This is the time of year when banquet boards all over the country groan happily with five-course dinners and full honors to the stars of sport who cast the brightest light in the year just past.
Mixing its business with a full helping of pleasure, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED lately has been on hand at many of these festive occasions, has had its problem keeping its waistline trim, while at the same time not missing an opening round of soup, an entrée of chicken or a last round of applause.
One of the most resplendent and star-studded awards banquets took place last month when almost 900 fans gathered at the third annual All-Sports Dinner of the Touchdown Club of Columbus, Ohio.
There to receive Touchdown Club trophies, as part of a distinguished galaxy of 40 honored sports personalities, were Terry Brennan, Comeback Coach of the Year; Wilt Chamberlain, College Basketball Player of the Year; Fred Haney, Baseball Manager of the Year; Don Carter, Bowler of the Year; Jack Dempsey; Rocky Marciano; George Halas; Stan Musial.
The Braves' Lew Burdette received an award for the outstanding sports performance of 1957. And his front-office boss, John Quinn, accepted a special award for Outstanding Contribution to Organized Baseball.
The time for banquets, only by coincidence, is also the time for signing baseball contracts. Before a fascinated audience, for once privy to this delicate exercise in gamesmanship, Burdette and Quinn got right down to business. Said Burdette, "I'm glad Mr. Quinn is here. I'd just like him to know I have pen, will sign." Quinn smiled as he rose to reply. "I have not only a pen," he said, "I have a contract. If you sign, I'll fill in the amount." That was, as far as anyone could see, the only autograph not signed that night.
Included in the awards was a silver bowl for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, the Touchdown Club's recognition of this magazine for "Complete Coverage of All Sports." SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is proud to attach it to its trophy belt. But, during a pause while we hoped no one was looking under the banquet table, we had to let the belt out a notch.
RICHARD NEALE, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Assistant Publisher, accepts Columbus Touchdown Club trophy from Mel Allen.