USA Track & Field does a very nice job celebrating its Hall of Fame each year the USATF Convention. The Hall of Fame includes historical figures, and more modern athletes and officials. Elliott Denman wrote this in early December. Our apologies for missing it then….
HALL OF FAME 2012 STORY
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
USA Track and Field had a giant-sized job to do – as giant-sized as the man it planned to honor.
The job: find a living relative of Patrick “Babe” McDonald, the famed “Irish Whale” and three-time Olympian of the second and
third decades of the previous century, who’d just been elected to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.
After considerable detective work, USATF found a fourth cousin, Barbie McGrath Brueslhi, to do the honors, to tell the
Pat McDonald story, to bring him to life all over again, at the gala Jesse Owens Award Banquet,
the feature event of USATF’s Annual Meeting.
So there, last Saturday night, she was in the spotlight at the packed banquet hall of the Daytona Hilton, ready to regale
her audience with some choice snippets from the life of Pat McDonald.
First the facts:
He’d been born in County Clare, Ireland (Sept. 29, 1878) and emigrated to the United States in 1900. A healthy, hearty lad, he
grew large and strong, large enough, strong enough to win
three Olympic medals, golds in the shot put (1912 Stockholm) and 56-pound weight throw (1920 Antwerp)
and a silver (two-handed shot put 1912, with best tosses lefty and righty summed up to determine a winner.) Understand
that the schedule of events on the Olympic calendar has evolved over the years.
He joined the New York City Police Department, was assigned to duty at the very heart of the town at Times
Square, and became an ultimate symbol of the iconic location itself.
Competing for the Irish-American AC (one of the most celebrated clubs in American history) he won 16 National AAU
throws titles, the first at age 29 in 1907, the last at age 55 in 1933. When he won the
56-weight gold in 1920, he was 41 and so he’s still the oldest gold medalist in Olympic track and field history.
With ultimate pride, he was the American flag-bearer at the 1920 Antwerp Games, as well as the 1924 Paris Olympics,
where he served as honorary team captain.
And now, courtesy of Mrs. Brueslhi, some more Pat McDonald lore:
“Yes, he had a gargantuan appetite. And that’s why he (and the other IAAC throwers) became known as ‘The Irish Whales.’
“A towering presence (at 6-feet-6) on duty in Times Square, he became known as ‘The Living Statue of Liberty.’
“In 1912, going over to the Olympics, he’d heard some anti-Semitic remarks aimed at Abel Kiviat (the world 1500-meter
record-holder and his Irish-American AC teammate who happened to be Jewish.) So Pat McDonald told that
guy ‘I can’t open that (ship)
porthole over there but I’ll be happy to throw you right through it.’
“He was often called ‘the most famous cop in New York.’ But Times Square was never the same after he
was promoted to lieutenant and transferred away.”
Pat McDonald was a “robust lad” who had a robust appetite for both his dinner plate and all of life.
He retired from the NYPD in 1941 and died at age 75 on May 16, 1954.
Interestingly, the next Olympic title after his passing would go to another great American athlete of Irish heritage – Parry
O’Brien of Southern California.
Pat McDonald was inducted in the H of F’s “Veteran Athlete” category and so was Arthur Duffey.
The Arthur Duffey synopsis:
Surely the fastest man of the years just after the turn of the previous century, Duffey was the first
man to clock 9.6 for the 100-yard dash. He’d been an intercollegiate champion for Georgetown, who’d run at the 1900
Paris Olympics, but had to withdraw from the 100-meter final after pulling a hamstring muscle.
He stayed in top form and four years later was top choice to win both the 100 and 200 at the St. Louis Olympics.
But this never happened – he was banned from track field in this era of strictest amateurism on grounds still in
dDispute all these years later. The final blow: his name was “asterisked” out of the record books. Duffey went on to
a distinguished newspapering career as a Boston Post writer.
It was former Georgetown coach Frank “Gags” Gagliano’s honor to present the late, great ex-G-town Hoya Arthur Duffey for induction Into the Hall of Fame.
“How great might Arthur Duffey have been if he hadn’t been forced into retirement (in 1905)?” asked
Gagliano. “You just can’t help but wonder.”
Hall of Fame inductees of much more recent vintage were Charles Austin and Kim Batten.
Southwest Texas State University alumnus Austin won the 1996 Atlanta Olympic high jump
gold medal in incredibly dramatic fashion.
After two misses at his previous heigh
t he had the bar raised to 7-10 Â½. Clear it and he’d win. Miss it and he’d wind up
fourth. Well, clear he did for the gold and his place in his sport’s history books.
Austin had taken six consecutive U.S. outdoor HJ crowns, was twice a world champion, and
the American record continues be his 7- 10 1/2 Atlanta clearance.
Rochester, N.Y. product Batten was better known as a long and triple jumper when she arrived at
Florida State University but transitioned into the a world 400-meter hurdles record-holder (at 52.61), the
1995 world champion and 1996 Olympic silver medalist. She continues to be recognized
as – arguably – the greatest women’s 400-meter hurdler in track history.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in the “contributors” category were Millrose Games Director
Emeritus Howard Schmertz, as well as his late father, Fred Schmertz.
Fred Schmertz’s first involvement with the Millrose Games dated back to 1908 and he would serve as
Meet Director from 1933-74, when he succeeded by son Howard, who’d hold the director’s reins
Now, in his emeritus status, he continues to promote the Millrose cause.
“We moved to the (NYC) Armory last year (from Madison Square Garden) and, like a lot of people, I wasn’t
sure how it would turn out,” he said
“But it became a terrific meet with some great performances on that fast Armory track.
“We’re hoping to continue breaking records when we return to the Armory”
The date: Feb. 16, 2013.