Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vol 2 No. 31 The Inside Story Part III -(on February, 1961) from Ernie Cunliffe

This issue was a good one for me in 1000 yard races 3 for 3 including winning the AAU meet with a new Meet Record. Fred Schmertz finally got his Milrose Wanamaker Mile with Rozsavolgyi and myself as pacer for an attempt at the World Record. First a bit of background. The Madison Square Garden is 11 laps to the mile and is a smokers paradise as thick cigarette smoke hangs low within the arena. So, just before the Wanamaker Mile, I was jogging in the outer area and see Rozsavolgyi smoking furiously on one last cigarette as cited by Roy in
his summary, ie he is a chain smoker. I figured he was just getting his lungs and throat used to what he would experience inside the Garden.

Just as we lined up for introductions low and behold the announcer asks the crowd to "Please refrain from all smoking out of courtesy to the Milers." I guess no one gave a rip about any of the other athletes in any event, just the sacred Milers. I was about to become a miler instead of an 880/1000 guy for any future meets if this would guarantee a smoke free arena. But of course all the smoke was already around us and anyone who quit just for our race made it a feeble attempt to clear the air. I did have a bit of revenge on my mind
as Rozsavolgyi was the one who forced Snell, Waegli and myself into a super fast Olympic trial heat in Rome as he was just in the heat for a last speed workout before his 1500.

Roy has covered the mile well. I led a good lst 61 400 and Rozsavolgyi and I went through in 2:01 when both of us slowed down. Deacon Jones took over with a 64 & Rozsavolgyi showed his speed unlike the Rome 800 heat and won in 4:06 with my 2nd place time being 4:06.4.

I might point out that I do not ever remember running in any other arena that had such heavy smoke hanging in the rafters and down to the track itself. I think most of the other arenas, Boston, LA, Louisville, Milwaukee and Cleveland might have had a no smoking policy, but I am not sure about that.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 30 February , 1961


The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! At least Valeriy Brummel and Igor Ter-Ovanesyan are here to take on John Thomas and Ralph Boston in the New York AC Games and the National AAU meet, both in Madison Square Garden. Brummel is track and field's newest shining star, having broken Thomas' world record with a 7-4½ last month in Leningrad.

The NYAC games are held Feb. 17. If the Russian youngster is nervous about his first US competition, it doesn't show. When Thomas can't negotiate 7-2, Brummel is on his own. He is over 7-3 on his second jump. To the delight of the crowd, he has the bar placed at 7-5 because, as he says later, “I wanted to do better than I have ever done. He has three good shots, but doesn't clear. There will be another day, specifically eight days hence in same environs.

If Brumel is disappointed, it is nothing compared to the anguish of Ter-Ovanesyan who, presented with a runway 30 feet shorter than he is accustomed, can't get his step down and fouls six times. Boston needs no competitive incentive. He sails 26-1¾ for an indoor world record. Wins for Brummel and Boston, disappointments for Thomas and Ter-Ovanesyan; you could say the jumps had their ups and down.

Don Bragg, not used to being second banana, soars 15-7 for a meet record and has three near misses at 16-0. With that mark in mind, it is significant to mention that John Uelses places fourth with his first 15-0 clearance, perhaps an indication of things to come.

The most anticipated event on the track is the 880 where George Kerr beats Belgium's 800 world record holder Roger Moens 1:52.2 to 1:52.5. Hungary's Istvan Rozsavolgyi toys with the mile field, winning by 2.5 seconds over Peter Close in 4:04.0.

And now to the AAU meet. The jumps have the same Russian – American match ups and the excitement level has been ratcheted up a notch. Ter-Ovanesyan has his step down and takes the lead in the first round with a leap of 25-7¾. In the third round he becomes the second ever indoor jumper to reach 26 feet with a jump of exactly that distance. Boston answers in the fourth round with a 25-11¼, but time is running out. Neither improve in the fifth round and one jump remains for each. Boston is up first. With the crowd cheering wildly, the Olympic champion sprints down the runway, hits the board with two inches to spare and elevates. At the top of his jump it is apparent that this is a special jump. Indeed it is. The measurement is 26-6¼, a world record by 4½ inches. If you think it is all over but the shouting, think again. The Russian is made of stern stuff. He has been moving his mark back all evening and he does so once again. This is to be an all or nothing attempt. He is all out down the runway, hits the board and it is obvious that this is his best jump of the evening, well over 26 feet. Is it enough to beat Boston and take his WR? We'll never know. The red flag goes up. It is a foul by about an inch. The Russians want it measured anyway. They are turned down by judge Eulace Peacock who cites the rules. Eulace Peacock, does that name ring a bell? If so, it is because he was a 26-3 jumper himself in 1935. Were it not for Jesse Owens, he would have been the world record holder for 24 years until last summer.

The crowd anticipates the high jump match between Thomas and Brummel, but though it is exciting, the marks are an inch below those of last week, Brummel winning 7-2 to 7-0. How far high jumping has come in the last few years is measured by the 18 year old Brummel's apology for missing 7-3.

There is far more excitement on the track than there was last week. In the 1000 Ernie Cunliffe, pictured on the front page, comes within a tenth of the world record he set in Boston, splitting 54.5 and 1:51.9 en route to a 2:08.0 clocking, two yards ahead of Ed Moran. The milers jog through a 3:12.5, with Istvan Rozsavolgyi leading, before Jim Beatty destroys the field with a 56+ final quarter to win easily in 4:09.3. Hayes Jones, who had said he would be concentrating on the sprints in the future, ties the world record in the 60 yard hurdles, defeating Elias Gilbert. No times are given for the placers. Eddie Southern wins his first AAU indoor championship with decisive 1:11.9 victory in the 600.

Bruce Kidd is a crowd favorite and justly so. Record holder Al Lawrence takes the three mile field out with a 4:33 first mile. Houston teammate John Macy then trades the heavy lifting with Lawrence as they take turns leading laps. By two miles, reached in 9:16, Lawrence has realized it is not his day and fallen back, but Lazlo Tabori and the 17 year old Kidd are right there. Another lap and Kidd pops into the lead followed by Tabori. Goodby, Macy. For the next three quarters the Hungarian veteran stalks the Canadian teenager, never more than three yards back. He is still there at the gun and the race is on....but not for long. Down the backstretch Kidd opens up 10 yards, an advantage he stretches to 20 at the tape, winning in 13:47.0, claiming the fifth spot on the all time list. Lazlo has to be content with 13:51.6.

Though some results from the Boston AA meet were mentioned in the last issue, the story appears in this month's. Ernie Cunliffe set the world record at 1000 yards of 2:07.9 in winning by 3.5 seconds. John Thomas set the American record in the high jump with a 7-3 clearance. It would have been the world record had not Brummel jumped 7-4½ a few hours earlier in Leningrad. Thomas, after clearing 7-3, was quoted as saying, “That's enough for one night. I'm satisfied.” Here is a question to ponder. When he said that, did he know of Brummel's jump?

Speaking of Brummel, the classic shot of him touching a basketball rim with his right foot appears on page 15 of this issue.

Now it is February 3 and we are at the Millrose Games at the Garden. Henry Wadsworth bests Don Bragg in the vault, 15-4 to 15-0, Tarzan's first loss at MSG since 1957. The Florida vaulter also takes second in the high jump at 6-6. Hungary's Istvan Rozsavolgyi has said that he is in shape to break Ron Delany's 4:01.4 world record in the mile. For awhile it appears this could be the night. Ernie Cunliffe leads through the quarter in 61.5, but Rozsavolgyi takes over and quickens the pace to 2:01.7. Could we be viewing a record?......No, wait. False alarm. Rozsa slows and Deacon Jones is forced to take over before the 1320, reached in 3:05.3. With two laps (320 yards) left “the slim Magyar zoomed to the front”. Jones hangs tough, but is dropped with half a lap to go. Rozsavolgyi coasts home in 4:06.0. “Cunliffe, apparently out of it, finished fast to grab second in 4:06.4 with Jones at 4:06.5.”

It's the next week and we are at the Sports Arena for the LA Times meet. This 17 year old Canadian, Bruce Kidd, just continues to impress. On tonight's two mile menu we have Al Lawrence, Max Truex, Jim Beatty and John Macy. The veterans let the kid take the lead, but the pace is a dawdling 2:25 at the half. No other splits are given. The pace picks up, but it is still tactical. The youngster leads - “mincing along on his toes” even - for 21 of the 22 laps. At this point “Beatty put an end to all the foolishness with a 160 yard burst that covered the final circuit in an unbelievable 18 seconds”. Beatty 9:05.7, Kidd 9:07.7.

Bert Nelson writes: “The best time of the meet was the 2:08.7 for the 1000 yards by Ernie Cunliffe. Off form with the tail end of a cold, Ernie bolted to the fore halfway through the race and hung on for a diminishing but decisive five yard margin over Jim Grelle.”

Eddie Southern's 57.8 takes the 500 over Jack Yerman and Mal Spence, 58.1 for both. George Kerr, the best 400-800 runner on earth, logically is comfortable in the 600. He wins in 1:11.1 over Mal Spence's twin, Mel, who clocks 1:11.9.

In an odd footnote, the outstanding performer of the meet doesn't go to any of the above, indeed not to any performer in an open race. It goes to crowd favorite Tom Sullivan of St. George High in Evanston, Illinois who wins the high school mile in 4:13.7 with painful splits of 2:01.5 and 2:12.2.

Remember how discouraged Dyrol Burleson was after his thumping at the hands of Jim Beatty last month? Well, apparently Coach Bowerman knows what he is doing. Burleson is in New Zealand kicking some major Olympic butt. On Jan. 21 in Auckland he handles OG 5000 champ Murray Halberg in a 1500, 3:47.4 to 3:47.7. Four days later in Napier he outruns Bill Baillie by two seconds with a 4:04.0 mile. The best is yet to come. Back in Auckland on the 28th he takes on Halberg and OG 800 champ Peter Snell at a mile and leaves them both behind: Burleson 4:05.6, Snell 4:05.7, Halberg 4:06.4. On Feb. 1 in Dunedin he once again handles Halberg 4:01.2 to 4:03.6. Good? Yes, but you ain't seen nothing yet. In Christchurch on the 4th he lines up for an 800 against all three Olympic 800 medal winners, Snell, world record holder Roger Moens and George Kerr. No description of the race is given, but when the dust clears, Burly has won in a personal best equaling 1:50.0. The medalists finish in the same order they did in Rome: Snell 1:50.1, Moens 1:50.4, Kerr 1:50.6. That he stubs his toe in a final mile against Halberg four days later in Wellington, 4:04.2 to 4:04.8, doesn't diminish the success of the Oregonian's tour.

Gleaned from columns: Bobby Poynter has left his San Jose problems behind and is now enrolled at LA State....Istvan Rozsavolgyi has a guilty secret: he is a “chain smoker”, knocking off three or four cigarettes in succession each evening....Roger Moens says his best days are behind him and that he won't break his 1:45.7 800 world record, but neither will Peter Snell. “He is too heavy. He is a shot putter on the side.”.....Vern Wolfe who coached three high school national record holders in consecutive years (Jim Brewer in the PV, Dallas Long in the shot and Karl Johnston in the discus) and then took an assistant job at San Jose State, is now the head coach at Foothill Junior College. Wonder how far his climb up the coaching ladder will go?......Speaking of how far, Ralph Boston, whose broad jump record is a fraction of an inch short of 27 feet, is a confident guy. He says he can jump 30 feet....And finally, Bert Nelson vents, “At Rome many of our runners wore disgraceful dirty gray sweats into the stadium in place of their official blues. They wore non standard uniforms in Greece and London. And some refused to wear numbers in the London meet. None of our athletes are good enough to be allowed to do this and our coaches and managers should see that they don't.”

We'll close with an ad. Kansas coach Bill Easton will lead a “Hawaiian Track Party” for ten days in July. There are no meets, but there will be clinics which will display Easton's “wealth of coaching experience and know how plus genial personality.” Airfare from San Francisco, accommodations at the luxurious Waikiki Biltmore and many activities are included for only $315. Sign up now.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 29 That 1936 1500 Final

The Berlin 1500 Meters

Eric Ny (Swe 572), Glenn Cunningham (USA 746), Fritz Schaumberg ?(Ger), Jack Lovelock (NZ467), Luigi Beccali(hidden behind Lovelock) ITA, Wern Boettcher? (Ger 82x) Jerry Cornes (GBr 258), Miklos Szabo (Hun708), Philip Edwards (Can 74), Archie San Romani (hidden behind Edwards) , Gene Venzke (USA 141), Robert Goix (Fr)

In this picture of the 1936 Olympic 1500 meter final we see left to right Eric Ny, Glenn Cunningham, Fritz Schaumberg ?, Jack Lovelock, Luigi Beccali

I’ve put the picture of the 1936 Berlin 1500 meters on the top of the blog because the picture and the event intrigued me. What happened to these runners? Where did world events lead them? How did their lives end? When I was sophomore or junior at the U. of Oklahoma, Glenn Cunningham made an appearance at the Big 8 indoor meet along with Wes Santee. Both were legends. Both spent much of their lives in Kansas. We had always heard of Cunningham’s terrible burns as a child and his recovery and his work with children afterwards on his ranch in Kansas.

But little or no information was available beyond Jack Lovelock who set the world record that day in Berlin and who was also a medical doctor. In fact there were two M.D.’s in that race. The other was an interesting figure in that he was the only black runner. Who was he, who did he run for? John Cobley helped me out with the names of the runners. But what were their final finish places and times after the first three Lovelock, Cunningham

Cunningham in a win

and Beccali? Fortunately the website www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes lets us know something about anybody who ever competed in the Olympics in any sport. Some biographies are more extensive than others. Some give only a birth date and date of death. Once you learn to manipulate the site you will find a universe of information about the Olympics and several other major sports. For example you can look up every runner in the 1936 Olympic marathon with his finishing time and a brief bio. It will show every race including preliminaries, times and finish places of just about any athlete. You can search athletes by name only or by event or by Olympic year. There may be a more comprehensive list or website somewhere. But I’m not aware of anything else like this.
Cunningham later in his career beating Beccali in third place

Berlin Podium

Cunningham and Lovelock

The top three with Paavo Nurmi in Berlin

Lovelock, Cunningham, Beccali, Edwards

The finish from the stands

What I learned about the Berlin 1500 runners

There were two doctors running the race. Jack Lovelock, the winner had just completed his medical studies in England. Lovelock came to the US after WWII and was working in New York. In 1949, he was feeling ill and dizzy at work and called his wife that he was coming home early. He never made it. Waiting on a subway or train platform he fell onto the tracks and was killed by an incoming train. He was a few days shy of his 40th birthday.

The other doctor was Phil Edwards running for Canada, who originally came from British Guyana. He got a medical degree at New York University and moved to Canada where he was to become a leading authority in infectious diseases and practiced and did research in Montreal. Phil is notable in Olympic history as the only person to have won 5 bronze medals in his Olympic career. He ran from 1928 to 1936 and placed in the 400, 800, 1500 and 4x400 over the years. He was second in the 800 meters at Berlin.

Dr. Phil Edwards, Canada
Edwards hoisting Percy Williams winner of the 100 and 200 meters in 1928

Edwards winning 1934 Empire Games 800m

Edwards in 1932 L.A. games

Luigi Beccali third place in Berlin held several European titles and was the defending Olympic 1500 champion at Berlain having won at the 1932 games in Los Angeles. Before the US was involved in World War II , Beccali had emigrated to the US and settled in Florida where he was a wine salesman. Died at age 82 in Daytona Beach, FL.


Beccali winning 1500 in 1932 followed by Jerry Cornes and Phil Edwards in third place. All three would run the 1500 in Berlin four years later. All would be faster, but none would place as well in 1936.

Fourth place went to Archie San Romani who raced for many years against Cunningham and beat him on 8 occasions. His son Archie San Romani Jr. went on to fame at Wichita St. and Oregon as a miler in the 1960’s. He died at the age of 82 in 1994.

San Romani edges Cunningham in Lawrence, KS

Cunningham, San Romani, and Venzke on the boat to Europe, 1936

Phil Edwards of Canada, already mentioned above was fifth in the race. He was the youngest to die of natural causes at 63 in 1971 in Montreal. Perhaps his working with infectious diseases, pulmonary diseases and parasitological diseases led to an earlier demise.

In sixth place was Jerry Cornes from Great Britain, died in 2001 at the age of 91 after serving many years in the Colonial service in Africa before and after the 1936 Olympics. (See Cornes' obituary at the bottom of this post)

Venzke, Lovelock, Cornes
Qualifying for 1500 finals
Pierre Leichtnam of France DNQ

In seventh place was Miklos Szabo of Hungary. He was the 1934 European 800 meter champion in 1:52. He also set the WR for 2000Meters after the Olympics in 5:20, then followed with a WR at 2 miles in 8:56 in 1937. He died in Budapest in 2000 at age 91.

Eighth place was Robert Goix of France who outlived the field at 106, passing away in 2011.

Ninth was the American , Gene Venzke who often raced Cunningham and San Romani indoors in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. He was originally from Minnesota and died at the age of 83 in 1992 in Berks County , PA.

Tenth was Fritz Schaumberg who survived WWII and died in Germany in 1988 at the age of 82. In the photo I could not differentiate Schaumberg from the other German Boettcher as I could not find other photos with their identities given.

The last two places and the first in the race were the least lucky.

Eleventh place was Eric Ny of Sweden who died an untimely death in a sailing accident in 1945 at the age of 35.

Walter Boettcher of Germany died in 1944 in combat in Poland.

Longevity is pretty strong in this group of individuals after eliminating those who died untimely deaths, the other nine survived to an average age of 84 years.

Some even had progeny who became fairly decent runners later on.
See below.
Glenn Cunningham Jr.about 1967
Archie San Romani Jr. finishing second to Jim Grelle in the late 1960's

Jerry Cornes Obituary and Biography

From the "Telegraph"
12:00AM BST 25 Jun 2001
JERRY CORNES, who has died aged 91, followed up a career in the Colonial Service by becoming headmaster of West Downs Preparatory School; in youth, however, he had been more widely known as a superb middle-distance runner, the winner of an Olympic silver medal in a world still undarkened by professionalism.

Cornes's athletic prowess began to attract notice at Oxford, not that he allowed training to exclude other university pursuits. He played a full part in the life of his college, Corpus Christi, and enjoyed the distinction of being rusticated for pelting the dons on the college's high table with a bread roll.

In the Oxford University Sports of 1930, the mile was won in a time of 4 min 28 sec. Cornes came third, but realised that he could have done rather better. Competing a fortnight later in the Varsity match, he won the mile in 4 min 22.6 sec.

Four months afterwards, Cornes found himself representing the British Empire against the United States at Chicago. Running with an Australian, a Canadian and another Briton (Reg Thomas) in the 4 x one mile relay, he helped to set a new world record of 17 min 2.4 sec. The next year, 1931, representing Great Britain against Germany, he was a member of a relay team which established another world record by recording a time of 15 min 55.6 sec in the 4 x 1,500 metres.

Cornes gave the appearance of running with great ease. He liked to turn on the pressure in the third lap, so that the opposition had nothing left at the finish.

In 1932, when he was President of Athletics at Oxford, he won the Varsity cross-country race, beating the previous record by almost a minute, and also triumphed against Cambridge in both the mile and half-mile. In a typically generous gesture he paused at the end of the mile to allow Jack Lovelock, a New Zealander who was second string in the Oxford team, to dead heat with him and thus gain a Blue.

Later that year Cornes went out to Los Angeles to compete in the Olympics. As he came into the home straight in the last lap of the 1,500 metres final, he felt he had the race in the bag. The crowd rose, as he thought, in his honour; in fact, though, they were cheering another runner, an unknown Italian called Luigi Beccalli. By the time that Cornes apprehended the danger, it was too late. The disappointment nagged him for the rest of his life. "I did not represent the United Kingdom to collect silver," he said.

After Oxford Cornes went into the Colonial Service, though he still managed to run when on leave, and in 1934 finished third behind Lovelock and Sydney Wooderson in the Empire Games mile at the White City.

He took a nine-month sabbatical from the Colonial Office to train for the Berlin Olympics of 1936. In the final of the 1,500 metres, Lovelock ran the race of his life to carry off the gold. Cornes returned the fastest time of his life for the distance (3 min 51.4 sec), but this only sufficed to gain him sixth place.

John Frederick Cornes (always known as Jerry) was born on March 23 1910 at Darjeeling, the son of a judge in the Indian Civil Service; he had a twin sister and a younger brother. Partly due to the First World War, after the age of three he spent his childhood away from his parents with relations and friends in England. Sent to school at Clifton, he excelled at work, games (especially cricket) and athletics.

Having left Oxford with a Second in Modern History he chose the Colonial Service in preference to the family firm of Cornes & Co of London, Kobe & Yokohama. In 1932 he was sent to northern Nigeria where he rode from village to village collecting taxes and assessing incomes.

In 1937, Cornes was transferred to Palestine, where as terrorism began to increase during the Second World War, he took to sleeping with a pistol under his pillow. He was lucky to escape with his life when the King David Hotel was blown up in June 1946, having just left the hotel to investigate the effect of diversionary bombs in front of the building.

Shortly afterwards Cornes returned to Britain. With his young family growing up, he refused further postings abroad, and found an agreeable job as supervisor of the Colonial Services courses at Oxford. This involved helping visitors from overseas to acclimatise to life in Britain; to this end he ran a hostel, the Colonial Services Club, and founded a cricket club, the Hartebeestes. He also enjoyed dining rights at Corpus Christi's high table, formerly the target of his bread missile.

In 1953 he left the Colonial Office, and the next year, after teaching for a couple of terms at the Dragon School, bought West Downs preparatory school at Winchester.

West Downs was then a highly traditional boarding school for about 100 boys. Cornes proved a breath of fresh air, encouraging all kinds of new activities, including film shows, musical productions, pets and computers. There were visits to plays and concerts - but also to a telephone exchange, a butterfly farm, and a chocolate factory. Games players were encouraged, but so were non-games players, and even school haters. And while horizons were being widened under Cornes's liberal regime, the Common Entrance and scholarship record became one of the best in the country.

In the 1970s the demand for boarding places began to decrease; and although Cornes's decision to introduce day boys, and day girls, meant that the number of pupils reached a peak of 165 in 1978, he was unable to make the school permanently viable. When he retired in 1988, West Downs closed. Six years later the site was sold to King Alfred's College, now part of Southampton University.

Jerry Cornes married, in 1937, Rachael (Ray) Addis, youngest daughter of Sir Charles Addis, formerly chairman of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. They had four sons.

George Brose

Monday, March 12, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 27 The Inside Story from Ernie Cunliffe (Indoors 1961)

Right after the Rome Olympics Fred Schmertz of the Millrose Games cornered me and insisted that I run in his February meet in the famous Wanamaker Mile. I agreed and shortly thereafter Will Cloney of the Boston Knights of Columbus and BAA Games asked me to run the 1000 yd races in his earlier meets in January. This sounded like an ideal distance for me but since I had no idea how many laps were involved and how to run a 1000, Coach Jordan sort of measured out a 160 yd sample track on the grass infield at Stanford to equal the 11 laps to a mile Boston track.

The test runs did not work out because the track was flat, grass, and I had no idea what I was doing. So since Murray Halberg was due to run in an all comers meet I decided to run a 1000 on the more familiar regular track. An almost solo effort, 2:07.3, was the result and Roy has covered it well. A side note about the meet : Joe Rosenthal the famous Iwo Jima flag raising photographer came down from San Francisco and took pictues of Halberg and myself which in itself was quite a thrill.

I went to Boston for the Knights of Columbus meet without any indoor running shoes. Bob Giegengack the Yale coach loaned me a pair of size 12s which sort of fit my size 13 1/2 feet. The race was a learning experience as Tom Carroll of Yale was the main competition and I knew his 880 times and figured he would be tough. I do not remember my winning time but think it was about a 2:09+ The big honor for me was being presented the Cardinal Cushing trophy by the Cardinal at his trackside box seat. As a parting comment I told Will that I would break the World Record, 2:08.2 set by Gunnar Nielsen of Denmark back in 1951 and tied by Arnie Sowell a few years before, when I returned for the BAA meet. This got in the papers and might have cost me later and I will elaborate on that in my next posting.

The LA meet was better in several ways since I had gotten a pair of Adidas indoor running spikes from, ta ta, the infamous Cliff Severn. They were size 13 & fit ! I don't know if Stanford bought them or if (more likely) Cliff gave me the pair but I soon found out he wanted something back. Just as the PA man was introducing the milers, good old Cliff grabbed me and handed me a pair of Adidas and said, give these to Jim Grelle right away. I brushed him off and said, hey Cliff I have a race to run now.

The LA people had hoped for a sub 4 mile and thus my job was to set a good pace (where have I heard that before) for Beatty but I intended to try and win. Again Roy has covered the results well. Now, on to the Boston 1000 in the next posting.

Phil Scott reports that
"Cliff Severn is still living as of a year ago in northern Ca. Was still in shoe business selling Australian sheepskin boots! Still remembers everyone he dealt with Adidas."

Part 2)

I felt I had the hang of indoor running OK so at the BAA Meet I went after the 10 year old world record in the 1000 yd race. Nielsen had run 2:08.2 way back in 1951 and Arnie Sowell had tied the record. Went out hard in my new Adidas (thanks Cliff) and was about 1:50.6 at the 880. Finished fairly strong for me and broke the record with a 2:07.9.

I was about to leave the arena when Will Cloney grabbed me and said I should stay for the Outstanding Athlete Award as I was a cinch to win, having broken a 10 year old World Record. But it was not to be and I have to say up front, this was one of the most disappointing and unexplained result. John Thomas had broken his existing World Record by an inch but previously that day Brummel had bettered the World Record by 2 inches, thus making Thomas' record only an American Record. All the voting members of the press & Thomas were aware of this, yet they chose a new American Record vs a World Record. To this day I have not figured it out and as you may guess I have never forgotten what I felt was an oversight. Will Cloney was apologizing all over the place and said he couldn't understand it. His final thought was that "everyone knew you were going to break the record and figure you are automatic and just took you for granted." He didn't mention that the local press might have been just slightly biased and voted for a Boston athlete. At least they might have picked a track winner and a field event winner. Bitter???

Yes, as I had never won and never would win any such award in my career, so I figure John has my trophy somewhere in his basement!! Should have kept my mouth shut at the Knights of Columbus Meet and not told Will that I would break the record, as perhaps that too might have soured the press people who really didn't know me as I was never a cocky bragging type. Coach Jordan had a motto on the track locker room wall: Champions are Gracious and Humble. Someone inked in the words: AND FAST after Humble. Wasn't me, as fast wasn't in my vocabulary or running performance.

Another bit of info to add about Sowell. I coached his son at the Air Force Academy in the early 1980s. He was taller but certainly not the quality runner , 800, 1000, or miler that his old man was. Of course it could of been my poor coaching?

On to February, an AAU win, a close loss to George Kerr and a broken board on the last lap of the Cleveland meet = a 1-2 record to wind up the indoor season.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 26 January , 1961


You want indoor meets? We got 'em, but first, let us tell you about two previous outdoor meets.
The first is the Sugar Bowl meet, held appropriately enough in New Orleans on the first day of the year in 50 degree weather. Aubrey Dooley, the former Oklahoma State star, is the unanimous selection as the meet's outstanding performer on the basis of his 15-4¾ vault which breaks the 20 year old meet record of 15-1 set by Cornelius Warmerdam. Ernie Cunliffe has the best mark on the track with his 3:49.0 1500, “a tremendous effort given the poor condition of the track”. He leaves Archie San Romani, George Larson and Barry Almond well behind.
Now a week has passed and we are at Stanford for an all-comers meet. This is not just any old all-comers as evidenced by the setting of two American records. Olympic 5000 champion Murray Halberg is running the two mile for a tune up for next week's Oregon Invitational. There is no significant competition and the New Zealander is on his own. He puts miles of 4:19.5 and 4:21.3 together to win by over half a minute in an American all-comers record of 8:40.8.
Not to be outdone, in the very next race Ernie Cunliffe establishes an American record for 1000 yards with a 2:07.3, the fastest time ever recorded, but there is no recognized world record for this distance, so the American record will have to do. He splits 55.0, 1:51.3 and finishes with a strong 26.2 final 200.
The first of the indoor meets is the inaugural Oregon Invitational held January 14 in Portland. The track, built in Eugene to Bill Bowerman's specifications, is made of ½ inch plywood with tongue-in-groove fitting and 44 inch banking on the curves at a cost of $15,000. Athletes who have run the Eastern indoor tracks say it is the best they have seen. The only complaint is from Bowerman who says that it is too well made. “We could have put it together for $5000 (without tongue-in-groove) and still had a quality surface. It will last forever.”
Murray Halberg sure loves it. He breaks Al Lawrence's indoor 2 mile world record by 11.7 seconds in an oddly paced race. After passing the mile in 4:16.0, he runs the next 880 in 2:20 before going to the afterburners to complete the last half mile in 1:58.3 for a time of 8:34.3. The band breaks into “God Save the Queen” and the crowd of 7111 gives him a two minute standing ovation. Halberg, a laboratory technician in an Auckland brewery, responds with the understated, “It's all in a day's work”. Though left far behind, Lazlo Tabori's 8:47.6 is his best ever on the boards.
Jim Beatty is over the foot injury that kept him from performing his best in the Olympics. He demonstrates his fitness in the mile or at least the last half of the mile. The 880 is reached in a plodding 2:09. Dyrol Burleson then throws down a 61.0, but it is nowhere near enough to keep Beatty at bay. With only half a lap to go, the former North Carolina star separates the men from the boys with a burst that gives him a 15 yard victory in 4:07.4. A discouraged Burleson who is about to undertake a three week tour of New Zealand says, “Maybe somebody who deserves it should take the trip”. The future would not be served without a mention of the fourth place finisher, Bob Schul, who clocks 4:19.5.
Roscoe Cook takes the measure of Darrell Horn and Harry Jerome with a world record equaling 6.0 60. Horn returns to take the broad jump by nearly a foot and a half with a 25-6¼.
Contrary to his remarks after the Olympics, Parry O'Brien is back in the shot put ring. He throws 61-11¾ to leave Dallas Long's 59-3 far behind. Ron Morris gets the better of Don Bragg who can't match Morris' 15-0 vault.
The only faux pas of the evening comes in the 500 where Bowerman has the race run in lanes all the way in an attempt to provide a world record. Obviously the staggers are enormous and apparently confusing. The race should be a dual between Otis Davis and Eddie Southern, but isn't. Both are confounded by the stagger and lose count of the laps to the benefit of Washington State's Rick Harder who wins in 59.5, the same time as Davis and a tenth ahead of Southern.
Murray Halberg may be the present king of the two mile, but the future belongs to 17 year old Bruce Kidd of Canada as measured by his performance in the Boston Knights of Columbus meet this day. Running against 31 year old Pete McArdle and 39 year old Fred Norris, the teen prodigy follows through half mile splits of 2:11, 4:25 and 6:40, before jumping the veteran foreigners with 4¼ laps of the 160 yard track remaining. His move startles the competition and delights the crowd. He opens a 15 yard lead on McArdle who closes only to have the kid open ground again. McArdle makes one more gallant effort, closing within two yards on the final lap, but the Kidd holds him off for an 8:49.2 – 8:49.6 victory. Former Harvard hurdler Bob Rittenburg writes, “Boston Garden was in danger of collapsing from the vibration of the cheering that the fans sustained during the last four laps of the race and the two extra laps that Bruce jogged with the spotlight on him.”
January 21 finds us at the second annual Los Angeles Invitational. The Los Angeles sports fan has the Rams, Lakers, Dodgers, USC and UCLA, yet 13,586 fill the Sports Arena. Would that that be the case now.
The track, “a $12,000 spruce job from Finland, was judged slow and in need of work by some of the runners”. Times were slow in the 500, 600 and 1000 (Ernie Cunliffe, where are you?), but the mile and two were quality races. We will get to them later. Right now the spotlight falls on the rejuvenated Parry O'Brien. The two time Olympic champion once again dominates the shot put. His 63-1½ throw with the bee-bee packed leather shot is a world record. Dave Davis improves a foot from last week's mark at 60-4, but the day belongs to O'Brien.
Ralph Boston's initial indoor indoor effort results in an American indoor record of 25-10, leaving Darrell Horn, last week's 25-6 winner, far behind at 23-9. Bob Avant, a senior at USC, surprises with a 6-ll PR to win the HJ by four inches. Lazlo Tabori edges Max Truex at two miles, 8:53.2 to 8:55.0. Hayes Jones wins the 60 HH in 7.1 and says he will concentrate on the sprints from now on.
Roscoe Cook, who tied the WR in the 60 last week in Oregon, misses replicating that performance by a tenth with a 6.1 victory over a good field. But “One of the best sprint performances of the evening came at the end of the mile when Jim Bailey exploded past a strong running Ernie Cunliffe and left his pursuer by nearly 15 yards in the last 100” to win in 4:06.4.
Under the heading “Late News” there is abbreviated news of happenings on January 28. John Thomas betters his indoor WR (7-2½) with a clearance of 7-3 1/8 in the Boston AA meet. If he had done it the day before it would have been a world record, but earlier this day Valeriy Brummel, still only 18, jumped 7-4½ in Leningrad. Obviously Thomas has some ground to make up.
Who doesn't have ground to make up is Ernie Cunliffe who scorches the Boston track in an American indoor record 2:07.9 1000. Too bad this is not a regulation event as it seems to be EC's best. He is not the only Bay Area middle distance runner heard from this New England evening. Former Cal star Jerry Siebert takes the 600 in 1:11.2. No details are given for either race. Olympic champ, Ralph Boston, does not win the broad jump. This is because he skips the event, instead winning the 45 yard hurdles and takes second in the high jump at 6-6.
Down under on the same day it would appear that Dyrol Burleson's apprehension about competing in New Zealand was unfounded. He wins the invitational mile in Auckland in 4:05.6, edging Peter Snell by inches. Once again no details are given.
Perusal of columns provides the following information. Pro football has taken plucked two more from the rolls of track and field. Bowling Green hurdler Bernie Casey has signed with the 49ers and Olympic intermediate hurdle bronze medalist Dick Howard of New Mexico will wear the blue and white of the Cowboys......Remember the item about Bill Nieder taking a Hollywood screen test? Seems to have worked out. The Olympic shot put champ has just signed a contract to play Jack Dempsey in an upcoming movie........The Helms Athletic Foundation has just announced its' selection for the top athletes for each continent. Livio Berrutti of Italy wins for Europe. Peter Snell is the “Australian” winner. The HAF strikes a blow for gender equity by naming Wilma Rudolph the North American winner.......Speaking of awards, the prestigious Sullivan Award goes to Rafer Johnson. But the balloting reflects the progress women have made as Wilma Rudolph finishes second........Peter Snell writes that the success he and Murray Halberg enjoyed at the Rome Olympics, “really put athletics to the fore here, and we will soon have our first cinder track. There are four tracks planned for completion by '62”. Contrast this with Finland which has 730 cinder tracks.....Herb Elliot says his performances may deteriorate while he attends college in England because Percy Cerutty will remain in Australia. “Any teaching he has got, I have learned, but he does more than teach. He inspires.”........Dan Ferris, secretary of the national AAU says that three to five track men will be picked to compete in South Africa in March or April. He says no question of color or race was raised by the South African AAU, but the team “is expected to contain no Negroes”.......And now a brief visit to our I Am Not Making This Up department. Avery Brundage, the IOC president, has suggested.....are you sitting down?...that gold medal winners be barred from future Olympics in order to give more athletes a chance......Looks like the Nelson brothers made rent this month. There are two one page ads: You can buy high jump and pole vault standards from The John L. Haines company in Galva, Illinois (or “dealers everywhere”) and Ryan Films of Hamden, Connecticut has six 16mm instructional sound films (discus, high jump, hurdles, shot put, pole vault and broad jump) available for purchase in either color or black and white.....Just in case you wondered, the cost of the magazine remains $3 a year and Clifford Severn Sporting Goods still owns the back page.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 25 December, 1960


This issue of Track and Field News is informationaly challenged. The front page has a photo of Rafer Johnson whom the magazine has named track and field athlete of the year. There is a lengthy preview of the indoor season, the world ranking for 1960, a number of minor cross country results (Southern Illinois 15, Illinois Normal 50 sort of thing) and a few road race results (City Hall to Coney Island Walk). In short, there isn't much.

The following are Americans and those foreigners residing in the US (*) ranked in the top ten in the world according to Track and Field News. 100: 2) Ray Norton 3) Charlie Tidwell 4) Dave Sime 9) Frank Budd 10) Paul Winder. 200: 2) Norton 4) Tidwell 5) Stone Johnson 6) Les Carney. 400: 2) Otis Davis 5) Glenn Davis 6) George Kerr* 8) Earl Young 10) Ted Woods. 800: 3) Kerr* 5) Jerry Siebert 8) Ernie Cunliffe. 1500/Mile: 6) Dyrol Burleson 10) Lazlo Tabori* 5000/3M: none 10,000/M: 6) Max Truex Steeplechase: none 110 Hurdles: 1) Lee Calhoun 2) Willie May 3) Hayes Jones 6) Chuck Cobb 7) Don Styron 8) Keith Gardner* 9) Dave Edstrom 400 Hurdles: 1) G. Davis 3) Cliff Cushman 4) Dick Howard 6) Eddie Southern 7) Josh Culbreath 8) Don Styron 9) Rex Cawley High Jump: 1) John Thomas 6) Charlie Dumas 7) Joe Faust 8) Errol Williams 9) Charles Lewis 10) Herman Wyatt Pole Vault: 1) Don Bragg 2) Ron Morris 3) J.D. Martin 4) Jim Graham 5) Bob Gutowski 7) Henry Wadsworth 8) Aubrey Dooley Broad Jump: 1) Ralph Boston 2) Bo Roberson 5) Hank Visser* 7) Greg Bell 8) Darrell Horn Hop-Step-Jump: 5) Ira Davis Shot Put: 1) Bill Nieder 2) Parry O'Brien 3) Dallas Long 4) Daved Davis 7) Jay Silvester Discus Throw: 1) Al Oerter 2) Rink Babka 4) Dick Cochran 5) Silvester 7) Bob Humphries 8) John Ellis Hammer Throw: 2) Harold Connolly Javeliin: 4) Al Cantello 6) Bill Alley Decathlon 1) Rafer Johnson 2) C.K. Yang* 5) Dave Edstrom 6) Phil Mulkey 10) Jim Klein

Columns provide the following. Bill Nieder is suffering from traumatic arthritis. The doctors have told him that if he continues to compete the knee will fuse into a stiff joint and he will walk with stiff leg the rest of his life. Wisely, Bill is retiring. He has applied for early release from the army. When that is granted he plans to go move to Los Angeles, attend acting classes and take some screen tests. The long term plan is to start a weight factory in the San Francisco area....Dave Sime is also hanging them up. He will concentrate on medical school......Don Bragg has decided to postpone his Tarzan in the movies career for a year in an effort to become the first 16 foot vaulter.....We won't be seeing Bobby Poynter wearing the colors of San Jose State this year. His collegiate athletic career may be over, the result of being placed on disciplinary probation for being accused of stealing sweaters from a store. No charges have been filed....The Mt. SAC Invitational claims to be the largest cross country meet in the US with 2,145 competitors in the high school division...... Roger Moens, is not a man to mince words. Writing for a Belgium newspaper, the world record holder at 800 meters says that there are four events that should be dropped from track and field programs: the marathon (“It's inhumane”), the hammer throw (“It ruins the grass”), the hop-step-jump (“An event for those who have no chance in the broad jump”) and particularly, walking (“All that hip wiggling does is make the spectators laugh”) .......San Jose State will be enrolling the junior college discus record holder, a young man who threw 171-8 at Fresno CC. He certainly has the size at 6-8½, 245. His name is Harry Edwards.......And finally, this bit of news from Hal Bateman's column: The favorite pre-race meal of New England distance runners is oatmeal.

Remember last month's snafu with TFN's first full page ad, the one for Champions on Film in which the address lacked the mention of the city? Well, the Nelson brothers got it right this time. The ad appears again in this issue. The address is 303½ South Main Street, ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN. This additional information should dramatically increase sales.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Vol.. 2 No. 24 (Kansas National Champion Team, Fred Norris , Vic Hall

Coached by BILL EASTON

photo courtesy of Bob Tague

Athletes and Coach
Top L-R Bill Easton, Cliff Cushman, Terry Beucher, Charlie Tidwell, Paul Williams, Bill Dotson, Bill Boardman

Front L-R Bob Tague, Bill Alley, Billy Mills, Darwin Ashbaugh

This same bunch of athletes won the previous year when the national meet was held at Lincoln, Nebraska See below

We mentioned Fred Norris briefly in the previous post as he finished runner up to Al Lawrence in the AAU national cross country meet in Lexington, Kentucky. Below is Fred's obituary from 2007 and a link to a good Sports Illustrated article about him.

Fred Norris
Neil Shuttleworth
The Guardian, Tuesday 16 January 2007

Fred Norris, who enjoyed much success as an international cross-country, road and track runner, and set times in the 1950s in long-distance track races only then achieved by the great Emil Zatopek, has died aged 85. A full-time electrician at a Lancashire coalmine, he was hindered by an IOC rule that stopped an employer paying wages to an absent employee competing for his country. The 1950s was Bolton United Harriers' golden decade, and in 1954 Fred led them to victory as (English) national cross-country team champions.
Norris was born in Tyldesley, Lancashire. He became a competent member of Leigh Harriers, soon joined Bolton United Harriers, and by 1952 was on the Olympic team for Helsinki, and the international cross-country team (12th), the first of six occasions. His peak came in 1959 when, after a clean sweep winning the northern, national and international races, he led England to a win at Lisbon. At 37½, he was one of the oldest ever champions.

Described as "diminutive and with the courage of a lion," Norris came a creditable eighth in the Helsinki Olympics 10,000m and was sixth in the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games six-mile race in Cardiff (29:44.0). He ran like a metronome and set a world record, and 53 British empire, British national, British all-comers and English records. In 1958 he was the first Briton to run more than 12 miles in one hour, a time then only bettered by Zatopek. That autumn he broke the two-hour world record at Walton-on-Thames. He retained the 1959 AAA 10 miles title in a British record of 48:32.4 (the world record was 48:12, held by Zatopek). The British records for 20km, 25km and 15 miles achieved in 1959 in Dublin were then second only to Zatopek. And there Norris lapped Alain Mimoun, the 1956 Olympic marathon winner, three times.

In his short marathon career, Norris's best race was the bronze medal in the 1958 European games (2:21:15); then Sergei Popov (Russia) set a world best of 2:15:17 at Stockholm.

Norris and his wife Doris, whom he married in 1944, emigrated with their son Edmund to America in late 1960, and the following spring he came third in the famous Boston marathon. He gave up any hope of winning when a stray dog went for a rival in the leading group; typically of Norris, he stopped to check if his rival was all right and lost vital time. In 1962 he won the Washington hill road race that climbed to 6,288m (20,630ft) and set a record that lasted for 39 years. Edmund, who became an accomplished runner himself, moved to Hawaii. His parents returned to England 10 years ago, and Doris died in 2003, shortly before her 80th birthday.

Norris, a quiet and modest man, was uneasy in the new commercial world. He never took up the invitation from Chris Brasher (who also nominated him for a national honour) to join the London marathon as a guest celebrity. He was an inspiration to members of the recently formed Astley and Tyldesley road runners' club, and pleased that Leigh Harrier Peter Riley was the 2006 national cross-country champion.
Eino "the Ox" Oksanen, Johnny Kelly, Fred Norris after the 1961 Boston Marathon

A longer article on Fred Norris that appeared in Sports Illustrated after the 61 Boston Marathon can be found at


I'm in a bit of a morbid state right now. In the previous entry it was mentioned that Vic Hall, an alternate on the US team as a 400 meter runner , lost his life the following year in a plane crash with the Cal Poly football team. Vic had been second in the NCAA 400 behind Ted Woods of Colorado with a 46.1 time. I found the following article on line that talks about the crash and the aftermath. I was a senior in high school at the time in Ohio and remember the event, because the crash had been in Toledo, Ohio after a football game at Bowling Green St. University.

L.A.'s last bowl? 1961 Mercy BowlGame was played as benefit to honor the Cal Poly football team killed in plane crashEmailPrintComments37 By Arash Markazi

AP Photo
Sixteen Cal Poly players, a team manager and a booster were killed in a plane crash in 1960.There are 57 bronze plaques mounted throughout the arches on the peristyle end of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Most of the names and faces of the athletes, coaches and presidents in the "Court of Honor" are easily recognizable from a distance and need no explanation for their inclusion.

Underneath the center arch, below the Olympic torch and gold-leafed painting, rests a bronze plaque that despite its prominent placement and unique design -- a fallen plane in the background of 11 football players lined up on a field -- has gone relatively unnoticed by the millions who have walked past it over the past 50 years.

USC players walking through the oversized entrance before home games with dreams of playing in the Rose Bowl would be hard-pressed to explain the meaning of the plaque or know the story behind the last college bowl game ever played in Los Angeles. It was a one-time game so unique in nature and so tragic in circumstance it was never held again and was almost forgotten by many as soon as it was over.

Diana Owings vividly remembers going to the Mercy Bowl at the Coliseum on Thanksgiving Day 1961.

She was only 7 years old but she remembers the game and the marching bands and the smile on her face as she took it all in from the stands with her family.

What wasn't as clear to her at the time was why the game was being played and why she needed to be there.

A year before the game, Owings' father, Ray Porras, died when a plane carrying the Cal Poly football team crashed shortly after takeoff in Toledo, Ohio, on Oct. 29, 1960. The accident killed 22 of the 48 people on board, including 16 football players, the team manager and a booster.

A plaque commemorating the 1961 Mercy Bowl at the Coliseum. It was the last college bowl game played within L.A.'s city limits.It was the first time an entire athletic team had been involved in a fatal plane crash in the United States.

Porras was a 27-year-old fullback and the oldest player on the Cal Poly team after serving in the Navy. He married his high school sweetheart, Dorothy, when he was 20 and she was 18. They met at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles and were married before moving up north to attend Bakersfield College.

Ray and Dorothy had four daughters: Diana, who was 7 at the time of the crash; Kathy, who was 5; Eileen, who was 2; and Rebecca, who was just 3 months old.

Owings remembers sitting in front of the television with her sisters and watching an episode of "Bonanza" when a special bulletin came on the screen saying that the Cal Poly football team had been involved in a plane crash.

"I ran to go get my mother," Owings said. "She was in the kitchen. We still didn't know exactly what had happened or if there were any survivors. My mother didn't tell me about my father passing until the next day. It took hours for them to find out what had happened."

Suddenly at the young age of 25, Dorothy Porras was forced to raise four young daughters by herself.

In all, five women were widowed and 11 children lost their fathers as a result of the crash.

The images of the widows and children stuck with Los Angeles County Supervisor Warren Dorn, who was the president of the Coliseum Commission at the time, and Ferron Losee, the athletic director at Cal State L.A . They came up with the idea of staging a Mercy Bowl game on Thanksgiving Day 1961 to raise money for the Cal Poly Memorial Fund, which would later be primarily used to fund scholarships for the children of the crash victims.

The game played between Bowling Green and Fresno State attracted a crowd of 33,145 and helped raise $278,000 for the memorial fund but was discontinued soon after. Of all the bowls games currently being held today, none is staged for the sole purpose of benefitting a charitable cause like the Mercy Bowl, which remains the last college bowl game ever played in Los Angeles.

"I've often wondered what happened to the spirit of the Mercy Bowl," said Gil Stork, who was a 19-year-old center on the 1961 Cal Poly team. "We have 35 bowls this season and they're sponsored by everything from candy bars to potato chips. Now it's all about big money for the universities, conferences, television networks and advertisers. The spirit of the Mercy Bowl was all about helping people deal with a tragedy. It really did change a lot of lives. I'm not sure how many bowl games can say that anymore."

The randomness of it all still sticks with the surviving Cal Poly players all these years later.

Oct. 29, 1960 wasn't supposed to be a memorable day in the history of Cal Poly football. Most of the players on the Mustangs that dreary Saturday afternoon simply wanted to forget it had ever happened long before the sun had set in northern Ohio as Bowling Green put the finishing touches on a 50-6 blowout win.

Everyone wanted to get on the plane as soon as possible and get back home. Simply seeing the plane, a twin-engine C-46 propliner, a relic from World War II, in the thick fog proved to be difficult, though.

"When we got out of the bus we were about 25 feet from the airplane and we couldn't even see it," said Carl Bowser, who was a 23-year-old fullback on that Cal Poly team. "We thought maybe the plane hadn't arrived yet. That's how bad it was."

-- Ted Tollner, Cal Poly QB and later a head coach at San Diego State and USC
Tollner, now 71, was Cal Poly's quarterback and a team captain and would later go on to have a 47-year coaching career which included head-coaching stints at USC and San Diego State.

He remembers Curtis Hill, a star receiver and the one player on the team most likely to play in the NFL, coming up to him after the game and asking if they could switch seats. Hill had gotten nauseous on the flight over and felt more comfortable sitting toward the front of the plane.

"As a captain, I usually sat in the front, but because I didn't get sick, I said I can certainly change seats," Tollner said. "I didn't think much about it at the time; I was just doing a favor for a friend."

Hill was one of the 22 who died in the crash. When the plane went down the fuselage snapped in two and fire engulfed the right wing, cockpit and forward cabin areas.

Others have similar stories of being saved by a simple seat change. Don Adams, a senior guard on Cal Poly, gave his seat to Vic Hall, Cal Poly's speedy running back and cornerback, who was also an alternate sprinter on the 1960 U.S. Olympic team. Bowser was actually knocked out of his front-row seat by a lineman, which nearly caused a fight before Bowser said he would take care of the lineman when they got back home.

"There was really no significance in changing seats until I realized that everyone sitting in front of me died," Tollner said. "I was sitting on the wing and everyone on my row and behind me survived. The significance and irony of someone asking you to change seats becomes greater then. Curtis lost his life and I was spared because he asked to change seats."

Bowser wasn't supposed to be one of the survivors. He was supposed to be sitting in the first row next to his friends. He has lived with this thought in the back of his mind for the past 50 years and it always comes to the forefront whenever he goes to the Greenlawn Memorial Park in Bakersfield, Calif., where his teammates Larry Austin and Joe Copeland are buried.

The three of them were always together. They grew up in the same neighborhood and played on the same football team in high school, junior college and at Cal Poly. They had made plans to become coaches after graduating and raise their families in Bakersfield. Austin had already gotten a head start by marrying his high school sweetheart, Marlene, and having a 2-year old son, Thane, while Copeland had recently married his girlfriend, Kay. Austin and Copeland were born in the same maternity ward two days apart and were buried at the same cemetery 23 years later, 90 minutes apart.

Bowser would name his only son Larry Joe in honor of his fallen friends and teammates.

"I flew back even though I didn't want to fly after the crash because I wanted to be at the funeral for Larry and Joe," said Bowser, who spent 28 years as the coach and later the athletic director at Bakersfield College from 1968 to 1996. "It was a sad day and it still is. Not a day goes by that I don't think about those guys. When I worked at Bakersfield College, I would drive up there every day and I would stop at the cemetery where they're buried. I would go see my mom's grave and their grave and I put a rose on them."


Cal Poly canceled the final three games of the 1960 season and after some deliberation decided to keep the football team and hold an eight-game season in 1961. The Mustangs finished a surprising 5-3 with a 35-man roster that included 10 crash survivors. The football team, however, wouldn't fly to a road game for nine years after the crash and wouldn't play another road game east of the Rocky Mountains until 1978. For nearly a decade it would play only schools in California or in bordering states accessible by train.

"They were very competitive," said Pete Mehas, who was the center on Fresno State's Mercy Bowl team and is now on the board of trustees for the California State University system. "When we played them the next year their team was depleted but they never gave up. I just remember after one play toward the end of our game, one of their players screaming, 'Don't feel sorry for us!' They just never quit."

Fresno State actually beat Cal Poly 42-13 en route to a 10-0 season in 1961, which ended with a 36-6 upset win over an 8-1 Bowling Green team that came into the Mercy Bowl heavily favored. Although the name Mercy Bowl sounds jarring compared with the more commercialized names of bowl games today, it made perfect sense to the players.

"I don't think it was a bad thing because everyone felt mercy for the guys who had the misfortune of being on that plane," said Bill Violet, a center and linebacker for Bowling Green in the Mercy Bowl. "I think it was a very touching and very apropos name. We were just kids and we felt very sorry for them."

Even though Fresno State is Cal Poly's rival, the Bulldogs felt as if they were representing Cal Poly in the game and playing for them against Bowling Green that Thanksgiving Day.

"I remember when we were walking out of the tunnel at the Coliseum there was a man in a Cal Poly letterman jacket and he yelled, 'Remember our guys. This one's for them,'" Mehas said. "We all heard that and knew what it meant. It was a very special game."

Most of the Cal Poly football team, survivors of the plane crash and families of the victims traveled to Los Angeles for the Mercy Bowl and were brought onto the field at halftime, when they were presented with the bronze plaque that would later be hung in the peristyle end of the Coliseum.

Stork rode down to the game on the "Mercy Bowl Express," a special train service from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles for the game.

"It was kind of light-hearted in the beginning when we were there and the closer it got to halftime the quieter and more serious we all became," Stork said. "Then we went down onto the field for the ceremony. It was hard. It was hardly a year before that we were in a hospital after being on an airstrip trying to figure out what the heck had happened and what was going to happen."


Courtesy of Diana Owings
Ray Porras, 27, left behind a widow and four daughters when he was killed in the crash. Sisters Eileen Lozano, Becky Porras, Kathy Zaragoza and Diana Owings are pictured with their children.Every survivor who saw Dorothy Porras and her daughters after the crash wondered why he was spared and Ray was not.

Stork, who was seated a couple rows behind Porras, has often asked himself that question.

"It was a real haunting experience when you think back to where you were sitting in relation to those that died," said Stork, who is now the president at Cuesta College next to Cal Poly. "There's a lot of survivor guilt entered into this. Ray Porras died and he was married and had four little girls. Why did I survive and not him? I didn't understand that. The impact on his family was so tragic and so significant."

The significance didn't fully hit Owings until she had twin daughters, Megan and Jennifer, who are now 30. When her children turned 7 years old, the same age she was when she lost her father, suddenly her memories of going to her father's football practices and sitting on his lap after he came home from working two jobs rushed back and were as fresh as ever.

"The loss actually struck me more when I had my own children and saw what it was like for them to have a relationship with their father and it made me feel more of the loss of losing my dad in a lot of ways," Owings said. "Throughout my life I have thought of that. When I had my children, I think of my dad missing out on seeing his children growing up and his grandchildren growing up. There's sadness to that. I think whenever you have a loss like that it never goes away. It reappears in different times in your life and you think about it in different ways. It never goes away."

The money raised during the Mercy Bowl ended up covering the expenses for Porras' four daughters to attend college, something they admit might not have been financially possible otherwise. Diana graduated from UC Berkeley, Kathy graduated from UC Santa Barbara, and Eileen and Rebecca graduated from Cal State Fullerton.

"The Mercy Bowl was really pivotal and it really changed our lives," Owings said. "My sisters and I are extremely grateful because my mother wasn't in the position to send all four of us to college. She had limited funds so it made a big difference. My father would have been very proud of us to have had that opportunity to go to college and accomplish something. It really is an honor to him."


Courtesy of Cal Poly
Mustang Plaza was built -- albeit not until 2006 -- to honor the victims of the Cal Poly plane crash.For 45 years, until 2006, the Mercy Bowl and the bronze plaque at the Coliseum and a similar plaque underneath the flagpole of Cal Poly's football stadium were the most prominent reminders of the tragedy.

After years of urging by many of the surviving players, the school finally built Mustang Memorial Plaza, a 15,000-square-foot area in front of the remodeled Alex G. Spanos Stadium, in memory of the 16 football players, team manager and booster who lost their lives in the plane crash.

There are 18 copper pillars, each standing the exact height of its honoree, situated in a circular huddle around a life-size bronze sculpture of a mustang. Each pillar has a granite display with the honoree's photo and biographical information and is topped with a light that illuminates at night.

No one fought for the memorial harder than Al Marinai, the all-city guard out of San Francisco who suffered the worst injuries of the survivors. Marinai, 72, was in and out of hospitals for three years after the crash and has walked with a brace on his right leg and a walking cane since the accident.

Marinai returned home to San Francisco after the crash and didn't return to campus for 40 years until he was finally inducted into the Cal Poly Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000.

"I didn't want to go back. They forgot about us," Marinai said. "Everybody told me that's life but for a long time I lived with that. When I went back and was inducted into the hall of fame, they asked me to help out with the new stadium and I said that I wanted them to finally honor my teammates. I never had a chance to say goodbye to them but I didn't want them to be forgotten."

As much as the survivors wished the memorial plaza had been built sooner, the unveiling on Sept. 29, 2006 gave survivors and the families of the victims a chance to reconnect for the first time. Nearly 400 friends and family members of the 1960 team attended the ceremony.

All four of Ray Porras' daughters and their families attended the ceremony, but their mother, Dorothy Porras, who never remarried or fully recovered from the loss of her husband, did not. She has never talked about the crash publicly and refuses to go on campus. As much as Owings wanted her mother to be there with the family that day, she understood the emotions behind her mother's decision as she walked up to her dad's pillar and stared at his 27-year-old face etched into the granite plaque for the first time.

"It was very moving and very emotional when I first stood in front of it and looked at my father," Owings said. "It gave us that connection to him which we were missing, especially for my two youngest sisters and his grandchildren, who had no memories of him. It really made us feel like we had come full circle."

Arash Markazi is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLA.com.

Follow Arash Markazi on Twitter: @ArashMarkazi

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