In its first issue, in August 1954, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reported the duel of the original four-minute milers, Roger Bannister and John Landy, at the British Empire Games in Vancouver. Bannister won and, at the end of 1954, was named our first Sportsman of the Year.
Now, a dozen years after Dr. Bannister, another miler succeeds to his title (see cover). Jim Ryun, only 19 (he had his seventh birthday a week before Bannister ran that four-minute mile), is the youngest person ever selected as our Sportsman, but his accomplishments and, more significantly, his attitude toward them are strikingly mature. Much was expected of Ryun after track followers became aware of him in the spring of 1963 when, as a 16-year-old high school sophomore, he ran the mile in 4:08.2. He has more than fulfilled these expectations. At 17 he became the first high school boy to break four minutes and he made the U.S. Olympic team. At 18 he defeated the redoubtable Peter Snell, then the world record holder, in a 3:55.3 mile, fastest ever run by an American. At 19 he reached the acme of achievement. On May 13, competing in a two-mile race for only the second time in his career, he did 8:25.2, the third fastest two-mile ever run. On June 4 he ran the mile in 3:53.7, a tenth of a second off Michel Jazy's world record, and was startled by the time because he knew he had not nearly approached his maximum effort. On June 10 he dropped down to the half mile and set a new world record of 1:44.9. And on July 17 he broke Jazy's mile record by almost two and a half seconds when he ran 3:51.3. It was an astounding performance. If Jazy, Snell and Herb Elliott had run their world-record times in that race they would have finished between 15 and 25 yards behind young Ryun. Roger Bannister would have been 60 yards behind him.
Yet, for all his signal triumphs, Ryun, like Bannister, recognizes that sport is only one aspect of life, that while the success one aims at and achieves in sport is worth the discipline and the effort and the anguish, it is not the be-all and end-all of living. There are other things to do. Bannister's prime off-track interest was—and is—medicine. Ryun's, at the moment, is photography, and he works at it professionally during the summer and in his hours off from classes at the University of Kansas. One Tuesday this past July he stood for more than two hours with other photographers in a concrete bin in the stands behind home plate in Busch Stadium in St. Louis, shooting baseball's All-Star Game in searing 105° heat. Five days later, when spectators who had been at the game were still complaining about the temperature, he ran his world-record mile.
December 19, 1966
The adulation that has come to him is no prize to Ryun. He is wary of strangers who greet him effusively, and he delights in the rare moments when he can be an anonymous face in the crowd. Ryun enjoys what he is doing for the thing itself, for the joy of it, for the satisfaction. Like Bannister or Jazy or Snell or Elliott or any of the great runners, he is familiar with the body's rebellion against agonizing usage, and familiar, too, with the discipline of the spirit and the mind. But he rejects the idea that training and competition are a kind of self-torture. Running the mile, even a world-record mile, is still basically fun. "Too much is made of the pain stuff," Ryun said last summer. "Running doesn't hurt that much. I've tried to explain to people that there is more satisfaction than pain in a hard workout, but I guess too many of them can't understand that work can be satisfying. If running hurt as much as people seem to think it does, I wouldn't go out on the track in the first place."
FOUR OTHERS WHO EXCELLED
The big moment of the 1966 baseball season came at 1:05 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. There seemed to be a ho-hum attitude in the big crowd, a sense of oh well, the Dodgers will knock these Baltimore bums over in four straight and then we can get on to our other neuroses, the Rams and Lakers. When Russ Snyder walked with one out in the top of the first inning it caused not even a stir. Frank Robinson ambled slowly to the batter's box and smoothed the earth in front of the plate. Despite a year in which he had led the American League in hitting, homers and runs batted in, he received only token applause. Don Drysdale's first pitch was a ball. His second pitch was a fast ball that Robinson leaned on and drove into the $12 seats in left field. Once more Frank Robinson had produced the "first-inning lightning" for which he had become famous during the year.
The first flash of it came on March 15, when Hank Bauer wrote Robinson's name on the lineup card in right field for an exhibition game with the Washington Senators. First inning, Robby's first at bat. Whack! And the ball disappeared over the fence in left field. In Boston on Opening Day he got hit by a pitch in the first inning and scored on a homer by Brooks Robinson for the first run of the Oriole season. In the first inning of the season's second game he homered. The first game that he played before the fans in Baltimore he homered; the first time he entered Yankee Stadium as an Oriole he drove in the winning run. At home, before the biggest crowd in Baltimore's baseball history, he became the first man ever to hit a ball completely out of the park. To become the first player since 1956 to win the Triple Crown, Robinson spent a lot of time concentrating on himself, but he also spent countless hours helping young Oriole players, and his sense of humor eased them over many pressure spots. He played much of the season with a right knee that needed an operation, yet he kept this a secret until after the season was over. Without Frank Robinson the Orioles had been consistent contenders in recent years. With him they became champions of the world.
All season long, international auto racing roared around with the special air of iron elegance that always attends it—bright cars and bold young men. But when all the flurry was over, there was the world champion: a familiar, stolid man with straight black hair parted down the middle and a seam of gold between his front teeth. Jack Brabham beat the kids, and easily—which is a refreshing change in sport. Brabham has been around racing for a long time; he came up in Australia in 1946. He has won the world title twice before, in 1959 and 1960. There is every indication that he expects to keep on winning, as did Juan Manuel Fangio, who won five times. This year Brabham won four of nine Formula I Grand Prix races and moonlighted in another division, Formula II, winning 10 out of 13 events.
All of this was just right. But Brabham brought even more to the year in racing. Most drivers can contribute only themselves. Brabham, who talks to engines, became the world's first driver to design, build and race his own cars—winning, in addition to the Grand Prix title, the manufacturer's trophy as well.
Brabham believes in driving just fast enough to win, and he is quietly gutty. Not long ago, when he was continually chopped off at the corners by a reckless rookie, Brabham finished the race and walked straight to the man's car. Instead of throwing a punch to the rookie's nose—which is accepted good form in such cases—he stuck out one big paw and said, "My name's Jack Brabham and I just wanted to meet you now because, the way you drive, you're not going to be around long."
Last July, before the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, local newspapers took special delight in calling Brabham "the grand old man of racing." Grand old man indeed. In a world packed full of special emphasis on youth, along comes a quiet, mature champion who gives more to the sport than anyone else. He is an unruffled, slightly paunchy 40 and, by being just that, he gives new hope to every middle-aged man in the world. Brabham is the leader of the young ones—and the special hero of a million Mittys.
This was a unique and thrilling year for Alpine ski racing. In the winter the usual big events were held in Europe and America, but it was a long four months later before the FIS world championships unfolded in Portillo, Chile. A group of reckless, fascinating French skiers dominated the sport all the way and soared to a height they had never before enjoyed. And the racer most responsible for France's overpowering success was a handsome, dashing daredevil named Jean-Claude Killy.
The year began with the Austrians still holding command of the slopes, as they had done for several years. The big question was whether the French men and women—who had been gaining strength since the 1964 Olympics—could at last gain control of the sport. The answer had to rest with Jean-Claude Killy, who had been recognized as the best racer in the world in 1965 by virtue of a sweeping list of victories in slalom and giant slalom. The FIS ratings showed Killy, a thin, wiry blond from Val-d'Is√®re, listed as No. 1 in slalom and giant slalom and sixth in downhill, the glamour event. His combined ranking was far better than any of his challengers, but he lacked a final proof of his ability—a gold medal signifying a world title, a medal that can be won only in an Olympics or world championship. And, perhaps more important, he had never won a major downhill race.
During the winter Killy continued to dominate slalom competition in Europe and the U.S., but the talented Austrian, Karl Schranz, still managed to pace the downhill events. It was in Portillo that the French—and Killy—finally took charge. The downhill course at Portillo was a brutal one, featuring a couple of terrifying bumps and rolls—and the fastest course in downhill history. But it was just right for Jean-Claude Killy, and his victory in the downhill got the French off to a start that saw them capture six gold medals out of a possible eight, and 16 medals overall.
After his downhill triumph, Killy won enough points in the slalom and giant slalom to gain the combined championship, ski racing's most cherished medal. There is no likelihood that Jean-Claude Killy will soon be overshadowed.
It took 21 years for someone to do it, and the man who did surprised no one. From midway of his ninth season in the NHL it was clear that Bobby Hull, the Golden Jet forward of the Chicago Black Hawks, was hell-bent on being the first man in professional hockey history to score more than 50 goals in a season. He was averaging a goal a game at one stretch, two goals during another brief period, and in a 70-game season there seemed to be nothing for his fans to fret about. Except that hockey is not quite that simple. As Hull became more and more dangerous, more and more defense-men clung to his every move. A torn knee ligament forced him out of five games. His right hand was injured fairly late in the season when he offered it against the jaw of Detroit's Gary Bergman. But in his 52nd game he scored his 50th goal, also against Detroit. He had shot 50 goals once before, in the 1961-62 season, thereby tying the record held jointly by Maurice Richard and Bernie Geoffrion, and so just about everyone assumed that Bobby was on his way to No. 51. He was, but frustration was in his path. There was a dreadful lull in which absolutely nothing happened. The master of the slap shot, it was assumed, would now be relieved of the pressure that had been on him all season and he could comfortably await his chance. So he waited and waited and waited through three games until one night on Chicago's home ice when he faced the New York Rangers. The impertinent fifth-place Rangers took a 2-1 lead, and it seemed that Hull was to be thwarted again. Almost six minutes of the final period went by. Then Lou Angotti got the puck, kicked it over to Hull and skated to the bench. Well back of his own blue line, Hull skated a few strides, then slapped the curved blade of his stick against the puck and watched it flash past Ranger Goalie Cesare Maniago, the same Maniago who had been goalie when Geoffrion shot his 50th goal in the 1960-61 season. It was hockey's greatest moment, and a maddened crowd lost control. Hull finished the season with 54 goals, and that, with 43 assists, gave him another record—most points (97) in a season. But it was all quite anticlimactic after that No. 51.