New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Track and field

Harry Hillman

Harry Hillman (Track and field.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Sept. 8, 1881; died, Hanover, NH, Aug. 9, 1945.)  Starting in 1899 with the Knickerbocker A.C., Harry Livingston Hillman, Jr., was primarily a hurdler.  Hillman, a bank teller by trade, joined the New York A.C. in 1902, two years before he won three Olympic golds.  Hillman was a member of the U.S. teams in 1904, 1906, and 1908 in Olympic competitions but won all his golds in St. Louis during the 1904 Games.  That year, he set an Olympic record (24.6 seconds) in the 200-meter hurdles (an event since discontinued), won the 400-meter hurdles, and the 400 meters, where he set another Olympic record (49.2).  When a special 10th-anniversary edition of the Olympics was held in Athens in 1906, the U.S. entered its first official team.  Hillman finished fourth in the 400.  Neither hurdles event he won in St. Louis was contested.  He finished second in a thrilling battle with teammate Charley Bacon in the 400-meter hurdles in 1908 in London, after which he turned to coaching.  He coached the Dartmouth track team from 1910 (except for service during World War I) until 1945.  Hillman also coached U.S. Olympic squads in 1920 and 1924.

Jimmy Herbert

Jimmy Herbert (Track and field.  Born, New York, NY, July 20, 1915; died, The Bronx, NY, Oct. 23, 1997.)  A middle-distance runner of note, James Bruineo Herbert ran for the Curb Exchange A.A. (1934-37), N.Y.U. (1938-42), and the Grand Street Boys (1943-47).  Herbert is believed to have won more races at Madison Square Garden than any other runner.  He ran at 500 yards and 600 yards (and metric equivalents), and had a 17-race winning streak.  Herbert won the Buermeyer 500 (N.Y.A.C. Games) in 1938 and 1940 and tied the record for five victories in the Millrose 600 (1937-38, ’40, ’42, ’45).  Herbert won twice for N.Y.U. in the I.C.4A. games and was a three-time winner in the featured Casey 600 at the K. of C. Games (1938, ’40, ’44), setting then-world records for the event in both 1938 and 1940.  His last meet was the K. of C. in 1947.  Similar to many American athletes of his generation, Herbert likely would have achieved greater fame had the Olympics been held in either 1940 or 1944.

Bob Hayes

Bob Hayes (Track.  Born, Jacksonville, FL, Dec. 20, 1942; died, Jacksonville, FL, Sept. 18, 2002.)  A two-sport athlete at Florida A&M, Robert Lee Hayes became a famous athlete in 1963 and 1964.  Hayes set a world record (9.1 seconds) in the 100-yard dash outdoors in 1963.  He was the sensation of the 1964 New York indoor season.  Starting with a win in the 60-yard dash at the Millrose Games and finishing with a world indoor record 5.9 seconds at the National A.A.U. championship in the Garden Feb. 22, 1964.  Hayes won two golds at the Tokyo Olympic Games, tying the world record for 100 meters (10.0) and achoring a 400-meter relay with an incredible 8.6 split on the final leg.  He then signed with the N.F.L. Dallas Cowboys, where he was a wide receiver for 10 seasons (1964-73).

Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens (Track and field.  Born, Danville, AL, Sept. 12, 1913; died, Tucson, AZ, Mar. 31, 1980.)  James Cleveland Owens, a spectacular high school athlete in Ohio and then an even more spectacular performer at Ohio State, achieved sports immortality in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.  He also provided outstanding performances for New York audiences before he performed his miraculous feats in the Olympics.  In 1935, he won the Millrose Games 60-yard dash in Madison Square Garden.  The 1936 Olympic trials were held at the new Randalls Island Stadium in New York and Owens put on his usual outstanding show, qualifying for the events that were to carry him to Olympic glory.  Owens won four gold medals (100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter relay and the broad jump).  Owens’ performance supposedly so annoyed Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler that the Fuhrer stormed out of the Olympic Stadium, refusing to participate in the medal-presentation ceremony to Owens. A 1960 national poll named Jesse Owens the “Champion of the Century.”

Matt McGrath

Matt McGrath (Track and field. Born, Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland, Dec. 20, 1876; died, New York, NY, Jan. 29, 1941.) Another of the so-called “Irish Whales” of the New York Police Department and the U.S. Olympic team, Matthew J. McGrath was a world record-holder in the hammer throw. McGrath won the silver medal at the 1908 London Games in his specialty, but was well short of his then-world record of 175 feet. At the 1912 Games, however, he demolished the field, setting an Olympic record (179’7”) that stood until 1936. McGrath’s shortest throw was longer than any toss by any other contestant. He had upped the world record to 187’4” the year before. Deprived by World War I of another shot at the gold, McGrath settled for fifth in 1920 at age 43. He represented the Irish-American A.C.

Babe McDonald

Babe McDonald (Track and field. Born, County Clare, Ireland, July 29, 1878; died, New York, NY, May 16, 1954.) A New York police officer who became a star weightman for the New York Athletic Club and U.S. Olympic teams, Patrick J. McDonald was the U.S. shot put champion for 22 years (1911-33). McDonald won Olympic gold in 1912 (shot put) and 1920 (56-pound weight throw), and also a silver in the two-hand shot put event that was conducted only in 1912. At 6’4”, 250 pounds, he was a significant presence in Times Square, where he was on traffic patrol from 1905-20.

Al Oerter

Al Oerter  (Track and field.  Born, New York, NY, Sept. 19, 1936; died, Fort Myers, FL, Oct. 1, 2007.)  Alfred Adolf Oerter, Jr., earned his permanent place in the annals of American sports heroes by becoming the only man ever to win an Olympic gold medal in his specialty in four successive Olympics.  Oerter turned this amazing trick by winning the discus gold in 1956 (Melbourne), 1960 (Rome), 1964 (Tokyo), and 1968 (Mexico City).  However, his performances around the metropolitan area were also somewhat more than noteworthy.  That began with his setting a national schoolboy record in the discus while still in high school at Sewanaka.  Only two years later, he was an Olympic gold medalist for the first time.  As a representative of the New York Athletic Club, Oerter continued his active career for more than 20 years after that first gold.  In 1980, his career-best throw of 227 feet, 11 inches was the second best in the world.  That came at age 43.  In 1962, Oerter became the world record holder.  By 1964, he was back at Randalls Island in the Olympic trials and set what was then a stadium record with a toss of 201 feet, 11 inches.  Although his distances improved over the years, Oerter never evidenced any interest in throwing farther than anyone else in the world.  He only evidenced interest in throwing farther than anyone competing with him that day.  A classic example of that premise came in the A.A.U. Nationals in 1966 (also at Randalls Island), when he tossed 193 feet, 9 inches.  He won the event by more than two feet.

Dick Landon

Dick Landon (Track and field. Born, Salisbury, CT, Nov. 20, 1898; died, Lynbrook, NY, June 13, 1971.) A Yale star and I.C.4A. champion in the high jump, Richmond Wilcox Landon was a gold medalist in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. Landon won the gold (despite some controversy) by being the only jumper to clear 6’4” (well below the world record at the time), which was then an Olympic Games record. The controversy occurred when Bo Ekelund of Sweden was distracted by an American official on his final try at 6’4”. Ekelund hit the bar and finished third. Landon later married U.S. Olympic high diver Alice H. Lord.

Les MacMitchell

Les MacMitchell (Track. Born, New York, Sept. 26, 1920; died, San Jose, CA, Mar. 21, 2006.) Unusual for his era, Thomas Leslie MacMitchell was competitive with the world’s elite mile runners while still an undergraduate at N.Y.U. MacMitchell was the 1941 N.C.A.A. mile champion outdoors, but that winter he had already won the Baxter Mile in the New York A.C. Games in a meet record (4:07.4) that wasn’t broken until 1960, and finished second in the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games. With a hitch in the U.S. military in between, he made a clean sweep of the Wanamaker Mile, the Baxter and the Columbian at the Knights of Columbus Games in both 1942 and 1946. MacMitchell was also the 1941 Sullivan Award winner.

Charley Paddock

Charley Paddock (Track.  Born, Gainesville, TX, Aug. 11, 1900; died, near Sitka, Alaska Territory, July 21, 1943.)  Considered the “world’s fastest human” in the 1920s, Charles William Paddock qualified for three U.S. Olympic teams (1920, 1924, 1928).  Paddock won the A.A.U. 100-yard dash in 1921 and 1924, the 220-yard dash in 1920, 1921, and 1924, held the U.S. record in the 300 yards, and won both the 100 and 220 at Colgate Field in West Orange, N.J., in 1924.  The same year, Paddock and his rival Loren Murchison were among the U.S. athletes who toured Europe after the Olympics in Paris.  He was the co-holder of the world record in the 100-yard dash (9.6 seconds, which he did six times from 1921 to 1926).  Paddock also shared the world record in the 100 meters (10.4 seconds in 1921) and the 300 meters (33.2 seconds in 1921).  He was the 1920 Olympic gold medalist at 100 meters.  Paddock was a captain in the U.S. Marines when he was killed in a military plane crash.

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The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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