Dillard, who had taken up hurdling originally because he wasn't quite as fast in sprints, now says, "T knew that I had beaten those other hurdlers on any number of occasions. Yet there I was, not running my pet event in the Olympic Games. It was awful, but the wound was sort of salved by the fact that I had made the team the day before in the 100. I was at least going to London."
It had seemed incidental. Dean Cromwell, the U.S. coach, had asked Finnigan to enter Dillard in the 100-meter trial, figuring he might place fourth and be eligible to fill out the 400-meter relay team. Dillard finished third, earning a shot at a medal in the 100 as well, but he was certainly not the "world's fastest human," especially alongside world-record holder Mel Patton, Barney Ewell or Lloyd LaBeach of Panama.
What had seemed incidental became all-important. "I envisioned that race and winning it," recalls a still-slim and limber Dillard, who is business manager for Cleveland's board of education. "I was rooming with Ewell, and I told him I was going to beat him. He laughed."
Ewell, who now lives in Lancaster, Pa., recently recalled the 1948 Olympic 100: "Bones got a start the way Ben Johnson does. Fantastic. He was way ahead of us until 70 meters." Then, as Dillard described it: "T lunged forward at the finish and felt the tape strike my chest. Far to the left I see another white jersey do the same. Ewell."
For Dillard followers it was a somber moment, punctuated by Ewell jumping about in joy. Ewell thought he had won, and he convinced the Wembley Stadium crowd that he had, and possibly the judges, too, until they inspected the photo-finish picture. After about five tense minutes came the announcement of the winner: "No. 69...Dillard... United States of America." He had kept that rash after-dinner promise in a wholly improbable manner.
Now, as Dillard stepped up to receive his medal, it was Eddie Finnigan's time to jump and shout. He had kept his 1941 promise about the new kid in town.