Frank Budd, 74, the "world's fastest human" in 1961.

Budd
Budd
Posted: May 06, 2014

SPRINTER MEL PATTON, who set the world record of 9.3 seconds in the 100-yard dash in 1948, told Sports Illustrated that the man who would beat it would be "tall and strong and quick, a young giant with the reflexes of a cat."

Along came Frank Budd of Villanova University, hardly a giant at 5-10, 172 pounds. He may have been quick, but you could have fooled the coaches. He never seemed to be in a hurry, and had a "who, me worry?" approach to life.

"He just hustles along," a Sports Illustrated columnist wrote in 1961.

In addition, Frank had a gimpy leg, the result of a childhood bout with what was probably polio. His left calf was an inch larger than the right.

Nevertheless, on July 24, 1961, on a well-worn black cinder track in Downing Stadium on Randalls Island in New York City for the AAU national championships - with the racket from the Triborough Bridge in the ears and the stench from the East River in the nostrils, the Villanova junior crouched in the starting block.

He was no doubt well-aware that Patton's 9.3 had not been bettered in 14 years. But the words of his coach, the legendary Jim "Jumbo" Elliott, may also have been on his mind:

"I want 9.2 today!"

And the unlikely sprinter from Asbury Park, N.J., gave it to him.

With that 9.2, Francis Joseph Budd became the world's fastest human.

Frank Budd died Tuesday at age 74. In recent years he had suffered from multiple sclerosis and renal failure. He lived in Mount Laurel, N.J.

The New York Times reported that the record-breaking event in 1961 was watched by a crowd of 9,456, including basketball stars Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

Frank told reporters that Jumbo Elliott taught him to raise his knees, not worry about opponents and eat steak on race mornings, advice that might make today's nutritionists cringe.

A few weeks later, Frank was in Moscow for a U.S.-Soviet Union track meet. He and Villanova teammate Paul Drayton finished one-two in the 100-meter dash and helped the American team set a world record in the 4x100 relay.

Frank Budd was one of Villanova University's most outstanding athletes, and was chosen to participate in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He also played wide receiver for the Eagles and Washington Redskins and three years in the Canadian Football League.

When he set the world record in the 100 yards, Frank had one unusual advantage. He was being chased by an Apache Indian.

Fellow runner David James' real name was Salawatha Nejawachacomondidite, and he was an Apache Indian. Sports Illustrated wrote that Frank probably felt James breathing down his neck and fled.

"At the age of 21, he is a sensible, well-balanced young man who prefers to let others worry about the races he is going to run," Sports Illustrated reported.

Bob Hayes ran a 9.1 100 in 1964, but he had a stiff wind at his back.

Frank Budd never believed he had polio. He told a Newark Star-Ledger reporter last July that "polio was more of a theory than medically proven." But he said when he got to Villanova in 1958, a coach told him he was limping as he ran.

"Guess I just didn't notice," he said, "but it gradually grew stronger."

Anyway, Frank's mother had applied a concoction of goose grease, nutmeg, mutton fat and witch hazel to his deformed right leg, and maybe that did the trick.

Frank's wife, the former Barbara Jordan, told the same reporter that she felt her husband's "will and determination" worked better than goose grease.

"I still believe it's about having a positive attitude, and having a strong family around you, and Frank has both," she said.

At Villanova, Frank was a world-record dash man at both 100 and 220 yards; a three-time NCAA champion, and seven-time IC4A winner, all under the great Jumbo Elliott. Frank was among the first athletes to be installed on Villanova's Wall of Fame.

Frank's performance at the 1960 Olympics was a disappointment. He came in fifth in the 100-meter final. Even more of a disappointment was the fact that his 4x100 relay team set a world record, but was disqualified because Frank handed off the baton outside the passing zone.

Although Frank didn't play football in college, he was drafted by the Eagles for his speed. He caught 10 passes over two NFL seasons - one with the Eagles, one with the Redskins. Daily News sports columnist Bill Conlin once wrote that Frank had "hands of stone."

After his sports career, Frank worked for the Philadelphia Recreation Department, the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City and the New Jersey Department of Corrections, from which he retired in 2002.

One of his other legacies is the Frank Budd Track and Field meet at his alma mater, Asbury Park High School, where over the years he handed out medals to winners.

Besides his wife of 51 years, he is survived by a son, Frank Jr.; two daughters, Kimberly Arzillo and Anitra Speight; four sisters, Elizabeth Morgan, Catherine Myres, Ann Thomas and Diane Cummings; two brothers, Tommy Jr. and Stephen; three half-sisters, Veronica Roberts, Joan Budd and Patricia White; a half-brother, David Budd, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Services: Funeral Mass 11 a.m. today at St. Thomas Church on the Villanova University campus. Friends may call at 9 a.m.

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