Jan. 20, 2005
SEATTLE--Legendary Washington crew member Bob Moch has died at age 90 after a stroke suffered in his apartment on Jan. 7. Moch was the coxswain of the Washington varsity eight-man shell that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics. The Huskies defeated the highly favored teams from Germany and Italy in front of Adolph Hitler-- a moment believed to be one of the greatest in Seattle sports history.
"The importance of what Bob and those guys did in Berlin really came to light in 1999 when the Seattle PI named the 1936 gold medal team `Sports Event of the Century'," said head Washington crew coach Bob Ernst. "Bob was the leader of that group and was a big part of the fabric of sports here in the Northwest. Winning that race was one of the first things in sport that gave the community a personal identity. There were no major league teams or professional sports at that time. The Huskies of course were great in football and basketball but this was an international splash and the community was behind them. What they accomplished in Berlin was huge to Seattle and the Northwest. Bob's personal connection with the university has also been important as he served as a rowing steward for UW for many years. He is going to be missed very much." The race was held on Lake Grunau in Berlin and the Americans had set the world and Olympic records with a time of 6:00.86 over the 2,000-meter course in their qualifying race.
The Husky boat faced many obstacles in the finals, however. The Americans were assigned lane six, which was the lane furthest from the Belgian starter that provided the opening commands in French. Lane six also had the choppiest water and strongest head wind. Even worse, Don Hume, the Huskies' strongest rower, fell ill before the race with walking pneumonia.
When the race was signaled to start, the Husky boat did not hear the command and found itself in last place. The Americans continued to struggle, still in last after 1,100-meters, and the Huskies were rowing without Hume who appeared to be unconsciousness.
At 1,200-meters, Hume became alert and Moch quickened the boat's pace. The Americans pushed to third place at 1,500, trailing the Italians by half a boat length and the Germans by a few feet. Moch continued to speed the pace, pushing their typical racing rate from 35 strokes per minute to 44.
The Huskies passed Germany and then Italy in the final 10 strokes to win the gold.
Moch went on to coach crew at MIT while he attended law school at Harvard. He returned to Seattle five years later where he practiced law for 55 years.
Moch married for the second time in 1968 after his first wife died. He and his bride, LaVerne, each brought three children into the union. The Moch's also had 13 grandchildren and 21 great-grand children.
Three members of the gold medal crew are still alive: Jim McMillin, Roger Morris and Joe Rantz.