Somehow it does not seem that long ago. The names are still so familiar—Willie Mays, Arnold Palmer, Rocky Marciano and, oh yes, Roger Bannister, the man who did the impossible. In retrospect, it was Bannister's achievement that opened up the infinite possibilities of the years ahead. He did what no man had done before: he broke through the impregnable four-minute mile barrier. After that day at Oxford, anything seemed possible. As the record of these pages shows, just about anything was.
Next year" finally arrived for the Dodgers, who beat the Yankees in the World Series four games to three. The Dodgers' Duke Snider hit four homers, and Johnny Podres pitched two complete-game wins. In the first game 36-year-old Jackie Robinson stole home; in the final game Sandy Amoros made a sparkling catch of Yogi Berra's drive to left in the sixth inning.
Jack Fleck, an almost unknown golfer, upset Ben Hogan in a playoff to win the U.S. Open in San Francisco. There was a thrilling equine rivalry between Swaps and Nashua. In the Kentucky Derby, Swaps, with Willie Shoemaker up, beat Nashua, ridden by Eddie Arcaro. Then, in a match race between the two at Chicago's Washington Park, Nashua, winner of the Preakness and Belmont (neither of which Swaps entered), won by 6� lengths. Defending Indy champ Bill Vukovich was killed in a pileup in the 500. At the 24-hour race at Le Mans, France, a crash took 81 lives. Appearing in their sixth consecutive NFL championship game and Quarterback Otto Graham's last, the Cleveland Browns beat the Rams 38-14. Bud Wilkinson's dynastic Oklahoma Sooners, getting their 30th win in what would be a 47-game streak, were the top college team. His 17-year O.U. record: 145-29-4. Sugar Ray Robinson regained the middleweight title, knocking out Carl (Bobo) Olson.
Mickey Mantle, the Yankees' 24-year-old centerfielder, won the American League Triple Crown, batting .353, hitting 52 homers and driving in 130 runs, but Don Larsen stole his thunder in the World Series triumph over the Dodgers. In the fifth game Larsen pitched the only perfect game in Series history. Pittsburgh's Dale Long set a major league record that yet survives when he hit home runs in eight straight games. Cincinnati's Frank Robinson tied a rookie record by hitting 38 homers. In the first Olympics south of the equator, at Melbourne, Texas' Bobby Morrow won both sprints and anchored the gold-medal sprint relay team to a world record (39.5). Tom Courtney of the U.S. won the 800-meter run and anchored the 1,600-meter relay team to victory. The U.S. swept both hurdle events, Glenn Davis taking the gold in the 400 and Lee Calhoun the 110. Parry O'Brien and Bob Richards repeated their 1952 triumphs, winning the shotput and pole vault, respectively, and Pat McCormick again won both women's diving events.
Rocky Marciano retired undefeated as heavyweight champion, and Floyd Patterson succeeded him by knocking out Archie Moore in the fifth round of their fight for the vacated title. Carmen Basilio lost his welterweight title to Johnny Saxton, then regained it. The University of San Francisco, led by Center Bill Russell, won a second consecutive NCAA basketball championship, defeating Iowa 83-71. A rookie quarterback for the Baltimore Colts, Johnny Unitas, caught his own deflected pass for a net gain of one yard. Australia's Jim Bailey ran the first sub-four-minute mile (3:58.6) in the U.S. By winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Nashua boosted his earnings to $1,288,565.
The New York Giants trounced the Chicago Bears 47-7 for the NFL championship. The Wilson Sporting Goods Company announced that it was working on a fumble-resistant football. The project was not dropped; the ball is in use today.
Althea Gibson, the first black tennis player to gain international acclaim, won the Wimbledon women's singles and women's doubles titles and the U.S. singles at Forest Hills. A man already esteemed as one of the great jockeys, Willie Shoemaker, committed an unforgettable gaffe. Riding Gallant Man to an apparent victory in the Kentucky Derby, he stood up in his irons at the 16th pole, assuming incorrectly that the race was over. Iron Liege surged by him to win the race. The Braves brought a World Series championship to their 5-year-old home, Milwaukee's County Stadium, by beating the Yankees four games to three, Lew Burdette pitching three complete-game victories.