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is a name synonymous with Track & Field in Hudson County, New Jersey. Every December at the Jersey City Armory the Indoor Track season is kicked off at the “Leon Bailey Liberty Relays”.
The longtime coach of the Henry Snyder High School “Tigers” in Jersey City, he also was simultaneously very active as an official at all levels of competition -- from Youth meets through the Olympic Games.
Leon’s officiating specialty was as a timer. In the days before F.A.T., hand timing had to be executed precisely, consistently, and in as uniform a process as was humanly possible. It required disciplined practice with a goal to be as close to perfect as possible.
Timers in the old Metropolitan Association were responsible for timing major events such as the Millrose Games, The Olympic Invitational, and the USA Indoor Championships. They worked tirelessly to produce consistent results. When F.A.T. became the norm, their goal was always to be as close to those automatic times as was humanly possible, and they became really, really good at it. If you could not “cut the mustard” as a timer on Dave Levy’s or Dick Teetsel’s timing crews, you were not invited back.
Leon Bailey became part of this team of specialists and was always given the “toughest” times to get. Just try timing third and fifth place in a world class 60-meter dash with a split stopwatch! It is no easy thing to do, but Leon did this on a regular basis at all those previously mentioned meets as well as the IC4A’s, the Penn Relays, meets hosted by Princeton, and almost all of our Metropolitan Athletics Congress meets.
His expertise earned him appointments to two Olympic Games – 1984 and 1996. At the Atlanta Games of 1996, F.A.T. had become so ensconced in the rules that only 4 Hand Timers were appointed to “back up” Omega’s photo timing system.
Leon Bailey, Gervais Clarke, and Jack Courtney were 3 of them. All three came from the New York hand timing crew.
After retiring from 34 years of service to the children of Jersey City teaching at P.S. 17, Leon never slowed down when it came to timing track meets. He took the same seat at trackside at Franklin Field every April at the Penn Relays and we referred to it casually as “Leon’s office”.
In 1991, he was honored by being selected to the Hudson County Track and Field Hall of Fame for his contributions as a successful coach and official. Twenty-eight years later we want to honor his career as one of our great officials by electing Leon Bailey to the USATF New York Officials’ Hall of Fame.