By Phillip Whitten
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif., April 18. AL SCHOENFIELD, fiery, independent founder and original Publisher and Editor of Swimming World Magazine, passed away at 7:10 this morning at the French Hospital in San Luis Obispo, following a three-week bout with pneumonia. He was 90.
In 1959, Al was an advertising agency account executive with the firm of Honing Cooper in Los Angeles when he met Peter Daland. At the time, Daland was the head swimming coach at the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Athletic Club, where the Schoenfields’ daughter, Nancy, then 11, was an age group swimmer. The two men became friends and Daland, who had acquired a mimeographed publication called “Junior Swimmer” some years before, convinced Schoenfield to take over the fledgling publication and convert it into a real magazine.
Along with his wife, Faye, Schoenfield published “Junior Swimmer” from the family’s home in North Hollywood, the entire family taking part in proofreading each issue before publishing it. Meanwhile, Schoenfield served as Publisher, Editor, Advertising Manager, Subscription Manager and head reporter, traveling up and down the California coast, soliciting ads and selling single copies at 50 cents each or one-year subscriptions for $6.00.
The magazine grew rapidly and as Schoenfield broadened his scope to include the entire world of swimming, he renamed the magazine Swimming World, incorporating “Junior Swimmer” into its ever-growing number of pages.
Within a few years, the magazine had become the single most authoritative publication in swimming, gaining a reputation as “the Bible of the sport,” a reputation that it still retains to this day. Meanwhile, Schoenfield was creating a swimming publishing empire that permeated all aspects of swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming. Through his books and magazines over a period of 18 years, he became the great communicator of swimming.
Schoenfield not only edited and published the most influential swimming magazine the world has yet produced, but he was never afraid to take an editorial stand for or against the establishment on any issue he thought important to swimming progress. He was a leading voice in the fight to enact Title IX, testifying before Congress on behalf of equal opportunity in athletics for men and women – a cruel irony today as Title IX is being used as a weapon to destroy men’s athletic programs, including swimming, at the collegiate level.
Swimming World made swimming people think, and Schoenfield distributed this thinking throughout the world. He acted as a source person for major print media at national and international games of all kinds.
Schoenfield never gave up his active participation in the administration of his sport. He was President of the Southern Pacific Association of the A.A.U.; a member of the National and International Swim Committees, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the FINA Technical Committee.
He was a frequent manager of international teams participating in Pan Am and other foreign trips. He organized the first and most successful swim-related Olympic and World Championship tours.
In 1978, with his wife in failing health, Al Schoenfield sold his magazine to Richard Deal, who remains the Publisher with co-owner and CEO Brent Rutemiller.
In 1986, Al Schoenfield was the first journalist inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.