If the Olympics provided no Incontrovertible hero for 1960, the Games did provide, at least in U.S. eyes, an incontrovertible heroine, Wilma Rudolph. Slender Skeeter Rudolph, the fastest of that team of Tennessee State girls called the Tiger Belles, was an international sensation as she won the 100-and 200-meter dashes and anchored the U.S. 400-meter relay team to victory at Rome. Her long, smooth stride left all opposition behind in the red-brown dust of the Olympic track. Not since Fanny Blankers-Koen of The Netherlands had there been such an Olympic heroine, and not since Babe Didrikson in 1932 had an American woman track star done so well.
Wilma's victories delighted a country long accustomed to seeing solid and stolid Russian and European women dominate the Olympic events. With her lissome grace and warm smile, Wilma was not only a winner, she was delightfully American as well.
If Wilma was unquestionably the best in her specialty, the selection of her counterparts in many other sports was not nearly so simple.
In baseball this was the year that "Beat 'Em Bucs" became the biggest rallying cry since Teddy Roosevelt's "Charge." The Bucs never would have beat the 'ems, however, without Dick Groat to lead them into battle, minuscule ElRoy Face to lead them out again and, most dramatically of all, boyish Bill Mazeroski to hit the home run that ended the 1960 baseball season. Ted Williams hit a glorious home run too. His last time at bat—ever.
The year before, when his team had a 2 and 7 record, they hung Minnesota Football Coach Murray Warmath in effigy, but his tough and determined 1960 team surprisingly turned out to be college football's best. If Warmath was the year's most successful coach, how about Jordan Olivar at Yale, who proved the game can be played superbly, even in an Ivy patch? Among field leaders, the best in the college game was Gibbs, Mississippi's Jake of all trades, while Pro John Unitas still looked unbeatable, even if his Colts didn't.
Basketball's highest performance came from towering Wilt Chamberlain, who smashed pro scoring records by throwing ball after ball down through the hoop. Agile Oscar Robertson led the college scorers, helped the U.S. Olympic team to victory and then became a pro with the most impressive debut since—well, Wilt Chamberlain.
Hockey's rugged nonpareil, Maurice Richard, pleased all goalies by quitting, but another oldster, Gordie Howe, broke alltime scoring marks, and a youngster, Bobby Hull, looked good enough to do the same one day.
Speed sports saw Donald Campbell crash his turbojet car at 365 mph, and not retire; Stirling Moss, auto racing's brave bull, crash at 120 mph, and not retire; and Mira Slovak wreck a hydroplane at 160 mph. He did retire—for two months.
There was speed to spare among swimmers, too, with the youthful likes of Mike Troy, Chris von Saltza and Lynn Burke setting records by the poolful. And this was the year that lovely Carol Heiss danced to a championship on ice; that scrappy Deane Beman scrambled to one on a golf course; and that a fat, happy Dutchman, Willem Geersen, won international honors behind his big black trotter, Hairos II.
Bearing all these outstanding performances well in mind, we give you in the next five pages the 15 sports figures who with Wilma Rudolph make a fitting gallery of runners-up to Arnold Palmer, Sportsman of the Year.