Certain newsmen in Rome have lately taken to calling Dora Jane Hamblin, who reports the Benvenuti-Bethea fight for us on page 14, "Peppermint Patty," after the sports-minded gamine of the Peanuts comic strip. This may be because Dodie, as Miss Hamblin—a longtime LIFE staffer now free-lancing in Rome—is more fondly known, has returned at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S behest to a beat she first patrolled in the early 1940s with only comic-strip success. Dodie was then a cub reporter for The Cedar Rapids ( Iowa) Gazette, and her boss was Gene Farmer, now a LIFE senior editor and co-author with Dodie of a newly published book, First on the Moon (Little, Brown, $7.95), about the men of the Apollo missions.
Farmer was city editor of the Gazette at the time, and he recalls sending Dodie, "a reporter with a Rolleiflex around her neck," out to cover a Coe College football game on a typical Iowa Saturday afternoon which, says Farmer, "can be mighty cold in November." "As a recent Coe graduate," he adds, "Dodie was alive to her personal emotions as well as her professional responsibilities, but in no particular order. She came back into the city room after the game breathing Eskimo Pies and shouting, 'Coe won! Coe won!' 'Fine,' I told her. 'Now, we need your pictures. Get those rolls of film in the soup fast.' At that point, a blank look came over Dodie's face. During the second half of the game when Coe was winning, she had been so busy rooting for her team that she had forgotten to take a single picture."
Soon after that incident, Reporter Hamblin abandoned both sports and journalism and went to Australia to make doughnuts for the soldiers of World War II. The war over, she resumed her journalistic career and for the next two decades she reported and wrote for LIFE both here and abroad on a variety of subjects whose range few journalists of either sex can match. Dodie, in fact, is probably the only newsman in the world who can claim to be not only an expert on, but a close friend of, all of America's spacemen, their wives and Sophia Loren. As a journalist, Dodie never again made a mistake like the mistake she made back in Iowa.
"It's fun," Dodie said last week of her free-lance assignment for us, "to be doing a sports story again. I usually like the combatants, the audience and the people who write about sports. At least the combat is straightforward, governed by rules and not all cluttered up with politics. My highly unprofessional performance at that long-ago football game in Iowa was participatory journalism at its most flagrant, but be assured I shall have no such temptation in Yugoslavia. Nothing could get me inside that ring, and I anticipate no problems other than a slight Italian reluctance to admit ladies to locker rooms. Should this become crucial, I shall dispatch a male surrogate with a good memory."