Sport: Track & Field
Born: September 12, 1914
Died: September 15, 1976
Town: Somers Point
Edward Thomas O’Brien was born September 12, 1914 in Somers Point. At the time, the Atlantic County town was a U.S. port of entry; Eddie's family was very well off. Fast, wiry and athletic, the boy everyone called “Obie” was unbeatable in foot races. He was a star sprinter in high school and enrolled at Syracuse University in 1933 with dreams of becoming an Olympic sprinter.
As a freshman, Eddie was talked into focusing on middle distance races, including the 600 yards, 500 yards and the quarter mile. In 1935, Eddie won the 440 at the Princeton Invitational with a time of 47.3 seconds. He also won the AAU outdoor title that spring. During the 1936 indoor season, Eddie was unbeaten, and set a world record in the 600 meters with a time of 57.8 seconds.
At the 1936 Olympic Trials, Eddie roomed with sprinter Marty Glickman, who would become an icon in New York sports broadcasting. Eddie finished seventh in the 400 meters, which was good enough to make the U.S. team headed to Germany. The Americans were slight favorites in Berlin, and did indeed make it to the 4 x 400 finals. Eddie ran the third leg—as it turned out, the fastest leg at 46.7 seconds—but the U.S. squad was already trailing England at that point and could not close the gap. Eddie’s time shaved a tenth of a second off his personal best, set a year earlier. The other runners were Harold Cagle, Robert Young and Alfred Fitch. The U.S. team’s silver medal drew criticism from fans who wondered why Archie Williams and Jimmy LuValle were not in the mix. Both had medaled in the 400 meters.
Eddie returned to the U.S. and dominated the competition in the 1937 indoor season, racking up victories at multiple distances. He improved on his world record in the indoor 600 meters with a time of 57.6 seconds. Eddie was named as an All-American in the 400 meters for the third year in a row. He graduated from Syracuse that spring and married his fiancée, Florence Quintin. At the outbreak of World War II, Eddie enlisted in the Navy. He served on a destroyer in the Pacific.
Eddie split his time between New Jersey and Bermuda—where Eddie and Florence had honeymooned decades earlier— in the 1970s and passed away in 1976 in Essex Falls after a bout with colon cancer. That year he was honored by Syracuse University as a Letter Winner of Distinction. He is also a member of the Syracuse Hall of Fame and the Niagara Track & Field Hall of Fame.