It is common knowledge among track and field fans, coaches and athletes that all finish-line judges are blind. Particularly indoor finish-line judges. There may, of course, be extenuating circumstances, such as the fact that indoor track meets are held indoors (where the lighting isn't very good) or that the gentlemen in question, by the very nocturnal nature of their work, must stay up later (and therefore get less sleep) than their contemporaries who work outside in the daytime. Anyway, they're blind.
On the other hand, there are finish-line judges who have been known on occasion to express sincere doubts as to the qualifications of any fan, coach or athlete for membership in the 20-20 Club. So it has gone down through the years, the lines clearly drawn and the two factions coexisting in a state of snarling armistice.
And so it goes in 1957. In the shorter races like the sprints and hurdles (and indoors they can be very, very short indeed), a rhubarb arises almost every week with the chest frequently proving that it is quicker than the eye, and the eye refusing to admit it. At Boston on Jan. 19, Olympic Hurdles Champion Lee Calhoun pulled up after his race, turned to Olympic Decathlon Champion Milton Campbell and said: "Nice race, Milt. You won." The judges gave Calhoun the medal. Minutes earlier, Villanova's George Sydnor had shrugged the finish-line string from around his chest at the end of the 50-yard dash and jogged back to pick up his trophy. It wasn't there. The judges had awarded it to Pittsburgh's Herb Carper. Not everyone in the crowd agreed that this was entirely just, but a check of the record books five years from now will show that Carper won the 50-yard dash at the Knights of Columbus meet in Boston on the night of Jan. 19 and none of your lip.
Last Friday at the Philadelphia Inquirer Games the question of who won what came up again. As the picture on the right and the one on the next page (taken a fraction of a second later) show—or do they?—Ira Murchison, a world record-setting sprinter, beat Dave Sime, another world record-setting sprinter, at 50 yards. Sime, among others, wasn't at all convinced and emphatically stated his opinion to the officials. As Yogi Berra could have told him, it didn't change nuttin'. This time neither Carper nor Sydnor was involved, since the former wisely remained home to study for exams and the latter was eliminated in a semifinal heat—which his coach will go to his grave believing that Sydnor won. Oh, well.
February 4, 1957
As for the hurdles that night, Campbell beat Calhoun and Charley Pratt—or did he? The picture on page 31 might shed some light on the matter, but Campbell has the medal tucked away in his pocket and since he is very big (about 210 pounds) and can run very fast, the chance of anyone taking it away from him appears very small.
By a strange set of circumstances, the Washington Evening Star Games the next night failed to turn up a single rhubarb. For one thing Campbell merely looked up in astonishment when the starting gun went off, and, by the time he began to run, the rest of the hurdle field was about to disappear over the horizon. He did well to finish fourth behind Calhoun, who set a world record of 8.2 seconds for the seldom-run 70-yard distance, Elias Gilbert of Winston-Salem Teachers and Olympic Bronze Medalist Joel Shankle. Gilbert missed the best chance of the evening to set the whole thing off again when, leading Calhoun by some 3/16ths of an inch, he stubbed his toe going over the last hurdle.
Washington's unique series of dashes at 70, 80 and 100 yards became a complete flop when Murchison won all three in such a way that there was no chance for anyone to howl at all. A year ago, as an unknown Duke sophomore, Sime swept this series over such runners as Andy Stan-field and Rod Richard, and most of the crowd thought he would do the same again. The big redhead, they figured, despite his notoriously erratic start, would have more time to overpower the bullet-quick little Murchison at these longer distances. Perhaps he would have, but by late Saturday afternoon Sime was so ill from an upset stomach ("Virus, I guess," said his coach Bob Chambers) that it wasn't certain he could run at all. When Sime finally went to the blocks he was no match for Murchison.
The little Olympian beat him by a foot at 70 yards, by two feet at 80 and won the 100 in a breeze after Sime, jumping the gun twice, was disqualified by Starter Arthur Miles. Murchison's winning times were 7.1, 8.0 and 9.9 (last year Sime did 7.0, 8.0 and 9.5, the latter an indoor world record). Little Ira, just out of the Army and quite pleased with the results of his first trip over eastern tracks, packed up his several pounds of silver and headed back to college days at Western Michigan. "This indoor track," he grinned, "is a lot of fun. I'll be back."
As the indoor season swings into the big month of February, however, the oft-disputed dashes and hurdles will take up only a small part of the picture. For if the first two big weekends were full of good, exciting races at the longer distances, the next few promise to be quite a bit better.
Charlie Jenkins, the young Olympic 400-meter champion, passed up the Washington meet, along with the rest of his Villanova teammates, to remain at home and study for exams, but only after winning the 600 at both Boston and Philadelphia virtually unopposed. Soon, however, bridegroom Lou Jones will be back on the circuit, and Olympic 800-meter Champ Tom Courtney will take a crack at this shorter race. It is then that bystanders will find out if Jenkins is really the finest indoor runner at this distance since the big days of Mai Whitfield. The chances are they will find out that he is.
And there is always the Courtney-Arnold Sowell duel at 1,000 yards. Courtney won the 1,000 at Washington in a breeze, proving that he is without a peer at the distance—as long as Sowell isn't around. The big Olympic champion, winner over lithe little Arnie five straight times outdoors, lost to his old indoor nemesis at both Boston and Philadelphia. In the Inquirer meet, Tom opened up with a tremendous early bid to steal the race, leading by as much as 10 yards at the end of three laps. But Sowell refused to panic, merely stretched his flowing stride out another magical notch, sailed around Courtney with a lap and a half still to go and won by about four yards in the meet record time of 2:09.5. "Weren't you worried, Arnie?" someone asked. "No," grinned Sowell. "When I turned it on, he came back to me pretty fast." The next night, resting a weakened ankle which seems to function properly on the banked boards but gives him trouble on a flat surface such as the Washington National Guard Armory, Sowell turned the 1,000 over to Courtney, who coasted home in 2:13.6.
Which brings one down to the distance races, the famous mile and two-mile cup events which highlight the indoor season. Or which sometimes do. This year, despite the wonderful anticipation of seeing such as Ron Delany and Laszlo Tabori and Fred Dwyer and Horace Ashenfelter hook up in one combination or another each week, fans so far enjoyed only a little bit of each (and nothing at all of Olympic 1,500-meter Champ Delany, who won't get to run until the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 9 after shaking off a siege of virus himself).
The big show at Boston was furnished by Dwyer, the little 4:00.8 outdoor miler who may very well become America's first home-grown sub-four-minute man, once he begins to stretch himself outdoors this spring. At Boston he ran two miles, however, and beat both Ashenfelter and Tabori. Meanwhile, Phil Coleman, an Olympic steeplechaser, was winning a rather exciting mile from a rather unexciting field in 4:10.8.
Delany came in to watch the Philadelphia meet and see a fellow member of the four-minute club, Tabori, make his indoor mile debut. As it turned out, he wouldn't have missed much if he had stayed home. Tabori got fouled up on his schedule (the Inquirer officials forgot to announce in Hungarian exactly when the mile would start), ate too late and wound up running with a tummy ache. He finished third behind Georgie King, the ex-NYU star who now teaches school in Boston, and Coleman, who caught him right at the tape. King's winning time was 4:10.1. "Ugh," said Tabori when someone asked him how he felt, which proved that he is learning to speak a little English, anyway. He may soon be able to order—and digest—his prerace meals before the gun goes off.
Dwyer, with blisters on his feet, watched from the sidelines as old pro Ashenfelter outfoxed Polish Refugee John Macy to win the two mile event. Horace refused to be drawn out by the University of Houston freshman's blistering early pace—he once trailed by almost 50 yards—and won going away when Macy developed a stitch in his side with four laps still to go. Dwyer had run 8:52.4 at Boston; Ashenfelter did 9:01.8 on Friday.
At Washington, for the third straight meet both the mile and two-mile medals went to previously uncrowned runners. The mile was won by Bobby Seaman of UCLA, who twice has done 4:01.4 in losing races outdoors but had never really competed indoors until last weekend. At Philadelphia, where he finished a fast-closing fifth, Seaman said, "Gee, these curves are tight. It seems like you're just going around in a circle all the time." But on Washington's bigger track (eight laps to the mile compared to 12 at Philadelphia's Convention Hall), Seaman evidently felt right at home and outkicked King in a slow 4:16.5. "I'm almost ashamed of the time," he said, "but at least I won. I guess that's the main idea."
Macy, who doesn't speak much English, either, but probably wouldn't have had to know any at all to get the point of Houston Coach Johnny Morriss' comments after his tactical miscue on Friday, ran in a way to make his coach proud the next night in Washington. He lurked around behind Ashenfelter and Tabori (Dwyer was still resting his feet) for nearly a mile, then zoomed into a lead which he never lost. Tabori dropped out without warning on the 11th lap ("A hasam nem, birta," he puffed), and the FBI's Ashenfelter, who may have looked a little like a member of the NKVD to the fleeing Pole, was 25 yards behind at the finish. The time of 9:02.6 not only broke Ashenfelter's meet record but also was the fastest time ever run for the distance by a college freshman—even a 26-year-old freshman like Macy.
"Where did you find him, Johnny?" someone asked the Houston coach.
"I've got friends," said Morriss.
"Will you be back?" a writer asked. "Are you going to run in the Garden?"
Macy shook his head. "I too hot," he said. "I no like indoors."
Morriss grinned. "We'll be there," he said.
So, sooner or later, they'll all be there. Maybe not this weekend at the Boston AA meet, since Tabori will take a week off to rest up his stomach and feet, and Delany does not yet consider himself back in top condition. But Dwyer will be ready to go again, racing Ashenfelter at two miles, and Seaman will meet King and Coleman at a mile. And the next weekend, Delany and Tabori will meet in the Millrose Games' famed Wanamaker Mile, and even Freddie Dwyer, who said earlier in the year that he was only going to run the longer distance indoors, is beginning to think about that mile race, too. "I'd kind of like to get in it," he said a little wistfully last week. Meet directors will undoubtedly be only too happy to oblige.
And that's about it. Oh, yes. At Washington, the Rev. Bob Richards won the pole vault. It was the 104th time he had been over 15 feet.