With this issue SPORTS ILLUSTRATED substantially expands its color capability. Every photograph, with the exception of the one above and those illustrating FACES IN THE CROWD, is in full color, a performance we are going to be able to repeat in virtually every issue to follow.
This is an article from the May 4, 1981 issue
Back in our first-anniversary issue (Aug. 15, 1955), we stated proudly, "It is of historical importance to point out that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is actually a pioneer in color sports photography. From its first issue it has printed a sizable budget of color pages...."
In those days "sizable" meant six to eight pages of what was called "slow" color—pages that had to be sent to the engraver six weeks in advance of publication, with breaking news stories illustrated in black and white. This long lead time not only made it impossible for us to cover each week's big stories in color, but it also left us vulnerable to the unexpected. In late 1955, for example, prominent horseman William Woodward Jr. was shot to death by his wife. We had in the works a color cover of them both, with jockey Eddie Arcaro, but there was enough time to scrap that cover and substitute another one.
Our first "fast-close" cover ran on the July 11, 1960 issue: Jim Beatty winning the 5,000-meter run at the Olympic Trials, on a Friday. By the fall of 1965 accelerated engraving techniques and new press equipment made it possible for us to cover weekend events in color for the issue appearing in the middle of the following week, and we began running two to four pages per issue. Over the years that capability increased; our most recent format offered more pages of editorial color—an average of 26 an issue—than any other national weekly news magazine. Now we will be going to an average of 39 pages.
This move to near-total color represents a very considerable investment, but as Managing Editor Gilbert Rogin observes, "For us, black-and-white photography, at first a necessity, has become an anachronism unless used for special effect." Rogin has pressed long and hard for more color and has agonized over the technical obstacles. "Until now we even have had to illustrate some stories as if the events took place partly in color, partly in black and white," he says. "A patent absurdity."
Assistant Managing Editor Kenneth Rudeen concurs. Rudeen coordinated the discussions among our editorial, publishing and production staffs that culminated in the decision to invest in the additional color. A University of Kansas graduate, Rudeen found himself thinking about his school's mascot during the conferences on color. "If you've ever seen the yellow of the Jayhawk's bill, and the reds and blues of its plumage, you'd hate to settle for a pallid illustration in black and white. The same goes for just about everything in sports."