Can you tell a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED by its covers?
Well, over the past 35 years, or 1,846 covers, from 1954 through
1989, we've been Tittle-ating (four for Y.A.). We've been explosive,
what with Pistol Pete (Maravich), the Toy Cannon (Jimmy Wynn),
Cannonade (the Horse), Maurice (the Rocket) Richard and Henri (the
Pocket Rocket) Richard. And we've been protective, too, thanks to
Tommy Armour. We've been colorful: Jim Brown, Vida Blue, Red
Schoendienst, O.J. (Orange Juice) Simpson, Earl (the Pearl) Monroe,
filly Silver Spoon, Murray Rose, Hugh Green, Danny White and Jimmy
Black, among other tinted names.
With a group like Bill Shoemaker, George Foreman, Jerry Barber,
Gay Brewer, Chuck Tanner, Earl Weaver, Darrell Porter, Earl Cooper,
Johnny Miller and Terry Baker, you would have to say we've been
workmanlike. Occasionally we've been moving (Bus Mosbacher, Henry
Carr, Lou Hudson, Whitey Ford), and we usually know in which
direction (Jerry West, Andy North). We've been sugar (Candy Spots,
Cookie Lavagetto, Sugar Rays Robinson and Leonard, two Napoleons --
McCallum and Lajoie) and spice (Don Pepper, Dan Currie) and
everything nice (Bob Friend, Elizabeth Guest).
Long before our junior magazine, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED FOR KIDS, was
launched in 1989, we were appealing to the younger set. We've had two
Bambis (Lance Alworth and George Bamberger) on the cover, as well as
Thumper (Ted Williams). For devotees of Sesame Street, we've had two
Berts (Campaneris and Jones), six Ernies (Koy, Broglio, Davis,
Terrell, Banks and Grunfeld) and Big Bird himself, alongside Mark
(the Bird) Fidrych. Ornithologically speaking, we've also put Rory
Sparrow, Goose Gossage, Hawk Harrelson, Robin Givens, Joey Jay and
John David Crow on the cover.
Since 1954, we have been a growing concern, and not just because
Richmond Flowers, Zola Budd, Jacques Plante, Guy Lafleur, Pete Rose,
Gussie Busch and Forrest Gregg have graced our covers. Our first
cover, a tableau of Milwaukee's County Stadium, is of Eddie Mathews
of the Milwaukee Braves swinging at a pitch, with catcher Wes Westrum
and umpire Augie Donatelli behind the plate. Since that Aug. 16,
1954, issue, our circulation has gone from 450,000 to 3.8 million,
our editorial staff from 94 to 168, and our regular cover price from
25 cents to $2.69 (the cost of living is eight times what it was 35
Like Sherwin-Williams paints, we have covered the earth, from
Iceland to Thailand, from Baja California to Nepal, from Australia to
Zaire. Alphabetically, our cover subjects have ranged from Henry
Aaron to Fuzzy Zoeller, with a stop at every letter in between except
for X -- which is why we're rooting for Joe Xavier, a minor leaguer
in the Oakland Athletics system, to become a World Series hero
someday. Muhammad Ali's 31 covers are the most for any single
subject, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar second, at 27, and Jack Nicklaus
third, at 22. In one of our more intriguing cover battles, Larry Bird
is tied at 16 with Magic Johnson.
As for sports, football is pulling away from baseball 430-361,
with basketball a distant third, at 272; golf fourth, at 126; and
boxing fifth, at 109. Rounding out the Top 10 are track and field
(85), hockey (73), tennis (56), horse racing (54) and skiing (42).
For some reason, we've actually had one spearfishing cover.
Things were a little different back in the old days -- the '50s.
Then we were trying to appeal to the country club/hunting lodge/ski
resort set, which explains why you will come across squash, crew and
bird-watching covers in this special edition. You will also find that
in our first seven years, we had at least one canine a year, making
us man's best friend's best friend. Over the years, we have had 13
dog covers, not including the one of San Diego pitcher Randy Jones
with this now laughable cover billing: THREAT TO WIN 30.
Occasionally, an athlete has tried to make us look silly. When
Larry Csonka posed with fellow Dolphin Jim Kiick for our Aug. 7,
1972, issue, his middle finger was demurely resting on his shin. (In
a visual pun for our July 28, 1975, issue, Csonka struck much the
same pose, this time using his index and middle fingers. He never got
a chance to try for number three.) And sometimes there were
mistakes in sportswear. For our 1971 baseball issue, we had an
illustration of Boog Powell of the Orioles in a classic swing,
wearing classic dress shoes rather than spikes. His footwear, in
short, was more Brooks Brothers than Brooks Robinson. Of course, not
all such fashion misstatements were our fault. Both Hawk Harrelson
and Bill Russell were wearing their own Nehru jackets in 1968.
Speaking of Russell, he is one of six athletes who shared a name
with another SI cover subject; his counterpart was the shortstop for
the Dodgers (Aug. 20, 1973, and Oct. 24, 1977). Bill Bradley was not
only a basketball player for Princeton and the Knicks, but also a
quarterback for Texas (Sept. 11, 1967). And long before Tom Watson
won his first golf tournament, we made a cover out of Tom Watson and
his skiing family (Dec. 14, 1959).
Another reason we had such ''soft'' covers in our early years was
that the color technology was so primitive that we had to send the
covers to the engravers six weeks in advance of publication. That
long lead time explains why when Don Larsen pitched his perfect game
in the 1956 World Series, we had socialite sailor Harold S.
Vanderbilt on that week's cover. Another Vanderbilt figures in one of
SI's Unexplained Cover Phenomena. On our Aug. 5, 1963, cover we had
archery champion Nancy Vonderheide. On Aug. 12, horse racing's Alfred
Vanderbilt. On Aug. 19, the cover belonged to Viking rookie
quarterback Ron VanderKelen. Truly a vonderful coincidence.
Another of these phenomena occurred in a four-week period in 1985,
and we have an eagle-eyed reader to thank for noticing this. May 13:
Magic Johnson wearing number 32. May 20: Patrick Ewing wearing number
33. May 27: Herschel Walker wearing number 34. June 3: Indy 500
winner Danny Sullivan in car number 5, followed by Mario Andretti in
car number 3 -- 35, get it?
A sequence of covers in 1987 had another reader seeing double. He
noticed that on May 11 we had number 44, Reggie Jackson; on May 18 we
had number 11, Isiah Thomas, with an inset of Tom Sneva in car number
33; on May 25 we had number 44, Eric Davis, with an inset of number
33, Larry Bird, and number 22, the Bucks' Ricky Pierce; on June 1, we
had number 99, Wayne Gretzky; on June 8, we had number 33, Bird,
again; on June 15, we had two number 31's, Fred Roberts and Kurt
Rambis; and on June 22 we had number 33, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
We have turned one triple play and several double plays in the
past, reusing the same cover. For our first- and second-anniversary
issues, we ran the original cover of Mathews at the plate, only
smaller. The same photo of Denny McLain showed up on the cover both
on July 29, 1968, when he was an actual threat to win 30 games (which
he did), and on Feb. 23, 1970, when he found himself in trouble. The
funny thing about that duplication is that even though it's the same
photo, in the first one McLain looks determined, but in the second he
looks merely surly. We used the same classic photo of the gold
medal-winning U.S. hockey team for our March 3, 1980, cover and for
our Dec. 22-29, 1980, Sportsmen of the Year cover. And when the
baseball season resumed in August 1981, after a strike, we ran the
same picture of Mike Schmidt and George Brett that we had used for
the baseball preview issue the previous April, this time with the
cover billing HERE WE GO AGAIN.
That first U.S. hockey cover had one of our most unusual cover
billings, or headlines, which was none at all. Another lean billing
occurred within a space of a few weeks, in 1987: LT for Giants
linebacker Lawrence Taylor and J.R. for North Carolina basketball
player J.R. Reid. Over the years, we've had a number of punchy sound
effects in our billings, among them WHAM! BAM! (Jan. 31, 1983), BOOM
(Aug. 2, 1982), SPLASH! (July 9, 1984), SLAM! (June 22, 1987) and,
one of our personal favorites, PFFFFFFT!, to accompany a deflated
football signifying the NFL strike in 1982.
It's not easy coming up with an original cover billing, especially
when the subject is a regular. Wayne Gretzky has appeared 12 times in
all, but seven times we couldn't avoid the use of a certain word: THE
GREAT GRETZKY; GOING GREAT GUNS; GREATER AND GREATER; THE GREAT ONE
GETS GREATER; GREAT, GRETZKY; GREAT MOVE, GRETZKY; and THE GREAT ONE
BREAKS THE NHL SCORING RECORD.
One of our longer cover billings was reserved for Reggie Jackson,
who had just signed with the California Angels: HARK! THE HERALDED
ANGEL SWINGS. We always tried to go out of our way for Reggie
because, quite frankly, he went out of the way for us. Whenever he
knew we were shooting him for a possible cover, Jackson would finish
each swing with a look toward rightfield in appreciation of the
majestic flight of the ball -- even if he had just grounded weakly to
second. In 1980 in Yankee Stadium, just before a game with the
Royals, Jackson asked photographer Walter Iooss Jr., who was shooting
for SI, if there was anything else he needed. Said Iooss, ''I told
him, half- kiddingly, that we could use another home run, maybe two
more. Reggie just nodded.'' In his first at bat that afternoon,
Jackson sent Rich Gale's first pitch into the rightfield seats. His
second time up, he flew out to the warning track and then apologized
to Iooss on his way back to the dugout.
Reggie holds another cover record -- most different baseball
uniforms worn (four) -- having appeared under our logo as a member of
the Athletics, Orioles, Yankees and Angels. Two others are tied for
second, with three different uniforms, and one of them should come as
no surprise: Billy Martin (Yankees, Twins and Rangers). You have 60
seconds to guess the other one . . . . Time's up. The answer is Dick
Groat (Pirates, Cardinals and Phillies).
Martin also belongs in the select company of those whose backs
have appeared on our covers. Others who have turned on us are Ben
Hogan; Mike Souchak; Bill Shoemaker; the Orioles' Jackie Brandt (at
bat), umpire Bob Stewart and Yankee catcher Yogi Berra (April 10,
1961); Yogi again, 23 years later; Juan Marichal; Curt Flood; a group
of hot-rodders; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and a Bruins goalie, ironically
named Don Head. That brings to mind that we have also exhibited a
(Roy) Face, (Rollie) Fingers, (Maurice) Cheeks and the Lip (Leo
Martin holds a more important distinction. He is one of only three
athletes who have appeared on our covers in each of the previous four
decades of SI's existence, the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s. The other
two are Gordie Howe and Willie Mays. The longest spread of time
belongs to Martin, who first appeared as a Yankee player, on April
23, 1956, and last appeared at the start of his fourth term as Yankee
manager, on May 6, 1985. Martin's good friend Mickey Mantle appeared
in the '50s, '60s and '80s -- he took a sabbatical in the '70s.
Yes, we've given you the Willies -- Mays, Stargell, Davis,
Galimore, Pastrano; slipped you some Mickeys -- Mantle and Wright;
and put up our Dukes -- Snider, Carlisle, Elway and John Wayne. Wayne
appeared on our July 27, 1959, cover, along with other notable
denizens of Toots Shor's famous New York City saloon. Over the years
the following actors have appeared on our covers: Jackie Gleason, Don
Ameche (they were part of the Toots Shor crowd); Gary Cooper (scuba
diving with his family); Laraine Day (alongside husband Durocher and
his centerfielder, Mays); Bob Hope (in the uniform of the Cleveland
Indians, of which he was part owner); Shirley MacLaine (with the
Notre Dame football team); Steve McQueen (on his motorcycle);
Ann-Margret (with Joe Namath); the stars of the movie Semi-Tough --
Jill Clayburgh, Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson; Arnold
Schwarzenegger; and John Lithgow, who appeared on the March 5, 1973,
cover in a scene from the Broadway play The Changing Room.
While we have had more than our share of MVP Award winners,
Heisman Trophy men and All-Americas on the cover, it's interesting to
note that we have also displayed Academy Award winners (Cooper and
MacLaine), a Tony Award winner (Lithgow), a Nobel Prizewinner (Ernest
Hemingway), a Pulitzer Prizewinner (cartoonist Bill Mauldin) and a
Grammy Award winner (Kristofferson). We have also had three
presidents: Ronald Reagan (twice), Gerald Ford and John F. Kennedy,
although only Reagan was in office at the time.
It's rare, but occasionally a legendary figure slips through our
fingers. Billy Williams, Hoyt Wilhelm, Early Wynn and Robin Roberts
had Hall of Fame careers in baseball without ever appearing on an SI
cover. In pro basketball we somehow ignored George Gervin, an
oversight that's particularly stinging when you realize we could have
had a (Darryl) Strawberry Ice (Gervin) Kareem (swimmer Carin) Cone
Here are some other odds and ends that we took entirely too much
time to gather for you:
We've had Bonnie (Prudden) and Clyde (Walt Frazier). To defend
them: Vern Law, Johnny Bench and the eminent attorney Edward Bennett
Something else for the kids: (Bob) Sylvester and (Penny) Tweedy.
The Smiths (15) have more than kept up with the Joneses (10,
counting the Long Island beach).
The record for the longest time between covers belongs to Rafer
Johnson, who appeared on Sept. 5, 1960, and next appeared on Aug. 6,
1984 (23 years, 11 months later). He is followed by Jim Brown, who
went 23 years, two months between appearances in 1960 and 1983.
The San Francisco 49ers in 1982, the Miami Dolphins in 1985, the
Chicago Bears in 1986, and the Minnesota Twins in 1987 are the only
teams to have appeared on SI covers three weeks in a row.
We've had Dukes (see above), Earls (Morrall and Campbell) and
Kings (Albert, Bernard, Don and Billie Jean, not to mention Derby
winner Kauai King); Prince Aly Khan and Countess Consuelo Crespi.
More matching pairs: Muhammad (Ali) and the mountain (the
Matterhorn), Dwight Gooden and Evel Knievel, Stan Musial and Ollie
Matson, Cap Anson and Harry (the Hat) Walker, Oscar (the Big O)
Robertson and Sadaharu Oh.
A few years ago, UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian signed a
deal with Taco Bell that reportedly paid him $20,000 for placing 16
of the fast-food firm's logos on the towel he habitually chews during
a game. Supposedly, he would get another $10,000 if a picture of him
with the towel made the cover of SI. The Shark and his towel never
Among the parody editions of SI have been Sports Illuminated
(Valparaiso, 1956); Sports Ill-rated (Maryland, 1956); Sports
Frustrated (Stanford, 1958); Sports Illiterate (Yale, 1959); and
Sports Sophisticated (one of several Mad magazine takeoffs).
Imitation, after all, is the sincerest form of flattery, and we
count ourselves lucky to be able to present you with 35 years of SI
covers. Kind of makes you want to thank Sun Valley, Wally Moon and
This is an article from the March 28, 1990 issue