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Bob Matthias, athlete

About Bob Matthias The press called him The Wonder Boy.  At the Summer Olympics in Helsinki. In 1948, Bob Mathias won the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete, but because his scholastic record in high school did not match his athletic achievement, he spent a year at The Kiski School, a well respected all boys boarding school in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania. He then entered Stanford University in 1949, and played college football for two years. Mathias set his first decathlon world record in 1950 and led Stanford to a Rose Bowl appearance in 1952. At Helsinki, Mathias asserted himself as one of the world's best athletes. He won the decathlon by 912 points, an astounding margin, becoming the first to successfully defend an Olympic decathlon title. He returned to the United States as a national hero. In 1952, he was, therefore, the first person to ever compete in an Olympics and a Rose Bowl the same year. After the 1952 Olympics, Mathias retired from athletic competition. He later became the first director of the United States Olympic Training Center, a post he held from 1977 to 1983. In 1954 a film about his early life called The Bob Mathias Story was released, in which he and his wife Melba played themselves. He also starred in a number of mostly cameo-type roles in a variety of movies and TV shows throughout the 1950s.

Between 1967 and 1975, Matthias served four terms in the United States House of Representatives as a Republican, representing the northern San Joaquin Valley of California. In 1974, he was defeated in his election bid for a fifth term in Congress. From June through August of 1975 he served as Deputy Director of the Selective Service. Mathias was also involved in the unsuccessful 1976 presidential election campaign of president Gerald Ford. He died in Fresno, California on September 2, 2006 at the age of 75 from cancer.

After Bob Matthais became the youngest person ever to win a gold medal in the decathlon at the 1948 Olympics, Mathias was asked what he would do to celebrate. The seventeen-year-old replied, "I'll start shaving, I guess." Mathias averaged almost 9 yards a carry in football and 18 points a game in basketball during his high school years. At a high school track meet, he once won the shot, discus, and high hurdles, anchored the winning sprint relay team, and finished second in the high jump. His track coach suggested he should try the decathlon, even though it isn't usually a high school event. A month later, Mathias won his first competition, the Pacific Coast Games, and two weeks after that he finished first in the Olympic trials, beating Irving Mondschein, a three-time national champion.

At the 1948 Games, Mathias was the youngest member ever of a U. S. Olympic track team. He was in third place after the first day of competition, but he took the lead with a discus throw of 144 feet, 4 inches on the second day and still held the lead after finishing the 1,500-meter run at 10:35 that night.

When Bob Matthais returned to his hometown, the plane had to circle the airport until the runway was cleared of the crowds who had come to welcome him back. Mathias won the Sullivan Award as the nation's outstanding amateur athlete for his feat. He also received more than two hundred marriage proposals. He enrolled at Stanford University after graduating from high school. A fullback on the football team, he played in the 1952 Rose Bowl, a 40-7 loss to Illinois, and then finished first in the Olympic decathlon trials again.

6-foot 3 and 205 pounds, Bob Mathias was 3 inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than he had been in 1948, and this time he won the gold medal easily, setting a world record of 7,887 despite a badly pulled thigh muscle. His margin of victory, more than 900 points, is the largest in Olympic decathlon history. Mathias won all 11 decathlons he entered, including the AAU national championships from 1948 through 1950 and in 1952. He appeared in four movies, including The Bob Mathias Story, in which he played himself, served as a U. S. Congressman, and then became director of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

About Herb Sheldon Herb Sheldon was born January, 1913 Herbert Sussman in Brooklyn, New York. Sheldon was originally slated to train for a career in textiles, but a scholarship at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and some work in the theater sidetracked his plans.

Herb worked in some Broadway shows in small character parts. Eventually, he left the stage for a more stable career as a radio broadcaster. Sheldon made his radio debut on WINS Radio as the host and interviewer and as a performer of a daily talk/variety show in 1941. The show became a hit with NYC's listeners and from there he went onto a long and successful career mc'ing several programs, including one with interviewer Maggie McNeilis ("Sheldon And Magneilis At The Latin Quarter"). Sheldon made his TV debut on WNBT New York City (now WNBC) in 1946, with the first of several children's TV shows "Kids Today" on WNBT. From 1946 to 1956, he hosted such kids shows as "Saturdays With Herb Sheldon", "Sheldon At Six", "Kids Today" and "One Is For Sheldon"

Unfortunately, Sheldon's tenure at RCA was short-lived: he violated his contract with WNBT by also working for other stations in the city. After contract was terminated he joined WABD TV Channel 5 as the host of their kids TV shows. He succeeded Sandy Becker as the second host of their successful Sunday comedy/variety kids TV show "Wonderama" in 1956. Sheldon's appearances on "Wonderama", "The Bugs Bunny Theater" (during his tenure the title was changed to "Bugs Bunny Presents"), "The Looney Tunes Show" and "Speaking Of Animals").

He also hosted a teens rock and roll dance and music program "Studio Party" and a failed late night old movie show "Rickey Tickey Playhouse". He again had problems with management for working for other stations, and for working as an MC for nightclub acts. Sheldon was ousted by WABD TV's management on August 8, 1958.

He briefly served as the host of two TV shows for WNTA TV Ch.13 in Newark, N.J (now WNET PBS outlet New York City). "Hold That Camera" (a late night TV game show for adults) and "Funderama" (a Saturday morning clone of Wonderama) in 1958 and 1959.

On Monday September 14, 1959, Herb Sheldon succeeded Paul Tripp (not to be confused with WMGM radio jock Peter Tripp) as the third host of WOR-TV Channel 9 NYC's "Looney Tunes Show". Sheldon wore a straw skimmer, bow tie and striped blazer, and set the show against the backdrop of an enchanted cottage in the woods; he would entertain his viewers between the reruns of the cartoons. The show was so popular that the program's title was soon changed to "The Herb Sheldon Show". He also hosted "The Mischief Makers" (the syndicated title for the silent "Little Rascals" films) weekday evenings on WOR from Monday September 19, 1960 to Friday June 9, 1961.

Herb Sheldon continued to host the station's TV's kids shows until heart problems forced him to retire from regular TV work on May 18, 1962.

During his retirement years, he co-owned a restaurant in Hempstead, N.Y. and also staged, produced and performed in plays at two theaters that he owned, "The Tinkerpond Playhouse" in Syosset, N.Y. and The Montauk Point Playhouse. Sheldon also worked with many charities, most notably "The United Cerebrial Palsy Telethons" with Jane Pickens Hoving, Dennis James and Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme". He succumbed to a massive heart attack on July 21, 1964.


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