Howard Schmertz estimates a total of 153 members of the National Track & Field Hall of Fame have competed in the iconic Millrose Games. Now two of the meet’s most influential people, Howard and his late father Fred, will be inducted as contributors into the next hall of fame class. There hasn’t been a running of the Millrose Games, which first started in 1908, when one of the two have not been involved on some level. The pair will be honored as part of the Jesse Owens Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday, December 1, in Daytona Beach, Fla., which is held in conjunction with the USATF Annual Meeting. USA Track & Field caught up with Howard in this Q & A.
How special of an honor is this for you to be inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?
“It’s very exciting for me especially to be inducted with my father. Over the years people have said to me that I should be in the hall of fame. Well, my father wasn’t in the hall of fame and he came first and he was responsible for the great Millrose successes over the years. He led the way and I continued his work. I have studied the number of people in the hall of fame who competed in or had something to do with the Millrose Games over the years. I found with my count, which may be approximate, there are 153 athletes, coaches and contributors in the (National Track & Field) Hall of Fame who were involved in some way with the Millrose Games either in my time, in my father’s time or both of our times together. This made me think Millrose had a great effect on U.S. track and field over the years in developing these hundreds of people who starred in one way or another.”
Based on those numbers, how much of this induction is about yourself and your father and how much is about the Millrose Games?
“I think that it’s both because my father and I did other things in track and field such as we were managers and I was an official for many years, an Olympic official and a national official. But I realize we are being inducted mainly because of our relation and connection with the Millrose Games, which was such an important event over many years.”
Was this an honor that you were expecting?
“No. I was hoping that it would happen, but the procedure is such that although there are numerous athletes being inducted there are relatively few coach and contributors that are inducted. Basically there is just one contributor every two years. There have been a lot of great people who have been involved with track and field in the U.S. as administrators and other positions that it’s difficult for a contributor to be elected.”
What are you going to enjoy the most about being a member of the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?
“The fact that I am one of a select few people who are in it. It’s a great honor.”
What are you looking forward to the most about attending the induction ceremony?
“I am looking forward to seeing many of my old friends that I have acquired over the years who I used to meet every year at the convention. I haven’t been there now in about four or five years because I don’t get around too well anymore, but I am certainly looking forward to seeing my old friends again. Some of them are in the hall of fame and some are not.”
Tell me your favorite story from the history of the Millrose Games?
“I do recall a few things that my father has said over the years that might be considered kind of funny. Over the years a number of people have asked him whether he would ever have an outdoor Millrose Games because we always considered indoor track very important, but outdoor track is considered a little more important. The authorities and experts always considered outdoor track the true test. People would say, ‘Fred, are you ever going to have an outdoor Millrose Games?’ He would say no and they would ask why not. He would say because it might rain.”
“I do remember a this time a few years ago, one of our last years in (Madison Square Garden), there was a tremendous rain in New York. The roof of the Garden leaked. An hour before the Games were about to start, it looked very much like we would have to call off the meet. But somehow we were able to stop the flood and the Games went on. In some years we have had heavy blizzards that could have resulted in cancelling the meet but in the 106 years that the Millrose Games have been held, it has never been cancelled for any reason – weather, war or whatever. Fortunately Millrose has never had that situation and hopefully it never will.”
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