But the dealer almost didn't get to play. Martin McGrady doesn't run the 600, he owns it. Twenty-five races, 23 wins, the world record (1:09) and, until he beat Evans in the Millrose Games three weeks ago, the only way he could have got into the Times meet was as a spectator. Then five days before the race his coach, Brooks Johnson of the Sports International Track Club of Washington, D.C., called Los Angeles.
"Some dream race you got out there," said Johnson. "The best 600 runner in the world, the guy who's run it faster than anybody, and he isn't even invited. You've got to be kidding."
"Oops," said Will Kern, the meet director, reaching for an invitation, an envelope and an airmail stamp.
On the afternoon of the race McGrady sat in a hotel coffee shop, staring at a large orange juice. He thought of Doubell and he grimaced. "I really don't know anything about him, except he's supposed to be a great half-miler," he said, and smiled. "Personally, I think he's been built up to be more than he really is. That's all I've been hearing: Doubell this and Doubell that; about his great kick. Who's he ever kicked against?" Again the little smile. "Use your kick against one guy and everybody may say it's great. But use it against another guy—"
"Yeah, maybe. And then everybody will say, what kick? I just don't think Doubell is that good a runner. I think I can go up and crack his record in the half mile. What is it? Forty-eight? What's that? Shoot."
McGrady shifted his stare from the orange juice to his right knee, which he began to rub. Earlier that morning he had slipped in a puddle during a workout and fell. When he regained his feet he was totally wet and partly lame. Later a doctor told him he could run that night, but if it began to hurt to stop. "I aggravated a tendon," McGrady said. "Had the same thing two years ago. But I'm going to run. The doctor said it would probably kill me after the race, but I don't care about that."
He stood up. "You know, that Doubell is in for a surprise," he said. "I figure early in the race I'll be first and Lee will be second. That means he's got to go around two of us. And first he's got to go around Lee. Let's see him do that."
In his first two losses, Lee Evans had found himself running McGrady's race, a quick burst to the front and then trying to fight off any challengers. In L.A. he decided it would be different.
"This is only the second race this year I've really been psyched up for, I mean really psyched," he said. "It's because I got dusted a couple of times. Man, I'm not going to get my butt kicked on national television. Tonight I'm going to run my race."