Bobby Joe Morrow, the San Benito, Texas and Abilene Christian College legend who led the American sprinters to incredible success at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, passed away yesterday of natural causes at the age of 84. He was a triple gold medal winner in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and anchored the 4x100 meters relay. He was a quiet personality who merited the praise and adulation that he received after his brilliant Olympics. He also learned that fame is fast fleeting when in 1960 he was expecting to be the fifth man among the American sprinters, a stable influence, who would lend his experience to and inexperienced crew. He was told to report to the L.A. airport to accompany the American team to Rome, and when he showed up there with his bags packed, he was told at the airport that he was being left behind, while dozens of 'officials' who would be doing little more than attending banquets in Rome were more important than he was. It left a bad taste in his mouth that he would carry the rest of his life. The sprint crew at Rome would perform poorly. Some even say they partied themselves out of medals after arriving in Europe, attending a few meets on their was to Rome, and carousing on a train taking them on the final leg of the journey. Dave Sime (Duke University) and Les Carney (Ohio University) would retain some of the honor with their silver medals in the 100 meters and 200 meters. Armin Hary, the German 'thief of starts' took the 100 home, and Livio Berutti, the hometown favorite prevailed in the 200. The U.S. relay won the 4x100 but were DQ'd for passing out of the zone.
|Taking the hand off from Thane Baker|
note the screwed hand off of the Germans
William Martin in his story 'The Nicest Christian Boy in the World' published in Texas Quarterly, in 1984 describes in Bobby's own words that shunning by the Olympic officials in 1960.
“I really got screwed on that deal. After the trials, when I came in fourth in the two hundred, they talked me into going out and training with the Olympic team. They said if I’d train with them and show improvement, they’d take me to the games. So I left my job in Abilene and stayed in California for about six weeks. My leg was healing, and I was beating the ones who had made the team, so the coaches and officials had a meeting; they were supposed to leave for the Olympics the next morning. I called and they said, ‘We haven’t made a decision yet. Come to the plane in the morning and we’ll tell you then.’ So I got out to the airport, and they said, ‘Nope, you’re not going.’ Later, I found out it was the eastern coaches who didn’t want me to go, because of the athletes from the eastern schools. As it wound up, they really screwed up the Olympics. Ray Norton came in last in the hundred. Same way in the two hundred, and they were disqualified in the four-hundred-meter relay.”
Fastest Nice Christian Boy in the World by William Martin
Martin who claims to be a close friend of Morrow, gives a very revealing insight into Bobby Morrow's life and character in this article.
The following segment of The Fastest Men on Earth covers Bobby Morrow's career and is well worth watching. Reading the article and watching the film you will see some contrasting interpretations of Morrow's being left at the L.A. airport. Bobby blames some 'eastern coaches', but the film blames Avery Brundage because of a speech Morrow gave after Melbourne that there were too many officials on the trip to Aussieland. Brundage got back at him in 1960. Who knows the real story? That 's the blurred line between fact, fiction, and imagination.
Bobby Morrow from The Fastest Men on Earth
Thanks to Walt Murphy for finding these two links.
I'm adding a number of rarely seen photos of Bobby Morrow that I acquired a few years ago from the Dayton Daily News archives held at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
|Bobby with his twins|
|In the Lab|
Enjoyed the article on Bobby Morrow. I hate that he was treated that way. He was one of my heros as a young high school sprinter. Frank Deramus
FYI Frank was a 9.5 sprinter at Oklahoma in the mid 60s.