Sins of Omission

Parry O’Brien

It’s difficult to explain today that, from the 1920’s through the mid-1960’s, track and field was a major sport in Southern California.  There were several reasons for this.  There was no Major League Baseball anywhere on the West Coast—Chicago and St. Louis were the westernmost cities to field teams.  We had only a minor-league circuit, the Pacific Coast League.  Our teams in Los Angeles were the Angels and the Hollywood Stars.  The Brooklyn Dodgers didn’t relocate to L.A. until 1958.  Like baseball, pro basketball didn’t reach the West Coast.  The Minnesota Lakers didn’t move to Los Angeles until 1960.  Then, too, television didn’t really begin broadcasting sports to a significant degree until the mid-1950’s.  That would eventually hurt track and field because it didn’t fit into a predictable time slot like the other sports, and commercials couldn’t be aired between innings or periods or quarters.  This meant the other sports got ever increasing airtime, while track and field faded from television.

Many of our greatest sporting heroes in Southern California were track stars.  We had world-record holders and Olympic medalists in abundance.  The climate was ideal for track and field, and the sport simply blossomed.  By the 1920’s thousands would attend a big meet, and Charley Paddock of Los Angeles...

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