Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Monday, March 31, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 23 Your Chance to Honor the 60th Anniversary of the 4 Minute Mile

Everest on the Track

It is not customary that we promote fundraisers, but this one came across the desk recently, and we have decided to throw  our support toward two young filmmakers who are putting the finishing touches on a documentary about Roger Bannister's four minute mile.  This story has been written of   often, and even a full length film has been made about it.  However  Jeremy Mosher and Tom Ratcliffe have found some new elements to the story and created a fresh approach to telling the tale.   They have all but completed their work and are seeking funds (approximately $12,500) to finish the final product.  Through  'Kickstarter' they are hoping to get the funding to complete the project in time to put it on the market on May 6, 2014, the anniversary date of Bannister's monumental run.   The film includes interviews with Sir Roger,  the late Sir Christopher Chataway, Steve Cram, Sebastian Coe, Dave Moorcroft, Dave Bedford, Paul Butcher, George Gandy, David Epstein, Peter Elliott, and others. 

You can do an online pledge and pay through Kickstarter by following the link below.  There is also a preview of the film on the link, which will put your nerves on end ready to run with these young men.  

Good luck with your project, Jeremy Mosher and Tom Ratcliffe

Here is a link to their campaign:

You may wonder how this appeal came to us.   Jeremy grew up in the same neighborhood as a friend Bill Schnier, longtime track coach at the University of Cincinnati.  Bill connected Jeremy to our blog hopefully to get added research material for the film project.  For the uninitiated,  Kickstarter, is a capital raising online service for small entrepreneurs and projects such as this film. 

This  is Jeremy's letter to us:

Hi George,

I wanted to send you a quick update about the Roger Bannister documentary I had e-mailed with you about a month or two ago. We're about to move into the final phase of "post-production" and we're launching a Kickstarter campaign with three goals:

1) Connect with a community of people interested in this story.
2) Raise funds for a professional audio mixing specialist and color specialist to make the project broadcast-worthy.
3) Rally strong grassroots support to show potential broadcast outlets that this is a story that many people want to see.

Anyway, I thought you and your readers may be interested in the campaign, as it will give supporters the chance to receive rewards for pledging their support. Some of the "perks" include a DVD of the finished film including deleted scenes... a screenprint of the movie's poster... even a handmade "AAA" jersey that we commissioned for the film. (To bring the race to life, we shot footage of runners in those jerseys and 1940'/1950's-era leather track spikes on a cinder track.)

On that page there is a video that has myself and my co-producer introducing a trailer for the film, with a little back-story on the project. If you'd like, I'd be happy to send over any other materials you might find useful for your website. I have production photos, as well as our interview list, which includes Bannister, Landy, Chataway, Ibbotson, Coe, Cram, and more.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Best regards,

Here is a bio of Jeremy and Tom's film company  Kimbia Athletics

KIMbia Athletics
TOM RATCLIFFE has spent his professional life immersed in world-class athletics, first as a marathoner, then at Nike, and currently as an agent and the director of KIMbia Athletics. As a producer, he oversaw documentary multimedia series that have been critically-recognized by NPR, Runner’s World, Blip.TV, and the Webby Awards. In 2012, he produced "The British Miler," a 12-episode documentary mini-series, that aired on Sky Sports and NBCOlympics.com, with supplemental content published on-line by The Telegraph.

JEREMY MOSHER first learned documentary filmmaking while working under George T. Nierenberg, director of the critically-acclaimed, "Say Amen, Somebody." Mosher soon began producing the bi-weekly sports-profile show, "The Game 365," on Fox Sports NY, in addition to creating content for the New York Rangers and Madison Square Garden, and assisting on programs for NatGeo (The Adventurist) and feature-length documentary entries in The North Face Series. As the director of "The British Miler" in 2012, Jeremy led a program that shot on four continents and in eight different countries, and yielded six hours of documentary content that aired in prime time on Sky Sports 3.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 22 Howard Schmertz, long time director of Millrose Games RIP

The following article appeared in the New York Times on March 29, 2014.   Mr. Schmertz's obituary is filled with historical information about the Millrose Games which is well worth the read.




Howard Schmertz
June 9, 1925-March 29, 2014
 The following obituary was printed in Newsday on March 30, 2014
 Howard Schmertz, the eminence grise of American track and field, who for more than a half-century had a guiding hand in organizing the world's oldest and most prestigious indoor meet, the Millrose Games, died Thursday of congestive heart failure in Port Washington. He was 88.
An attorney by trade but track patriot through genetics and passion, Schmertz, a North Bellmore resident most of his life, followed his father, Fred, as unpaid Millrose director -- always dressed in tuxedos for the games -- and later, as the only two non-athletes inducted into the Millrose Hall of Fame.
Both men also are in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in Washington Heights, and Howard is a member of the International Jewish Hall of Fame. Since 2004, a "Howard Schmertz Lifetime Achievement Award" has been given annually to the sport's top promoter.
Never a competitive athlete himself, though he took his recreational tennis game seriously, Schmertz forged business and personal relationships with the giants of track and field, from 1960s high jumper John Thomas to 1980s middle-distance star Mary Decker; from nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis to indoor mile sensation Eamonn Coghlan, and thousands more.
Schmertz's father, an attorney for the John Wanamaker Co., had been involved with Millrose from the time that department store created the meet in 1908 and ultimately served as games director for 42 years. Howard, though technically his father's assistant until 1975, a year before Fred Schmertz died, in fact began running the Millrose operation in 1951, when Fred suffered the first of two heart attacks.
Howard continued as meet director until 2004, when he was designated director emeritus and remained active as a Millrose consultant. Throughout his tenure, until the meet moved to the smaller Armory in Washington Heights in 2012, Millrose extended its run as the oldest annual sporting event at Madison Square Garden, having debuted there in 1914, long before the Knicks or Rangers existed.
As track evolved from amateur to "shamateur" -- when marquee performers could demand under-the-table appearance money -- and then to "trust funds" that theoretically kept payments in escrow, Schmertz was able to assemble dynamic fields for around $40,000.
But full-scale professionalism appeared in the 1980s, and by the turn of the century, budgets in excess of $200,000 were insufficient. That brought the need for major sponsors and television money, yet a Mom-and-Pop Schmertz system -- Howard and his wife, Judy, working nights in their Long Island basement -- remained central to the meet's success.
They had met on a blind date in November 1952, and Judy saw her first Millrose -- her first track meet -- two months later. They were married the following summer. In addition to his wife, Schmertz is survived by their two daughters, Amy Weinstein and Carol Katz, and four grandchildren.
For decades, from October through January, Howard and Judy sent out thousands of pieces of mail to coaches, agents and athletes; answered phones; and helped keep track of 250 volunteers and countless details. Each year, for the final week leading up to Millrose, they relocated to a Manhattan hotel to set up a temporary Millrose Games office, and often retrieved arriving athletes from New York airports themselves.
Port Washington's David Katz, the international track official who was the Millrose technical director for years, called Schmertz "one of the best with athletes' agents, known to be a fair man and loved by everyone."
Howard Miles Schmertz was born June 9, 1925, in the Bronx and traveled to his first Olympics -- the 1928 Amsterdam Games -- when he was 3, though he didn't actually attend any events. (He stayed at his parents' hotel, baby-sat by his older sister Justine.)
That was the Olympics, Schmertz loved to tell, when Canadian sprinter Percy Williams completed a gold-medal sweep of the 100 and 200 meters and was told by Fred Schmertz, "Mr. Williams, you have just qualified for the Millrose Games."
Howard graduated DeWitt Clinton High School in 1941 and served in World War II as an Army infantryman, and it was during that time that he missed his only two Millrose Games since 1933. In early 1945, during the battle of the Vosges Mountains, leading up to the Battle of the Bulge, Schmertz was sent home on a hospital ship.
"I wasn't really wounded," he said. "My feet were frozen." He was lying in his bunk, sailing toward New York, cut off from any news or mail since the previous October, but "Somebody had a radio and the armed forces news came on," he said. "They announced that Jimmy Rafferty had won the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games."
Every year thereafter, Schmertz would tell Rafferty -- a regular spectator at Millrose -- that story. He equally enjoyed this one about Millrose's long-running success, filling the Garden each winter until attendance began to decline in the 1990s:
"People would say to my father, 'Fred, are you ever going to have an outdoor Millrose Games?' He would say 'no' and they would ask why not. He would say, 'Because it might rain.' "

Vol. 4 No. 21 James Means, University of Texas, the First African American Athlete in the Southwest Conference

Back in the 20th century, the Southwest Conference (1914-1994) was one of the premier college athletics groups in the United States.   Schools included the Universities of Arkansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas Christian, and Rice, and Southern Methodist.  In the early days, my own alma mater Oklahoma was in that group.   Football was king, and still is though the conference has melded into the Big 12 a few years ago , and the evolution of college conferences continues at a mind boggling rate.   However, over fifty years ago the Southwest Conference was also  burdened with the stigma of segregation in its enrollment and coincidentally with the lack of the diversity in its athletic teams.  Hispanic athletes may have participated to a limited extent, but the line was clearly drawn regarding descendants of former slaves. Wanting to confirm this statement about Hispanic athletes at UT, I wrote to Ricardo Romo.  See his reply at the end of this posting. 

  In 1963 Lyndon Johnson, a native of Texas, became president in the aftermath of John Kennedy's death, and Johnson began making integration of the nation a believable option for all citizens.  At the Texas Relays in April of 1962 there were freshly painted-over signs in the football stadium that had promoted segregated washrooms.  Johnson's daughters were students at the University of Texas at that time, so when I witnessed those painted over signs, it was understood that those things could no longer be allowed to exist with an administration committed to a path toward civil rights and freedoms.

This story about the first African American athlete to play in a Southwest Conference athletic event comes from  David Webb, a retired attorney from Houston, Texas, who was on that team.  He writes about his teammate James Means who was that athlete who stepped forward.   Following David's account I have added the 'official story' of that time, as published in Know a  University of Texas Online Journal. 
James Means

UT Track, James Means 1st to Integrate the SWC, 50 Years Ago
by David Webb

On February 29, 1964, James Means came out of the blocks in the heats of the 100, 200 and led off the UT sprint relay (as he then did for four seasons) at a very cold weather meet in Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.  This marked the first participation in a Southwest Conference event by a black athlete.  If you hear it said or written that Jerry Levias of SMU or John Westbrook of Baylor were first, it is not so.  Westbrook was the first football player in a game, Levias was the first football player after him, and a star, but both first played in 1966, almost 3 years after James Means. Several witnesses to this, in addition to me, are copied on this email.

James was also a star.  He steadily progressed a from a 10.2 walk-on sprinter to 9.5 in his fifth year, after taking off the 1965 season because he felt he was not making progress.  The next year, James was both the first black at Texas to earn a scholarship and the first to then become what we used to call a "Letterman."  James ran 9.5 his senior season in 1968 and narrowly missed 1st in the SWC 100 that year.  In 1969, he ran on the U.S. Army sprint relay, leading off for Olympians Mel Pender and Charlie Greene.  

This is the guy for whom the "James Means Spirit Award," given annually to a track /field athlete, was named.  He was my roommate on the track trips for the three years our seasons overlapped.  When I called him today to congratulate and reminisce, I asked if any UT Coaches or Staff spoke to him in the Fall of 1963 about any issues or if he was was ever hassled about race by any teammate, other schools' runners or fans.  He said no.  It apparently happened that smoothly in track and UT was, not early in all things, but in this, was first.

Congratulations, James

The following article is from the University of Texas online publication Know and was updated on March 30, 2014.

The 1970 Longhorn football team, which had its first African-American player, Julius Whittier, jersey number 67. [All photos courtesy UT Athletics]
Henry Reeves, trainer for UT football team, 1875-1915
Henry Reeves attends to an injured Longhorn.
Long before the University of Texas at Austin hired Charlie Strong, even long before the first African-American athlete was admitted to the University of Texas at Austin, the university had Henry Reeves. From 1875 to 1915, Reeves was trainer, doctor and manager — generally the most significant figure in early UT football. The students loved him.
But Reeves, who was black, wasn’t permitted to eat with the players or room with them. Despite this separation, the students rebelled when the UT president wanted to fire him, and when he died, they collected money to pay his funeral expenses. Doc Henry, as the students called him, was elected posthumously to the Longhorn Hall of Fame.
More than 40 years after Reeves’ death, UT Austin allowed African-American athletes from other schools to participate in intercollegiate events, including football, on its campus but prohibited its own black students from playing on teams in those same events. Among Southwest Conference teams there was an unwritten policy that “if you don’t play your black students, we won’t play ours.” Few Texans noticed or cared if there was a black student in the Chemistry Department or the Latin Club, “but having just one on the football team was another matter,” according to Richard Pennington, author of Breaking the Ice: Racial Integration of Southwest Conference Football.
We invited UT scholars to reflect on the integration of sports for Black History Month.

Reflecting on Coach Charlie Strong’s recent arrival, what are your thoughts about sports integration at UT?

I applaud the hiring of Coach Strong. As a Texas Ex and a diversity researcher, I’m knowledgeable about UT’s history regarding access for African-Americans — Heman Sweatt sued UT for access in 1949; Erwin Perry broke the faculty color line in 1964; and freshman Julius Whittier was the first black football player at Texas in 1969 (he was ineligible for the 1970 championship team).
I’ve written about the uneasy feeling of standing in DKR Memorial Stadium and hearing the yells of majority white fans directed at a majority black team. I think 2014 is going to feel different — we’ll know that Coach Strong shares an identity with most of the players.
Richard Reddick, assistant professor, Department of Educational Administration

What’s important to know about the history of collegiate sports integration?

Although we view racial integration in sports as having an impact on the racial progress we’ve made in America, that impact is only symbolic, and there is still plenty of work necessary in the struggle for racial equality today in an Obama-led United States.
For example, after the slow moving racial integration of the Texas football team in the late 1960s and early 1970s, African-Americans now make up the majority of the scholarship student-athletes on the football team. However, of the 51,000 students on campus, less than 3 percent are African-American males and the university continues to struggle to recruit and retain talented African-American male students at the undergraduate and graduate levels — an issue also prevalent at other research universities across the country.
— Darren Kelly, director, McNair Scholars Program, and assistant director, African American Male Research Initiative

How does the U.S. stack up against other countries in terms of sports integration?

There’s a popular belief that sport is a meritocracy free from discrimination. While it is true that the soccer fields of Europe are more diverse than they were 30 years ago, racism remains a significant problem. Black soccer players are regularly subjected to abuse and have limited opportunities off the field of play.
By contrast, the United States looks much better. The appointment of Charlie Strong shows how far we have come in challenging antiquated views that African-Americans might be okay as position coaches but shouldn’t be allowed to be the head coach. Yet, perhaps a true marker of change will be when the person who appoints the UT head coach is a person of color.
Ben Carrington, associate professor, Department of Sociology
Darren Kelly, a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement who wrote his master’s thesis on the integration of Texas football, said several factors caused UT to delay the integration of its teams later than other schools. Texans tended to connect with their university through football, and some alumni exerted pressure on the university to remain segregated on the field. “Whether it was hesitation because of fear of losing money from boosters or lack of being able to get great white recruits who didn’t want to play with African-Americans, or fear from other fans or parents and players who didn’t agree with integration — all of these were factors,” Kelly said. “You didn’t want to rock the boat too much and lose support.”
In August 1954 Marion Ford Jr., a good student and athlete who wanted to major in chemical engineering and play on the UT football team, was admitted to the university along with four other African-Americans. The registrar, athletic director and two members of the Board of Regents met to decide what to do. Ford had been admitted to UT, but the university still segregated its varsity teams. Their decision was to revoke the admission of all five students, making the athletic decision moot. Ford was angry and protested, but the decision stood. He enrolled in University of Illinois, where he did well both academically and on the football team. Ford transferred to UT in 1956, the first year African-Americans were admitted to the university as undergraduates, but he still wasn’t allowed on the football team. He graduated magna cum laude, earned an M.A. and a doctorate in dental science, and in 1963 received a Fulbright scholarship. But he never played football.
James Means, the first black varsity athlete at UT Austin
James Means
By the early 1960s a majority of students favored integration both on the playing field and off. In May 1961 the Regents received a Student Assembly and faculty petition with 7,000 signatures to support “the immediate integration of all housing and athletic programs.” A concurrent petition from students opposing integration contained only 1,300 signatures.
As it turned out, the university’s first black varsity athlete would be in track, not football. James Means, an Austin high school student, planned to attend UT in the fall of 1963 and wanted to participate in track. His mother, Austin civil rights activist and teacher Bertha Means, called Frank C. Erwin Jr., who was then a new member on the Board of Regents, to protest the fact that her son was ineligible for varsity track only because he was black. A few months later, the Board voted unanimously to integrate athletics, stating that extracurricular activities would be open to all students without regard to race or color.
Julius Whittier, the first African-American to receive a football scholarship and play on the varsity football team at UT Austin
Julius Whittier
At the same time, the Regents gave Darrell Royal, then-athletic director and football coach, the authority to decide when and if a black student might participate in a UT athletic program. Despite the fact that university athletics were opened to blacks in 1963, there were no black athletes on the football team for the rest of the decade, and few on any of the competitive sports teams. It took seven more years for change to come about.
In 1970, Julius Whittier was the first African-American to receive a football scholarship and play on the varsity football team. In a 2005 New York Times story, Whittier said, “I had no real time or hard-drive space in my brain to step back and worry over how potentially ominous it was to become a black member of the University of Texas football team and all of the horrifying things that, from a historical perspective, could happen to black people who dare to accept a role in opening up historically white institutions.”

Reply from Ricardo Romo.  I had long forgotten about Joe Villarreal, and the rest of Dr. Romo's reply is seen below.

George.  Oh No!  There were many before me—including the great Rene Ramirez who played football in the late 50s and early 60s.   When I broke the UT mile record, it had been held by Joe Villarreal.   I researched this topic when I taught in the History Dept. at  UT and I found Mexican Americans on the track and basketball team in the 1910s and 1920s.   I also testified in one of the Federal Affirmative Action cases in the late 1990s—and I noted that the first Black to live in a UT Dorm came to Moore Hill Hall in 1965—66.  He lived next to me—without a roommate—and across from David Webb!

BTW.  UT Austin opened its doors to students in 1883—not before as noted.   A&M began earlier in mid  1870s as a Land Grant Institution.   RR

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 20 Tracking Willem 'Wim' Slijkhuis, a Picture from 1960, and a Quote from Bruce Dern on Limits in Running

George, I have been talking to Curtis Stone. He said Chick Werner (40's/50's Penn State coach) had his own shoe co. making track spikes. He also said that Wim Slykhuis (Flying Dutchman) gave him spikes once. I am trying to find a good picture of Wim. He was bronze medalist in 48 1500m and 5000 London. He ran a lot in the USA on the boards indoors like 49, 50, 51, 52 era.  I'm trying to find results of the 1951 Washington Evening Star meet like Jan. 51.   Supposely they had mile race with  Bannister other Uk guys, Don Gehrman, and Wim. The spikes I have of Bill Ashenfelter are same spikes I see Wim wore and Fanny Blankers Koen wore. I wrote to the Dutch Federation to see if they knew..MAKER??
Phil Scott

Sports Reference lists the following for Slijkhuis
Willem Frederik "Wim" Slijkhuis
Gender: Male
Height: 5'9" (174 cm)
Weight: 137 lbs (62 kg)
January 13, 1923 in
Leiden, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands
Died: June 28, 2003 (Aged 80) in Badhoevedorp, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Affiliations: AAC, Amsterdam (NED)
Country: NED 
Medals: 2 Bronze (2 Total)

Hans Harting and Wim Slijkhuis

Wim Slijkhuis

Wim Slijkhuis had the following podium finishes at major championships: 3rd in the 1948 Olympics 1500 metres, 3rd in the 1948 Olympics 5000 metres; 1st in the 1950 European Championships 1500 metres, 2nd in the 1946 European Championships 5000 metres.
Personal Bests: 1500 – 3:43.8 (1949); 5000 – 14:14.0 (1946).

Here is a picture we recently received from Earl Young.   It was taken at Eugene, Oregon at one of the pre-Olympic meets after the 1960 Olympic Trials and before their departure for Rome.  Thanks, Earl.

Coach Oliver Jackson, Earl Young, Ralph Boston, Jerry Siebert, Frank Budd, Jim Beatty at Pre-Olympic Meet
Eugene, 1960

In a recent posting  (   Vol. 4 No. 15   )  we talked a bit about the actor Bruce Dern and his experience on the track running for the U. of Pennsylvania in the mid 1950's.   I found his biography  Things I've Said, But Probably Shouldn't Have and of course looked for things he said and probably shouldn't have  about those days.  One of the chapters is titled "You Can Train All You Want, But the Watch Don't Lie"  has some words that will remind many of our less than elite running readers about  discovering that   you probably won't fulfill your dreams.  Here is Bruce Dern's.

Page 19

  My sophomore year at Penn I'm running against guys in the Ivy League.  In my area, I have the three best half-milers alive (in varsity races ed.) , which means I do very well my freshman year.  Don't lose any races.  In my sophomore year , my first race is in a quadrangular meet-- Villanova, Fordham, Pitt, and Penn.  It's an indoor race at a convention hall in downtown Philadelphia, where the Warriors played.  The first race is a thousand yards which is the indoor equivalent of an 880, which is seven laps on the boards.  I'm a hero on the campus.  I finish fourth.  I haven't been fourth in a long, long time.  I don't cry.  I realized who beat me.  But nobody else does.  I never recovered from that day in front of my friends, in front of the school, because to Madigan, to Segil, to all the friends I grew up with, I was fourth in an eight-man race.  All three of the guys ahead of me, the next summer, won medals in the Olympic games, including two gold:  Tom Courtney in the 800 meters and Ron Delany in the 1500 meters.  From that day on, track didn't mean the same to me.  That was the beginning of my disillusionment with running.  The extra workouts, the extra mileage, no one trained harder than I did.  No one.  Not at Penn, not in America, no one in the world trained any harder than I did.  I realized I wasn't as good as I thought I was.  I wasn't blessed with certain things..

You can train all you want, but you get to a point where the guys get separated, and you're still only this good.  The watch doesn't lie.  That's the great denominator.

I tried out but I wasn't good enough to make the Olympic team. (No indication that Dern actually ran in the Olympic trials  ed.)   I was in an era when America dominated the 800 meters worldwide.  In '56 which would have been my year, we had three guys finish first, second, and fifth.  (Purists will note that Americans finished 1, 4, 6 in that race.  Tom Courtney 1st,  Arnie Sowell 4th,  Lon Spurrier 6th  ed.)

Mal Whitfield, who had won the Olympic gold medal in '48 and '52 was the first alternate at 40 years old.  Here I am, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, standing on a track next to Mal Whitfield, and when I was in the fourth grade, Mal Whitefield was world champion.  When the race started, all I was looking at was his ass.  I could never get by him.  I pulled even with him.  He looked at me and saw this guy running with this little simple "P" on his shirt for Penn, and went,  'What the fuck is this guy doing next to Mal Whitfield?"  He decided it's time to slip a gear.  He dropped it down one and went  phooo, and he was gone.  I suddenly realized, well, Bruce, that's that.  There are those who can move, and there are those who can really move,.  You're not one of them. 

Familiar feelings.  50 years ago when in my mid 30s I was about to quit as I was not improving when I stumbled upon a book by Percy Cerrutti .  In it he maintained that living athletically was its own reward and being without talent was not a reason not to do so.  I took that to heart and think it was beneficial. "   Richard Trace

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 19 Who Should Be an All American?

We were just looking at the results of the NCAA DI , DII, DIII meets and the list of "All Americans" goes on and on and on, and on....eight deep in all events.    Several of my friends have been having a discussion about this subject and below are some of their thoughts. 
But first in thinking about this subject, I've wondered where the term comes from and what it means.

Wikipedia states
The original use of the term "All-America" seems to have been in reference to a list of college football players who were regarded as the best at their respective positions. The first "All-America" team was the 1889 College Football All-America Team selected by Caspar Whitney and published in This Week's Sports in association with Walter Camp.[

   I don't know if Walter Camp invented the term when he self nominated the first class of football All Americans, or if he derived the term from someone other than himself.   It seems that in our day and age we are prone to glorification of individuals for many reasons.  We use the word 'hero' attributing it to soldiers, firemen, and a few other random individuals who by someone's definition calls them by that moniker.  It seems throughout history that whenever we want to sell an idea or a potentially unpopular event like a war, we have to create a few heroes to get public buy in or to get a war weary public to continue to buy in.  Only recently our government decided to award medals fifty years late, because some heroes did not fit the racial or ethnic standards of our nation in that period.  I had an uncle who served in the Battle of the Bulge who told me a black soldier took a bullet for him, but that soldier was never awarded anything for his act.   I also believe that Paul Robson, an African American, was named to one of Camp's early teams and had that honor revoked later in his theatrical and operatic career when he made known his leftist sympathies.  

a also all–Amer·i·ca \-ə-kə\ :  selected (as by a poll of journalists) as one of the best in the United States in a particular category at a particular time <an all–American quarterback>
b :  having only all-American participants <an all–American basketball team>
:  composed wholly of American elements
:  representative or typical of the United States or its ideals <an all–American boy> <her all–American optimism>
:  of or relating to the American nations as a group

First Known Use of ALL-AMERICAN


Definition of ALL-AMERICAN

also all–Amer·i·ca :  one (as an athlete) that is voted all-American
:  one that has all-American qualities or characteristics <a clean-cut all–American>

Wikipedia gives the standard for college track and field All-American.
Also administered by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, the selection rules are that the top eight finishers in each individual event, as well as American competitors who finish outside of the top eight in their event but are among the top eight of the American finishers in an event, earn All-America designation. Relays are judged strictly on a top-eight basis. The cutoff of eight places is the same for both indoor and outdoor competition. The student-athlete's team must be a member of the USTFCCCA.

It looks as if the USTFCCA sets the standards.

My Question.     If a relay team composed of a Jamaican with an American mother , a Burundian , a Jordanian born in the U.S. but who has retained his Jordanian citizenship through his parents, and an American citizen born in Barbados but with the voice of an Irish tenor finishes third in the DIII  Distance Medley.   Are they all four   All Americans?

My other question.  Should someone lose his/her All American status if they are later to commit a felony, or be expelled from school for cheating, or maybe for doing some other dastardly deed?  Paul Robson certainly did.

Just thought of another question.  If a runner breaks an American record  or has an extraordinary series of performances during the season but is injured and cannot compete in the NCAA meet or is injured in the meet or is DQ'd, should they be an All American?

Anyway,  here is the discussion between two of my friends about the matter.  I'm sure this will elicit some strong opinions from our readers, and we encourage them to chime in.   Let me also state that neither I nor the other two chaps are All Americans.  Not to say we aren't nice guys. 
 I don't get into this "All-American" crap. For 8th.place in the D3 women's high jump, you are now an All-American. Take the top (8) best collegiate marks, regardless of division and let it go at that. Mike tells me now that there are All-American certificates given out for age group competition. Let's see how we can really dilute this to a greater extent. How about Scott Shilito's world record for the 100 yard dash for one year old children?

There are NCAA (Divisions I, II and III) All-Americans, NAIA All-Americans, high school All-Americans and probably grade school All-Americans somewhere.  All you really have to do is host a meet, call it a national meet, then award All-American status to as many as you want at that meet, mostly living within 50 miles of the meet site.  However, to my knowledge there have never been any 1 year-old All-Americans but I am sure that is an oversight which will soon be corrected.  Scott Shillito must wait his time until justice is served.  Maybe we could help his cause with "Free Scott Shillito" t-shirts. 
All-americans are out of control.  If you were the football or basketball coach at an above average school such as UC, you would get 1 and possibly 2 All-Americans per year.  In track or swimming, you might get 15-20 per season, times 3 seasons.  Big time inflation.
As mentioned earlier, I think that All American status at the D. 1 level is legitimate but at other levels and ages it is not. If these people can "break into" the top eight true Americans and possess a U.S. passport, let "Katy Bar The Door" as they say in West Virginy.
I don't even think D-I All-Americans are worthy.  At UC we once had Carl Burgess in the 1960s get sixth in the LJ but he was not an All-American because they only took five.  Before that it was three.  Now it is 16 indoors and 16 outdoors.  It is a bit silly, not in harmony with the numbers in other sports.  If you want to produce All-Americans, go to T&F and swimming.  In fact, forget swimming because the track coach has three seasons to add to his pile.  There have to be a few coaches out there who have produced 500-600 All-Americans, and maybe even more.  I actually spoke against this inflation at the USTFCCCA convention, but was outvoted in overwhelming fashion.  I suspect it had to do with bonuses for coaches who produce All-Americans.  Actually, produce is a word you can use when you grow vegetables in the ground, and even then you don't do much more than drop the seed and allow the sun to shine and the rain to fall, which, upon further consideration, is about all we do with our athletes.  All we can do now is complain about the present condition and yearn for the good old days like Katy in West Virginny.    

I would disagree that coaches don't teach and instruct and encourage athletes to do better, but again going back to the old days, There was often only one coach and hopefully a retiree, assistant, and maybe a grad student to coach the whole team.  There was no way they could be knowledgeable and available to all those people in all those events.  So a lot of an athlete's progress was up to the athlete and his teammates.    Now days at a DI school, there seem to be more assistant track coaches than you would have found total employees in an athletic department 50 years ago.  And so today coaches more than likely do more hands on coaching of individuals, but the head coach is the one that gets all the credit. 

  In response to the 3 questions on your blog:   
   (1)  All members of the relay team which finished third are to be considered All-American even if none are US citizens.  They cannot set a country record based on IAAF standards since none hail from the same country, but they are All-Americans based on the USTFCCCA standards which refer only to NCAA Championship competitions.
   (2)  To my knowledge no All-American has ever lost his status for discrediting himself or this country.  Paul Robeson was a first-team All-American lineman at Rutgers who was put on Sen. Joe McCarthy's list during the Red Scare.  He did have communist affiliations but then so did many people at that time in the US and elsewhere.  Since he was a high-profile opera singer and black, he was singled out more than most.  In the end it was Joe McCarthy who was found to be in violation of the US constitution, not Paul Robeson.
   (3)  A US record during the regular season will not earn a person All-American status but simply the title of US record holder, a more difficult club to enter.  All-American is reserved only for success in the NCAA Championships in XC (top 40), indoor T&F (top 16 of 16) and outdoor T&F (top 16 of 24).  The top 8 are first team All-Americans, the next 8 are second team All-Americans and the final 8 are honorable mention All-Americans.  The first and second team can be referred to as All-Americans and will receive a plaque for their efforts.

Here is where I probably got the mistaken sense that Robeson's All American status was revoked.
Wikipedia listed the following in his biography.  It unfortunately does not name the book that left Robeson off the All Amerian list and also notes that several others were left off, because their universities could not provided names of their former All American students.

A book reviewed in early 1950 as "the most complete record on college football"[196] failed to list Robeson as ever having played on the Rutgers team[197] and as ever having been an All-American

Brown 1998: 162; cf. Robeson 1971: 5, Walsh only listed a ten man All-American team for the 1917 team and he lists no team due to World War I. Walsh: 1949: 16–18, 32, The information in the book was compiled by information from the colleges, "...but many deserving names are missing entirely from the pages of [the] book because ... their alma mater was unable to provide them. – Glenn S. Warner" Walsh: 6, The Rutgers University list was presented to Walsh by Gordon A. McCoy, Director of Publicity for Rutgers, and although this list says that Rutgers had two All-Americans at the time of the publishing of the book, the book only lists the other All-American and does not list Robeson as being an All-American. Walsh: 684


I think that when I was a Sr. at WMU they awarded All American Status in T & F to top 3 (None Indoors- because there was No Indoor Championship.

It seems to me that they should be awarded in track and field to the finalists in each event up to 5 or 8.
I don't know about awarding All American Certificates to Division 2  or 3 seems like it gets awfully watered down. (Unless they have better times than D-1 athletes.

For cross country the top 15 American's Seems Good to me. To get to "American's we should first bump out any foreign athletes
and then take the next 15 Americans. (I am okay with give All American Status to the top 15 Foreign athletes who are in the actual top 15.)

Heck, Why should I care. But, here is my 2 cents worth.

I thought All American meant hamburger French fries and coke at McDonald's. THE ALL AMERICAN MEAL. Coaching college track and field athletes at the NAIA DIII OR DII levels (I have not coached DI) most times if you're lucky to have an athlete all four years, you may see some progression???? Most athletes enjoy getting injured to get out of practice but still want to compete on Friday and Saturday. If you take the whole season and start at outdoor nationals and count back to first day of practice, you have a short time to whip these gifted people in to a perfect student of their event.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Vol. 4 NO. 18 Some Noticable Changes in Our Blog

The regular readers of Once Upon A Time In The Vest will note a few changes in our layout.  All of the changes are on the right side of the page.   

The Count
To begin,  we now have a number at the top of the right column showing the total number of hits on the blog since it began in 2009.   We're up to 66,000 now and average about 200 hits per day.  Justin Beeber news still is much more popular than we are, but of course we feel we're much more substantive in our interests. 

Below the hit numbers are listed the  ten most popular stories we've posted.   This changes hourly as people turn on the site and look for particular stories, or get referred to a particular posting  directly from other sites. 

Our favorite blogs and websites.

Scroll on down on the right, and you will see a list of our favorite blogs and websites.   Run on Thoughts by James Gerweck is one I've recently found and enjoy immensely.

Fionnbar Callanan
Mr. Callanan is an Irish photographer of international reknown  and a former Irish national class runner who has put out some very good portraits of athletes in many sports.  He has a chapter on his site for track and field and cross country with some high quality work.   I'm sure this is only a sampling of his complete work, but is definitely worth a visit.

Gerald Bloncourt


Monsieur Bloncourt was born in Haiti and came to France before WWII.  HIs family were members of the French Resistance during the war, and his brother was executed.  Gerald , a poet and a strong leftist took clandestine photos during the German occupation.  He also took a lot of pictures of French national sports heroes in the 1940's and 1960's including Zatopek when he ran several cross country races in France.  There are even some pictures of Alain Mimoun's wedding.  The first link takes you to his website, which is fun to explore if you read some French.  If not go to the second link and you will be on the sports photo pages.

Kansas Track Alums
This site is run by Ray Wyatt who ran at Kanas in the late 1950's and was a teammate of Wes Santee as well as Al Oerter, Bill Nieder, and Wilt Chamberlain.  There is a lot of personal stuff on the site, but if you explore it you will find the Kansas Track and Field Hall of Fame and some  stories about Ray's  teammates. 

Dr. Michael Joyner  Human Limits
Dr. Joyner runs this site and is on the staff at the Mayo Clinic.  He has a lot articles on sports medicine.  Recent articles cover ideas on genetics and athleticism.   He is long distance runner and competitive cyclist.

Michigan State University Cross Country History Project
Dr. Mark Harvitz at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada organized this site as part of a history project to write a book on Michigan State cross country.  Lots of good accounts of the early days of NCAA national championships and stories and photos going back 100 years.

U. of Oklahoma  Track Alums (1950's 1960's era)
I began this site after an alumni visit to the Big 12 meet in 2004 possibly.  My cousin living overseas set up the site due to my cybernetic ignorance of how to do such things.  Needless to say I had to collect items, email to her in Hawaii then South Korea, then she would design and post the new information.   This was quite burdensome, and though it connected a lot of old Sooners of that era, it really didn't have a draw outside that very small circle.  It is still  on the web, but there haven't been any postings for several years.  A KU Jayhawker, Michael Solomon somehow found it, and contacted me suggesting I try to do more with it, and those words of encouragement eventually led to Roy Mason and I starting Once Upon a Time in the Vest.

Penn State Track and Field Alumni Golf    http://psutafalumnigolf.blogspot.ca/

The title of this blog says it all.   A bunch of merrymakers from Happy Valley.  Great stuff on their site.  Not a whole lot of reverence.  I love this , because it makes me smile almost every time I open it.  And they give Once Upon a Time in the Vest  more respect than it deserves. 

Racing Past  by John Cobley
John Cobley is a retired sportswriter residing in Victoria, British Columbia.   He is an Englishman of origin and a former runner at Brigham Young.  If you want to know anything about middle distance and distance running from 1920 to 1980,  go to this site and be prepared to spend a lot of time.  His work is detailed and thorough and written with a literary hand.  I have learned so much from this site. 

Running Shots
I cannot remember how I found this site.  It doesn't matter.  What does matter is this is one of the best places to find photos of American distance running from the 60s to the present.  We don't even know who manages this site, but everyone who visits it asks,  "Where did this guy find all these pictures?"  Not knowing who this guy is makes an answer impossible.  Hats off to this guy.  Hey, we now know that the guy is Dan Martinez.  Dan ran for Oregon back in the late 1970s.  He's an avid collector of 1970s track and field photos.

Run on Thoughts by  Jim Gerweck
runonthoughts.com  .  This blog came to us on a referral of good things to read on the Track and Field News website.  Jim is the most cerebral, original thinker  I've seen in our field.  He has a sense of history and has seen the changes over many years that our sport has experienced.  His posting on A Sense of History, is a good jumping off place when you start reading this blog.  

elathletea  (Spain) Track and Field
Hope you read Spanish.  This has everything that is going on in today's track and field world in Spain, but it also has a great photo gallery of older stuff.  You can click on the translator on your computer if you don't read espagnol.   Hit the  link below to get to the pictures. Don't ask me where they get all the literary captions.


Walt Murphy's Today in Track and Field and Cross Country
This daily report on historical happenings in track and cross country, provides a daily reminder of what happened in the past in our sport.  It's found on the Track and Field News website.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 17 Shoe Technology Before Man Was Writing About It

Otzi's Shoes
Ok, maybe this gets a bit out of the realm of 1950's - 60's  track and field, but it never ceases to fascinate me when we talk about our high tech age and how athletic performances improved with the aid of technological advances and biochemical enhancements.  Let's call this posting an example of blogger's license.  When we look back in time we can often see that people made some pretty remarkable things without a high degree of cultural sophistication and knowledge of the scientific method.   I refer you to Otzi, the name given the man found frozen in glacial ice on the Austro-Italian border twenty years ago.  He's been featured in National Geographic and a number of documentaries.  He was obviously of another age,  and it has since been determined that he  lived about 5,000 years ago.   He was about 50 years old,  very old for the life expectancy of the times, and he was a tough S.O.B.  It was found that he had an arrow point embedded in a shoulder bone.  So he had been wounded, and probably died at this very high altitude, wearing home made clothing.   But again, he was a tough S.O.B., because blood traces of at least four other humans were found on his clothing.  He had not gone down without a fight.  He carried a copper bladed axe, which set the archeological world on its head, because it forced  scientists to move the bronze age back  over  1000 years earlier than they had previously thought it had begun. 
These facts are explained in Bill Bryson's new book,  At Home, A Short History of  Private Life  on pages 377-78Otizi's shoes however are felt to be the most remarkable thing about this discovery.  I'll let Bryson take over here.  
"The boots were the greatest surprise of all.  They looked like nothing so much as a pair of bird's nests sitting on soles of stiffened bear skin, and seemed hopelessly ill-designed and insubstantial.  Intrigued, a Czech foot and shoe expert named Vaclav Patek carefully fashioned a replica pair, using exactly the same design and materials, then tried them on a mountain walk.  They were , he reported in some astonishment, 'more comfortable and capable' than any modern boots he had ever worn.  They were above all, exceedingly effective against cold."    Picture these shoes in your mind , before looking below.  Here is a link to Otzi and his gear.

Now if we can only find the remains of Otzi's track team and find what they were putting on their feet.
 Needless to say, marketeers have jumped on this shoe advance, starting a company called OTZ and selling shoes in the $70-200 price range.

Welcome to the negative 31st century.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 16 Dave Power , Australia, 10,000 Meters Bronze at Rome RIP

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 15 Two Runners Who Kicked Butt on the Stage and Screen

Two events in the past week reminded me that at least two good track athletes made it in the field of drama.   At  the 2014 Academy Awards last week,  Bruce Dern (University of Pennsylvania) was a nominee for his lead role in the film Nebraska.   He didn't win, but he will  be remembered in the running community for being a good half miler and having been very competitive in ultra marathons in the 1960's.  He made a good running movie, On the Edge, and  he once challenged the Hell's Angels to a race when they were participating on the set of Wild Angels.  More about that one later.  A brief look in the books shows also that Robin Williams ran a 1:57 880 in high school and Dana Carvey was a 4:26 miler.  The stunner is Woody Allen  who allegedly ran a 2:06 880 in high school.

Bruce Dern 2014 Academy Award nominee playing  his role in Nebraska. 

Bruce Dern as a runner  at U. of Pennsylvania about 1957

Dennis Weaver

Weaver on his Junior High football team in Joplin, MO

The actor Dennis Weaver (University of Oklahoma)  grabbed our attention last week when we connected to the blog of history of Michigan State Cross Country put out by Mark Harvitz of the University of Waterloo in Ontario. 

Weaver isn't mentioned directly in that blog, but he appears in a film of the 1946 NCAA national cross country championship held at Michigan State that year.  He can be seen clearly finishing in 59th place.  This may be the first time Weaver ever appeared  on film.   Weaver was more than a cross country runner.  He finished 6th at the US Olympic Trials in 1948 as a decathlete. 

John Bork Jr.,  1961 NCAA 880 Champion for Western Michigan knew Bruce Dern in the 1960's when Dern patronized the store where John sold running shoes.  John relates this story.

Dear George:

I saw Nebraska with Bruce Dern about 4 weeks ago and  loved it!

I knew Bruce from the LA running scene in the late 60's.
At that time Bruce had progressed from #3 in the 880 in his college days back East......... and was running road races.
( In his collegiate career, he was about a 1:49 or 1:50 runner ranked #3 just behind Tom Courtney and Arnie Sowell.) Editor's note.  Several readers have questioned the veracity of these times.  So we will leave them to your judgement until there is further confirmation. 

Thanks to Pete Brown and Ernie Cunliffe for holding my feet to the fire on Dern's 880 times.   Ernie sent this along. 

Found a Runners World article that mentions Dern ran a 1:55.8 880 in high school, which I believe
would have been 1954 track season.   He mentions that he did not improve his times his freshman
year at Penn.   Also, he mentions that he often ran against Courtney, Sowell, Spurrier, and Delany
when he was at Penn but finished well behind them all the time.  Ernie Cunliffe

"Our readers are our best editors.  Our mothers are our best critics."    ed. 
He was only working as a movie extra back then but shortly thereafter; got a role in the Peter Fonda Hells Angels film Wild Angels (directed by Roger Corman).   He played " the loser" who dies in the movie.

 Leonard Matlin called the movie  'OK  after about 24 beers'.  It was the 16th biggest grossing film in the US in 1966 and led to Peter Fonda's conception of 'Easy Rider'  three years later.  ed. 

At the end of each filming day Dern  would put on his running gear and go out for a long run which really intrigued the "Hells Angel's" who took part in this film.  They struck up a relationship with Bruce because they thought his running was "Cool" and a million miles from riding a "chopper".  So, Bruce challenged them to a race. They could pick any of their guys to ride a bicycle for 7 miles against Bruce running on foot.
Cagey Bruce planned a course starting at the bottom of Sunset Blvd. where it meets Pacific Coast Highway and goes steeply up intoPacific Palisades.  Naturally Bruce built up a huge lead over the first 4-5 miles of the  uphill section and won easily. They thought this was so cool and built him his own "Chopper" as a gift.  I wonder what Bruce would have owed had he lost? ed.

The quote I most remember Bruce for was made one day at the store while we  were discussing LAPD. They had a running team, whose members also came in and bought Tiger Cortez, Bostons and Marathons. but, we were talking about LA "Cops". At one point Bruce, said sincerely, , "Well" I respect the Pig!"

I probably haven't seen Bruce since 1970 but, watched his movie career from afar.
The roles he got usually fit his "persona" quite well.
Bruce apparently was asked to leave the U. Penn track team, (see link above), because he let his hair grow long and the crowd at Madison Square Garden started yelling, "Go Elvis Go." while he was running a leg on the two mile relay.  The coach Ken Doherty thought this brought undeserved attention  to the U. Penn team and made an ultimatum to cut his hair or leave the team.  Bruce chose the latter.  Doherty was later interview about it and thought that the ultimatum was more about Bruce needing to make a choice and focus on his running or his acting.   Bruce obviously made the right choice.  This story was found on a discussion thread on Track and Field News.  Later in his career Bruce made a running film On the Edge about a long distance runner participating in the Dipsea race on the west coast.
Go Elvis Go!

Dern's filmography can be seen at :  http://www.starpulse.com/Actors/Dern,_Bruce/Biography/
 On the Edge  released in 1985 is left off the list.  Here is a review of that film by Roger Ebert.  http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/on-the-edge-1986
Look for Marty Liquori as a TV announcer, Gary Bjorkland as one of the runners, and Walt Stack as himself.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHr4XtxViOY  trailer for On the Edge.  

Things I've Said and Probably Shouldn't Have with Christopheer Fryer and Robert Crane is his autobiography.

Dern and Weaver never  shared the tv screen on Gunsmoke , as Dern appeared in several episodes after Weaver had left the series in 1961.   A short tribute to  Dern's film roles can be seen at the following youtube clip with an intro by Quentin Tarantino.    

Dennis Weaver with Gunsmoke co-star Amanda Blake

Billy D. Weaver became Dennis Weaver when he applied for an Actor's Equity card and found that there was already an actor named Bill Weaver,  so he used his middle name from that time.

After serving as a Navy pilot in WWII Dennis Weaver became a drama major and a track and field and cross country athlete for the University of Oklahoma.  He finished 59th in the NCAA cross country nationals in 1948  one place ahead of Michigan State's Walter Mack.   Mack was a returning WWII veteran who had a severe foot wound from a battle at New Britain in the South Pacific.  Irony ran the table with Mack the foot wounded veteran finishing just behind  Weaver who  would gain fame as a gimpy deputy sheriff on the popular series Gunsmoke.  

Weaver topped his cross country performances with his decathlon work under the eyes of coach John Jacobs. (see photo note the oil can)  He was  road trip roommate  with Bill Carroll who succeeded coach Jacobs.  On several occasions Dennis hooked up with the U. of Oklahoma track and field team escorting them around a film studio when the team was in Los Angeles.  He also came to the OU- Kansas dual meet when I was a freshman in 1962.     Weaver ended his career at the University of Oklahoma shortly after graduating in 1948.   His last meet was the US Olympic trials in Bloomfield, NJ.   There he met one of his former teammates, Lonnie Chapman who was already in New York attempting to make it in the theater.  Dennis, also a drama major, roamed the streets of New York with Chapman walking past theaters seeing the sights and even rehearsing for an audition later in the week.   Weaver recounts in an interview on youtube   that the next day his legs were dead, and by the time the two day decathlon event was over , he had finished in 6th place.  He thought he should have done better but looking down the road toward his acting  career took him out of the sports spotlight.  He did have the fastest time in the 1500 meters in that meet and tied in the pole vault.  There is a five part series of interviews with Weaver about his life and career.  At the end of the first segment, he relates the story about the Olympic Trials.    It can be found at the 25 min. 35 sec. point of the interview.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hDr_bWDV1U  The series of episodes though long, is well worth watching if you are a interested in his work, in the early days of television, and his roles in film.   In the second segment there is a particularly interesting account he gives of working with Orson Wells in A Touch of Evil.

Dennis Weaver passed away in 2005 at the age of 81.  For years he had been an environmental activist.    He was the feature actor in Steven Spielberg's first film  Duel.  All the World's a Stage is his autobiography.  A tribute to his life can be seen at http://www.dennisweaver.com/

V 11 N. 3 "Quicksilver: The Mercurial Emil Zatopek" by Pat Butcher, a Book Review by Paul O'Shea

When we come across books to review, we know that there is a particular skill set needed to be fair and honest and at the same time literary...