If the Olympics provided no Incontrovertible hero for 1960, the Games did provide, at least in U.S. eyes, an incontrovertible heroine, Wilma Rudolph. Slender Skeeter Rudolph, the fastest of that team of Tennessee State girls called the Tiger Belles, was an international sensation as she won the 100-and 200-meter dashes and anchored the U.S. 400-meter relay team to victory at Rome. Her long, smooth stride left all opposition behind in the red-brown dust of the Olympic track. Not since Fanny Blankers-Koen of The Netherlands had there been such an Olympic heroine, and not since Babe Didrikson in 1932 had an American woman track star done so well.
Wilma's victories delighted a country long accustomed to seeing solid and stolid Russian and European women dominate the Olympic events. With her lissome grace and warm smile, Wilma was not only a winner, she was delightfully American as well.
If Wilma was unquestionably the best in her specialty, the selection of her counterparts in many other sports was not nearly so simple.
In baseball this was the year that "Beat 'Em Bucs" became the biggest rallying cry since Teddy Roosevelt's "Charge." The Bucs never would have beat the 'ems, however, without Dick Groat to lead them into battle, minuscule ElRoy Face to lead them out again and, most dramatically of all, boyish Bill Mazeroski to hit the home run that ended the 1960 baseball season. Ted Williams hit a glorious home run too. His last time at bat—ever.
January 9, 1961
The year before, when his team had a 2 and 7 record, they hung Minnesota Football Coach Murray Warmath in effigy, but his tough and determined 1960 team surprisingly turned out to be college football's best. If Warmath was the year's most successful coach, how about Jordan Olivar at Yale, who proved the game can be played superbly, even in an Ivy patch? Among field leaders, the best in the college game was Gibbs, Mississippi's Jake of all trades, while Pro John Unitas still looked unbeatable, even if his Colts didn't.
Basketball's highest performance came from towering Wilt Chamberlain, who smashed pro scoring records by throwing ball after ball down through the hoop. Agile Oscar Robertson led the college scorers, helped the U.S. Olympic team to victory and then became a pro with the most impressive debut since—well, Wilt Chamberlain.
Hockey's rugged nonpareil, Maurice Richard, pleased all goalies by quitting, but another oldster, Gordie Howe, broke alltime scoring marks, and a youngster, Bobby Hull, looked good enough to do the same one day.
Speed sports saw Donald Campbell crash his turbojet car at 365 mph, and not retire; Stirling Moss, auto racing's brave bull, crash at 120 mph, and not retire; and Mira Slovak wreck a hydroplane at 160 mph. He did retire—for two months.
There was speed to spare among swimmers, too, with the youthful likes of Mike Troy, Chris von Saltza and Lynn Burke setting records by the poolful. And this was the year that lovely Carol Heiss danced to a championship on ice; that scrappy Deane Beman scrambled to one on a golf course; and that a fat, happy Dutchman, Willem Geersen, won international honors behind his big black trotter, Hairos II.
Bearing all these outstanding performances well in mind, we give you in the next five pages the 15 sports figures who with Wilma Rudolph make a fitting gallery of runners-up to Arnold Palmer, Sportsman of the Year.
JOE O'BRIEN, HARNESS RACING. This very quiet, very short and very clever horseman took a 3-year-old colt with hoof trouble, Blaze Hanover, and led him, with patience and only the thinnest hopes of winning, to the Hambletonian. Ignoring the odds against him, O'Brien drove Blaze to a four-heat victory over the best.
VERNON LAW, BASEBALL. On a team of team players, no one was more selfless than this 30-year-old Mormon elder. Pitching in and out of turn, he started 35 games, won 20, beat the tough teams and pitched the Pirates to their first pennant in 33 years. Finally, on an injured ankle, he twice beat the Yankees in the Series.
FLOYD PATTERSON, BOXING. When, with a fire burning in his head and in his dark, purposeful fists, Patterson knocked out Ingemar Johansson in the fifth round, he became more than the first man ever to regain the heavyweight championship of the world: in those few minutes he came of age as a man, a fighter and a hero.
JACK NICKLAUS, GOLF. Twenty-year-old Jack was the Arnold Palmer of amateur golf and, next to Palmer, the most talked-about golfer of the year. His 282 in the U.S. Open was second to Palmer's 280 and a record low for an amateur. His 269 at Merion in the World Amateur recalled to followers Bobby Jones's Slam of 1930.
EVGENY GRISHIN, WINTER SPORTS. At Squaw Valley the athletes did far more than win medals. They enjoyed themselves, and they enjoyed one another. The friendliest and most charming man at the Games was Russia's speed skater (two gold medals), Grishin, whose warm and open ways helped make the 1960 Winter Games the most successful ever held.
DARLENE HARD, TENNIS. Last September Darlene finally won the women's national singles title. The bouncy 25-year-old Californian had previously reached the semifinals three times and the finals once, and it was beginning to look as if she was doomed to second-class status for life. But on her eighth try, Darlene defeated Maria Bueno and made it.
JACK BRABHAM, MOTOR SPORTS. In winning his second straight world championship, this cool Australian proved himself to be one of the fastest, most scientific road racing drivers ever. Eminently sensible, he never overstrained his British Coopers, never drove faster than necessary to win.
JOE BELLINO, FOOTBALL. Every enemy defense was keyed against him, yet the chunky Navy halfback with the pistonlike legs scored 110 points, ran for 834 yards, threw and caught passes, quick-kicked, blocked and tackled. To him, All-America was less important than a tribute paid him by his teammates: "It is a privilege to play with Joe Bellino."
JEFF FARRELL, SWIMMING. As the packed Detroit galleries looked on in uneasy disbelief, this 23-year-old Kansan, who only six days before had been operated on for appendicitis, competed in the U.S. Olympic trials. On his sixth and final try he made the team, and three weeks later in Rome anchored both U.S. relay teams to Olympic and world records.
NORMAN VAN BROCKLIN, PRO FOOTBALL. Ever since he came to the Los Angeles Rams in 1949, the quiet, cheerful tactician now with the Philadelphia Eagles has been one of pro football's two or three best quarterbacks. An accurate passer and a brilliant strategist who calls his own plays, he also has, in abundance, that air of authority which is essential to leadership. No player now playing in the National Football League is more respected by his fellow craftsmen.
J. D. SCHAPIRO, HORSE RACING. The Washington D.C. International, which seeks to bring together the best race horses in the world, acquired in its ninth renewal total recognition as a unique event, and the credit for this belongs to John Schapiro, president of Maryland's Laurel Race Course and for years a devoted champion of international Thoroughbred competition.
JACK RILEY, HOCKEY. Imaginative and persevering, Coach Jack Riley built, molded and patched together a team of amateur U.S. skaters who upset Canada and U.S.S.R. and scored a startling Winter Olympics victory.
RAIMONDO D'INZEO, HORSE SHOWS. No other show jumping rider was even close to the daring Italian army reserve officer who captured the Olympic gold medal, then, for the second time, won the world championship.
FRANCIS CHICHESTER, YACHTING. Alone in his 39-foot Gipsy Moth III this British mapmaker-sailor, a vigorous 58, battled a succession of storms to win the Slocum Society's first transatlantic solo sailing race.
PETE NEWELL, BASKETBALL. One of the finest leaders of young men in sport and a brilliant tactical innovator, Newell ended a distinguished career at California by coaching the U.S. Olympic team to victory at Rome.