He is most likely the only third baseman to have been knocked
out by Muhammad Ali, and, like most of the champ's other
victims, Pete Ward never saw it coming. Ward, at the time a
heavyweight among American League power hitters, had long been
scheduled to appear on the cover of SI's June 7, 1965 issue. But
the Tuesday before Ward helped his White Sox win two out of
three in a weekend series against the Yankees and vault into
first place, five SI photographers had been ringside in
Lewiston, Maine, for the rematch between Ali and Sonny Liston.
Ali made quick work of Liston that night, knocking him out in
the first round. He got Ward a few days later.
Following the fight, an SI editor hurried back to New York City
on a chartered Cessna, film in hand. Due to the stringent
deadlines for engraving color images in those days, the editors
had to quickly decide on the cover, and by the next morning they
had chosen the picture that would appear there. The presses soon
rolled with a cover featuring Ali cracking Liston under the
banner THE FIGHT YOU DIDN'T SEE. Among the Ali-Liston images SI
printed in that issue--including the first live action color
photos of the fight--was Neil Leifer's seminal picture of an
enraged Ali standing, screaming, over the fallen Liston. "I kept
waiting for the issue to come out," recalls Ward, 61. "Then it
did, and I knew why I wasn't there."
Ward's baseball career also fell short of its early promise. He
was named American League Rookie Player of the Year by The
Sporting News in 1963 after hitting .295 with 22 home runs and
84 RBIs. The following season Ward had 23 homers and 94 RBIs. In
April 1965, however, he was a passenger in a car that was
rear-ended, leaving him with a case of whiplash that hindered
him for the rest of his career. "The day after the accident I
woke up with a stiff neck," Ward says. "I was never comfortable
from that point on."
Ward retired in 1970 with a .254 average and 98 home runs in nine
seasons. He spent the next decade managing in the minors before
leaving baseball for the travel industry. Today he owns the Pete
Ward Travel & Cruise Center in Lake Oswego, Ore., just outside
Portland. He and his wife of 37 years, Margaret, have three sons
and four grandchildren.
Shortly after the Ali-Liston issue was published, a sympathetic
SI staffer sent Ward four test copies of the cover that never
ran, one of which now hangs in Ward's office. (Another, which
Ward signed and sent to SI vice president of communications Art
Berke many years after the 1965 issue date, is proudly displayed
in the die-hard Sox fan's office.) "You know, Ali was on
something like 40 covers," Ward says with a smile. "It would have
been nice if he could have let me be on just one."
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS/NEIL LEIFER (WARD COVER)
COLOR PHOTO: GEORGE SILK (ALI-LISTON COVER)
Ali made quick work of Liston, KO'ing him in the first round. He
got Ward a few days later.