And Bob Larsen was, and still is, a truly sensational coach who guided his athletes to many pinnacles of the sport.
And so, rightfully and properly, hurrahs will ring out in the grand ballroom of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis Saturday night when these five are officially inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, in the feature event of the Jesse Owens Awards Banquet at USA Track and Field’s Annual Meeting.
Good on you, John, Kenny, Eleanor, Steve and Bob. Bask in the spotlight. Revel in the cheers of your peers. You’ve earned this moment, really and truly.
At the same time, there’s a tinge of sadness, the unhappy realization that once again, the late and great and truly deserving Albert Charles Blozis has failed to “get over the hump,” to garner a sufficient number of votes to put him in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.
To those who are students of track and field history there should never ever be any ifs, ands or buts about Al Blozis’ status as a Hall of Fame quality athlete.
Yet, for some reasons unfathomable to those who did their homework, who realized how good this man was, he has maintained his place on the Hall of Fame ballot for years and years and years yet never advanced past the status of candidate-in-waiting.
And that’s a situation so sad it’s getting Al Blozis appreciators to the point where they’re thinking that he may never quite make it.
What’s wrong? they ask. Has anyone here really studied up? Are memories so short?
Is the voting process flawed? Does the ballot sent to voters reveal just the barest of facts. Does it not go anywhere close to telling a candidate-athlete’s real ife story? Is it all tilted to the still-living-and-breathing?
Questions, questions, questions???
To Mr. Ed Grant of Madison, N.J., one of the sport’s great writers and historians, and possibly the only writer still around who actually saw Al Blozis in action, his continued rejection by too many Hall of Fame voters is an ongoing miscarriage of justice.
Grant’s view of the whole situation:
“When, eventually, Al Blozis does make it into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, they will not be honoring him; they will be honoring the Hall of Fame.
“His death (late in World War II) was tragic. It’s tragic now that he’s not in the Hall of Fame. The people who vote should be ashamed of themselves.
“Al Blozis was of the few people who was at the top of his game in two sports, football (as a collegiate star at Georgetown and then as a New York Giant) and, of course, track and field, ” Grant readily tells you.
“He obviously would have been the 1940 Olympic champion in the shot put. There wasn’t ever any doubt about that (until the 1940 Games were cancelled by the start of World War II.) He broke the world indoor record in the shot put but just missed the outdoor record I don’t know how many times.
“Then, when he finally broke it, they wouldn’t give it to him. The reason: Very simple. This was a meet held at the Polo Grounds (home of both baseball and football Giants) and he threw off the pitcher’s mound. Too high.
“He graduated from Georgetown University in 1942 and immediately tried to get into the Army, but they wouldn’t take him. He was 6-foot, 6-and-a-half inches tall, and they had a height limit of 6-6. So he went to play for the Giants for two years and made all-pro as a tackle both seasons.
“Finally, they changed the height standards in 1943 and they let him into the Army. (And he still got to play three 1943 Giants games, while on Army leave.) They immediately said they’d put him in Special Services, but Al said no. He went into the infantry, got his commission, went to Belgium. His platoon was in the Vosges mountains, scouting enemy lines.
“He never returned from a patrol mission.”
Lt. Al Blozis, age 26, was killed in action Jan. 21, 1945.
The details: When two of Lt. Blozis’ men, a sergeant and a private, failed to return from a patrol, he went in search of them alone.
Initially, he was listed as missing in action. In April 1945, his death was confirmed. He was buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in Saint-Avold, Moselle, France.
The Army has named an athletic center in Frankfurt, Germany for him. The gymnasium at his high school, Dickinson of Jersey City, is named for him. The Football Giants have retired his “32” jersey. He was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986. He’s a member of the New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame. The Al Blozis Memorial Shot put continues to be a feature event at the New Jersey International Track and Field Meet.
But the National Track and Field Hall of Fame continues to dither.
A big part of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame ballot process is the “honors won” category.
Well, Al Blozis never got to compete in the Olympic Games.
Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 saw to that.
Al Blozis never got to compete in the Pan-American Games (first held 1951) or the World Championships (first held 1983) or the Diamond League, of any of the global biggies today’s athletes take for granted.
So his “honors won” dossier is “limited” to the following:
National AAU outdoor shot put champion: 1940-41-42.
National AAU I
ndoor shot put champion: 1940-41-42.
NCAA outdoor shot put champion: 1940-41-42.
(No NCAA indoor meet those days.)
IC4A outdoor shot put (and discus) champion: 1940-41-42.
IC4A indoor shot put champon: 1940-41-42.
Penn Relays shot put (and discus) champion: 1940 and 1942.
In short, unbeaten for three glory-filled years and far beyond any unlikely rival.
How dominating was he against his contemporaries?
The 1940 world list credits Blozis with the top five shot put marks (led by his NCAA-winning 56-0 1/2 /17.08 meters) and nine of the top 10.
The 1941 world list credits Blozis with the top ten marks (led by his 56-6 1/8 / 17.22 in New York).
The 1942 world list credits Blozis with the top eleven marks (led by his 56- 3 3/8 / 17.15 in New York.)
LSU’s Jack Torrance was credited with the official world record of 57-1 / 17.40 meters from 1934 to 1948, when Michigan’s Charley Fonville threw 58-0 1/4/ 17.68. But Blozis’ 57-0 3/4 / 17.61 toss on March 14, 1942 beat that – only to be relegated to the “exhibition” category and never ratified.
With no Olympics on the horizon, Blozis turned to pro football and was an immediate star for the Giants. With no Blozis to contend with, the 1943 year list was topped by Americans Earl Audet, Bernie Mayer and Elmer Aussieker. Their bests were nowhere in Blozis’ league.
Mel Hein, the famed Pro Football Hall of Fame center and a 15-year stalwart of the Giants, said,
“Al Blozis could have been the greatest tackle who ever played football.”
To the late Giant owner Wellington Mara, Al Blozis forever ranked as a giant of all Giants.
Al Blozis, just as obviously, ranked as a giant of track and field history, too.
Maybe-just-maybe National Track and Field Hall of Fame voters will get to recognize the greatness of Al Blozis, as well.
There’s a definite possibility this may happen.
Any year soon.