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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: MAY 5, 1956

A Mile to Remember for Coliseum Crowd

May 05, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the storied history of track and field at the Coliseum, few events could match the special mile race held during the 1956 UCLA-USC dual meet, 43 years ago today.

In the mid-1950s, a four-minute mile was a show-stopper. There had been only nine by May 6, 1956, and Australian John Landy had run four.

Landy, the world-record holder at 3:58, was invited to run in a special mile at the Coliseum against Ron Delany of Ireland and Ron Dellinger of the University of Oregon.

As an afterthought, Oregon junior Jim Bailey was also invited, since he was an Aussie too. He'd won the previous season's NCAA mile championship at the Coliseum with his career best time, 4:05.6.

At the end of three laps, Landy was on his way to a four-minute mile. Bailey was laboring, 10 yards behind Landy.

Or so everyone thought.

Bailey went into overdrive and closed to within two yards on the final turn. He then unleashed a furious homestretch sprint that brought the 38,543 on hand--they'd come to see Landy run the first sub-four-minute mile in the Western Hemisphere--to their feet, roaring.

Bailey hit the tape first, in 3:58.6--the second-fastest mile ever--and Landy was a step behind, at 3:58.7. Spectators went to their programs, trying to figure out who the guy was who just beat Landy.

Bailey had run his last lap in 55.5, at the time the fastest final lap in the history of the event. Landy covered the last lap in 57.2.

Also on this date: Needles' rally in the stretch beat Fabius in the Kentucky Derby. . . . In 1962, the Angels' swaggering left-handed pitcher, Bo Belinsky, threw a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles at Dodger Stadium. . . . Trivial footnote--Jim Bailey's roommate at the University of Oregon was future USC and Ram football coach John Robinson.

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