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THE BEST OF TIMES
Ron Fimrite
November 15, 1989
THERE HAVE BEEN GOATS AS WELL AS HEROES, AND AS MANY LOSERS AS WINNERS, BUT THE THREE-AND-A-HALF DECADES SINCE ROGER BANNISTER'S EPOCHAL FOUR-MINUTE MILE (LEFT), ON MAY 6, 1954, HAVE BEEN WONDROUSLY RICH IN ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENT. THE FOLLOWING PAGES PROVIDE A YEAR-BY-YEAR CHRONICLE, BEGINNING WITH RON FIMRITE'S FOND AND EVOCATIVE LOOK BACK AT '54.
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November 15, 1989

The Best Of Times

THERE HAVE BEEN GOATS AS WELL AS HEROES, AND AS MANY LOSERS AS WINNERS, BUT THE THREE-AND-A-HALF DECADES SINCE ROGER BANNISTER'S EPOCHAL FOUR-MINUTE MILE (LEFT), ON MAY 6, 1954, HAVE BEEN WONDROUSLY RICH IN ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENT. THE FOLLOWING PAGES PROVIDE A YEAR-BY-YEAR CHRONICLE, BEGINNING WITH RON FIMRITE'S FOND AND EVOCATIVE LOOK BACK AT '54.

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NEWS OF THE DAY. On May 17, in a unanimous decision read by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. The decision will force 21 states—17 where school segregation has been legal and four that have condoned it—to conform to federal law. It effectively launches the civil rights movement.

•Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, whose name is already synonymous with demagoguery, gets his comeuppance from every corner. Edward R. Murrow exposes McCarthy's bullying and boorish Red-baiting in a devastating documentary for the TV program See It Now. Cartoonist Walt Kelly, in his enormously popular Pogo comic strip, mocks McCarthy as "Simple J. Malarkey." Boston lawyer Joseph Welch shames and embarrasses him during the otherwise aimless Army versus McCarthy Senate subcommittee hearings after McCarthy accuses Welch's law partner, Fred Fisher, of "serving the Communist cause." "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness," an indignant Welch responds. "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?"

•The first nuclear-powered submarine, Nautilus, is launched Jan. 21 by Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover.

•Swanson introduces the first TV dinner.

•In an off-year election, the Democrats chide President Eisenhower for spending too much time on the golf course. Vice-President Nixon rises to his defense: "If the President spent as much time playing golf as Truman spent playing poker, he could beat Ben Hogan."

SLAMMIN' SAM AND THE HACKER. On April 9, Billy Joe Patton, a 31-year-old North Carolinian, became the first amateur in the 18-year history of the Masters to lead after the first two rounds, and he hung in there almost to the end, sinking a hole in one on the 190-yard 6th on the final day. But at the finish, those noble veterans, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan, both 41 at the time, were the only players left. They finished in a dead heat after regulation play. Snead won by a stroke in the 18-hole playoff. It was Slammin' Sam's third Masters title, and he entered the U.S. Open at Baltusrol in New Jersey convinced that his time, in what was for him a forever elusive tournament, had finally come. He was wrong.

Snead, in trouble from the start, watched helplessly as Hogan, 23-year-old Gene Littler and an old pro from St. Louis, Ed Furgol, passed him by. Furgol, 37, played with a true handicap. He had broken his left arm in a childhood accident, and the break never mended properly, the arm eventually withering. But Furgol persevered, using a bent-arm swing that made him look like a weekend hacker, which he definitely was not.

Littler went into the last day two strokes ahead of Hogan and Furgol. But Hogan dropped off the pace, and it looked as if Furgol would slip as well when, on the last hole, he hooked his drive deep into the rough where trees blocked his path to the green. Furgol, who had a one-stroke lead over Littler at the time, showed no signs of panic. Improvising brilliantly, he curled a long iron shot onto the next fairway. He reached the apron of the 18th green in three, chipped up smartly and sank a tricky downhill putt for par. Littler reached the final green in three and needed birdie 4 to tie Furgol, but he missed an eight-foot putt and lost by a stroke.

THE DOMESTIC FRONT. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe are married in January, divorced in October. The marriage of "poor little rich girl" Barbara Hutton to Dominican diplomat and international playboy Porfirio Rubirosa lasts 73 days. He takes up with Zsa Zsa Gabor, who divorces actor George Sanders, her third husband. Asbestos heir Tommy Manville is separated from his ninth wife, one Anita Roddy-Eden Manville. Actress Ava Gardner splits with Frank Sinatra and, as Frankie grieves, takes up with bullfighter Dominguin. Bobo Rockefeller wins a $5.5 million divorce settlement from Winthrop Rockefeller and is romanced by Nevada hotelman Charlie Mapes. Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, the cute couple of the year, are engaged.

TEE-VEE. I Love Lucy, Dragnet, The Life of Riley, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, What's My Line, You Bet Your Life, This Is Your Life, Mr. Peepers, Tonight, Arthur Godfrey and His Friends, That's My Boy, Omnibus, Studio One. In his book, Treadmill to Oblivion, published this year, radio comedian Fred Allen writes that anyone caught watching one of the new television game shows should be locked in his own house by federal authorities. Then, writes Allen, "with all the morons in America trapped, the rest of the population could go about its business."

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