Bob Hayes cowboys
Bob Hayes, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver

It was September 19, 1965 at the Cotton Bowl in Texas. The Dallas Cowboys opened up their season at home against the 1964 title game runners up, The New York Giants. Over 59,000 fans came out to watch their ‘boys, and it also happened to be the debut of the two Tokyo Olympians, and arguably two of the fastest men in the world: Cowboy receiver Bob Hayes, the 100-meter gold medalist and Giant defensive back Henry Carr, the 200-meter gold medalist.

As Hayes told the story in his autobiography, Run, Bullet, Run, the Cowboy were up 24-2 on the Giants. The Cowboys had the ball, second and 4 from the Giants 45 (in other words, 45 yards from the end zone and a touchdown). Dallas quarterback, Don Meredith, tossed a somewhat wobbly ball into the right flat that Hayes caught. He waited for his blockers, spied an opening, and headed for the goal line.

Carr and his teammate Jim Patton had a bead on Hayes and converged on the Bullet at the 25 yard line, “but when they reached that point, I was already 5 yards past them. “I’ve never seen this in the NFL, where defensive backs judge the angle and then get there and are lost, “Dallas head coach Tom Landry said.

Remarking on the same play, Cowboys’ personnel director Gil Brandt said something similar – “The guy changed pro football.”

Bob Hayes and Don Meredith
Bob Hayes and Don Meredith

“He was the fastest human being around. That makes an impact,” said elite American sprint coach and former Cowboys receiver John Smith. “We called him ‘Speedo.’ He just ran by people. I felt sorry for them. He was just a genetically superior human being.”

As they say, speed kills. According to this video, #2 Bob Hayes Top Ten Fastest Players (in the NFL), Hayes was revolutionary. His speed stretched the field like no one had done before. Man to man was the de rigeur defense, but coaches had to develop new zone schemes to contain the Bullet.

According to Dallas quarterback, Roger Staubach, who played with Hayes in the latter half of the Bullet’s career, ” He got these guys from man-to-man, they played a lot more zone, and I think he was kind of a game changer.” Remember, this was the age when defenders could do almost anything they wanted to a wide receiver short of armed robbery. So to create space, Hayes made the quick screen a thing of beauty.

Watch his highlights in this video:

Over 11 seasons and 132 games, the double gold medalist and running back from Florida A&M, caught 371 passes, 71 for touchdowns, and in the 1970 and 1971 seasons, averaged 26.1 and 24 yards per catch respectively.

“He wasn’t just a guy with great speed, he had very good hands, and I wish I could have played with him longer,” Staubach said. “I don’t know of any other world class sprinter who can take that speed and transform it into football. Because speed is really, really a great asset, but there’s still more to it, and Bob had that world class speed and he played enough football where he knew how to run routes.”

PS: You may be wondering, as many on the video did, why Hayes was #2, and not #1, here is the NFL’s answer.

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john-cooper-robbie-brightwell-adrian-metcalfe-tim-graham_autobiography
John Cooper Robbie Brightwell Adrian Metcalfe Tim Graham, from the book Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl

He could sense the ghosts of Rome with him. Robbie Brightwell, just 17, crashed out of the 400 meters in the semi-finals at the 1960 Summer Olympics. He ran so hard in the first 200 meters that he didn’t have the strength to fight effortlessly through an expected crosswind around the bend.

Brightwell, returning to the 400 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Games as the captain of Great Britain’s athletics squad, was determined to do better. And this time, he made it to the final eight. But the ghosts of Rome stuck to Brightwell like the thick humidity of the Tokyo air. The ghosts whispered doubts into Brightwell’s ears, and the 21-year-old from Shropshire could not help by listen. Here’s how he describes his moment of truth in his autobiography, Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl:

Something wasn’t right in my head. The burning flame to win was waning. Instead, a terrible foreboding gripped me, akin to the terror of being buried alive. I was suffering the onset of ‘choking’. It was like acid eating away at my resolve. It’d started during our tunnel walk. One moment I was okay, the next swamped by fear.

Brightwell was actually in third, behind eventual gold medalist Mike Larrabee and silver medalist Wendell Mottley, going into the home stretch. But when he saw Larabee blast into a five-meter lead, something broke within Brightwell. “A wave of hopelessness swept over me. My oxygen and glucose banks were empty, and I was running on despair.”

And despite being in third, he meekly allowed the Polish sprinter, Andrzej Badeński, to pass him for the bronze medal.

I felt disconsolate. What hurt most wasn’t the fact that I’d been beaten, but rather that I’d failed myself. At the critical moment, the demons in my head had taken over. That was an unforgivable sin. I hated myself. After years of training and seismic setbacks, I’d fallen into the fathomless Pit of Doubt. Idiot!

And yet, it is not how we lose or fail, it is how we react to loss or failure that shows what we are truly made of. Redemption, in the 4×400 meter relay, was only two days away for Brightwell.

While the Americans were favored to win this competition, as they featured the 400-meter gold medalist Mike Larrabee and the 200-meter gold medalist Henry Carr, Team GB was a strong medal candidate. Tim Graham, Adrian Metcalfe, 400-meter hurdler silver medalist John Cooper and Brightwell as the anchor had already run the fastest team time in the heats.

But the finals brought the best in the world together for winner take all.

Great Britain was in the outside lane, which meant that in this staggered start, leadoff runner, Graham, could not see anyone in front of him. And yet he ran well and passed the baton to Metcalfe, who was going so fast in the first 100 meters that Brightwell worried if he could last. In fact, Metcalfe drew first blood, grabbing the inside lane and the lead.

Metcalfe was up against the 400-meter champion Larabee, who powered ahead, as did Kent Barnard of Trinidad and Tobago. Metcalfe handed the baton to Cooper, who strained to keep up with American Ulis Williams and Trinidadian Edwin Roberts. Cooper’s head wagged as he dashed towards Brightwell, but was passed by the Jamaican Mal Spence.

robbie-brightwell-as-ulis-williams-falls_autobiography
From the book Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl

Just when Cooper was about to hand the baton to Brightwell, Williams of the USA slapped the baton into Carr’s hand, and then went sprawling to the cinder track. Brightwell grabbed the baton and found himself in fourth with 400 meters to go.

As he writes in his autobiography, Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl, this time, he did not allow the moment to swallow him.

Carr, Mottley, and (George) Kerr were travelling at vertiginous speed, and I was falling further behind. I knew they were engaged in a headlong fight to reach the last turn first. That way they could dominate the inside lane, and avoid running extra distance around the turn. Fixing Kerr’s bobbing head in front, I eased fractionally. I mustn’t repeat my Perth mistake. Let him duel with Mottley.

As we scorched the final turn, Carr put in a ferocious kick, pulling away from Mottley who, in responding to his burst of speed, opened a gap between himself and Kerr. Still fourth, I kept close behind the Jamaican, awaiting any sign of weakness. Suddenly, his head began to waggle. The punishing pace was taking its toll. Determination took hold. I attacked, inching alongside him. We were so close our elbows clashed. He drifted behind.

The last 60 meters loomed. Two runners remained in front: Mottley and Carr. Instinctively, I relaxed and fixed the Trinidadian in my sights. My legs, although heavy, continued driving. Then, almost as though watching a slow motion film, Wendell wavered, chopping his stride, and tensing his neck. That was enough to give me encouragement. I slowly inched up to his shoulder. Holding me steadfast was the thought that this would be the last time I’d compete. In the last few meters, I flung myself at the finishing line.

Brightwell did it. He came from way behind to not only secure a medal, but a silver medal. Brightwell had brought his team back from the dead, exorcising ghosts of his own on the way.

Watch the video below from the 1 minute, 30-second mark to see part of this race.

US Men's 4x400 relay team_2
Ulis WIlliams, Henry Carr, Mike Larrabee and Ollan Cassell

The first heat went well. The American 4X400 relay team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics won handily against the Soviet Union and France, finishing a full 2 seconds ahead of the Soviets. Henry Carr led off, followed by Ollan Cassell, Mike Larrabee and Ulis Williams.

Thus, America was favored to take gold. After all, Carr was the gold medalist in the 200 meter finals. Mike Larrabee was the gold medalist in the 400 meter finals. Williams was a finalist and placed fifth in the 400-meter finals, while Cassell nearly qualified for the 400-meter finals.

And yet, Williams was worried. He wasn’t feeling right. He told me that he had run in the LA Times Indoor Track Meet in January of 1964, and had injured himself. “The track was slanted, so I ran in that leaning way you do in indoor tracks and pulled a muscle, right off the bone,” Williams told me. “I really never got back into top shape. I still ran some of my better times, but because I placed fifth in the 400-meter finals the day before, psychologically, I wasn’t sure. I had doubts.”

Williams ran the anchor leg on the team, and in fact had always run the anchor leg in his career. Even at Arizona State University, where he and Carr were teammates on the track team, he had always run anchor. But he was concerned enough to ask the US track coach, Bob Giegengack, to hold a team meeting before the 4X400 relay finals.

“I told the team I was not feeling how I would like to feel, and didn’t feel I was running my best, that I wanted to make sure that we had the best chance to win the gold medal.” In other words, he implied that he might not be the best choice as anchor for the finals and that he would run in any place the coach wanted him to run.

After Williams made that statement, Giegengack asked the others if they had any comments. Williams said that Carr stepped up and said “I don’t care where I run. I am just going to take care of business.” According to Williams, Carr made that statement with such confidence that everyone in the room thought, “With that attitude, you anchor.”

Henry Carr takes 4x400 team to gold_Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha
Henry Carr takes 4×400 team to gold, from the book, Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha

So with the decision to replace Carr with Williams as the anchor, 400-meter champion Larrabee spoke up and said he wanted to run second. According to Williams, it is a common tactic to place your fastest runner second, and so Larrabee thought that he could give a significant lift by building a lead in the first half of the race. With those two decisions, Williams slotted into the third leg, and Cassell took the opening leg.

And the rest is history. Although there was a slight hiccup in one of the exchanges, the Americans won gold in the world record time of 3:00.7 seconds, with Henry Carr blazing to the tape, the team finishing essentially a second faster than the teams from Great Britain and Trinidad and Tobago.

Hayes Boston Carr in Tokyo _ Getty
Members of the Japanese press interview three US track stars (left to right): Bob Hayes, Ralph Boston and Henry Carr, shortly after the first contingent of the US Olympic team arrived here September 29th; Getty Images

I am enjoying the book, Inside the Five-Ring Circus, by 1964 Olympian, Ollan Cassell, and I recently read this delicious tidbit about double-gold medalist Olympic legend, Bob Hayes.

In 1964, the fastest man in the world in 200 meters was Henry Carr. As Cassell explained, Carr won the US trials for the 200 meters in New York in the Spring. But the US Olympic track and field authorities held a second trial in Los Angeles in the summer, and Carr was unfortunately out of condition, finishing fourth in the trials. Since the top three qualified for the Olympic squad, Carr was unexpectedly off the team.

In stepped Hayes, who happened to finish third in the 200 meters, and had already qualified for Tokyo in the 100 meters. Hayes ceded his spot to Carr on the 200-meter team, and Carr got his motor running, training twice a day to get ready for Tokyo. As Cassell wrote, “everyone on the team was indeed grateful to Bob.”

Inside Five Ring Circus CoverHayes of course went on to take gold in the 100 meters and 4×100 relay in spectacular fashion. But his gracious act continued to pay dividends. Rejuvenated, Carr was looking strong prior to his races, in shape, and ready to win. Not only did Carr set an Olympic record in the 200 meters, he anchored the US men’s 4×400 relay team, blazing to a world record finish.

Perhaps thanks to that fateful decision by Bob Hayes, fellow track mates Mike Larrabee and Henry Carr won their second gold medals of the Tokyo Olympics, while Cassell and teammate Ulis Williams took home gold as well. Wrote Cassell in his book, “standing on the victory podium, receiving a gold medal and watching the USA flag rise on the highest pole made me feel it was all worth it.”

Thanks Bob!

NOTE: In Hayes’ autobiography, “Run, Bullet, Run,” Hayes writes that he indeed did finish third in the trials cited above, but that since Carr had won in the initial trials at Randall’s Island, “(Carr) retained his place on the team, and I was bumped out of a spot in the 200-meter race.” Hayes doesn’t refer to relinquishing his spot (although it still could have been a factor.) 

Roy_summer vacation_1967 maybe
Roy, sometime between the Tokyo and Mexico City Olympic Games.

On this, the last day of 2015, I’d like to thank everyone for their support of my blog – The Olympians. I have posted at least once every day since I started the blog on May 1. Out of about 300 posts, I’ve selected 25 that I personally like, in good part because I’ve had the great fortune to talk with the people mentioned in these stories.

  1. A Helicopter View of US-USSR Relations, Olympic Style
  2. American Gymnast Makoto Sakamoto and Memories of Home: Post-War Shinjuku
  3. Arnold Gordon (Part 1): Befriending Judy Garland at Manos in Shinjuku
  4. The Banning of Headgear in Boxing: The Convoluted World of Protecting Our Athletes
  5. Clumsy Handoff, Beautiful Result: A World Record Finish for the American 4X400 Relay Team in Tokyo
  6. Coach Hank Iba: The Iron Duke of Defense Who Led the Men’s Basketball Team to Gold in 1964
  7. Creativity by Committee: The 2020 Olympic Emblem and the Rio Olympic Mascots?
  8. Crowded, Noisy, Dirty, Impersonal: Tokyo in the 1960s
  9. The Dale McClements’ Diary: From Athlete to Activist
  10. Doug Rogers, Star of the Short Film “Judoka”: A Fascinating Look at Japan, and the Foreigner Studying Judo in the 1960s
  11. Escape from East Berlin in October 1964: A Love Story
  12. Escape from Manchuria: How the Father of an Olympian Left a Legacy Beyond Olympic Proportions
  13. Fame: Cover Girl and Canadian Figure Skater Sandra Bezic
  14. Frank Gorman: Harvard Star, Tokyo Olympian, and Now Inductee to the International Swimming Hall of Fame
  15. The Geesink Eclipse – The Day International Judo Grew Up
  16. India Beats Pakistan in Field Hockey: After the Partition, the Sporting Equivalent of War
  17. The Narrow Road to the Deep North
  18. On Being Grateful: Bob Schul
  19. Protesting Via Political Cartoons: Indonesia Boycotts the Tokyo Olympics
  20. The Sexist Sixties: A Sports Writers Version of “Mad Men” Would Make the Ad Men Blush
  21. “Swing” – The Danish Coxless Fours Found It, and Gold, in Tokyo
  22. Toby Gibson: Boxer, Lawyer, Convict
  23. Vesper Victorious Under Rockets Red Glare – A Dramatic Finish to One of America’s Greatest Rowing Accomplishments
  24. What it Means to Be an Olympian: Bill Cleary Remembers
  25. Who is that Bald-Headed Beauty: The Mystery of the Soviet Javelin Champion

Livio Berruti congratulates Henry Carr, who won gold in the 200 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. From the book “Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha”.
He ran with a silky smooth stride. He grooved around curves with grace. And he won the 200 meter finals at the 1960 Summer Games in Rome….wearing sunglasses.

Livio Berruti, who hails from Torino, Italy, was the most celebrated of the celebrity in Rome at that time, the essence of cool that hot Italian summer.

American Ken Norton was favored to win the 200 meters, but he faded quickly as Berrutti raced to a world record time of 20.5 seconds to win gold. David Maraniss described in his book, Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World, how Berruti felt as he emerged victorious. “He approached the finish line knowing that he still held the lead, and threw himself at it, sprawling on the dark red track, overcome ‘with that kind of liberation you feel when you’ve faced a difficult test and managed to pass it.'”

Amidst continuous cheers of “Ber-ru-ti! Ber-ru-ti! Ber-ru-ti!”, his fate as an Italian sports legend was sealed.

As for the shades, Maraniss explains that Berrutti was shortsighted, to the point that he could not see other runners or the finish line without them. So he wore prescription glasses that tinted in the sunlight, wearing the same pair whether competing or sitting at home.

In Tokyo, Berrutti finished fourth in the 200 meter race. And immediately went up to the Olympic champion, Henry Carr, and congratulated him a race run well.

Here is great footage

Ulis Williams stumbles in the 4X400 relay finals_The Olympic Century - XVIII Olympiad - Volume 16
Ulis Williams stumbles handing off the baton to Henry Carr in the 4X400 relay finals_The Olympic Century – XVIII Olympiad – Volume 16

The baton hand off in relay races are critical. The slightest misplay and you lose. The US 4X100 relay team in Rome, which had the fastest time in the finals, was disqualified because of a mis-timed hand off between two runners.

So when you see a picture like the one above, you can imagine only disaster. American Ulis Williams was handing off to anchor Henry Carr in the finals of the 4X400 relay race in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. As Ulis told me, he saw his closest competition fall in behind Williams to get the inside lane. That’s when Williams put on the jets around the curve approaching the exchange lane where the anchor awaited.

“I put on the speed and got five or six yards on him,” Williams explained to me. “Henry (Carr) took off, but he didn’t take off fast enough. He was too close on my approach, and I didn’t want to spike him. I took a chance and leaned forward to give him the baton, so I took a short step, didn’t plant my lead foot. I concentrated so much on handing him the baton that I slammed hard into the ground.”

It was a scary moment for lead runner, Ollan Cassell. “I dragged Ulis off because I didn’t want him to get a DQ for interference.” Williams said he tore the skin right off his upper thigh, but all he remembers is celebrating with his teammates at the finish line.

Carr successfully

TOKYO, JAPAN - OCTOBER 17:  (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Henry Carr (2nd L) of United States crosses the finishing line to win the gold medal in the Men's 200m at the National Stadium during the Tokyo Olympic on October 17, 1964 in Tokyo, Japan.  (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN – OCTOBER 17: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Henry Carr (2nd L) of United States crosses the finishing line to win the gold medal in the Men’s 200m at the National Stadium during the Tokyo Olympic on October 17, 1964 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

In Rome, the US men’s team did not take its customary gold in any of the 100 or 200-meter races. Along with Bob Hayes, Henry Carr returned sprint supremacy to the United States in Tokyo in 1964. Carr won gold in the 200-meter race as well as in the 4X400 relay competition.

Carr passed away on May 29, 2015.

In Tokyo, his running mate on that world-record setting 4X400 team, Ollan Cassell, told me nobody was going to take gold from Carr in the 200. “Mike Larrabee and I were practicing our 200 meter sprints, and Henry wanted to join. I told him that the times were really fast. He was not really dressed for a serious sprint as he was wearing his sweats and fat running shoes with no spikes. The coach even told Henry that he could hurt himself running without spikes. Henry then proceeded to finish ahead of both me and Mike. An Italian 200 meter runner was watching. He realized he would be running for second.”

Carr would go on to