Your Typical FBI Agent/Badminton Champ Story

From FARK SPORTS late yesterday: Joe Alston worked major cases for the FBI, including the Patty Hearst kidnapping. He also won a dozen national championships in badminton. He’s also the only player from that sport to ever appear on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.

Joe Alston SI cover

Three weeks ago, amid little fanfare, Alston died from complications of cardiac arrest. He was 81.

Alston played in a sport that was not an Olympic medal sport before 1992. He credited the SI cover — taken after winning his second US Open title — for changing his life.


β€œThe bosses said, ‘Maybe this isn’t the time to have you doing undercover surveillance.’ As a result, I continued working investigations – kidnappings, extortions, bank robberies, all the good stuff – the rest of my 30 years in the bureau.”

He was the FBI’s major case coordinator in Los Angeles from 1967 through 1980. His family said he was involved with investigating the 1974 kidnapping of Hearst, the newspaper heiress who was seized by the radical Symbionese Liberation Army, and in the still-open investigation of airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper.

There’s only one other FBI agent/badminton champ hybrid we can think of: Alston’s son, Tony, who was an exceptional player in the 1980s.