Sports Illustrated Covers

Speaking of magazine covers featuring squash, Sports Illustrated has been on my mind recently. It is the fiftieth anniversary of the first (and probably, the way things are going, last) time a squash player was featured on the cover of the world’s most famous sports magazine. 

The cover of the 10 February 1958 Sports Illustrated issue featured Henri Salaun and Diehl Mateer. Henri was in the foreground and Diehl leaned, in a classical pose, against the side wall. Dan Weiner took the shot in an old court at the University Club in New York. Weiner had scheduled a late afternoon photo session. Diehl later told me that he had been rushing from work and arrived just in time to change into his whites and so did not have time to shave. (You can’t notice.) Diehl was wearing shorts. In a few years, once his singles career wound down, he wore only cricket flannel trousers on the squash court, in what became a signature look.

The big storm about the cover was Henri’s pose. He held out his Bancroft racquet, the emblem on the throat almost thrust at the camera. Henri later told me that it was innocent, that his racquet just happened to be there when Weiner was shooting. But for many in the squash world, the joy of having squash players on the cover of SI was instantly tainted by the fact that Henri was hawking a racquet—he worked as a salesman for a sporting goods firm (he started his own company in 1969, Henri Salaun Sports, a firm that he still runs today at age eighty-two.) Interestingly, Diehl played with the same racquet, but his left hand (consciously?) covered the emblem on the throat.

Perhaps Diehl and Henri, as cover boys, might merit a short obituary in SI when they die. Joe Alston, the only badminton player to grace a SI cover (in March 1955) got a mention in the “For the Record” page when he passed away this spring.

As for the other racquet sports, there is a SI shutout. A racquetballer has never appeared on the cover, nor champions of paddle tennis, racquets, court tennis or ping pong. But tennis, yes. Seventy-eight times.

One Response to “Sports Illustrated Covers”

  1. Matthew Says:
    By following the link to the SI archive, you can see the contents of this issue, which features a spread of color photos of Salaun and Mateer going at it. Despite all the differences between 1950s hardball and the game we play today, you can still sense the common thread from these pictures.

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