1950s: Sports and Games
1950s: Sports and Games
Americans' interest in sports intensified during the decade. Television brought live sports into peoples' homes for the first time. A new magazine, Sports Illustrated, was created to provide a weekly source of sports news and photographs. Baseball remained the most popular of American sports, and the New York Yankees continued to dominate the sport, winning seven of the nine World Series they played in during the decade. Professional football finally surpassed college football in popularity during the decade, thanks in part to the weekly televised broadcasts of games. During the winter, Americans turned to basketball. College basketball remained popular, despite several betting scandals that disgraced the game. The reorganization of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1949 gave a boost to professional basketball. Even more important were rule changes in 1954 that made basketball more exciting.
An important trend in sports during the 1950s was integration. Jackie Robinson (1919–1972) had broken the "color line" in professional baseball in 1947. Several black players led their teams in the 1950s, including Roy Campanella (1921–1993), Willie Mays (1931–), Don Newcombe (1926–), Hank Aaron (1934–), and Ernie Banks (1931–). The NBA allowed black players in 1950 and Bill Russell (1934–) of the Boston Celtics became the dominating player of the decade. Black athletes soon participated in professional bowling and in women's tennis. In fact, American Althea Gibson (1927–) won the Wimbledon tennis tournament in 1951. A sure sign that African Americans had been accepted was the disbanding of baseball's Negro American League in 1960.
Organized sports were not the only way that Americans amused themselves. Children were treated to several popular new games during the decade. LEGO building bricks, imported from Denmark, were beloved by American children who could build whatever they imagined with the plastic pieces. The Etch A Sketch provided a blank slate on which kids could create amusing illustrations by turning dials to draw lines. Older kids, especially those living amid the vast paved surfaces of the suburbs, enjoyed skateboards. Teenagers and adults found a new model for physical fitness in the muscled Jack LaLanne (1914–), whose feats of strength drew attention to the need for all Americans to keep in good shape. LaLanne's message of physical readiness was well suited to a decade when Americans lived under the cloud of a Cold War (1945–91) with the distant Soviet Union.