|Down the Homestretch|
Dyrol Burleson and Ernie Cunliffe in Hayward Field's First Sub 4 Minute Mile
Burleson appears to be wearing some of Bill Bowerman's early experimental shoes.
U Oregon Stanford dual meet 1960 (clik here to view film)
A few weeks ago I was looking through the online archives of the U of Oregon's Knight library archives for old track and field footage. One of their uploaded to Youtube clips was of Oregon's early sub 4 minute milers including Jim Grelle, Jim Bailey, Dyrol Burleson, Wade Bell, Keith Foreman, Arnie Kvalheim and others. Brief clips of each of those men running is found on that particular piece. In it I was intrigued to find Burleson running the first sub 4 minute mile at Hayward Field. I had also known a bit about this race, because the man who did all the work to get Burleson to the line under four minutes is one of our regular readers, Ernie Cunliffe, who ran for Stanford and represented the US in the 800 meters at Rome in 1960. I had known Ernie's sister in Ohio for many years before knowing she was related to Ernie. When that connection finally came up, I was astounded that I was talking to someone whose brother was a boyhood idol of mine when I was in high school. Ernie and I met a few years later on a visit Ernie made to Ohio, and we talked for a long time about track and field. He remembered every split of every race he ran. And he could fill in details of meets and happenings from that era that few ever knew about. This was before Once Upon a Time in the Vest was even a dream, but it may well have been a seed that was planted in my brain.
Ernie has mentioned that Oregon race several times, because it was his best mile (4:00.4), and on today's synthetic tracks no one can dispute that his time would have been under 4:00. The original clip of the group of Oregon runners was black and white and showed only the backstretch of lap one and the last 50 yards of the race. I wrote to the library last week asking them if there might be more of the race in their archives. Elizabeth Peterson was assigned the task to dig it out and she graciously did so and uploaded the film onto Youtube and granted us permission to use it on our blog. The upside is the film is now available in color. The downside is that we don't see more of the race. However there is a bit of footage of Burleson and Ernie after the race. Ernie looks extremely disappointed, I'm sure because, one, he was passed at the end , but also that he was so close to breaking 4 minutes. The film is almost five minutes long. It shows how the old dual meets looked. There were often 'walk ons' competing. The pole vault on metal poles is looking about 12 or 13 feet by some of the vaulters. There's a low hurdles race. Note there are no throwing cages and officals, spectators, and contestants are standing dangerously close to the discus throwers.
Ms. Peterson also attached a clipping from the Eugene Register Guard describing the race, and in the story, Burleson was very gracious toward Ernie for carrying the pace in that race. This is the link to that story. Classic Mile by Bob Mullin If you are clever, you will be able to scroll that front page over to page 7 and get a full run down of the race and the meet which was won by Oregon 87-44. Both Burleson and Cunliffe were scheduled to run again in the 880, which was a post race concern to both of them, especially after both had run two of the fastest miles in US history. That was dual meet strategy in those days. Fortunately both were relieved of that necessity by Bowerman and Jordan. However Ernie ran a leg in the mile relay. You can see his exchange on the film clip. Their splits in the mile were 62, 60, 59, and Burleson 57.6, Cunliffe 59.4 on the last lap. Third place was Oregon's Norm Lloyd in 4:28. The box score of all events is also there and a lot more pictures of Burleson and Cunliffe. Also note that three other track meets are reported in the paper. This was not uncommon in the 1960s.
Knight Library track archives link This link will get you into the ballpark on track archives at the library. You won't find everything you want here, but there is still a nice selection of film from the 60s and 70s and 80s of some of the big meets that have been held at Hayward Field.
"Well George you certainly did a lot of work to get the extra video of the race, in color no less. I appreciate it and enjoyed viewing some other bits of the Oregon vs Stanford dual meet. Oregon seemed to win most of the events although Norman Lloyd won the 880. " Ernie Cunliffe
"What a treat ! Besides the mile, a lot of field event coverage....... 1960....The year I graduated from HS." Steve Price, Piqua, Ohio
"Dear George and Roy.: