In September 1983, assistant managing editor Walter Bingham received a concerned call from his cousin, Larry Norton. "Is everything all right with you?" asked Norton.
"Yes, why?" replied Bingham.
"Because I just opened my SPORTS ILLUSTRATED," said Norton, "and your name's not on the masthead."
Everything was all right. SI had merely lent Bingham's considerable talents to Time magazine for 14 months. And now, Larry, we are happy to report that Bingham's name is again gracing our masthead, as it has for nearly 30 years.
Ray Cave, managing editor of Time and a former SI colleague of Bingham's, asked for Bingham's help in planning and executing Time's Olympic and election coverage. Though happy to oblige, Bingham left SI with some trepidation. "Time's offices were only five floors away," he says, "but it's a whole different world. After spending all those years talking about birdies, RBIs and Steelers, I was going to have to participate in conversations about missiles, the ERA and Sandinistas."
Bingham's wife, Betty, also couldn't help but notice the switch. She now found her husband at home on Saturdays and Sundays for the first time in their 27 years of marriage. SI's staff works weekends and has Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. Betty Bredin became accustomed to the SI schedule even before she met Walter; she joined SI's skeleton staff as a secretary in March of 1954, five months before our inaugural issue and 19 months before Walter signed on with us. "I hated SI 'weekends,' " she says, "until I met Bing."
Bingham, who started out as a clerk on our clip desk, remembers first noticing Betty, by then a reporter, at the water cooler. On their first date, on May 28, 1956, they went to a Yankee-Red Sox game, and the Binghams still have the scorecard: In a one hour, 49 minute shutout, Whitey Ford beat Frank Sullivan 2-0; Ted Williams was injured. Walter and Betty were married seven months later and they've raised four children, David, 26, Eric, 25, Liza, 21, and Amy, 18.
Nice as it was to have him around on the "real" weekend, Betty knew where Walter's heart was. Now, as before, she keeps herself busy from Thursday through Monday selling real estate in Port Washington, N.Y.
Still bothered by Bingham's return to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, however, is the bridge group of which he has been a part for 20 years. The players shuffle and bid their way from suburban Port Washington to Penn Station on the 8:06 each weekday morning. With Bingham's return, the group once more has him three days instead of five. The other players may not consider this a good deal, but Bingham does. "I enjoyed my stint at Time," he says, "but I still spent my Saturdays and Sundays watching sports on television."
THE BINGHAMS: WALTER IS OURS AGAIN