Tuesday, December 26, 2017

V7 N. 87 Olympian Mal Spence Jamaica and Arizona State R.I.P.

Boca Raton Olympian Malcolm Spence dies at 81

Long before he settled in or retired to , Jamaican-born Olympic sprinter Malcolm Spence II won a bronze medal competing for the Caribbean nation in the 1960 games in Rome.
Spence, who competed in three Olympic Games, died Oct. 30. He was 81.
“He was an outstanding athlete in Jamaica,” Spence’s son and namesake, Malcolm Spence III, 49, of , said. “He was one of the first ones recruited to come over to this country to participate in athletics.”
It was the 1950s and the American Civil Rights Movement was in its infancy when Spence and his twin brother, Melville, were recruited to attend Arizona State University to train and compete under legendary head coach Baldy Castillo. A speedy sprinter, Spence specialized in the 440-yard dash — once around a track — and won multiple titles and honors while attending the school.
“Coming over here young in the ’50s was rough,” Spence III said. “It was a rough time … for African Americans who lived here, let alone for those who came from another country.”
Spence shared stories, his son said, of going out to eat with his teammates and, because of segregation, he had to eat in a separate section of the restaurants they patronized.
His first time as an Olympian, Spence, known as “Mal,” competed in the 1956 games in Melbourne, Australia. He won his bronze medal four years later running in the 4×400-meter relay in Rome. Spence also participated in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. He attended the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta as a torchbearer.
Born and raised in Kingston, Spence majored in botany at Arizona State and worked as a health inspector for the state of Florida until his retirement in 2002. In 1982, he settled in Lauderdale Lakes, where he coached track and field for the city’s recreational league.
“He was a true father figure and mentor,” Spence III, assistant principal at Blanche Ely High in Pompano Beach, said. “He just had that calming personality where you could talk to him, and he had so much wisdom.”
In retirement, Spence indulged his green thumb, tending plants in a nursery on a daughter’s property in and working as a landscaper at Aztec RV Resort in .
“He was a plant lover,” Spence III said. “He loved to see them grow. Orchids were his favorite. He would buy ’em and split ’em and grow ’em and sell them. He liked to keep busy.”


Dear George:
Is his twin brother Mel Still alive?

I had the honor of running against Mal in a Mile Relay qualifying heat at the Drake Relays in 1960.
We agreed to tie but, as we came to the finish, I mistakenly thought that Mal had inched ahead, so I leaned
into  the tape.  Boy did I get boo's from the crowd! -  
I apologized to Mal. He just said, "Don't worry it's just a qualifying heat!".
Not unexpectedly, Arizona State cleaned up with us in the Final of the Mile Relay!

440 reasons to write back!

John Bork

Twin bro, Mel died in 2012.  You probably ran against him too.

Mel Spence
Full name: Melville Emanuel Alfonso "Mel" Spence
Gender: Male
Height: 5-9.5 (177 cm)
Weight: 157 lbs (71 kg)
Born: January 2, 1936 in Kingston, Kingston, Jamaica
Died: October 28, 2012 (Aged 76.300) in, Florida, United States

Related Olympians: Twin brother of Mal Spence.

Now I am sure you are probably aware that in that same time period there was a second Mal Spence , quarter miler from South Africa who ran in the 45s.  He finished 4th at Rome in the 400. (See results below).  
He died in 2010.   

Mal Spence of Jamaica/Br.West Indies did not run in Rome.    The British West Indies Federation which included Jamaica in the 1960 Olympics placed third in the 4x400 behind US and Germany.  I think George Kerr U of Ill. and Keith Gardner Nebraska and Mel Spence were on that team.  Their fourth runner was  Jim Wedderman.

(From a friend who prefers anonimity)
Knew both Mal and Mel but always had a hard time identifying which was which.  So I asked Mel one time at a meet how to tell them apart.   He said I wear a ring and this is how you tell it is me, but sometimes Mal wears the ring.   I left completely puzzled.

There is another legend which I don't know if it is true:   on a dark evening meet the final 4 x 440 relay was set to go.   Mal went into the anchor leg with a slight lead but coming out of the back stretch the lead was much bigger, almost unbelievable.   The story goes that with a 220 to go and hidden behind the stands, Mal handed the baton off to Mel who blazed ahead and "won" by a huge margin.    Probably a world record time but someone tipped the officials off and the team was DQed.   True?   I have no idea but it makes a great story.

Wonderful men from my era.

To my anonymous friend:
Didn't Bowerman do something like that on a two mile relay with a couple of brothers?

I think they switched off behind the stands that were inside the first turn on the track.

(From Anonymous Friend)
Never heard that one but knowing Bill who was a real prankster it certainly sounds like it could be true.
Yes, I doubt it was with criminal intent.

Mal and I had some great races over the years. Many times in the States and in Rome and the Pan Am in 1963. 
Sorry to hear he has passed.

My Best,



A contemporary of mine.  Watched him and his brother Mel in the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958.  The strange thing was that there was also a 440yd runner from S. Africa whose name was Mal Spence and the final was won by a man with the same initials as all three of them Milkha Singh-a very impressive runner .  Hope you have a great New Year.  Regards.  Geoff 

Here are some of those results:

Rome 1960  400 Meters  (automatic times)

1. Otis Davis (USA)              45.07 WR
2. Karl Kaufmann (GER)      45.08
3. Mal Spence (SA)              45:60
4. Milka Singh (IND)             45.73
5. Manfred Kinder (GER)      46.04
6. Earl Young (USA)              46.07

4x400  Rome 1960

1. USA            3:02.37 WR
2. GER           3:02.84
3. BWI            3:04.13
4. South AF    3:05.18
5. GBR           3:08.47
6. SUI             3:09.55

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