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  • '48 OTs revisited

    My dad sent me this today -- his words.

    There is no bigger sports event than the Olympic Games and that has been the case ever since the Games of the Modern Era started up again in 1896. But, in 1948, the Olympics were coming off a 12-year pause. They held the 1936 Games in Berlin but the Olympics of 1940 and 1944 were canceled due to World War II. So everyone was excited about the 1948 Games in London. Adding to that was that the 1948 Olympic Trials for Track & Field were to be held right there in Evanston, at Northwestern's Dyche Stadium, with the top three in each event making the team.

    I basically went to see the great Mel Patton run in the 100 meter dash, as 'Pell Mel,' the World's Fastest Human, had just lowered the World Record in the 100-yard dash to 9.3 seconds. My father, an Evanston Police Officer, was on duty for those 2-day Trials and saw to it that I was able to see everything. I didn't expect such drama and emotion. Patton was edged in the 100 by Barney Ewell, in a photo finish. But he was qualified and would go on to win two golds. Harrison Dillard, WR holder in the high hurdles, tripped on a hurdle and was out. A huge shock.

    On the second day, I went under the stands to the men's room. When I came out, there was an athlete, bent over, crying his heart out. I have never seen anyone sob like that. I was transfixed and could not move, watching him. After a long time, he straightened up and I saw the team name on his jersey: ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND. I asked someone why he was crying so hard. The answer: "Son, he just missed the boat for London." That was the first time I really understood that sports were often bigger than life itself, a lesson that stayed with me.

    After that, as I watched the rest of the finals, I felt awful for those that did not qualify for the Olympic Games in London. I also came away with a great respect for the abilities of the athletes and how much they put into their events. To this day, I have never seen so many world-class athletes in one place at the same time. I knew I was seeing the very best. I studied them as closely as a 12-year old can do that. I remember every event like it was yesterday. And, of course, I'll never forget ... Aberdeen Proving Ground. His broken heart became my broken heart.
    Last edited by BillVol; 07-10-2015, 05:32 AM.

  • #2
    Great stuff, billyv, thank you !

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    • #3
      A very nice anecdote.

      I'm sure it was not meant to be a trivia question, but somehow I have a feeling that dj or rhymans could tell us who the disheartened Aberdeen Proving Ground athlete was!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by wamego relays champ View Post
        A very nice anecdote.

        I'm sure it was not meant to be a trivia question, but somehow I have a feeling that dj or rhymans could tell us who the disheartened Aberdeen Proving Ground athlete was!
        Not a clue, and neither the Washington Post (Aberdeen is in Md.) nor the Chicago Tribune (Oly Trials were in Evanston, Il.), were any help.

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        • #5
          Just sent an email to my dad asking. My dad loves to write and sends out these "blogs" as he calls them to his friends and family. Most are pretty good.

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          • #6
            The Aberdeen Proving Ground is a US Army facility, so I did a quick search of the rhymans OT history book for a competitor at Evanston whose affiliation is listed as "Army").

            The only name that came up was John Hammock, who placed 4th in his heat in the 400m, while only the top 3 qualified for the final.

            This would seem to qualify as a good guess for the mystery disheartened athlete, except that the heats were on Day 1, and according to the story posted this incident occurred on Day 2.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by wamego relays champ View Post
              The Aberdeen Proving Ground is a US Army facility, so I did a quick search of the rhymans OT history book for a competitor at Evanston whose affiliation is listed as "Army").

              The only name that came up was John Hammock, who placed 4th in his heat in the 400m, while only the top 3 qualified for the final.

              This would seem to qualify as a good guess for the mystery disheartened athlete, except that the heats were on Day 1, and according to the story posted this incident occurred on Day 2.
              Army in this case is the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and it's unlikely that Jack Hammack (note correct spelling) was working at Aberdeen as he still had one more year at the Academy. One athlete I've found mentioned who did work at Aberdeen in 1948 was Kurt Steiner, a leading U.S. distance runner at the time, but who did not run at the Olympic Trials in Evanston.
              Last edited by dj; 07-10-2015, 08:59 PM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by dj View Post
                Jack Hammack (note correct spelling).
                rhymans had it correctly; it was my typing error.

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                • #9
                  Nothing in 1948 US Olympic Book to give much of a clue - that has pretty complete results for the 48 USOT

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                  • #10
                    My guess is that it was Tarver Perkins, who placed 4th in the 800 with the same time as 3rd placer Bob Chambers, but there are other possibilities. Gerald Karver of Penn State missed the time by 0.05 seconds in the 1500, and George Walker of Illinois was only 1/100th off 3rd place in the 400h - but George was Afro-American, and Bill Vol made no mention of this in his post, which I think narrows it down to Perkins or Karver

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dj View Post
                      One athlete I've found mentioned who did work at Aberdeen in 1948 was Kurt Steiner, a leading U.S. distance runner at the time, but who did not run at the Olympic Trials in Evanston.
                      According to this Kurt Steiner did run the 5000 in Evanston, failing to finish. (Incidentally, there's a picture on the following page of an unnamed not very happy runner; don't ask me if Steiner's the one in it, but there are similarities.)
                      Last edited by LopenUupunut; 07-12-2015, 08:39 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Forget the Trials! Just reading all the commercials in that edition of Life makeit worth the time to scroll. How embarrassing is the inside back cover?

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                        • #13
                          My favorite inappropriate ad is for Springmaid sheets. See here: http://www.textilehistory.org/images/buckwellspent.jpg

                          My running buddy in North Carolina described it, because it was used for a race t-shirt for the Springmaid half marathon. They tended to use old ads for their race t-shirts. I thought he was kidding, until he dug it out and showed up for a run in it. I was astounded. Although, I confess that I find it pretty funny.

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                          • #14
                            Lopen, great find. Thanks! Thanks, also, rhymans.

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                            • #15
                              Agree with gh, that Life Magazine is a kick.

                              One interesting thing that caught my eye was in the cover story about Fun on the Beach, where the photo on page 67 shows one Miss Norma Baker being tossed in a blanket. (Miss Baker had changed her name to Marilyn Monroe in 1946, but I guess since she had not yet landed any significant movie work they still listed her by her modeling agency name some two years later).

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