by Frank Bertucci
PHILADELPHIA - It began in 1937.
Herman Mancini took his position overlooking the paddock area, lining up runners, prepping them for their move onto the Franklin Field track, for their moment in the Penn Relays.
Health issues have forced the 93-year-old to have his streak of 68 straight years at the Relays ended, but Herman Mancini's work is being recognized with his being named the Honorary Carnival Referee for this year's 112th running of the Penn Relay Carnival.
Mancini began working at the Relays when he was manager of the track team at Philadelphia's West Catholic High School. Track coach Jack Glascott brought him to Franklin Field to help out, and Herman never left.
"He was always in trouble," remembered Bob Glascott, Jack's son, who worked with Herman and his father and is still the Relays Chief Clerk of Course (a position he shares with Mancini). "The athletic director at West went to my father and said, 'Jack, I need a favor.' My dad was Chief Clerk at the Relays and he brought Herman in as his assistant."
"I didn't think I'd last this long, but I enjoyed every minute of it," Mancini said from his home in Coral Springs, Fla. "The competition was always great. But I enjoyed being on time, all the time, every year."
The Relays' legendary reputation for timeliness is due to Mancini's work in the paddock area, directing thousands of runners onto the track, keeping order where chaos and nerves might be more natural reactions than following orders. And there have always been crucial moments.
One came when Dave Wottle, the U.S.' 1972 Gold Medalist at 800 meters, was preparing to walk onto the track while wearing his trademark baseball cap, the one he famously wore through the Star Spangled Banner on the podium in Munich in 1972.
Herman Mancini did not permit runners onto his track while wearing excess accouterments.
"I remember Herman said, 'Not on this track with that hat,'" said Glascott. "(Relay Director) Jim Tuppeny came over and okayed it. Herman said to me, 'Let's go Bob, we're walking out of here.'
"I thought to myself this is the end of the Relays. But Herman turned right back and said that we can't do this to Tupp."
"Just because he (Wottle) always ran with that hat, he wasn't going to run in the Relays with my father in charge," said Herman's son John.
Mancini made the trip from Florida to the Relays for 33 years, before doctors' orders forced him to curtail traveling.
But Bob Glacott and his assistants will be thinking of Herman Mancini as they direct thousands of runners through the paddock area this year, and they'll follow the same order that Herman always gave: "Next line, move up."
Three other men with long coaching and officiating careers will also serve as Honorary Carnival Officials.
Jim Deegan, for 50 years the head coach at Mount St. Mary's University is Honorary College Referee. His Mount athletes include 10 Olympians and eight Penn Relays decathlon champions.
Russell Bates, retired as head coach at Winslow Township High School (formerly Edgewood Regional), is the Honorary High School Boys' Referee. He coached 25 boys New Jersey state indoor and outdoor championship teams during his career, and his 2004 team won the Relays' High School Boys' 4x400 meter Relay Championship of America.
Warren Ring is the Honorary High School Girls' Referee. One of Herman Mancini's Assistant Clerks for 18 years, he was Chief Clerk of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, and has officiated at numerous national and international competitions.