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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: JULY 11, 1912

First Olympic Conquest by a USC Athlete

July 11, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Every year in the USC track and field media guide, the first page is devoted to Trojan Olympic champions. Since 1912, there have been 25.

The first was crowned 87 years ago today in Stockholm, where Fred Kelly led a U.S. sweep of the 110-meter high hurdles.

Kelly finished in 15.1 seconds, a tenth off the world record. Behind him were James Wendell of New York and Martin Hawkins of Portland, Ore. Another American, John Case, was fourth.

An Orange County high school phenom, Kelly was only a freshman at USC in 1912. Had World War I not forced cancellation of the 1916 Games, he might have won a second gold medal.

Another Southern Californian, U.S. Army Lt. George S. Patton Jr., from San Gabriel, made a valiant effort to win the 4,000-meter cross-country event in the modern pentathlon (shooting, swimming, fencing, riding and running).

Patton entered the stadium with the leaders but began fading badly on the final lap around the track. He threw himself dramatically at the tape in a vain effort to stave off two runners who were passing him, and briefly lay unconscious.

He finished fifth in the final standings.

Patton went on to greater achievement as a general in World War II.

Patton died of injuries suffered in an auto accident in Germany in 1945. Kelly was 82 when he died in 1974.

Also on this date: In 1914, Babe Ruth, 19, made his major league debut and was the winning pitcher in the Boston Red Sox's 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians. In his first at-bat, he struck out. . . . In 1967, the Cincinnati Reds' Tony Perez ended the longest All-Star game with a 15th-inning home run off the Kansas City Athletics' Catfish Hunter at Anaheim Stadium, giving the National League a 2-1 victory. . . . In 1985, in Houston, the Astros' Nolan Ryan struck out the New York Mets' Danny Heep on three pitches to become the first pitcher to reach 4,000 strikeouts. Ryan went on to finish with 5,714.

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