Ben Spock On 1924 Olympic Eight: Part 2 – Comparisons

Here continues the story about the letter by Ben Spock, seven-seat in Yale’s eight which took a gold medal at the Olympic rowing regatta in Paris, to the seven-seat man in Yale’s Olympic eight of 1956, Richard ‘Rusty’ Wailes.

Here is the 1924 Yale crew: Laurence Stoddard, coxswain; Alfred Lindley, stroke; Benjamin Spock, 7-seat; Frederick Sheffield, 6-seat; James Rockefeller, 5-seat, Captain; John Miller, 4-seat; Alfred Wilson, 3-seat; Howard Kingsbury, 2-seat; and Leonard Carpenter, bow.

The bold text parts are Spock’s letter, while the italicized text parts are my comments. The letter, which has fifteen ‘chapters’ marked 1 to 15, and ends with a poem, is written 22 October 1956 with a header reading “1924-1956 Comparisons”.

1. The actual Olympic races were scheduled from July 15th to July 17th on the Seine in Paris and the Olympic trials in this country were scheduled for June 13th and 14th. With the Harvard race on Friday, June 2oth, and the Poughkeepsie race on Saturday, June 21st, most college crews decided not to try for the Olympics. At that time Olympic rowing was dominated by the rowing clubs and the Navy had announced that its 1920 Olympic crew would come back into competition.
In the 1920 Olympic rowing event on the Grand Willebroek Canal outside of Brussels, the American eight from Navy became Olympic champions (as told in Susan Saint Sing’s The Wonder Crew; 2008).

2. The last chance in the Yale boating was made late in April – the chance which I above all others should remember!
(See John Cooke’s comments in Part 1 – Prelude.)

3. Make-up – We had four seniors as compared with your three. We had three juniors as compared with your two and we had one sophomore as compared with your three. Our coxswain was a junior and yours was a sophomore. Our average age was twenty and a half and yours twenty and a quarter. Our average weight was 180 and yours 186 1/4. Our coxswain only weighed 108 as compared to yours showing a weight of 125. The average height of our crew was 6’ 1 1/4” as compared with your 6’ 3 1/8”. Our shortest man is listed at 5’ 11” but I must confess he never grew that much. Your shortest man is similarly listed.

4. Our season – We had two races. On May 5th in the Blackwell Cup at Derby, we beat Pennsylvania and Columbia quite easily. On May 17th at Princeton in the Carnegie Cup we beat Princeton and Cornell quite easily. Thereafter there was a good deal of newspapers publicity urging on Yale the authorities that we try out for the Olympics. However, after the Carnegie Cup race we went right into training for the four-mile at Derby and gave up short sprints.

5. Olympic decision – On Sunday, June 1st, we were to go to Gales Ferry. That day we met with the Rowing Committee and individually and collectively said we wanted to try for the Olympics. That gave us less than two weeks and of that two-week period we had examinations on 9 days. One of the complications was that if we should win the Olympics we could not go abroad with the Olympic team because the Harvard race was after the American boat sailed, so on Monday, June 2nd, the Yale Rowing Committee raised $10,000 in five minutes to send us abroad, should we win, and first-class accommodations were arranged for us on the Homeric, sailing Saturday, the 21st, at noon, less than twenty-four hours after the Harvard race. As I remember, our training, we had a time trial over what we guessed was the Olympic distance every day in the morning and then took a long paddle in the afternoon. During this period we never paddled at less than 24.

The Prelude to this letter was posted yesterday, “Ben Spock On 1924 Olympic Eight: Part 1 – Prelude”.

This letter is posted on HTBS with the permission of the NRF, which is the owner of this letter! Ben Spock’s letter will continue tomorrow.


  1. Hi ID Mistake here from Dr. Spock's book, The Stroke is Alfred D Lindley, always was. All of these guys about 6' to 6'2″ and 175 lbs. Other photo on site shows Lindley in white hat as stroke. Alfred Wilson from the same town Wayzata Mn. is in the 3 seat. Leonard Carpenter in bow also from same town. I know because Al Lindley was my father, also on '32 and '36 Olympic ski tams as a 4 way skier, Nordic and Alpine, Mother Grace Carter Lindley on '36 Team as well.I have the Gold Medal and Sevres Vase awarded winners. Please correct. They also won at Henley that year. Thank you Kris Lindley Matlack DVM

  2. Dear Mrs Lindley Matlack – Thank you for your corrections. The text in this entry has now been changed. I would like to clarify one thing, however, the 'Henley' in the comments above is not the Henley Royal Regatta in England, but it might be the 'American' Henley. Again, thank you for the corrections. Your father was indeed a great sportsman!

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