It was the year of the Johansson-Patterson fight and the revolution in boxing, but it was also the year the Yankees lost the pennant, the year Casey Stengel was humiliated by a dismal third-place finish. To Al Lopez, who beat Casey, an admiring bow, and to one of Al's key players a special salute (see next page). It was a rare baseball year: an unknown with the Washington Senators named Harmon Killebrew turned into a sensational slugger, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, seventh in 1958, won not only the National League pennant but the World Series as well. College football was shot through with upsets, which stimulated everyone except those who had to play Syracuse. Pro football, on the other hand, followed form: the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts were the big fellows again. Track and field brought the Soviet Union and the U.S. together in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, and while the competition was strong, the spirit of amity was evident everywhere. Not so, unhappily, in the area of the Olympics, where the question of Nationalist China vs. Communist China caused an uproar and got Avery Brundage into another headline hassle. There was a hassle in our editorial offices, too. Everyone agreed that Ingemar Johansson was a splendid choice for Sportsman of the Year, but the question of who deserved special recognition as runners-up provoked a few arguments. Our experts, who cover everything from pro football ( Tex Maule) to modern pentathlon ( Alice Higgins), settled on the 15 people pictured on the following pages.
Charlie Conerly, quarterback of the New York Giants, is lined and gaunt after a dozen years of professional football, but he continues to take with aplomb the physical beating which is his occupational hazard. Sidelined with injuries at midseason, he returned to fire up a sluggish Giant attack to an exciting peak of efficiency. In gratitude the Giants had a "day" for Conerly, and admirers gave him stocks and bonds, two automobiles, seed for his cotton farm in Mississippi, a Guernsey calf. Charlie accepted the salute graciously, but with a minimum of emotion; not too many years earlier, Giant fans had waved banners from the stands saying "Go Home, Conerly!" Charlie took the banners of the bad days and the gifts of the good with the same poised control. That poise, or confidence, is the mark of the superb athlete and is the rare, almost magical quality that enables a man like Conerly to turn a fair team into a very good one.
Jacob Nelson Fox is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds, a set of measurements he arrives at by cheating. Without spikes he is an inch shorter, and without the most cheek-distorting chaw of tobacco in all baseball he would weigh at least a pound less. He cannot run very fast or throw very hard, and if he hits five home runs a season he is having an exceptional year. Yet Nellie Fox was the Most Valuable Player in the American League in 1959. What Nellie does is burn to win, and to accomplish this he plays baseball as hard as he can, all the time. He is held in vast respect by his opponents, in virtual reverence by his teammates and friends. He has fought and thought his way to becoming the best second baseman in either league, a canny, catlike fielder and a wizard at punching and chopping hits with his stubby, barrel-shaped bat. This past season he hit .306 and led the Chicago White Sox to their first pennant in 40 years.
It is platitudinous to pile praise on Sam Snead, but what else is there to do? At 47 he still plays golf as well as anyone ever has. Art Wall started the season well with his performance on the winter circuit, but after he won the Masters he wasn't able to hold the same competitive edge. Billy Casper's victory in the Open was only a momentary explosion. More will be heard from Jack Nicklaus, the 19-year-old Ohioan who won the National Amateur, and Deane Beman, the Maryland youth who brought back the British Amateur. But 1959 was the year when Sam Snead shot That Incredible 59 at Greenbrier, the finest round of golf ever played in major competition, and it was also the year when Sam entranced millions of armchair fans by winning 13 consecutive matches and $28,500 on the weekly TV golf program. Certainly no one had more impact on golf during the year than the aging—or ageless—Sam Snead.
Automobile racing invested two outstanding new champions in 1959. Rodger Ward, the chunky and affable Indianapolis winner, stood head and shoulders above all the drivers on the U.S. big-car circuit. Yet, despite Ward's memorable year, 1959's top honors more rightly belong to that quiet and able Australian driver, Jack Brabham, who rose from comparative obscurity to win the FIA world driving championship, a title that goes with the best over-all performance in Grand Prix cars. Brabham's dramatic performance at Sebring in December in the first modern Grand Prix run in the U.S. impressed everyone not only with Jack's gifts as a driver but also with his gusty competitive spirit. If Grand Prix racing ever achieves the popularity it deserves in this country, Jack Brabham can certainly take a bow. At Sebring, as well as on the courses of Europe, he epitomizes all that U.S. sports buffs like to find in their heroes.
Bily Cannon, Louisiana State's fabulous halfback, looks so much like a footbal player that you sometimes wonder if he is real. He is a good-looking boy, with a well-shaped, handsome head set on tremendous shoulders. His arms are big and muscular, his waist narrow, his legs extremely powerful. At 6 feet 1 inch he weighs a rock-hard 205 pounds and can run 100 yards in 9.5 seconds. He has teen a special target for every LSU opponent, but in the past two seasons his team won 20 of its 21 games and nobody ever really stopped Cannon. "Billy," Says a teammate, "isn't the kind who scores five touchdowns against Podunk U. He's the kind who runs 89 yards in the last quarter to beat Mississippi." Once considered on the verge of juvenile delinquency because of a minor teen-age mishap, Billy Cannon—married, father of three small girls, twice All-America, winner of the Heisman Trophy—has grown up to be a very fine young man.
Neale Fraser hit the Australian tennis scene simultaneously with Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall, who ruled amateur tennis from 1953 through 1956. When the two became professionals in 1957, Fraser continued in a subordinate role behind two new Aussies, Ashley Cooper and Mai Anderson. In 1959 Cooper and Anderson, too, turned pro, but Neale, by now a venerable 26, was still overshadowed—by his youthful teammate Rod Laver and by America's imported Peruvian, Alex Olmedo. Persistent and determined, Fraser put new teeth into his strong service, cured the flaws in his backhand, and in Davis Cup play suddenly blossomed forth as the big man of tennis, the star. He beat the glamorous Olmedo, won his other singles match, too, and teamed with Roy Emerson to win the doubles. Later, in the U.S. singles, he trounced Olmedo again to clinch his right to be called the best amateur tennis player in the world.
Unknown to American trotting fans and unfamiliar with our racing traditions, Jean Riaud and his horse Jamin arrived in New York last July as France's representative in the first International Trotting Championship. Riaud and Jamin won that race, and they won a number of other important events as they later toured the country. Yet it was not their victories alone which attracted thousands of spectators to the tracks they visited and created countless new fans, but the force of Jean Riaud's warm Gallic personality—which transcends trotting as Sam Snead's transcends golf, and as no other personality in harness racing has done before. Of course, Riaud's considerable skill as a trainer and as a driver left a lasting impression on American trotting experts, too. He is a figure to be reckoned with in future international competitions, which his highly successful visit to this country has done much to foster.
By emphasizing their leg power, the small Japanese literally kicked their way past the giants of the swimming world a quarter of a century ago. But in the past four years, as the Australians re-emphasized the arm stroke and led the world back to a proper style of crawl swimming, superiority returned without question to the larger men. But for all the disadvantage of their small stature, the Japanese last year were back at the top. The 5-foot-6-inch, 150-pound Tsuyoshi Yamanaka, who has lived most of his life by the Sea of Japan but who swims now more like an Australian, set world records at 200 and 400 meters and led his teammates to a new world record in the 800-meter freestyle relay. In the next few months the redoubtable Jon Konrads of Australia will probably be swimming all-out and doubtless dominating the sport once again but, by the record, the year just past belongs to Yamanaka of Japan.
For five years in a row Jack Twyman has been one of professional basketball's star players and top scorers, although his team, the Cincinnati Royals, has seldom been out of last place. But for all his skills, it is more his selfless devotion to his teammate, Maurice Stokes, that makes Twyman stand out as a sportsman. Since March 15, 1958, when Stokes was suddenly stricken by a paralyzing brain disease, Twyman has dedicated himself to Maurice's rehabilitation. He had himself appointed Stokes's legal guardian, has raised thousands of dollars to pay for the extremely costly round-the-clock care that Stokes has required and has been continually at his side during the long ordeal. At the same time, he has maintained his own exceptionally high level of playing skill. Happily, Maurice Stokes at last shows signs of emerging from his paralysis, a welcome tribute to his own courage and to Jack Twyman's dedication.