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Sports Magazines 1953… The Magazines And I Book. Chapter 11, Part 1.

August 19, 2021

Sports Magazines … is the 11th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter 11 part one.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

In the 1950s, sports was still at the top of many people’s priority list. Two of the most popular were baseball and boxing, and of course, football was coming around. And in 1953 there was no Sports Illustrated (1954) or any ESPN (1990s), but there was plenty of other sources to cover America’s favorite pastime game, baseball. The 1950s saw college football a lot more celebrated than pro ball, much like it is today, at least in the world of the SEC. Most southerners will plan weddings, anniversaries, and even funerals around SEC games. It’s just something we do. And yes, Mr. Magazine™ is most definitely a transplanted southerner having lived in the South since he was 30 years old. Pro football really took off in the 1960s when games began to be televised. 

These “spectator” sports, as opposed to the more individually relaxing sports such as fishing and hunting, were games that people wanted to attend. Events that many had to watch in person. And of course, they wanted to read about them in their favorite sports magazines.

This era saw a variety of different sports magazines and even a newspaper as The Sporting News (established in 1886 as a print magazine) held the proud tagline of being “The Baseball Paper of the World” when covering these very important and exciting topics. From baseball to boxing to wrestling to basketball, sports was a very large category of publications during the 1950s, and especially in March 1953. In Chapter Eleven, we take a look at some of Mr. Magazine’s™ personal accumulation, magazines that have a crucial place in the vast vault of his collection.

Welcome to the wonderful world of sports, March 1953…

ALLSPORTS

Published and distributed complimentary by the U.S. Tire Distributors, Allsports was a magazine that was offered through local auto service and tire dealers. It featured a thin offering (14 pages total) of content on all sports (just as the name suggests). Baseball, fishing, the Olympics, football and other spectator events were covered, complete with photos and many tire ads. 

The March/April 1953 issue that Mr. Magazine™ procured is from an auto and truck service in Indiana. Then President Dwight D. Eisenhower was on the cover showing off his fishing skills, along with baseball picks by baseball expert  Dan Daniel. It was a great little magazine, especially considering it was free, for sports fans around the country. 

BASEBALL DIGEST

The First issue of Baseball Digest came out in August 1942 and was created by a sportswriter who worked for the Chicago Daily Times, Herbert F. Simons. He knew Reader’s Digest was a great success, so he figured why not one about baseball, hence Baseball Digest was born. And today it’s the nation`s longest-running baseball magazine. In the beginning, it was a small black-and-white publication, but today it’s a full-sized, full-color magazine. The magazine is a resource for all things baseball with statistics and data that brought everything together for the fan. It is a must for the hard-core fan. 

The March 1953 issue had a book feature by sports journalist, Arthur Daley, called Times At Bat and had feature articles such as Pitchers Toughest To Hit: Lemon, Hacker, Raschi, Rush by Harold Sheldon and Blood Money For The Dodgers by Michael Gaven. It gave the 1953 baseball fan everything that was going on in the month of March and offered so many more articles than just the three mentioned. The content was massive for its then digest size. 

BASEBALL MAGAZINE

Baseball Magazine was the first monthly baseball magazine published in the United States. Jake Morse, an influential Boston Herald sportswriter, founded the magazine before the 1908 season. A monthly magazine for baseball was unprecedented for the times, and allowed for more lengthy, in depth stories and reporting. It definitely filled a desire and a need in readers ravenous for their baseball updates and behind-the-scenes news. 

By the time March 1953 rolled around, the magazine was published eight times a year and with the Spring issue offered up a cornucopia of fantastic baseball articles by writers such as Harold (Pee Wee) Reese, Harold Rosenthal from the New York Herald Tribune and a number of other amazing sportswriters. There was a section on Rookies of the Year and a Baseball Game Photo Quiz. It was fun and informative, but unfortunately went defunct in 1957 in its original form. It was briefly revived a few years later, but to no avail.

BOXING AND WRESTLING

This magazine was touted as “two magazines in one” with its boxing content and its wrestling features. The magazine also had a tagline that read The Magazine For Combat Fans, since of course boxing and wrestling were considered combat sports. The title was founded by Canadian bodybuilder and entrepreneur, Joe Weider, who had a publishing empire that basically consisted of “physique-building”  or muscle magazines, except for a couple of “skin” titles. Weider was considered a pioneer in the world of bodybuilding and physical sports.

March 1953 saw boxers Chuck Davey, Johnny Bratton, Johnny Saxton and Kid Gavilan on its cover, with the all-important question: Will Kid Gavilan Lose His Title as the cover line. With stories on boxing and wrestling, the magazine was sure to please all fans of these very physical sports. The content was divided into two sections and very easy to navigate for individual fans. Entertaining and informative to say the least.

BOXING LIFE

Another pulp publisher, Martin Goodman, who went on to launch the company that would become Marvel Comics, created this boxing magazine that called itself Boxing Life. Goodman, who was reported to be the oldest son of 17 children, traveled the country during the Great Depression when he was a young man, living in hobo camps as he went. He fell into publishing through future Archie Comics cofounder Louis Silberkleit. Goodman went on to publish many genres of magazines, from sports to romance to general interest.

March 1953 saw Rocky Marciano on the cover fighting Joe Walcott. There was a Ring Roundup consisting of America’s 75 Best Fighters, according to the cover line and experts picking the most exciting fights of the year, with over 150 fight photos inside the covers. What boxing fans got from this magazine was an experience, as with most of the magazines from March 1953. The writing was tight and the statistics many. 

COACH & ATHLETE

This magazine came from many of the southern and Gulf States coaches and official associations in the United States. From Georgia to Florida to Louisiana and even that state’s high school coaches and their associations, it was a combined effort to promote coaches and athletes around the country. You could subscribe or buy single copies. The tagline said it all: “The Magazine for Coaches, Players, Officials and Fans.”

The March 1953 issue was filled with campus close-ups and stories on how to plan and promote high school track. It covered high schools, colleges, and of course had all the latest SEC news. Buddy Davis, a letterman in track & field and basketball in 1950-52, from Texas A&M was featured on the cover. It was a very good attempt at bringing college and high school level sports to the forefront for old and new fans. 

To be continued…

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