Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

V 6 N. 46 Sam Bell, legendary coach passes away

Sam Bell,  track coach at Indiana University, Cal Berkeley, and Oregon State passed away this week.   Though I did not know  him or work with him, my friend Bill Schnier who coached under Mr. Bell knew him very well.   I never heard anything except positive words about Sam coming from that source.  He was a no nonsense guy, but one that knew what was best for his athletes and pointed them always in the right direction.  George Brose

The following is Bill Schnier's tribute to Sam:

Sam Bell

My friend and mentor has died.  So has as good a track and cross country coach who ever lived.  Sam Bell will be recognized for coaching 11 Olympians, 2 NCAA cross country champions, 147 All-Americans, 233 Big Ten individual champions, 26 Big Ten team champions, and 23 teams which placed in the top ten at the NCAAs.  He was known as the head coach of the US team at the famous 1964 Cold War dual meet with the USSR at the LA Coliseum and later served as the US distance coach at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.  He left his mark at Oregon State University, the University of California, and Indiana University.  He was a meet manager second to none.  Sam was a giant in our sport.

But those facts pale in comparison to the enormous influence he had upon the lives of so many athletes and coaches.  I have been privy to hundreds of conversations with others who knew Sam personally, and the words exchanged always recounted the same story, about a man who made a real difference in our lives.  My years with Sam at Indiana University were only five (1975-80) but they were life-changing years for my family and me.  He made everything else which followed at the University of Cincinnati possible.  Because he fully understood all aspects of the job, he was able to pass that information on to others.  Some coaches are good with technique, or motivation, or teaching, or administration, or vision, or relationships, or expectations, or strategy, or emotion, or knowledge.  Sam was good with all of these, and even more.  There was not one facet of coaching which escaped his attention.  Those other coaches who emphasized a limited number of these qualities dropped by the wayside, one by one.  They just couldn’t keep up with Sam who excelled at all of them.

I first met Sam at a clinic he and Charlie Baker conducted at Indiana University about 1972.  Each one would alternate teaching technique about a track and field event, and each would know more about it than any specialty expert you could ever find.  They were part of an era when each school had only one or two coaches, but in their case two was enough.  I wanted to coach the very best, to switch from high school to college coaching, so I chose Sam Bell to help me get there.  He was more than a helper, he was a coach of coaches.  He was demanding and difficult to work with, but he would do anything to assist a person along the way.  I never had to write anything down because what he said was usually unforgettable.  When I asked him in Oregon one day how Oregon and Oregon State were able to make track and field so important there, he told me “dual meets are the life blood of track and field.”  When I asked him why he left California to come to Indiana he replied “weather is overrated.”  When I asked him once about the importance of an up-and-coming meet, he noted “we treat every meet like the Olympic Games.”  After a heart attack in 1979 when he heard the doctors say to each other that they didn’t think he would make it, I asked Sam if he had been scared.  He said matter of factly “no, if I die, I die.  It would be my time.”

Sam was always vocal at track and cross country meetings, whether local or national.  Whenever he talked the room would grow silent.  Always there would be grumbling among lesser coaches who could not beat him, but Sam never favored a decision which would help the Hoosiers that year or even the next if it conflicted with the bigger picture.  His goal would be to benefit the sport in the long run.  He kept us centered and focused on why we were there in the first place.  All Sam did was based on his Christian faith, one which surely changed over his lifetime but never wavered, at least in outward appearance.  While writing individual workouts for athletes he would always prescribe going to church on Sunday.  I often wondered how many did so because of Sam.  Our country, and even the world, is populated by people who are better because of Sam Bell.  As one of them I simply say “thank you, Coach Bell.”

Bill Schnier,  Coach-emeritus,  University of Cincinnati
Indiana University grad assistant and assistant coach, 1975-80.

Friday, June 24, 2016

V 6 N. 45 Oregon Reunion photo and Coliseum Relays Program

Two photo sets, actually a photo and one photo set.   The gathering of old men is a reunion of University of Oregon track team members taken during the Prefontaine Classic weekend.  We don't know the source,  but Ernie Cunliffe forwarded it to us.  The second group of photos is from a 1950 Coliseum Relays program.  That was sent from Danny Metcalf who was a distance runner from Oklahoma State in the late 50s early 60s. Won the Big 8 cross country meet one year.    Lots of great names from the past in both of these.  Just decided to add a few more photos before going to press. See below.  You can click on any picture to expand it for easier reading.

Proof that Roy and George actually attended the Pre Classic

Here's a classic,  the Los Angeles Examiner Sports Page  August 8, 1954,
over a third of the page devoted to a one mile race.

Someday perhaps a classic,  note Asbel Kiprop autograph

Monday, June 20, 2016

V 6 N. 44 Gunder Hagg US Tour in Cincinnati, 1943

A dear friend,  Bob Roncker in Cincinnati started his own  blog recently and is putting out a  lot of good old days stuff on history of running in Cincinnati.  There's a lot to  be known about that running community including that I think they have the longest continuous Thanksgiving race west of the Alleghenies.   I know that may be news to some of the East Coasters who may think we don't yet have flush toilets west of those mountains (we do), so if you want to know some interesting things about Midwest running from the late 19th century on check out this site.  I've posted the two most recent items below.   The first is about Gunder Hagg's tour of the US in 1943 and his race in Cincinnati, then followed by one of those humorus things about you know if your were running a long time ago, buy Steve Price.    
Cincinnati Running History Blog

Bob and I were running against each other more than 50 years ago.  He was at Cincinnati Elder HS, and I was at Dayton Belmont HS.   Bob ran track at U. of Cincinnati and became famous in UC history by appearing in their yearbook running side by side with Bob Schul when Bob was running for Miami.  How long they were together is not important.  After UC days Bob and his wife moved out to the Mountain View, CA area where  he worked for Runners World before migrating  back to Cincinnati.  If you grew up in that town there is a strong call to return to your roots.   Bob ended up having one of the most successful independently owned running stores in the US,  Bob Roncker's Running Spot.  He's been heavily involved in the running community since day one of the running boom, and that community has been fiercely loyal to Bob over the years.   He's now retired and since he has little else to do, other than travel around the country and the world watching track meets, he started his blog, so there would be a permanent memory of what has been accomplished in the Cincinnati running world.

Good reading to all of you.   George

Monday, June 20, 2016

V. 1 #28 World Record Holder Races In Cincinnati

V. 1  #28  World Record Holder Races In Cincinnati

In 1943 the Swedish distance runner, Gunder Hagg, toured America.  During his eight-stop tour, including Cincinnati, he scored consecutive triumphs over America’s best.  It was not surprising that he was known as “Gunder the Wonder.”

Gunder Hagg

Who was Gunder Hagg?  From 1942 to 1945, Hagg and fellow Swede, Arne Andersson broke or equaled the world record for the mile three times each, usually by beating the other.  Hagg lowered the mile time down to 4:01.3, a mark that was not reduced until Roger Bannister’s historic sub 4:00 mile in 1954. Over his career he broke a total of 15 world records, 10 of them within a three-month period in 1942

Hagg beating Arne Andersson

Hagg’s tour began in New York City on June 20.  Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cambridge, and Berea, Ohio preceded his stop here. Gil Dodds and Bill Hulse, top American middle distance runners at that time, accompanied Hagg on the tour to provide the competition.

L-R  Don Burnham, Bill Hulse, Gill Dodds, Gunder Hagg

His Cincinnati appearance was his seventh American race. It was contested on the evening of August 7, 1943 at the Withrow High School Stadium Track. The Cincinnati Firefighters Association sponsored the race for the Army Air Force Aid Society.

Gunder requested that the distance be two-miles. Earlier in the tour Hagg ran 8:53.6 in Los Angeles, well shy of his world record of 8:47.8 that was set the year before. The month long sea voyage had deprived Hagg of valued training opportunities but as the tour was nearing its conclusion, he felt that his speed and stamina were improving to the point that he might challenge his own record.

Hulse, who narrowly lost to Hagg the week before at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, when he ran a 4:06 mile, was given a 100-yard handicap.  Since Hulse’s mile time was the best mark ever achieved outdoors by an American runner, it was thought with a lead of that distance Hagg might be prodded to eclipse his own world record. Gill Dodds, the other top protagonist spurned a handicap offer and started from scratch with Hagg.  Dodds had previously clocked 8:53 for the distance so he figured his best opportunity to defeat Hagg was at this distance.  A fourth starter in the race was Bob Berger, a young Bay Village, Ohio athlete.  He received a full lap or 440-yard handicap.

Bob Berger

Hulse and Berger started far in the lead because of the handicap.  Hagg and Dodds ran almost even for the first mile.  Hagg’s split times for the first mile were 1:01.5, 2:07, 3:15, and 4:22 at the mile.  Hagg pulled away from Dodds as they entered the second mile.

Berger, needing only to run seven laps rather than Hagg’s eight, remained far out in front of Hulse. Hagg caught and passed Hulse as he entered the seventh lap.  Now his sights were on the youthful Berger.  Yard by yard he pulled closer.  However, he came up just short of overtaking his young opponent. 

Bob Berger, the 18-year old high school graduate, maintained the lead that he received due to his handicap advantage.  Berger’s time for the two-mile distance, minus 440, was 8:49.7.  The race was quite exciting as he broke the finish line tape only five yards ahead of the rapidly charging Hagg.

Gunder, the Swedish track champion, covered the two-mile distance at Withrow’s Stadium in 8:51.3, which was only 3.5 seconds off his existing world record. This time was the fastest ever run for that length outdoors on American soil. 

Hulse, from New York, finished in third place. His time of 9:08.3 was the first time he had ever raced two-miles.  Dodds, who started even with Hagg, was unable to catch up or overcome the handicaps given to Berger and Hulse.  He placed fourth with a time of 9:18.3.

Afterwards, Hagg was very complimentary about Berger saying, “He’s one of the best young runners I have ever seen. You track boys had better keep your eye on him.”  He felt that Withrow’s cinder oval was a little slow, but he added that he felt fine during the race and would try his best next Wednesday, on August 11, to set a new record at New York. His mile in New York would be the final installment of his American cross-country tour.

Gunder Hagg was branded a professional in 1946 because he received payments for running. Thereafter he was barred from competition.

Bob Berger died February 28, 1945.  His airplane was hit by enemy fire and he perished while parachuting.

Bill Hulse was the US National 800-meter champion in 1944 and 1945.

Gil Dodds became known as “The Flying Parson.”  He won the Thanksgiving Day Race five times in the 1940s.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

V. 1 #27 You Know You Have Been Running For Quite Awhile If You Remember... (Part 2)

V. 1  #27  You Know You Have Been Running For Quite Awhile If You Remember... (Part 2)

By Steve Price

you read, or have read, "Long Distance Log". 

you expect to get blisters by running in new shoes.

you have taken salt tablets at one time.

you have hitch hiked to races.

you have competed in races where there were less than fifteen (15) runners.

you know all the names of men who have broken four (4) minutes in the mile.

passersby have asked you if you are in training for a fight.

your local Sporting Goods store carries two brands......Adidas and Puma

you know the story of the Dassler brothers (Adidas and Puma founders)

you have run in all leather running shoes.

you have started the season in a pair of wonderfully soft
kangaroo skin spikes. By the end of the season they have stretched so much that you are now wearing two (2) pair of sweat socks.....but you still love them.

By Bill Hart

you remember when "tick sheets" were the preferred method of timing cross country and road races. 

you remember being given numbered tongue depressors at the end of a race to indicate your finish place.  

your first running wristwatch was metal rather than some polymer material. 

you remember digital stopwatches whose numerals glowed in the dark and they required 3 double D batteries for power. 

your favorite pair of racing socks covered your calves, was white cotton and had two cool color stripes at the top. 

you remember the big DMSO controversy. 

you had to go to two or three local bookstores to find a single volume on running. 

you recall when going to one of the Runner's World sponsored Fun Run at Sharon (Dick Stapleton) or Winton Woods (Martha and Bill Hart hosted) was a way to score a free complimentary copy of their magazine. 

you remember the Runner's World Fun Runs always included a half-mile, a mile, and a featured distance run of 2, 4, or 6 miles. These were not races, you ran with friends but they were timed. Everyone was entitled to a certificate of completion provided by the magazine on which you filled out your distance and time. On occasion there were prediction runs for some small prize. You wrote down your predicted finish, left your watch in your car and off everyone went. Winners were usually within two or three seconds of their prediction. 

you remember filling out self addressed envelopes at some road races in order to receive results in the mail. 

you remember when there were no display clocks at race finish lines, just someone who might scream out a time from their stopwatch as you crossed the line. 

you recall the earliest display race clocks that had flip numerals comprised of a series of little yellow paddles that sometimes stuck. The results, on occasion, were finish times that required puzzle-solving skills. 

more recently, you remember multi-lane finish line chutes at big races. Pick a lane, any lane. 

even earlier, you can recount swing ropes at finish lines that herded you down a specific chute. Perhaps you even had the happy experience of being clothes lined across the neck or face at the finish during a chute switch. Burn.  

you recall with fondness the annual fight between Bill Hart and Barry Binkley at the Thanksgiving Day Race finish line concerning how best to set up a multi-lane chute system. Good times. 

you remember when no self respecting high school cross country invitational would be held without Don and Carol Connolly present with a mimeograph machine to crank out on the spot race results. 

you remember when wearing nylon warm-up rather than cotton sweats meant you were a "serious" runner. Gore-Tex? What the heck is that?

no one would have predicted $10 or more race entry fees.  

Thanksgiving Day Race Entry Fee

$100 shoes? Oh, that's just crazy talk. 

you still wax nostalgically about your first pair of blue and gold Nike waffle trainers. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

V6 N. 44 Program Southern Counties (California) 1965 Coliseum Relays 1950, and a Recent Cartoon

Here is a program from the California   Southern Counties Track and Field Meet, sent by our friend Mike Solomon.    Note on Page 4  the reader of the wind gauge that evening was a young Lute Olson who spent a few years  in SoCal after leaving the frozen wastes of Minnesota and the Dakotas.  Lute would go on to coach basketball at Long Beach State and Arizona where he quickly went into the basketball coaches hall of fame,  and lastly a recent cartoon on the doping situation.

Page 1
Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

Cartoon recently in Victoria Times Colonist 2016

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

V6 N. 43 Jon Hendershott, Hommage from Paul O'Shea

Jon Hendershott, One of the Sport’s Eminent Journalists,
Leaves Track and Field News with Multitudes of Old, Good Friends
By Paul O’Shea

Adlai Stevenson returned to his alma mater Princeton University in 1954 after twice running for the Presidency, and serving as Ambassador to the United Nations and Governor of Illinois. Remembering his years at the Ivy League school he told the senior class: Your days are short here; this is the last of your springs.  And now in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven.  You will go away with old, good friends. And don’t forget when you leave, why you came.
After a distinguished career of 48 years, his legacy secure as one of this sport’s foremost writers, Jon Hendershott leaves Track and Field News. We know why he came--to write about the sport he loved, with flair, enthusiasm and integrity, and appreciation for its history and relevance.  He moves on with multitudes of old, good friends.

Thirteen years after Adlai Stevenson spoke at Princeton, the 21-year-old Hendershott began work at Track and Field News.  He came to California from Washington, and over almost the next five decades traveled to small towns and major cities across continents to cover Olympians and back-of-the-pack high schoolers, wherever there were runners, jumpers and throwers.

Jon will certainly remember how he came to track and field reporting, and those of us who looked for his byline are rewarded by the stories he told.  He made hundreds, perhaps thousands of friends, completing his service as Associate Editor.  From the era when races were timed in tenths of a second to today’s automatic hundredths, Jon reported at nine Olympic Games, fourteen World Championships (missing just one), innumerable national and international meetings, conference events, and lesser competitions.  He’s interviewed and written about many of the sport’s prominent figures, a number of whom became his friends.

Ironically, the writer in waiting emerged after becoming transfixed by a photograph.

When Jon was ten, older brother Bob brought home a copy
of LIFE Magazine.  There on the cover, blazing across the finish line, winning the 1956 Olympic Games 100 meters was Bobby Morrow of the United States.  The glories of Olympic sport made an indelible impression on the Seattle-raised fifth grader.  

“Having been swept away by the photography from those Games, in my naiveté, I wanted to be an Olympic-level athlete,” Jon remembers. “It didn’t take long to have that pipe dream punctured.  Once I got to junior high I tried sprinting and hurdling but couldn’t make the team.  When we moved from Bend, Oregon where I was born and I got to high school in Seattle, I was no better.  Strictly a junior varsity hurdler and mile relayer was I.”

He spent his first eight years in Klamath Falls where his dad coached high school football and track, “there were more than a few times when my brother, mom and I would go to the high school to watch practice, especially for track in the spring.

“I can’t say that I had any grand feeling of ‘freedom when running, the wind flying around me,’ or anything quite that lyrical.  But when I both discovered the Olympics at age ten, then tried out for track in junior high, the sport just grabbed hold of me.
“Even back in junior high I somehow knew that I had to find a way to get to the Olympics. It also happened that in junior high and then in high school that I took journalism classes and found that I could string together more than a few words into coherent and somehow readable sentences.  I wrote about track and other sports for the school newspaper. So writing about track specifically, became the vehicle by which I eventually got to experience all that is the Olympics.”

Jon picked up his first issue of Track and Field News when his high school coach subscribed and shared copies with the athletes. “I was totally smitten and in 1962 began subscribing immediately.”

After high school he entered the journalism program at the University of Washington. Then, in 1965, like a boxed in runner who sees a curb lane open up fifty meters from the finish line, he saw an ad in the magazine.  Track and Field News editors were looking for an intern. Jon applied to managing editor Dick Drake and was accepted for the one-year assignment only to confront an implacable object, Jon’s father.

“I asked my dad if I could take the job in Los Altos, California and it was the only time in our family life that he said no.  It was my freshman year in college, and he thought I should wait until I graduated.  And he was right.”  
Several years later T&FN circulation was growing like a triple jumper—in leaps and bounds.  Again Jon answered an ad and this time he entered the athletics world on December 1, 1967 as an editorial assistant in Los Altos. Transferring to San Jose State and majoring in magazine journalism he continued working toward his degree. World-class sprinters like Tommie Smith and Lee Evans walked across campus with the novice journalist.  It was his first mixed zone.

During his time with track and field’s foremost information source, Jon has handled a variety of assignments, managing a fleet of stringers, finding and acquiring immense amounts of the sport’s data, and working with dozens of photographers across the world since the magazine first went to full-color production in 1996 with the Athens Olympic Games issue.  The ten-year-old whose interest was fired by a LIFE photo turned out to have a keen sense of the story that a captivating photo will tell.  He also wrote single event analysis, participated in Track and Field News prediction efforts, and weighed in on the internationally acclaimed Yearly Rankings.  In addition, he also shepherded Track and Field News Tour members.

Since early successes and misfortunes with the barriers in high school (“My dream was to be an Olympic 400 hurdler), he’s had a special affection for the event and its high-end performers.  He’s interviewed such as Kingdom, Nehemiah, Drut, Moses, Young, Devers, Jones, Oliver, Jackson, Merritt, Richardson.  Three years ago in an article subtitled “Just A Wild & Crazy Thought,” he posited the idea that hurdlers could run faster if they took two rather than three steps between hurdles. It proved not to be a step whose idea had come.

In the view of this writer, one of Jon’s special strengths is the ability to find the soul of an athlete through long-form interviews.   Digging through recent issues supplied by my good friend, Tom Coyne of Kalamazoo, Michigan, another long-time subscriber, three articles show Jon at his best.

Jon’s interview with Jason Richardson came before the 2013 Moscow Worlds.  He explored how Jason’s focus on hurdling increased under the tutelage of John Smith, and the differences in concentration required between the collegiate and professional environments.  Jason also revealed why he trains on 39-inch rather than 42-inch hurdles.  Following retirement from athletics, Richardson has prepared a bucket list that includes attending a tennis Grand Slam tournament, NBA playoffs, Oscars, and the Metropolitan Opera Gala Ball.  He also intends to read the Bible in its entirety twice.

Brigetta Barrett presented another interesting subject, following winning the high jump silver medal in the 2012 Olympic Games.  In addition to her athletic abilities, Barrett offered entertainment talents as a singer.  In the post-event interview at the Olympics, she sang a religious hymn after being asked what she sang while in competition.  She has sung at professional baseball and football bowl games.

In 2014 Jon talked with Molly Huddle, whose success at shorter distances opened up questions about the University of Notre Dame runner moving up to the marathon.  The piece also explored her life with husband Kurt Benninger, another successful collegiate distance performer.  Huddle discussed the unusual benefits of a runner married to a spouse who understands the demands required of athletes who train at the elite level.

After decades of sitting in press boxes and standing trackside, Jon chose three of the greatest performances, two of which he witnessed.  The three were Billy Mills’ electrifying victory in the l964 Olympic 10,000 meters, Mac Wilkins setting three consecutive discus world records in one meet in 1976, and the l991 World Championships long jump, when Mike Powell set a world record, just after Carl Lewis had first obliterated Bob Beamon’s 29 feet, two-and-a-half inch Mexico mark. More recently, Jon holds high Usain Bolt’s two hundred meter world record of 19.19 set at the 2009 Worlds in Berlin.   

While he did not see the Mills victory in person, he viewed the TV coverage and the subsequent documentary of the Tokyo Olympiad.  In addition, Jon’s first major interview for T&FN was in l968 with the gold medalist.

Earlier in his career, one of the great runners he reported on was Steve Prefontaine.  “Once, we were sitting next to each other on a plane, as we headed up to Bakersfield, California for the l973 USA Championships. Though I had a chance to talk to him for a while, I realized that he was on his way to a big race, probably deep in thought. So the right thing to do was just to let him be.  I also felt he was a bit shy, and didn’t want to be disturbed.  So it was quiet there for most of the flight.”

One measure of professional achievement is the respect given by one’s peers.  Track and Field Writers of America elected him its president in l994 and l995, and conferred its Jesse Abramson Award as Journalist of the Year in l989 and 2012. He also is the author of Track’s Greatest Women, published in l987, which featured chapters on fifteen of the greatest female track athletes to that time, ranging from Babe Didrikson to Evelyn Ashford.

Though retired from day-to-day responsibilities at T&FN and now living in Salem, Oregon, he keeps his hand in as a senior correspondent.  Earlier this year the magazine ran a full page article on Jon’s stepping down, which included sentiments from sub-four minute miler Jim Beatty, hurdle legend Renaldo Nehemiah, Olympic hammer thrower Ken Flax, Coach Dave Wollman, World hurdle champ Tonie Campbell, and Decathlon Superstar Ashton Eaton.

Chicago Tribune writer Phil Hersh wrote: “Once again, Jon, my everlasting thanks for being a great colleague who was always willing to share his expertise with those of us who covered the sport far less frequently.  No matter how harried you might have been, you always found the time to answer a question, pass on a kind word or simply to elevate everyone’s mood with a smile.”

Ed Fox, long time Publisher of Track and Field News, assesses Jon’s contributions this way.  “Jon was a mainstay of our magazine for almost 50 years, and he now transitions into a well-deserved retirement.  But of course, we’re not going to let him leave us completely.  He’ll still do assignments for the magazine, and we’re going to keep him as our lead in-person at our Tour functions, a task he has done brilliantly through the years.  So Jon will thankfully still be involved, but no longer subjected to those cruel monthly deadlines that bedevil our editorial staff.

“Jon still has the same enthusiasm for our sport, and respect for its history, that he had when he started with us as a 21-year-old, and that’s what made him so valuable to us over the years—as a resource and a track and field ‘fellow traveler.’”

Finally, there are the thoughts of Olympian, American record holder and victor in The Dream Mile against Jim Ryun, when Marty Liquori was thinking about hanging up the spikes.
Quit?  Retire?  Hell, no.  Next year, I’m really gonna train.


Paul O’Shea is a lifelong participant in the track and field and running world, as competitor, coach, journalist and traveler to national and international events.  After retirement from a career in corporate communications, he coached a high school girls’ cross country team and was a long-time contributor to Cross Country Journal and Athletics, the Canadian publication. He now writes for Once Upon a Time in the Vest from his home in northern Virginia, and can be reached at Poshea17@aol.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...