'He called upon himself to transmute peril into triumph'
'A genus that had seemed on its way to becoming as extinct an American joy as the rumble seat'
'The first college football player in all the years of the game to be so unanimously decorated'
'An amazing athlete...a tremendous runner...intelligent...and an outstanding leader'
On an arctic Saturday afternoon in December of this past year the Oregon State football team was playing Villanova in the Liberty Bowl in Philadelphia, one of the first of the intercollegiate bowl games that proliferate around the country at the end of each autumn. The game was scarcely five minutes old when Oregon State found itself in possession of the ball a mere 99 44/100 yards away from the opponent's goal line. At that moment Terry Baker, the Oregon State quarterback (see cover), did exactly what he had done whenever his team had been in trouble during the three years of his varsity football career. Like a James Bond in shoulder pads, he called on himself to transmute imminent peril into triumph.
Baker—all 6 feet 3 of him, a skinny geometry of knees and elbows—loped from the huddle to his quarterback station behind the center and bent down to receive the ball. The Villanova line tensely crouched to spring on Baker behind his own goal line for a two-point safety. When the ball was snapped, he casually tucked it into the crook of his left arm and ambled in long-legged strides across the frozen turf toward the sidelines. With the help of some furious blocking by his teammates, Baker escaped from the grasping arms of two Villanova tacklers, emerged from the end zone, shook off another tackier and ran the full length of the field for a touchdown. It turned out to be the only score of the game and, typically, it was this performance of Baker's in the face of disaster that brought a 6-0 victory to his team.
Thinking back over the last 12 months, one is impressed by the fact that 1962 produced no pioneers of sport, no revolutionists. There was no Roger Bannister to demonstrate that man is an animal without limitations. There was no Jackie Robinson to make a social weapon out of sport. There was no Babe Ruth or Red Grange to launch into outer space the imaginations of narcissistic youth or earth-bound middle age. It was a sporting year that retrenched and entrenched the established skills.
The men of sport who left the biggest mark on 1962 were the perfectionists. There was Emil (Bus) Mosbacher, the 40-year-old yachtsman whose passionate devotion to detail preserved the America's Cup from the 18th foreign challenge (Australian rather than British, for a change) and thereby confirmed that in heavyweight yachting the nation's prestige was still intact (see page 22). There was Sonny Liston, a man of dubious background but indubitable fists, who easily and quickly lifted the heavyweight boxing championship from Floyd Patterson's neurotic shoulders. There was Maury Wills, the spidery and determined shortstop of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who stole 104 bases in a season and, in doing so, demonstrated that baseball can still be the game of thrilling inches that it was in the days when Ty Cobb was wowing Wills's grandparents and their generation. There was Bart Starr, the intellectual and imperturbable professional quarterback, who led the apparently insuperable Green Bay Packers to their second consecutive National Football League championship, a summit from which no one seems likely to dislodge them. And finally there was Jim Beatty, the middle-distance genius who proved—with a world record in the two miles and the world's first sub-four-minute mile indoors—that with the right training Americans can win races longer than the dashes.
But 1962 also produced another kind of sportsman, a genus that had seemed on its way to becoming as extinct an American joy as the rumble seat and the ukulele: namely, the college football hero. Such was Terry Baker. In an era when the celebrated college athlete is turning into a special kind of mercenary, living and competing in a culture apart from that of the ordinary undergraduate, it is fitting that Baker, a throwback to an epoch in which the likes of Barry Wood and Byron (Whizzer) White inspired the undergraduates at Harvard and Colorado, should emerge from a bucolic campus deep in the forests of the Northwest, where the simple verities of small-town American life are still held in high esteem.
As a climax to the regular 1962 season, when Baker broke virtually every important Oregon State football record and led the nation in individual offense, he guided his team to a last-minute, come-from-behind 20-17 victory over the University of Oregon, State's traditional rival. After the final gun, Baker's teammates hoisted him to their shoulders and carried him off the field in triumph, almost as if he were a coach. "In all my years of football," said Tommy Prothro, the 42-year-old head coach of football at Oregon State, "I have never seen the players do that to one of their teammates."