Ralph Spearow and the 422


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Ralph Spearow and the 422

Postby LopenUupunut » Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:24 am

Ralph Spearow jumped 422 in Tokyo on November 5, 1924. This exceeded Charles Hoff's WR of 421 but wasn't officially ratified. That much I know.

Now the question... why wasn't it ratified?

I found this, which tells us that...
In Kenny Moore's book: "Bowerman and the Men of Oregon ," Bowerman shared this bit of information from his conversations with Bill Hayward:

""[...]
After Paris, Spearow, then known to his Cottage Grove flock as the 'pole-vaulting Presbyterian pastor,' was invited on a goodwill tour of Japan. 'He saw people using bamboo poles for the first time,' Hayward would tell Bill (Bowerman), 'tried one himself and broke the world record with 13 feet 10 ½ inches. But it was never accepted because the Amateur Athletic Union hadn't issued him an official travel permit to compete there. They treated him like an outlaw.'"

On the other hand, Martti Jukola said that...
[...] On an additional - 4th - attempt [Spearow] cleared 422, which I've seen erroneously called a world record. I will, however, trust the word of Jonni Myyrä, an eyewitness, who wrote to me that this excellent jump was a 4th attempt. It hasn't been spotted among IAAF's ratified world records either.
That's a more contemporary source, but Jonni Myyrä did embezzle his home town out of much of its money, so I'm not sure how trustworthy his word is :)

Digging a bit, I found the November 21, 1924 edition of the Eugene Register-Guard, which says...
[Spearow] also tried for a world's vault record, but failed by a scant margin.

In all likelihood the source of this information was Ralph Spearow himself, so it seems he didn't consider himself to have broken the WR. (It's curious, though, that the 422 isn't even mentioned here. The November 19 edition of the Register-Guard did mention the 422, calling it "unofficial".)

I would conclude from this that most likely Myyrä was right and the 422 was a 4th attempt (such extra trials were quite common at the time), but can anyone here shed further light on the matter?
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Re: Ralph Spearow and the 422

Postby rhymans » Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:37 pm

This is what I'm carrying in the Master file for the IAAF WR book for 2015 - and the following is a supplementary mark and not part of the accepted progression as it was an exhibition

4.22 Ralph Spearow (USA) Tokyo 05.11.1924
After the 1924 Olympics, the Americans Jackson Scholz, Emerson Norton and Ralph Spearow, along with Jonni Myyrä, Finland’s 1920 and 1924 Olympic Javelin champion, travelled to Tokyo to take part in the inauguration meeting of a new Tokyo (Meiji) stadium, at the behest of the Japanese Federation. A report of the Norwegian journal “Idrottsliv”, reprinted in “Der Leichtathlet” (Berlin), was as follows: “On the first day Spearow felt in good shape, and wanted to attack Hoff’s WR. He started with 4.00, and the bar was raised to 4.13. On his fourth (!) try the American mastered this height, but at 4.18 he failed. So he decided to try again the next day. At midday the event started. The stadium was almost full, although the PV record attempt was the only event of the afternoon... after 3 hours he succeeded on his third try at 4.22. On his first jump he caught the bar with his left hand, on the second with his foot, while on his final attempt the bar seesawed two or three times, but did not fall. So the new WR was valid. One try at 4.27 failed”. However, Jonni Myyrä, writing in “Suomen Urheilulehti”, gave a different version: “Spearow cleared all heights up to and including 4.11 easily. Then the bar was raised to 4.22, a height that Spearow made.... But when the WR height was checked, the uprights were not in the correct position, so the real height was only 4.19 instead of 4.22”. Myrrä competed on both days: 42.44 (DT) and 61.245 (JT) on 4.10.1924, and 12.49 (SP) the next day, disproving the statement that there was only 1 event on the second day.
The 4.22 was accepted neither as an AAU nor a World record
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Re: Ralph Spearow and the 422

Postby Per Andersen » Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:37 pm

However, Charles Hoff himself was not done setting WR's in the Pole Vault. In 1925 on a wet track on Bislett and in semi darkness he cleared 4.23 in his first attempt. A few weeks later in Turku, Finland he set his last WR with 4.25.
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Re: Ralph Spearow and the 422

Postby LopenUupunut » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:32 am

rhymans - thanks, even if that just made matters murkier yet :)

Per Andersen wrote:However, Charles Hoff himself was not done setting WR's in the Pole Vault. In 1925 on a wet track on Bislett and in semi darkness he cleared 4.23 in his first attempt. A few weeks later in Turku, Finland he set his last WR with 4.25.
His last amateur WR, at any rate.

Strange to say it of a many-time WR setter, but I can't think of Hoff and not think of what could have been. So many things kept derailing him - injuries, problems with the national association, finally the whole silly pro thing.
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Re: Ralph Spearow and the 422

Postby Per Andersen » Thu Apr 25, 2013 10:26 pm

LopenUupunut wrote:

Strange to say it of a many-time WR setter, but I can't think of Hoff and not think of what could have been. So many things kept derailing him - injuries, problems with the national association, finally the whole silly pro thing.

You are right. I believe as a professional he got up to 4.32 (14-2). But in the winter of 1926 he set numerous indoor world bests in the US. At least 6. He also defeated Harold Osborn in a indoor Heptathlon. Osborn pulled out injured.
Hoff was in my opnion the greatest Track & Field talent in Norwegian history. World class in LJ and PV. He was Norwegian record holder in the 400 and 800. When he could not compete in the Oympic PV in 1924 due to an injury he instead made the final in the 800 and the semifinal in the 400. He was a tall, good looking athlete with strength and speed.
When he was declared professional by the Norwegian federation he started a variety show in the USA. Among the acts he danced and pole vaulted. He would clear 4m wearing tails!.

But he was a man who held very strong opinions on a variety of things and when he later turned to journalism he was constantly in hot water.

Very regrettably he sided with the nazis in Norway during the war and he held a sort of Sport minister title in Quisling's pro nazi government. After the war he was tried for treason and spent 8 years in labor camps. He did write a couple of books later on but he was never forgiven for his actions during the war and even now his name rarely comes up when great sports stars are discussed in Norway.

There were other Norwegian athletes (speed skaters) that were banned for actions during the war but these were so called "Front fighters" who had fought with the Germans against the Russians on the Eastern front. One of them got re-instated in the early 50's
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Re: Ralph Spearow and the 422

Postby bambam » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:19 am

Interesting stuff on Hoff, Per. Did not know all that. Sonja Henie another Norwegian athlete who had some Nazi-leanings, as I recall, and paid somewhat of a price for it.
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