The publication date of Sport Illustrated Magazine’s premiere issue was August 16, 1954. It featured Milwaukee Braves slugger Eddie Mathews on the cover.
Six days later, the fist incident of the Sports Illustrated Jinx occurred.
The Milwaukee Braves were playing the Cubs at Wrigley field, and Mathews got hit on his left hand. It was the result of an errant fifth inning pitch from Chicago’s Hal Jeffcoat. Mathews had to come out of the game and was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital. X-rays were taken there, but did not show any fractures. However, he was unable to return to action for another week.
The first issue of Sports Illustrated was dated August 16, 1954. However, as is the case with most magazines, the August 16 edition hit the newsstands a few days earlier, on August 12. On August 2, 1954, The Wall Street Journal reported that “More than 300,000 persons to date have subscribed for Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine’s new weekly magazine, President Roy E. Larsen announced. The sport magazine will be on sale on newsstands on August 12. Mr. Larsen said some $1,250,000 worth of advertising space, with rates based on an average net paid circulation of 450,000, has been sold.”
On September 12, 1954 Orville Hopkins in the Washington Post wrote:
You’d have to say I guess, that the new Luce book, Sports Illustrated, is a pretty hot, item. They could have christened it, judging from this week’s issue, Sports Spectacular. You never saw so many high-class color photos, dynamic action shots (including one of a a party in short, pants grappling with a big fish under water), detailed diagrams and big name writers in your natural life. Red Smith writes—I guess it was inevitable—the piece about Walter Alston, the Brooklyn manager. (And, for Red, it isn’t much good.) Budd Schulberg writes about Marciano and Charles, who are having a fight this week. Philip Wylie pens a complaint about spear-fishermen. And Herman Hickman selects Maryland as one of his “eleven best elevens” for this season. Altogether, big.
In 1997 Michael MacCambridge wrote “The Franchise: A History of Sports Illustrated Magazine”.
This is an exhaustively researched and detailed tell-all chronicle of Sports Illustrated’s first 43 years. As such it is also the story of the rise of big-time sports in the latter third of this century from Balkanized rinky-dinkdom to today’s megabillion-dollar industry, second in Americans’ affection only to sex. So intertwined are the two tales that it is impossible to say precisely how much S.I. did to fuel the boom and how much the boom did to fuel S.I., but the evidence as presented here suggests that the one probably couldn’t have reached its staggering success without the other.
Read the Whole NY Times Review
The Butte Copper Kings of the Pioneer League offered free admission to anyone belonging to a group insulted by Atlanta Braves reliever John Rocker in a December, 1999 Sports Illustrated interview.
That night they had their best attendance of the season as 676 fans (presumably some not mentioned by Rocker in the interview, and thus having to pay in order to see the ballgame) watched the Copper Kings get slaughtered by the Idaho Falls Padres, 18-6.
Among those eligible were
Kids with purple hair
Queers with AIDS
Dudes who just got out of jail for the fourth time
20-year-old moms with four kids.