The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

WITH PICK AND SHOVEL

Wednesday, August 29, 1928

SLAMS AND SLAVE
KNOCKS AND BOOSTS
By LOU E. Marsh

And just while the presentation bug is in the air I hope the city of Toronto does not intend to overlook that Argonaut crew – the one Joe Wright calls “his pork and beanors” – who so gallantly represented Canada at Amsterdam.

They did not win but they placed third and incidentally rowed in the standout race at the entire Olympic regatta.

This Argonaut crew rowed that Olympic championship, the famous University of California eight, dizzy in the semi-final only to be beaten a quarter length or so in a ding-dong struggle that lasted the entire 2,000 metres.

And what a race it was!

The Yankee eight, a magnificent crew of husky , well drilled men, who have been rowing together for two seasons and who have been training together since last fall for this very event , outweighed the Argos about six or eight pounds a man. They broke away smarter than the Argo crew at the start and half way down the course had almost a full length on the Canadians.

They looked to have the race well in hand when Jake Donnelly, the pepper little coach of the Canadian crew, shook them up and demanded all they had. He threw sprint after sprint at the crack Pacific Coast crew.

For a while the Californians matched sprint with sprint but five hundred metres from home the grueling commenced to tell on the leaders.

Inch by inch, foot by foot, the Canadian boat pulled up. The steady gain sent to the Yankee coxswain almost daffy with apprehension. He yelled and shrieked at his labouring men – he pounded frantically upon the sides of his boat trying to beat another stroke a minute into his flagging crew.

Two hundred metres from home it looked as if the Argos would surely come on and win.

It did not look as if flesh and blood could stand the cruel grueling they were being handed by the relentless Argo sprints.

The Canucks did.

Driven on coolly and calmly by as great’ a cox as had a seat in an Argo boat for quite some years they never faltered. There wasn’t a break in the boat from bow to stern. Every lad there was laying it in with all he had – teeth clenched, “eyes in the boat” every last man reaching well out and throwing every ounce he had into the drive, and pulling well through. There was no shortening or shrinking anywhere.

In the American boat things were different – vastly different. The crew was slowly but plainly dying. The cox whipped out a towel and frantically fanned the face of his faltering stroke. He waved that towel around his head and called the sides of his boat, shouting and beseeching his men for one last effort. Fifty yards from the wire he was standing up in his boat waving and screaming for more speed to stall and screaming for more speed to stall of those hard finishing Argos.

He did everything but fall overhead.

The instant the Yankee craft crossed the line with victory won by that scant quarter length the stroke and several men of the crew flopped over their oars all in.

The Argos finished with every man still able to sit up in the boat and go on – and ready to go on. The race was too short for them.

Another hundred yards – or the full Henley distance – and they would have beaten the crew that went on and won the championships by beating the English crew- the Thames crew – in the final.

And they beat the English crew much farther than they did the Canadians.

The Canadian crew was certainly the second best crew at the Olympiad, but they did not get a chance to prove it. There was no row-off between the Canadians and the English crew for second place.

Now let me explain about that “pork and bean” stuff. Big Joe Wright, who brought the crew together last fall and coached them, calls them his pork and bean crew because they are all working boys. They came down for their morning rows before breakfast and when they were through hustled to the nearest beanery for their coffee and sinkers and then went to work. And at night they came right down from work, did their rowing, and picked up their suppers at the nearest lunch counter. They had no training table. They ate everything from pork pies to cream puffs.

And when they went to Amsterdam they were not even on a diet there. They ate the topsy turvy Dutch meals while the Americans maintained a training table aboard their ship Roosevelt in Amsterdam harbour.

Three members of the crew, Bert Richardson and Athol Meech from the middle of the boat, and Jack Donelly, the coxswain, came home on Monday with Joe Wright, Jack Guest and the girl champions. The rest will be home next Monday, with Percy Williams and the rest of the track and field athletes.

Those gallant Argos every one of them Toronto boys, should not be overlooked at the Williams presentation party.

They did not win a championship but the gained glory and fame for Canada because of the terrific race they gave the crew that did win the title. That struggle was the talk of the regatta course for three days and was almost universally referred to as the best race of the entire regatta.