former-negro-league-player-eddie-logan-dead-at-98/