1954-1964 Sports Illustrated's first issue appeared 10 years ago this week. The photographs in color and black and white on the next 28 pages are a salute to that memorable decade
The unforgettable moments in sport are many but subjective—what you remember best is a last-minute touchdown or a ninth-inning home run by your team, or a race or a fight or a stirring comeback that you yourself saw—an excitement you shared directly. One of the aspects of sport that make it so appealing to cantankerous mankind is its capacity to arouse disagreement and argument—my team is better than yours, and the moments I remember are more exciting than the moments you remember. But, since sport is also something to be shared, I enjoy hearing about yours even if I do like mine better. Thus, the hot stove league—and this portfolio of the big moments in sport during the years that this magazine has been in publication. In selecting photographs of a dozen such moments from the past decade, the editors of Sports Illustrated were as subjective and arbitrary as any sports fan. We had planned to pick one moment from each year of our existence—but we ended up with three from 1960. We picked none for 1964, on the premise that 1964's biggest moment is yet to be. And we have added a dozen pages of color photographs, a sample of the years, to show the striking beauty of man and animal in athletic endeavor, as well as to illustrate certain significant trends that developed during our first 10 years.
In May, Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile. In June, John Landy ran the second, breaking Bannister's brand-new world record. In August, at the British Empire Games in Vancouver, the two met in the first duel of four-minute men. Landy set a brisk pace, but Bannister caught him in the stretch (above) and surged away to victory.
The stands were filled and the track was empty—except for the two superb horses scudding around the clubhouse turn. Nashua, on the rail, Eddie Arcaro up, was the East's favorite. Swaps, pride of the West, ridden by Willie Shoemaker, had upset Nashua in the Kentucky Derby. Now, in a match race at Chicago's Washington Park, Nashua gained revenge, led all the way to win by 6½ lengths.
August 16, 1964
The last pitch was a called strike, and the game was over. Catcher Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees ran toward the mound and leaped like a delighted child into Pitcher Don Larsen's arms. Larsen had faced 27 Brooklyn Dodgers in the fifth game of the World Series, and he had retired all 27 without a man reaching first base. It was a perfect game, the only no-hit, no-run game ever pitched in the Series.
He had been famous as a Philadelphia high school boy, and he would be famous later as a professional. But it was at the University of Kansas that 7-foot 1-inch Wilt (the Stilt) Chamberlain emerged as a great basketball player. Using strength and agility as well as height, he rose above the crowd, as in this game against Iowa State, to assume the unique place in basketball that he still holds.
The referee signaled a score, spectators raced onto the field, players turned to run to dressing rooms and Alan Ameche lay cradling the football he had carried over the goal line. His touchdown, in the sudden-death overtime period, gave the Baltimore Colts a 23-17 victory over the New York Giants and the National Football League championship in the "best football game ever played."
Ingemar Johansson had boasted of the "toonder and lightning" in his right-hand punch, but few believed him. Then, in the third round of his fight with Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson in Yankee Stadium in New York, the thunder and lightning struck. Patterson went down, seven times in all, and the little-known Swedish fighter was suddenly the champion of the world.
The trends and moods that marked the past 10 years are characterized in this spectacular photograph of racing skis, flying snow, pounding excitement. More and more Americans took to the active life, to skiing in winter, sailing in summer and a thousand other things in between. Sport was in ferment, and it was a fascinating decade for both participant and spectator.
Football, already at great heights of popularity, grew tremendously during the decade, partly because of the new emphasis on power, speed and all-out pursuit: a fumbled ball seemed like the focus of lines of intense magnetic force.
Horse Racing, inundated by supermarket tracks built for betting, rose in attendance and money handle. Yet patches of beauty remained—as at Santa Anita with its palms and mountains—to remind us that racing is still a sport.
Ice Hockey enjoyed sustained prosperity as the National Hockey League played to better than 90% of capacity. The color and excitement of the violent sport drew huge throngs to watch even habitual losers like the New York Rangers.
Golf, the spectator sport for participants, had an enormous boom. Attendance soared and purses followed. Weekend golfers crowded courses like Augusta's flower-bedecked National to see professional masters make their impossible shots.
Gambling, always one of man's favorite pastimes, picked up its pace, though the size of the crowds in continually expanding arenas meant only a few could share the thrill of dirt-shaking closeups like this of greyhounds rounding a bend.
The outdoor life appealed to everyone. Backyard swimming pools were a common sight. New resorts opened and travel boomed as modern highways and jet planes made the distant and inaccessible close and handy. Scuba gear and water skis, spinning reels and sports cars, became part of the mosaic of active living. Sales of sport clothes and equipment rose higher and higher.
The new decade came roaring in, rich with promise for sport. At Cherry Hills in Denver, Arnold Palmer moved his name to the very top when he broke through to win his first U.S. Open. Trailing by seven strokes as he began his last round, Palmer shot a record-breaking 65, and when he flung his golf cap in the air after sinking his final putt he was the winner by two big strokes.
With the scoreboard setting the scene—tie score in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series—Bill Mazeroski of Pittsburgh hit a homer (see ball above scoreboard), and the Pirates became champions of the world.
The Grand Olympics, they called the affair in Rome, partly because of classic moments like this: the barefoot Ethiopian, Abebe Bikila, winning the marathon against a background of the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum.
He had been dead for 13 years, but the magic name in baseball was still Babe Ruth, and the magic record Ruth's 60 home runs in 1927. Now another New York Yankee, Roger Maris, relentlessly pursued the Babe. Here, in a night game at Yankee Stadium, he hit his 60th home run and caught Ruth. On the last day of the season, Maris hit No. 61, and the Babe's famous record was gone.
Arnold Palmer's domination of golf was challenged when Jack Nicklaus walked into the picture. In the U.S. Open at Oakmont near Pittsburgh, Palmer waited three and a half minutes for this putt to drop, then reluctantly tapped it in. That infinitesimal stroke cost Palmer the championship. Nicklaus tied him after 72 holes and then beat him in the playoff to win his first U.S. Open.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S first year saw the first four-minute mile; its 10th year saw the first 17-foot pole vault, a graceful, soaring effort by John Pennel, who utilized the fiberglass pole and the new techniques that the new pole demanded. This remarkable photograph of Pennel's big moment reflects the position of sport as we enter our second decade—new records, new departures, new horizons, a bright future where the sky is the limit.