No Gold, No Glove
DICK GREGORY, the nightclub comic then coming into his own as an activist, had talked about black athletes boycotting the Olympics as far back as the 1960 Games in Rome. The talk surfaced again in 1964. I don’t remember much about it. I do remember believing, after the freshman year I had at San Jose State, that I was ready to compete in the Games in Tokyo. I knew it from my very first meet as a freshman, when I ran a 20.7 in the 200 and ran a good leg in the 4-by-100-meter relay. I smiled internally and said, “Okay world, I’m ready, here I am.” I got injured later, but I came back by the end of the season, ran a 46.5 400, and was named an All-American.
That time was also good enough to qualify me for the Olympic trials in the summer of 1964. That is, I qualified to go to the prequalifying meet at Rutgers University in New Jersey, which would qualify me for the actual trials later in New York. Still, that sounds simple enough, until you realize that back then, if you competed in the summer, you could not compete for your school. That summer was the first time I ran for the Santa Clara Valley Youth Village track club. But the club did nothing for me to send me to the qualifying meet— no travel money, no travel arrangements, no coaching or administrative help, none of the things athletes have to be able to take for granted in a competition like that. At that point, not only had I never traveled from the West Coast, I had barely been away from San Jose since arriving on campus, and the trip to college had been the furthest I’d been from Lemoore since I had arrived from Texas.
My old teacher and coach, Mr. Focht, stepped in and got the city of Lemoore to raise money for me to go. That was only the beginning of my problems: when I landed at the airport in New Jersey, I didn’t even know how to get to Rutgers. I asked around and finally figured out where I was supposed to go and where the athletes were