Jack Dellenger Write Up

Born in Oakland, California, Jack Delinger’s introduction to the iron game was at age 16 when he visited a local YMCA and pressed his own bodyweight. In 1947, Ed Yarick announced that Jack Delinger, recent winner of the 1946 Mr. Northern California, was the “newest muscular marvel”.

Yarick knew what he was talking about: he was mentor to Steve Reeves, who won the 1947 AAU Mr. America contest, and future Hall of Famer Clancy Ross was a Yarick gym member. In 1949, Delinger won the AAU Mr. America in Cleveland, Ohio, by a wider margin than anyone else since John Grimek won his second AAU Mr. America in 1941.

Standing 5′ 7″ , Delinger was the shortest Mr. America until 5′ 6″ Lloyd Lerille won in 1960. Four years after winning the Mr. America, Delinger started his own gym in Oakland. In 1956, he jaunted to London to become the fifth man to win the NABBA Pro Universe.

Delinger’s favorite exercise, the bench press, gained him an impressive chest, and he appeared to be as deep as he was wide, with strength enough to perform the gymnastics iron-cross movement while his 28-pound two-year old son hung from his dad’s feet! Delinger continued running his gym at 5255 College Avenue in Oakland but, later in life, restricted his training to a few basic exercises to retain a solid physique. He died suddenly three days after Christmas in 1992.

The Real Jack Delinger

My dad, who played pro football, had a long term friendship with several of the local Oakland body builders, including Jack LaLane, Jack Delinger and others I don’t remember. I did get to met Jack LaLanne when I was very young, but when Jack hit it big in the 50s, and became the first exercise guru on the tube, I did not see him again. Still my dad and Jack LaLanne exchanged Xmas cards until my Dad’s death in 2002.

In 1958 when I ran my 4:13.9 mile, my dad decided the only way I could become a world class miler was to start lifting weights. So he contacted his friend Jack Delinger who had a gym and store, selling weights on College Ave., not far from where I lived. My dad paid for them, all I had to do was go pick them up.

When I got there, my order was not ready, and Jack Delinger, who greeted me personally, was not in a very friendly mood, probably because his shipment of equipment was late.

My dad was a big burly man (6’2″ 220lbs.) and I was a very slender 18 year old kid. Jack was surprised at how skinny I was, and I was equally surprised at how short he was. Here I am meeting a Mr. America and he is almost a midget (5′ 6″ when he won his title in 1949). I grant you he was very broad shouldered, but I towered over him at 5′ 11″.

After I established I was in fact Bob Kurtz Jr, I started to ask him about weight training for distance runners. He knew nothing more than generalities, and seemed irirated at my questions. He made it clear that his purpose was to train and build you up to be Mr. America, and not to run 4 minute miles.

The discussion got so heated, he asked, me at one point, what I would do if I got into a fight and I replied I would run, and that there were not a dozen people in the Bay Area who could catch me, including him. I mentioned I had won 9 block letters in track and cross country, in 4 years of high school and college (the most possible). Jack scoffed, doubting my every word. There were a few more barbs exchanged, but I don’t remember them 50 years later.

When I came back the next day to finally get my weights, I wore my block letter sweater, but that didn’t stop him from starting in on me again. This time insulting my dad, telling me, to tell him, that he shouldn’t claim to have played for the San Francisco 49ers, when in fact, he played for cross town rival the San Francisco Clippers, who were long since out of business. Jack was right, my dad did exaggerate his pro football career a bit. I told Mr Delinger that the ’46 Clippers were a better team than the ’46 Forty Niners and that’s why my dad played for the Clippers. Again there were more barbs I don’t remember.

The discussion got so heated, he asked, me at one point, what I would do if I got into a fight and I replied I would run, and that there were not a dozen people in the Bay Area who could catch me, including him. I mentioned I had won 9 block letters in track and cross country, in 4 years of high school and college (the most possible). Jack scoffed, doubting my every word. There were a few more barbs exchanged, but I don’t remember them 50 years later.

Another funny thing about the second meeting was that I deliberately wore my cowboy boots with nearly 2 inch heels, so that I could tower over Mr America even more. Also I parked my car a good distance away, because if Jack had helped carry my stuff to my pink and grey car, I would have never heard the end of it.

When I called my dad to thank him for the weights and told him about my impression of Jack Delinger and the Clippers/49ers quip Jack made, I think I put an end to any further family contact with Jack Delinger.

As I read back over others discussing Jack Delinger, I will agree he was a very intense man, but believe me, he was not a man of few words, at least not with me.

Jack Delinger was 32 years old when my encounter happened, and I would have sworn he was wearing a touch of makeup to cover the start of age lines on his face.

The sad ending to this episode was that I never learned how to use the weights, rarely touched them. and quite deservedly never improved my mile time or any time in any other distance. The truth in hindsight, was that I should have done some weight training, something that became mandatory for all distance runners in the 1960s.

What can I say, Jack you were right, but if you had been friendly, I might have joined one of your weight training classes and things could have been different for my track efforts.