PAYTON JORDAN: OLYMPIC COACH STARTED AT REDLANDS JUNIOR HIGH

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

It was May, 1984 – an Olympic year.

Jim Sloan, celebrity photographer from Redlands, really pushed the invitation on me.

There was a group of guys getting together for a reunion, of sorts. It was at the home of Robert Scholton, who was truly a pioneer of Redlands. Citrus groves and all. Scholton had married into the Walter Hentschke family – one more Redlands-area pioneer.

At this reunion, however, the guest of honor was a guy named Payton Jordan.

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Payton Jordan’s Hall of Fame coaching career began in Redlands in 1939 at Redlands Junior High School (photo by Occidental College).

One night earlier, it had been “Olympic Night” at Redlands Country Club. Naturally, Jordan was the featured speaker. He didn’t speak on golf. The “club” was directly across the street from Scholton’s home.

Scholton, Sloan and a bunch of buddies had invited Jordan to Redlands. He’d been around more than a few times. This visit, however, was special. Plenty of guys had been summoned for this reunion. It was an Olympic year, after all. Jordan had plenty of connections to the Olympic games.

Way back in 1939, before World War II, Jordan had coached at Redlands Junior High School. He’d just graduated from USC.

That junior high campus had been located right across Citrus Ave. from Redlands Senior High – that is, before the two campuses were merged into one full high school. After the war, Jordan returned.

Briefly.

Little did I know then that Jordan had been a high-achieving two-sports star at USC – part of an illustrious Trojans’ football team, later starring on their nationally prominent track team as a sprinter. He was from nearby Pasadena, the same city that produced the Robinson brothers, Jackie and Mack, who went to USC’s rival, UCLA.

Jordan had been coached in football by the illustrious Howard Jones (121-36-13, record), who’d been Trojans’ coach from 1925-1940.

Track coach Dean Cromwell, the U.S. Olympic coach in 1948, might’ve been even more prominent. The USC guys that he coached, including Jordan, were too numerous to highlight.

Jones and Cromwell are both Hall of Famers in multiple spots, not just USC.

JORDAN’S CONNECTION TO REDLANDS

It’s important to note the scintillating connection between Jordan, USC and Redlands.

It was easy to see why Jordan was so highly favored around Redlands. Scholton, Sloan & Co. were his boys. When Jordan showed up just before the war, his background must’ve seemed spectacular in this small-town haven.

A USC guy in Redlands?

Years later, Jordan had only added to his lengthy list of achievements.

Talk about a Redlands “connection.”

Once I’d arrived at this glorious Redlands Junior High reunion, held at Scholton’s old-century, country club-style residence, I was only aware that Jordan had been 1968 Olympic coach – nothing else.

If only I’d known his remarkable record.

Jordan, splendidly dressed and warmly received by about a dozen older men – now retired, some with money, nice careers – couldn’t have been more gracious.

Jordan personally knew 1936 Olympic hero Jesse Owens.

Athletically, he was remarkable.

  • In 1938 and 1939, Jordan shined on USC’s national championship track team.
  • He was part of a world record 4 x 110 (yards) relay, 40.3, in 1939.
  • Also in 1939, Jordan played on USC’s Rose Bowl-winning team, 7-3 winners over Duke.
  • In 1941, Jordan won the AAU 100-yard title.
  • By his senior years up to age 80, Jordan was an age-group champion and record holder – refusing to stop competing.

As an athlete, Jordan missed out on the 1940 and 1944 Olympics due to World War II.

This guy had history.

Sloan, Scholton & Co. wanted this reunion covered in the newspaper.

Jordan’s career had been phenomenal, to say the least.

His collegiate football exploits were spectacular. On the track, he’d been a whiz. After World War II, where he served in the U.S. Navy, it was time to get rolling in a career.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS TOO NUMEROUS

After coaching those guys at Redlands Junior High, Jordan landed at venerable small-college Occidental, located in Eagle Rock, next to Pasadena. It was like a hometown job for him. After a decade (1946-57), after nine outright conference track titles and one tie, he’d been whisked away to take the track program at Stanford over next 23 years.

Imagine. It all started at Redlands Junior High.

Also imagine:

  • Billy Mills’ remarkable upset win at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic 10,000.
  • Bob Beamon’s world record long jump, 29-feet, 2 ½ inches at the Mexico City Olympics.
  • One of his Occidental athletes, Bob Gutowski, set a world pole vault record (15-9 ¾).
  • Discus superstar Al Oerter nailed down his third and fourth gold medals under Jordan’s watch.
  • When Jimmie Hines won the 1969 Olympic gold medal in a world record 9.9 seconds, Jordan was head coach.
  • Tommie Smith’s 200-meter gold medal in 19.8 seconds led to the “power salute” protest in those ’68 Games. It included third place finisher John Carlos.
  • Quarter-miler Lee Evans set a world record 43.8 seconds in winning the 1968 Olympic gold medal.
  • In 1960, at the Olympic Trials, Jordan ran the U.S. squad in a meet at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif. in which no fewer than seven world records were set.
  • During that 23-year career at Stanford, Jordan’s Indians (now Cardinal) had produced seven Olympians, six world record holders and six national champions.
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From the left, Australia’s Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the Olympic medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics at which the two Americans were protesting the poor treatment of Blacks in the U.S. (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

This is just a small sampling of the exploits of the man I was sitting next to at Scholton’s home in spring 1984. At the time, I’d known none of all those achievements.

If I’d been paying attention to my TV set in 1968 – watching the track portion of the games more, perhaps – maybe I’d have noticed the interview with a certain ABC superstar broadcaster.

The media had treated Jordan favorably, except for one nasal-toned, often exasperating, yet highly entertaining sportscaster from New York.

“Howard Cosell,” said Jordan, “had his mike in my nose while my foot was in his fanny. He’s the only one I had trouble with. I had him escorted out of the stadium.”

Guess I’d better be careful in my interview.

Here’s some evidence on how Jordan and Scholton were close:

Scholton had once been offered by Jordan to help him coach at Stanford. The year, 1957. Scholton, a 1937 University of Redlands graduate – Pi Chi, track, cross country, biology major – was a teaching contemporary of Jordan’s at Redlands Junior High.

Scholton, according to the folklore, had served under NFL legend George “Papa Bear” Halas during his own U.S. Navy stint.

Back in Redlands, Scholton taught biology and coached the runners in both track and cross country.

More of the folklore came after Jordan took the job at Stanford, apparently offering Scholton an assistant coach’s role to his former contemporary. Scholton was a homegrown, however. He stuck around Redlands.

The association between Scholton and Jordan, however, lasted for years. Scholton retired in 1970. Jordan called it quits in 1979.

A curious note: As the Olympics were set to take place in Los Angeles, Jordan conceded he wouldn’t be attending. “I don’t have tickets.”

Scholton, however, had blocks of track & field tickets at the Coliseum. I bought a couple from him for me and my father-in-law, Dean Green – an assistant principal, of all places, in an office that was on the same side of the street where Redlands Junior High School once existed.

A portion of my 1984 interview:

“LET THE GAMES BEGIN”

Jordan says it might be a euphemism for “Troubled Times.”

“The Olympics,” he told me, “are always the focal point of politics, world unrest and controversy. All the problems of the world seem to be magnified during this period of time.”

PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS

“You can make it without steroids,” said Jordan, who knew plenty of athletes using even back in those days. “You don’t have to do it …

“If you’ve got the ability, work harder, eat better and dedicate yourself, you’ll get there.”

Footnote: Ben Johnson disproved that theory four years later in Seoul.

Jordan admitted, however, that drug-using athletes could reach their Olympic goals in maybe half the time — four years, for instance, instead of two.

AMATEUR VS. PROFESSIONAL

“There is no such thing,” he said, “as amateurism.”

All of the normal workings of the Olympic disagreements are simply the workings of non-athletes seeking to control the athletic world.

JESSE OWENS

History records that Hitler turned his back on the onetime Ohio State star at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Said Jordan: “Actually, it wasn’t Owens that Hitler had turned his back on. He’d shunned Cornelius Johnson after he won the high jump the day before.”

Germany long jumper Lutz Long, Jordan proclaimed, had given Owens a tip that helped lift him to win that fourth gold medal in Berlin.

Jesse_Owens_1936
Jesse Owens, the hero of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, was a strong acquaintance of Payton Jordan, the onetime U.S. Olympic coach who began his coaching career in Redlands. Owens showed up to support Jordan during the black protest movement during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

“Those types of incidents,” said Jordan, “were left under-publicized, in comparison to what activities existed between non-athletes.”

In 1968, Owens had been summoned to Mexico City for a bull session with the team.

“There’s nobody I know who’s less of a racist than you,” he told Jordan. “Anything I can do, just ask.”

BLACK POWER MOVEMENT

Smith and Carlos, it had long been rumored, were set to protest at an Olympics in which several black U.S. athletes had decided not to participate – perhaps in their own protests.

It’s one reason why Cosell was so blatantly in Jordan’s face.

“They would’ve come to me to discuss (the protest),” he said, “and I would’ve vetoed that idea. They did come in and asked, ‘What should we do?’ I said, ‘Let me and my staff handle it.’

“Thank God it worked out beautifully.”

Part of that was that Smith and Carlos were suspended from the Olympic team and sent home.

It was a team, Jordan said, that was very close. “I never experienced that kind of closeness in spite of all the distractions. It was a group of people … who didn’t get hysterical about it and lose sight of our mission.”

Jordan says he took no part in the protest movement.

“I was part of it, though. I was the coach.”

Evans, Carlos and Smith, he confided, “were probably more loyal to me.”

The U.S. came out of 1968 with more gold medals and Olympic records than any Olympic before or since, he said.

After several minutes of Olympic protest chatter, Jordan leaned back in his Scholton-home chair, frowned and said, “I think that’s enough talk about 1968.”

 

 

 

 

JIM SLOAN ‘SHOT’ BEN HOGAN

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Jim Sloan never really pushed his photos on anyone. In the media business, whether it’s on large metropolitan dailies or a mid-size, those small town dailies attract a group of contributors ranging from writing correspondents to photographers. Sloan was a true professional.

The guy hustled, figured the angles, brandished his gear, fed film into the canisters, throwing his heart in the art long before modern technology – aka digital – was available.

Sloan, who specialized in Boy Scout photography throughout the years, had presented the local newspaper with a lengthy list of photos throughout the years. On the back of those mostly black-and-white glossies was the familiar hand stamp – “Photo by James Sloan.”

There were photos of President Eisenhower, especially during that time when the World War II general was living out his final years in the Coachella Valley. Sloan caught the ex-president in a variety of poses, mostly on the golf course.

Fellow photographer Ansel Adams, musician Stan Kenton and politician Ted Kennedy were among the celebrity shots. Plenty of stories could be written about his photography connections with those famous faces. In his own way, Sloan, himself, was a celebrity photographer.

One of his photos, however, stood out. I remember when he brought it into my office. “I got this,” he said, pulling the 2 x 4 black-and-white out a small white envelope, “when I was down in Texas. I got him to pose for this.”

I looked at the mug shot. Smiling, handsome, almost stylishly posing, was the familiar face of golf legend Ben Hogan.

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This isn’t the photo that Jim Sloan provided to me during my days as a sports editor in Redlands. That photo, if it even still exists, is in possession of the newspaper. The Ice Man? This wasn’t the shot of golfing legend Ben Hogan that Redlands photographer Jim Sloan presented me with, but it will have to do (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

I glanced slyly at Sloan’s face. Hogan was a well-known recluse, a superstar who rarely claimed the spotlight. Players from Hogan’s era had often commented on Hogan’s arms-length distance, a coldness, a reluctance to seek the spotlight – but a legendary golfer.

Sloan’s photo was apparently opposite of such a philosophy. Was it a lie? Did Hogan occasionally shed that image? Was Sloan a personal friend? No, way. Couldn’t be. Ben Hogan, who had captured every major championship – four U.S. Opens, a British Open (in his only attempt), two Masters and two PGA titles – while overcoming that infamous 1949 car collision with a bus that nearly killed him.

All of which is a well-known story by now, part of history – along with that picturesque swing, the calmness, ice water in his veins, the famous comeback, the movie that depicted his life around the crash, Follow the Sun: The Ben Hogan Story. No sense in reciting all that here. This story is A Redlands Connection between a local photographer and a golfing icon that breathed immortality.

It was hard to trust Jim; I didn’t know him all that well, but I had to trust him. In a way, Jim Sloan was far more worthy than I was on a local front. A trick? A way to claim some kind of connection to a legend? A little self-indulgence? Redlands was a golf community, its country club often playing host to a variety of legendary connections. Wouldn’t it be great to fabricate a story with those golf partisans? A story connecting Jim Sloan to Ben Hogan would be a good one.

Golf had plenty of prominent connections to Redlands.

Club manufacturer Mario Cesario, whose son Greg was an All-American golfer at Arizona State, made golf clubs for Tom Watson, Nancy Lopez, Gene Littler and others – in Redlands. Watson himself even journeyed to Mario’s local shop for consultation.

Tiger Woods came to Redlands as a well-known five-year-old.

Phillips Finlay, younger brother of Madison Finlay, once took on Bobby Jones in the Roaring 20s. Or was twice? Or three times?

Dave Stockton, who famously outdueled Arnold Palmer at the 1970 PGA Championship, hailed from San Bernardino – but moved to Redlands.

On the other hand, here was a photo print of the Ice Man, Hogan’s historical nickname, that bore all of Sloan’s photographic trademarks. Remember my cynicism. That started melting away. I believed Jim Sloan was telling me the truth.

I asked the first question that came into my head.

“Did you shoot this photo in Redlands?”

Excuse my excitement. Jim, of course, had already told me that he was in Texas when he took the photo. Texas was Hogan’s home, somewhere near the Dallas area. I was excited to think that, somehow, Hogan might’ve traveled to Redlands.

All of which would have begged several questions: Why was he here? Who does he know from Redlands? Will he be returning here sometime? But, no, Hogan was never on local turf.

I wish I could re-create the conversation I had with Jim Sloan about his Hogan photo – but he was always in a hurry. There was no real conversation. Any time he showed up, it was always a quick-hitting visit. Sloan, in my memory, only showed up a few times for talk, presenting photos, or discussing some sports-related shot he’d taken. Something about the guy, always on the move, seemingly like he was late for something.

“I’ll give you this,” he said, “to use when he dies. Keep it in your obit file.”

And Jim Sloan disappeared. A few years later, Jim Sloan died. Hogan outlived him by a few years.