Party hats and noisemakers are strictly optional but it is a pleasure to report that with this issue SI moves officially into its third decade. Behind lie 20 years of publication, prompting birthday greetings from, among other readers, an oldtimer in Washington, D.C. named Charles Baker. "You have admirably filled what was a long-awaited need," he writes. "The number of sports-minded Americans has increased many times over since SI first appeared. No doubt many of them have had their interests kindled by your broad coverage."
Baker's good wishes are especially heartwarming inasmuch as he is one of 49,000 charter subscribers who have never missed an issue. These faithful souls have been with us since our birth in August 1954—the first cover, right, featured a photo of Milwaukee Braves slugger Eddie Mathews—and they seem like, well, family. They are, as a group, appreciative of our efforts, forgiving of our mistakes and—like Aunt Clara—free with advice. Scarcely a week goes by without one of them writing, "As a charter subscriber, I think...."
One member of this "20-year club" is Bing Crosby, a rabid sports fan who notes approvingly that "the artwork in the magazine has become far more advanced and news coverage has expanded a great deal." Although Alabama's Bear Bryant is not sure whether he got his first issue in the mail or at the newsstand, he can be considered a member, too. He packs the latest one into his briefcase to read on the airplane during recruiting or game trips. "SI does a terrific job with college football," the Bear says, but then he growls, "I don't pay attention to your predictions. You picked us one year to win the national championship and we did—but it's still just guesses."
Some have not only been receiving the magazine down through the years but hanging onto it as well. Lem Roberts II of Phoenixville, Pa. has providently saved Vol. 1, No. 1, copies of which now fetch $15 from collectors. For golfing emergencies Douglas C. Fisk keeps a five-part Arnold Palmer instructional from 1963 in a dresser drawer in his Sacramento home. And Craig Sutton of Charlotte, N.C. is one of a surprising number who have saved every issue. "I've got magazines packed under beds, in closets, wherever there's room," he says. "One of these days I'll have them bound, I guess."
August 25, 1974
One who has them all bound—in black leather with gold lettering—is Californian Gene Mako who, with Don Budge, dominated U.S. and Davis Cup doubles in the mid-'30s. Vol. 1, No. 1, says Mako, "contains the greatest sports photo of all time, shot in the first Marciano-Charles fight. I'll never forget it."
Charter subscribers often play the role of missionaries, converting others to SI. Lem Roberts sent every copy to his son while he was in Korea; Mrs. W. E. Hartman of Bradford, Pa. gave subscriptions to both her daughters after they were married; Dr. Arthur McSteen of Greensburg, Pa. sends Christmas subs to doctors and other friends ($96 worth last year, he says); Red Auerbach's pervasive influence with the Boston Celtics has, we suspect, led to "the whole ball club" reading SI.
Red also compliments us on the quality of our writing and the fact that, as he puts it, the articles always "have been researched properly and that's important."
Gerald R. Ford of Washington, D.C. has the last word. "Along with countless other sport fans, I welcomed the appearance of SI 20 years ago," he writes. "You have covered the world of athletic competition with a freshness, imagination and expertise that has truly earned the success it enjoys today. Congratulations."
As we take pride—pardonable, we trust—in such kind words about the past from many members of our family, we want to renew our pledge to all of them: to continue publishing the best weekly newsmagazine of sport any staff is capable of writing and illustrating.
To our charter members—happy anniversary. To all our readers—join the family for the next 20 years.