SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR
Rafer Johnson is truly the Sportsman of the Year (SI, Jan. 5). Great men, such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Willie Mays, Herb Elliott, Bob Pettit, Pancho Gonzales, Ashley Cooper, Jimmy Brown, Pete Dawkins, Johnny Unitas, Dickie Moore and many others had to be passed up, but Johnson deserved it.
This is an article from the Jan. 19, 1959 issue
There could be no other choice, as far as I can see. How can you vote against a man who is the greatest athlete in the world and, at the same time, student-body president of one of this country's great universities? He is a worthy successor to Stan Musial.
Johnson draws more than recognition and more than admiration—he elicits respect.
The award should have gone to Charles D. Stengel. Here is a small list of his major accomplishments in 1958:
1) Won the All-Star Game in Baltimore under extreme pressure by the Yankee-hating crowd of fans.
2) Completely baffled, charmed and double-talked a Senate subcommittee.
3) Won the American League pennant, despite a horrifying second-half performance by his team.
4) Won the World Series after being behind three games to one.
Now, gentlemen, I'm sorry Ol' Case can't throw a javelin 238 feet, but, nevertheless, this was Casey's year. Baseball owes a great deal to him. Indeed, it would be extremely dull without him.
While not wishing to detract from Rafer Johnson's fine performances, I must express my thorough disgust.
Surely Herb Elliott's sustained brilliant performances give him a stranglehold on the award; but if not, what of John Konrads? Here is a lad barely in his teens, who overcame polio to completely rewrite the freestyle swimming record book during the past year.
Every fair-minded sportsman throughout the world will consider this choice as an attempt to regain some of America's lost prestige in the world of athletics. To do so at the expense of Herb Elliott, who has given the world its most exciting year of track events, or Konrads, who has done likewise in the swimming pools, must appear to your readers as cheap and unfair.
Kindly cancel my subscription.
NOTRE DAME: L'AFFAIR BRENNAN
The firing of Notre Dame's Terry Brennan (Surrender at Notre Dame, SI, Jan. 5) is a symptom of overemphasized football. We are in an age where education must be recognized as vital to our very existence, but I don't see colleges announcing with big headlines that they have "stolen" an eminent professor or "persuaded" outstanding high school students to attend their schools. Let's get education and football into their proper niches.
I note that Coach Kuharich wants "dedicated men." How about a few dedicated science students?
There is nothing I enjoy more than a good football game, but let's keep it from becoming a national disgrace.
W. R. CHAPPELL
For shame, Notre Dame.
C. THEODORE JONES
I cannot agree that the dismissal of Terry Brennan entails an academic surrender. Is the school expected to retain a coach who does not meet top standards? I think no more so than a history professor must be retained who is subpar.
Kindly cancel my subscription.
FRED C. AARON
Notre Dame '53
The Irish don't mind losing an occasional one to Army, Oklahoma—yes, even SMU. However, when they become the doormat of the Big Ten (note Brennan's record against Purdue, Michigan State and Iowa) something's gotta give.
Terry was given five years to produce.
I contend that the dismissal came about not because of a failure to attain a certain won-lost record or to realize a certain attendance figure, but primarily because of a feeling that victories at Notre Dame in the past few years have not been commensurate with material.
Aside from individual second-guessings, these are the main arguments advanced by those defending Brennan's dismissal:
1) Brennan's best two years were the first two, during which time he was working with the remnants of the Leahy regime. Subtract 17-3 from 32-18 and what have you?
2) As inept as the 1956 team was, eight defeats and 0-40 scores were still too much, considering the opposition and the raw football material available.
3) Notre Dame's attack in the past few years has been largely unimaginative, and many of the same plays have been used with repeated lack of success year after year.
4) Many players of demonstrated ability have been erratically used under Coach Brennan: anyone familiar with recent Irish personnel will be quick to mention George Izo, Norm Odyniec, Frank Reynolds and Jim Just.
5) But the prime argument is this: How can one school contribute nine players of the quality of Pietrosante, Ecuyer, Odyniec, Williams, Geremia, Toth, Wetoska, Nagurski and Schaaf to postseason bowl games (leaving behind at least four dandy nonseniors: Izo, Stickles, Mack and Scholtz), and yet manage to look as miserable on the football field as Notre Dame did on many occasions this past year?
I don't think the university is 50% as open to blame for its actions as the nation's sportswriters are for sensationalizing this incident out of all proportion. To my knowledge, never has there been such a defense of the administration's actions by the student body as now exists regarding this situation.
Notre Dame, Ind.
•For the administration's own rebuttal see page 16.—ED.
SKATING: THE PAINFUL ART
It was a sad day indeed when I read The Joyous Art of Figure Skating (SI, Dec. 22). I have been skating for over 18 years, always doing very well and without any mishaps. I have always skated with my back bent, leaning slightly forward (as many expert skaters do). After reading your article with the instructions to keep one's back straight as in walking, I went skating with the intention of following your instructions (because, after all, you are experts). Unfortunately, my skate caught in a rut, and, not being bent forward, I was unable to stop myself from flipping over backward, first hitting my back severely, and then cracking my head on the ice.
Now, please explain: How does one keep from falling over backward (if one's skates catch or slip) when one's back is straight? I am of the opinion that it is better to fall forward on one's knees than backward on one's head. I wrote this after spending three days in bed recuperating from this fall.
MRS. LEO HARROW
Huntington Station, N.Y.
•Our profound sympathy, but a straight back shouldn't have caused Mrs. Harrow to tip over backward if she had kept the skating knee well bent and the weight of the body directly over the skating foot.—ED.
VIEW FROM THE HOT SEAT
During one of my political campaigns, a lady, who had seen my photograph in my campaign literature, approached me and said: "Really, you look worse than your picture."
Referring to Commissioner Fels Napier's Plan to Save Baseball (SI, Dec. 22, p. 65), I think the remark could very fairly and justly be reversed. I not only did not recognize myself, but many friends have called to say that they never would have recognized me, either. Feeling that there must be some mistake—that it's a couple of other fellows—I am enclosing a photograph of myself which I would like you to use in a forthcoming issue, indicating that the prior picture in your magazine was used in error.
House of Representatives
•The unposed picture of which Congressman Celler complains was taken by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Photographer John Zimmerman and for better or worse is the view from the witness chair.—ED.