An airliner crashed in Belgium destroying America's figure skating team, a horror the whole world felt; a U.S. team and a Russian team met warmly together in a track meet and proved again that sport can transcend politics; a football team at Rutgers, where that marvelous game was introduced to America 93 years ago, put together an unblemished season for the very first time; in convicting several hoodlums who were throttling boxing, a court freshened the face of that once-sweet science; by expanding the number of major league teams, baseball became more popular than ever; and by standing stolidly still, tennis actually slipped backward. Sport, in essence, flittered between the dark and the light in 1961 but, as always, a few of its players struck golden moments for themselves and those who watched.
As the new teams and the new heroes established themselves, pro football waxed stronger. Green Bay Fullback Jim Taylor, sensational in 1960, was fantastic in 1961. An unstoppable runner, he also aided the Packers' passing by keeping his opponents' attention riveted on himself.
The high point of track was reached in Moscow in July. Russia's marvelous high jumper, Valeri Brumel, who had soundly thrashed America's John Thomas in indoor meets last winter, leaped 7 feet 4¼ inches outdoors (right) to set a world record, and to humble Thomas again.
Although his style looked tarnished one night last March, the heart of the man shone through, and the heavyweight champion, Floyd Patterson (right), recovered from two knockdowns in the first round, threw a punch in the sixth that sent Ingemar Johansson back to Sweden. Last month Floyd also licked a Boston boy named Tom McNeeley.
January 8, 1962
U. S. swimmers are always good if not always world-beaters. But in 1961 Americans beat the world silly, claiming 18 of 19 world records made during the year. Claiming more than anyone else was Chet Jastremski (right), who set four breast-stroke records all by himself, helped set another in a relay.
What a bleak year for Babe Ruth! The Yankees' Roger Maris hit 61 homers to ruin Slugger Ruth's classic 60. And the record Pitcher Ruth loved most—29‚Öî straight scoreless innings in World Series play—was broken by the Yankees' Whitey Ford.
Phil Hill, a Californian, won the world driving championship, the first American to do so. European drivers, who lord it over Grand Prix racing, hoped it wasn't a trend, but it was: two other Americans were No. 4 and No. 5 in the final standings.
For pure theater, little in the year could match the performance by wee and wizened Jerry Barber (below) in the PGA golf championship in Chicago. A lightly regarded contender, he holed out the last three greens with astonishing putts of 20, 40 and 60 feet to tie Don January, next day won the playoff by a stroke.
Carry Back, a "poorly" bred ugly duckling, made a million friends when he won the 1961 Kentucky Derby. But it was the noble, refined Kelso (right), under Eddie Arcaro, who ran off with racing, gained a stature equaling Tom Fool's and richly deserved his second Horse of the Year award.
France has the world's strongest ski team, and its strongest member is Guy Périllat. Built like a howitzer shell and just as deadly earnest, Guy won five major titles in 1961 to dominate his sport.
Can one man redeem a whole hockey team? Doug Harvey has done it. As new coach, star defense-man and inspirational leader, he has given the once lowly New York Rangers skill, drive and success.