"They came to play," the announcer is forever saying, and let that sum up sport in the '60s. Through a decade that will not be remembered as the best of times, sport was at its best by far. Never had so many played, never had so many cheered: new leagues, new teams, new records, new pleasures, new ways of life. Television, leisure time, increased income and more need to be amused caused epic changes in U.S. sport. The ultimate symbol of it all became the violent splash made by professional football—symbolic even as science lays down its artificial turfs and scenes like the one at left vanish into history. The picture bespeaks the '60s, as do the sportsmen and the moments shown on the following pages.
The Record Beyond Compare
There were 40,000 in the stadium at Mexico City, but there was no warning for them that this instant, 3:46 of the afternoon of Oct. 18, 1968 of the third Olympics of the decade, was to be the one moment of them all. Thus, few were actually watching when skinny Bob Beamon, 22, 6'3", 160 pounds, approached his takeoff point and leaped. Olympic records are improved only by the smallest of increments, so when Beamon landed a stunning two feet beyond the old mark he performed a feat unanticipated for decades to come. His distance was 29' 2�". When he learned of the magnitude of his achievement he sank to his knees in awe. Russia's Igor Ter-Ovanesyan said it best: "The rest of us are children."
Golden Boys in a Glittering Game
Pro football ruled the land, and two gusty bachelors stood fast—and tall—against those who sought to turn the sport into an automated machine. Paul Hornung was first, and though his venue was only Green Bay he managed to be almost as controversial—and beloved—as Joe Namath did in more libertine times with all Broadway at his feet. Both tweaked the Establishment, and Pete Rozelle returned the foot to football, kicking Paul out for a year and booting unrepentant Joe from his saloon.
Two Stars, but Only One Hit
Their achievements were baseball's best in the '60s, yet for one it was an ache in the elbow and for the other a pain in the neck. Yankee Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's record with the swing at left, but his 61st home run turned into 61* and the pressure of the chase left Maris and baseball's fans oddly at odds. By contrast, Sandy Koufax was revered for his feats. Perhaps the best lefthander of all time, the uncomplaining Dodger pitched and hurt for seasons. His valedictory after his last game (below) was typical: "I don't regret one minute of the last 12 years." Neither did his fans.
Where the High Were the Mighty
Basketball developed its own beat generation—Boston and UCLA beat everybody all the time. The Bruins grew bigger, progressing to the ultimate of Lew Alcindor (left), who took them to three straight titles, while the Celtics used young John Havlicek (below) and old Bill Russell (above) to give the likes of Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain a decade of frustration.
The Sporting Sixties As Sculptured In Concrete
San Diego Stadium
($27.5 million) was constructed primarily with football in mind, and baseball attendance suggests the priority was correct. Opened in 1967, it is a horseshoe topped by a ring of lights—no poles.
($25.5 million), below, was named for the lawyer whose efforts returned the National League to New York. The Mets came there in 1964 and still rule the public facility, treating the Jets like interlopers.
($24 million), above, patterned after Dodger Stadium, lured the Angels away from Los Angeles to suburban Disneyland. It was one of the 10 major league ball parks built during the decade.
($18 million), right, may be the last park ever built by a private individual. Finished in 1962, Walter O'Malley's spotless baseball showcase has seldom been criticized, except by would-be sluggers.