Over the last few months friends, relatives and readers have been wondering whatever became of Steve Rushin. Well, the SI senior writer has been all over the map, from the Astrodome to the Great White Way, from Sunset Boulevard to Killebrew Drive—"The Great Bald Way," says Rushin—tracking the last 40 years of American sports. During his travels, he has been dazzled, delighted and dumped upon (literally and figuratively), and the result is his magnum and magnificent opus, which begins on page 35.
Rushin's chronicle, the longest story SI has ever run in one issue, is the centerpiece of this week's magazine, which marks our 40th birthday. (We fudged a bit, postdating the cover by a day so that the date coincides with our Aug. 16, 1954, premiere issue.) The story of his journey is divided into five parts, each exploring an essential aspect of sports in America. The first part, for instance, revisits the momentous convergence of sports and television, in the person of pioneer Roone Arledge. On his way to interview Arledge, now president of ABC News, in New York City, Rushin was walking north on Broadway, carefully picking lint off his black blazer, when he was bombed by a pigeon. A lesser man might have panicked, but as Rushin says, "The reporter's notebook has more than one use."
Rushin felt like a pigeon when he tried to tackle Jim Brown, whose playing career and charitable works have spanned the 40 years of SI. Rushin kept finding himself in the right place at the wrong time, or in the wrong place at the right time, until finally, like Sam Huff, he pulled Brown down. Even harder to catch was Gary Davidson, the father of renegade sports leagues, who initially insisted that he had had no significant influence on the sporting world; Rushin, however, would ultimately prove otherwise.
Our intrepid author also exhumed the exploits of Judge Roy Hofheinz, the late tycoon who bequeathed us the domed stadium and artificial grass. But Rushin's strangest trip was his shortest, a mere 20-minute drive from his Minneapolis home to the Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minn. The largest shopping center in the U.S. is on the former site of Metropolitan Stadium, the old home of the Minnesota Twins. That was a little wrenching for Rushin: At one time, before he began writing about hot dogs for SI, Steve dispensed them in the concessions commissar) at the Met. "Besides trying to count every store in the mall with any Shaquille O'Neal merchandise in it," says Rushin, "I tried—unsuccessfully—to find one store that carried a Frank Sinatra recording of There Used to Be a Ballpark."
Since last fall Rushin has also spent a great deal of time in his basement, poring over books, magazines and newspaper clippings, so that when he showed up in our offices bearing his work, he was looking a little pale. He was also looking for a more ordinary assignment, so we've sent him to cover a basketball game—in Finland.
Rushin took in a TV wall at the mall.
•With sadness we note the death of Mark Kauffman, whose photographs appeared on many SI covers, including our first. One of the finest sports photographers of his day, Kauffman died Friday at his home in Pismo Beach, Calif., after a short illness. He was 71.