Sports Illustrated: History, Facts, and Swimsuits

Dear Kid,

IF you had been around on September 16, 1954, and IF you had been a trend-watching sort of dude, and IF you were interested in sports, you might have noticed the first issue of Sports Illustrated. You weren’t around, so you didn’t notice, so I—being that sort of mother—shall attempt to fill you in.

Sports Illustrated was first published on September 16, 1954. You are now filled in.

But wait, there’s more.

Many people in the magazine publishing industry scoffed (that’s the polite word) at the idea of a magazine devoted entirely to sports. After all, several had already failed (including two named Sports Illustrated). But interest in sports was exploding (if you had been around you might have heard the bang) and color printing was exploding (ditto). All in all, it was a rather explosive beginning.

The magazine more or less (in this case “more”) missed the mark in the early days focusing on polo (the kind with horses rather than water), safaris (the kind with guns rather than cameras), and yachting (the kind with rakish hats). Advertisers yawned and only the snooty rich people cared about the coverage.

Fast forward to the 1960s, when SI (as it wasn’t yet known) began to have full color coverage of sports, began to pay attention to football (the American kind), and introduced the Swimsuit Issue. Wham! (That was the sound barrier being broken as SI’s popularity zoomed up.)

Sports Illustrated has named a Sportsman of the Year since it began. The first such person was Roger Bannister. No extra points for knowing who he is, but you can pat yourself on the back. in 1972 Billie Jean King became the first female to be named Sportsman of the Year.

Love, Mom

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  1. I have a 1954 Sports Illustrated, #10 Jackie Robinson, First Issue – Topps Preview Card. Could you give me some background on this item.

    John Castro
    Woodbridge, Virginia

    • Sorry John, I don’t know anything about it. I get all my info from My Friend the Internet–or my imagination!


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