Reporters are always detectives to some degree, but for the feature about Lost Treasures (page 114)--the historic balls, uniforms and trophies that have dropped out of sight--a few staff members got to be regular Baker Street Irregulars. First they had to canvass collectors and museum curators to determine the true Holy Grails of sport. They then set about tracking the artifacts to their last known owner and location. They had to interpret clues, use their powers of deduction and ferret out truth from people who sometimes had a vested interest in the outcome. How did they do? Sometimes so well that they solved the mystery.
Consider the curious case of reporter Matt Waxman, who was told by an official at the College Football Hall of Fame that the one artifact he would most love to find was the jersey Roger Staubach wore in the 1963 Army-Navy game. Navy had a four-game winning streak against the cadets then, and its players had DRIVE FOR FIVE¬†stitched on the back of their uniforms. Other jerseys from that game have surfaced but not the Navy quarterback's number 12. When Waxman called Staubach, he said he didn't know what had become of it either. But when the reporter said it might be worth $50,000, Staubach said he'd go look in some boxes. "He called later and said, 'Good news, Matt. My net worth just went way up,'" Waxman says.
Reporter Adam Duerson heard from the National Soccer Hall of Fame that it longed to find the Lewis Cup, awarded to the champs of the American Soccer League from 1925 until '63. Duerson called Gene Chyzowych, the coach of the last team to win the Cup, the Newark Ukrainian Sitch. "Oh, I've seen it," Chyzowych said, and referred Duerson to the clubhouse. The manager there told him that the Cup had been shipped to the Museum of Sports Glory of Ukraine, in Kiev, where it does in fact reside. Next case?
Some grails may be better left unfound. Reporter Jaime Lowe tracked the piece of ear that Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield as far as she could. And reporter Julia Morrill talked to one collector about locating the remains of a Babe Ruth meal. "I think it would be really cool," the man said, when asked about his ultimate piece of Ruthiana, "if you could have one of his half-eaten hot dogs."
You can take the illustrator out of Montreal, but you can't stop him from missing hockey and the Expos. "With the strike and the Nationals," says Barry Blitt, who lives in Connecticut, "it's been a pretty bitter year for this sports fan." That didn't prevent Blitt from rendering an upbeat illustration of SI's ultimate summer sports party (page 84). The assignment made Blitt--who works for The New Yorker and The New York Times and has a children's book coming out soon--think of his teenage days drawing for the Philadelphia Flyers' yearbook and the Pittsburgh Penguins' program. "But I didn't wonder why there were no hockey players at a party for the most-talked-about people in sports," he says.
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY
CRACKING THE CASE
SI reporters (from left) Lowe, Morrill, Waxman and Duerson found buried treasures.
BARRY BLITT (SELF PORTRAIT)