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Jim Beatty — February, 2015
Jim Beatty is the first person to run a sub-4:00 mile indoors which he did on February 10, 1962 when he ran 3:58.9 at the Los Angeles Invitational. The trailblazer is also the first American to run sub-3:40 for 1,500 meters, sub-8:30 at two miles and a sub-14:00 5,000 meters. He represented the United States in the 1960 Rome Olympics at 5,000 meters. Jim won the Gold Medal at the both the 1961 and 1962 US-USSR dual meets and the Silver medal in the 1963 Pan Am Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, both at 1,500 meters. Beatty broke over a dozen American and three World Records, and was the first and only to simultaneously hold American Records at 1,500m, mile, 3,000m, 2-mile, 3-mile and 5,000m. Jim won the 1960 Olympic Trials 5,000 meters and won four U.S. Championships in the mile (1962) and the mile indoors (1961/62/63). He raced collegiately for the University of North Carolina where he was NCAA Silver Medalist in Cross Country (1955), 2-miles (1955) and 5,000m (1956). Additionally, Jim won 11 Atlantic Coast Conference titles in Cross Country (1954/55/56), mile indoors (1955/56/57), 2-mile indoors (1955/56/57) and mile outdoors (1955/56). At Charlotte Central (NC) High School he won the state mile title in 1952 and 1953, setting a State Record of 4:31.9. His personal best times include: 880 yards – 1:49.6; 1,500m - 3:39.4, mile - 3:55.5, 2 miles - 8:29.8 and 5,000m - 13:45.0. He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1963, the USATF HOF in 1990 and the Greater Charlotte Sports HOF in 2004. He won the Sullivan Award and was the first recipient of the ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year, both in 1962. He resides in Charlotte, NC with Paulette, his wife of 38 years. Jim was gracious to spend over two hours on the telephone in January, 2015. His son, Tully, is working on publishing Jim’s life story, so stay tuned for this upcoming book.
GCR:Many athletes are known for championships, World Records or Gold Medals, but only one can say he is the first to run a sub-four minute mile on an indoor track. Now, 53 years later, how does it feel to be that man?
JBIt still feels great. From the time it entered my mind to the time I spoke to Coach Igloi about it to the time it came about on February 10, 1962 at the L.A. Times meet at the L.A. Sports Arena, nothing has changed from that night until today. It’s the same. I still get sweaty palms when I put the DVD on and watch it again. Nothing has changed in 53 years. It’s nice when people often refer to me and say things like, ‘Roger Bannister was Mr. Outside and you’re Mr. Inside.’
GCR:Speaking of Roger Bannister, it was almost eight years after he broke the mile’s four minute barrier, but no one had done it on the tight turns of the standard 11 laps to the mile board tracks used indoors. How strong was the impetus to be the first, especially since there were several other capable runners at that time?
JBI’m going to answer that in this fashion – at the end of the 1961 season when I was running over in Europe and was ranked number one in the world in the mile and 1,500 meters, I actually had irritated a buttocks muscle when I slipped on some wet stones in Poland in Warsaw during the U.S. – Poland track and field meet. But it wasn’t enough for me to not compete and run. As a matter of fact, I think one of the last races I had was at the renowned Bislett Stadium in Oslo where I broke the stadium record and also the American record at 1,500 meters. Ironically, the record I broke at Bislett was the record that Sandor Iharos, Coach Igloi’s great Hungarian runner, had done when he set the World Record for 1,500 meters at Bislett. So the record stayed in the House of Igloi, one might say. Anyway, I came back to the States and sometime in September and the early part of October I knew that I had to get totally healed for the indoor season, so I just did a little easy jogging for three weeks or more to let my buttocks injury heal. It was during that particular period that suddenly the light turned on and the light said to me, ‘the time has come for someone to run an indoor mile under four minutes.’
GCR:Did you really increase your focus for this specific goal and how did Coach Igloi make the proper plan?
JBI started concentrating on that thought of someone running sub-four minutes indoors and thinking of people around the world or in the States that might have a crack at that including myself. So, I narrowed it down and then it became a focal point. As you know, there are several ways you can break a record or set a ‘first.’ You can plan it and go after it, or do it by accident in the throes of competition. I could do it by planning for it, but someone else might not be planning for it and do it in the heat of competition. When I was healed and ready to start training again I went to Coach Igloi and I told him I want to be the first man in the world to run an indoor mile under four minutes. My inquiry to him was quite simple, ‘Do we have time.’ The inference of that question was did I have enough time from late October or perhaps early November to reach a peak condition during the American indoor track season. He closed his eyes and when he opened them back up he said in his broken English, ‘You have time.’ Then he closed his eyes again and during that period of time on both occasions he was plotting my workout schedule as well as what meets I would run in and exactly the meet and the day when I would make the assault on it. So, he opened his eyes back up and said, ‘We will run a four-minute mile on February 10 at the L.A. Times indoor meet.’
GCR:I’ve read about that and it was amazing that he knew exactly when you would be ready. What were some of the highlights of what you executed in your training and races which had you ready to run sub-four minutes indoors as I know that Igloi was a coach who believed if you executed your plan in preparation that a runner would be ready?
JBIgloi sent up the red flag in a precautionary way and said in a stern way and not in a very gentle way as he warned me that the training would be very hard. He said we don’t want to complain and to lose focus on what we want to do as to reach that peak in the middle of the American indoor track season, the training from here to then would be very hard. That set the stage for it and every workout – the morning workout and the evening workout – was executed with the one thought in mind and that was February 10th. And so we moved forward on that and, of course, there were some preliminary indoor meets that fluctuated between the mile and the 1,000 yard run that were kind of warm ups to set me on the way.
GCR:Not all of the indoor meets were televised, so how did it come about that the L.A. Times meet was by ABC?
JBAn interesting thing that occurred was sometime in November when Roone Arledge called from his office at ABC Sports and spoke to Dick Bank, the President of the Los Angeles Track Club, and his inquiry was simple, ‘We want to know what Jim Beatty’s indoor schedule will be?’ Dick Bank said quite plainly, ‘On February 10th at the L.A. Times Indoor Games he’s going to try to be the first man in the world to run an indoor mile under four minutes.’ The only response ABC did, in essence, was to let him know they would be there. So that’s how it came to be that it was televised.
GCR:Let’s talk about the race as I know you had some help with Lazlo Tabori pacing for a while, then you taking the lead and then Jim Grelle doing what he didn’t normally do and helping out with some pacing in the third quarter. Were you feeling comfortable at the pace and itching for the final few laps and your assault on history?
JBIronically I was probably the only person in the L.A. Sports Arena who didn’t know I had broken four minutes when I crossed the finish line. I’ll explain how that came about. Lazlo took the first quarter mile and was right on target and when the crowd heard the time for the first quarter, and it was somewhere around 59 seconds, the started really getting into it with noise. Then I took over and when they heard the half mile time they got louder and louder. They were so loud that when I went through the half mile I did not hear the time and didn’t know what the time was. Grelle took the lead following that and in the third quarter mile, somewhere in the midst of it, I could feel the tempo slow down. If you watch the video, I’m about to run up on his heels because the tempo had slowed. My mind was saying I had lost a second to a second-and-a-half. I wasn’t going to take over until the three-quarter mark, but I decided to take it before then so just when we got to three laps to go I jumped out and took the lead.
GCR:How strong were you the last few laps, did you hear the crowd and did you believe you had dipped under four minutes?
JBMy mind was very alert and I told myself I had to concentrate and listen for the time so I would know what I had to run for the last quarter mile. Again, the crowd in the L.A. Arena – and it was standing-room only - was so loud I didn’t hear the time. I thought, ‘Okay, listen again,’ because usually about five seconds later the P.A. announcer gives the time for the crowd. Again it was so loud I didn’t hear. So, actually from that point on I ran out of fear. As you can see in the video, with each stride I couldn’t run any faster. It was all mounted upon fear and not knowing what time I had to negotiate for the last quarter mile. The crowd was going crazy and then when I hit the finish line I didn’t know that I had actually broken it although the crowd knew that I had broken it. I did a U-turn and went back to the timers and asked for the time and said, ‘Did I make it?’ They gave me the time of ‘three-something’ and when I heard ‘three’ I knew I had broken the indoor four-minute mile. And then I started doing the various victory laps. Among the first things, of course, was stopping, talking with Coach Igloi, giving him a ‘thank you hug’ and then continuing with the victory lap. That last quarter mile was run out of fear because I didn’t know what I had to negotiate.
GCR:What was it like after the race with the euphoria and in the succeeding days after gearing everything toward that goal and then accomplishing it?
JBWhat it meant then is what it means today. I had a great experience in high school and college and post-collegiate years of breaking tons of records of different sorts and I’m very familiar with the saying that ‘records are made to be broken.’ One thing about being first in the world is it ends there – you are first forever. I think that is the landmark of being the first in the world. Nobody can ever take that from you. It’s yours. You have it forever, ever, ever, ever. That’s the real crowning point of achieving something of that nature.
GCR:You went after a goal that no one had achieved. How has that milestone impacted your life in the many years since then whatever you do in business, or reacting to adversity?
JBIt’s nice that you mentioned the word, ‘adversity,’ because when I was leaving the Catholic school where I’d went up to the ninth grade, we had the Sisters of Mercy, and one of the nuns wrote in my yearbook, ‘May the clouds of adversity never darken the horizon of your life.’ So, I kind of kept that thought in mind whenever adversity might be in front of me. Following that is when I went to the public schools which were much larger than the Catholic schools here in Charlotte. Being able to mingle among people wherever you go and to be identified in that special, elite category stays with you but it also humbles you because you don’t want to get carried away from an egotistical standpoint. At the same time you become the focal point of local pride, regional pride and national pride, which is certainly among the epitome of compliments. Of course, to this day when I do speaking engagements, regardless of the type of audience, they want to hear about how I started in track and how it culminated in the indoor four minute mile. So, it stays with you forever with people who know you and know what you did. It’s also a genuine aura of respect.
GCR:That same year of 1962 you had a great 16-day stretch of racing outdoors in August as you set six American records in five events including 1,500 meters, the mile, 3,000 meters and both the 3-mile and 5,000 meters in one race. What were the factors that led to such an outstanding year of racing?
JBLet me go backwards if I may to the Rome Olympics of 1960 and I’m going to tell you how this became a mission. 1962, to some degree, culminated the mission, though there were still things to accomplish after that. In 1960 I won the Olympic Trials at 5,000 meters and broke the American records at one mile with my first sub-four at Modesto of 3:58, three miles and 5,000 meters. En route to Rome the American Olympic team stopped in Bern, Switzerland for an exhibition meet. In Bern, Switzerland I was running the 3,000 meters with Gordon Pirie, who was the former World Record holder in that event and I won the race. But it was on an old cinder track and about thirty yards from the finish line I hit a soft pocket like when running on soft sand at the beach and I tore ligaments in my left foot. That hampered me at Rome when out of nowhere I had suddenly become a dark horse favorite at 5,000 meters. Nobody had heard of me because I didn’t run for about two-and-a-half years. But since I came out of retirement I had run 13:51 when I broke the American record at Compton by thirteen or fourteen seconds, finally moving it to world class standards. I think that going into Rome I may have had the fastest 5k time. Anyway, when I got to Rome I knew I wouldn’t be able to get to the finals because my foot was all taped up, but I still ran in the heats. What occurred was during the finals I was sitting in the stadium in Rome, watching the various people get medals and while I watched them get medals what I was saying to myself was something to the effect, ‘I know they’re no better than I am. They’re getting the medals, but they’re not any better than I am.’
GCR:So the disappointment of the Rome Olympics led to your record-breaking performances?
JBI made a vow to myself that the next year I was going to come back and show them what an American could do. From the stands of the Olympic Stadium in Rome was where I developed my mission and that is why everything that followed the next two or three years really came from sitting in the seats at the Olympic Stadium in Rome watching these other athletes from around the world get medals. And so in 1962 I was actually on what L’Equippe, the great French sports newspaper, called ‘The Grand Tour of Europe’ for the L.A. Track team. We were actually going to go after some World Records and L’Equippe wrote that I probably would have had several World Records except that it was the worst late summer weather in years and years and years in Europe as it was cold, rainy and wet. Everywhere we went to race it was just miserable and, even though I didn’t get the World Records I wanted, I did break five or six American Records if you count the three mile in a 5k race. That’s how it all came about starting with the adversity in Rome, getting injured and making a vow that I would show them what an American could do. I virtually beat everybody I ran against starting with the World Games in Helsinki where I annihilated all of the European runners.
GCR:How important was it to you to be ranked number one in the world at the mile and 1,500 meters?
JBWhen I was ranked number one in the world I was the first American in 27 years since Glen Cunningham in 1934 to be ranked number one at one mile and 1,500 meters and, I may be wrong about this, but in the late 1960s when Jim Ryun was ranked number one, we may be the only three Americans to be ranked number one in the last eighty years. It’s phenomenal, but also, what’s wrong with the U.S. runners of today?
GCR:Prior to that August, 1962 stretch of racing, in June, 1962 you broke the World Record for two miles. Did your teammate Jim Grelle, who finished second about six seconds behind, and you specifically take aim on the record that day, or were you just in the zone?
JBWe ran together for a while. Of course, Grelle is legendary for not wanting to lead. So for the most part I pushed the tempo. The other thing that came out of that, and I didn’t pay much attention to its significance at the time, but Track and Field News years later had an article about the two-mile run where they listed landmarks at that distance, and they listed the first sub-8:30 as Jim Beatty. I never had thought about that. I didn’t put any significance on being the first in that category until I read it in Track and Field News.
GCR:It’s interesting when you mention this, as you were the first human under 8:30 for two miles and to run a sub-4:00 mile indoors, but you were also first American under 3:40 for 1,500 meters and under 14:00 for 5,000 meters. Did your accomplishments get lost a bit with the exploits of Bob Schul and Billy Mills winning Olympic Gold Medals in 1964 and Jim Ryun’s World Record miles in the next few years?
JBI think the other thing too (laughing) is that I broke so many records it was hard to keep track of them.
GCR:Timing is everything with the Olympics held only once every four years. Do you ever think back and wish your level of fitness in 1962 could have been two years earlier or two years later?
JBIn 1964 it was generally presumed going into that year that I would be the Gold Medal favorite at 5,000 meters. Igloi, in his training plan, told me when we went over the different things he was training me for, that my shape would be 3:51 to 3:53 in the mile, 8:20 to 8:22 in the 2-mile and 13:20 to 13:25 in the 5k, which would have been over ten seconds under Vladimir Kuts’ World Record at the time. What happened, which was too bad, was in late May of 1963 I suffered a collapsed quadriceps which took away my ability to change gears. My forte, regardless of what distance I was running, was my ability to kick and to accelerate instantaneously. When I suffered the collapsed quadriceps, it took that away and I couldn’t change gears. As time healed that and I started to train again in the fall I had an unfortunate home accident late at night carrying garbage out in the rain. Being barefoot except for some of those Japanese flip-flops that were popular at the time, I slipped on a piece of metal and the jagged, rusty piece of metal just gashed the ball of my left foot where I needed 27 stitches to sew it up. When that occurred the curtain went down that night. That was really the end of my career.
GCR:I know that you fought back and at the Olympic Trials you finished well back in fifth place. How tough was it to end on this note after your hopes were obviously high a couple years earlier for the 1964 Olympics?
JBI’m going to answer that in a couple of ways. First, it wasn’t as bad as some people think because I had done so much good in running and I had influenced so many other runners. Actually, a lot of people credited me with bringing American distance running to the World Class level. That brought along my teammates. Jim Grelle vastly improved as did Bob Schul. We just had a vast array of great runners then in the United States of America, spearheaded by the L.A. Track Club. In fact, the decade of the 1960s was probably the best decade for American milers in the history of the United States. Secondly, I really became more philosophical about it as opposed to crying in my beer suds because what I thought of in my own mind was the indoor sub-four minute mile was waiting for Jim Beatty to come along. In that eight year period since Roger Bannister’s sub-four, somebody should have broken four minutes indoors, but it wasn’t done. I think it was waiting for me to do it. Like we said earlier, that was a landmark in American middle distance running, which remains today. All that I did across the board including influencing high school, collegiate and post-collegiate runners and having all of those different records was sufficient for me. I’ve never harbored any regrets about it.
GCR:After you graduated from North Carolina you started working and effectively retired from running and competitive racing. How did you decide to come out of retirement and to resume high level training?
JBI’m going to back up and tell you how it came about so there is a better understanding. When I was a junior in college at Chapel Hill, I was one of the favorites to make the Olympic team in 1956 and go to Melbourne in the 5k. Unfortunately, I just had a down cycle coming in and I ran miserably and didn’t make the Olympic team which was a greater disappointment than some later things that happened in my track career. I didn’t run after college for almost two-and-a-half years and it happened to be that the second US-Russia track meet was in 1959 at Franklin Field, the Penn Relays track site, in Philadelphia in early July, if I remember correctly. A friend of mine here in Charlotte called me and said, ‘Jimmy, why don’t we go to Philadelphia and watch our boys against the Russians?’ I said, ‘Jack, that’s a great idea.’ I was eager to go as I knew probably eighty per cent of the athletes on the men’s side and most on the women’s side that represented the country and it would kind of give me a chance to have a reunion and see a lot of my old track buddies since I was no longer in track. So, we were sitting in Franklin Field watching the 1,500 meters in which Dyrol Burleson and Jim Grelle swept one-two. My friend turned to me and said that I could have won that race, I thought about it, and told him that I thought he was right. That started me thinking about the Rome Olympics that were coming up the next year. I came back to Charlotte and started giving it serious thought. I hadn’t run in a long time. I didn’t know whether or not I could regroup the passion, the dedication and all of those elements needed on a higher scale. I waded back in forth in my mind. Being Catholic, I wanted to go to the eternal city, to the Rome Olympic Games. So it became something more and more for me to think about.
GCR:You made a big change in heading out to California and running for Coach Igloi. How did this scenario come about?
JBAugust came and went, September came and I was running out of time if I was going to do something about it. I went up to Chapel Hill to talk to my college coach, Dale Ranson, and told him I was thinking about coming out of retirement and trying for the Olympic team. I told him that I had two questions, ‘Do you think I still have it and, if I start to train, can I come up here?’ He said something to the effect, ‘Jimmy, I always told you that you could break a World Record, but if you decide to do it I would suggest you move to California and train under Coach Igloi. He can develop you to the abilities you have.’ So I came back to Charlotte and we were into October. The qualifying for the Olympic Trials was the next June with the Olympic Trials in July. This was a tough decision for me to make. Finally I decided to give it a shot. I took my money out of the bank, loaded my car up and left. Nobody knew I was leaving Charlotte and nobody in California knew I was coming. I drove out to San Jose and had my twenty-fifth birthday on the road.
GCR:Was Coach Igloi welcoming in adding you to his stable of high level runners?
JBI got out to San Jose about 5:30 in the evening and went over to the track where Santa Clara Valley Youth Club was training and saw Coach Igloi. I started saying, ‘You may not remember me. I’m Jimmy Beatty from the University of North Carolina.’ At about the same time he was looking at me and saying, ‘Who is this fat man?’ I told him I would like him to train me for the United States Olympic team which he agreed to do. He knew I was serious as I had quit my job, hadn’t run for nearly two-and-a-half years and moved out to California. The next day I bought a pair of track shoes and started training that afternoon with Coach Igloi. That was approximately the first of November.
GCR:How did you develop so quickly and get invited to so many high quality indoor races when you were barely starting on the comeback trail?
JBIn late January the L.A. Invitational indoor meet was at the L.A. Sports Arena and they called the Santa Clara Valley Youth Club and wanted to know if we had anybody to send down to compete in the two-mile run as they were trying to fill up that race. The Santa Clara Valley people said we have Jimmy Beatty who used to run indoor meets in the east when he was at the University of North Carolina. They said to send him down. So I went down to L.A. to run the invitational two-mile run and ended up winning it. I beat Max Truex and Alan Lawrence, who was an Australian at the University of Houston. A couple of weeks later we got a call from the New York Athletic Club as there was a meet at Madison Square Garden on February 13 and they were trying to fill up the mile. When they asked if we had anyone to run the mile, they got the same answer, ‘We’ve got Jimmy Beatty who used to run at the Garden when he was at Chapel Hill.’ So they said to send me over. I went to New York to run the mile and who was in there but Dyrol Burleson. He had just won the mile at the L.A. Invitational in 4:06 something I believe. Now here I am back in my own home grounds in the indoor meets I used to love, but nobody considered me to win the race. It turns out that Burleson makes his regular move on the last lap and I pulled in behind him. I don’t think he knows I’m there. And when we came off the turn I’m going after him, I catch him and we both lean for the finish and I beat him to win the Baxter Mile. Suddenly, after not running that long period of time and not training for that long, I knock off America’s number one miler. And so you might say that was what pushed me ahead to May when I broke Burleson’s American mile record and the next week when I ran that 5k down at Compton and then won the Olympic Trials.
GCR:How exciting was it in 1960 to win the Olympic Trials 5,000 meters with that devastating kick to narrowly edge Bill Dellinger by two-tenths of a second and then to realize that you were an Olympian and would represent the United States in Rome?
JBYou’re right about Dellinger who stayed on my shoulder and both of us kicked coming off the turn although he was behind me. He was never able to catch me. That was really funny as lots of people never observed that about the Bowerman-coached runners – they never liked to lead, they always thought they could outkick everybody. I may be wrong about that, but Archie San Romani, Jr. was one who could lead or follow. The first one who would go out and attack was Prefontaine. I don’t remember the ones before him, all of the good Oregon runners, who went charging out at a fast tempo. They always thought they could win with the kick.
GCR:I think you’re right and Prefontaine broke the mold because he did it on his own in high school and he had already developed that tactic and that aggression before he got to Oregon.
JBYou’re right about that and that’s a good point because that is basically the pattern I had in high school. I had no competition so when we had a race I had to lead every step of the way. When I won the North Carolina State meet my senior year in high school I ran 4:31 and second place was like 4:54 or 4:55. They weren’t even coming down the straightaway when I hit the finish line. If I didn’t force the tempo myself, nothing would happen. The same thing was true when I ran in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Chapel Hill. Ninety per cent of the time, and mainly in cross country, I had to lead the whole way. It became automatically what I did. I was not afraid to lead. Your point is well-taken. Prefontaine brought that with him. It didn’t bother me to lead the race the whole way and, of course, I always had a good kick, too. In the AAU indoor championship at Madison Square Garden in 1963 when General McArthur was there, when I ran 3:59 flat I think I led every step of the way.
GCR:In three straight years from 1961 to 1963 you won the AAU indoor mile along with the 1962 outdoor title. Which of these races stand out for your racing tactics and defeating tough opponents?
JBIt was a tough battle in 1962 at Mt SAC. I hadn’t quite come to a peak, though I was certainly in sub-four minute mile shape, maybe 3:55 or 3:56. I remember going up the far straightaway and I think it was Cary Weisiger, the former Duke runner, and he had jumped out into the lead. I remember thinking that I had to get the lead back. I ran up on Weiseger and he wasn’t giving in. When we came around the turn I final got in the lead coming of the turn and held it to the end. But Grelle and Weiseger were right behind me. I didn’t win by a big margin, maybe a couple yards.
GCR:When I interviewed Peter Snell a few years ago he mentioned a race with Weisiger, Grelle and you. It was a race where Snell had a strong kick the last 200 meters.
JBPeter Snell was fortunate that I had the collapsed quadriceps and couldn’t kick. Snell, in some interviews, after that race said that at the top of the turn when he made his move and I didn’t react at all, he was surprised, but I couldn’t. He said later he expected me to react and use my kick, but I didn’t do anything. What happened , and I believe this with every ounce of mental reflection I have, is that the week before Snell and I met at Modesto, I finally caught up at Compton with Murray Halberg, who had won the Gold Medal at 5,000 meters in Rome. When I sat in the stands and wanted to show the world what America could do, he was one of the guys that I wanted to get somewhere down the road. Remember, I was running against the 5,000 meter Gold medalist one weekend and Snell, the mile World Record holder, the next weekend. I don’t know any runner in the world that would go up against those types of opponents. Anyway, I stayed on Halberg’s shoulder, blasted past him and beat him at the Coliseum Relays. Someone said I ran about 21 seconds for the last 190 yards which is really flying at the end of a 5k.
GCR:Was it that strong kick, trying to get ready for the next race or a combination that was your undoing?
JBWhat happened was in training the next week, on Tuesday, which was going to be my last hard training day, I fell to the ground toward the end of the workout and that is when I suffered the collapsed quadriceps. We went to the UCLA Medical Center and into the Sports Department with Duffy Daray the track coach and the trainer. They said, ‘sorry son, you have a collapsed quadriceps.’ But I was still in such incredible condition we thought I could still be a competitor against Snell. That is when Igloi said I was ready to run 3:51 to 3:53 and we didn’t think Snell could run 3:53, and he never did. At Compton I was running close to last. At the gun lap everyone was way out in front of me and I could not change gears. What I could do was build into a speed. Coming up the back straightaway I was finally able to build into a kick speed. At that point I was really literally flying. Somebody said I ran the last 220 in 24.5 as they had a watch on me. Snell ran 3:55 and I ran 3:55.5. I know that had I ten more yards I would have beaten him even with the collapsed quadriceps. It’s just unfortunate that it came about. I wanted to bring the mile World Record to the United States. Had I been able to do that I would have had the World Record both outdoors and indoors at one mile and two miles. That’s something nobody ever did achieve or come close to achieving.
GCR:You were Silver Medalist at the 1963 Pan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 3:43.88, just behind Jim Grelle, who won in 3:43.62. What relegated you to a runner-up finish behind a good runner, but one whom you usually beat?
JBMainly what happed there is that we, meaning Coach Igloi and I, were targeting and focusing on Murray Halberg and Peter Snell in the third weekend of May at the Coliseum Relays, the following week at Modesto and then at Compton in early June. We were aiming to beat Snell and break the World Record in the process. The Pan Am Games were in April and I was still in extremely hard training and hadn’t come up yet. One might say I was on a down cycle before coming into peak condition. I wasn’t clearly prepared for that race, particularly against my friend and teammate Jim Grelle. He was a good runner.
GCR:How were the atmosphere, festivities and crowd in Sao Paulo for the Pan Am Games?
JBEverybody was fantastic. We trained at a beautiful club. The South American clubs had soccer fields, a track and a big clubhouse. They were magnificent. I represented the team in the Opening Ceremonies, which was a great compliment to me. I didn’t carry the flag, but entered with a Brazilian representative. I don’t recall all the details. Everything was great down in Sao Paulo and we had a brief stop in Rio. That was nice, as we didn’t stay the night, but had a chance to see it, so that was pleasant. It was a great experience. All the trips were great experiences. Going to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union was a great experience.
GCR:Were there any other personal highlights that stand out when you represented the United States at various international competitions?
JBTwo things were among the greatest compliments I ever had. First, in 1961 when we went to Moscow for the US-Soviet meet and the team was electing the team captain, they voted me captain. Here I was not even two years back running track, and here my teammates vote me the captain of the U.S. national team in 1961. Secondly, they did it again in 1962. Those were tremendous compliments, as far as I’m concerned, to have my teammates do that on my behalf.
GCR:Are there any other races that come to mind where you raced exceptionally hard to win or to break an American Record?
JBI have one that is especially dear to me and that is the New York Athletic Club meet of 1963 at Madison Square Garden. I was doing my warmups at the Garden at a level down below, and then Igloi got Bobby Seaman and myself and gave us the race instructions. I was in really great shape. Talking to me, Igloi says, ‘Just relax tonight. Take it easy and just win going away. Don’t worry about anything.’ But, when I came into the Garden I could feel the electricity in the air. There were 16,000 fans, it was standing room only and I knew that the people had come out for something special. At that time no one had ever run a sub-four minute mile in the Garden, though I had come close. If you are an American one-mile runner, you run the whole American indoor season and you have a chance to break the World Record in one mile, where would you want to do it? You’d want to do it in the Historic Madison Square Garden. And so, I told Coach Igloi, ‘I think they came out to see a World Record and I’d like to give it to them.’ Igloi didn’t say anything for a few seconds. Then he said, ‘Okay, I change my mind.’ Then he gave instructions to Bobby Seamen and me on how to run the first laps. That became my mission that night – to become the first person in the world to run a sub-four minute mile in Madison Square Garden. I was able to break my own record and to run sub-four, so to me that was among the epitome of my track career.
GCR:Let’s talk about your training under Coach Igloi, who is a big proponent of using effort as a guide versus times. He uses terms such as ‘fresh,’ which may be 5k pace, to ‘good,’ which may be mile pace’ and ‘hard’ versus specific time goals. How did you find switching to his training system compared to that of Coach Ranson at North Carolina?
JBI took to it quickly because I came out to California with a single goal in mind to make the Olympic team and to go to the eternal city. I had been familiar with Igloi’s training. What happened is that the Hungarian Revolution in October of 1956 happened when their athletes were heading to Melbourne for the 1956 Olympics. A lot of their athletes defected after the Games, and among them were Lazlo Tabori and Coach Mihaly Igloi, who came to the States. The AAU in New York City sent them down to Miami to train for the American indoor season. Igloi and Tabori were not happy down in Miami so they called the AAU and asked if they could find them another place to train. Ironically they called Coach Ranson at the University of North Carolina and asked if he could house Igloi and Tabori in Chapel Hill. Of course Coach Ranson hopped on it as Lazlo was the third man in the world to run a sub-four mile of 3:59 flat. They came up roughly the first of the year to Chapel Hill and stayed through the indoor season and the beginning of the outdoor season. I was able to observe Lazlo training under Coach Igloi at that time. I wasn’t familiar with all his lingo, you know, ‘easy swing speed,’ ‘hard speed,’ ‘middle speed,’ ‘middle speed tempo,’ ‘all out’ and his own language for the different interval speeds, but I saw what Lazlo was doing. And then also while he was there we had a race, ‘The Carolinas Mile of the Century,’ where Lazlo beat me at one mile. But after the indoor season they got invited to the outdoor meets out in California. So when they left Chapel Hill after that spring for the traditional meets they just never came back. They stayed in California. And that’s how when I decided to run again they were still out in California in Santa Clara Youth Village. So, quite honestly, I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with Igloi.
GCR:During the time when you trained under Coach Igloi you were successful from the mile to 5,000 meters. Were there times when you were focusing more on the mile or 5,000 meters in training or was your training incorporating aspects of both so that you were ready for either event?
JBThe fact of the matter is going back from high school to college and then after I developed so quickly under Igloi, that nobody including myself would have guessed that in seven months under Igloi I’d be running 3:58 for the mile and not being just a national caliber, but a world caliber runner. Having that success over that period of time against basically everybody in the world, my mentality was to go after everything. I thought I could be the man with the mission, set the example and convey to the American college, high school and post-collegiate coaches and runners that Americans could also do these things. It wasn’t up to just foreigners to break records. It became kind of a personal goal of mine to do this and to convey to American coaches and runners that we here in the United States could do these things. So I had sort of a broad mission to be honest with you.
GCR:What would you say were some of your ‘bread-and-butter’ sessions you would go to that were a good indicator of your fitness or that when you hit them you knew you were ready to race strong?
JBEvery day when we had what we called the hard training days, generally the last workout would be ten times a hundred all out. This means with each step we couldn’t possibly go faster. All you do is get to the end of it, make a loop and go again. It’s a pretty hard way to end a workout. I knew that when those hundreds became relatively easy, like I was flying, that I was ready. In the middle of the workout we may have done twenty by 150 meters at ‘hard speed’ with a fifty meter interval. That didn’t tell me how ready I was, but when I could fly at the end on those hundreds, I knew I was ready.
GCR:When I interviewed Gerry Lindgren a few years ago, we talked about how he was someone before Prefontaine who really liked to take races out fast. Gerry said he liked to be proactive rather than reactive and to be aggressive rather than passive. He wanted to push the pace and to make other people hurt. Do you feel that is what you wanted to do – to make your foes have an honest pace so that, if they were going to beat you, they had to do it off of a fast pace rather than a slower pace that would allow more runners to be in the hunt?
JBIt’s really a combination as the first thing I was known for was my kick. One thing that I had that some of them didn’t was the God-given ability that you can also improve upon, to accelerate instantaneously. I could be going in one step almost as fast as I could five steps later. Most of my opponents would have to build into it in five steps. Well, you give a guy like me a yard or two coming down the straightaway and you are going to have a hard time catching me. Plus the fact that I had this God-given genetic combination of speed and stamina where I could go from a mile to three miles or from 1,500 meters to 5,000 meters more so than most runners could, I wasn’t afraid to force the tempo and I wasn’t afraid to hang back and kick. From my standpoint, I was fortunate I could race both ways and I wasn’t afraid to race both ways.
GCR:Is there anything else about Coach Igloi that is a good example of how he helped you to move to heights even you weren’t imagining?
JBThe other thing I wanted to mention to you is about Coach Igloi and how incredibly smart he was in what he did. In one of my indoor trips we were going to the Cleveland KFC meet and he puts me in the 1,000 yard run against Ernie Cunliffe. Ernie had broken the indoor World Record at 1,000 yards in 2:07-something. I said, ‘Coach, are you crazy? There’s no way I can beat Ernie Cunliffe.’ I hadn’t lost any indoor races that year at 1,000 yards, the mile or two-mile. Ernie was known for just going all out and then little by little he’d start giving in. We raced and he led all the way until the last lap and then it wasn’t as much me catching him, but he was coming back to me. It turned out that I beat Ernie Cunliffe in 1,000 yards in Cleveland and ran the second fastest time ever on a twelve-lap track with a 2:09-something. The great Arnie Sowell had run 2:09 flat there at some time before. So, I always remember that because I thought Igloi was nuts putting me against Ernie Cunliffe.
GCR:It’s interesting that you mention Ernie Cunliffe, because he’s another top early 1960s runner that hardly anyone remembers. When I interviewed Dyrol Burleson two or three of years ago, Dyrol said that when he was the first man to break four minutes in the mile at Oregon’s Hayward Field, that Cunliffe was in the race, took it out so fast and he tried to stay with him. Then when Cunliffe faded, Burleson kicked and Dyrol thought the only reason he broke four minutes that day was because Cunliffe set such a fast pace.
JBThat would be Ernie. Let me see as I have Jim Dunaway’s book about the four minute mile from 1954 to 1967. I’m looking at 1960 and that is exactly correct. On April 23rd of 1960 in Eugene, Oregon in a dual meet of Oregon and Stanford, Ernie Cunliffe of Stanford ran 4:00.4. He missed it by four tenths and Dyrol Burleson ran 3:58.6.
GCR:I’d like to talk a bit more about some of your competitors. Often in training we are focusing on a tough opponent that we want to beat and, then when we are racing, even though they are a strong adversary because they are so tough, it is a joy to race them. Did you have favorite competitors or adversaries?
JBFirst of all the guy that I wanted to beat was Dyrol Burleson. I had seen him at the US-Russian meet in Philadelphia. He was the ‘boy wonder’ of United States mile racing. He was a great high school miler and he helped revolutionize high school mile running to some degree. He broke Don Bowden’s American mile record from 3:58.7 down to 3:58.6. He was a great competitor, but he relied on his kick and would never lead. He was the focal point because he just happened to have the American Record that I took away from him. He took it back running, I think, 3:57.6 the next year. Then I took it back and eventually got it down to 3:55.5. I would say Burleson and my teammate, Jim Grelle, were the opponents I focused on. Grelle was the NCAA mile champion. These two guys did some stuff in college that I didn’t do. I probably should have had at least three NCAA championships in college, which I didn’t have, but they both had won national championships and really had terrific careers. My teammate, Jim Grelle, was a tough teammate and great friend. He is a great friend today. Bob Schul and I have nominated him for the national Track and Field Hall of Fame and hope we can get him in this year which would mean with him, Schul and I, we would have three teammates from the L.A. Track Club all in the Hall of Fame. It’s a place he richly deserves to be as he had a great career.
GCR:Let’s get your comments and a couple of thoughts on some other contemporaries that you trained with, raced against or both. First, your L.A. Track Club teammate, the great Hungarian runner Lazlo Tabori.
JBI would describe Lazlo as an unselfish teammate who always encouraged me and told me to believe in Igloi and to believe in the old man. He was unselfish and knew the importance of teamwork in races where one guy didn’t have to do all of the work, which was a European concept that even Roger Bannister utilized in 1954 when he ran the first sub-four minute mile. Lazlo was just great about that. He was fantastic.
GCR:Your L.A. Track Club teammate and 1964 Olympic Gold Medalist at 5,000 meters Bob Schul.
JBBob was interesting to watch as I could see Bob gradually getting better and better and better. Probably somewhere in 1963 in workouts I could tell that Bob was coming on. I told myself that Bob was going to be one of our great international competitors. I had a lot of respect for Bob and knew that he was going to continue to improve. I wasn’t projecting him as the Gold Medalist in Tokyo at that point, because I was projecting myself, but I was projecting him to be a really great runner. Bob Schul is finally getting recognition – something he should have gotten a long time ago. When he won his Gold Medal in 5k in Tokyo it was unfortunate that he was overshadowed because of what Billy Mills did, the glamor of Billy being Indian and his whole story. So Bob was pushed to a side he shouldn’t have been pushed to.
GCR:1964 Olympian and indoor mile World Record Holder Tom O’Hara.
JBTom O’Hara should have broken the World Record in the mile. He was absolutely fantastic and talented. I honestly don’t know what happened from Tokyo onward, but Tom O’Hara was one of the great talents of American mile racing in that 1960s decade. He broke my mile indoor record, he won the NCAA cross country championships, he was a terrific half miler, he had all the speed and stamina and he was a great competitor.
GCR:The great middle distance runner, Olympic Silver Medalist, and multiple World Record Holder Jim Ryun.
JBJim Ryun is probably the most naturally gifted miler that we had. What he did was phenomenal. I think that, unfortunately, after facing Kip Keino in the Mexico City Olympics at altitude Jim wasn’t quite the same as he was before that. Another thing to is that he did such great things as a young miler. As we get a little older we often become more inhibited whereas earlier we are more uninhibited because we aren’t fully aware of what we are doing other than the fact that we know we are running great. But the perspective becomes different. Jim, who I still think is the most gifted middle distance runner we’ve had, moving forward from 1968 to 1972, he still should have been on course to great, great things. But it didn’t occur, as we know, and then it was unfortunate when he was tripped and fell in the Munich Olympics. And then Marty Liquori beat him in Philadelphia at the ‘Dream Mile’ of the century.
GCR:Three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Peter Snell
JBPeter Snell was a fantastic middle distance runner. Look at what he did in the half mile. I’m sorry and I just totally regret that I was injured when I faced him. I know I could match him on the kick. The other thing in my own mind is I have the results of all the major mile races from 1954 to the late 1960s that Jim Dunaway put together in his booklet and if the pace had gone out at 2:55 to 2:56 Snell probably would have run 59 to 60 for the last quarter. He wouldn’t have run 55 seconds. He didn’t have the natural stamina if the early pace was fast. If it was slow, like at Modesto when he ran 55 flat or something for the last quarter he was okay, but he couldn’t do that if the early pace was fast. He couldn’t do it.
GCR:Michel Jazy, the great French distance runner, Olympic Silver Medalist and multiple World Record Holder.
JBAh, Michel Jazy. I watched Jazy win the Silver Medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics against the legendary and great, great, great Herb Elliott. He also was a tremendous half miler – he could run a darn good half mile. He had speed, stamina and broke the World Record at 3,000 meters. When he and I went head-to-head it was the same thing. I remember when he took the lead on the last lap at the L.A. Sports Arena. I was on his shoulder and we came to the top of the turn. Off the turn on those eleven laps to the mile tracks there wasn’t much coming off the turn to the finish line. I said to myself, ‘Okay, you’ve got to make your move.’ So we came up on traffic and he wasn’t giving an inch. We both lunged and, fortunately, I beat him in a photo finish. To me, that was one of my great races because Jazy was the greatest middle distance runner France has ever had and he still is. Absolutely. No question about it. He made a mistake in Tokyo and should have stayed at 1,500 meters.
GCR:Let’s go back to your childhood and your formative athletic years. I know you did some boxing and played some football. Were you a youngster who played all sports and who was one of the more athletic kids?
JBI grew up in the era when most boys played the traditional sports of football, basketball and baseball, which I did. Also I grew up near a park so I was outside all the time. Then when they built a recreation center we played basketball. I played organized youth football, youth baseball and youth basketball. We won the city 12 and under football championship and I was the quarterback. When I was sixteen years old between my sophomore and junior years of high school I played a lot of Ping-Pong at parks and I won the City of Charlotte Ping-Pong Championship. Later I played a lot of what was called ‘High-Y’ basketball and we won the YMCA city championship. I was the MVP and averaged about twenty-one points a game as a playmaker guard. Then we played in a two-state tournament in South Carolina with four teams from South Carolina and four teams from North Carolina and I was named to the All-Tournament team. I did a little bit of everything and, fortunately, in most of it I seemed to come out on top.
GCR:The ‘Jim Beatty Legend’ has you as a high school junior talking your school’s track coach into letting you race the mile even though you weren’t on the track team, you winning the race and then winning the North Carolina State Championship. Is this true and, if so, could you provide a few more details of this amazing tale?
JBActually the real story is even better than that. It all happened all because of boxing, which was a big deal. In mid-winter the coaches would have boys pair off, put boxing gloves on and learn basics of boxing. I grew up with a pair of boxing gloves in the closet along with all of the other athletic equipment so I was no stranger to having gloves on. One day I was boxing in gym and there was a tap on my shoulder. The coach said, ‘Beatty, you’re boxing in the tournament.’ I said, ‘Coach, Beatty is not boxing in the tournament. But he repeated, ‘Beatty, you’re boxing in the tournament.’ We had an intramural tournament that was highly popular at my high school on three nights – Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It was standing room only and was a great event. One thing I knew about boxing was it required stamina. I was carrying a morning paper route for the Charlotte Observer so I started running my paper route to get in shape for boxing. The way it turned out I won my weight’s championship my sophomore year. Now my junior year when we came up to the boxing season I had no choice – I had to defend my boxing championship. Again I started running my paper route to get in shape for boxing. I could tell I’m getting stronger and faster. One night I’m boxing and I go three rounds of three minutes each and I’m hardly breathing. It turned out that a boy sitting beside me in one of my classes was our number one miler. He was a senior and ranked third in the state. We also had another senior boy ranked fourth. I thought that maybe I could run the mile, so I told my seatmate. He told me to come out for the track team, saying, ‘We can always use more milers.’ This is like the first of February. Of course, I didn’t go out for the team. I procrastinated. I was playing some basketball at the Y and just let it kind of slip by. The season went on and on and on and, finally, my basketball season was long over, and every now and then my seatmate would remind me, ‘I thought you were coming out for the track team.’ I’d say, ‘I’m coming out Archie.’
GCR:It seems like time was getting short – what finally spurred you on to run on the track team?
JBWe finally got into Holy Week of 1952, during my junior year, and on Wednesday of Holy Week, Archie says to me, ‘If you’re coming out for track you better hurry because Friday is our last meet at home, all the rest are away and the coach will never put you on the travel team.’ Well that scared me sufficiently and we were out of school on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. So, on Holy Thursday I went up town in Charlotte and bought a pair of track shoes. I went down to our school track. I had never seen a track meet or run around a track. But of course I knew that four laps was a mile. Anyways, I did some exercises, ran some sprints, and I tested to see if I could make four laps. It turns out I do, so on Good Friday the next day I go back to the track and walked up to the coach. I tell him, ‘Coach, you don’t know me, but I’m Jimmy Beatty. I’m a junior here at school and I came down yesterday and I went four laps for a mile and I made it and I’d like to run I the race today.’ He said, ‘Son, I’m sorry, but I can’t let you run. You’re a young boy, you haven’t been training and young boy running a competitive mile could hurt himself. I can’t let you do that.’ But I kept tugging at him and finally he said, ‘All right we’ll let you run. You get in the back. Don’t get in anybody’s way.’ So, we did that and I get to the last lap and I’m running third. We rounded the first turn and went down the back straightaway to the turn and our number two man wasn’t that far in front of me. I thought, ‘I think I can get him.’ So I start kicking and, sure enough, I pass him. Now I’m coming down off the turn and coming down a brief straightaway because the finish line’s in the middle of the track and not at the end. My seatmate’s not that far in front and I said to myself, ‘I think I can get Archie.’ Well, sure enough I pass Archie and I win the race. And in the process I break our school track record. My time was 4:50. Most kids were running about five minutes at best in our part of the country – that was about it. So that became my debut in track.
GCR:After that great start, how did you do when your team went on the road to out-of-town meets?
JBThe next week there was a big meet at Duke University, the Duke Durham Relays which was a big southeastern interscholastic meet with prep schools from Virginia, Tennessee and some of the schools from Atlanta, Georgia and Columbia, South Carolina. Coach put me in the mile run with my seatmate, Archie. I didn’t have a school uniform yet. I still had my gym shorts and a t-shirt on. The defending champion of the Duke Durham Relays was also the defending North Carolina State champion. He was from High Point, North Carolina, which was in my conference. We ran around the big field and I was kind of in a pack. Boyd Newman, the defending champion had made his move up front. Coming into the turn I started to kick and was passing guys. Coming down the straightaway now I’m just about to get to him. I don’t beat him and it’s not a photo finish, but he wins by about a half of a body and we both break the Relays record at 4:41.
GCR:Did that race and the experience of racing the defending state champion help you to figure out what you needed to do to beat him?
JBThe next week was the Conference meet at his home track in High Point. I say to myself, ‘Try to use some sense and don’t get so far behind. Stay closer to these guys.’ For the most part I do that and I stay on his shoulder, come around the turn on the last lap and I outkick him and win. Suddenly I’m the Conference champion. The next week is the State meet at Chapel Hill where Newman is the defending champion. We go through the same scenario with me way behind as I think I ate too late and too much for a pre-meet meal at the UNC student cafeteria because it was free I guess. I’m behind and start making my move around the final turn. Little by little I’m closing the gap and he was way ahead – he must have been thirty yards up on me. Five yards from the finish I catch him and I go on to win the State championship. In the space of that one month from never having run or seen a track meet, suddenly I’m the North Carolina mile state champion. That is how I started my track career.
GCR:Your senior year did you run cross country or did you compete in other sports and then run track as you readied for a successful defense of your state title?
JBNorth Carolina at that time in outdoor track did not have a two-mile and you could not double up and run a mile and a half mile. You could do one or the other. And cross country did not exist. So, I was not involved. Track season opened up on January 15th and went to the middle of May. One week after the State meet we had a big meet here in Charlotte called the Queen City Relays. Anyway, at that time the University of North Carolina had an indoor eleven lap wooden track and they hosted about the only indoor track meet in the south. They had a conference and non-conference division and all sorts of schools would come in for it. They also had a scholastic division. It was in mid-February and they did have an interscholastic 1,000 yard run and my coach entered me. It turned out we had a preliminary and a final and I beat two boys from Virginia in the final so I won the Southern Interscholastic 1,000 yard run and that was my debut into indoor track and fortunately it turned out to be a good debut. The season went on and I had no competition. I won the Duke Durham Relays with no problem. Most of the time when I finished the mile there wouldn’t even be anyone on the straightaway. Even in the state meet when I ran 4:31, the next guy was 4:54 – something like that.
GCR:Times were a lot different in the 1950s as far as race relations in the southern U.S. where you grew up. Do you have any remembrances from your high school years that exemplify those times?
JBI grew up in the Jim Crow segregated south. Close to where I went to school at Charlotte Central was an African American school named Second Ward. John West was the top African American distance runner in the state in the mile, running somewhere in the mid-4:30s, and he ran for Second Ward. We worked out together a few days a week but couldn’t race together because of segregation. Before the Queen City Relays my senior year I asked my coach if they would allow Second Ward to run at the meet, but he said the school system wouldn’t even hear of it. When I was working years later as a state representative in the general assembly of North Carolina I appointed a page from that school and she was the first black page in North Carolina in over a century. I did it in memory of John West.
GCR:Did you have a chance to get in touch with John since your high school days?
JBNo, I didn’t. I did hear that he went into the armed services, the army I believe, and that he ended up not living a long life. I’ve had this thought of someone making a documentary film of the segregated situation back in the 1950s through the eyes of John and me. We would each be reading the Charlotte Observer and following each other’s running exploits in our separate track meets. Then we would be doing some track workouts together. Both of these are factual. Finally, at the end, the story would use poetic license. Since we weren’t allowed to officially race each other in the Jim Crow south, we would quietly meet at the track for a race. It would just be four of us, John, me, his coach and my coach. We would race a mile and on the last lap be side-by-side. Down the home stretch neck-and-neck until we leaned at the finish line. At that point, when everyone was wondering who won, the movie would freeze and end. We would both be winners just for being able to run this dream mile.
GCR:Wow – that would be amazing and would be an outstanding documentary. Let’s switch gears and move forward to your college years. Were you recruited by many colleges or was it almost a foregone conclusion that you would be a UNC Tarheel?
JBWhen I went to Chapel Hill I only had five months of track and field behind me. Several things happened and word had got out to coaches about me. There was some kind of ‘hey, did you hear about this kid from Charlotte, North Carolina?’ It was like a legend started kind of growing from my junior year about this boy who came out and won his first race. The word got out to coaches and, in the process of that, Notre Dame was looking for some Catholic boys from down south. My name got up to Notre Dame and they offered me a full scholarship. So I signed a grant-in-aid to go to Notre Dame. But also one day the track coach and the athletic director from South Carolina came up to Charlotte to my house and we sat on the front porch. They wanted to improve their track program at the University of South Carolina and they thought the catalyst would be a one mile runner. So, they offered me a full ride. Then, North Carolina State wasn’t that big at that time, but they talked about it and so did Duke. Tennessee was also starting to come forward. Although a brief career, it sparked interest from schools that were pretty good. They heard this phenomenal story about this kid and figured somebody better go take a look at him. That’s how it came about. That summer I was playing basketball for the YMCA league at night and working during the day. Coach Ranson from North Carolina would come down there all of the time and he kept telling me, ‘Jimmy. If you’re going to live in the state you ought to go to the state university.’ So, what happened was two weeks before school started I changed my mind, contacted Notre Dame and told them, and went to Chapel Hill on a scholarship.
GCR:Nowadays you can’t switch after signing, so it must have been okay back then.
JBI guess so. But Notre Dame was just doing it more on a recommendation. It wasn’t like their coach came down to see me run, but they had heard from a gentleman in Charlotte who was very close to Notre Dame and kept saying, ‘Let me tell you what this kid has done in a little period of time. He has all the potential in the world.’ That’s what happened.
GCR:Coach Ranson must have done a pretty good job coaching you as you were a 4:31.9 prep miler and, under his tutelage, four years later you ran 4:06. What were some of the initial highlights of his developing you as a runner and as a young man who was away from home that contributed to your success?
JBFreshmen didn’t compete with varsity, so we had a freshmen team, both in cross country and track. We would have Big Four meets and sometimes Big Five meets that would include Davidson College. He put me right away into competitive situations. I ran with the varsity and I think I raced only a few weeks after I got there. I had never run cross country, but I was beating the senior varsity runners. Of course I went undefeated during my freshman year and broke the school record when we got to outdoors. I ran about 4:22 in the mile and 9:44 in the 2-mile. I was basically all alone and they were like time trials because I didn’t have any competition. Also, at that time you didn’t train in the summer. You took time off, went home and got a job. The other thing, at least my freshmen year, was that we only trained Monday to Friday. You didn’t train on Saturday and certainly you never trained on Sunday. During my four years at Chapel Hill I never trained more than thirty to thirty-five miles a week.
GCR:How different was it your sophomore year when you were now a varsity athlete?
JBWhen I came back for my sophomore year and debuted on the varsity. I instantly became the number one cross country runner and eventually won three conference cross country championships. When I graduated I had a course record on every course I had run. Also, I have to give my coach credit because when I came to Chapel Hill he told me that when I was ready for national competition the university would send me. They held true to that and my sophomore year they sent me to the NCAA cross country meet up in East Lansing, Michigan. I came in 13th which was the highest placing sophomore. It was satisfying because I was in the chute to get my medal and I turned around to see the high man with a Notre Dame jersey. And the Notre Dame jersey belonged to a guy named Bill Squires. We didn’t shake hands and introduce ourselves, but I knew who he was. He didn’t know who I was. The only thought I had was, ‘Wow! If I’d come up here I’d have been Notre Dame’s number one runner.’ When Squires was in high school he was one of the top interscholastic runners before he went on to Notre Dame. He competed nationally quite well.
GCR:It must have been really exciting for you when your coach sent you to the Penn Relays and you raced very strong.
JBIn the springtime Coach Ranson comes down to me two weeks ahead of time and says, ‘Jimmy, we’re going to send you to the Penn Relays.’ I almost fell over. I always heard of the Penn Relays, but never thought I would run in the Penn Relays. I was thrilled to death. I was going to Philadelphia. I go up to Philly for Penn and nobody knows me. Most of these guys were from the Midwest and the east and the northeast. The defending champion – a guy named Bob Sabara from Manhattan College – was there and a big article in the paper talked about two or three guys who had a chance against Bob Sabara. Of course, I was never mentioned. There were twenty-seven entrants with three rows of nine runners and unfortunately I drew number twenty-seven. I was in the back row up against the wall. I was thinking, ‘How the heck am I going to get out of this pack?’ We started the two-mile on that traditional Penn Relays soft cinder track and I finally am able to break out of the pack and head up to the front group. I’m in there on the last lap at the top of the turn and I could see I was ready to make my move. I start my kick and, the way it turns out, I basically annihilate them and I win the Penn Relays two-mile and run 9:18. Suddenly I’m champion of the Penn Relays, a meet I never even thought I would run in.
GCR:That Penn Relays win was a big step. Did it seem like under Coach Ranson you just kept progressing?
JBStep by step of the way it seemed to move forward. Coach sent me to the NCAAs in Los Angeles at the end of the season and I ran the two-mile in 9:07 and came in second to Ken Reiser from the University of Oregon. So the beat went on. My junior year I didn’t get to go to the cross country nationals. I knew I was good enough to be in the top three and to possibly win, but unfortunately at the end of the regular cross country season I hurt my leg and wasn’t able to go. My junior year was the year I started running the indoor meets at the Garden. That was also the year of the Olympic Trials that we talked about, but right now we’re just talking about the University of North Carolina.
GCR:You were one of the favorites to win the NCAA Cross Country meet your senior year. What were the challenges that day which relegated you to a second place finish?
JBMy senior year everything’s basically a duplication of my junior year. I had my typical cross country season and went to the NCAAs which were again in East Lansing, Michigan. I knew my time had come and I was going to win. What I didn’t anticipate was a blizzard. It was late November at Michigan State University. It was twenty-four degrees, five below zero wind chill factor and a blizzard. I looked around me and the guys who were used to that had on toboggans and gloves and long sleeves and leotards – all that kind of stuff. I had my skimpy shorts and my sleeveless shirt like I was at the Florida Relays. I didn’t win – I started kicking at the end and came in second. I didn’t pull it out and win. I like to think if it was decent weather or if I had dressed right I could have won, but maybe under the conditions coming in second wasn’t bad.
GCR:You were oh-so-close to winning NCAA titles with three second place finishes.
JBI was always knocking on the door. I was a good national runner and under different circumstances I probably should have won three different national championships, a cross country, two-mile and 5k. My senior year I ran that 4:06 early in the season and probably could have gotten down outdoors to 4:03, but then the last month I got hurt and didn’t even run the conference championship outdoors. When I went to the NCAAs and nationals, even though I ran well, I was going through the motions. I had lost my stamina. I think I still made All-American at Austin and came in sixth in the mile at the AAU national Championships.
GCR:At that point you were out of college and it was three years until the next Olympics, so what were your choices?
JBI went back home and waited to go into the army. I got a job and started working. In that era in my part of the country there was no avenue to continue your sport. If you were in New York you could run for the New York AC or the Pioneer Club. There was the Philadelphia Pioneer Club, Baltimore Olympic Club, Chicago Track Club, San Francisco Olympic Club or the L.A. Olympic Club - but there wasn’t anything down in the southern part of the United States. For all intents and purposes your career is finished. At that point it seemed that I would not be running again.
GCR:Stepping back to your college years, while you competed for the University of North Carolina you won eleven ACC individual titles as you helped your team contend for conference team crowns. Compare and contrast winning individual and team titles since track and cross country are both individual and team sports.
JBOh, I was an incredible team player and team runner. I tried my best to pull our team together in cross country. I’d tell my teammates that we should aim for 15 points by placing one to five and not letting the other team score at all. I tried to pull them along in training for a mile or two on a run. I remember even my freshmen year that we lost a freshmen meet over at Duke and it really irritated the daylights out of me and I wanted to get even. So when they came over to Chapel Hill that spring of my freshmen year I went up to Coach Ranson and said, ‘I don’t want to lose to Duke again. I want to run three races today. I want to run the half mile, the mile and the two-mile.’ So he let me do it, I won all three and we beat the Duke freshmen. So I was very team-oriented. The same thing was true at Florida Relays where I won the two-mile and we won the distance medley where I anchored. I was telling the guys that we can pull it off and let’s do it. I did everything I could from a team standpoint to motivate and contribute. That could have been part of my growing up playing a lot of team sports, particularly basketball.
GCR:Speaking of team, let’s take a look back again to your high school days. When I was doing some research in the North Carolina High School archives I noted in 1952 that there were quite a few State Champions on Charlotte Central including Garland Thomas in the hurdles, Whit Spearmon in the 880, Massey in the 440 and Logan in the pole vault. Also, your team and Durham had each won over ten State titles so it must have been quite a spirited competition that year and your senior year. What do you recall of these other great athletes and the high school team competition?
JBWhat happened was that Charlotte Central High School had a great tradition in sports way before I got there. They had a great boxing team years before, a top swimming team, they were always great in tennis, basketball, football, baseball – we had fifteen hundred students and had a great sports reputation in North Carolina. That first year, my junior year, when I went out, I think we won ten events at State. We won the quarter mile, half mile, mile, high hurdles, low hurdles, high jump, pole vault, long jump, javelin and the relay. And then we were favored in the 100 and 220, but our top guy who was a senior got the measles as we had a measles outbreak in Charlotte. He couldn’t run. It’s highly conceivable that we would have won the hundred and 220 - we had a really good team.
GCR:According to the record book, Charlotte Central had 15 North Carolina State Championships in track and field and Durham had eleven, so it must have been quite a feud?
JBThere were three teams in the mix including R.J. Reynolds out of Winston-Salem. My senior year we had a dual meet with Durham and beat them. We beat Reynolds at the Conference championship. But at the State meet they tied for first and we came in third. The reason was that their strong events complemented each other and negated us in the process. Although we were better head-to-head, we didn’t win at State.
GCR:You were inducted into several Halls of Fame including the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1963, USA National Track and Field HOF in 1990 and the Greater Charlotte Sports HOF in 2004. In 1962 you also won the Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete and were first recipient of the ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year. How does it feel to be so honored? Is it both humbling and exciting at the same time?
JBFirst, in the big cities they give out awards and the L.A. Times had their Southern California Athlete of the Year. In 1962 I was a nominee along with Maury Wills of the Dodgers, who broke Ty Cobb’s stolen base record. A lot of the voting came down to Maury Wills and Jim Beatty and I beat him. Even today I find it hard to believe. I was the Track and Field News Athlete of the Year. Winning the Sullivan Award stunned me as my heroes going way back had won it and I never imagined my name being on the same list with people who were my heroes. That was a great personal honor. The ABC Wide World of Sports award came down to me and Arnold Palmer and I was named the honoree. Being Catholic, and getting recognized as the Catholic Athlete of the Year, was something as the year before it was the great Stan ‘The Man’ Musial. I was in good company with all of these honors, but I never projected that Jim Beatty would have his name associated with all of them. Then when they organized the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, to be a charter member with guys I admired was amazing as I never thought I’d be on the same podium with those people. My presumption was that I knew I would and up in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. I was inducted into the Greater Charlotte Hall of Fame and my high school, the Central High Hall of Fame, so all of those came in line. Some of the honors surprised me and I couldn’t believe all of this was coming my way. Part of it was because when I graduated from Chapel Hill, retired from running and then came out of retirement and started running again, although I knew that I was better than my college career and I knew I could break four minutes, across the board I never thought I’d do all the things I did. It had to be under Igloi that my genetic stamina and speed all came into play.
GCR:Are there any Hall of Fame stories about induction processes that are surprising or noteworthy?
JBI’ll tell you an interesting story about the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. I kept seeing where different people were getting voted I and I was scratching my head wondering how they were voted in and I wasn’t. One day I was on a program with Dr. Leroy Walker, my good friend from North Carolina Central University. He was also a former Olympic coach and President of the USOC, and great coach of Lee Calhoun and others. I asked him about getting in the Hall of Fame. When he found out surprisingly that I wasn’t in the Hall of Fame, he told me they would take care of it. What I didn’t know was that I thought there was an internal committee that voted. But what happened was somebody from the outside had to nominate you first. I didn’t know that I should go to somebody and ask to be nominated. But when I was nominated I got in right away and was the number one vote getter. With that in mind, I was on a program a while back with the great Wes Santee, who was one of my heroes, and I talked to Wes about if he was in the Track and Field Hall of Fame. It turned out the same that he wasn’t because he never got nominated. So we got him nominated. I did the same thing with Bill Dellinger, my teammate and close friend. I contacted the coach and AD at Oregon and he got voted right in. I was on a program with Don Bowden, America’s first sub-four minute miler, in Washington, DC. Kip Keino was also there. I got talking to Don and he never had been nominated. He went back to California, sent me his information, I personally nominated him and he got right in. That was the fallacy of it all and that is why right now we’re working on getting Jim Grelle into the Hall of Fame and doing the process for him. He deserves it. He stood toe to toe with all the great milers of the 1960s. He had a great career.
GCR:In the past few decades have you had any great reunions with competitors from your running and racing days?
JBI remember when we were going over to Paris back in the early 1980s I wanted to see if I could have a reunion with Jazy. So I contacted L’Equippe to see if they could set up a luncheon meeting. They did and the guy that hosted it was Horst Dassler, who was President of Adidas and the son of Adi Dassler, who started Adidas. Michael was working for Adidas. Horace Dassler hosted a luncheon at the Paris headquarters of Adidas and we all had a great time. I had a reunion and Michael and I were standing up, talking and answering questions. Finally, Jazy put his arm around me and said, ‘How did this little son of a bitch ever beat me?’ That was my rendezvous and my friendship with Jazy. We have a lot of good memories.
GCR:In the early 1960s track and field was huge in the U.S. public eye on television with many popular meets, and in Europe where the USA team was mobbed by fans versus today where there is money to be made as a top athlete, but track and field is a much more minor sport. Can anything help out track and field as a sport or is it just different times?
JBFirst of all, the metric system has hurt track and field in the United States. You can go to any cafeteria and ask people what 10,000 meters is and they won’t be able to tell you. They won’t know what 1,500 meters is. That is an overall problem we have. The other thing is the old indoor season was magnificent and I’m sorry the athletes of today can’t experience it. Imagine going to the Boston Garden for the Boston A.A. Meet and the Boston Knights of Columbus meet; to New York City in the middle of winter for the Millrose Games and New York Athletic Club Championships, the IC4As, the Knights of Columbus meet; on to Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Inquirer Games; going to Washington for the Evening Star Games; going to Cleveland for the Knights of Columbus Games; going to Chicago for the Daily News Relays; to Milwaukee for the Milwaukee Journal Games; and then later when it developed on the west coast the L.A. Times meet, the L.A. Invitational and up to San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. It’s sad that the runners today can’t experience that classic indoor season all by itself. Also, I think every time I ran in Madison Square Garden it was S.R.O. – Standing Room Only. The meets were that popular no matter where you went. They were sold out. It was great. Now with the advent of the 200 meter tracks that are mainly on colleges campuses with very little seating capacity including the 168th Street Armory which I think is the New Balance Arena in New York City, on the upper west side, the seating capacity is not that big. Now the Millrose Games is no longer at Madison Square Garden and all of that has gone into history. The top athletes in the world are professionals and the fact is when you get below that elite group there are tons of runners who are very, very good. I think it would be great if somebody had enough entrepreneurial skill to create a separate indoor season and let it be an amateur deal where the promoter could make some money and have the meets like they used to be. It doesn’t exist because these guys never get a chance to do what I did.
GCR:Since your retirement from top level, competitive racing what have you done as far as running and staying involved in the sport?
JBI’ll answer this way – way back in the late 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s I was getting asked by many people to chair 5k and 10k races for charity, so I thought that maybe I ought to get in shape and maybe run in some of them. I started my own fitness program of running in the evenings. I was running on a track and having some incredible workouts. I was doing some Igloi training sessions. I called one of my friends and told him he wouldn’t believe what I was doing. One night I had this workout and the light switch came on. I was sitting in my car and said to myself, ‘you are going to hurt yourself very badly if you keep this crazy stuff up.’ It scared me sufficiently because I had a problem due to my old competitive days. The problem was this: wanting to win and to break records. I knew that if I went to a 5k race and I lost my age group it would irritate me so much and get under my skin, that I would say, ‘I can’t believe he beat me. That’s going to be the last time.’ And that would be my goal, not to lose again. Then if I won all or most of the races, the next thing I’d be doing is going to the meet directors and saying, ‘Pardon me sir, but could you tell me what the course record is for my age group?’ So, I knew my psyche should not fall into the trap. The best way I could not fall into it was to not do it so I quit the training. What I did do was over the years I created and chaired maybe twenty-five races including being the chair for the 1995 National Championships Marathon and 1996 Olympic Trials Marathon for Atlanta. When the 1996 Olympic torch relay came through Charlotte, I was honored to be the anchor runner in our area. I kept my hand in it that way. We received much praise and gratitude from the athletes as far as how they were taken care of at those two marathons. Their reactions were phenomenal. I also chaired the Charlotte Observer marathon, 10k and 5k for at least ten years. I was constantly involved in the sport, but in the process of organizing and running things as opposed to being a participant. That enabled me to stay close to running. That was a good thing for me to do.
GCR:You’ve had many times where you were heavily involved in charitable efforts over the years. What are some highlights?
JBAmong them are three years as North Carolina state chairman for the strides against cancer, five years heading up the Jim Beatty Challenge for cystic fibrosis, twice North Carolina State chairman for the Easter Seals society, twice North Carolina State chairman of Special Olympics, three times featured speaker at the Special Olympics competition, chairman of the regional leukemia society and more recently chairman of a regional pancreatic cancer run. That has kept me busy over the years.
GCR:What advice do you have for younger runners competing in track and cross country to help them stay more consistent, to help them improve and to encourage them to use running as a sport they continue as they grow into adulthood?
JBBasically, when I get asked by a parent and get introduced to their child, honestly, I do my best to avoid talking too much about their training, even though I will ask about their program and what they’re doing. I may make some modifications or suggestions, but I don’t get too deeply into it because I think one avenue that can happen is they can lose an element of respect for their own coach if they think they are getting better advice from me. I don’t think it’s good for me to go there. So, I try to avoid that, although I do what I know I can get away with without endangering the relationship. But in no way do I try to impose upon what their coach is doing. I don’t do that.
GCR:When you’re giving a talk and doing a one minute inspirational wrap up of the lessons you have learned during your life in the classroom and athletically, the discipline of running and overcoming adversity like you said that Sister wrote in your yearbook, what do you say in that wrap up that you would like to share with my readers?
JBPeople ask me quite often what lesson I learned or is there any one key lesson. Very often I surprise them as I tell them one of the most important things I ever learned is time management. Because both in high school and at Chapel Hill when it was more regimented and I was carrying fifteen hours of classes, working out twenty hours per week, eating properly, sleeping properly and being able to manage my workouts and my academic load I learned time management. That still remains one of the most important things an athlete can learn in the discipline of his or her sport. You have to have it. The other thing that I did as a young athlete was to have a proper diet. If you learn how to eat properly that in itself will carry you into adulthood and into older age. Start out with a meat or fish, potato or rice and then a vegetable like string beans or whatever it might be. If you’re working out you can certainly have some sweets at dessert. But you have to eat properly and drink properly. So, diet is something you learn as a young athlete and basically it stays with you.
 Inside Stuff
NicknamesIn the summertime as a child down south I was always going barefoot, when I was about eight or ten years old. Little boys went bare-chested and I also had skimpy shorts. I had black hair and a short cropped hair cut. Then I’d get tan as I tanned easily due to being part Italian. We had this red clay and with my background and the red clay dust on my body, the older crowd with my brothers who were three and four years older than me nicknamed me ‘Little Beaver.’ Even to this day if they are still around they call me ‘Little Beaver.’ Then when I was at Chapel Hill running, all of the newspapers in North Carolina – in Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Charlotte – whenever I would be competing and win a race, they would always start their article with three words. It would be ‘Little Jimmy Beatty.’ It was like my name was always composed of three words, and it was ‘Little Jimmy Beatty Set a New Course Record’ or ‘Little Jimmy Beatty Broke the School Record’
Favorite moviesThe great movie ‘Shane’ with Alan Ladd and Jack Palance and the gunfights. An English movie from the 1930s called ‘Four Feathers’ that had a remake later, but the original was better. Of course, the favorite of just about everybody that walks, ‘Casablanca.’ I still have to say ‘Gone with the Wind’ was incredible as was ‘Robin Hood’
Favorite TV showsI was on ‘To Tell the Truth,’ and that is one of them. I liked ‘Paladin,’ the cartoon, ‘The Flintstones’ and ‘Dragnet.’ Also, ‘Laugh-In’ was great
Favorite songs and musiciansBack in my day there was a great group called ‘The Four Aces’ and they had a recording of ‘Love is a Many Splendored Thing’ which is my favorite song. It was also a great movie with William Holden and Jennifer Jones. ‘The Four Aces’ had endless Gold records. ‘The Four Lads’ had the song, ‘No Not Much.’ There was ‘Tennessee Waltz’ by Patti Page. I also like ‘You Belong to Me’ by Jo Stafford, ‘Desperado’ by Joan Baez and many songs by Joni James. John Denver was great – I like just about all of his music
Favorite booksI’ve read so many. One that I really enjoyed was ‘Seabiscuit’ by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s funny because one day I was shopping and a man I ran track with called me over and told me about the book. I remembered the horse, Seabiscuit, from when I was growing up because there was an early movie about Seabiscuit. She said, ‘Ever since we were teammates at Chapel Hill I never could figure out how you did it with your running ability. After I read the book about Seabiscuit it all fell in place. As a human being, the way you were built, you were the human Seabiscuit – that’s what it gets down to.’ It’s one of the books – and I don’t do it often – that I read twice. It was just fantastic. In the last several years a lot of books have come out on our ‘Founding Fathers’ and great Presidents going up to Andrew Jackson. I bought and read all of those books because, even though I’m an English major, I minored in history at Chapel Hill and am interested in history
First carsMy first car was the one I drove out to California and that was the legendary 1957 Chevrolet Bellaire – white top, red bottom, black leather interior. It was a used car – not a new one. When I saw it on the parking lot I said, ‘That’s the one I want.’ One of my favorite cars was a 1960 black Corvette with red leather upholstery with two tops that was absolutely stunning and my friend was selling it. I needed to have that one and I bought it from him. I lived in L.A. in Pasadena so I had to take that baby over the freeways. It used to fly when I was on the Pasadena freeway. One time I hit an overpass and a highway patrolman was there. He let me go. I was up to a hundred or a hundred five – something like that. He radioed ahead to the next overpass and sure enough I got pulled over again, I got stopped. The patrolman asked me, ‘You aren’t by chance the runner?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, I am.’ He said, ‘I’m not going to ticket you this go-around, but you need to slow down when you are on the Pasadena freeway.’ I said, ‘Yes sir, it won’t happen again.’ That was my most memorable experience with that Corvette
Current carMy current is a Honda Elantra Limited which is a great car
First JobMy first job was when I was ten years old and got an afternoon paper route with the Charlotte News. The when I got in the seventh grade I got the morning Charlotte Observer route which I carried for six years until I graduated from high school. I was up at 4:30 every morning from age thirteen on
FamilyMy wife, Paulette, is from Brussels, Belgium and she was born right after the allies liberated Belgium in 1944. She is Catholic, but her father is interesting because he was Jewish and originally from Poland. He and his wife met up in Berlin where he was a great boxer, a lightweight, 135 pounds and had an incredible record, something like 140 wins, one loss and one draw. Boxing was huge in the 1920s and 1930s in the clubs in Europe. He was probably a pre-Olympic favorite for the 1940 Games that got cancelled. Since he was Jewish he got arrested and imprisoned by the Germans, but someone helped him get out and he went on the underground railroad into Belgium. Paulette’s family had always been people that had helped shelter them. It ended up that her father, Sammy Najman, was in their attic, although he was registered at the hotel. The way it ended up is Paulette’s mother ended up marrying him and after the marriage, if you were married to a Catholic, it is my understanding that in occupied Belgium at the time they didn’t ship you out, but you had to wear a Star of David armband. So he wore his armband and they let him alone. At the end of the war they became displaced persons. Paulette’s older brothers had gone down to Argentina, so then as a young girl her family moved down to Buenos Aries. She lived her early years there and later came back to Germany where she worked at NATO headquarters as an interpreter. Eventually she came to the United States and we met at a later date. She had been divorced and I had also. We’ve been married thirty-eight years and have her son and daughter by her marriage and my son and daughter, by my marriage. My son, Tully, has a child in Wilmington. We have three grandchildren up the street from her daughter and two from her son who lives in Mecklenburg County. Her daughter and husband adopted a little girl from Ethiopia who just celebrated her seventh birthday. That rounds out our family. They are all good people and so we’re blessed from that standpoint
PetsMore recently Paulette and I had two West island terriers, ‘Westies,’ as they call them. We had one that lived seven years and a second one for thirteen years. After that dog passed away about a year and a half ago we got a cat. The dog was ‘Mr. B.’ and we call the cat ‘Miss B.’ Cats have always been part of the household ever since I was a child. Growing up my dog was a mixed terrier named ‘Trigger,’ due to Roy Rogers. He was with me every morning when I delivered the Charlotte Observer. That’s what a pet dog does. I still keep a picture of him
Favorite breakfastI would say the traditional of a couple sunny side up eggs, sausage, grits, and a cup of Joe. Also, I still love pancakes
Favorite mealSalmon, mountain trout or rib eye steak. It’s always a balanced meal which I learned to eat as a child in sports
Favorite beveragesA martini, shaken not stirred There is so much information on athletic beverages available today, but when I am asked what beverage I drank during training in my day, my answer is ,’black cherry Kool-Aid’
First running memoryIt was when I was thirteen, with my neighborhood friends. We played a game called, ‘Chase,’ where if you got tagged by someone you became ‘It.’ I was running across the street and there was a hill about a block from where we lived. The sun was about eleven o’clock high in the sky and they were behind me. I looked over my right shoulder to see where they were and didn’t see a car was coming up the hill. The guy who was driving saw the boys chasing me, but he didn’t see me because of the position of the sun toward his right side. He did say afterward that whenever he saw children he did slow down, so fortunately he slowed down. But I got hit in the back. I remember to this day flipping over. I remember it vividly. I landed on my back and lay there. I couldn’t breathe. I opened my eyes and saw everyone looking down at me. I kept saying, ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.’ Then the ambulance came. So my first memory of running was getting hit by a car
Running heroesFirst was Glen Cunningham. Next, Horace Ashenfelter, who won the steeple in Helsinki. Then Wes Santee, and I’m sorry he never broke four minutes. Also Greg Rice, who was a great runner at Notre Dame – if I went to Notre Dame I wanted to be the next Greg Rice. And, of course, Roger Bannister who ran the first sub-four minute mile
Childhood HeroesMy two biggest heroes when I was a young kid remain heroes of mine today. First was the legendary Joe DiMaggio, the ‘Yankee Clipper ‘for the New York Yankees, whom I really admired throughout his whole life. And the other is All-American, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lujack at Notre Dame in the late forties when they had national championships under the legendary Coach Frank Leahy. Lujack wasn’t just a great athlete, but he looked like a movie star. In Notre Dame sports lore he still remains a hero and is one that is worshipped by the Irish crowd. He played both ways, on offense and defense. In the late 1980s Sport magazine had a legendary story about the 1946 Notre Dame game at Yankee Stadium against the great Army team with Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard, ‘Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.’ It ended up in a zero-zero tie, but toward the end of the game Doc Blanchard broke out into an open field and the only thing between him and Army winning was Johnny Lujack. Then Lujack brought him down. And nobody brought Doc Blanchard down in an open field. They were my heroes since we emanated out of the Catholic faith.
Greatest running momentsThat first indoor sub-four minute mile is the crowning moment. The second would be when I ran my first sub-four, which was outdoors at Modesto when I ran 3:58 and broke the American mile record. Seven months before when I moved out to California I wouldn’t have said, ‘Jimmy Beatty’s going to break sub-four and break the American Record.’ Then when all of that occurred, I couldn’t believe it. The other one was that Madison Square Garden World Record
Worst running momentI’m going to leave out when I was injured and faced Peter Snell, because that was a different circumstance. I would say it was in the 1956 Olympic Trials at the L.A. Coliseum when I was among the favorites to go to Melbourne and just had an awful day, which was part of my motivation for coming out of retirement and going to Rome
Childhood dreamsI don’t think particularly I had some type of aspiration that I would end up in college being this or that. Not really. What I probably would have liked was to be shortstop for the New York Yankees. I was a fan of Notre Dame and the Yankees. When I came back from Paris in Europe in 1962 I got a call from Sports Illustrated asking if it would be okay to set up a press luncheon when I got back to New York City. They asked if there was anything I would like to do so I told them, ‘I’d like to see the Yankees if they are in town.’ Sure enough, the Yankees were there. On September 1, 1962 we went out to the ball park and I was surprised as it turned out that it was ‘Jim Beatty Day’ at Yankee Stadium. I about fell over. On the scoreboard it said, ‘The Yankees welcome Jim Beatty back from his successful tour of Europe.’ They took me down to the dressing room and dugout for photos with the ‘M and M Boys,’ Mantle and Maris. We had great seats. That was something – having ‘Jim Beatty Day’ at Yankee Stadium and being in the dugout – that would never have crossed my mind
Funny running memoryA funny moment that could have ended up embarrassing, but fortunately did not, took place in Moscow during the United States-Soviet Union track meet. In the stands was the Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Avril Harriman, the former Governor of New York, who was appointed by President Kennedy. He was sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with Nikita Khrushchev, the premier of the Soviet Union, so this was a pretty big deal. It was also taped delayed by Roone Arledge on ABC Wide World of Sports. The day after I ran my indoor sub-four minute when I watched it on tape delay on ABC, Jim McKay referred to me as ‘Jim Beatty, who ran such a great race last year against the Soviets in Moscow.’ When I heard him say that I stopped and thought, ‘That wasn’t a great race. That was the luckiest race I had in my life.’ What happened was that Jim Grelle and I were running one and two and he was on my shoulder. I knew he would never lead. The Soviet runners were out of the question at 1,500 meters. I took out and led around the first 400 meters and through 800 meters and kept on going. Somewhere along the way when we got down to the gun lap my mind was somewhere else. It could have been in London at the U.S. - Great Britain meet where we were running a mile and I wanted to break four minutes in London. Anyway, I didn’t hear the gun lap and I was going around the turn and the far straightaway. Suddenly the light comes on and I started questioning whether I was on the last lap or had another lap to go. As I go up the far straightaway I’m debating in my mind. If it was the last lap and we got on the far turn and Grelle starts kicking I’ll have trouble catching him if he jumps out to a fast lead. However, if I think it is the last lap and it turns out not to be, if I start kicking and get to the finish line and they fire the gun I’ll be exhausted trying to run another lap. So now we’re going into the top of the turn and fear was setting in. I had no choice and had to ask Grelle where we are. He was right on my shoulder on the right side and I turned and yelled to Grelle, ‘Jim!’ He said, ‘Yeah, what?’ I said, ‘Is this the last lap?’ He was incredulous, ‘what?!’ I repeated, ‘Is this the last lap?’ He said, ‘Yes,’ and I said, ‘Thank you.’ Then I made my move and won the race. I don’t know what would have heard if I hadn’t asked Grelle if it was the last lap. So, when I heard Jim McKay talk about my great race, it was lucky.
Funny personal memoryThis is a funny story regarding a little six year old boy. I was invited in eastern North Carolina a while back to speak with some friends of mine and the evening before we were at their home visiting and talking. They had three sons and the youngest was six years old named Ricky. So when we were in the living room talking, little Ricky stood about four feet away from me and didn’t say anything. He’s a poker face and just stares at me. Finally his mother says, ‘Ricky, quit staring at Mr. Beatty. That’s rude. Why are you doing that?’ Then Ricky went over to his mama and whispered in his mama’s ear and she burst out laughing. The reason was that little Ricky wanted to see how fast I could smile. All he heard for a week was that the ‘fastest smiler in the world’ was coming to visit him. So, in eastern North Carolina I’m known as ‘the fastest smiler in the world’
Surprising encounter oneBack to ‘The Four Aces’ musical group – when I was in high school and college they were a pioneer group of their kind. When I was leaving Charlotte to go out to California to train under Igloi I heard ‘The Four Aces’ were playing in Reno. So my last stop was in Reno so I could hear ‘The Four Aces.’ It’s a great story that I’m going to make greater. A little less than two years ago I was speaking in Raleigh at the Raleigh Sportsmen’s Club and one of my close friends, a paisano boy from south Philly, Lou Passilo, was there. He’s in the North Carolina Hall of Fame because he was an All-American basketball player at North Carolina State. I mentioned the story about ‘The Four Aces’ and how ‘Love is a Many Splendored Thing’ is my favorite song. After my speech Lou Passilo walked up to me with his phone and told me someone was on the phone for me. I was surprised someone was on his phone. He handed it to me and the guy on the other end started singing ‘Love is a Many Splendored Thing.’ It was the lead singer from ‘The Four Aces.’ What occurred is that all ‘The Four Aces’ were paisanos from south Philly and Lou knew them all. It wasn’t unusual for Lou to play golf with them. So when he heard me mention ‘The Four Aces’ he decided to do me a favor. Then last year when I was talking to the lead singer he was performing out in Vegas a bit. On my wife’s birthday I had him call about 6:00 pm for my wife and he sang her ‘Love is a Many Splendored Thing,’ which was my ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. All of these connections work out somewhere along the way
Surprising encounter twoThe last time we were in Paris under two years ago we were walking down a street and stopped in a bakery. An elderly couple was sitting outside with a grandchild who was in a carriage. The guy had a beard and stopped and looked at me and asked if I was a British actor on a certain BBC show. I told him I wasn’t but ‘when I was a young lad I was a runner.’ He squinted his eyes and said, ‘Jim Beatty. You are Jim Beatty.’ I about fell over and told him I was while inquiring how he knew. It turned out that he was from the valley area in California, ran the half mile in high school and happened to compete against Don Bowden in high school. This guy was also in the half mile race when Bowden broke the global age group junior half mile record
Favorite places to travelFor Paulette and myself our number one place in the United States is New York City for a number of reasons, not the least among them being all the entertainment, museums and restaurants. We certainly have our favorite places. Travelling abroad, Paris would be our number one city. Of course it certainly helps that it is Paulette’s native language since she is from Brussels, Belgium. Also, I had been there in the past and one of my dear friends, great competitors and all-time great runners, Michael Jazy is there. It also has a warm place in my heart due to all the staff at L’Equippe sports newspaper. The restaurants and history are also an attraction. We do want to visit Buenos Aires where Paulette lived when she was young