As all of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S editors (and writers) do, Assistant Managing Editor Dick Johnston travels to get firsthand background information for stories. Last December found him in Mexico, the country which, in our expanding travel coverage, holds the foreground in this issue.
On December 8, excitement equal to the seventh game of a World Series centered on the Plaza El Toreo in Mexico City, where Fermin Rivera, Mexico's matador n√∫mero uno, was returning to the ring after 14 months away. There 35,000 spectators sat respectfully silent as Rivera dedicated his first bull to President Eisenhower. His reason: Rivera's absence resulted from a heart attack he suffered in the same week the President had his.
To accept the dedication on behalf of President Eisenhower, Rivera chose SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and visiting Editor Johnston, who sat, according to time-honored dedication ritual, with the matador's hat in his lap while Rivera dispatched his bull. And also according to ritual, Johnston returned the hat—along with an invitation to dinner.
The dinner was a banquet, attended by Rivera and his staff, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Horace Sutton (Footloose in Mexico City, page 51) and many notable bullfight writers, including SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Rafael Delgado Lozano (You SHOULD KNOW...if you are going to a bullfight, page 52). Toasts were frequent, high points many. But the climax was Rivera's presentation to Johnston of his "suit of lights," the costly silk and gold costume in which he had fought.
January 28, 1957
From matadors there is no greater gift. By it Rivera expressed appreciation to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for coverage of his dangerous profession in a country where it is comparatively unreported, often misreported.
To Staff Writer Ezra Bowen, however, who was on a yacht conducting a different exploration of Mexico (see page 36), went (temporarily) the spoils. For although Johnston came back with the suit, it fits Bowen, as this picture shows.
As a travel souvenir, Johnston thinks his traje de luces is hard to beat, has challenged co-editors to try. This spring Managing Editor Sidney James will have his chance, at the Masters Tournament in Augusta (where noncompetitive souvenirs are hard to come by); Andre Laguerre his at the baseball training camps (Berra's favorite mitt, perhaps?); and Jack Tibby his at the Kentucky Derby. As for the last, Johnston says, "I think the only way Jack can tie this one is to come back with the blanket of roses."