Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Vol. 3 No. 27 September 1963 Part One (Weird Track News)


When John Pennel became the first vaulter to clear 17 feet no one knew about it except his mother. The clearance came in mid August in practice at the University of Miami. Being a dutiful son, John told his mother, but included the proviso, “Please, Mom, don't breathe a word of this until I do it officially”.
As difficult as it may have been, Mom bit her tongue during the weekly bunco game with the girls. Fortunately she only had to keep silent for a week because on August 24 in the Gold Coast AAU Championships in Coral Gables, her son becomes the world's first 17 foot vaulter and everyone knows about it. The actual clearance is 17-0¾, a mark which loses some of the emotional kick when those Europeans translate it to 5.20 meters.

See the Coral Gables jump at link below.  Mr. Mason thinks this may not be the world record jump as Pennel does not seem too elated, and seems to have cleared it by a foot.

While that may have been the most significant world record set that day, it isn't the only one. New Zealand's Bill Baille erases Emil Zatopek's name from the record books not once, but twice in the same race. His 59:51.8 clips 23.2 seconds from the great Czech's 20,000 meter record. Since it was a nice day and he was feeling fine, Baillie continued for another 8.2 seconds to break Zatopek's one hour record by 152 yards at 12 miles 961 yards.  

Baille in a XC meet demonstrating why Lydiard may have
kept him out of the steeplechase
(Baille could have walked or crawled those last 8.2 seconds and still have broken the record.  Had he just stood there, he might have been disqualified for not making an honest effort. ed.)

In looking for info on Bill Baille, we came across this interesting site from New Zealand with photos from the U. of Oregon's visit to that country to take on the Kiwi's in the 4x 1 mile.


In this series of photos note that Rothman's tobacco apparently put some money into sponsorship of the meeting, and the Kiwis were not shy about displaying the company name on their sweats.  A similar pic of the Americans with their gift  sweats, shows them possibly trying to hide the logo  perhaps being a bit  concerned about commercialism and loss of amateur status.  ed. 

Dallas Long studying for his life after track

Keeping in mind that the Olympics are next year, the first siting of Dallas Long is significant. His time has been taken up with dental school, a commitment requiring a layoff from competition of 361 days. The 23 year old world record holder makes his 1963 debut in an all-comers meet in Los Angeles. The night before he had taken some standing puts and reached 57-0. This night he hopes for 60'. That hope is realized and then some with a throw of 62-9, putting him number four on the world list.
That same evening a 17 year old Manual Arts HS junior, Jim Woods, shows up without track shoes. Borrowing shoes from a friend before each jump, he triple jumps 48-10¼ and is encouraged to try again next week.
Now it is next week, September 5 to be exact, and both Long and Woods show up at LA State. This time Long adds a foot to last week's effort and ends his eight day season atop the yearly world list at 63-9.
Jim Woods returns as well. This time he has shoes and a new name, Mike. Mike has never been coached. He has had no special training. Indeed he has never practiced triple jumping. Where this lack of familiarity with a complicated event would seem to be a barrier for most, it doesn't seem to bother Mike. He puts together a series of 48-5, F, 49-7, 50-1, F and 51-8. At the end of the day he has broken the high school record of 49-7¾ which has stood for 26 years (Billy Brown of Baker, LA 1937), established new international junior (under 19) and age 17 records, moved to number 10 on the US all time triple jump list and now ranks third on this year's US list, a mere half inch behind Darryl Horn and Ralph Boston.

Care to know more about Billy Brown?  Check out the article at the end of this post.

 It is mentioned that he, Woods, was born in Memphis on June 3, 1946 and is 5-10, 148. He has run the 100 in 9.9 and long jumped 23-11½. “He is considered a quiet and modest boy.” Mike, if there were a meet next week, we'd sure invite you back.
The European season still going strong, but the only meets to report in the US are, well, somewhat odd, unusual, strange, take your pick.

The report on the third annual Dean Cromwell Memorial, held at Culver City High and viewed by 5000, is headlined “Two World Bests Fall”. 
Cromwell trying for another World Best with Greta Garbo in 1929

The first clue here is that the word “bests” is used, not “records”. The events are the 70HH and the 120LH where Blaine Lindgren runs 8.2 and 12.5 to clip .2 off the marks he set in this meet last year.
There is a four man eight mile relay in which the LA Track Club just misses the world best held by the British national team by 6.2 seconds. Mal Robinson opens with 8:56.8 and is followed by Merle McGee (9:03.0), Ron Larrieu (9:07.0) and Bob Schul (8:53.6) for a “snappy 36:00.2”. (Actually these splits add up to 36:00.4, a detail that seems to have escaped the magazine's editorial staff, but not your ever alert reporter.)
Watching a 36 minute relay might take some of the enthusiasm out of the most loyal fan, but what about a two mile steeplechase which apparently includes people from off the street? There is a photo on page 3 of the winner, Ray Hughes, tangling “with a novice who had been lapped twice”. The guy has his arm out, holding Hughes back at a hurdle.
In memory of the 1912 Olympics where Ralph Rose won the gold in this event, a two handed shot put event is held. Add the right handed and left handed throws together for a total. That didn't catch on 60 years ago and thankfully, it doesn't now. Parry O'Brien does his best Rose impression to win with marks of 61-1 and 43-10 for a 104-11 mark.  (Is there a record for a two handed throw? ie. both hands on the shot when it is released?)

As off beat as the Cromwell Memorial is, things are even stranger the previous week, August 17, in Seattle at the Brian Sternberg Benefit Meet held to raise money for Brian's medical expenses. There are only two events, the pole vault and the mile. They are conducted at halftime of an exhibition game between the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs which is watched by a disappointingly small crowd of 13,500. Jim Grelle bests Keith Forman in the mile, 4:04.4 to 4:05.9 “as the bands played and the crowd roared”.
The pole vault doesn't move as quickly as the mile, so before the vaulters reach 16 feet, halftime is over and the game has resumed undoubtedly causing an unneeded distraction for the vaulters. You have to remember that John Pennel is the guy who tied his world record in the dark in Poland by the light of automobile headlights. He is a gamer. He goes 16-6 before failing at 17-1. This is the week before his WR at 17-0¾ so it is a historic moment in the world of track and field, but not so much for the football fans who watch Lamonica hit Biletnikoff on a ten yard out and wonder who the hell Emmitt Thomas was covering on that play as Pennel is coming down the runway.
Brian Sternberg watches from a closed circuit television in his room at University Hospital and thanks the crowd at halftime via a remote set up. Unfortunately, instead of producing a financial windfall, the meet and game result in a loss of $35,000. Each team and the promoter contribute $1000 for a total of $3000 for Brian's rehab.

In the European Report we find that after two near misses, 8:31.2 and 8:33.4, the great Gaston Roelants of Belgium has eclipsed the steeplechase WR by eight tenths with an 8:29.6 in a meet in Stockholm.
Roelants more recently

The world list fills page 7. Americans who have the best marks in the world are: 200 Carr 20.2; 400 Plummer 44.6; 110HH Jones 13.4; 400IH Cawley 49.3; PV Pennel 17-0¾; BJ Boston 26-11; SP Long 63-9; DT Oerter 205-5½.
Dick Drake's On Your Marks column reports on the domination of the women's high jump by Iolanda Balas (jo'landa ba'la) of Romania. 

Indeed there has never been a man more dominate in his event. The top 64 marks in the women's high jump, from her record of 6-3¼ down to 5-10 7/8 are hers. Jumping ahead a bit here as TFN probably will not cover this, she adds the '64 Olympic gold to the one she won in '60, improves the WR 14 times and is undefeated in 150 consecutive meets. Look up the word “dominant” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and you will find her photo.......Another note from this column is that Dallas Long has been lifting four nights a week since school was out in June and is now benching 460.
In a short column entitled “Predictions” authored by the staff, we find three predictions. Dallas Long will better his own SP record, but not reach 67 feet. Bill Nieder will be reinstated by the AAU and Jim Woods (no longer Mike) will triple jump 53 feet. Just to be clear, Woods was Jim the week he jumped 48-10, then Mike the next week when he went 51-8, but in the future he will be Jim when he jumps 53'. All this in the same issue. Does Track and Field News have staff meetings?
This issue has the feel that the staff was taking a breather after a full track season. In place of news there is filler: two pages of letters to the editor from fans, including one about the writer's eight year old brother who has run a 3:38 half mile; a Tom Swiftie contest - “Give me my discus”, Al ordered.
Al Oerter   "Al ordered" Get it?

“So I was the first man to clear 16 feet” said John uselessly. - and those were the best ones; two pages devoted to continental records (the Central American record in the decathlon is 5413 by Rodolpho Mijares of Mexico) (Sorry, we could not find a photo of Rodolpho Mijares)  and a two page story lifted from the June issue of Sport magazine entitled “Meet Joe Faust”.
The latter provides an insight into a unique character in track and field history. In order to do justice to his story, we will need more space than this entry will provide. The next entry, September, 1963 part two, will be devoted to Joe Faust, then and now.

Lousiana Sports Hall of Fame   from this note we can see that Louis Zamperini was not the only high school athlete to make the American team in 1936.

Billy Brown

Sport: Track and Field
Induction Year: 1969
On July 4, 1936, young Billy Brown wasn’t worried about the hop, step and jump competition in the national AAU track and field championships at Princeton, N.J.
Brown, who had just completed his junior year at Baker, La., High School, wasn’t overconfident about his chances to qualify for the United States Olympic team that would compete in Berlin later that summer. The reason he wasn’t concerned about the competition was that he didn’t intend to jump in the meet.
He went to New Jersey for the junior AAU championships, held one day before the senior meet, and needed special permission to enter the junior meet. Because of a bout with the mumps, he had missed a qualifying meet in New Orleans.
Thanks to the intervention of U.S. Olympic coach Lawson Robertson, Brown was allowed to jump in the junior meet. He was second in the broad jump (now called the long jump) and first in the hop, step and jump (triple jump).
The following day, Loyola coach Tad Gormley spotted Brown in the bleachers and called him down to the track.
“You should be jumping today,” Gormley told him. “When you won the hop, step and jump, you automatically qualified for the senior meet.”
So Brown went into the dressing room, put on his track togs again and won the gold medal—beating the meet record-holder and defending champion, Rolland Romero of Loyola, by four inches. At the age of 17, Brown was the youngest athlete ever to win a flat jumping event in the national championships—and the youngest member of the 1936 U.S. Olympic track and field team.
Dudley Wilkins of Southwestern Louisiana Institute was third, giving Louisiana athletes a 1-2-3 sweep.
Brown’s victory over Romero was no fluke. The previous December, he beat Gormley and Sol Furth of New York (who had finished in the top four in the national meet four times in the previous six years) in the Sugar Bowl track meet.
In the strictly regimented Olympics, Brown wasn’t able to properly warm up and didn’t make the finals in the Berlin Games. But the following year, he won the national AAU title again with a leap of 49 feet, 7 ¼ inches that stood as a national interscholastic record for 26 years.
In state high school rallies, Brown won four events three years in a row. Although Baker High was a small school (and didn’t have a football team at that time), all schools were in the same division in 1935 and 1936. When they were divided into classes in 1937, Brown had enough points (20) to win the team title by himself. (Two teammates had three apiece for a 26-18 margin over runner-up Summerfield.)
Brown also excelled in basketball at Baker High, and was a promising centerfielder on summer baseball teams—playing with the town team and a Baton Rouge American Legion team. His track coach for his first two years was John East, who had been a Southern conference high jump champion at LSU. Marvin Sacharie took over the reins in Brown’s senior year, but Brown coached himself in the month between the end of his junior season and the Olympic Trials.
He set state high school records in both the triple jump and long jump. The triple jump record stood for 32 years, until Spencer Thomas of Carver (New Orleans) became the state’s first prep 50-footer in 1969. Brown’s long jump record of 24 feet, 8 ¼ inches stood until Don Troutman of Roanoke leaped 24-11 in 1956.
It was more of the same at LSU, where Brown set school records in four evens with 25-7 in the long jump, 50-11 ½ in the triple jump, 9.5 in the 100 yard dash and 20.5 in the 220 yard dash. He won seven individual titles in Southeastern Conference meets and led Coach Bernie Moore’s Tigers to three consecutive SEC championships. In both of his last two years, Brow was the leading scorer in the NCAA championships. LSU finished in the top five both years with Brown scoring all of the team’s points—22 in 1940 and 24 in 1941.
In 1941, he became the first triple winner in the history of the SEC meet. The same year he won the NCAA long jump title. Brown probably would’ve won the previous year, too, but miserable weather in Minneapolis forced NCAA officials to move the long jump indoors. Brown had never competed indoors, and didn’t have the proper shoes. But he still finished second to future baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson of UCLA.
In three years of competition in the Drake Relays, where the traditional prizes for first place were wrist watches, Brown won the long jump three times and the 100 once. He had no trouble keeping up with the time.
National AAU secretary-treasurer Dan Ferris selected Brown on five All-America teams—two while he was in high school and three during his college career. These teams, it should be noted, included only one athlete in each event. As a high school senior, Brown made an All-America team that had no athletes from the SEC and only two (Rice hurdlers Fred Wolcott and Jack Patterson) from the Southwest Conference.
Before Brown arrived at LSU, only football players were allowed to eat at the training table. Moore was happy to make an exception for a freshman who had already won two national championships.
In national AAU meets, Brown won the triple jump six times and the long jump twice. He also placed third and fourth in the 100 two years in a row.
He set the American record in the triple jump in the 1941 AAU meet with a leap of 50 feet 11 ½ inches. That was an especially remarkable achievement considering the fact that the event wasn’t held in college meets and Brown trained for it only for a week or two each year before he went to the national AAU meet.
He enlisted in the Navy after graduating from LSU and represented the Navy when he won his final AAU title in 1943.
The 6-3, 175-pound stringbean was the tallest world class sprinter until the mid-1960s. He placed in SEC meets in the high jump with a best of 6-3, and was good enough in the pole vault and weight events to be considered a strong contender for the decathlon.
“Those who saw Billy Brown close out his SEC career should deem it a great privilege,” wrote Birmingham News sports editor Zipp Newman after the 1941 SEC meet. “Few in the audience will hardly ever look upon another athlete in Brown’s class.”

Who Was Billy Brown?
by Jerry Byrd
In 1935, Baker’s Billy Brown was the first athlete at a Louisiana High School Athletic Association school to break the 23-foot barrier in the long jump.
A year later, he was the first athlete at an LHSAA school to break the 24-foot barrier.
His record of 24 feet, 8 1/2 inches stood for 20 years, until Don Troutman of Class C Roanoke broke it in 1956 with 24-11.
Troy Twilley of Slidell raised the state record to  26 feet, 0 1/2 inch in 1994, but a 23-foot jump is still good enough to win most high school track and field meets — including state championship meets in Louisiana.
Later, in his last two years at LSU, Brown scored all of the Tigers’ points in national championship meets two years in a row (22 in 1940, 24 in 1941.
“Those who saw Billy Brown close out his SEC career should deem it a great privilege,” wrote Birmingham News sports editor Zipp Newman after the 1941 SEC meet. “Few in the audience will hardly ever look upon another athlete in Brown’s class.”
Brown made All-America track and field teams in three of his four years at LSU, and won two national AAU championships in the long jump and six in the triple jump, setting the American record in the triple jump with 50-11 1/2 in 1941.
He had no trouble keeping up with the time. The first place prize in each event at the Drake Relays was a wrist watch, and Brown won the long jump three times and the 100-yard dash once in the Drake meet.
Brown broke the previous state record in the long jump by more than a foot. His state record in the triple jump stood until Spencer Thomas of George Washington Carver (New Orleans) broke it 32 years later with 50-6 1/2.
Since Thomas became the state’s first 50-footer in 1969, more than 15 others have joined him in the 50-Foot Club and six of them jumped over 51 feet. In 2004, Kenny Hall of Tara (Baton Rouge) broke the 51-foot barrier three weeks in a row, shattering the state record in the state meet with 51-8 1/4. In July of 2004, Hall won the event by six feet in the national Junior Olympics with a wind-aided 56-2 1/2 and broke the national high school record by nearly a foot with a wind-legal jump of 54-10 1/4.
The first Louisiana high school athlete to break the 25-foot barrier in the long jump was Donald  Robbins of Destrehan, who set a record of 25-2 1/4 in 1972.
Twilley is still the only Louisiana member of the 26-foot club, but you have to jump 25 feet to crack the state’s all-time Top Ten — and I haven’t heard of anybody doing that this season.
In state track and field meets, Brown won four events three years in a row — including two years in which  all schools (regardless of size) competed for the same titles.
In most events, winning performances in the 1930s wouldn’t stack up very well against recent efforts. But that doesn’t apply to Baker’s Billy Brown in the long jump and triple jump. He was 70 years ahead of his time.
In 1936, Brown, Rolland Romero and Dudley Wilkins gave Louisiana athletes a 1-2-3 sweep in the triple jump on the team that represented the United States in the Berlin Olympics. Romero was fifth and Wilkins eighth in the Olympics as both of them outjumped Germany’s Luz Long, who had captured the silver medal in the long jump.

Jerry Byrd is the former sports editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune and an award-winning columnist. You can contact him by E-mail at  jbsportswriter@comcast.net

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