Monday, April 14, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 26 The USA Soviet Union Dual Meet 1964

Official Program Cover   $1.00

The following pictures appeared in the program, though some of the athletes did not necessarily appear in the 1964 meeting, notably Glenn Davis, Wilma Rudolph, and Rafer Johnson.

1964 was arguably the greatest year in US track and field history and one of the reasons was the US – USSR dual meet held July 25-26 in Los Angeles. The series began in 1958 and has been held every year since except 1960 when the Olympics took precedence. The US men had won the first four meets by double digit margins but last year in Moscow the balance of power shifted and our guys were fortunate to escape with a 119-114 victory. Will that trend continue? Come along with us to the venerable LA Coliseum and we'll find out.
Unfortunately the August issue of Track and Field News, from which our crack reporting team is working, contains only one page of coverage and another of photos. Armed only with minimal information, we soldier on.
July's issue of TFN wrote off last year's close call in predicting a lopsided US win this year. Given the marks produced thus far, our guys certainly seem to have the edge on paper. But our season starts earlier than that of the Russians so the US athletes have had more meets in better weather, thus more opportunities to produce better marks.
The last time the USSR and United States met on US soil was 1962 at Stanford Stadium where a warm, enthusiastic two day crowd of 153,000 cheered for Russians and Americans alike. Not so this year says TFN co-editor Cordner Nelson. Even though the LA Times gave the meet great publicity and the Los Angeles area has a larger population than that of the Bay Area, only two thirds as many spectators fill the stands. Not only that, but they are not very nice people either, as demonstrated by their lack of vocal support for the visitors. Cordner writes, “The difference between those people (Los Angeles types) and nicer people (anyone else) can be seen at such a track meet as well as on their freeways – there seems to be a strong lack of love for their fellow man”. (Ed. note: Your reporter who moved from Los Angeles County to Northern California 35 years ago can attest to this. Northern Californians are much more pleasant, honest, trustworthy and better looking.)
Now it is 4:00 Saturday afternoon, July 25, a smoggy 90 degree day. The 100 meter dash is the first event of the men's competition. The Americans are strong favorites to go 1-2, but it is not that easy. Henry Carr wins handily in a slow (for him) 10.3 but John Moon barely nips Edvin Ozolin for second, both running an incredibly pedestrian 10.7.

 USA   8        USSR  3
The high hurdles produces another 1-2 US finish, but not in the order most experts predicted. Hayes Jones, who ran 13.4 at the first Olympic trials, hits the last two hurdles but it doesn't matter as Blaine Lindgren has the lead from the midway point and holds on to win 13.6 to 13.7. 
USA  8   USSR  3
 Total  USA  16     USSR 6
The 20,000 kilometer walk begins at 4:35. It is your reporter's educated guess that the race is contested on a road course. Can you imagine the reaction of those Southern Californians if the price of a ticket included the privilege of seeing four guys in shorts swivel hipping it around the Coliseum track fifty times in an hour and a half? These are LA people, the ones who arrive at Dodger games in the third inning and leave in the seventh.
That said, our guys, Ron Laird and Ron Zinn, get thumped as the Ruskies score their first sweep.

USA 3   USSR   8
Total   USA 19   USSR  14

AAU 400 champion Ollan Cassell has an off day but it doesn't matter. Mike Larrabee picks up the slack, winning in 46.0. Cassell's 46.8 completes the third US sweep of the afternoon.

USA  8   USSR   3

Total USA 27   USSR   17
Next up is the 10,000, a race certain to produce a smile on the face of any track fan of a certain age. The Russians, Nikolay Dutov and Leonid Ivanov, are heavy favorites. Their personal bests are 39 and 33 seconds better than the best American, that skinny high school kid from Spokane, Jerry Lindgren. Our other guy, John Gutnechet, has even less hope. Picture LA fans going to the bathroom or getting a beer and a hot dog. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
This is Lindgren's first international competition and he doesn't seem to understand that an 18 year old from the back country of Washington can't run with 25 and 26 year old international veterans in a high pressure competition. The miles go by in 4:37, 9:22 and 14:07, much too fast for the oppressive heat and smoggy conditions, yet the kid is right there with the Russians. Then on the 15th lap, Ivanov makes his move and opens up 20 yards. Lindgren stays with Dutov for 100 yards. Then coach Sam Bell yells, “If you feel alright, go on around”. Obviously Jerry is feeling just fine. He not only goes around Dutov, but closes extremely quickly on Ivanov, not only catching him but moving into a seven yard lead at the end of the lap. Yes, he has the crowd's attention.

This is not a tactical move. It is how the race will go from here on out. The kid adds about five seconds to his lead each lap. Looks of consternation cloud many Russian faces. How can this be happening? Lindgren is not a devastating kicker, but he doesn't need to be. By the time he starts his final lap he has a lead of 100 yards. A 63.6 finish brings him home 22 seconds to the good. His 29:17.6 knocks ten seconds off his PR, but is worth so much more considering the heat and smog. Ivanov finishes in 29:39.8. Dutov and Gutnecht are well over 30 minutes.

The kid who looks like your paperboy owns Los Angeles. Milkshakes and burgers are on the house, young man.
USA 6   USSR  5
Total  USA  33   USSR  22
There are suggestions that Frank Shorter's  marathon win in the 1972 Olympics was the beginning of the running boom in America.  Some feel that Bob Schul's and Billy Mill's victories later in 1964 in Tokyo were the beginning, but we believe that this race may well have been the prelude to all of those theories.  By 1964, Horace Ashenfelter's 1952 steeplechase win was all but forgotten by the American public.  It could be argued that all but a few even knew about it.  Here was national television coverage showing an American running on a level playing field with international class distance runners in the middle of the cold war against the Soviet menace.  What more could have brought such a focus to the American public?   Two months later in Tokyo, Americans were ready to see Lindgren and Schul take it to the world.  Schul fulfilled those hopes and Mills came out from under the radar and made us believers. 

The hits just keep coming. The pole vault, which started at 4:00, has finished with world record holder Fred Hansen adding two inches to his record with a clearance of 17-4. Dave Tork's 15-11 completes the fourth US sweep of the afternoon.
Total  USA 41  USSR 25

An amazing upset by Lindgren and a world record by Hansen within a few minutes of each other, what could match that? 

 How about a stunning world record in the shot put? Dallas Long, holder of the current record of 65-10½ with a pending 66-7½ waiting approval, makes child's play of those marks with a throw of 67-10½. This is an astounding 14½ inch improvement and two feet further than any other man has thrown. Oddly, these two world records within an hour of each other, are produced by dental school students.
Total USA 48   USSR 29

Longfellow wrote, “Into each life some rain must fall” and, indeed, it does, at least figuratively, in the long jump. Olympic champion Ralph Boston comes up a quarter inch short of Leonid Barkovskiy's 26-4¼. Ralph, who had fouls estimated at 27-4 and 26-10, writes it off as “just one of those days”. Charlie Mays' 25-6½ is good for third. With the 5-3-2-1 scoring system, our guys lose at least a point as the Russians take the event 6-5.


Total  USA 5   USSR  6

Total USA 46   USSR  31
Not to worry. We'll make it up in the hammer where world record holder Hal Connolly is ready for a big one. The figurative drizzle from the long jump becomes a downpour as Connolly can't pop the big one. He has roughened the soles of his throwing shoes to provide traction on the slippery cement circle. But the circle has been sand blasted and now the shoes don't slip enough. His 221-2 leaves him third behind Russians Romuald Klim's 225-9 and Gennadiy Konrashov's 223-11. Although popping a foul in excess of 220', Ed Burke is fourth at 207-7. Russia 8, US 3.

USA 3    USSR 8
Total USA 49   USSR  39

Fortunately our 400 meter relay team stops the bleeding. Paul Drayton, Bernie Rivers, Richard Stebbins and John Moon combine to run 39.4 and leave the Russians four tenths back.
USA  5   USSR  0
Total USA 54   USSR  39
As the fans file out of the Coliseum and ready themselves for the battle of LA freeway driving of which Cordner Nelson warned, we will take a moment to discuss the lack of consistency in reference to broad jumping....or is it long jumping? A year ago the IAAF officially changed the name of the event to the long jump. The event featured on page 37 of the program is entitled in capital letters MEN'S LONG JUMP. Can't be more clear than that. Yet, Track and Field News has not accepted the change in terminology. The event is repeatedly referred to as the broad jump, not only in this article and results, but in every report for the last year. TFN eagerly acknowledged the change from hop, step, jump to triple jump, so why not the long jump? Come on, guys, stop living in the past. This is the 60's. Get with it.

On the women's side our commentary is admittedly limited.  The pages from the program and the times and finish places written in by Steve Lincoln who loaned us this document provide the basics.  As most of us who were around in 1964 remember,  women's track was still an after thought.  A full program of events did not include half of today's women's schedule.   No 400 meters, 400IH,  1500 meters, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, steeplechase, race walk,  pole vault, triple jump, hammer,  4x 400 and a reduced short hurdles event 80 meters.     The Russians preferred to score the meet as combined, because it gave them some advantage with their strong women's team.  Americans did the opposite preferring to see an overwhelming men's win the measure of success.  We dismissed the women's meet on many fronts, mainly because we didn't think we could win the meet with a combined score.  It was portrayed as innocent American coeds vs. the stoic Russian peasant women , survivors of the deprivations of WWII.   The pictures of the Russians affirm as well as put that thought to rest.

100 METERS    WOMEN        USA 8     USSR 3

DISCUS    WOMEN   USA  3     USSR  8     
Total    USA 11   USSR 11

Total    USA 14   USSR  19

HIGH JUMP    WOMEN     USA   8    USSR 3

                                      4 X 100 METERS   WOMEN    USA  5    USSR    0

 Total   USA   27    USSR  22

This is one of the write ups in the program recognizing Gerry Lindgren before he became a national hero in this meet.


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