Achievement in sport is, essentially, the province of youth. The classic story on the subject is the one about Stan Musial, in his final big-league season, meeting President Kennedy in the White House. "Stan," said Kennedy, "you're 42 and I'm 46. How come you're too old and I'm too young?"
The crucial divide for athletes appears to be 40. Once a man reaches that magic figure—whether he is a major-leaguer or a Walter Mitty in sweat pants—he has to pause and think things over. Which is what Ezra Bowen does on page 48 of this issue. Ezra, who passed 40 a year ago, sings a personal requiem to his athletic youth—a wry, sentimental salute that sounds a universal note. That note, to some extent, sustains this magazine, for watching and discussing and reading about sport is in part a means of keeping fresh the remembrance of great things past. The precise definition of "great" does not matter, nor does it matter how far past is past. You may be a feeble old man of 20, not good enough to play college football; you watch instead and, watching, remember your own glory days as a 159-pound halfback for Hallellujah High the year you won the Shallow River Conference championship. Or you may be a kid of 50, a 10-handicap golfer; as Nicklaus sticks an iron five feet from the pin you remember that really great approach shot you pulled off in front of the crowd on the 18th (there must have been at least 20 people watching) in last year's club championship.
It's a young feeling, sport, and we try to keep that feeling in our copy, in our pictures, in our attitude. While we try to temper the rashness of youth with the serene wisdom of age (a representative selection of our editors and writers are properly long in the tooth), we believe firmly that an excellent way to learn about the young men who star in sport is to send young men to report on them. Our bylines this week reflect that attitude: the ages behind the bylines are like 27, 23, 25, 32, 24, 31....
Even Ezra Bowen, looking back from the vast barren reaches of old age, is hardly a doddering 41, no matter what he says. A lean, superfit 6-footer, he is possibly more active than most college kids, probably in better physical shape and certainly fully as enthusiastic about sports, games, competition, fun, excitement. Bowen is now with Time-Life Books, but he is a genuine Old Boy of SI, a member of the staff that started the magazine in 1954 and a key editor in our operation until 1964, when he switched to Books to concentrate on writing. Writing is a family habit. His mother is Catherine Drinker Bowen, whose biographies of Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Adams, Sir Edward Coke and Francis Bacon are classics. His wife is Joan Williams, whose The Morning and the Evening won the $10,000 John P. Marquand Award in 1962.
March 4, 1968
But for all his concentration now on rich, flowing prose, we will continue to think of Ezra as the classic sports editor—the frustrated athlete. We see him, sleeves rolled up his sinewy arms, swinging an imaginary bat to demonstrate how Musial hit to the opposite field or, left fist out and right fist tucked near the jaw, illustrating an Archie Moore combination. If only you could have pulled the ball, Ezra. No telling how many World Series you might have played in.