With this issue SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is 30 years old. Once only a gleam in the eye of Time Inc.'s co-founder Henry Luce, SI is now an institution, the first—and only—national weekly newsmagazine devoted solely to sport. Those of us who've been around a while sometimes marvel at what the years have wrought, much as a parent looks at a strapping son and recalls the helpless infant.
The lady in the picture below is Mrs. Charles Shipman Payson, and the colt is Carr de Naskra, who won the Travers at Saratoga last Saturday (page 34) and is the pride of her stable.
In August 1954 Mrs. Payson was SI reporter Virginia Kraft, assigned to hunting, fishing and the great outdoors. "We were a small staff then," says Ginnie. "We all worked very, very hard, but we loved it. When we finally had that first issue in our hands it was such a thrill."
Kraft became SI's premier hunting writer and was at the magazine for 26 years before launching a second successful career as a horsewoman. Three other members of that original staff are still with us—art director Harvey Grut, senior writer Robert W. Creamer and chief of correspondents Eleanore Milosovic. Grut was the first to be hired. At 32 he was a veteran of the U.S. Army, the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the promotion departments of three publishing companies and the co-owner of a notably unsuccessful ad agency. For a year preceding SI's official publication, Grut pasted up experimental layouts, "maybe five different versions for every story," he says. "It was wonderful. You could do anything you wanted to do, with seemingly unlimited resources at your disposal. It never occurred to me that the magazine might not last."
August 26, 1984
Creamer, then 31, arrived five months before publication and was assigned to writing baseball. Before that he'd been an editor of Collier's Encyclopedia. "The job I'd had was dull," he says. "Nine to five with an hour for lunch, for four years. Suddenly I was going to ball parks, sitting in dugouts, talking to people like Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial and Casey Stengel. My friends wouldn't believe what I was doing was work, and they were right. It was fun."
Creating a magazine that had no precedent, for an audience that didn't exist, led to some anxious moments in the early going, according to Milosovic, who in 1954 was a 23-year-old news bureau assistant. "Every time we closed the magazine we were absolutely amazed," she says. "I remember one Sunday when we realized we had a cover, a woman archer I think it was, but no story to go with it. Somebody had to sit down and write a cover story on the spot.
"Hedley Donovan, formerly editor-in-chief of Time Inc., once said, 'Any magazine, once it's successful, begins to seem like a very obvious idea...but SPORTS ILLUSTRATED wasn't an obvious idea at all. The audience wasn't all assembled clamoring for SI. SI assembled this audience, created it.' "
To all the assemblers and creators of our early years, to the audience, our readers, who responded, to Ginnie Payson, and especially to Grut, Creamer and Milosovic, SI raises a 30th-birthday toast. Cheers!