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Ben Eastman, 91; Olympic Medalist Held 6 World Records for Running

October 12, 2002|From Associated Press

Ben Eastman, who once held world records in six middle distance running events and won a silver medal at the 1932 Olympics, has died. He was 91.

Eastman died of pneumonia Sunday at his home in Hotchkiss, Colo., family members said.

Eastman's speed earned him the nickname "Blazin' Ben." While at Stanford University in the early 1930s, he set world records for the 440-yard, 400-meter, 800-yard, 800-meter, 500-yard and 600-yard runs. His record of 46.4 seconds in the 440 went unbroken for more than 40 years.

Sportswriters credited him as the man who changed the quarter-mile and half-mile from distance races to sprints.

Despite his success, Eastman finished second in the 400 meters at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles to fellow American William Carr, who had a world-record time of 46.2 seconds.

Eastman was born in San Francisco and grew up in nearby Burlingame. He and his brother, prone to colds as children, were kept out of physical education classes by their parents.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday October 19, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 6 inches; 215 words Type of Material: Correction
Track record -- An obituary in the Oct. 12 California section on Olympic medalist Ben Eastman incorrectly stated that his record of 46.4 seconds in the 440-yard run, set in the early 1930s, went unbroken for more than 40 years. It was broken in 1947.

But the two sneaked into gym classes, which were requirements for joining the high school track team. They then persuaded their parents to allow them to continue running. The family doctor consented, and Eastman's track career began.

After the Olympics, Eastman graduated from Stanford with a degree in economics. He worked for a diesel engine company in San Francisco, Seattle and New York. In the late 1950s, Eastman and his family moved from California to Colorado to grow fruit, using a kit from the Sears catalog to set up his orchard. He was a success in the fruit business and was later appointed to the Colorado Agriculture Commission, serving for 12 years.

Eastman is survived by his wife, three sons, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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