SI's Top 20 Covers of the 1950s
August 11, 1958
For this 1958 cover, Sports Illustrated's photographers went underwater with Clare Boothe Luce to capture her scuba diving and catching fish with her bare hands.
In one of the magazine's all-too-rare ventures into the world of major sports during the 1950s, SI gave its readers a preview of the 1959 pro football season. Johnny Unitas made the cover after leading his Colts to a 23-17 victory over the Giants in the greatest game ever played.
Archery may never be a mainstream sport, but in 1955, a 15-year-old named Ann Marston led a short revival of the sport. This cover shows Marston, who would later become Miss Michigan and a runner up for Miss America, about to take aim.
Before the NCAA basketball tournament became a national obsession, the only March Madness in sports came from Marlin fishing champion, Alfred Glassell, Jr., who, almost inexplicably, graced the cover of SI in 1956.
The Tigers thought they had the cornerstone of their franchise in Al Kaline and Harvey Kuenn. The duo racked up big numbers until the Tigers traded Kuenn to Cleveland for Rocky Colavito following the 1959 season.
In the mid-`50s, the Wolverines had two of the best all-around players in the country. Ron Kramer, a two-time All-America, and Tom Maentz, team captain in 1956, were two of the finest pass-catching ends in the country. They also played defense and even punted the ball.
By 1955, bulldogs were among the least popular breed of dogs for American pet owners. But then came Kippax Fearnought, who was awarded best in show at the Westminster Dog Show in 1955 and helped raise the popularity of this much maligned breed of pooches.
As a physical fitness craze swept the nation in the `50s, Sports Illustrated was there to tell people about it. In this cover from August of 1957, Bonnie Prudden demonstrates that the first step in being fit is finding a star-covered cat suit.
In the '50s, the photographers at Sports Illustrated seemed less focused on getting the faces of the athletes in their shots, and more focused on getting players' wives in the frame. Here, Texas quarterback Bobby Lackey and his wife, Judy, walk off the field together.
This May, 1959, issue was way ahead of its time. Long before ESPN started showing the World Series of Poker -- or aired anything for that matter -- on continuous loop, SI was in Las Vegas, exposing gambling in Sin City.
Bob Cousy was one of the earliest pieces in the Celtics' dynasty of the `50s and `60s. He earned All-NBA honors and led the Celtics to the playoffs, but they didn't get over the hump until after the 1956 draft, which brought Tom Heinsohn, guard K.C. Jones and Bill Russell to Boston.
No, this isn't an old Marlboro cigarette ad, but rather a shot of the 1954 Calgary Stampede, an exhibition and rodeo held in western Canada every summer.
Jimmy Bryan graced the magazine's cover in May of 1957 as the favorite to win that year's Indianapolis 500. Bryan finished third, more than two minutes behind the winner, Sam Hanks, but he took the checkered flag a year later.
In September of 1955, Marciano ran his unbeaten streak to 49 matches with a win over light heavyweight champion Archie Moore. More than 61,000 fans who filled Yankee Stadium saw Marciano fall for the second time in his career, before he knocked out Moore in the ninth round.
This image of a Chesapeake Retriever holding a dead bird in his mouth remains one of the most unique and eye-opening covers in SI's 54-year history.
Ted Williams was a 17-time all-star and often regarded as the best pure hitter in baseball history. In August 1955, the Splendid Splinter sat down with SI to discuss life in the major leagues, his experience as a fighter pilot during World War II and his sometimes thorny relationship with the press.
Heading into the 1956 NFL season, the Browns were on top of the football world after winning their third championship in six years. Star quarterback Otto Graham retired before the season, and everyone wondered if new quarterback George Ratterman could pick up where Graham left off. The answer was `no.' Cleveland sputtered to a 5-7 record and its first losing season.
Before he was the most quotable person in sports history, Yogi Berra was one of baseball's top players, leading the mighty Yankees to 10 World Series championships and winning three MVP awards.
The first fight of what turned into a two-year rivalry between Floyd Patterson and Inegmar Johansson took place at Yankee Stadium in June of 1959. A 4-1 underdog, Johansson knocked down the heavyweight champion five times before the referee stepped in and ended the fight at 2:03 of Round 3. Patterson came back to defeat Johansson in both 1960 and 1961.
With this cover, Sports Illustrated was launched. The magazine promised a full, coherent weekly recital of a fascinating world in itself, the wonderful world of sport. Fifty-four years later, the magazine still delivers on its promise.