"They came to play," the announcer is forever saying, and let that sum up sport in the '60s. Through a decade that will not be remembered as the best of times, sport was at its best by far. Never had so many played, never had so many cheered: new leagues, new teams, new records, new pleasures, new ways of life. Television, leisure time, increased income and more need to be amused caused epic changes in U.S. sport. The ultimate symbol of it all became the violent splash made by professional football—symbolic even as science lays down its artificial turfs and scenes like the one at left vanish into history. The picture bespeaks the '60s, as do the sportsmen and the moments shown on the following pages.
The Record Beyond Compare
There were 40,000 in the stadium at Mexico City, but there was no warning for them that this instant, 3:46 of the afternoon of Oct. 18, 1968 of the third Olympics of the decade, was to be the one moment of them all. Thus, few were actually watching when skinny Bob Beamon, 22, 6'3", 160 pounds, approached his takeoff point and leaped. Olympic records are improved only by the smallest of increments, so when Beamon landed a stunning two feet beyond the old mark he performed a feat unanticipated for decades to come. His distance was 29' 2½". When he learned of the magnitude of his achievement he sank to his knees in awe. Russia's Igor Ter-Ovanesyan said it best: "The rest of us are children."
Golden Boys in a Glittering Game
Pro football ruled the land, and two gusty bachelors stood fast—and tall—against those who sought to turn the sport into an automated machine. Paul Hornung was first, and though his venue was only Green Bay he managed to be almost as controversial—and beloved—as Joe Namath did in more libertine times with all Broadway at his feet. Both tweaked the Establishment, and Pete Rozelle returned the foot to football, kicking Paul out for a year and booting unrepentant Joe from his saloon.
Two Stars, but Only One Hit
Their achievements were baseball's best in the '60s, yet for one it was an ache in the elbow and for the other a pain in the neck. Yankee Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's record with the swing at left, but his 61st home run turned into 61* and the pressure of the chase left Maris and baseball's fans oddly at odds. By contrast, Sandy Koufax was revered for his feats. Perhaps the best lefthander of all time, the uncomplaining Dodger pitched and hurt for seasons. His valedictory after his last game (below) was typical: "I don't regret one minute of the last 12 years." Neither did his fans.
Where the High Were the Mighty
Basketball developed its own beat generation—Boston and UCLA beat everybody all the time. The Bruins grew bigger, progressing to the ultimate of Lew Alcindor (left), who took them to three straight titles, while the Celtics used young John Havlicek (below) and old Bill Russell (above) to give the likes of Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain a decade of frustration.
The Sporting Sixties As Sculptured In Concrete
San Diego Stadium ($27.5 million) was constructed primarily with football in mind, and baseball attendance suggests the priority was correct. Opened in 1967, it is a horseshoe topped by a ring of lights—no poles.
Shea Stadium ($25.5 million), below, was named for the lawyer whose efforts returned the National League to New York. The Mets came there in 1964 and still rule the public facility, treating the Jets like interlopers.
Anaheim Stadium ($24 million), above, patterned after Dodger Stadium, lured the Angels away from Los Angeles to suburban Disneyland. It was one of the 10 major league ball parks built during the decade.
Dodger Stadium ($18 million), right, may be the last park ever built by a private individual. Finished in 1962, Walter O'Malley's spotless baseball showcase has seldom been criticized, except by would-be sluggers.
Candlestick Rank ($14.5 million), left, is the oldest of the new, dating to 1960. Famed for its wild winds, it is about to be enlarged, though San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto says his city is "perpetuating a mediocrity."
The Astrodome ($31.5 million) has attracted hundreds of events and uncounted dreamy-eyed imitators who want one for their city, too. Open since 1965, it inaugurated the era of artificial grass with its AstroTurf.
Atlanta Stadium ($18 million) was a circular rush job thrown up in 51 weeks so that the Braves would have a new park when they arrived in '66. The big circle leaves fans of every sport equal: all quite far away.
Busch Stadium ($26 million), above, soon to have plastic grass, may be the best new park. It got a bad start when fans passed out from the heat at the '66 All-Star Game, but it has helped revive downtown St. Louis.
Oakland Coliseum ($30 million including the adjacent arena), above, is the lodestone of a magnificent entertainment complex, but the baseball team—a good one—drew poorly and the place is getting Finley's goat.
RFK Stadium ($23 million), right, finished in 1961, is esthetically pleasing and a capital boost, but the field is set low and holds the humidity by day, while violence in the area has made it not so hot at night.
They Ran Away from the Rest
"Too much is made of the pain stuff," Jim Ryun said once. The astonishing Kansan—shown below tracing a pattern along the dunes—was a prodigy among milers. He beat the one other supreme runner of the times, New Zealand's Peter Snell (left), when he was 18, and he set the world mile record of 3:51.1 when only 20. But at 21 he learned about agony. "God, it hurts," he said after his 1968 Olympic defeat.
A New King, Coast to Coast
Hockey reconstituted itself, body and soul, almost at once in 1967. Before then it was a tidy little arrangement among six northern cities. But suddenly it became a sophisticated major league, a national sport for the U.S. as well as Canada that offered up a slammer named Bobby Hull as an image to awe all. For hockey's new fans Chicago's Hull was like a home run king, and quickly he outshone two other, perhaps better, longtime stars—Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau. On March 12, 1966, with a 30-foot slap shot (above) that traveled 100 miles an hour, Hull put in his 51st goal of the season, breaking a 21-year-old record and establishing himself as hockey's Ruth.
It Added up To Thrills and More
Each signed a bad scorecard once. Roberto de Vicenzo lost a chance for a Masters playoff that way in 1968. Ken Venturi purposely approved a wrong score one time in 1962 so that he mercifully could be eliminated from a tournament; his golf and his future seemed gone. But for three days in 1964 it all came back, and in Washington's debilitating 100° heat Venturi triumphed at last. "My God," he said, "I've won the Open." Only Roberto's despair—"What a stupid I am"—rivaled it for golf emotion.
Golf came out of the long rough into million-dollar pastures, and now attracts so many good athletes that no two men are ever likely to dominate the game the way Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus did at mid-decade. Palmer was the glamour puss, Nicklaus the technician. With his boldness and flair, Palmer brought a new level of golf excitement to the public. But finally his concentration wavered and Arnie's Army rarely ruled. It was left to the young technician to battle the multitudes alone.
Tumult, Poetry, Invincibility A Loss
"This is the legend of Cassius Clay/ The most beautiful fighter in the world today/He talks a great deal and he brags indeedy/Of a muscular punch that's incredibly speedy."
"They all must fall in the round I call."
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
"Get up and fight, sucker."
"Call me Muhammad Ali."
"Right after The Bear, we want The Hare."
"The hollering and poetry are over."
"They leadeth me into Toronto, Canada. They maketh me fight out of the country. They leadeth me down the path of bad publicity. I shall be bewailed in the history of sport forever. The sports fan shall follow me all the days of my life."
Elegance and Artistry at Olympia
The Greeks were forever finding beauty in sport, and the concept is far from a dead one. No sight at Rome was quite as memorable as that of Wilma Rudolph, whose willowy strides earned three gold medals and made her the toast of the Olympics. The same grace led Peggy Fleming (flanked at right by runners-up) to victory at Grenoble as her skating bridged the gap between artistry and athletics. Eight months later Debbie Meyer, one of America's child swimmers, dived into a Mexico City pool and splashed out with as much gold as Wilma.
The Victors Left Behind The Vanquished
Of all champions of the decade, perhaps Ron Clarke was the best one never to achieve the ultimate—a gold medal, in his case. Australians wept as he finished the 10,000 at Mexico City badly beaten. It was somehow appropriate that he collapsed then, for moments giving fear that he had tried much too hard. By contrast, challengers for the America's Cup were routed so predictably that the face of defeat—expressed above by "Sovereign" Skipper Peter Scott—was more chagrin than pain.
The balance of power shifts quickly. The Ohio State of Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and Larry Siegfried was unbeatable until Cincinnati did the beating in the 1961 NCAA finals, causing Siegfried to hide in a towel. For the Giants, perennial champions in the NFL East, the end was reflected by this scene in 1964 when the Steelers left 37-year-old Y.A. Tittle bloody and bowed. A week earlier another sign of the Giant times had passed without due note: the Jets played their first game in Shea Stadium.
For Jean-Claude the Gates Flew Open
The snowball just kept rolling, and soon a whole social movement was pulling on sport's sexiest clothes and sipping rum around the chalet bar. To satisfy the demand, American know-how came up with carved mountains, fake snow and quick-setting plaster. But only God can make a ski hero, and the U.S. was never graced. It was a dashing Frenchman, Jean-Claude Killy, who burst down the slopes, slashed between the gates and whirled to a stop, resplendent heir to a new way of outdoor life.
Raising the Voice of Protest
It was not left to sport to survive serene in a decade of turmoil. This could not have been expected, and might not have been proper. The malaise of the times showed itself on the playing fields, and sports faced up to dissent when Professor Harry Edwards (right) introduced a scheme for an Olympic boycott by black athletes. "If nobody plays, everybody is equal," he said.
The boycott at Mexico City failed, but it led to the not-soon-forgotten Olympic posture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who acknowledged "The Star-Spangled Banner" with a Black Power salute. Heavyweight gold-medal winner George Foreman answered with the flag, but by this year's end there were more and more confrontations, and more and more picket signs.
Biggest Winner; Biggest Loser
Johnny Longden waved his last salute at 59, going out (above) with winner 6,032, an alltime record. But for many fans only one of Longden's victories really counted-his lone Kentucky Derby win, on Count Fleet in 1943. For millions the Derby is horse racing; the rest is Grapefruit League. Because of this the moment at right, Dancer's Image finishing in the 1968 Derby, was especially meaningful. The Dancer was alone and flying high—far too high, said the stewards, who ruled he had been drugged. Investigations that followed were a mishmash of deceit, and the sport was the real loser.
The Face Is Familiar
Now the Redskins hope he is still a head above the rest.
He was the first to call the Mets "amazin'." You can look it up.
Thomas made 7' look easy, and then others made it look easier.
Can a man with crew cut and black shoes last in this game?
He stole 104 bases, and 2,755,184 paid in L.A. to see how he ran.
Australia's Laver won two Slams, plus much dough as am and pro.
The best lady of the game; when right, the winner was Wright.
For defeat he had a disguise: for victory 1,000 or so sad faces.
The hottest were at Green Bay, where Dallas froze at —13°.
The fanciest passer, but Boston kept winning without him.
Always someone to harass him: Sam Huff, cops, Raquel Welch.
A grandfather and 41, but still the top attraction in his racket.
Bednarik went both ways in a title game, the last time for that.
The first major league mouth since Dizzy Dean to win 30.
Orange Juice, Ara and an Ebbing Tide
He scored 54 touchdowns in two years in junior college, but it was the first time he carried the ball in a scrimmage at USC that he jolted the people who mattered. "He busted guys backward," Coach John McKay said, and O.J. Simpson was off to 36 touchdowns and two national rushing titles. Among the guys No. 32 busted backward by the time he was finished were Grange, Harmon, White, Davis, Blanchard—in fact, anybody who ran the ball.
Ara Parseghian (above), a Protestant, just like Rockne, came to floundering Notre Dame in 1964 and restored the Irish to their former heights. But all the wins, and the few losses, were overshadowed by the college game of the decade, the 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State confrontation in which Parseghian settled for a 10-10 finish by running out the clock. "He tied one for The Gipper," jeered detractors. Fit to be tied, too, was the era's other deified coach, Bear Bryant (left). His Alabama teams gave up just 5.6 points a game as they won three national titles. Defense was Bear's Bible. Then college football changed, and 'Bama got beat by scores like 41-14.
A Yankee's Last Hurrah
His body, so powerful, was curiously flawed and could never quite withstand the strains that his talents and impulsiveness imposed on it. Bound by yards of tape, Mickey Mantle played for years in pain, but he gave in only to pride—when he couldn't hit the fast kid pitchers anymore. In a peculiar form of tribute shortly before his final game, Denny McLain dished him up a watermelon of a pitch so that Mantle would be sure to pass Jimmy Foxx on the home run list. In Yankee Stadium on June 8, 1969 they had his Day, and as the ovation for him ran on for seven minutes Mantle was overcome, like Gehrig and Ruth before him. "I never knew," he said, "how someone dying could say he was the luckiest man in the world. But now I understand."
And Finally—See What Follows—Were the Tears of Pure Laughter
SEVENTY SIX PHOTOS