The way he strikes Edwin (Bud) Shrake, one of our associate editors, John Riley Brodie, the San Francisco 49er quarterback, has the assurance of a man who "not only has more money than you but is a better dancer." Well, maybe you've already won a coveted Gold Star award from Arthur Murray, but if you are one of America's 195,900,000 nonmillionaires Brodie has you beaten hands down in the money department. How Brodie combined his self-possession and his gambling instincts to come by his first fortune is the thread of Shrake's revelationary account of the pro football merger (page 16). Amid the engrossing twists and turns, Shrake also discloses for the first time how the American Football League was poised not very many weeks ago to cripple the rival NFL by cornering the market of veteran quarterbacks.
Not everyone involved in such a dog-eat-dog situation is pleased to talk about it to the press, so to get the story Shrake might have borrowed John Brodie's football maxim: "You are better off relying on ability rather than on tricks." But, actually, Shrake wound up relying on both.
The ability, of course, was already there—something Shrake had first developed as a police reporter for The Fort Worth Press, then as a columnist for The Dallas Times Herald and the Dallas Morning News before joining the staff of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. It was while Bud was working in Dallas that Lamar Hunt hatched the golden egg that became the AFL. In covering the continuing story of the new league, Shrake got to know just about everybody in pro football. Then, as now, these contacts proved to be valuable news sources.
As for tricks, the one that seems to serve Shrake so usefully is his knack for being where the action is. It was at a late pub party in London at the time of the Clay-Cooper heavyweight fight, for example, that Shrake had the good fortune, as one might construe it, to be elected honorary captain of the Bays-water soccer team that had just won an important contest. Discharging his duties, Captain Shrake led the celebrants on a midnight parade through the streets. It was at a party in Manhattan that Shrake commissioned Frank Sinatra to photograph for free an earlier heavyweight title fight in Europe. Sinatra got press credentials, but missed the fight, and the assignment has gone into boxing lore. And it was at a party somewhere else (security forbids our being more specific) that Shrake received a clandestine telephone call that was to lead to our full account of how the AFL conspired to demolish the NFL backfield forces and how John Brodie wheeled and dealed himself the richest athletic contract in history.
August 28, 1966
Nor do parties, once Shrake has the facts of a story, impair his concentration. He can shut out the din and work away both at SI assignments and fiction writing (his third novel is in progress) even while friends flow through his Greenwich Village apartment in a steady stream. One such story now in Shrake's typewriter concerns northern Mexico's Tarahumara Indians, a tough-toed breed of men who race upward of 170 miles while kicking a croquet-sized wooden ball. Bud recently spent two weeks with the tribe (left), and before bidding goodby to the 200 villagers, he threw a party in their honor. The refreshment featured was animal crackers.