Olympics, football, & a wrong-way run: LA Times headlines from 1964

This week’s headlines from sports history come from the Los Angeles Times, as published the week of October 21-27, 1964.

Location: Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times is a daily publication that serves has served southern California since its founding in 1881. The paper is still printed today.

In 1964, the US president was Lyndon B. Johnson, who had taken over after John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963. The Beatles stormed America in February and performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show”. In baseball, the New York Mets played in the brand-new Shea Stadium for the first time and the Yankees made their final World Series until 1976. The Tokyo Olympics took place in October (read more below) while Innsbruck, Austria hosted the winter edition.

As for other newsworthy content, former US President Herbert Hoover passed away on October 20, 1964. His death dominated the front page of the LA Times on the 21st.

Here’s a look at a few sports headlines the Los Angeles Times published this week in 1964:

“Olympic Track Closes Record Book”

Publication Date: Thursday, October 22
This image of Henry Carr crossing the finish line of the 1,600-meter relay ran on the sports front page.

In this article, LA Times sports editor Paul Zimmerman wrote about the final day of track and field at the Tokyo Olympics.

That closing day included a couple of United States victories in the men’s 400- and 1,600-meter relays. Poland got the better of the US women, however, and won the 400 relay.

In the marathon, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia successfully defended the title he earned Rome by setting the fastest Olympic time ever: 2 hours, 12 minutes, 11.2 seconds. Bikila ran barefoot in 1960, but this time round he donned a pair of shoes.

↓ Affiliated content ahead ↓

Read more about the 1964 Olympics.

Get “1964 – The Greatest Year in the History of Japan” on Amazon →

New Zealand’s Peter Snell became the first 800-1,500 double champ since 1920 by claiming the 1,500-meter gold. In the article, Snell mentioned that his next goal was to run a 3:50 mile (he unfortunately never broke that barrier as his personal best was 3:54.1; it would take over a decade for 3:50 to fall).

As for the men’s relays, the US quartet of Ollan Cassell, Mike Larrabee, Ulis Williams, and Henry Carr set a world record in the 1,600 with a time of 3:00.7. Larrabee earlier collected gold in Tokyo by winning the individual 400, while Carr snagged the top spot in the 200.


Publication Date: Saturday, October 24
This post-game image appeared with the article. The US’ Dick Davies kneels in prayer.

Sports editor Paul Zimmerman provided coverage of the  1964 Olympics gold medal match in basketball while also highlighting that the Soviet Union had passed the United States in the overall medal count.

The basketball game was all US, and the American squad made up of college stars claimed a 73-59 victory. Texas-Pan American’s Lucious Jackson led the offensive push with 17 points. Joe Caldwell, from Arizona State, picked up 14 to aid the effort.

“This was like a dream fulfilled,” Walt Hazzard of UCLA told the LA Times. “I’ve been dreaming of being on an Olympic team since I was a youngster.”

Hazzard had been the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. He began his pro career just five days after earning gold in Tokyo.

The gold was the sixth straight for the United States, which was 46-0 against Olympic competition at the time.

As for the medal count, the US led the USSR 36-30 in gold medals. However, the Soviets built a 96-90 overall lead. Neither country picked up medals during the Games’ final day, making it the third-straight Olympiad that the Soviet Union had topped the overall medal table.

The Americans would continue their basketball dominance at the Olympics until the Soviets claimed gold at the 1972 Munich Games.


Publication Date: Sunday, October 25
This image of Rod Sherman catching Craig Fertig’s 22-yard touchdown pass ran alongside the article.

In a thriller at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Southern California topped California 26-21 in both teams’ Athletic Association of Western Universities opener.

The game finished with the Trojans’ quarterback, Craig Fertig, orchestrating a 95-yard drive with only 1 minute, 50 seconds left. The drive cumulated when Fertig hit Rod Sherman for a 22-yard touchdown with 42 seconds remaining. During the drive, Fertig completed six straight passes, including one on a fourth-and-five.

All told, Fertig completed 21 of 28 through the air for 371 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. At the time, the 21 completions and 371 yards passing were both school records. The four touchdowns tied a school mark.

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Read more about USC football.

Get “Cardinal and Gold: The Oral History of USC Trojans Football” on Amazon →

Two days after the game, LA Times columnist Sid Ziff called the game the greatest finish in USC history. Ziff especially praised Fertig’s “poise under pressure” on that final drive. It’s also worth noting that Fertig topped his heroics a month later by tossing two touchdowns in the closing moments to beat top-ranked Notre Dame 20-17.

Fertig was drafted into the NFL in 1965 by Pittsburgh, but elected to go into coaching instead. He later was the head coach at Oregon State from 1976 to ’79. The California native passed away in 2008 due to kidney failure.

Before facing Cal, USC lost 17-0 at No. 2 Ohio State and needed the win to help catalyze a Rose Bowl bid. However, the Trojans would falter the next week 14-13 against Washington and Oregon State wound up representing the AAWU in the 1965 Rose Bowl.

As for end-of-season records, USC finished 7-3 overall (3-1 in conference) and No. 10 in the AP Poll. Cal went 3-7 (0-4 in conference).


Publication Date: Monday, October 26

An AP report, this article detailed the crazy game between San Francisco and Minnesota in front of 31,845 at Kezar Stadium.

The Vikings trailed 17-13 entering the fourth quarter, but quarterback Fran Tarkenton scrambled for an eight-yard touchdown and then Carl Eller scored on a 45-yard fumble recovery to put the visitors up 27-17.

However, the wildest play in the game came on the first 49er series after Eller’s touchdown. That’s when Minnesota defensive end Jim Marshall picked up a loose ball and rumbled 60 yards into the end zone. Unfortunately for Marshall, he was turned around and actually ran towards his end zone, gifting San Francisco a safety.

The points amounted to little for the final result—the 49ers only mustered a field goal down the stretch—and the Vikings won 27-22.

A couple of days following the game, the LA Times ran a story about how Marshall joined an “exclusive club” with Roy Riegals as one of the lone players to run the wrong way.

“I feel sorry for the fellow,” Riegals said in the UPI’s report. “Having gone through the experience, I know what he was thinking. It’s hard to understand how those things happen.”

In Riegels’ case, the blunder did affect the outcome: His California Bears surrendered a safety when attempting to punt after Riegels’ 65-yard wrong-way run and ultimately lost the 1929 Rose Bowl game 8-7 against Georgia Tech.

Minnesota finished the season 8-5-1 while San Francisco went 4-10. Marshall played until 1979, when he retired after 19 years with the Vikings.

“Games TV Rankles”

Publication Date: Tuesday, October 27
Sid Ziff’s portrait as it appeared in the LA Times.

This column by Sid Ziff antagonized over the fact that NBC failed to provide live coverage of the Tokyo Olympics.

He also lamented that NBC’s tape-delayed coverage was poor on its own, regardless of if it was live or not. Ziff wrote that “it was rationed out in capsule form at 11:15 on week nights”, potentially limiting how many children could tune in.

Ziff, who had been with the LA Times for two years and in newspapers since 1924, was especially frustrated at a lack of athlete interviews, citing that swimmers were some of the only competitors to talk in front of camera.

All told, he felt that “never was so little done with so much.”

Of course, complaining about Olympic television coverage is an alive and well tradition that continues to this day. NBC has also often provided tape-delay coverage for the US’ West Coast; but, as a perhaps marginal improvement, the network did start airing live events across all time zones in 2018.

In this day’s column, Ziff also wrote about how the Los Angeles Rams felt they had good NFL title chances after beating the Green Bay Packers 27-17 and holding a 4-2-1 record (the team finished 5-7-2). He closed the column by discussing a book about US presidents who loved of sports—including the then-recently-deceased Herbert Hoover—titled White House Sportsmen.

Ziff would pen his column for the LA Times until he retired in 1967. The long-time sports writer passed away in 1991 at the age of 86 due to an acute blood infection.

“Olympics  Prove a Financial Flop”

Publication Date: Tuesday, October 27

This UPI wire report detailed how the 1964 Olympics struggled financially.

According to the article, Japan spent $2 billion (about $16.5 billion today) preparing for the Olympics. The country hoped some costs could be recouped from the spending of an estimated 130,000 foreign tourists. However, the number of tourists that made it to the island nation was much smaller—only 14,000 visited during the two-week event.

On top of this, many local businesses owners claimed that the Games didn’t boost their income. Instead, these businesses wound up over-purchasing goods that tourists never bought.

↓ Affiliated content ahead ↓

Read more about the economics of the Olympics.

Get “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup” on Amazon →

Despite the financial woes, ticket sales were strong; both the opening and closing ceremonies sold out all 124,700 seats. Organizers further estimated that fans bought 38% of the 2.1 million tickets for gold-medal events.

A few products also sold well in shops. Fast-moving items included medium-priced cameras, transistor radios, Japanese dolls, and kimonos.

In the time since the 1964 Games, it hasn’t been uncommon for Olympics to turn a profit (in fact, the 1984 Los Angeles Games was the only one to do so as of 2019). It remains to be seen if the 2020 Tokyo Games will do well financially, but the outlook seems dour right now. Spending has run rampant in the lead-up, and the country is looking at an estimated bill of $25 billion spent on preparations.

Headlines for this article were sourced from Newspapers.com.