This thing was occupying a window seat on United's Flight 232 out of San Francisco—a five-foot trophy of chrome with a blue velvet crown nestled among columns, above that a platform of rampant eagles, above that a loving cup and above that, supreme, a boxing figure. The morning after his world championship victory over Jerry Quarry, Jimmy Ellis was not trusting his heavyweight prize to anyone. It was flying right along with him in its own first-class $217 seat to Louisville.
In London on another day in another year, Arnold Palmer toted a wooden box into Heathrow Airport. Stickers and seals were peeling from its sides, the corners were splintering apart. Standing in a press of porters, airline officials and customs authorities, Palmer undid the catch of the old box, reached inside and pulled from a green sock the one item of his baggage he was not letting out of his hands—the slender silver British Open cup.
A major sports trophy is the prize of superlative men—the strongest, swiftest, deftest—and therein lies its true fascination. Money could not buy Jimmy Ellis' garish monument or Palmer's antique pitcher encrusted with its golfing history. Achievement earned them. The exhilaration of winning moments fades, purse moneys are spent, but the trophies remain. Without them the magnificent performances of sport would be obscured, reduced to lines in a record book, faded newsprint and a few men's reminiscences. Were it not for their venerable trophies, emotional competitions like the World Cup, the Stanley Cup and the America's Cup might never have attained their present prominence. Not long ago a British sportswriter described the America's Cup, quite accurately, as that "tatty old cup, with a hole in the bottom of it, bolted to the table in the New York Yacht Club." The vase, at most, cost $500 when it was new in 1851, yet yachtsmen have spent close to $100 million trying to win it. Indeed, what price glory?
With age, the major prizes of sport have developed legends epic as the Holy Grail. Some have served as funeral urns, flowerpots and bowls for holding chewing gum. Others have been pawned, buried, counterfeited and lost at sea—only to be recovered all the richer in tradition.
November 2, 1970
Consider the drama of the Woodlawn Vase, a Tiffany creation that is the trophy for the Preakness. It is supposed to have been buried during the Civil War to prevent Union soldiers from turning it into bullets. One can conjure up that scene—live oaks, cascading wistaria, a stately columned portico on the Lexington road. The war news comes on horseback: Union soldiers are surging south! Picture the mistress of the plantation. Surely her husband and sons are at the front. Swiftly she packs the racing trophies into a steamer trunk, calls a trusted servant and....
Pimlico racetrack tells this tale better than Bruce Catton ever would. It is a sterling story, and no matter if a descendant of the family that owned the trophy at the time won't vouch for it. He says, "The story is not unbelievable. It has been repeated for years. However, anything of value considered not safe on the Kentucky plantation was probably sent away."
The Woodlawn Vase might have been left in Kentucky when other valuables were shipped off, because, despite its baroque splendor, it was worth only $1,000 at the time. As Tiffany trophies went in those days, it ranked as a bibelot. For 50 years before it became the Preakness prize in 1917, the vase was handed out at various race meetings in places like Elizabeth, N.J. and Coney Island. Now the trophy is valued at $50,000, and it is locked in the vault of a Baltimore jeweler.
It was after the Woodlawn Vase became the Preakness trophy that the race attained sporting prominence, and this poses a question. Does the trophy make the event or the event the trophy? The Stanley Cup was an unpretentious bowl when it was first offered. Now silver base has been piled upon silver base and the trophy resembles nothing so much as a magnificent barrel. More than $14,000 has been spent altering a cup that cost Lord Stanley $48.67. His lordship was named Governor General of Canada in 1888, and on his arrival from England he became an ice hockey enthusiast. He built his own rink, had his own team and in 1893 put up a trophy to be awarded annually to the leading amateur hockey club of Canada. Things soon began to happen to the Governor General's prize. In 1905 the Ottawa Silver Seven won the cup, and on their way home a celebrating member of the team boasted he could drop-kick it into a nearby canal. Fortified by strong wine and goaded by his teammates, the athlete succeeded, and the hockey players went to bed leaving the cup on the canal bottom. The next morning, discovering the trophy was missing, they returned to the canal and fished it out.
A year later a Montreal championship team took the cup to a photographer's studio to sit for a portrait. They got the picture but forgot the cup. Several weeks passed. The photographer's mother filled the pretty bowl with earth, planted geraniums in it and placed it in the studio window, where it stayed for months. On still another occasion the cup was kept in a bowling alley, where it was heaped high with chewing gum.
Even after it had become the symbol of professional hockey supremacy, the Stanley Cup continued to suffer indignities. On the way to one Montreal victory celebration the car carrying the cup had a flat and, while the spare tire was being put on, the cup was removed and placed on a curb. The players drove away, and it was not until sometime later they realized the cup was gone. They drove back and found it, right where they had left it.
Despite its troubles, the Stanley Cup is far from the hardiest of sports trophies. For example, in 1955 trotting's Hambletonian bowl was swept to sea off Cape Cod in a hurricane. Several days later it washed ashore with the kelp in Fairhaven, Mass.
The earliest sports trophies of modern times were given to the winners of horse races. They were bells and porringers engraved with such verses as:
From Ashy Maske on St. Mark Day
The swiftest horse brought this away.
Some of these prizes, which date from Elizabethan times, are still awarded annually in England. But Britain's premier turf classic, the Epsom Derby, has no traditional trophy. Every year a new cup—and lately they have been of quite modern design—is handed out.
Perhaps the reason the Derby has no elaborately conceived prize is the rather casual way the race was founded. In 1778 Lord Derby held a party at his home, The Oaks, near Epsom and during the evening it was decided to run a race the following year on the local heath and name it after Derby's house. The 1779 Oaks was such a successful affair that another race was suggested for 1780. Lord Derby and his good friend, Sir Charles Bunbury, flipped a coin to decide which of them the new race would honor. Derby won—hence the Epsom Derby. If he had lost, a race known as the Epsom Bunbury would now be England's greatest stake. And they would be holding the Kentucky Bunbury each year at Churchill Downs.
The Kentucky Derby began as something of a pickup competition, too. Records of the first Derby in 1875 are skimpy, but newspaper accounts indicate that the winners of two other stakes at the Louisville meeting received handsome silverware, while the Derby winner did not. His owner took home nothing but the $2,850 purse. In fact, the Derby did not rate a trophy until 1921.
The extravagant Belmont Stakes trophy, with its edging of oak leaves and acorns, horse statues and tattoo of handiwork, was made by Tiffany at the turn of the century. A few years ago when Tiffany's president, Walter Hoving, was asked if the store would like to exhibit the trophy in one of its windows, he politely declined. "It's just too homely," he explained. This might apply to lots of Tiffany's period pieces for sport. On exhibit at Aqueduct racetrack is a trophy Tiffany made in 1902 showing a thoroughbred and Winged Victory sprinting wing and hoof toward a photo finish. Victory never looked so close to defeat.
Tiffany's modern line of trophies is simpler in concept. The store keeps stock items such as a silver baseball ($275), a silver spittoon ($250—"It's a very nice shape and has been used for a rodeo-riding prize," a salesman explains) and a regulation-size silver hockey puck ($300). But the most meaningful buy for the sports fan who spends Sundays—and Saturdays and Mondays—quarter-backing is the silver football. It sells for only $800 and is a duplicate of the one Tiffany uses each year in making up the Super Bowl trophy. The Super Bowl award is a straight-off-the-rack model, because by the time the AFL and NFL agreed to hold a championship playoff it was too late to make a more distinctive trophy from scratch. Tiffany took one of its silver footballs, mounted it in kickoff position on a sterling base and sent it over to Pete Rozelle with a bill for $2,000.
The selection of a new World Cup for soccer will hardly be so hasty. For 40 years, until Brazil retired it last June with its third win, the gold Jules Rimet trophy had been coveted by over 70 soccer-playing nations. The World Cup induced joy and frenzy in millions of fans and had a magic that no athletic award has ever matched. Just 12 inches tall and weighing only nine pounds, the cup was the work of a Parisian goldsmith named Abel Lafleure, who, it seems, was a fervent believer in the cause of Alfred Dreyfus. When Dreyfus was sentenced, Lafleure attempted suicide, leaping into the Seine. But the water cooled his ardor—it was late February—and he swam ashore to a less stimulating life that included a steady income from striking medals for the French soccer federation. In 1929 the president of the federation commissioned a trophy for a world soccer competition. Ever the idealist, Lafleure produced in pure gold a statue of Winged Victory holding aloft in a laurelbound vessel the fruits of success.
The goldsmith must have winced at the fanaticism his statue inspired. In 1938 Italy won the prize and Mussolini boasted that the trophy symbolized the victory of Fascism. Just where the World Cup spent the war years is a matter of considerable controversy. According to one story the statue was smuggled to The Netherlands and kept by a farmer under his bed. Another version places it in Switzerland. And still another, told in Italy, is that the trophy was hidden in a cupboard in a house near the Vatican. One morning in 1944 German SS officers are supposed to have arrived and demanded the cup. They were invited in, several bottles of Reno wine were opened and the Germans mellowed and dropped the subject.
When Brazil retired the World Cup this year, defeating Italy in the final game, a rumor began circulating in Rome that the South Americans had been stuck with a phony trophy. Eugenio Danese, Italy's top soccer writer, reported that he had been told the authentic trophy was buried in the Puglia region of southern Italy. His story is involved. In the spring of 1966 the cup was stolen while being displayed at a stamp show in London. Eight days later it was found, wrapped in newspaper, by an inquisitive dog named Pickles in the garden of a southeast London home. But Danese has been told the cup that was recovered is not the original. A man from Puglia is supposed to have been in London at the time of the theft, met the thief and given him a $10,000 deposit just to borrow the cup for a few days. He had an exact copy made and returned the copy to the thief, taking the original back to Italy, where he buried it.
Even without this added twist, the World Cup theft and the ensuing chase had all the elements of a thriller: Scotland Yard, a slim, sallow fugitive who was believed to have a scarred face, a $37,500 ransom demand, a detective-inspector named Leonard Buggy, a black van driving slowly on the Kennington Park Road, men leaping over garden walls, and finally—with by now all England breathless—Pickles. The dog even became a television star.
After its recovery the English kept the World Cup in bank vaults and named a custodian for it. He was a football association accountant, Ken Young. When the 1970 World Cup matches approached, Young had mixed feelings. "Naturally I wanted us to win again," he said, "but, my goodness, if we did I wasn't at all keen on another four years of looking after the blessed thing."
Living with a precious trophy can be discomforting. The story is told of one young U.S. Amateur winner who took his cup home and proudly displayed it on the mantel. It stayed there until one evening when he invited a jeweler friend to dinner. The guest ruined the golfer's appetite by informing him the gold loving cup was probably worth $10,000. Surprised and worried, the champion put in a late-evening call to Joseph C. Dey, then the executive director of the U.S. Golf Association, who was sleeping soundly in New York. Was the trophy really worth that much? the golfer wanted to know. Absolutely, said Dey. The young man spent a restless night and the cup was in a safe-deposit box the next morning.
One of the most costly awards that a winner gets to keep forever is the $10,000 jeweled, gold, velvet-plush and alligator Hickok Belt, which goes to the professional athlete of the year. It is generally regarded by the winners—and not because of its financial value—as the ultimate award, elevating the athlete above all his fellow professionals. "To be voted the best of the pros is a real honor," Willie Mays declares. Maury Wills, however, has no such warm sentiments about his Hickok Belt. He removed a diamond to make a ring for his wife and when the Internal Revenue Service found out it forced Wills to pay income tax on the entire belt. If an athlete detaches even one diamond chip, the IRS men close in. Wills fought the case in court but lost.
Other Hickok winners have cannibalized their belts for jewelry, too. Ingemar Johansson turned the 26 one-half-carat diamonds on his into a necklace for his wife Birgit. When they were divorced he made no attempt to get the jewels back. He has replaced the diamonds with fakes and says the belt still looks as good as ever.
The Hickok Manufacturing Company patterned its award after Ring magazine's famous boxing belts. Though worth only about one-tenth of the Hickok, these continue to be avidly sought by fighters as esteemed badges of success. The Ring belts are gold-plated, beribboned and set with semiprecious stones. What does a Ring belt represent? Muhammad Ali says, "I'll tell you. My career—14 years of hard fighting, both as an amateur and a professional. When I was having all my legal problems I thought of having a public burning of the belt. I felt the burning of the belt, with its red, white and blue colors, would show the injustice of what was happening. But I'm glad I didn't burn it. It is what I've got to show. It wouldn't be honorable to do anything to it or change it. I'm going to keep it like it is."
Once Ali's belt almost was burned. It happened on the night Malcolm X was murdered. That evening Ali and his assistant trainer, Bundini Brown, were eating in a Turkish restaurant in Chicago when Ali learned the apartment house in which he lived, and where the belt was kept, was on fire. "When we got there the building was covered with icicles," Bundini remembers. "I thought about the belt. I know that you can't ride the subway wearing it, but it means something. I went up the wooden stairs behind the apartment. It was slippery, all the water turning into ice. When I got to the apartment, about five flights up, the living-room floor was burned out. I could look down two floors through the hole. I walked around the edge and went to the closet. The belt was in a box and I took it with me. When I was fired by Ali, I carried it with me to New York." Bundini later used the belt as collateral for a $500 loan, which was eventually repaid. Both the belt and Bundini have since returned to Ali.
The hock shop price of an award has little to do with its sporting value, of course. The flag that flew all summer at Shea Stadium, emblematic of the Mets' 1969 World Series win, was stitched up last winter by a sporting-goods house for a few hundred dollars. The Met front office had ordered a glorious "real" World Series banner from a flag company in New York City. But that firm never came through. "We are very busy," they told Mets Promotion Director Arthur Richman when he complained in June of the delay. Two months later the company was still busy, but not on the Mets' banner. By September the Mets had lost two pennant races—this year's and last year's. Richman canceled the order.
A certain trail of things undelivered, uncollected or not being what they seem runs through the trophy business. For all the mystique of Olympic gold medals, it turns out they are not gold at all, just silver like the second-place ones. For years frugal host countries were using so little gold wash to cover the first-place medals that they often wore bare and looked silver. Ten years ago the International Olympic Committee decided to set some minimum standards. The first-place medal now must be made of at least 925/1,000 fine silver (which is sterling) and gilded with six grams of gold. The cost to the host country is about $40 per medal. This may appear miserly, but remember that nearly 400 gold medals are handed out at an Olympics.
Considerably more stingy was the British nobleman, Earl Grey, who provided the Grey Cup, the award for Canada's pro football championship. The Grey Cup game has been extolled as "a lively manifestation of Canadian culture." It puts the whole Dominion into a flap. The prime minister tries a ceremonial kickoff and gets political points if he performs well. But as trophies go, the Grey Cup is probably the cheapest and most ordinary presented in any big-time sport competition. First, it is not made of silver but of soft metals with a coat of silver plate. The cup cost less than $50 when it was donated by Earl Grey and would be worth considerably less now. Like Lord Stanley before him, Earl Grey was a Governor General and a sports buff. In 1909 he announced he was offering a challenge cup for the rugby football championship of Canada. All Canada prepared for the event. Two weeks prior to the game someone wrote to the Governor General's secretary suggesting that the earl's cup should soon be in the hands of the football authorities. But on Dec. 4, 1909, when the first Grey Cup game was played, there was no cup. Finally it arrived, but when it was taken from its box it was found to have no inscription. Trying to give the Governor General the benefit of the doubt, the football men suggested there might have been an oversight on the part of the manufacturer. Correspondence continued and finally Earl Grey seemed willing to commit himself to pay for a "very simple inscription." Frustrated by the long delays, the football association went ahead and paid for the engraving. The Governor General was informed that "the work has been very well done and the appearance of the cup is considerably improved thereby. The base sent out from the old country was quite inadequate, being too small. The cup did not look well on it and it would have been quite impossible for the winning teams to have affixed shields recording their names." A bill was sent along to the Governor General, but there is no record indicating he ever paid it.
After the earl's departure from Canada, and despite the fact the engraving on the cup read—and still reads—"For the Amateur Rugby Football Championship of Canada," the Grey Cup became a pro football prize. In the years since, it has been lost and smoke-blackened and left by thieves in a locker in the Royal York Hotel basement, but it is still around telling more about one Governor General of Canada than history books ever will.
Sports trophies are sometimes revealing of both men and motives. Last June a publicity-conscious Louisville firm, Scholl Trophies, donated a 6'2" trophy for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Pro Celebrity Golf Tournament. Such largesse was designed to dwarf the tournament winner and it did, for he was 5'10" Bob Murphy. But that cup was a toy compared with one a Baltimore man received a few years ago for winning a midget-car race. His was nine feet by four feet and weighed close to 400 pounds.
Martini & Rossi, the vermouth firm, has an awards program for the more elegant sports—yachting, point-to-point racing, fencing, tennis and such. "Our product does not cost much, just $3 or so a bottle," a company spokesman explains, "but we want it known as a luxury product. Our vermouth is something not sold to winos. Yachtsmen, fencers, point-to-point people drink it."
In the American Basketball Association's first season it was trying mightily to outdo the NBA wherever it could. One place it could was with its trophies, which were a couple of feet taller than the rival league's.
Among commercially motivated sports prizes, the mammoth Borg-Warner trophy of the Indianapolis 500 race is the most prominent and probably the most valuable—it is insured for $52,000. Thirty-five years ago the manufacturer of automotive parts offered it for the first time, and since then the sides of the 80-pound cup have been decorated with gargoylelike metal sculptures of the successful Indy drivers. The trophy's handles are enormous wings, and stylized racing cars roar round a frieze. On top of the cup is a naked flagman who has watched impassively as beauties like Linda Darnell, eyes closed, gave themselves unto the embraces of the victors.
Another annual witness to the Indy celebration scene, and just about as mute as the flagman, is Jack Mackenzie, a high school science teacher who is the trophy's keeper. For 17 years Mackenzie has carried the trophy on race day from the starting line to Victory Lane, 400 yards away. "When the temperature is 95° and the trophy has been soaking up the sun all afternoon, that walk can be the longest in the world," he says.
Mackenzie got his custodian's job in 1953 while he was a student at Butler University. He went to the Speedway looking for work that would let him see the race. At 6'5" and 200 pounds, he was well qualified for trophy carrying. Annual photographs in Victory Lane since then show Mackenzie growing bald and slightly paunchy through the years. Now he begins doing push-ups and sit-ups in April to get in shape for his trophy walk. "I could drop it if I wasn't in condition," he says. During the month preceding the race Mackenzie keeps the cup in his home in suburban Indianapolis. If the family goes out of the house, a trophy-sitter is hired.
The Indy prize was made by Chicago's Spaulding & Company, the jeweler that also designed the Masters golf trophy, a four-foot-by-four-foot, $30,000 silver facsimile of the Augusta National clubhouse. "It took 18 months to make it," says Gordon Lang, president of Spaulding. "When I was asked to construct a trophy for the Masters, I went down to Augusta with the idea of trying to design something novel as a perpetual trophy. The most cherished thing there was the clubhouse, so I employed a photographer and we spent three days taking pictures from all four sides and from the tops of nearby buildings." So exact is the silver version which resulted that the blinds on the windows close tightly, except for one. As in the clubhouse at Augusta, the first window on the first floor, west side, is faulty. The Masters' champions do not get to bring the toy building home—it weighs 125 pounds—but receive instead a plaque with the clubhouse in bas-relief.
Valued, too, at the Masters is another form of trophy, Steuben crystal vases, urns and highball glasses that are awarded for eagles, double eagles, holes in one and the day's low score. Using tools that are centuries old in design—they do not vary from ones that appear in Diderot's 1751 encyclopedia—Steuben's glassblowers in Corning, N.Y. shape molten glass into pieces fit for kings. U.S. Presidents have long given Steuben glass to their visitors—to royalty from England, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Ethiopia, to de Gaulle, Adenauer, Nehru and Khrushchev. The Masters glassware is made in the same furnaces and by the same craftsmen.
Five or six men, each with a skill attained in a lengthy apprenticeship, have a hand in the making of each piece of glass. After they have finished, the piece is cooled (a process that sometimes takes seven days, depending on the thickness of the glass), polished, engraved, inspected and, if it is finally approved, signed with a diamond pen.
Cartier, Inc. of New York, Chicago and Palm Beach is another quality maker of sports awards. On the fifth floor of Cartier, New York a goldsmith worked for almost a month recently soldering hundreds of 18-carat leaves to the branches of a small sapling. The finished product was a trophy for a horse race at New Jersey's Monmouth Park.
Sculptors are another group of artisans working in the trophy trade. In the 1930s when New York's Downtown Athletic Club decided to honor the outstanding college football player, the club's athletic director, John Heisman, went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and asked for the name of a promising sculptor. The teachers recommended a recent graduate, Frank Eliscu. Heisman summoned the young artist, explained what was needed and Eliscu soon produced some wax models. But Heisman and Columbia Coach Lou Little felt Eliscu needed some realistic demonstrations of good football style. They tackled each other and threw blocks for Eliscu's benefit. Finally, a model satisfied them and the Heisman award was cast. This was Eliscu's first commission. He received a $500 fee and was promised $40 each time a reproduction of the football player was made. Since then he has achieved notable success, and in 1948 was named a member of the National Sculpture Society. The original Heisman model stands in his studio in Easton, Conn. "It was an honest piece of work," he says now. "I put into it the best I had then. I might not do it that way today. It is too static and there is that awful grimace on the face. In art you try not to have an expression on a face, but Mr. Heisman insisted on a grimace. He kept saying football players were fighters." At least one Heisman winner, Roger Staubach, has found his replica of the statue too much to live with. He has banished it to his daughters' toy closet, and the girls enjoy riding it like a hobby horse. "If I make it as a pro, I'll put it on display in the living room," Staubach says. "Until then my daughters can have it."
The Heisman football player's outfit has become so dated it appalls sculptor Eliscu. "It's almost embarrassing," he says, "but I guess with age it becomes more acceptable, like the Statue of Liberty." Yet Eliscu's problem is nothing compared to that of mass trophy manufacturers, the men who annually sell $100 million worth of those stiff bronzed figures—golfers, bowlers, halfbacks, Little Leaguers. Each time football helmets or uniforms change, these companies are stuck with old-line models.
Manufacturers could protect themselves against uniform changes, says Bill Louth, president of Medallic Art, the company that strikes the championship medals for the NCAA, Big Ten, IC4A and the Drake and Penn Relays. His solution is simple. "All figures should be nude. Then they are timeless. A uniform or clothing can be dated by year, place and environment. The caps and numerals on baseball uniforms have changed; track shorts used to be longer; and now you have the bikini swimming trunks." So the NCAA ice skating medal shows a figure coasting along in nothing but skates. A baseball pitcher is poised mid-pitch, naked but for his glove. A tennis player appears nude with his racket.
Louth himself was the model for the NCAA golf medal. A 19-handicapper, he insisted that the medallion portray an adequate golf swing. "O.K.," said the artist, "bring your clubs up to the studio and I'll copy yours." Pleased with the notion, Louth arrived on a Saturday morning. He pulled an iron from his golf bag and began to pose. "Strip," said the artist. Louth took off his shirt and trousers and picked up his golf club again. "Strip," ordered the sculptor. So the president of a half-million-dollar company, maker of the nation's war medals and the Pulitzer Prize awards, spent his day teeing up a golf ball in the buff.
Perhaps the undraped figure is too daring—at least, trophy companies believe it is—to appeal to All-America tastes. Catering to the mass trophy market are companies like Dodge Inc. in Crystal Lake, Ill. and L.G. Balfour in Attleboro, Mass. Bill Caldwell, the sales manager of Dodge, estimates that trophy sales average 50¢ for every American—man, woman and child—each year. Dodge, which is the country's largest trophy manufacturer, stamps out over 600 different kinds of sports figures to top its cups. It provides typical stock items, but also markets screw-on statues for sports like tug-of-war, snowmobiling, coon hunting, kite flying, jet-plane racing and grass growing. Dodge's best-selling figures are bowlers: more than two million of them are purchased every year, which is one for every 15 bowlers in America.
Balfour draws some of this trade, too, but its special pride is custom work. The company makes the golden, be-flagged trophy that the baseball commissioner has been giving to the world champions for the last four years. (The Mets' is sitting beside the Shea telephone switchboard.) Baseball, as a sport, has few trophies, but it does have a longstanding tradition of giving rings to pennant-winning players. Such rings are Balfour's specialty. The company also supplies them for pro basketball and football and some bowl-game winners. With every new championship team hoping for rings bigger and flashier than the last, the awards have become jeweled monuments to bad taste. Yet they can cost up to $1,200 apiece. Balfour considers its superbauble to be the ring it made for football player Bronko Nagurski. His fingers were so enormous that the ring measured 4½ inches around.
The larger the prize, and the gaudier, the more desirable it seems to be. "People in this country think the size of the award is a measure of its importance," says Bill Louth. "The more gilded pillars and eagles the better. It is like the American propensity for big, bright, shiny automobiles."
Whatever the psychology involved, the trophy fad has no mass appeal elsewhere. "The Swedes give such little trophies you can carry them around in your palm," says Ingemar Johansson. "When the Americans give something, it's almost as big as you are." In France the Tour de France victor receives no trophy, just colored sweaters. In England a man like Fred Perry, three-time singles winner at Wimbledon, has no silverware to show for it. He never even saw the cups he played for; they were kept permanently in the vault of the Bank of England. When he learned of their existence following World War II, Perry asked if he could perhaps have a replica of the singles prize. "I was told they were expensive," he said, "and if I wanted one I would have to pay for it—about 30 pounds [$72]. At which point I lost interest."
The golfer who wins the British Open retains the championship cup for one year but gets only a half-dollar-sized gold medal to keep for good. When Arnold Palmer won the title he wanted something more and at his own expense had a replica of the cup made. Bobby Jones also has a replica. England's Tony Jacklin, on the other hand, didn't even bother having his name engraved on the trophy, nor did South African Gary Player. Until 1960 the U.S. Golf Association followed the British practice of awarding medals, not trophies, as permanent prizes to its champions. But U.S. golfers complained, and to appease them the USGA began giving trophies to take home.
So for Americans, at least, a trophy is a crowning glory, precious no matter what the metal. And it merits celebration. All who saw it will long remember the wild scene at Oak Hill Country Club two years ago when the U.S. Open trophy lurched and bobbed over the heads of Lee Trevino and his friends as they weaved happily victorious toward the parking lot. Frank Hannigan, a USGA official, was peering anxiously from a clubhouse window. He had, just minutes earlier, solemnly entrusted the cup to the most responsible-looking of Lee's friends. "I am never going to see that trophy again," thought Hannigan. But the following June, Trevino brought the cup back to be played for once more—the 69th time. Great trophies have a way of enduring, of coming back to us as reminders of what is best, and was best.