Photo courtesy of El Reno (Oklahoma) Carnegie Library.
Who will win?
Name (Number) – Age – From – Claim to Fame
*Click the link for runner’s bio and photo from the official derby program
The International Stars:
Willie Kolehmainen (#134) – 40 yrs – New York/Finland – Set world record marathon time in 1912: 2 hours, 29 minutes
Arthur Newton (#135) – 44 yrs – Rhodesia/UK – Set the world record for the 100-mile run two months before the Derby
The Experienced Marathoners:
Peter Gavuzzi (#103) – 22 yrs – Southampton, UK – Winner of the Newmarket Marathon and another 50-mile race
Mike Joyce (#83) – 34 yrs – Cleveland, OH – Finished fifth in a 32-mile race and “well up” in a 50-mile event
Nicholas Quamawahu (#203) – 27 yrs – Oraibi, AZ – Winner of the Long Beach (New York) Marathon in 1927
Johnny Salo (#107) – ? – Passaic, NJ – Member of the Finnish-American Athletic Club Team that won in Boston in 1927
Arne Suominen (#141) – 40 yrs – Detroit, MI – Doctor and winner of Worcester (Mass) Marathon in 1920
Olli Wantinnen (#238) – ? – Finland – Weighed just 89 pounds.
The High School and College Athletes:
Ed Gardner (#165) – 28 yrs – Seattle, WA – Three-time Washington state ten-mile champion
Andy Payne (#43) – 21 yrs – Foyil, OK – High school stat champion in mile and half-mile
Paul “Hardrock” Simpson (#37) – 22 yrs – Burlington, NC – Captain of the Elon University Cross-country team
Harry Abramowitz (#121) – 21 yrs – Bronx, NY – Sponsored by the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA)
Phillip Granville (#84) – ? – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada – Canadian distance walking championship
Harry Gunn (#65) – ? – Ogden, UT – No running records but he plans to walk the transcontinental foot race http://archive.itvs.org/footrace/runnerbio/bio1020_5.htm#gunn
Giusto Umek (#79) – 32 yrs – Italy – Winner of seven distance walking championships in Europehttp://archive.itvs.org/footrace/runnerbio/bio1020_11.htm#soumine
The Youngsters and Other Wild Cards:
Norman Codeluppi (#196) – 20 yrs – Pasadena, CA – Running to Cleveland to get back to his sweetheart, Mary
Tobie Joseph Cotton (#117) – 15 yrs – Los Angeles, CA – Youngest runner in the Derby
Mike Kelly (#224) – Goshen, IN – A boxer who switched sports to distance running; he also changed his name when he entered the Derby.
William Kerr (#7) – ? – Minneapolis, MN – World War veteran with the build of a linebacker
Sammy Robinson (#119) – ? – Atlantic City, NJ – “Four letter man” in high school sports and a professional boxer
They Also Ran (But Didn’t Make It in the Book)
Eugene Estoppey, #98, age 57, from Coronado, CA, and Lucerne, Switzerland; dropped out on Day 6.
Storyline: The fifty-seven-year-old Estoppey had been competing in endurance events for almost forty years in 1928. In 1910 he bragged he could run a thousand miles in under a thousand hours. Then he proceeded to make good his promise. In 1928 he bragged that he could cross the country running in hiking boots. He lasted just five and a half days.
Lucien Frost, #220, age 43, from Los Angeles, CA; ejected from the race on Day 56 in Illinois
Storyline: Frost was a member of the House of David religious society which held that men not shave their hair. His beard was long enough, supposedly, to tie to his belt when he ran. He was kicked out of the Derby after getting caught hitching a ride in the trunk of a car, probably not for the first time.
Charley Hart, #102, age 63, of Southampton, UK; dropped out on Day 11 in Arizona
Storyline: At 63, Charley Hart was the oldest runner in the Derby with hundreds of races to his credit. He was the owner of the hundred-mile record until Arthur Newton broke it two months before the start of the Derby. Charley became Peter Gavuzzi’s trainer after he dropped out in Arizona. http://archive.itvs.org/footrace/runnerbio/featuredrunners/c.hart.htm
Juri Lossman, #56, age 36 , from Estonia; finished 53rd
Nestor Erickson, #125, age 31, from Finland: Dropped out in protest of race director Pyle’s management
Storyline: These were two accomplished Nordic runners. The great middle distance runner Paavo Nurmi (a.k.a. the Flying Finn) predicted Erickson would win the Derby. Lossman had won Olympic marathon silver (behind Willie Kolehmainen’s younger brother, Hannes) in Antwerp, 1920. Strangely, he finished third-to-last among those who made it to New York.
Roy McMurtry, #45, age 32, of Indianapolis, IN; finished 12th
Storyline: Roy was winning bicycling races as far back as 1917, and in 1922 he biked from his hometown, Indianapolis, to San Francisco in twenty days and planned to set the record for a coast-to-coast bike trip. (He never did.) He finish the Derby just out of the money, but what had everyone talking was his obvious physical handicap: He had only one arm!
The Richman brothers: Arthur (20), Samuel (23), and Morris (?) Richman; from Brooklyn, New York; finished 29th, 44th, and 48th
Storyline: There was a fourth Richman brother, Benjamin (18), who wasn’t able to run. He drew the short straw and had to follow his brothers across country in their beat-up Model T as trainer. Arthur won the Richman Derby but Samuel was the strongest runner in the family. He had already placed in the top twelve in three east coast marathons. After a slow start, no doubt due to injury, he finished strong. He also finished fourth in the 1929 Bunion Derby.
Frank Von Flue, #152, age ??, of Kerman, CA; finished 9th
Storyline: Frank was a frustrated athlete in high school. He always got cut from the team for being too small. After graduating, he worked on his family’s farm several years and built up his muscles. He developed strength and endurance. He signed up for the Bunion Derby to prove to himself, if not to others, that he could excel in sports. He did: he finished in the top ten. (Besides, he had great hair!)
Guy Shields, #87, age 36, of Los Angeles, CA; finished 40th.
Storyline: Two weeks after the Derby ended, Guy made another attempt at endurance glory and actual prize money. He entered a dance derby, held in Madison Square Garden. A hundred thirty-two couples started the marathon, including eleven former bunioneers who teamed up with female partners. Guy Shields earned the most press coverage, in part because of his glamorous partner, Patricia Salmon, who had traveled to New York from Montana to make it in show business. But Salmon passed out more than once during the competition. Guy told a reporter, “You get a little nervous when you dangle an unconscious and seemingly lifeless girl about for four or five hours.” Doctors eventually declared Salmon unfit to continue. Guy earned no money…again.
“Wildfire” Thompson, #219, age 27, of Berryville, AZ; finished 50th.
Storyline: There has to be a good story behind a man called “Wildfire”!