The 1950s Sports: Headline Makers
The 1950s Sports: Headline MakersAlthea Gibson
Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias
Althea Gibson (1927–) During the 1940s, Althea Gibson began winning tennis tournaments that featured black players. Then she set out to break the sport's color line. In 1950, the United States' Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) allowed her to play in the Nationals. Even though she lost that first match, a barrier had been broken. Over the next few years, Gibson steadily rose in the USLTA rankings. In 1956, she came in first in the French Open in both singles and doubles; then in 1957 and 1958, she won both the U.S. Open and Wimbledon titles.
Ben Hogan (1912–) While golfers like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods would define the sport in future generations, Ben Hogan was champion of the links during the late 1940s and 1950s. In 1949, he survived a car crash after which doctors predicted that he might not walk, let alone compete as a golfer. Yet he won more than sixty tournaments in his career, many of them after the accident. Hogan enjoyed his greatest success in 1953, when he became the first golfer to win the Masters, the U.S. Open, and the British Open all in the same season.
Gordie Howe (1928–) During the 1950s, the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings dominated the six-team National Hockey League (NHL). Gordie Howe was the game's reigning superstar. The smooth-skating Howe, who played for the Red Wings, suited up for an amazing thirty-two professional seasons over four decades (1946–71, 1973–80). He led the NHL in scoring on six occasions and was league MVP four times in the 1950s. For twenty-one straight seasons, Howe was among the Top 10 NHL scorers. Howe earned the nickname "Mr. Hockey."
Mickey Mantle (1931–1995) Mickey Mantle was one of the most mythic baseball stars of the 1950s. Millions idolized him for his athleticism and talent for blasting home runs. Twice he topped fifty homers in a season. He played in twenty All-Star games and, in 1956, Mantle won the Triple Crown by leading the league in home runs, RBIs, and batting average. Unfortunately Mantle suffered through an endless string of ailments; one can only imagine what his statistics might have been if he had not been injured so often.
Willie Mays (1931–) Many believe that Willie Mays, the "Say Hey Kid," was the greatest outfielder in baseball history. Some outfielders primarily are home run hitters, while others are defensive experts. Yet Mays was a specialist in every aspect of the game. He won eleven straight Gold Gloves for his fielding. He led the National League in stolen bases four times. Twice he topped fifty home runs, and he finished his career with 660 fourbase hits. Mays's over-the-shoulder catch in Game One of the 1954 World Series is one of the most famous plays in postseason history.
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Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias (1911–1956) Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias was an amazing athlete. She mastered just about every sport she tried, from basketball and billiards to track-and-field and volleyball. She won two gold medals at the 1932 Olympics, in the javelin throw and 80-meter hurdles, and a silver in the high-jump. During her career, she won fifty-five professional and amateur golf competitions. In 1949, she helped found the Ladies' Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and was U.S. Open champ in 1948, 1950, and 1954. She earned six Women Athlete of the Year awards; in 1950 the Associated Press named her Woman Athlete of the Half-Century. Zaharias was nicknamed "Babe" for the Ruthian home runs she blasted while playing baseball!