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Jack Delinger

Clearly, a pedestal was the best place for Jack Delinger.


John DelingerHe was blond, handsome and superbly muscled, but he was troubled and desperately unhappy. Nevertheless, Jack Delinger rose to the highest pinnacles of bodybuilding. He was born on June 22, 1926, in Oakland, California. From his earliest youth, Jack wanted to become a powerfully built athlete, but it wasn’t until he began working out at the YMCA when he was 16 years old that he began the process. He had to wait until he started training at Ed Yarick’s famous gymnasium to pack on the kind of musculature that he’d dreamed of.

Delinger won his first major physique contest in 1946, the Mr. Northern California, but his greatest triumph occurred in 1949, when he was victorious in the AAU Mr. America, which was held in Cleveland. Shortly afterward Jack and his new wife, Loretta, opened their own gym on College Avenue in Oakland. All was apparently going well, and in 1950 the two were blessed with the birth of a son, John, who was  named after John Grimek, the great bodybuilding star. 

Jack was a dedicated trainee, and he’d brook no nonsense when he was trying to work out. He required quiet and order for complete concentration, and he’d often explode in anger if he thought customers were making too much noise while he was exercising. Although he was only 5’6”, he was extremely powerful. His favorite exercise was the bench press, and the proof is in his great chest depth and upper-body muscularity. Another contest triumph came in 1956, when he won the prestigious Mr. Universe in London and was proclaimed the finest professional bodybuilder in the world.

Things started going badly for Delinger later in his life, when he had a series of high-profile disagreements with some of the major powers in bodybuilding. It’s said that he began drinking heavily. The final blow came in 1992, when his beloved only son died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Jack became even more depressed, and he died a month later, on December 28, 1992. 

It was a sad end to a brilliant athletic career. He’d battled demons throughout his life, but he wasn’t strong enough to win that last fight. An article in Iron Man best summed up the impression that Jack projected: He was a living work of art, the writer said, and had “the sort of appearance that makes you feel he ought to be on a pedestal and not walking around on the street.” Clearly, a pedestal was the best place for Jack Delinger. IM

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