Ali racing at Maywood Park to benefit the country’s oldest black-owned hospital. | Chicago Tribune historical photo | Bottom: Ali speaks to ABC Channel 7 sportscaster Al Lerner. || harnessillinois.com
The year was 1979.
On June 27 of that year, a 37-year-old Muhammad Ali had announced his retirement from boxing, the sport over which he’d lorded for two decades.
But during one evening that year at Maywood Park in Melrose Park, Ali was focused on conquering horse racing.
The champion boxer won a seven-furlough exhibition race, which was a fundraiser to benefit Provident Hospital in Chicago — the first hospital in America to be owned and operated by African Americans.
The hospital was established in 1891 by medical pioneer Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, an African American surgeon who performed one of the first open-heart surgeries in the United States.
The hospital closed in 1987 because of financial struggles, but reopened in 1998 as a Cook County Bureau of Health Services facility on the South Side.
Maywood Park, which recently closed due to bankruptcy, is scheduled to be torn down this summer, according to owners. And Ali, the physical man, is gone, having died yesterday, June 3, at the age of 74.
But it’s highly unlikely that either of them will be forgotten. VFP
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