Now that Don Delliquanti has returned to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED after a disaster-laden 14-year hiatus, it's hard to decide who's luckier—Delliquanti for having survived his trials or the magazine for getting him back. Between his departure from SI in 1981 and his return to our New York City offices as an assistant picture editor last June, Delliquanti lived through two major earthquakes and a plane crash. "All these bad things kept happening while I was away," he says. "That was all the more reason to come back to SI."
Delliquanti first came to SI in 1970 as a reporter, eventually moving to the photo department, where by 1978 he had risen to the position of assistant picture editor. While working on a cover story that year about horse-race fixing, he met his future wife, Mary, a Time Inc. lawyer who vetted the article before publication. They married in 1980.
Don left the following year and was working as a photo editor for The New York Times in 1982 when a charter DC-10 he and Mary had boarded while on vacation in Malaga, Spain, encountered trouble. The takeoff was aborted, and the plane skidded off the runway, bursting into flames. Fifty-six people died in the accident. The Delliquantis barely escaped. Mary broke a bone in her foot jumping from the plane's wing, and Don got a few scratches. "The cabin was filling with smoke," Don says. "Another 60 seconds and we would have been gone." They sailed home, and neither has been on a plane since.
Not long afterward Don became manager of photo operations for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, and the Delliquantis settled in California, where their son, Devin, was born in March 1984. Around the time Devin turned two, Mary's job as a criminal defense lawyer started to require her to spend more time in court, so Don stayed home with their son for the next nine years, taking law courses at night and occasionally freelancing for SI. The family now lives in New Jersey, where Devin, an avid soccer fan and player, relishes one facet of East Coast life in particular. "No more earthquakes," he says.
The Delliquantis have been rattled by two monumental quakes. Don was in the upper deck at Candlestick Park when San Francisco was jolted during the 1989 World Series, but he escaped without injury. And the January 1994 Northridge quake rocked the family's Studio City home. The only lasting damage came from a bottle of Worcestershire sauce that shattered on the kitchen floor. "It took three months to get rid of the odor," Don says. "I still think of earthquakes whenever I smell Worcestershire sauce."
At SI, Don is back in familiar territory. Having freelanced for the magazine at the 1987, '88 and '93 Super Bowls, he's editing pro football photos for our NFL Plus sections and has already made a reservation on Amtrak for next January's Super Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. "He can edit any sport, from hockey to soccer to basketball," says deputy picture editor Steve Fine. "It's terrific to have him back in the fold—safely."