Sunday, July 30, 2017

V 6 N. 52 Bob McMillen and John Barnes, Two Oxy Heroes

Our friend Phil Scott dug this story out of the past.  He has an uncanny ability to search out old characters from the sport.  Long forgotten yet easily remembered.  We'll bring up another one soon.
Phil Scott

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California Digital Newspaper Collection > Occidental Weekly > 26 September 1952
Occidental Weekly, Number 1, 26 September 1952
Sorry, some of the times are left out of the article. ed. 

Oxy Spike Heros Hailed McMillen Labeled 'Greatest US. Miler of All Time'; Barnes Points for '56 Olympics
California Digital Newspaper Collection > Occidental Weekly > 26 September 1952
Occidental Weekly, Number 1, 26 September 1952


      Two of the finest athletes in the world graduated from Occidental last spring. These same two, Bob McMillen and John (“Long Jawn”) Barnes, ended their college careers with the thrill that comes only after many years of hard work and preparation, combined with the will to win a trip to the Olympic Games, which were held this year in Helsinki, Finland.

     Both these fine runners have made exceptional records throughout the course of their high school and, college experiences. John Barnes was born in Oklahoma, but early in his life moved to Long Beach, Calif. There, in his junior year, under the guidance of Coach Vince Reel, he displayed his amazing versatility by touring the 220 in 23.0, the 440* in 50.8, the 880 in 2:03,4, and the mile in 4:33,8. Next year he suffered a very serious lung Infection which sidelined him for the season. John Comes to Oxy In 1949, John came to Occidental and to Coach Payton Jordan. That spring he again appeared to be on his way as he won the 880 against the SC Frosh in 1:56.5, beating Lloyd Jepson, and placed fifth in the 400-meter hurdles of the AAU meet in Fresno. As a sophomore in 1950 he was becoming a national figure. He beat Olympic champ Mai Whitfield in the Compton Invitational in the time of 1:52.9. In the 440 he scorched to a 47.1 leg in the mile relay to help Oxy run the second fastest time in the history of track and field. John placed third in the NCAA finals for the 880. As a junior, '‘Long Jawn” climaxed a tremendous season, winning the NCAA 880 at Seattle, stopping the watches at 1:50.7. Earlier at Compton he again beat Mai Whitfield only to be disqualified for “cutting in.” This year saw Barnes anchor the mile and two-mile Tiger relay teams, running his quarter in a tremendous 46.8. and the 880 in a blazing 1:48.4. He again won the NCAA crown, this time in 1:49.6. He is a member of the world’s record distance medley relay team, which consisted of: Miller—44o —47.8; Butler 880 1:54.5; Barnes—l32o—3:0l.s; McMillen mile —4:13.9; total 9:57.7. Then in June he finished second to Mai Whitfield in the 800-meter Olympic Trials to secure his ticket for the trip to Helsinki, 

     Due to a miscalculation on his part he failed to qualify for the finals. On tour a week later he proved himself by beating Utzheimer of Germany in the 800 meters at 1:50.6. Utzheimer had previously placed third at the Olympics. Later in London he teamed with Whitfield, Ashenfelter, and Pearman to set a new world’s record in the four-man two-mile relay. He also ran a 4:12 mile, combined with three others to mark one of the fastest four-mile relays ever run. At this stage, John's career could not be called uneventful, but even now he is looking forward to bigger and better things in the 1956 Olympics. Bob McMillen A native Californian, Bob McMillen got his start in track at Cathedral High School where he gave some hint of the future when as a senior he ran a four-lapper in 4:24. After quitting school to work as a carpenter for a year, he enrolled in 1948 at Glendale College where, under the coaching of Walt Smith, one of SC’s track greats, he ran a 4:21 mile. After the regular season Bob went to the Olympics in the steeplechase. McMillen came to Oxy in the spring of 1950. Under the guidance of Payton Jordan he showed amazing improvement, but due to ineligibility was unable to compete for Oxy. He won the Frosty Martin mile at Long Beach In both ’5O and ’5l, and in the 1950 SPAAU meet finished second to Jim Newcomb in a blazing 4:07.'8 mile. In the ’5O Coliseum Relays he efforted a 9,02.0 for the fastest two miles ever run on the West Coast. In 1951 he became eligible at Oxy and was a tremendous asset. Against SC he won the mile in 4:24.5, the two-mile in 9:32.3, and placed second in the 880 a step behind teammate John Barnes in 1:54,3. At the Compton Invitational he- won the mile, beating Willy Slykhvis, king of the European milers, in 4:09

Slow Season Start In ’52

The season started slow for Bob, but he won the NCAA 1500-meter run at Berkeley later in the season in 3:50.7. Winning the metric mile in the U. S. Olympics Trials, McMillen too left for Helsinki. There he was second in his first heat at 3:55.8, tied with four others at 3:50.8 for his second heat, and in the finals scored an amazing second to Joseph Barthel of Luxembourg, with whom he will share the Olympic record of 3:45.2. McMillen was almost dead last as a tight little knot of swift milers jockeyed at the last curve. Suddenly weaving his way between the runners like a halfback in a broken field, he galloped. This sprint carried him to a close second place. The last 440 yards was run in a heart-breaking 56.2 seconds, the second fastest lap ever run. From July 24 to August 23
Josy Barthels winning the Helsinki 1500 over McMillen and Werner Lueg of Germany

     Bob ran 15 races, including many after the Olympics. His post-Olympic races were highlighted by two runs. On August 6 he ran a 3:45.8 metric mile, but was defeated by Malmo of Sweden. In another 1500 meters at Luxembourg, he finished second again to Barthel with a duplication of the Olympics. This time was the fastest ever recorded by an American, a scorching 3:45.1 which is equivalent to a 4:024,4:03.7 mile, making Bob McMillen the greatest American miler of all time. Truly, John Barnes and Bob McMillen will go down in Occidental annals as exemplifying the true spirit of Occidental College.
John Barnes and Bob McMillen

Helsinki 1500 1952  Video clip

JOHN BARNES, left, and 808 McMILLEN, two of the finest athletes ever produced at Occidental, wound up their collegiate careers in a blaze of glory at the Olympic Games in Helsinki this summer. Barnes is now doing postgraduate work here while McMillen is awaiting a call from the service. Both hope to compete in the 1956 Games.

Barnes died in 2004,  McMillen in 2007.

Sport Reference summarizes McMillen's career as follows

Full name: Robert Earl "Bob" McMillen
Gender: Male
Height: 5-10.5 (180 cm)
Weight: 150 lbs (68 kg)
Born: March 5, 1928 in Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: April 1, 2007 (Aged 79.027)
Affiliations: LAAC, Los Angeles (USA) / San Jose State Spartans, San Jose (USA)
Country: USA United States
Sport: Athletics
Medals: 1 Silver (1 Total)


After falling three times in the heats of the 1948 Olympic steeplechase, Bob McMillen wisely gave up the event and
 turned his attentions to miling. He won the NCAA 1,500 m for Occidental in 1952 and, after winning the Final Trials,
his devastating finishing burst narrowly failed to net him the Olympic gold. McMillen’s time of 3:45.2 in Helsinki was
 a new U.S. record and he had a best time for the mile of 4:07.8, which he clocked in finishing second to Jim
Newcomb at the 1950 Southern Pacific AAU meet. In the 1955 Pan American Games 1500 metres McMillen finished
Personal Bests: 1500 – 3:45.2 (1952); 3000S – 9:18.7 (1948).


Glossary  · SHARE  · Embed  · CSV  · Export  · PRE  · LINK  · ?
1948 Summer20LondonAthleticsMen's 3,000 metres SteeplechaseUnited StatesUSA8 h1 r1/2
1952 Summer24HelsinkiAthleticsMen's 1,500 metresUnited StatesUSA2Silver

Men's 1,500 metres

Event History  · Glossary  · SHARE  · Embed  · CSV  · Export  · PRE  · LINK  · ?
1952 Summer24HelsinkiAthleticsUnited StatesFinal2=OR3:45.23:45.39
1952 Summer24HelsinkiAthleticsUnited StatesSemi-FinalsHeat Two4QU3:50.63:50.84
1952 Summer24HelsinkiAthleticsUnited StatesRound OneHeat Four2QU3:55.83:55.82

Men's 3,000 metres Steeplechase

Event History  · Glossary  · SHARE  · Embed  · CSV  · Export  · PRE  · LINK  · ?
1948 Summer20LondonAthleticsUnited StatesRound OneHeat One8

This is how John Barnes is remembered in Sport Reference along with his Olympics heat times.
Full name: John Baird Barnes
Gender: Male
Height: 6-0 (183 cm)
Weight: 159 lbs (72 kg)
Born: October 12, 1929 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
Died: August 25, 2004 (Aged 74.318) in Suffolk, Virginia, United States
Affiliations: Occidental Tigers, Los Angeles (USA)
Country: USA United States
Sport: Athletics


John Barnes ran for Occidental College and won the 800 at the 1951-52 NCAA Championships. He finished second in
 the 1952 Olympic Trials but failed to make the Olympic final. In 1952 he ran on a world-record setting 4×880 relay
team (with [Bill Ashenfelter], [Reggie Pearman], and [Mal Whitfield]) at the USA vs. British Empire meet in London.
 He later coached high school track & field from 1962 thru 1992, and also taught government at local colleges. He was
 a Civil War buff and collected antiques related to the Civil War.
Personal Bests: 440y – 48.1 (1951); 800 – 1:49.6 (1952); Mile – 4:19.0 (1950).


Glossary  · SHARE  · Embed  · CSV  · Export  · PRE  · LINK  · ?
1952 Summer22HelsinkiAthleticsMen's 800 metresUnited StatesUSA4 h2 r2/3

Men's 800 metres

Event History  · Glossary  · SHARE  · Embed  · CSV  · Export  · PRE  · LINK  · ?
1952 Summer22HelsinkiAthleticsUnited StatesSemi-FinalsHeat Two41:53.41:53.54
1952 Summer22HelsinkiAthleticsUnited StatesRound OneHeat Three2QU1:54.5
Finally,  a tribute from one of John Barnes' former athletes.  These testamonials probably mean more to
 a coach than tributes from sportwriters, blogs, and obituarial composers.

Yujin Yi former Glendale HS Athlete talks about Coach John Barnes

Thank you for posting the note about Coach Barnes.
I had the priviledge of being coached by him while I attending Glendale High School 4 years ago. I did not meet him 
until my sophomore year when he first came out to coach our team because he had retired from teaching before my
 freshman year. It's not every day you get to meet someone as thoughtful, funny, motivational and downright talented 
as Coach Barnes. I've never met anyone who had the kind of effect that Coach had on our team-- everyone looked 
up to him and admired him, and, in turn, he made us believe that we were each capable of greater things, both on 
and off the field. His extraordinary coaching lead our boys' team to beat Muir High School in 1999, ending their 
19-year dual meet winning streak. He never minded staying late after practice to give personal help to a team 
member, regardless of whether he was the school record holding senior captain or the new freshman with shin 
splints. He treated each member of the team as an important and vital part of the team. His coaching skills were,
 inarguably, the best. In a society where an ever-growing cleavage divides the generations and prevents them from 
communicating or understanding each other, Coach Barnes never had a problem connecting with us kids, over 
5 decades his junior. It was no wonder that he was the heart and soul of our team.

I will always remember Coach on the field, in his Civil War-era/ranch outfit (complete with boots), his cane and
 leashed dog in one hand and the "green horse spray stuff" in the other.
And although my own mediocre track career ended with my receiving my high school diploma, Coach Barnes 
remains, and will stay, one of the most motivational people in my life.

I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing, and even more sorry for all those who will never have the chance
 to meet one of the greatest athletes, teachers, coaches, and mentors.

We'll miss you, General Barnes.

I was a big fan of both these guys. My brother-in-law to be was a sprinter on the Oxy track team when McMillen and Barnes were there, and I went to all the Oxy meets. McMillen always started the season very slowly and then peaked at the right time. Barnes coached at College of Sequoias JC in 1959 when I was at nearby Porterville JC. I talked to him at length that season.

My mother, uncle and sister, and brother-in-law all graduated from Oxy. My dad was on the track team there in both 1928 and 1929. It was a great place to see dual and triangular meets. They beat Stanford, at Oxy, in dual a meet in 1952. McMillen and Barnes signed my program that night which I still have. Bob Mathias was on the Stanford team. Oxy was in conference with Pomona, Redlands, Whittier and Caltech. Oxy had lots of good track athletes in 1950’s and 1960’s. Bob Gutowski to name one.  


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