SPORTS ILLUSTRATED announces its second Sportsman of the Year in next week's issue. Already the event has tradition, for readers have sent us a yearful of candidates, from Paul Anderson and Juan Manuel Fangio to Pee Wee Reese and Mildred Zaharias.
Around the familiar names are shining sidelights—the unknowns who have accomplished the unusual. During the year, for instance, SI told of Gunner's Mate George Roberts. He saved $3,000 to buy the football uniforms in which two teams (his destroyer Zellars and the carrier Valley Forge) played to an improbable crowd of 45,000 Portuguese in Lisbon's National Stadium. There were the nameless forest rangers who rode to the rescue with telephone cable to replace the timing cable stolen just before Don Campbell set his water-speed record in the Bluebird. There were the Sherpa porters on the assault on Kanchenjunga.
But well-known names as usual also accomplished the unusual. For sportsmanship, the grace showed by the great Ben Hogan in losing the Open matched the ability he showed all the other times he won it. Jill Kinmont's determined battle against paralysis was a model for another sports essential—pluck.
For the good surprises sport always brings, Pennsylvania's Fred Riepl ran back the opening kickoff 108 yards against Notre Dame. And for good-humored realism, take Mrs. Louise de Somov. The first woman to win the Striped Bass Derby at Martha's Vineyard, she used the frowned-upon butterfish as bait. Challenged, she said: "If the bass are going for butterfish, why try to fool them with a lot of nonsense?"
Philadelphia's John B. Kelly Sr. and others—first among them President Eisenhower—reflected a care for the future of sport and the future of the country by coming to grips with a problem related to both: the physical fitness of our youth.
There was finally the visiting Russian flying over the boats in Jackson Park Harbor. "Ah, the Chicago fishing fleet," he said.
"Nope," said the Chicagoan with him. "Yachts of the workers."
These are, I think, pleasant recollections of people in one year of sport. Sportsmen all. And with a review of the sports year 1955 SI next week presents its Sportsman of the Year.