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  1999-07-09 Berlin Olympics - Marty Glickman


Olympic Stadium


Jewish athlete still bitter about
ruined shot at gold medal

San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage, July 2,1999:

By Donald H. Harrison 

San Diego, CA (special) -- Marty Glickman won numerous races as a sprinter. He was a college football hero. He had an enviable career as a sports broadcaster. But 63 years after the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he still is bitter that the chance for his biggest moment -- winning a gold medal as an Olympic runner -- was denied to him because he was a Jew.

He and Sam Stoller were the only two Jews on the American track and field team who went to the Berlin Olympics. They were scheduled to run in the 4 x 100 meter relay event on the next to the last day of the international competition. But their coach, Dean Cromwell, announced in a team meeting that Stoller would be replaced by Frank Metcalfe and Glickman by Jesse Owens.

Glickman said that Owens immediately asked not to run, saying "coach, I have won my three gold medals; I have won the races I set out to win. I've had it. I am tired. I am beat. Let Marty and Sam run. They deserve it."

However, Cromwell "pointed his finger at him and said, 'you will do what you are told' and he quieted down and did what he was told," Glickman said. "After all, Black athletes -- in those days -- did as they were told."

The printed narrative in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's traveleing exhibit on the 1936 Olympics, now on display at San Diego's Hall of Champions, reports that the two sprinters were pulled from the team the day before the relay race.  That was the same morning that he and Stoller had been scheduled to run a trial heat.

Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller

"Why did they wait till that morning, that day, to tell us that we were not going to run? Because they knew there was going to be some furor about it, some objection about it," Glickman said. "If they did it earlier, they might be forced to make a change, but they did it that morning."The only people on that team who didn't get to compete were Sam and me," Glickman added. "In the entire 100 year history of the Olympics, no other fit American athlete who was on the team -- I don't mean those who pulled muscles -- has ever not competed in the games."

Glickman, 81, says there is absolutely no truth to the contention that the American team needed to substitute the admittedly faster Owens and Metcalfe in order to win the gold medal, which became Owens' fourth.

"When you look at the finish of the race with Frank Wyckoff carrying the baton across the finish line, the only person in the picture is Frank Wyckoff," Glickman said. "There is no other runner in sight! Usually a 400-meter race is won by a yard or two, or maybe even 8-9 yards, but they won by 15 yards. ... There was no question about our winning the relay, the only question was by how much."

Although Metcalfe and Owens performed superbly, there whad been risk in the substitution because neither runner had trained with relay batons. In fact, said Glickman, "the team that finished third--the Dutch team--was disqualified for passing out of its lane, so baton playing was very important." Owens and Metcalfe hadn't touched the baton "for the 10 days they practiced in Berlin.

"They already had raced. Owens won in the 100, 200 and long jump and Metcalfe was second place finisher in the 100. So they already had won their medals and the whole point of the competition, incidentally, is not winning but in taking part. You participate in the Olympic Games. Sure you try to win, but the whole point is taking part in the games."

Glickman is convinced that he and Stoller were pulled partly because of anti-Semitism and partly because Cromwell and Avery Brundage, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, didn't want to offend the nazi German hosts.

Although Stoller, now dead, is quoted in the exhibit as saying he did not believe that the "most humiliating" experience of his life resulted from anti-Semitism, Glickman is incredulous that such a quotation is attributed to his former team mate.

"So why would Sam then leave the team and go right back home and say he would never compete again? It had to be that. What other reason could there be?"

Hitler and his nazi cohorts were just as contemptuous of Blacks as they were of Jews. If Glickman and Stoller were pulled to satisfy Hitler's racist whims, why were the Blacks permitted to run?

"There is a fairly firm answer on that," Glickman replied. "There were two Jewish athletes on the track team. There were 12 Black athletes on the track team including the world's best sprinter and world record holder, Jesse Owens; including the world record holder in the high jump, Cornelius Johnson .... There were 6-7 gold medal winners who were Black athletes. Sam Stoller and I would have been gold medal winners but we were two relatively obscure athletes, two Jewish athletes. It was relatively unimportant to take the Jewish athletes off the relay team and replace them with Black athletes, whereas there would be no American Olympic track team without the Black athletes because they won the 100, 200, long jump, 400, 800, high jump and medals in every track event in addition to those. There was no way they could remove all the Black athletes from the Olympics, whereas this was just dropping two guys from the relay team."

Other Jewish Americans did compete in the Olympics, including Sam Balter who was on the U.S. basketball team which won a gold medal.

"Basketball was an incidental sport back then," Glickman replied. "It was so unimportant in 1936 that they didn't even have an arena to play in. They played outdoors and they didn't have benches around the court. They had a court on an open field, not cement, but a dirt field, and they played on that basketball court. I watched some of the games and it was a competition like there might be in a school yard."

In contrast, he said, track and field events "were the most important activities in the Olympic Games of 1936. Swimming had a stadium that handled 20,000 people. Track and field handled 120,000 people (at the Berlin Olympic Stadium)."

Glickman remembers entering that stadium at the beginning of the games with the rest of the American team. "I saw Adolf Hitler the first time as I marched by, We looked up at him as he glared down at us, and you can hear us say -- I said it -- 'he looks just like Charlie Chaplin!' That was the attitude we had toward this guy among all these uniforms standing up there and glowering down at us. It was almost a farce."

He said whereas many other teams practically performed a military march walking into the stadium, the Americans "shlumped along" showing its irreverence.

After the games concluded, Glickman did not return to Berlin Olympic Stadium until 1985--49 years after the games to help prepare a series for HBO on the 50th anniversary of the 1936 games. 

Once more he returned in 1987, this time as a guest of the New York Giants who were playing a pre-season exhibition professional football game there. "So I went into the stadium. I had all kinds of feelings about that because I actaully was placed in the best seat in the house, Adolf Hitler's old box was where I was placed. I actually didn't watch too much of the game. I was thinking about those days of 1936."

He said he felt both "anger" and "satisfaction in that here I was, a Jew, sitting in this box and where was he?" He felt anger about "all the killings of the Holocaust" and "dissatisfaction in not having run on that field."

After Glickman and the 1936 U.S. Olympic track team left Berlin, they stopped for a track meet in Hamburg. Glickman ran in a 100-meter race against the German Eric Borchmeyer, who had placed fifth in the Olympics in that event. "I beat him by a yard," Glickman said.

"After that, I ran in a track meet in London. It was a Great Britain-USA dual meet, where I ran with Jesse Owens, Frank Wyckoff and Ralph Metcalfe and we set a world's record for the 400 yards (4 x 100), a record that still stands," Glickman said.

"And then after that, we stopped in Paris, and I ran in a triangular meet--U.S.A., Japan and France--and I won, beating Frank Wyckoff, who was the anchor man on the (gold medal winning) relay team."

The following year, 1937, Glickman was winning glory--and starting his career as a broadcaster--as an offensive and defensive player on Syracuse University's football team.

"We had a good team," Glickman recalled. "We had won our first two games when we played Cornell which had won its first three games. Cornell then was a national powerhouse, and they were one of the top-rated teams in America in those years. In fact, the year that we played them, they beat Ohio State--that's how good they were. So we played Cornell, both teams unbeaten. We beat them 14-6 and I had the best day I ever had on a football field. I scored both touchdowns. I ran a punt back for one touchdown; I bucked over for another. I intercepted two passes. I made a touchdown saving tackle. It was an All-American day.

"And the next day, there was a great deal of publicity about that, particularly in upstate New York. It was a nationally prominent game in October, 1937. I go back to my fraternity house --SAM (Sigma Alpha Mu), a Jewish house--and I receive a phone call from a man who introduced himself as a local haberdasher and he says to me: 'Marty, frankly I want to cash in on your publicity. I want you to do a weekly radio broadcast for me on college sports.' I said 'you don't want me: I am nervous, I stutter; I have never been on the air.' He says: 'I will pay you $50 a broadcast.' I said: 'I'll take it!' That's how I became a broadcaster."

Over his broadcasting career, he had many firsts. "I originated, believe it or not, basketball broadcasting. Would you believe that basketball was not broadcast, certainly not on any regular basis, until I started doing college doubleheaders in Madison Square Garden, right after the war in 1945, December. I became the orginator--I popularized--the broadcast of basketball games. As a matter of fact I did the first Knickerbocker game; I did the first NBA All-Star game on television, and I broadcast basketball almost 50 years."

Glickman also was "the first sports announcer on HBO, first sports director, and I retired from HBO. When HBO came out of black in 1972, the first person seen and heard was me -- to 365 subscribers in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. That was HBO. Now you have 50 million subscribers."

The broadcaster stayed friends with many of his teammates including Owens, who had unwillingly replaced him in the relay race. "We were very close friends. As a matter of fact, and this is touchy, but it is true, abolutely so; a lot of guys will vouch for it because they were there: At Jesse Owens' funeral, which was in a magnificent cathedral in Chicago, I got there late and stood in the rear of the church and could see where the 1936 Olympic athletes had gathered. One of them saw me -- Mack Robinson, Jackie Robinson's brother, who was also a sprinter (he won the silver medal in 200 meters). He waved for me to come and join them. I went to where the other Olympic athletes were, and as I stood with these guys I noted that I was the only White man amongst the athletes who were there for Jesse's funeral...." 

Durng the interview with HERITAGE, Glickman took pains to put his mistreatment at the 1936 Olympic games into context. "I am aware that what happened to me was nothing compared to what happened to other Jews following that," Glickman said. "I want to stress that the 1936 games were two years before Krystallnacht, three years before the outbreak of the war." 

Although some people had called for boycotting the games, no one had any idea what the future held in store, or "there is no way in the world that I would think of going to nazi Germany. The Holocaust and those things around nazi Germany which we all loathe weren't in existence in 1936."

As he looks back, Glickman reserves most of his anger for the leaders of the American Olympic team who "kowtowed" to the nazis by removing him and Stoller. "I don't feel bitter about the Olympic Games: I feel bitter about that which was done by the American Olympic Committee."