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Tom Price

Sport: Rowing

Born: May 28, 1933

Town: Eatontown

Thomas Steele Price was born May 28, 1933 in Long Branch and grew up in Eatontown. His father, Fraser Bliss Price, was a baseball star for Columbia and later helped coach the football team. He earned a law degree and served as mayor of Eatontown from 1948 to 1960. Tom took after his father. He was a sinewy, powerful six-footer who excelled on the playing field in track and football and in the classroom at Long Branch High School. After a final year at the Storm King School, a prep school in Orange County, New York, Tom enrolled at Rutgers in 1951. He earned a JV letter on the football team as a center and linebacker.

Early in 1952, during his freshman year, Tom took up rowing on the Raritan River as part of the Rutgers team under coach Charles Logg. Tom and Logg’s son, Chuck Jr., had become acquainted in their plant science classes.

Coach Logg believed that a big, athletic kid like Tom and his son, a senior who stood over 6’4”, could do extraordinary things if trained correctly. Tom had never been on the water in a competitive shell. They began practicing that March. In May, both athletes stepped into in a pair-oared shell for the first time. A two-man coxless shell is perhaps the most challenging craft of its kind; it demands perfect rhythm, coordination and strength. They began turning in world-class times almost immediately.

The following month, Tom and Chuck traveled to Worcester, MA and entered the Olympic Trials regatta in the coxless pairs and stunned the sport by beating all eight of the favorites to earn a spot in the Summer Games. As the two departed, common wisdom said they were headed to Finland “just for the ride.”

tpricerutgerscelebrationIn Helsinki, Tom and Chuck were predictably demolished in their first heat, finishing fourth in a four-boat 2000-meter race. However, they managed to survive and improve enough to qualify for the finals where, as luck would have it, they faced the same four teams that had defeated them earlier—from Switzerland, England, and Belgium. This time they finished in 8 minutes 20 seconds, almost three seconds ahead of the pack, to take the gold medal in their boat, aptly named Cinderella. They were immediately dubbed The Cinderella Kids.

Tom and Chuck received a heroes’ welcome when they returned to Rutgers, including a motorcade through New Brunswick. In Tom’s senior year, he reunited with Chuck—who had joined the military—to enter the1955 Pan American Games in the coxless pairs event. They repeated their Olympic surprise, winning another gold medal. Their partnership ended in 1956 after failing to qualify for the Summer Games, in Australia.

After his athletic career, Tom ran Price Liquors in Eatontown and served as the city’s postmaster for many years. His gold medal and winning oar were proudly displayed in his home.

 

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