Wednesday, May 17, 2017

V 7N. 32 Al Lawrence R.I.P.

Al Lawrence
We got news yesterday that Al Lawrence, 10,000 meter Olympic Bronze medalist at Melboure 1956, has passed away from pancreatic cancer.   He was 86 years old.  My god is that possible?  He was listed as being 26 years old when he ran at Melbourne behind Vladmir Kuts of the U.S.S.R. and Josef Kovacs of Hungary.  There is some trivia for you.  Two Joe Kovacs are now Olympic Silver medalists with the new Joe Kovacs currently reigning as Shot Put Silver medalist.

     How many American colleges can claim an Olympic medal winner matriculated to their school to start a college career?  Today that would be impossible as most medal winners are already professional.  But in those days there were no professionals.

     Lawrence was no stranger to American track and field as he was one of the first of a wave of Aussies who began emigrating to US colleges.   Johnny Morris and Oliver Jackson the coaches at the U. of Houston and Abiliene Christian got that pipeline started and it brought over Barrie Almond, Laurie Elliot, Colin Ridgeway, Geoff Walker, Pat Clohessy, John Lawler, George Scott and a few others.  Lawrence would win the NCAA cross country meet in 1959 and 1960 and the three mile at the NCAA outdoor meet 1960 in 14:19.  
Al Lawrence winning national AAU 10K 1958 in Chicago.
Temp was 12 degrees F.
Photo courtesy of Ned Price

     The Aussie emigration provided a lot of knowledge and incentive to American collegiate runners at the time.  They were considered men amongst boys as they were generally in their mid to late 20's when they got to the U.S.  They were a fun loving bunch.  A few people complained that they had an unfair advantage with their physical maturity.   On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the Australian authorities feared a drain of all their good athletes, and soon put a ban on their going abroad to study.  I don't know if  that applied to study in other Commonwealth countries, but it certainly did to those coming to the US.

You can read some humorous accounts of those days written by John Lawler at Abiliene Christian if you go to our blog and read through several concurrent posts.    Lawler's Chronicles
When Lawler and one of his companions were coming to Abiliene, they were told by Coach Jackson that it was dry there in the town.   Coming from Australia, a hot dry country, they felt they could handle that.  However what they didn't know was that Jackson was talking about the laws banning the consumption of alcohol.  That caused them some problems when they got to that part of Texas.  

    Al Lawrence would remain in America, founding a running club and working for many years as a coach especially for adults getting into running.   He was a contributor of information to this blog when he gave us some background on John Macy, one of his Houston teammates who had jumped ship from the Polish track team during  the European Track and Field Championships in Switzerland about 1954.  This was during the Cold War.  Al said that Macy was convnced that the Polish Secret Police were after him and he never stopped looking over his shoulder the rest of  his life.
John Macy finishing 2nd in that Chicago race.
Photo: Ned Price

Al Lawrence Obituary   See this obituary from an Australian news service.  It includes some video of the 10,000 meters in Melbourne.

Always thought it would have been tough to be Laurie Elliot.  No matter what he did, it wouldn't be enough.  George Scott always did better as a first baseman, especially 1975 (.285-36-109) with the Brewers.  Roy

You are obviously mixing up your sports.  Happens to the best of us.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

V 7 N. 31 Terry Tobacco Lit Them Up

Terry Tobacco
     With a name like Terry Tobacco, you better have some qualities about you that can add to your reputation in a positive way.  I first heard of Terry during a conversation in Eugene, OR last year.  A fellow from Vancouver, having learned I was living on Vancouver Island and writing a track blog, asked if I had ever heard of Terry Tobacco.  I thought he was referring to a brand of chew, snuff, or maybe a cigarette that had been produced on the Island.  Not so.  He was talking about  the Cumberland Comet, a sprinter from the mining village of Cumberland, British Columbia, a man who ran for the University of Washington in the 1950s, a fellow who represented Canada at two Olympic Games, a college boy who was two time 440 champion in the Pacific Coast Conference, and beat Otis Davis in the NCAA meet in 1959.  How could I not know of Terry Tobacco?

     The name comes from a line of Italian brothers who emigrated with their cousin from the Piedmont in Northern Italy.  Two ended up in Cumberland, and another went to Renton, Washington. One of those guys was Terry's grandfather.  Cumberland was a tough mining town  at the foot of the Beaufort Range, 150 miles north of the provincial capital of Victoria, BC.  It was a three tiered village of ethnic laborers, the Europeans, the Chinese, and the Japanese.  It had been founded by a Scottish mining baron, James Dunsmuir, who treated miners, immigrants, and labor unions with equal distain.  His mines had the highest death rate in the world, 23 deaths per million tonnes of mined coal. The rate at the time in all of North America was only  6 deaths per million tonnes.   Dunsmuir's name still appears along the east coast of Vancouver Island, on street signs and monuments, wherever he had an interest to extract coal and boss the locals.
Cumberland, BC from the air

Dunsmuir St. , Cumberland  

Mine Cottage

     Terry grew up in the village where there was a school but not much in the way of sports. He did have an outlet on the basketball court and was good enough to get a scholarhip offer at Oregon.  He built his strength and stamina not in a gym or being driven to little league practice by a helicopter mom, but by lugging provisions up into the hills to a lumber camp where his father worked.   He found if he ran with the provisions, his rate of pay increased.  Interval training and progressive loading can come to the athlete in a variety of ways.   If kids could find jobs, the money went toward putting food on the family's table.  The mine graciously left a pile of coal for cooking and heating behind the mine shacks where families struggled to survive the winters.  Cumberland even today is significantly colder than the two nearby towns of Courtenay and Comox, because of its higher elevation.  The town had plenty of colorful characters including 'Two Shift Bob' and 'Miss Meat', the local 'working lady' whose day job was teaching school.  Today the town is still a very special place and in the process of re-inventing itself.  The mines have closed, but people still work in the logging industry.  It is not unheard of for a kid to carry a set of brass knuckles.  But Cumberland is also becoming a center of cyclo-tourism with one of the best mountain biking circuits in Canada.  Names of some of the trails include Bear Buns,  Buggered Pig, Short 'n Curly, Spanker, Numbskulls Miners, Kitty Litter, Space Nugget, Resurrection, and Entrails. It has a craft brewery, a fly fishing shop, and two good bars, the Waverly (Sunday bluegrass brunches) and the Cumberland Hotel, coffee shops, art galleries, a bakery, and a deli.  For the runner there are two major mountain races, The Cumby (23Km and 50Km) in the Spring, and in the Fall, the 11Km Perseverance.  It also has a great Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race (MOMAR) each year, and a 24 hour Enduro.   See video of last year's race.   MOMAR

     On May 24, the Queen's Birthday,  there were celebrations, and the miners sponsored games and events for the kids of Cumberland.  They had running races that paid five dollars to win.  Terry cleaned up in the kids' races and earned fifteen dollars when they added in the broad jump.  The same day he decided to move up in the age groups and collected another twenty dollars.  That's when he knew he had a talent.   There was no track, and  little to no coaching at that time, but by age 15, Terry found himself at the provincial schools championships,  that's the state meet in U.S. parlance.  He came second, as a team, to Oak Bay HS, by a quarter of a point.  Oak Bay had 18 kids at the meet.  Years later he would be a teacher and coach at Oak Bay.

     He gradually got some coaching from Bruce Humber in Victoria and earned his way as a 17 year old to the Canadian national championships in 1954 where a team would be selected to compete in the Empire/Commonwealth Games to be held later that  summer in Vancouver .  Humber had represented Canada as a sprinter in the the Berlin Olympics.   It was Humber who saw the potential as a quartermiler in Terry and suggested he go for that distance at the Canadian Championships.

     Terry showed up at the nationals  in a pair of old soccer shorts and a tee shirt and spikes he had bought out of his savings from working in a gas station.  "They were a pair of British shoes with permanent spikes by G.T. Law, supposedly handmade.  You sent an outline of your foot and they would custom fit them.  Had to order them from Eaton's department store."   In those days in the remote areas of Canada, people did their shopping from mail order catlogues.  Not unlike online shopping today.
GT Law Spikes currently on Ebay for 1500 Pounds
     Not only did Tobacco show up for the championships as a 440 runner, he won the event.  Terry went into international competition not yet having progressed through college track ranks, although by then  he was being heavily recruited by colleges all over the US.    In the semis at Vancouver, he had the fastest time, and in the finals he finished third in 47.6.  He also won a silver as the anchor for the Canadian 4x440 relay team.   Not too  shabby for a kid from a mining community up in the hills of Vancouver Island.  At those Games he also got to witness the Miracle Mile between Roger Bannister and John Landy.  For these performances, he was honored as the male athlete of the year in British Columbia.

     Terry would choose the University of Washington to run his college track.  Why Washington?  "I had a girlfriend who was attending the University of British Columbia, and I wanted to stay near her."   

      Percy Hendershott, was assistant coach then.  Percy was father of Jon Hendershott, long time chief correspondent for Track & Field News.   As mentioned earlier, Terry won the Pacific Coast Conference 440 twice.  At the NCAA meet in 1959 he finished third.

                                        1959 NCAA 440 yards
               1. Eddie Southern (Texas) Sr ........................46.4
               2. Chuck Carlson (Colorado)Sr ....................46.5
               3. Terry Tobacco' (Washington)Sr ................46.6
               4. Mal Spence' (Arizona State)Sr .................46.8
               5. Walt Johnson (North Carolina Central)Sr 47.2
               6. DeLoss Dodds (Kansas State)Sr ..............47.3
               7. Otis Davis (Oregon) Sr ............................47.3
               8. Mel Barnwell (Pitt)...................................61.2

     Terry's first of two Olympic Games was at Melbourne in 1956.  He made it to the semis in the 400 meters but failed to advance through to the finals.  As he explained it, " I was in lane 7 and Lou Jones was outside of me in lane 8.  Jones had recently set the world record at 400 meters in  45.2.   I thought I would just have to near Jones to qualifiy which is what I did.  However we didn't know that Jones had been injured and wasn't up to par.  I stayed with him but it wasn't as fast as we needed to be going.  By the time I realized that, the field was ahead of me as we were coming off the last turn, it was too late to move up into a qualifying position."    Jones won the heat in 47.4, John Salisbury of Great Britain (47.4) and Ivan Rodriguez of Puerto Rico (47.5) got in ahead of Terry who closed in 47.7.    That summer (Australian)  Terry ran both relays.  The 4x100 team was eliminated in an event that only sent six teams to the finals, and then they placed fifth in the 4x400 in 3:10.2.   Terry's semi-final leg (45.3) was his all time best.
In action at Cal Berkeley

Getty Images

     At the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff he was a bronze medallist again in the 440.  He was also on the team that finished 4th in the 4x440.

     In 1960 he again represented Canada in the Rome Olympics, making it to the semis in the 400 and ran both relays which were eliminated in the semis.   At this gathering Terry was well  off his A game.   He had spent the year in grad school with almost no competition.  He was married and had a young baby as well.  Prepping for the Olympics was not as high a priority as in the past.  When he got to Rome he had not raced in the previous five weeks.

      One of the stories he likes to tell about Rome was going to see Cassius Clay in the heavyweight gold medal bout.  Tickets were scarce and one Canadian athlete somehow secured a press pass.  He went into a lavatory and handed it out to another athlete through a window.  This was repeated until many of the Canadian team were able to get into the stadium.

      After the Rome  Olympics he settled into a life of teaching physical education in the Victoria area and coaching basketball.  By then he had set aside his track career for good.   One of his children, Judy, was a national level athlete running 400 meters for Cal Berkeley.  Unfortunately she was hobbled by injury much of her career.

     In 2006 he returned to Australia for the 50th anniversary of the games with a number of those Canadian Olympians who represented Canada at Melbourne.  He reunited with John Landy whom he had met those many years ago.  "Landy had tried to organize a touring team to visit Africa after Melbourne, and I was invited.  But the tour fell through.  But Landy remembered me when we got there and we were able to have some time together."    He remembers Landy saying about Bannister, "I could have run him 100 times and maybe have  beaten him once."

     "I also got to know Bill Bowerman when I was in the states.  I had a chance through Doug Clement my Canadian teammate and later best man to invest in Nike in the early days but didn't have the $300 at the time."

     Other memories that came up in our conversation included his races against Tom Courtney, the 1956 800 meters gold medallist.   "We ran about 3 or 4 times against each other at 400 meters. He beat me everytime by about 0.2 sec.  It didn't matter if I went out hard or easy, sprinted the back stretch or saved a lot for the finish, he always came up and got me at the end.?"
Terry Tobacco Today

Terry and the Author

      Today he lives on a seven acre plot in the countryside north of Victoria where he raises  300 chickens each year to qualify as a farm and avoid the higher residential taxes. In the summers of those teaching years he was also a commercial fisherman catching salmon and halibut off the north coast of Vancouver Island. His next door neighbor is Burton Cummings of The Guess Who.

     Terry Tobacco was inducted into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

Below is an exceptionally well done video of his career that went with his induction ceremony.

Terry Tobacco, the Cumberland Comet  Click Here.

by George Brose


Great story on Terry Tobacco. Eddie Southern lives here in Dallas now. Not in the best of health, but I guess that is true with all. Sorry to hear about Al and look forward to more info as I do not see it on Web.


Dear George

I remember Terry Tobacco well

As a fledgling 440 man at the 1959 NCAA Meet at Lincoln, Nebraska, I made it to the semi-finals in the 440 as a greenie sophomore with a 47.9 to my credit. 
So, I got to know "of" Terry Tobacco at that meet and, from voracious reading of Track and Field News
by me and teammates, Jerry Ashmore, and Doug Wuggazer in the coach's office at WMU

Give Terry my regards!

John Bork

Thank you for those Canadian memories from so long ago.  My team mate, Bill Crothers  followed Terry as Canada's best.  I saw Tobacco in the 1960 Olympic trials.  I grew up in a Canadian Mining town (Timmons) in Northern Ontario

Sunday, May 14, 2017

V 7 N. 30 Pre We Hardly Knew Ye..

Editor’s Note: The following article originally appeared in Cross Country Journal in the March/April 2015 issue and in our humble blog last year just prior to the Prefontaine Classic. The editorial board has decided that this will become an annual event.

Pre, We Hardly Knew Ye

By Paul O’Shea
Photo: Tony Duffy

To give anything less than your best, he famously said, was to sacrifice the gift.  It was an ethic Steve Prefontaine shared with us to the end of his brief life.
In the spring of 1975 I was riding under the Hudson River on a PATH train linking New York City with Hoboken, New Jersey, reading a newspaper. Buried in a sports news summary I came across these sentences: American distance runner Steve Prefontaine is dead, killed in an automobile crash in Eugene, Oregon.  Prefontaine was 24 years old.  
One of America’s greatest distance runners was gone. I was shocked, devastated by the news.
In a few weeks the international track and field community will mark the 40th anniversary of the death of the athlete who defines “iconic.” Commemorating that May 30, 1975 tragedy and honoring his memory, it’s fitting to ask: what made Steve Prefontaine the legendary “Pre”? Why does his name still resonate after all these years?  What can today’s runners learn from the way he never gave less than his best, never sacrificed his gift?  
Growing up in lumberjack Coos Bay, Oregon sports were the ticket to popularity, but Prefontaine was too small for football so he began running with the junior high team. At Marshfield High School he went out for cross country and discovered his life’s mission. As a sophomore he was an early success, placing sixth in the state meet.
“Ferociously competitive” as Olympian/author Kenny Moore would later describe him, Prefontaine twice was state cross country champion and broke the national high school two-mile record by seven seconds with 8:41.5. That got Frank Shorter’s attention who was then at Yale—the time was about the same as Shorter’s PR.
Following graduation Pre entered the 1969 AAU three-mile in Miami and qualified for the US national team, finishing fourth behind Gerry Lindgren. At 18 he was on his first international tour. That summer he ran 5,000 meters in 13:52.8, placing third in the U.S-Europe meet.
Jeff Johnson, a Track and Field News photographer, remembered seeing him for the first time after hearing about those high school performances.  At the AAU, on an elevator in the athletes’ hotel, Johnson talked briefly with “this little kid.” Later he noticed him hanging around the elite runners, apparently eager for autographs. The next day Johnson was focusing on the boldface names on the starting line--and there was the little kid, standing among the Sequoias, ready to race in his Marshfield uniform. “My God, that’s Steve Prefontaine!”
Before running his first collegiate race he’d been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, with a headline that read, “America’s Distance Prodigy.” Forty college teams pursued the Coos Bay wonder, but the hardheaded coach at the University of Oregon was a reluctant suitor.  Bill Bowerman didn’t recruit runners.  They applied for admission.
To be sure he wanted the precocious Prefontaine, but the Ducks’ leader was loath to chase the athlete who would have been the No. 1 pick in any distance runner draft.  Finally, Bowerman sent Prefontaine a handwritten letter that would transform the sport, the University and its historic Hayward Field.  For the next several years an irresistible force met an immovable object, each bending a little, but only centimeters.
In four years Steve Prefontaine won three Division I cross country titles and four consecutive three mile/5,000 meter track crowns.  He ran his best mile in 3:54.6, then just three-and-a-half seconds slower than the world record.  Bill Dellinger, who had succeeded Bowerman as coach, recalled that Pre never missed a workout or a race.
When we think of Pre we remember the biggest test of his career, the l972 Olympic 5,000 meter final in Munich, held four days after the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s terrorist attack resulted in the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.
Those thirteen minutes, twenty-eight seconds he gave us, a painting that will forever hang in our memory, revealed familiar, obstinate ways.  It was the kind of race he hated, a typical championship shuffle. After a lollygagging two miles in 8:56, impatient Pre went to the front, having told the world that he would run the last mile in four minutes. “Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.”  
The 21-year-old led for the next two laps, then Finland’s Lasse Viren attacked with 800 meters left. In third, Pre counterattacked on the backstretch of the penultimate lap, but Viren regained the lead with 400 meters remaining.  Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia and Prefontaine gave chase but the Finn won going away, winning his second gold medal of the Munich Games. Viren had run 4:02.
Running the last mile in 4:04 Prefontaine was spent and lost the bronze at the finish line when Ian Stewart of Great Britain surged past. It was one of the great competitive distance races in track and field history.   
After the race, incapable of holding back emotionally, the American warned David Bedford, the UK’s 10,000-meter world record holder: “I’ll see you in Montreal and I’ll kick your butt.” Indeed, had Pre lived, he would have been a favorite to win the 1976 5,000.
The post Olympic years were ones of great achievement and personal challenge.  He set nine American bests including a 27:43.6 in the 10,000, just five seconds over the world record.
Now that he was no longer on scholarship there was a struggle to make a living. To survive he lived in a trailer, shopped with food stamps.  He tended bar where he was a regular patron, until the disapproving Bowerman shut him down.
A fledgling professional track association offered a $200,000 contract, but he rejected the offer in order to retain his “amateur” standing.  Bowerman and one of his former milers, Phil Knight began collaborating on a business that would become Nike, provider of all goods athletic. Pre sent the early Nike shoes to runners he had met, including Bill Rodgers. At first he was paid in shoes, then earned $5,000, the first athlete to sign with the company. Nike called Pre its National Public Relations Manager.
Off the track Pre pushed the pace in civilian life, too. He challenged the sport’s governing authorities, the AAU and the International Olympic Committee. Before track and field became a professional sport, he believed athletes should be paid openly, rather than under the table as was then happening.  The AAU’s per diem was three dollars.
He started a running club at the Oregon State Prison. For more than four decades the program has helped inmates cope with their incarceration. Limited to 150 prisoners, there is a four-year wait to get into the group.  He also volunteer coached at a local junior high school.

The legend grew as he won races with characteristic intensity:  “Most people run a race to see who’s the fastest.  I run a race to see who has the most guts.” Showman, hero, rebel, we remember Steve Prefontaine because he displayed front running courage.  He fed off the crowds. Spectators cheered his warm-ups.  He was spirited, cocky, even charming. He was a hero for his time, and remains a star to thousands of young runners today, who see the movies and documentaries, read the books and news stories, watch his races on film.
Accessible and immensely quotable, his words live on in interviews and anthologies: “Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints.  I like to make something beautiful when I run.  I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’  It’s more than just a race, it’s a style.  It’s doing something better than anyone else.  It’s being creative.”
There was nothing false or contrived: “How does a kid from Coos Bay, with one leg longer than the other win races?  All my life people have been telling me, ‘You’re too small Pre.’ ‘You’re not fast enough Pre,’ ‘Give up your foolish dream Steve.’  But they forgot something.  I HAVE TO WIN.”
And then the man with the exceptional talent ran the last race, crossed the final finish line.
During that day Steve Prefontaine did the ordinary things that made him such an extraordinary individual.  He went for an eye-opening run (six miles at six a.m. was the regimen), and prepared for the early evening meet at Hayward in which he faced several leading Finnish runners he had invited to this country, though Viren pulled out before the meet.
When Pre won, looking back over his shoulder, defeating Frank Shorter in the second fastest American 5,000 time, it was just two seconds off his personal best. For the 35th time he was victorious on the Hayward track, losing only three races, each a mile in distance. Over his career he started l53 races, winning 120. At one point he held seven American records at every distance from 2,000 to 10,000 meters.
Bowerman said, “He had just begun to reach maturity when the show was over,” never having won an Olympic medal or broken a world record.
Later that May 29 evening the Oregon and Finnish runners threw a party.  Moore and Shorter remember Pre had three or four drinks before calling it an evening just after midnight. He left telling his parents who also were at the party, take care driving home.  Pre dropped Shorter off, drove down Skyline Drive, swerved into a rock at the side of the road, possibly having been run off the road by another car.  His treasured butterscotch MGB convertible flipped and he was trapped under the car. Four hours after winning, he was dead.  The police measured his blood alcohol level at .16, above the legal limit at the time, though his family and friends did not believe he was in danger.
Pre’s death stunned the world.  Four thousand people attended a Hayward Field memorial service a few days later. Kenny Moore, one of our sport’s finest writers said: “All of us who now say, ‘I had no idea how much this man meant to me,’ do so because we didn’t realize how much we meant to him.  He was our glory, and we his.”
A roadside memorial was constructed a few feet from where he died; fans visited Pre’s Rock, a stone with a picture of Pre. There you’ll find medals from races, running jerseys, shoes, newspaper clippings, flowers, contributed by athletes and fans, a commemoration of his life, a connection that will echo for decades to come.
Often compared with actor James Dean, who also died at 24 in a traffic accident, Prefontaine drew immense numbers of supporters to the austere Hayward stands over the years.  His life story was the subject of Disney and Warner Bros. movies, and several documentaries including the treasured DVD, Fire on the Track, which contains rare footage of races and interviews with teammates, coaches, family and friends. On the twentieth anniversary of his death, Fire was broadcast on the CBS network before the l995 Prefontaine Classic meet.
Another essential source is Tom Jordan’s biography, Pre, The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine (Rodale, l977, 1994, 1997).  The Prefontaine Classic is one of the IAAF’s Diamond League fixtures on the international track and field circuit.  Jordan is the Pre Classic meet director.
What made “Pre”?  Jordan, in his book captures the runner’s essence: “Pre’s story…is about an individual who in an incredibly short span of time helped instigate the end of amateurism, set the tone for a brash company that became the Nike colossus, and inspired generations of American distance runners by his complete commitment to wringing everything out of what he called ‘the Gift.’”
Sadly, I never saw him run. Still, his is a gift that keeps on giving.


Paul O’Shea has followed the sport for more than fifty years.  After retirement from a career in corporate communications he began contributing to Cross Country Journal and other track and field/cross country publications.  He resides in Northern Virginia and can be reached at Poshea 17

Saturday, April 29, 2017

V 7 N. 29 Harold Keith at Penn Relays 1928

Harold Keith

Last weekend I spent several days renewing friendships with old track team members at the University of Oklahoma.  We sat in a new (to us) stadium complex and froze our backsides watching modern day Sooners performing on the same geographical coordinates where we all had plied our trade and dreamed our dreams 55 years ago.  In that gathering of former athletes were lawyers, doctors, a federal judge, an advertising executive, and pharmacists, coaches, politicians, oil men, and teachers.  Few  of us could have matched our times and distances with  today's class of  athletes unless we had been born fifty years later and had the training knowledge and facilities and coaching available in this more enlightened age.

In our conversations, the name, Harold Keith, came up several times.   Mr. Keith was the sports information director at the university for many years.  He was said to have created more All-American football players with his pen than the football coaches did with their clipboards and whistles. When we were freshman at Oklahoma, the track coach of that time, Bill Carroll, (1953 NCAA pole vault champion) would tell some of us that we had been selected to spend a few hours each week in Harold Keith's office doing whatever task was needed.  This usually consisted of going through all the Sunday newspapers from around the Big 8 Conference and clipping any news story written about or mentioning   Oklahoma University sports teams.  The first day in the office I walked in and his secretary told me to go in back and do whatever Mr. Keith needed.  I had to step  over newspapers and clippings strewn across the floor and immediately began picking them up.  Harold polltely told me not to bother, as that was his Monday morning filing system.  I was to go through those papers and start clipping.  It soon became evident that this was an important room to spend my free time in, because those papers gave me access to information about all the people I would be running against for the next four years.  Apart from the monthly issues of Track and Field News everything I needed to know was in that office.  This was forty years before the internet, track blogs,  Flotrack and instant communication with the rest of the world.
Harold had run track for the Sooners back in the 1920's and modestly mentioned a few things about his career.  I believe at that time his name was still on the locker room wall  as holder of the 2 mile steeplechase record.  He told me about running in the state high school track meet away from the stadium track due to flooding.  Instead the meet  was run on the north oval of the  campus.  He never mentioned his other accomplishments, like being the author of 17 books, winner of the Newbury Award in literature, being president of the American Sports Information Directors,  being in the Helms Foundation, and certainly not being the Penn Relays steeplechase champion of 1928.  When he won that event it was the first time he had even seen a steeplechase setup.   It all came about, because his distance medley team had been forgotten about and not brought out to the track by Penn Relays officals in time to start their race.  To make up for missing their race, the four Oklahoma runners were allowed to enter the steeplechase, and Harold won it, and two other Sooners got 4th and 5th place.

Special thanks to Pete Brown, Plano, TX and U. of New Mexico without whose knowledge and love of our sport, this story would still be sitting on someone's shelf.  GB

Below you can read the account of that race from the Stanford Daily  of May 8, 1928.

At the Penn Relays
The two outstanding features of the Penn Relays, held last Friday and Saturday at Franklin Field, Philadelphia, under atrocious weather conditions, were the remarkable sprinting of the famous Charley Paddock, of California, and the performance in the 3000-meter steeplechase of Harold Keith, of Oklahoma.
Paddock, in running 175 yards in 17 2-5 seconds, set perhaps the most phenomenal record of his long and illustrious career, as he not only ran in better than even time on a track ankle-deep in mud, but had to swerve to one side to avoid trampling on forty or fifty spectators, who fell onto the side of the track where he was running when a part of the south wall of the stadium gave way while the race was in progress. Keith, who with three other Oklahomans, owes his entrance into the steeplechase event to a misunderstanding, had never seen or heard of such a race before last Friday, and not only took the hurdles and the water jump like a veteran, but outraced some star cross-country runners who knew what it was all about. Keith's winning time of 10 minutes 9 4-5 seconds is about half a minute slower than Willie Ritola's winning time at the Paris Olympics, but the Oklahoma boys have gone back home with the avowed intention of building a steeplechase course and practicing up on the event. Paddock has been criticized because he did not stop running when he saw
the wall crash about fifty yards in front of him, and go to the assistance of those who had fallen. He told me after the race that his first reaction was to stop—that the race was "off" • —but that the pounding feet of his competitors urged him on. Anyway, by the time he could have slowed down and turned around, all the fallen spectators would have been picked up by the many officials, athletes, and others who lined the other side of the track.

Here is Harold Keith's obituary from the February 25, 1998  News OK website.  There are some very good details of his running career as a Masters athlete as well as the Penn Relays steeplechase win.

NORMAN - Harold Keith, an award-winning author and a pioneer in turning the publicizing of college athletes and sports into a respected profession during his 39 years at the University of Oklahoma, died Tuesday evening at the age of 94.
Keith died of congestive heart failure at Norman Regional Hospital. He was admitted to the hospital Wednesday. Services are pending with Primrose Funeral Home in Norman.
Keith was born in Lambert, Oklahoma Territory, April 8, 1903, and attended school at Watonga, Victoria (Texas), Joplin (Mo.) Lambert and Northwestern State before getting his bachelor's and master's degrees in history from the University of Oklahoma.
He was a champion distance runner at OU before then-football coach and athletic director Bennie Owen hired him as "sports publicity director" in 1930.
Keith helped convert the job from that of "tub-thumper" into a dispenser of information - and assistance - to the ever-growing media.
Keith was founder and served as president of the College Sports Information Directors of America and received its prestigious Arch Ward Award in 1961.
Keith received OU's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Citation, in 1987.
He received a Contributions to Amateur Football Award from the Oklahoma Chapter of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
He was inducted into the sports information directors sector of the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame in 1969 and the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.
On the latter occasion, he said, "I accept this honor on behalf of all the college sports information directors I've worked with through the years. We belonged to a group that rarely gets decorated for anything. We were too busy decorating others. It was our job."
Keith, who was nicknamed "Grantland" (as in famed sportswriter Grantland Rice) by ex-Sooner basketball coach Bruce Drake, wrote two books on OU football, "Oklahoma Kickoff" covering the early years of 1895 to 1920 and "Forty Seven Straight!" chronicling the record victory streak compiled by Bud Wilkinson's teams from 1953 to 1957.
But most of Keith's 16 books were of the non-sports, fiction variety and aimed at younger audiences. His first, "Boys Life of Will Rogers," was published in 1936. His 1940 book, "Sports and Games," was a Junior Literary Guild selection in 1940.
Four other books won national honors: the 1957 Newbery Award for "Rifles for Watie;" the 1965 New York Times Best Book Award for "Komantica;" the 1974 and 1978 Western Heritage Association's Wrangler Awards to "Susy's Scoundrel" and "The Obstinate Land;" and the 1974 Western Writers of America Spur Award to "Susy's Scoundrel."
The prestigious Newbery Award is given for the nation's best young adult book of the year. The book is still assigned to junior high students in many states, and Keith still corresponded with students who discovered "Rifles for Watie" each year. His Newbery Medal is on display at the Norman Public Library.
Six of his books were reprinted by Levite of Apache of Norman. "Komantcia" was followed by a sequel, "The Sound of Strings," published on Keith's 90th birthday. Publication of an existing, unpublished manuscript, "Chico and Dan," is planned on his 95th birthday in April.
His contributions to the state's literary heritage were honored with induction into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame and presentation of the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Center for the Book in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries.
Keith was just as proud of the "awards" he won running, which he loved equally with the University of Oklahoma, writing and barbershop quartet singing.
Keith ran the mile anchor leg on the all-victorious Sooner medley relay team that swept the Texas, Rice and Kansas Relays in 1928. The team was favored in the ensuing Penn Relays but didn't run.
Keith explained why: "When we came out for the race, it was raining hard so they told us to go back under the stands and they would come get us. They forgot us and when we came back out, our race was half over."
Coach John Jacobs' frustrated runners decided to enter an unfamiliar event, the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Keith won it. Two other OU runners finished fifth and sixth.
Keith also was Missouri Valley Conference indoor mile and two-mile champion and won the mile in the Kansas City Athletic Club meet.
He remained a runner after graduating. He won the Oklahoma AAU cross-country in 1945. He broke the U.S. Masters national records for men 70 and over in the two- and three-mile runs in 1973 and bettered the 10,000-meter record in the same age group in 1974.
During many of his years at OU, Keith "ran the section" or farther every day.
He continued to run until a serious Achilles tendon injury reduced him to jogging "only" a mile daily around Owen Field.
"Not very fast," he said. He was preceded in death by his wife, Virginia.
He is survived by a son, John, of Las Cruces, N.M., and a daughter, Kathleen, of Houston, and also four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. BIOG: NAME: UPD:

Excellent piece, George. I didn’t know, or remember, all that about Keith, though I read his memoir.

I worked for Keith too, though rarely in the office. My job in the fall of my freshman year was to accompany one of the photographers covering OU’s home football games and keep notes for him (there were no hers in the press box at the time) .

There was a very rigid process for tracking the game. I was given a form on which to record data for each and every play, so the photographer could have details for his caption for each image and edit efficiently.

As I remember, I had to record: the type of play, the time, the down, the yard line from snap to finish, penalties, and the primary players involved. The form had to match up with the footage. Frankly, it was a rather stressful assignment.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

V 7 N. 28 The Passing of Tom Fleming R.I.P.

Leading the pack #106
at Springbank, Road Races, London, Ontario about 1976

Ned Price informed us of the passing of Tom Fleming.  Here is the USA Today article
by Paul Schwartz.

Tom Fleming USA Today

Fleming had an incredible an incredible series of sub 2:20 marathons in the 1970s.  Finished seocnd at Boston twice and twice won the NYC marathon.  He was sixty five years old.  He had a heart attack while coaching his school team in New Jersey.

George Roy Steve

Monday, April 17, 2017

V 7 N. 27 Two Photos from Boston Today

These two photos were taken today of the men's and women's lead packs in Natick, MA at the 7.9 miles mark by our new friend Ned Price.   Ned took the pictures of the University of Chicago Track Club in our previous post over 50 years ago.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

V 7 N. 26 A Treasure from Chicago

April 16, 2017

One of the truly fun aspects of writing this blog comes when we find, stumble on, or get handed to us some rare, seldom seen photos or revelations of behind the scenes shennanigans and other things recalled by those who lived them.  Last week a gentleman in Framingham, MA, Ned Price contacted us and said he had some photos from  the good old days of the University of Chicago Track Club of which he was a member during his time there as an undergrad.  Ned now resides at the seven mile mark of the Boston Marathon and will be out there tomorrow to watch that event.

One might be reminded that this famous track at Stagg Field where many NCAA championships were contested in the 1920s and 30s had a more nefarious history.  Under the main grandstand was the site of the Manhattan Project where the world's first nuclear reaction was carried out in the early 1940s during the development of the first atomic weapon.  Today the stands are gone, and a statue is there to commemorate that event.

On a lighter note Ned related a story of how Ted Haydon, the coach of UCTC,  was pranked by his athletes during a meet inside the Fieldhouse.  Ted was set up ready to start a one mile event not knowing one of the club members had climbed up into the steel rafters of the building on a catwalk immediately overhead.  When Ted fired the gun to start the race, all the runners stood still, and at the same time the prankster overhead dropped a chicken carcass onto the track at Ted's feet.  The idea was that Ted had brought down the chicken with his starting pistol.   The chicken was probably served up at Harold's Chicken restaurant down the street after the meet.

These remarkable photos center around the UCTC taken by Ned and/or friends.  The first shows Ned outside the University of Chicago Fieldhouse with UCTC weightman Jim Brown  followed by a shot from an indoor race in the fieldhouse.  Then comes  a good picture of Gar Williams and Phil Coleman two UCTC members of the day  Williams was a well known road racer and Coleman represented the US several times as a steepler and also could run a pretty good mile.  Thereafter we have  a series of photos from 1962 at the time the University of Chicago hosted the USA Poland dual meet.   We can't identify the individuals in the group of Polish runners, but under the picture are mentioned their probable names based on who represented Poland in distance races in that meet.

This was the first international meet I ever witnessed.  I had relatives in Lombard, IL  and drove up from Dayton to stay with them and see the meet.

We hope that Ned can find some more pictures to send our way, and if he does we will pass them on to you.
Jim Brown, UCTC Weight Man with Ned Price, our photographer and storyteller.
Behind them the fieldhouse where many an indoor practice and
meet was held.

Bill Reyes (fart left) and Arne Richards #122  two stalwarts of
Midwest road racing in the 1950s and early 60s.

Gar Williams and Phil Coleman

John Gutknecht and Pat Traynor (both men now deceased)
prior to the  1962 US Poland dual meet at the
University of Chicago
Gutknecht was a  College Division runner, what we now call Division III,  from
Ohio Wesleyan who made the US team at 10,000 meters that year.
Traynor from Villanova was an NCAA champion steeplechaser and third placer in the National AAU meet in 1962,
 but he ran the 800 in the dual meet and came third in 1:51.5.

Members of the Polish team running on the Midway at U. of Chicago.  This meet was held just
three months before the Cuban Missile Crisis.  In the stands at the meet in Chicago there was more
Polish spoken than English due to Chicago's large Polish community that was very much in evidence.
I don't think anyone defected, but the guy in the back might be a KGB man.

Poles from another angle,  on the Midway on UC campus.
Probable names are Edward Szklarcryk (3:46 1500), Lech Boguszewicx (14:11 5000)
Jerzy Bruszkowski (1:50  800), Edward Motyl (9:06 Steeple).  We have no idea
which one is which.

Roger Sayers practices handing off to Paul Drayton coming onto the backstretch.
Sayers ran for the University of  Nebraska at Omaha and was the brother of Gayle Sayers, University
of Kansas and Chicago Bears football legend.

UCTC Coach Ted Haydon in a lighter moment
Keith Forman, U. of Oregon practicing at water jump.
Forman would finish 3rd in the Steeple.

Pat Traynor covering a  waterjump although he would run the 800 in the dual meet.

Max Truex and Jim Beatty doing run throughs several days before the
US Poland dual.  Truex was second in the 5000 in 14:08 and Beatty won the
1500 in 3:41.6.

Paul Drayton and probably Ray Saddler (Texas Southern U.)  on the ground.
Drayton ran the 4x100 relay and was second in the 200 to Marion Foik (POL).
Saddler ran on the 4x400.
In reading your comments, a mild caveat.  Enrico Fermi was among the nuclear scientists who actually preceded the Manhattan Project although he was heavily involved with it later.  He created the world's first nuclear reactor in late 1942 with his Chicago Pile I under the Stagg Field stands.  I've always thought of the Manhattan Project as the work done at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos from 1942-46.

Gar Williams was a National AAU marathon champion sometime in the 1960s.  Phil Coleman, after  his great running career, I believe was head track and field coach at the University of Illinois.

As I remember, Peter McArdle, a trans-planted Irishman, won the 5,000 in the USA vs Poland meet.  Does that fit with your memories?  McArdle was pre-maturely bald and he looked to be 20-30 years older than his actual age.  As I recall he had a fine career running for the NYAC, was on the 1963 Pan Am Games team and the 1964 Olympic Team.  He retired from the sport and took up running again later in life only to die of a heart attack while out training one day in Van Cortlandt Park.

Take care,

Tom Coyne

Really enjoy all the UCTC poop......Keep em' coming. Arne Richards was a friend and kept in touch/paid visits to me and Dick Trace. Struggling through the last few miles at Boston in 1966, I looked around to see a thin figure in a WKTC singlet on my tail. It was Arne and he beat me. 

Steve Price

Here is how we reported this meet five years ago.
A week later, Jnne 30, July 1 to be exact, the teams meet in Chicago. This is the precursor for the Russian dual meet three weeks off. There is no doubt the US will win, but there are questions to be answered in several events.
The first day is a disaster for the Poles. The US goes 1-2 in all but two events, the 5000 where Max Truex and Charlie Clark run 2-4, and the high jump which Gene Johnson wins at 7-0½, but John Thomas can only clear 6-9¾ and loses second on misses. Long and Gubner throw 63-9 and 63-5 for a four foot margin over the best Pole. Remember Al Hall's upset of Hal Connolly in the hammer a week ago? Well, maybe that wasn't such an upset. Hall does it again, 214-11 to 211-2. This is the most competitive field event of the meet as the Poles throw 208-11 and 207-10. The most competitive track event also takes place the first day. Witold Baran of Poland takes the lead on the backstretch of the 1500 only to have Jim Beatty go wide on the turn to pass him and Cary Weisiger nip him at the tape. Beatty 3:41.9, Weisiger 3:42.5, Baran 3:42.7. The least competitive race from a team aspect is the 110 hurdles where Jerry Tarr once again edges Hayes Jones on the run in, 13.6 for both. They put on their sweats and warm down while waiting for the Poles who finish in 14.9 and 15.3.
The second day provides some solace for the visitors. They sweep the javelin and the triple jump and provide the big surprise of the meet in which Marian Foik edges Paul Drayton and Homer Jones in the 200, 21.0 to 21.1 for the Americans. The most controversial race is the steeplechase where Poland's Olympic champion and world record holder, Zdzislaw Krzyskowiak (“Krzys” from now on), locks up in a tight dual with George Young. On the Pole's heels on the final lap, Young takes advantage of Krzys running in the second lane by trying to squeeze by the Pole on the pole. Krzys cuts him off. Young retaliates by pushing him, but the moment is lost and so is the race. Krys wins 8:38.0 to 8:42.4, times that don't reflect how tight the race was as Young “had to stop and climb over the last hurdle”. Chicago has a large Polish population. At the awards ceremony Young is booed as if this were Warsaw. Aside from the 110 hurdles the other race that is a foregone conclusion is the 1600 (not yet 4x4) relay where Saddler, Cawley, Archibald and Williams run 3:03.7 to leave the Poles far behind in 3:11.3.
We've saved the best for the last. Remember last month's report of Russian Vladimir Trusenyev breaking Al Oerter's world record in the discus? Well, you can rest easy. Big Al has it back. On Sunday he spins one out 204-10½ to reclaim his record by over 2½ feet. In three weeks Trusenyev and Oerter will meet in Palo Alto and we will be there to cover the action.

This report would not be complete without a footnote. Ron Morris and John Cramer vault 15-3 and 14-11 to go 1-2 in the pole vault. The best Pole vaulter (sorry about that) is third at 14-5. But it is the mark of the second Pole that is the eye-catcher. A game chap by the name of Piotr Sobotta takes fourth at 9-0. Let me be clear: nine feet in an international competition. Sobatta is the Polish high jump champion. He finished fourth in yesterday's competition at 6-6¾. There must have been a injury and Piotr volunteered to embarrass himself in a replacement role to earn that fourth place point in the PV. The final score is 131-81 so it is not as if that point is important. Henceforth in this reporter's lexicon the word “Sobatta” means taking one for the team. Next time you see a batter lean in and get hit by a pitch he could have avoided, you can say to yourself, “That's a Sobatta”. When a point guard holds his ground to take a charge by a fast breaking Dwight Howard, that's a Sobatta. When your high hurdler volunteers to run the third leg on the 4x4 with the meet on the line, that's a Sobatta. You are now armed with a new word; go forth and use it well.