We at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED are a disparate bunch, united by our enjoyment of the sporting life. We are fishermen, sailors, swimmers and rock climbers. We are lunchtime players of basketball and volleyball, bridge and Ping-Pong. We have a coed softball team that competes in Central Park and last week finished its season with a 16-2 record. And we have a semipermanent floating tennis tournament that has been going on all summer and may never end.
Not surprisingly the impetus for most of these activities comes from our youngest staffers, those listed as reporters, senior reporters and writer-reporters on our masthead. Their sporting credentials range from those of Rudy Anderson, who was a starting guard at Hampton Institute, to those of Melissa Ludtke, who rowed stroke on Wellesley's crew. Included in the group are Mark Donovan, who co-captained the Williams College squash team, and Paula Phelps, who once rode barrel races on the Eastern rodeo circuit. There are also a few sedentary sorts such as Daphne Hurford, whose signal sporting accomplishment is living next door to Pitcher Jim Lonborg's brother.
Two of the newest participants in our athletic activities are pictured on this page—marathon runner Christiana Walford and softball pitcher Martha Smilgis. Until Smilgis was recruited for our slow-pitch team, her most memorable sporting experience had been swimming in lotus-blossom formation with a Los Angeles water-ballet troupe. "I was a petal," she says.
Smilgis pitched in 16 games for the SI team, which competes in the Publishers' League and, we must modestly admit, wrapped up its season in first place. Though she posted a 15-1 record, she learned her craft as she played. "When sluggers came up, I'd throw high and make the ball drop down over the plate," she says. "By and large, they'd pop up."
When Walford joined SI 10 years ago her specialties were nature and conservation. Her ignorance of competitive sport was almost total and, until three years ago when she began hiking in the woods outside the city on her days off, she almost never exercised. Then, 14 months ago, she took up running, and two weeks ago capped her conversion by competing in the New York City Marathon in Central Park, her first race at that distance.
"It was the ultimate experience for me," she says. "It was intensely lonely, but I finished. That was the triumph. I could win the Boston Marathon and it would not mean more than this."
Not that Walford's effort lacked tangible rewards. Her time of 3:53.13 was good enough to place her sixth among women marathoners in the New York area and 22nd nationally.
To borrow a phrase from a story (page 84) in this issue: "Play on."
SMILGIS: FAST STUDY, SLOW PITCH
WALFORD: SLOW START, FAST FINISH