Earl was right about his timing. He started slowly in the trial heat and again in the final, went too high over one hurdle and hit another—and still won both times. "Oh, you Pearl!" O.J. cried. McCullouch answered, "Now it's your turn. I'm going to find a good seat so I can crack up watching you."
As the field for the dash was introduced, Hines and Greene got respectful applause but Simpson got the loudest ovation of the night. O.J. kicked at the starting blocks, looking almost sheepish, as the crowd roared. "See you at the finish line." a friend told him.
"You might see me," he said, "if you wait long enough."
The race began with the color and comedy that have marked so many of Greene's performances. Hines jumped the gun, and walked back as Greene gave him a haughty look, eyebrows raised and mouth twisted in a knowing grin. On the second start Gaines jumped; Charlie gave him the same treatment.
The third start was good, but six seconds later all the fun and entertainment and excitement were lost in a sickening pileup of bodies. Greene and Gaines hit the tape together and then suddenly crashed together to the floor of the narrow passage under the stands beyond the finish line. Pender and Hines fell over them, and Kirk Clayton, in the inside lane, was jolted against the wall and knocked unconscious.
"The restraining rope that is supposed to slow us down was too low," Greene said. "I tried to hurdle it, but I tripped over it." Gaines thought the rope had been jerked up as he reached it. "I saw it coming up at me suddenly," he said. "I threw my hand up, but it hit my chest and knocked me off balance."
Clayton lay unconscious on the floor. Gaines opened his eyes to see blood dripping from his forehead. His wife Donna, who is 18 and due to have a baby any day, ran from her seat to help him. She stood next to the house doctor, wringing a handkerchief in her hands, wiping Bill's forehead and then her own tears. Clayton, suffering from a concussion, was taken to a hospital. Gaines sat on the floor, shaking his head to clear his mind and telling Donna not to worry. Greene came to the edge of the group and stuck an outstretched hand toward Gaines. "You won it, baby."
"I did?" said Gaines. "Then I guess I'll be O.K."
Moments later Greene wasn't so sure that Gaines had won it. The finish judges had used no phototimer and had taken an unofficial snapshot of the finish that was blurred. To make things worse, they announced Gaines's time as six seconds flat and Greene's as 6.2. Since they had finished almost even, the .2 difference made the official result suspect—and Charlie exploded.
"I ended last season with a beef about Hines beating me at the AAU meet," he said. "Don't tell me I have to start this year with another beef." But he went on protesting and received a small consolation when his second-place time was corrected to six seconds flat. It wasn't enough for Charlie, who is such an intense competitor that he simply refuses to accept defeat, especially defeat based on a close judgment call. "This is really groovy," he said sarcastically. "It looks like I'm in for another long, long year."