The 15 Coolest Writers You Never Knew Wrote For Sports Illustrated
When Steinbeck, Faulkner and JFK played sportswriter
Extra Mustard looks back at 15 of the more interesting contributors in Sports Illustrated history, starting with one in honor of Presidents Day.
1. John F. Kennedy
The 35th President launched his campaign to reinstill physical vigor in the American people with this piece from the Dec. 26, 1960 issue.
2. William Faulkner
3. Robert Frost
America’s poet laureate wrote on the MLB All-Star Game for the July 23, 1956 issue.
4. Bill Russell
The future Hall of Fame center wrote about Muhammad Ali’s decision to not go to Vietnam for the June 19, 1967 issue.
5. John Steinbeck
Eight years before he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Grapes of Wrath author compared the nature of Americans, the British and the French by examining the ways that they fish in a piece for the Oct. 4, 1954 issue.
6. John Updike
Updike’s words paired with Walter Iooss’ gorgeous images in a photographic paean to basketball for the Feb. 21, 1972 issue.
7. Carl Sandburg
The three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning poet shared his putting tips in the Aug. 30, 1954 issue.
8. James Michener
The accomplished novelist took an experimental tack in his essay on March Madness for the Mar. 7, 1988 issue.
9. Jack Kerouac
Before he met Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, the Beat Generation’s most visible exponent was a football star. Kerouac wrote about his gridiron journey from Lowell, Mass., to Columbia University in the Jan. 8, 1968 issue.
10. Garrison Keillor
The humorist and Prairie Home Companion brainchild wrote this fictional piece celebrating baseball and rural life for the Dec. 22, 1986 issue.
11. Ted Williams
The Red Sox icon wrote about his lifelong quest for excellence and demonstrated his secrets of hitting for the July 8, 1968 issue.
12. Don Delillo
Delillo’s novel End Zone (about college football and nuclear warfare) had just been released when he was tabbed to write about gambling for the Nov. 27, 1972 issue.
13. Jimmy Breslin
The iconic New York City columnist wrote about the hapless ’62 Mets for the Aug. 13, 1962 issue.
14. Hunter S. Thompson (kind of)
In 1970, SI assigned Thompson to write a 250-word caption on Nevada’s Mint 400 motorcycle race in the general vicinity of Vegas. He turned in a vague manuscript of 2,500 words that was never published but ultimately resulted in the “gonzo” masterpiece Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
15. Kurt Vonnegut (almost)
The Slaughterhouse-Five author’s ill-fated stint during the magazine’s infancy was a brief one. Vonnegut joined the staff as a young writer and his first assignment was to write a caption about a horse hurdling a fence. After several days of frustration, he left the office for good, leaving behind a leaf of paper with one sentence in his typewriter: “The f—ing horse jumped over the f—ing fence.”