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Sports Magazines 1953: The Magazines And I. Chapter 11, Part 3.

September 30, 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 three.  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… part three.

SPORT

Macfadden Publications brought monthly Sport magazine to life. It was one among many titles in Bernarr Macfadden’s publishing empire of Physical CultureTrue DetectiveTrue RomancesDream WorldTrue Ghost StoriesPhotoplay and the tabloid New York Graphic, along with True Story. The magazine was launched in 1946 and is especially notable because it created the 1955 Sport Magazine Award, which was awarded to the most valuable player in the World Series. The award was expanded over the years to include the outstanding post-season performer in all four major team sports, as sanctioned by the leagues.

The March 1953 cover is electric, especially if one was a basketball fan, since Bob Cousy of the Boston Cletics graced its front in a most eloquent in-action pose. Showing that the magazine covered all sports, The Ten Greatest Fights by Nat Fleischer (who founded The Ring magazine) was a cover line. It was another coup for already king of the publishers, Bernarr Macfadden. 

SPORT LIFE

Martin Goodman was a very busy publisher as he brought to life yet another great sports title, this one called Sport Life. Goodman was determined to have as many different titles as possible in the marketplace as this one covered the “sport” life, the entire view of all your favorite sports, from football to baseball to boxing.

February/March 1953 had content about football, boxing, baseball, along with a Sport Life exclusive all about America’s 10 Greatest Sports Heroes. The cover was phenomenal as it featured the Crimson Tide’s Bobby Marlow smack-dab in the center with other great players surrounding him, such as Joe Black from the Brooklyn Dodgers and Rocky Marciano. A great addition to Goodman’s already pulsating group. 

SPORTS STARS

Martin Goodman strikes again with Sports Stars magazine. This title was all about the players (the stars) rather than the actual games. From boxing to baseball, notable players were highlighted and talked about. Sugar Ray and Satchel Paige, Horatio Alger and Duke Snider, this magazine covered all the important stars of the era. And not just the pros, college athletes were also included.

March 1953 highlighted University of Seattle’s basketball stand-out Johnny O’Brien and Sugar Ray on the cover, along with Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers fame and All-American basketball player Bob Speight from North Carolina State. Stories from Inside the Diamond and others that spotlighted great players from all sports. This bimonthly had all the info a fan could want about their favorite professional or college player. 

SUPER SPORTS

This pulp magazine was a combination of sports fiction and fun facts that covered many sports, from boxing to baseball to football. Published by Columbia Publications, which consisted of Louis Silberkleit and Maurice Coyne, who started publishing many pulp titles in 1934 with different imprints, the two men started Columbia Publications in late 1937. 

The March 1953 issue had 132 pages of content with a cover that depicted a boxing match, complete with a devastating blow sending one of the men to the mat. From short stories like In This Corner and Curling Isn’t For Cowards. The illustrations weren’t in color, but the writing was engaging and the stories were plentiful, so it was a great title for sports fans who wanted an escape. 

THE ATHLETIC JOURNAL

This magazine was published by The Athletic Journal Publishing Company which was founded by Major John L. Griffith, a name many may not recognize, but should be noted when it comes to collegiate sports history. Griffith was the Big Ten’s first commissioner in 1922 until his death in 1945. He was an advocate for fitness in athletics and elevated and professionalized college coaching to the next level. In his opinion, fitness was vital when it came to sports and life in general. 

The March 1953 issue of the magazine, which was Volume 33, Number 7, still carried his name on the masthead, with information editors galore. There were articles on track, baseball, football, gymnastics, golf, and tennis. The magazine’s tagline was “Nation-wide Amateur Athletics,” and even had stories on some high school football. It was a very informative title that paid quiet tribute to the man who founded its belief in collegiate sports.

THE RING

The Ring, which was self-proclaimed as the World’s Foremost Boxing Magazine, was first published in 1922 as a boxing and wrestling magazine, but eventually shifted to boxing only. It was founded by Nathaniel Fleischer, who was a noted boxing writer and collector. Today, the magazine is owned by Oscar De La Hoya, the former “Golden Boy” of boxing and is still going strong. In its heyday, the magazine sported a disclaimer that read “a magazine which a man may take home with him. He may leave it on his library table safe in the knowledge that it does not contain one of matter either in the text or the advertisements which would be offensive.” 

The issue dated March 1953 featured story after story that portrayed the exciting world of boxing, with an illustration of welterweight boxer, Chuck Davey on its cover. Stories about Rocky Marciano, then heavyweight champion of the world, and Jersey Joe Walcott, Chuck Davey and Kid Gavilan. It was an issue that took you into the boxing world of March 1953 and immersed you in the fights. Just a great read. 

WHO’S WHO IN THE BIG LEAGUES

Who’s Who in the Big Leagues was published annually by Dell Sports Group, a division of Dell Publishing that was started by George T. Delacorte Jr. in 1921. While Delacorte had humble beginnings, the company became a powerhouse in magazine publishing, including pulp magazines, paperbacks and its dip into sports. 

In March 1953, the annual title chose St. Louis Cardinals and Hall of Famer Stan Musial for its cover, with stories by Jackie Robinson and Jimmy Dykes to tempt the palates of sports fans everywhere. It was a large, colorful magazine that had more statistics and information than you could read in one sitting, with no ads at all. It’s a step above many annuals of its day and certainly a keeper for collectors of anything “baseball.”

Chapter Twelve is up next and if you listen very closely you can hear a preview of it now from the open door of Mr. Magazine’s™ vault….music & entertainment – March 1953 style!

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