He is most likely the only third baseman to have been knocked out by Muhammad Ali, and like most of the champ's other victims, Pete Ward never saw it coming. Ward, at the time a heavyweight among American League power hitters, had long been scheduled to appear on the cover of SI's June 7, 1965, issue. But the Tuesday before Ward helped his White Sox win two out of three in a weekend series against the Yankees and vault into first place, five SI photographers had been ringside for the rematch between Ali and Sonny Liston. Ali made quick work of Liston, knocking him out in the first round.
Following the fight, the presses rolled with a cover featuring Ali cracking Liston under the banner THE FIGHT YOU DIDN'T SEE. "I kept waiting for the issue to come out," recalls Ward, 66. "Then it did, and I knew why I wasn't there."
Ward's baseball career also fell short of its early promise. He was named AL Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News in '63 after hitting .295 with 22 home runs and 84 RBIs. In April '65, however, he was a passenger in a car that was rear-ended, leaving him with a case of whiplash that hindered him for the rest of his career.
Ward retired in 1970 with a .254 average and 98 home runs in nine seasons. He spent the next decade managing in the minors before leaving baseball in '85 to found the Pete Ward Travel & Cruise Center outside Portland, which he owned for nearly 20 years.
Shortly after the Ali-Liston issue was published, a sympathetic SI staffer sent Ward four test copies of the cover that never ran, one of which hangs in Ward's office."You know, Ali was on something like 40 covers," Ward says with a smile. "It would have been nice if he could have let me be on just one."