Our History

The OTA was born at a dinner held at the Olympic Club, Downtown Clubhouse on February 10, 1930.
All 48 of theoriginal Charter Members had competed for the Club at one time or another and had
done so at least thirty years before (a provision of the first OTA Constitution). Belonging to
The Olympic Club was never a condition of OTA membership.

Most of the original members had competed for the Club back before the turn of the 19th century.
They were among the first generation of sportsmen to participate in the explosive growth of
organized athletics that followed the rise of American cities and the spread of playing fields and
gymnasia after the Civil War. It was a golden age of amateur athletics and indeed, in those years,
The Olympic Club was the arbiter of amateurism on the Pacific Coast.

Many of the original Old Time Athletes belonged to a great Olympic Club track and field team that
defeated all comers from about 1888 to 1892. It was the finest team on the Pacific Coast and
certainly one of, if not the finest, track teams in the country.

There was Robert MacArthur, for instance, who held Pacific Coast records in the mile and half-mile.
Later he was made a director of the Club. There was Herbert Moffitt who set a Pacific Coast record
in the high jump on November 27, 1889. And there was George Baird, the OTA's first secretary and
Horace Coffin, host of the first dinner, who held Pacific Coast records respectively in the five
mile run (1891) and the one mile walk (1892). George Jordan, another OTA charter member,
was the team captain in 1890. OTAers James Jervis and Martin Espinosa were also members
of that unbeaten 1890 team. Other track stars from the gilded age were O'Kane brothers,
Frank and James.

Felton Taylor belonged to a champoinship Olympic Club football team (for which Leonard Wood,
later a four-star Army general, played and captained) and William Kenealy was a fine Club heavyweight
boxer. There were many other OC stars among the original forty-eight who held similar athletic honors
and distinction. Suffice it to say that many years later, on the eve of the Great Depression, they all
felt a similar urge to relive the old memories and the contests in agreeable and joint company over
dinner at The Olympic Club. Later, the semi-annual dinner became the cornerstone of the Association,
with The Roundtable, the Association newsletter, recording the names of the dinner-goers.

Like any social organization, the OTA has had its ups and downs. The years just after World War II saw
a sharp fall-off in membership, but Walter Nieland brought plenty of energy and imagination to the
Association and it began to grow once again. Some years ago, the thirty-year exclusionary rule was
abolished and now, aside from sponsorship, the only requirement for OTA membership is participation
in some organized sport.

Every dinner features a speaker and there have been some great ones over the years: tennis star Jack
Kramer
, pitcher Lefty Gomez, T-Formation pioneer Frankie Albert and so many others.

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2017 Old Time Athlete's Association of Northern California