There is a wonderful moment in the children's book the Story of Babar when the little elephant returns home to much excitement and is pronounced king of the forest. Everyone in our New York offices was similarly stirred last week when the American Society of Magazine Editors presented its Ellie—an Alexander Calder stabile of an elephant that is the ASME version of the Oscar—to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for general excellence among magazines with a circulation of more than a million. "We felt 1988 was an extraordinary year for the magazine," said managing editor Mark Mulvoy. "Through our coverage of sports in the United States, the Winter and Summer Olympics, and with our special issue on China, we showed our readers how sports are making the world a smaller place."
The nicest thing about winning an award for "general excellence" is that it goes to all the people on SI's edit staff, many of whom never get the recognition that writers and photographers do.
It was also a good year for the people who make this magazine good to look at. In April contributing photographer Joe McNally was given a University of Missouri School of Journalism Picture of the Year award for his photograph of Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith in last year's special baseball issue (April 4, 1988). And this week the Society of Publication Designers awards a silver medal of distinction to SI for our story in the April 25, 1988, issue on Muhammad Ali's entourage.
The one prize we take somewhat for granted is the Sportswriter of the Year award, which has been given to senior writer Frank Deford each of the last five years by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. "The genius of Frank Deford is not just his writing," says Mulvoy. "It's that he brings so much of himself to every story he writes. Deford has always found things in his subjects that nobody else has found, including the subjects themselves."
There is a saying among actors that when Marlon Brando retires, every other actor will move up a notch. During his 27 years at SI, Deford has been the Brando of the sportswriting profession. With this issue he leaves us to pursue a new career. Deford's splendid story on boxer Archie Moore begins on page 102, and his valedictory is on page 120. We will miss Frank, and like elephants, we will never forget. Everybody else in our business now moves up a notch.
The ASME Ellie capped an excellent 1988 for SI.