2017: Charles Sanford, Anchor of Cavers’ Great Relay Squad

Charles Sanford finished the perfect race.

Etched in my memory: Edwards Stadium, Berkeley, 1963 state track meet, final event, 880-yard relay. San Diego High against the field at the end of the two-day program.

Sanford and teammates Walter (Buddah) Blackledge, Gordon Baker, and Raymond Dixon, were considered one of the better entries coming into the meet with a best time of 1:27.2, but there were other, more favored teams  from the Los Angeles City and Southern sections.

Sanford, who passed away at age 72 recently, was an attacking sprinter, grinding out his races with each stride, and the best at San Diego High since the days of Roscoe Cook and Bobby Staten a decade before.

Sanford had set a San Diego Section record of :09.6 in the 100-yard dash the week before and had a best of :19.2 in the 180-yard low hurdles.

He qualified in neither event in the Friday trials  but was fresh and ready for the baton chase the next day.

The Cavers got off to a good start when Blackledge came out of the blocks with a :22-flat first 220, handing off to Gordon Baker, who put some distance between himself and the pack with a :21.3 second leg.

Gordon Baker, Charles Sanford, Walter (Buddah) Blackledge, and Raymond Dixon (from left) reached perfection in 1963.

Baker a sometimes erratic sprinter-quartermiler, ran  the most important leg, because he was able to make the second pass from the pole position to Dixon.

With the posse in hot pursuit, Dixon held the inside lane, running his furlong in :21.7, and maintaining  Baker’s lead as Dixon passed to  Sanford.

Anchor man Sanford closed with a :21.3 leg, increasing San Diego’s winning advantage  to about five yards.

The Cavers had covered the distance in 1:26.3, second fastest in the country that year; almost one second faster than they had run the week before,  and bettered the record they had shared with the 1957 Cook-Staten-Charles Davis-Willie Jordan team.

Los Angeles Manual Arts was second in 1:26.8.

What I remember most were the flawless handoffs as the Cavers protected the baton amid the pressure of  flying spikes, and streaking bodies in a high-powered race.

Sanford, who also was a football standout at San Diego, will be honored in a funeral service Monday, April 3, at 11 a.m. at Missionary Baptist Church in Logan Heights.




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6 Responses to 2017: Charles Sanford, Anchor of Cavers’ Great Relay Squad

  1. Scott Baxter says:

    Thank you for this piece on the Gray Castle’s fantastic 1963 880 relay team. I was one year behind these guys at SDHS but also on the track team (a skinny, white distance runner) in ’62 and ’63. If my memory serves me well, Charles Sanford only had four fingers on one hand. If that’s true, he did a damn good job of holding on to both a football and that relay baton! R.I.P.

    • Rick says:

      Thanks for writing. I recall that Sanford did have a physical shortcoming but it never kept him off the field or in the blocks. He was an outstanding competitor.

    • Roland Litzler says:

      Thanks for the memories – sorry to hear of Sanford’s passing. In 1962 I was on the track team at San Diego High and often ran with Charles Sanford and Gordon Baker (Ray Dixon was on the B team that year). I wish I could have watched that winning 880 relay performance in 1963.

      • Rick says:

        I was at the 1962 San Diego-Lincoln dual meet. The Cavemen gave the favored and probably more talanted Lincoln (Vernus Ragsdale) a run for its money. David Odom, Clyde Oden, some strong Caver competitors. Sanford was an outstanding sprinter and tough competitor.

      • Roland Litzler says:

        I’m in total agreement with you about Sanford’s skills, and Vernus Ragsdale was an absolute force. Even after 55 years I have a clear memory of the 880 yard relay at the Lincoln/San Diego dual meet in 1962. I was running the second leg. A few seconds after the starting gun the baton went flying and Elmer Logans was sprawled out grasping his leg. I’d like to think we might have had a very close finish

      • Rick says:

        I remember a Ronald Litzler. Do you have a brother or did I mistake your first name? Lincoln won that relay in an eased up 1:30 flat. I’d forgotten the relay snafu for the Cavemen but I do remember Cavers coach Henry Wiegand shoving Lincoln coach Bobby Smith with Henry’s son Willie looking on. Don’t remember what the beef was about but it was a raucous, loud atmosphere at the Hive that day. Eddie Logans ran a terrific quartermile in around 50 seconds and Clyde Oden had a career best 2:05 something in the 800 but was DQ’d for cutting in too quickly on a Lincoln runner,

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