First Sports Illustrated Magazine Published
On this day, in 1954 the first Sports Illustrated magazine was published
August 16, 1954
Sports Illustrated”s first cover features future Baseball Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews at the plate for the Braves at Milwaukee’s County Stadium.
Time Inc. publisher Henry Luce created Sports Illustrated (SI) to be the first weekly printed national magazine focused on live sporting events, with the first issue hitting newsstands on Aug. 16, 1954. The first cover featured future National Baseball Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews at the plate for the Milwaukee Braves at County Stadium.
Initially, the magazine was poorly received by the press and advertisers. Full-time journalists saw sports reporting as beneath them, and upscale advertisers did not view sports fans as their target market. Early issues lacked focus with coverage ranging from yachting, rugby and boxing, to popular spectator sports such as football, baseball and basketball.
The arrival of André Laguerre as managing editor in 1960 marked a turning point for SI. Articles started to center on large-scale spectator sports such as football — the popularity of which was exploding as a result of television coverage. Laguerre placed an emphasis on exceptional writing and storytelling, and helped launch the careers of writers such as Frank Deford and Dan Jenkins, whose styles transformed the way journalists wrote about sports. The magazine is also credited with such innovations as full-length feature stories with color photographs and late deadlines to keep the magazine content as current as possible.
Perhaps the most enduring legacy of SI is the annual swimsuit issue. Originally conceived as a “fun in the sun” issue focused on travel and leisure activities during winter months, it eventually evolved into a fashion statement and high-profile exposure for models and athletes. The issue is consistently the publication’s top seller annually.
“Henry R. Luce and the Rise of the American News Media”.
MacCambridge, Michael. The Franchise: A History of Sports Illustrated Magazine. 1997. New York: Hyperion.