It's a tribute to Walter Bingham's versatility that his ascent of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S masthead has resembled that of a climber on Everest, his steady movement upward having been interrupted by frequent traverses as his own inclinations and current situations have demanded. Bingham, who joined us in 1955, has surely filled more roles on the staff than anyone else. He has been on the clip desk, a reporter, a writer and an editor; he has gone back to writing and then back to editing; he has been in charge of the outside text department and chief of research. He has written about or supervised coverage of almost every major sport and many of the minors. Recently we loaned him for several months to the task force planning a forthcoming magazine TV-CABLE WEEK, to help it develop a staff of editors and writers. And, as of Nov. 11, Bingham became our newest assistant managing editor.
If one is versatile in his professional life, his versatility rarely stops there, and Bingham's certainly doesn't. Aside from Bill Colson (perhaps a ringer because he once won a national junior championship) Bingham was for many years the best tennis player on a staff of tennis players; he's still the best distance runner (two-time Olympic marathoner Kenny Moore is undeniably a ringer) on a staff of runners, with seven marathons going back to 1965 and a personal best of 3:13:51; and he's the best bridge player (occasional partner of former world champions Eddie Kantar and Oswald Jacoby)—indeed, with a pickup partner, Bingham won a duplicate tournament just last week. This talent undoubtedly derives in some measure from the world-class Bingham memory—useful when we need to know the date and score of some game played in 1937, but most agreeable in the form of his total recall of virtually all the songs from all the Broadway and movie musicals of the '40s and '50s.
But there's one area in which Walt and his wife, Betty (a former SI reporter), excel that is especially appreciated around here: They're the best hosts. We hire and bring to New York talented people from all over the country, and many of them get their first introduction to—and become at ease with—the rest of the staff at the Bingham home in Port Washington on Long Island. The annual Bingham Bowl, for some years now a Memorial Day fixture, involves the consumption of enormous quantities of ham, potato salad and beer and daylong athletic competition that renews the vigor of younger staffers and leaves the older ones with sprained ankles, pulled muscles and lower-back spasms. In 1976 the Binghams organized and began sponsoring the Thanksgiving Day Port Washington Five-Mile Road Race for two purposes: to raise money for sports after their local school budget had been cut, and second, to memorialize Walt's fellow SI marathoner Gwilym Brown, who died in 1974. Last month's event drew 1,500 runners, including some top-class competitors and three SI staffers.
Walt has never won his own race, though his best time is a very respectable 30:31, but he'll keep running. At 52 he says, "I'll never stop. I plan to run forever." When he's not hitting overheads, or dealing the cards, or changing typewriter ribbons, or....
BINGHAM: EDITING'S NOT THE HALF OF IT