It was the year of the Johansson-Patterson fight and the revolution in boxing, but it was also the year the Yankees lost the pennant, the year Casey Stengel was humiliated by a dismal third-place finish. To Al Lopez, who beat Casey, an admiring bow, and to one of Al's key players a special salute (see next page). It was a rare baseball year: an unknown with the Washington Senators named Harmon Killebrew turned into a sensational slugger, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, seventh in 1958, won not only the National League pennant but the World Series as well. College football was shot through with upsets, which stimulated everyone except those who had to play Syracuse. Pro football, on the other hand, followed form: the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts were the big fellows again. Track and field brought the Soviet Union and the U.S. together in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, and while the competition was strong, the spirit of amity was evident everywhere. Not so, unhappily, in the area of the Olympics, where the question of Nationalist China vs. Communist China caused an uproar and got Avery Brundage into another headline hassle. There was a hassle in our editorial offices, too. Everyone agreed that Ingemar Johansson was a splendid choice for Sportsman of the Year, but the question of who deserved special recognition as runners-up provoked a few arguments. Our experts, who cover everything from pro football (Tex Maule) to modern pentathlon (Alice Higgins), settled on the 15 people pictured on the following pages.
Charlie Conerly, quarterback of the New York Giants, is lined and gaunt after a dozen years of professional football, but he continues to take with aplomb the physical beating which is his occupational hazard. Sidelined with injuries at midseason, he returned to fire up a sluggish Giant attack to an exciting peak of efficiency. In gratitude the Giants had a "day" for Conerly, and admirers gave him stocks and bonds, two automobiles, seed for his cotton farm in Mississippi, a Guernsey calf. Charlie accepted the salute graciously, but with a minimum of emotion; not too many years earlier, Giant fans had waved banners from the stands saying "Go Home, Conerly!" Charlie took the banners of the bad days and the gifts of the good with the same poised control. That poise, or confidence, is the mark of the superb athlete and is the rare, almost magical quality that enables a man like Conerly to turn a fair team into a very good one.
Jacob Nelson Fox is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds, a set of measurements he arrives at by cheating. Without spikes he is an inch shorter, and without the most cheek-distorting chaw of tobacco in all baseball he would weigh at least a pound less. He cannot run very fast or throw very hard, and if he hits five home runs a season he is having an exceptional year. Yet Nellie Fox was the Most Valuable Player in the American League in 1959. What Nellie does is burn to win, and to accomplish this he plays baseball as hard as he can, all the time. He is held in vast respect by his opponents, in virtual reverence by his teammates and friends. He has fought and thought his way to becoming the best second baseman in either league, a canny, catlike fielder and a wizard at punching and chopping hits with his stubby, barrel-shaped bat. This past season he hit .306 and led the Chicago White Sox to their first pennant in 40 years.
It is platitudinous to pile praise on Sam Snead, but what else is there to do? At 47 he still plays golf as well as anyone ever has. Art Wall started the season well with his performance on the winter circuit, but after he won the Masters he wasn't able to hold the same competitive edge. Billy Casper's victory in the Open was only a momentary explosion. More will be heard from Jack Nicklaus, the 19-year-old Ohioan who won the National Amateur, and Deane Beman, the Maryland youth who brought back the British Amateur. But 1959 was the year when Sam Snead shot That Incredible 59 at Greenbrier, the finest round of golf ever played in major competition, and it was also the year when Sam entranced millions of armchair fans by winning 13 consecutive matches and $28,500 on the weekly TV golf program. Certainly no one had more impact on golf during the year than the aging—or ageless—Sam Snead.
January 4, 1960
Automobile racing invested two outstanding new champions in 1959. Rodger Ward, the chunky and affable Indianapolis winner, stood head and shoulders above all the drivers on the U.S. big-car circuit. Yet, despite Ward's memorable year, 1959's top honors more rightly belong to that quiet and able Australian driver, Jack Brabham, who rose from comparative obscurity to win the FIA world driving championship, a title that goes with the best over-all performance in Grand Prix cars. Brabham's dramatic performance at Sebring in December in the first modern Grand Prix run in the U.S. impressed everyone not only with Jack's gifts as a driver but also with his gusty competitive spirit. If Grand Prix racing ever achieves the popularity it deserves in this country, Jack Brabham can certainly take a bow. At Sebring, as well as on the courses of Europe, he epitomizes all that U.S. sports buffs like to find in their heroes.
Bily Cannon, Louisiana State's fabulous halfback, looks so much like a footbal player that you sometimes wonder if he is real. He is a good-looking boy, with a well-shaped, handsome head set on tremendous shoulders. His arms are big and muscular, his waist narrow, his legs extremely powerful. At 6 feet 1 inch he weighs a rock-hard 205 pounds and can run 100 yards in 9.5 seconds. He has teen a special target for every LSU opponent, but in the past two seasons his team won 20 of its 21 games and nobody ever really stopped Cannon. "Billy," Says a teammate, "isn't the kind who scores five touchdowns against Podunk U. He's the kind who runs 89 yards in the last quarter to beat Mississippi." Once considered on the verge of juvenile delinquency because of a minor teen-age mishap, Billy Cannon—married, father of three small girls, twice All-America, winner of the Heisman Trophy—has grown up to be a very fine young man.
Neale Fraser hit the Australian tennis scene simultaneously with Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall, who ruled amateur tennis from 1953 through 1956. When the two became professionals in 1957, Fraser continued in a subordinate role behind two new Aussies, Ashley Cooper and Mai Anderson. In 1959 Cooper and Anderson, too, turned pro, but Neale, by now a venerable 26, was still overshadowed—by his youthful teammate Rod Laver and by America's imported Peruvian, Alex Olmedo. Persistent and determined, Fraser put new teeth into his strong service, cured the flaws in his backhand, and in Davis Cup play suddenly blossomed forth as the big man of tennis, the star. He beat the glamorous Olmedo, won his other singles match, too, and teamed with Roy Emerson to win the doubles. Later, in the U.S. singles, he trounced Olmedo again to clinch his right to be called the best amateur tennis player in the world.
Unknown to American trotting fans and unfamiliar with our racing traditions, Jean Riaud and his horse Jamin arrived in New York last July as France's representative in the first International Trotting Championship. Riaud and Jamin won that race, and they won a number of other important events as they later toured the country. Yet it was not their victories alone which attracted thousands of spectators to the tracks they visited and created countless new fans, but the force of Jean Riaud's warm Gallic personality—which transcends trotting as Sam Snead's transcends golf, and as no other personality in harness racing has done before. Of course, Riaud's considerable skill as a trainer and as a driver left a lasting impression on American trotting experts, too. He is a figure to be reckoned with in future international competitions, which his highly successful visit to this country has done much to foster.
By emphasizing their leg power, the small Japanese literally kicked their way past the giants of the swimming world a quarter of a century ago. But in the past four years, as the Australians re-emphasized the arm stroke and led the world back to a proper style of crawl swimming, superiority returned without question to the larger men. But for all the disadvantage of their small stature, the Japanese last year were back at the top. The 5-foot-6-inch, 150-pound Tsuyoshi Yamanaka, who has lived most of his life by the Sea of Japan but who swims now more like an Australian, set world records at 200 and 400 meters and led his teammates to a new world record in the 800-meter freestyle relay. In the next few months the redoubtable Jon Konrads of Australia will probably be swimming all-out and doubtless dominating the sport once again but, by the record, the year just past belongs to Yamanaka of Japan.
For five years in a row Jack Twyman has been one of professional basketball's star players and top scorers, although his team, the Cincinnati Royals, has seldom been out of last place. But for all his skills, it is more his selfless devotion to his teammate, Maurice Stokes, that makes Twyman stand out as a sportsman. Since March 15, 1958, when Stokes was suddenly stricken by a paralyzing brain disease, Twyman has dedicated himself to Maurice's rehabilitation. He had himself appointed Stokes's legal guardian, has raised thousands of dollars to pay for the extremely costly round-the-clock care that Stokes has required and has been continually at his side during the long ordeal. At the same time, he has maintained his own exceptionally high level of playing skill. Happily, Maurice Stokes at last shows signs of emerging from his paralysis, a welcome tribute to his own courage and to Jack Twyman's dedication.
Modern pentathlon, originally a test of the talents of a military courier in hostile country, is a demanding competition that consists of five days of intense competition in: 1) cross-country riding, 2) fencing, 3) shooting, 4) swimming, 5) cross-country running. A superb pentathlete, Igor Novikov of the Soviet Union shoots well, and his prowess in fencing, swimming and running is almost legendary. Only in riding does he have trouble; he is a big man and if he draws a horse that has difficulty carrying his weight he can lose valuable points steeplechasing across country. At the 1959 world championships in Hershey, Pa., the first ever held in the U.S., Novikov turned in a smart, cautious, perfectly paced ride, moving steadily but avoiding any spills or delays that could have ended his chances on the first day. Once past that first day, the incomparable Novikov swept on for the third time to the individual world title.
Betsy Suite and Penny Pitou
The most exciting news in skiing in 1959 was the emergence of the Americans as first-rate international competitors. The most impressive victories, and the most significant in light of the forthcoming Winter Olympics, were those by two pretty girls from New England, Betsy Snite and Penny Pitou. Touring Europe together last winter, they ran up three firsts and three seconds in major meets against the best racers on the Continent, showing a consistency of style and a maturity of competitive attitude that has occasionally been lacking among U.S. skiers in the past. While winning races, they also managed to keep on winning friends both for themselves and the U-S., a thing which ambitious young competitors sometimes forget to do in the strain and pressure of competition on the fast-moving European circuit. For this reason, as well as for their victories, they merit joint recognition as skiers of the year.
TRACK & FIELD
Ray Norton is a tall, beautifully muscled man who can sprint 100 yards faster than anyone else in the world. He has, since he reached maturity, always been physically capable of doing this. But only in the past year was he able to mesh his physical ability with the psychological ingredient that allowed him to use his great gift completely. Two seasons ago Norton was a great sprinter against mediocre competition. Last season he was a great sprinter against any competition. The difference between Norton in 1958 and Norton in 1959 was the acquirement of grace under pressure, a skill he was taught by his coach, Bud Winter of San Jose State College. Ray learned to relax rather than tense up in the driving, all-out dashes, and he is now the best sprinter in the world. He won both the dash events in the AAU, Russia-U.S. and Pan-American meets in 1959, and he will very likely win both in the Olympics at Rome in 1960.
John W. Hanes
The horse of the year was Sword Dancer, the jockey Eddie Arcaro, the trainer Elliott Burch, the owner Mrs. Isabel Dodge Sloane, but in the end the year 1959 belonged to a bustling business executive named John W. Hanes, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the New York Racing Association. Hanes, as head of the NYRA, climaxed the reorganization of racing in New York State, where the sport had been in the doldrums for ages, by opening a vast new track in New York City. Glittering new Aqueduct enjoyed a huge success from both financial and sporting points of view and had a strong influence on horsemen throughout the country. Leaving future seasons to answer the question of whether supercommercialized plants like Aqueduct will eventually render racing too much of a business and not enough of a sport, it is evident that John Hanes, although a subject of controversy, revitalized the finances of horse racing.
It was always the blight of some vaudevillian's life—some juggler, some sword swallower, some one-man band—to be billed behind Jolson. None of them liked it and few of them profited by it, but somehow they did it. For six years Dickie Moore of the Montreal Canadiens found himself in a similar position, behind Maurice Richard. He gathered what goals he could get and accepted modestly any applause that was left over for those after Richard. Two years ago, with Maurice a little older, a little more brittle, Dickie Moore began to fill the great man's skates. In 1957-58 he led the National Hockey League in scoring with 84 points. In 1958-59 he led it again, and when his scoring total (96 points—41 goals and 55 assists) went into the books, there sat beside it an asterisk. The asterisk meant: "New National Hockey League Record." Dickie Moore of the Canadiens was the player of the year, a headliner in his own right.
AND THE SUPPORTING CAST
There were other sportsmen to remember. If Ingemar Johansson won the most exciting fight of the year, certainly Floyd Patterson helped make it so by struggling to his feet from knockdowns seven times on that seamy June night in Yankee Stadium. Who can argue that Patterson, the man, did not grow in stature with his defeat? Harvey Haddix was a loser, too, but in losing he won the attention of the nation. No major leaguer ever pitched as fine a game as Harvey did against the Milwaukee Braves—12 perfect hitless, runless, walkless innings—before he lost 1-0 in the 13th, and that is what people remember. They should also remember that when the game was over, Haddix was as graceful in defeat as he had been on the mound: no bitterness, no complaints, nothing but high regard for his Pittsburgh Pirate teammates who had been unable to score the one run that would have given Harvey the most precious victory of his career. Bert Bell died, watching a football game, and with his death came the belated realization that he had been the finest commissioner sport had ever had. Bell took over as head of the National Football League in 1946 and had ruled firmly and fairly. More than any other person, Bert Bell was responsible for the wonderful popularity of professional football.
But there were triumphs, too, for others in sport. Pete Dawkins, the All-America from West Point who is in England on a Rhodes scholarship, had trouble with Rugby at the start—the rules are different and the game is tough—but he came on to play for Oxford against Cambridge in the British equivalent of the Army-Navy game. Thus, Peter Dawkins won his Blue, another signal honor for this remarkable young man. Wilt Chamberlain, the giant 7-footer who has been the talk of basketball since his high school days, joined the Philadelphia Warriors of the NBA and amazed that league of skilled professionals as he averaged well over 30 points a game. Johnny Kelley, a smiling, 29-year-old Connecticut schoolteacher, won the marathon at the Pan American Games to become the first American to win an international marathon since Johnny Hayes at the London Olympics in 1908.
And there was the sports fan—a little overweight now, a little bald, a little gray. He deserves a salute, too, for that one marvelous approach he hit last April on the long 14th hole, or the knuckle ball he threw to his boy one evening on the side lawn, or the pass he laid right in his nephew's hands Thanksgiving afternoon, just before the turkey. Take a bow, reader, even if it's only a small one.