SI Vault
 
FOUR GARDEN DUELS
Coles Phinizy
February 18, 1957
Champions and challengers broke records, but the 1957 Millrose Games will be best remembered for FOUR GARDEN DUELS
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
February 18, 1957

Four Garden Duels

Champions and challengers broke records, but the 1957 Millrose Games will be best remembered for FOUR GARDEN DUELS

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

In midwinter, two weeks before the national championships, before all the great performers have hit a peak, the indoor track season comes to a climax at the Millrose Games. The climax is more emotional than rational. Perhaps there is no more reason for it than that the Millrose has been running as a good show now for 50 years. From the first gun crack, sending a helter-skelter relay of moppets around the track, until the last, forlorn thud of a high jumper on the landing mat, many great performers—indeed Olympians—may be lost in the colorful swirl of lesser men. The first moppet off a mark at this year's Millrose was Ernest Cardone, age 13, of The Bronx, who may never know such fame again unless he improves progressively with age. The final thud was made by High Jumper Charlie Stead, an utterly relaxed Villanova sophomore, who just switched from the quarter mile this year and barely missed clearing 6 feet 8� inches after tying Olympian Phil Reavis for first at 6 feet 8.

In the four hours between young Cardone's debut and unknown Charlie Stead's final thud some grand champions came through and some stayed lost in the swirl. A week before the Millrose, several records were in prospect because some men found courage to say they felt fit enough for such a try. Feeling fit after beating Olympic 400-meter Champion Charlie Jenkins and tying the 600-yard record in Boston the week before, Olympic 800-meter Champion Tom Courtney declared that he was out to beat both the indoor half-mile record and Arnold Sowell. "Last week I was full of running and tied the 600 record," Courtney contemplated. "So, logically, I should run the 600 again, but I want the chance to beat Sowell."

With Courtney after Sowell the half mile promised to be the duel of the Millrose, and any man could argue either that Courtney would or that he would not beat Sowell. The psychological edge lay perhaps with Sowell, who somehow was not seized by the sense of drama of a duel and quite frankly was training through the Mill-rose meet, aiming for a good showing in the national 1,000-yard run two weeks later. "While it may not be nice to say to meet directors who invite you," Sowell observed on Millrose eve, "I'm not ready to run my best yet. To be truthful, I'm a little tired of all the talk about a rivalry. Sometimes it can help you win, but it can also beat you. Courtney's not the one to take the lead, but if the pace is slow I'll have to. If I'm out front and thinking too much about Tom behind me, I'll be running his race, not mine. Tonight," Sowell concluded, "I'll see a shoot-'em-up movie, sleep late, read in the afternoon, and in the race, if the pace is slow, I'll take it."

On the big Millrose night, with three laps to go, Arnie Sowell found the pace slow, and swept into a three-yard lead past Courtney and veteran Harry Bright, who had started the race rolling. Courtney, catching a shinful of spikes in the jockeying, took out after Sowell, but could only pull up a yard at the tape as Sowell went across first with a new world indoor record of 1:50.3.

FORCED OUT

Another who was hoping for a record was the miler Fred Dwyer. Twice a winner of two-mile events earlier this year, he decided on the two-mile again at the Millrose. Dwyer's hopes for a good two-mile time were dashed by gut rumblings which forced him out of the race on the 14th lap, leaving the race and record with the traditional owner, 34-year-old Horace Ashenfelter.

Other records fell elsewhere, among men who had less hope for them. Ira Murchison was caught by the newfangled Cinetimer (SI, Feb. 11) equaling the 60-yard-dash record in the Mill-rose semifinals. After sniffling with a head cold early in the week) Olympic Decathlon Champion Milt Campbell took his semifinal of the Millrose 60-yard hurdles, and with amazement heard the officials announce a new world record of seven seconds flat. "I don't feel that good," Campbell protested, then in the finals took a sliver-thin lead over Olympic High Hurdle Champion Lee Calhoun and held it to the tape, again in a record seven seconds flat. "I still don't feel that good," Campbell insisted.

The 16,000 who pack the Millrose meetings at the Garden are always record-hungry. Still in the shadow of the Olympics, it would seem the crowd might be too jaded for anything except record breaking. It is a wholesome note that this Millrose audience was appreciative of performances in general and not obsessed with the entries in the record book.

The record breakers were properly applauded, but the crowd's biggest whoops went to two vaulters, Richards and Gutowski, who came close but missed. The pole-vaulting fields at the meets this winter have been the toughest ever. Snatching a few hours of weight lifting and jogging in the Norfolk YMCA in the past week while touring the East, the Rev. Bob Richards made the last plane to New York in time to meet the strongest field of pretenders ever lined up to try and knock the Millrose crown from his head. Fifteen-footer Jerry Welbourn is back in action this year, and Don Bragg is back, his form cleaner and the leg injury that knocked him out of the Olympics now mended well enough to let him get over 15 feet three times already this year. Olympic runner-up Bob Gutowski of Occidental, east for his first indoor vaulting season, had taken to the board runways well, sneaking up 3 inches a meet until he cleared 15 feet in the Boston AA Games. "I have discovered, when you get used to it," Gutowski said, "you can get quite a drive off the boards. There is no wind and nothing can tear up the runway. I started in carefully, feeling my way, and I've been stalling out at the top. In the Millrose I'm going to slam the pole in harder and drive with my leg straight up the pole. I'm going with everything I've got. I don't know who'll get there first," Gutowski speculated. "Maybe Richards, maybe Bragg. Maybe I'll do it. Sixteen feet is getting closer."

In the Millrose, Bragg put three bad vaults together and went out at 14 feet 4. At 15 feet Richards and Gutowski both cleared on their last try. At 15 feet 3 both cleared on their first vault. At 15 feet 6 Richards made one of the best jumps of his long vaulting life, clearing with what looked like 4 inches to spare. The crowd was still rustling about it when Gutowski came down the runway and went over 15 feet 6 with absolutely nothing to spare. On his second try at 15 feet 9 Richards seemed well on the way to the impossible, buoyed up by a great roar from the crowd. The roar turned into what is probably a record groan for the Garden. Richards' snap off the pole wasn't smart enough to take him clear. On his second try at 15 feet 9, Gutowski sneaked over again with nothing to spare but came down on the crossbar. None of the challengers has yet found a way to knock the vaulting crown off Richards' head, but some night someone may well chase him over Cornelius Warmerdam's 14-year-old record of 15 feet 8� inches.

Continue Story
1 2