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The heavily muscled young man moved quickly about the Lewiston ring while photographers snapped his picture over and over and a horde of kids waited impatiently outside the ropes. Finally the young man stepped out through the ropes and 75 times he signed the autograph books popping up around him like dandelions. He wrote: "Best wishes, Ted Stephney."
"Ted Stephney?" one of the boys asked. "Aren't you a fighter?"
"Not now," said Ted. "I retired."
Ted Stephney (New York PAL, circa 1950), is now an editorial assistant in our picture department and he was in the ring at Lewiston to help our photographers check their focus and exposures preparatory to the Clay-Liston fight the following night. And it is Ted Stephney, along with a lot of others, who is responsible for the first live-action color pictures of that event, beginning with this week's cover and extending through the four-page layout that opens with the unusual fisheye photograph on page 49. To produce this kind of fast-closing color while satisfying the deadlines that our Chicago engraving plant imposes involves the kind of controlled furor that keeps a weekly news magazine both weekly and newsy.
Besides Stephney there were in Maine eight photographers (five from SI, three from LIFE), a crew of production specialists, art and photo editors and a chartered twin-engined Cessna standing by. Weeks in advance a special grid of two-inch pipe, 20 feet long, had been constructed to hold our strobe lights above the ring, and 34 electronic flash condensers were set to trigger the strobes. Ten of these units had been borrowed from Roosevelt Raceway, which gave up all but its finish light to help us shed some on Clay's big punch. By midnight Tuesday, Deputy Picture Editor George Bloodgood was on his way to New York in the Cessna, film in hand, and by 9 a.m. Wednesday morning a selection had been made from more than 2,200 color transparencies. Layouts were completed by noon, and at 3 p.m. Wednesday the pictures were on a flight to Chicago.
What made last week particularly unusual, however, was that it not only began with a deadline on the Clay-Liston color but ended with a superdeadline on Monday's Indianapolis 500. Our production schedule is geared to the big weekend events; normally we close out the magazine on Sunday night and send the last copy to the printers early Monday morning. Occasionally, however, a Monday event is important enough to demand inclusion in the current issue, and the big race at Indy fell into that category this year.
The race began at 11 a.m. and was not completed until after 2 o'clock that afternoon. This meant chartering two helicopters to get the black-and-white pictures to the Indianapolis airport, where a three-man team of photographic, art and production people boarded a chartered flight. In Chicago they joined another group standing by to produce engravings by midnight. When press start-up time arrived at 6 a.m. on Tuesday the weekly miracle had occurred: pictures and words on the big fight and the big race were somehow all neatly locked on the press, ready to roll.