- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Arnold Palmer, the new Galahad of the links, charged to victory in the Masters, the U.S. Open and five other tournaments, pocketing a record $75,262.85. In the Open at Denver's Cherry Hills, he came from seven strokes back on the last day, birdieing six of the first seven holes for a 30 on the front nine, and scored a 65 for the round. At the Olympic Games in Rome, Wilma Rudolph, one of 19 sisters and brothers, became the first American woman to win both sprints. She took a third gold medal, anchoring the 400-meter relay team. Running barefoot, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won an affecting marathon. A noisy kid from Louisville took the light-heavyweight boxing title.
The Montreal Canadiens won a record fifth straight NHL championship, and Maurice (Rocket) Richard, a wing of volatile mood and towering skill, retired. Another alltimer, Ted Williams, also retired. Bill Mazeroski won a wacky World Series for Pittsburgh with a ninth-inning homer in the seventh game. Floyd Patterson became the first fighter to regain the heavyweight championship when he knocked out Ingemar Johansson in a return match. And into the NBA came a giant among giants, name of Wilt.
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. won eight straight fights in this, his first full year as a professional and both charmed and annoyed boxing fans with his braggadocio. "Who made me—is me," he proclaimed and, though only 19, began making sounds about wresting the heavyweight title from Floyd Patterson. Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs in a season was threatened over the long summer by not one man, but two—Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees. By the end of July Maris had 40 homers and Mantle 39. By Sept. 1 Maris had 51 and Mantle 48. After the 154th game of an American League season lengthened for the first time to 162 games, Maris was one shy of the Babe. The purists contended that he had, therefore, failed, because Ruth hit his 60 in a 154-game schedule.
But Maris kept swinging. He hit No. 60 on Sept. 26 in the 159th game, and in the final game of the season for the Yankees he smote his 61st off Boston's Tracy Stallard. Mantle finished with 54. Yielding to pressure from the Ruth preservation lobby, Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick decreed that an asterisk be placed after Maris' name in the record books and that Ruth should remain in them as the home run king of the 154-game schedule. With Mr. Asterisk and Mantle leading them, the Yankees easily defeated the Reds in the Series, four games to one.
In his first regular-season NFL game, Minnesota rookie Fran Tarkenton passed for four touchdowns and ran for a fifth. The rest of the season was not so easy. The fledgling Vikings finished last in the Western Conference with a record of 3—11. The Green Bay Packers, coached by Vince Lombardi, demolished the Giants in the NFL title game 37-0. In the first AFL championship game, Houston beat the L.A. (later San Diego) Chargers 24-16. George Blanda passed for three touchdowns and kicked a field goal and three points. Russia's Valeri Brumel set a world record of 7'4�" in the high jump.
He was pudgy and blond and rather solemn, and no "Army" followed his charges down the fairway, but Jack Nicklaus was getting his share of Arnold Palmer's action. At 23, Nicklaus became the youngest golfer to win the Masters. He also won the PGA Championship and finished second to Arnie in prize money with $100,040. The Age of Nicklaus was dawning, and it is with us yet. Another youthful golfer about whom much would be heard later was Judy Torluemke (now Rankin), who, at 18, was the youngest player on the women's tour.