As shown by the list of names to your right, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is served by a variety of staff writers, writer-reporters, reporters, special contributors and special correspondents. At the end of the 16th line under the "special correspondent" category is the entry: Kansas City, Theodore O'Leary. This modest billing understates the value both of a type of man—the so-called "stringer," or resident correspondent—and a particular man, named Ted O'Leary.
In the six years that O'Leary has worked for us, he has had only five bylines, but his touch has seldom been absent from the magazine. At the moment he is extremely—if invisibly—busy helping provide the reports and evaluations that make Basketball's Week (page 60) one of our most closely read features. This digest depends for its quality on such journalists as O'Leary, a soft-spoken Phi Beta Kappa and former basketball coach who covers a large area of the Midwest for us.
By inclination and trade, O'Leary is also a reader of books, thousands of them. At last casual count, there were 20,000 volumes in his house, and he has written reviews of close to 3,000 of them since 1934 for the Kansas City Star, plus hundreds of feature articles for the Star's editorial page.
Ted's affection and concern for the written word come naturally enough. His father taught literature and writing for 40 years at the University of Kansas. There, too, he developed his love of sport. "I started going to see Kansas teams play in 1915 when I was 5," he says, "and have hardly missed a Kansas home football game since—until SPORTS ILLUSTRATED started sending me other places some Saturdays."
January 10, 1966
Understandably, O'Leary chose to attend Kansas, where he concentrated on basketball under Phog Allen, an old family friend. "In my senior year," O'Leary recalls, "I was All-Conference co-captain, tied for the conference scoring championship with the stupendous average of 11 points a game and was selected to College Humor magazine's All-America team. This was one of the first All-Americas to be picked, and the magazine spoke of me as 'big and fast.' I was barely 6 feet and weighed 163 pounds. Maybe I was fast."
Ted was fast enough to set the still-standing record of 10.2 for the 100-yard dash at Lawrence High in 1928, and he excelled in every other sport he tried. He took up tennis in his sophomore year at Kansas, made the varsity and has been one of the best players around Kansas City ever since. The same year Phog Allen had taught O'Leary how to play handball, for a special reason. Whenever Phog suspected one of his players of having a beer out of season, he would invite the culprit down to the handball court and proceed to run him ragged. Eventually O'Leary ruined Allen's plot by whipping his coach. Then he went on to win 16 Missouri Valley championships.
After Kansas, Ted coached basketball at George Washington University for two years (record: 26-9), before turning to newspaper work. With this background, it is not surprising that he brings a rare touch to sportswriting. Among his articles for us was the memorable piece on Stan Musial's final swing around the National League before retirement. It was a story that could easily have been tainted by sentimentality. O'Leary, however, brought it off neatly, exactly and without a sob.