LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dick Bank, whose excited television call of “Look at Mills! Look at Mills!” alerted American Billy Mills’ stunning upset in the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, has died. He was 90.
Tom Walsh, a longtime friend, said Bank died of heart failure Sunday at his home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles. He had been in failing health in recent years.
Bank’s description of the 10,000 got him fired by NBC before the games ended. He was working as a spotter for NBC alongside play-by-play announcer Bud Palmer, who had gotten him the job in Tokyo.
“He did not plan to do anything, but when he saw Mills coming on and Bud Palmer didn’t even mention Mills’ name, he just let it burst out,” Walsh told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Mills, a virtual unknown going into the 10,000 except to Bank, and race favorite Ron Clarke of Australia were running together, with Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia right behind as they began the final lap. They were lapping other runners, and Clarke got boxed in down the backstretch. He pushed Mills twice. Gammoudi then pushed them both and surged into the lead rounding the final curve.
Clarke recovered and chased Gammoudi, while Mills appeared to drop out of contention. Clarke failed to catch Gammoudi, but Mills went wide into lane four and sprinted past both of them. His winning time of 28 minutes, 24.4 seconds was nearly 50 seconds faster than he had run before and set an Olympic record.
Bank’s outburst alerted U.S. television viewers to one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history. The sedate Palmer seemed to miss the unfolding drama.
“Bud Palmer was never bitter about it. He thanked Dick for saying something,” Walsh told AP. “It was slightly unprofessional to blurt out like that, but he said, ‘If I had to do it over again, I’d do it.’ He’s convinced that Bud Palmer would not have said a word and it would have been an embarrassment to everyone.”
Mills, a Sioux Indian, remains the only American to win the 10,000. American Galen Rupp took silver at the 2012 London Games.
Bank was one of the world’s most knowledgeable track and field experts in the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s, according to Walsh. Decades before the advent of the internet and with only three major TV networks, Bank did most of his research by phone, Walsh said.
He called the historic U.S-Soviet Union meet at Stanford University in 1962. Soviet coach Gavriil Korobkov told Bank, “You know more about my athletes than I do.”
“Once he got stuck on something he gave it 100 percent,” Walsh said.
Bank also worked as a shoe representative for Adidas, helping Mills secure a pair of the brand’s spikes for the 10,000 that were being given out at the athletes’ village in Tokyo.
Bank also announced track and field for ABC and CBS, and briefly worked as a major league scout for the Chicago Cubs, Walsh said.
After leaving track and field, Bank became a successful jazz producer in the 1990s and 2000s, working with Jan Lundgren, Herb Geller, Lanny Morgan and Jack Nimitz, among others.
“He had a lot of different things going on,” Walsh said.
Bank’s marriage to three-time track and field Olympian Pat Connolly ended in divorce, although Walsh said they would call each other on their birthdays every year. He is survived by stepson Brad Winslow from Connolly’s first marriage.