Oct. 14, 2002
Hotchkiss, Co. - Ben Eastman, one of the greatest runners in Stanford Track & Field history, has died at age 91.
Eastman passed away on Oct. 6 at his home in Hotchkiss, Co.
Eastman, who was born in Burlingame, set a world record in the 400 yard run at the old Angell Field at Stanford University on March 26, 1932. Eastman ran the oval in 46.4, knocking a full second off the existing world record. He also eclipsed the world record of 47.0 for 400 meters, his mark converting to 46.27 seconds over the metric distance.
Eastman was coached by the legendary Dink Templeton, who directed the Stanford track & field program for 19 years, winning three NCAA titles. On Eastman's record breaking run 70 years ago, Templeton told Eastman to "burn the early part (of the race) and then try to finish with what you have left. Keep running even if you have to crawl home on your hands and knees, but don't let up."
Eastman stuck to the plan, passing the 220 pole in 21.3 and then continued through the tape for the new mark.
"I was darn surprised," Eastman told the Oakland Tribune last March. "I just wanted to run. I knew it was fast, but I had no idea."
Two weeks later, again at Angell Field, Eastman added his second world standard, this time in the half mile. Eastman employed a similar strategy to that he had used in the 440. He started fast, passed the quarter mile in 53.5 and finally stopped the watches at 1:51.3, bettering the previous record by three-tenths of a second.
Eastman was called "Blazin' Ben". Eastman would quickly run to the front of the pack and then dare his competitors to catch him.
Eastman set world records outdoors at 400 meters, 440 yards, 500 meters, 600 yards, 800 meters and 880 yards. Eastman won the silver medal in the 400 meters at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. Eastman finished second to fellow American Bill Carr. Carr broke Eastman's world record at the Olympics with a time of 46.2.
A former part-time track coach at Santa Clara University, he worked in San Francisco and New York with companies that sold industrial supply equipment. He also worked for a diesel engine company in Oakland, New York and Seattle. Since 1959, he owned and operated a fruit orchard in western Colorado.
Eastman attended Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in Economics in 1933 and a Master's degree in Business Administration in 1935.
Eastman is survived by three sons, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.