By Ernie Beckman's own admission he got his start in racing by opening his big mouth. The year was 1946, the site was the Marshall, Mich. Fairgrounds. Beckman was a spectator watching the local dirt track races when he turned to a racer friend and claimed he could go faster than the riders on the track. Beckman's buddy put him on the spot and said, "Well go ahead and get out there and let's see what you can do." Beckman changed into his buddy's racing gear in a nearby horse barn and within minutes was lined up for his first race. And even though Beckman didn't break any records that day, his racing career was off and running.
Before retiring from the sport 11 years after his inauspicious start, Beckman went on to win three AMA Nationals and was part of the famous Indian Motorcycle's "Wrecking Crew," a group of racers that included champions Bobby Hill and Bill Tuman.
Beckman was born on May 31, 1923, in Battle Creek, Michigan. Motorcycles were not a part of Beckman's life until World War II. While stationed in Guadalcanal, Beckman decided to take a joy ride on a military police motorcycle that was parked on a beach near his barrack. The MPs caught Beckman after a short jaunt and, luckily for him, did nothing more than make Beckman push the bike back to the spot where the short-lived joy ride began.
In 1949, Beckman turned pro. His first finish at an AMA national was fourth in October of that year, at the half-mile dirt track in Shreveport, La. On August 5, 1951, Beckman won his first national, the eight-mile championship at Williams Grove, Pa. Beckman went on to dominate that event for the next two years. His three-year Williams Grove Half-Mile winning streak was ended by Charles Carey who nipped Beckman at the line in 1954.
Beckman was one of the most consistent performers on the national circuit in the early 1950s. From 1949 to 1957, Beckman earned ten podium finishes and only finished outside of the top 10 six times in that span. Beckman will also be remembered for being the last rider to win an AMA Grand National race on an Indian—his August 2, 1953, victory at Williams Grove, Pa.
Beckman retired from racing after the 1957 season. He owned a motorcycle shop in his hometown of Battle Creek before taking a position with Lincoln-Mercury building prototype cars that where shown at auto shows across the country. Beckman married his wife Marjorie in 1947.