Whenever a byline story appears in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED you can be fairly certain that the writer has had a hectic week getting it there—researching, interviewing, observing, writing, sometimes rewriting. Occasionally a writer will have two stories in the same issue, one written in, say, Alaska and the other, possibly, in Key West. Staff Writer Jack Mann finds himself in that position this week. The long feature story on Jockey Johnny Sellers (page 22) took him to Saratoga in upstate New York; the other one, which has to do with the Milwaukee Braves' rather lonely fight for the National League pennant (page 18), required his presence in Wisconsin.
But don't worry too much about Mann's apparently wild travel-and-writing schedule. The Sellers story was written three weeks ago and was held for this issue to coincide with the end of the Saratoga meeting; Jack's efforts this week were confined strictly to Milwaukee.
Furthermore, taking on several thousand miles at a gulp and then writing under a tight time schedule is old stuff for Mann. The night before the Great Bat Incident in San Francisco, Mann had filed a story to us on the National League pennant race. When Juan Marichal laid his bat along John Roseboro's scalp Mann phoned us from the ball park, jettisoned his first story and ripped off a lively new one that made it under our deadline barrier with time to spare.
Jack was a writer and then sports editor for Long Island's highly successful Newsday for years before going to the Detroit Free Press and, later, the New York Herald Tribune. At the Tribune he became recognized as one of the most astute racing writers in the country, which is especially intriguing because before he joined the Trib Mann had seen exactly one flat race in his life—at Belmont Park, where he went to see a horse called Mann Jack run. Mann Jack lost. With that racing background and an almost total ignorance of the difference between fetlock and a walking ring, he conquered the job. Mann says, "I had to practice what I had preached. Reporters aren't supposed to know things. They're supposed to find out." He shied away from the press box and the reams of publicity handouts and instead wandered around the paddock, the jockeys' room and the barn area, picking up the anecdotes, the idle chatter, the tidbits that give life to racing and, for that matter, to any sport and any story.
Since coming to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Mann has confined most of his writing to his first love, baseball (don't get in a betting duel with him on things like who played second base for the 1937 Brooklyn Dodgers). But he has done and will continue to do other stories for us, which will keep him busy on the Alaska-Key West run. He's used to it, of course, and so, apparently, is his family. "I can disappear for three days at a time," says Mann, "before my four children notice that something's missing around the house."
JACK MANN: "A REPORTER FINDS OUT"