The day after winning three events at the 1936 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, Jesse Owens met legendary baseball player Babe Ruth at a dinner honoring the Olympic athletes.
Ruth, the New York Yankees’ slugger, would retire as the leading home run hitter in Major League Baseball. He knew of Owens’ dominance – including the “greatest 45 minutes ever in sports” – and asked Owens if he was going to win Olympic gold.
“I will try,” Owens replied, according to the Jesse Owens Museum.
“Everybody tries; I succeed,” Ruth said. “Why? Because I know I’m going to hit a home run just about every time I swing the bat. Because I know it. The pitchers, they know it too. Know, Jesse, that you will win!”
Indeed, Owens did win.
At the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games, against a backdrop of racial discrimination in Nazi Germany, Owens won four gold medals – a feat that went unmatched for nearly 50 years.
On successive days, Owens won gold in the 100 meters, the long jump and the 200 meters. Four days later, Owens was a late addition to the 4×100-meter relay team that set a world record that stood for 20 years.