Cover Up: SI Denies Yankees in Annual Sportsman Award

The SportsLifer has been a Sports Illustrated subscriber since his high school days in the 60s.

In other words, a loyal reader for more than 40 years.

And in all that time — and dating far beyond that first SI in 1954, a total of 55 awards — no New York Yankee has ever been named Sportsman of the Year.

A total of 12 awards have been won by baseball players — from Brooklyn’s Johnny Podres in 1955 to the Red Sox team in 2004. But no Yankees.

Among that group were Pete Rose in 1975, and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998. Think SI would like to have those two back?

Where are the Yankees, the most successful franchise in North American sports history, the most visible team in the world?

It’s certainly tough to argue with this year’s winner, eight-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. But there were several other instances where the  Yankees deserved strong consideration.

What about The Mick?
Mickey Mantle won the Triple Crown in leading the Yankees to the World Series in 1956, but Olympic sprinter Bobby Morrow took the Sportsman of the Year award that year.

In 1961, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s record with 61 home runs, yet the SI award went to Ohio State basketball player Jerry Lucas.

Jockey Steve Cauthen took honors in 1977, the year Reggie Jackson’s three home runs on three swings buried the Dodgers and gave the Yankees the World Championship.

SI could have picked Ron Guidry and his incredible 25-3 season in 1978 over Jack Nicklaus.

And what of Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera and the rest of the Yankee dynasty that won four World Series in five years between 1996 and 2000. Wouldn’t a team award for the 1998 squad, which won 114 games, look good now? Better than a couple of heralded juicers.

Cover Shots: Football and basketball have produced eight Sportsman of the Year apiece, golf six, the Olympics and track and field four apiece,  boxing, hockey and tennis three apiece.

Tiger Woods, who won in 1996 and 2000, is the only two-time individual winner. Curt Schilling shared honors with Randy Johnson in 2001 after the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees, and was a member of the Red Sox 2004 champions.

Phelps is the only swimmer to win the award, and joins Olympians Morrow (1956), gymnast Mary Lou Retton and hurdler Edwin Moses (1984) and skaters Bonnie Blair and Olav Koss (1994).

Basketball legends Bill Russell (1968), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1985) and Michael Jordan (1991) won Sportsman of the Year honors.

The hockey winners were no-brainers: Bobby Orr in 1970, the US Olympic hockey team in 1980, and Wayne Gretzky, the Great One, in 1982.

Brett Favre was last year’s winner, joining fellow NFL QBs Terry Branshaw in 1979, Joe Montana in 1990 and Tom Brady in 2005. Oregon State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker, who had a brief NFL career, is the only college football player to win, in 1962.

Other big name Sportsman of the Year winners include Sandy Kourfax (1965), Carl Yastrzemski (1967), Tom Seaver (1969), Cal Ripken (1995), Rafer Johnson (1958), Lance Armstrong (2002), Muhammad Ali (1974) and Arnold Palmer (1960).

Roger Bannister, the first sub-four-minute miler, won the inaugural award in 1954.


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