J im Hines electrified in his day. He still does, albeit with words and not wheels.
Once the fastest man alive, Hines is now 67, looking fit and always eager to discuss track and field. He holds a special place in sprinting lore, be it for his record exploits in Sacramento on the hard-clay track at Hughes Stadium in 1968 on the famed “Night of Speed,” when he was the first to crack the 10-second barrier in the 100-meter dash; or his sizzling effort later that summer at the Olympic Games in Mexico City, where Hines won the 100 in 9.95 seconds, a world record he held for 15 years.
“That title – ‘World’s Fastest Human’ – how many millions would love to have that?” Hines said recently when he was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame as a standout at McClymonds High School in Oakland. “The 100-meter dash is the greatest event in the Olympics. It’s man versus man. It’s the purest event.”
“Mr. Usain Bolt is the horse of the day,” Hines said. “But if I could race him in my prime, I’d be breathing down his neck.”
There was a lot of heavy breathing on the “Night of Speed” when, in a span of 21/2 hours at the AAU Championships, the world mark in the 100 was broken by three men and tied by seven others. Hines won a semifinal by a breath over Ronny Ray Smith as both are credited with 9.9-second efforts, and Charlie Greene tied the 9.9 in winning the final by just out-leaning Hines, who later said: “There will never be another night like it” and, “That was the greatest ever.”
When Hines won the 100 at the 1968 Games, a 9.89 registered on the screen, from a light beam across the finish line. It was later corrected to 9.95. Hines said at the Hall of Fame event, “They changed it because no one could believe a man could run that fast.”
Other stirring track moments in Sacramento history: