Oregon Sports Stories Special Preview

This summer, History Press West is proud to announce a new title from sports writer and author Bob Robinson. Drawing on six decades of sports coverage, Robinson shares unique, behind-the-scenes accounts of some of Oregon’s greatest sports moments and game-changing personalities. Blazermania overruns the Rose City as the Trail Blazers take down the favored Philadelphia 76ers in 1977. Oregon State’s Orange Express, coached by Ralph Miller, captivates the state in 1981 before a shocking stumble in the NCAA playoffs. In the 1970s, Mouse Davis performs coaching magic at Portland State with his Run and Shoot football offense. University of Oregon’s Bill Dellinger kickstarts the school’s distance-running tradition with a stunning win in 1954.

Oregon Sports Stories: History, Highlights & Reflections by Bob Robinson

From the book:  In a 1962 interview with Bob Robinson, Bill Dellinger described in detail the events in spring of 1954 when University of Oregon’s distance-running tradition took shape under coach Bill Bowerman.

“I remember the day (of the NCAA race) well,” Dellinger said. “It was muggy hot, not a good day at all for running. There was a thermometer near the track and it read ninety-eight degrees. Bowerman had kept telling me that I had a good chance to win. I never did believe him until I hit the finish tape. I was convinced that I was going to be thoroughly outclassed that day.”

For three of the race’s four laps, it did appear as if Dellinger might be in over his head. He was dead last in the field of eighteen at the halfway point. He still was twelfth heading into the final lap. Even Bowerman’s optimism must have wavered.

“As we went around the first turn on the last lap, I went into my kick and started counting the guys in front of me,” Dellinger said. “I was thinking in terms of getting up to sixth place.”

About halfway up the backstretch, he counted five runners still ahead of him. With about 220 yards to go, he was fourth.

“That’s when I suddenly realized that maybe I did have a chance to win,” he said. “Honestly, it was the first time that the possibility had crossed my mind.”

Oregon coach Bill Dellinger is carried on shoulders of  team members after Ducks won a  track and field championship.  Courtesy of UO Athletics Media Relations.

In that same 1962 interview, Dellinger downplayed his importance in being the harbinger of Oregon’s distance-running tradition.

“Give Bowerman the credit,” he said. “He deserves it. People seem to forget that he was a great distance coach before I came along. He had a fine coaching reputation. Why, when I finished high school, I decided to go to Oregon simply because Bowerman was the coach there. Had he been at Oregon State, instead, I would have gone there.”

His modesty was admirable but the fact is that Dellinger’s thrilling NCAA win in 1954 started it all.

And, of course, Dellinger continued Bowerman’s tradition in a twenty-five-year reign as Oregon’s head coach, claiming five NCAA championships and compiling a 134-29 record in dual meets. In 2001, he even joined Bowerman, his mentor, as a member of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.

Oregon Sports Stories: History, Highlights & Reflections by Bob Robinson is available from the History Press and Oregon bookstores.

Table of Contents:

1. How Could You, Mr. McKay?
2. A Mouse with a Vision
3. It All Began with Dellinger
4. Bradley’s Big Game
5. Trail Blazing to a Title
6. Recollections of Luke
7. The Sweet Scent of Roses
8. Ralph and the Orange Express
9. Legends in Their Own Time
10. Pericin and Showtime Hoops
11. Maestro of the Giant Killers
12. Marking Time with Mark All
13. The Day After the Storm
14. A Long-Overdue Payback
15. Big Mac in a Big Way
16. LPGA: Behind the Scenes
17. The Vigil for Eric Ross
18. And That’s Entertainment!
19. The Fantasy Title Bout
20. Memorable Moments

Related Posts:

Interview with Bob Robinson, Author of Golf in Oregon

New from History Press Sports: Oregon State Baseball

Father’s Day Golf Special

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