This article, although dated 11-17, is being posted today, 11-21. I returned home yesterday from a trip to the interesting Orient, not exactly a mecca for American sports. Yes, there will be another article on Thursday of this week as well, and will feature one of my all-time favorite football players. We're now back into the every Thursday groove.
Story of the Week
My dentist, Todd Newton, is an avid sports fan. During a recent visit, I jokingly asked him who his favorite sportswriter is of all time, expecting, of course, to hear my name mentioned, even in jest. I didn’t! I was promptly advised that I was his second choice, but that Numero Uno was clearly Jim Murray. Jim Murray is my choice as well, and it took a toothache to make me realize that I had never written about this icon and legend.
“Jim Murray was the Willie Mays of writers,” wrote Richard Hoffer of Sports Illustrated. “He was a five-tool writer with a lethal wit.” (Leo Durocher once categorized a five-star player as a guy who could hit for average, hit for power, run, field, and throw.) Hoffer was right on target. You didn’t have to be a sports fan to get Jim Murray. He was a stand-alone pleasure, whether he was writing about Willie Mays (“Where triples go to die.”) or the Indianapolis 500 (Gentlemen, start your coffins.”). His verbals were funny, sad and true. You didn’t have to be a ringsider to be struck by the idea that “A knocked-out fighter was a complicated blood clot.”
Jim Murray could have been a stand-up Vegas act doing nothing but his “Murray-isms” as I always called them. “Show me a man who is a good loser, and I’ll show you a man who is playing golf with his boss.” “The only bad thing about Spokane is that there is nothing to do after 10----------in the morning.” “I’d like to borrow that guy’s body for 48 hours. There are three guys I’d like to beat up, and four women I’d like to make love to.” “You can’t burn Rice, but he can burn you.” And the list is endless!
Toward the end of his tenure at the Los Angeles Times, anyone who knew him at the end of his great career was protective of him, especially of his reputation, which never seemed sufficient to what he had accomplished. The Pulitzer announcements produced an annual gnashing of teeth on the West Coast; every year somebody from across the country, back there where they think they know everything, was named in his place. Finally, he did win the award. Per Hoffer, himself a former colleague of Murray at the Times, oddly Jim’s winning the award didn’t seem to do much for his self-confidence. After 50 years of covering big events, he was still vulnerable to deadline anxiety. That alone speaks to Jim Murray’s professionalism.
Murray’s resume is all you need to read to appreciate the man’s incredible ability. Included in his resume was his first L. A. gig as general assignment and rewrite man for the Examiner from 1944-1948. Then Time Magazine, L. A. correspondent, from 1948-1955. He was then involved with Sports Illustrated, and actually helped found it. Then West Coast editor of Sports Illustrated from 1959-1961. And then sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times from 1961 to 1998.
The awards Jim Murray won are so numerous and repetitive. America’s Best Sportswriter, National Headliner Award, Red Smith Award, Victor Award, Associated Press Sports Editors Association Award, Pulitzer Prize, Times Mirror Lifetime Achievement Award, and many more.
Want to know why he won all those awards? It will be readily evident to you when you choose from his many books at your local store. My favorite is “The Great Ones”, and there are several others.
Jim Murray, born in Hartford, Ct. in 1919, passed away in Los Angeles in 1998. He was “The Great One.”
Last Week’s Trivia (From 11/3)
What do Giovanni Carmozzi, Tee Martin and Spergon Wynn have in common? At least three teams didn’t do their homework in the 2000 NFL draft. All three of these quarterbacks were drafted ahead of Tom Brady. Carmozzi was taken by San Francisco, Martin was taken by Pittsburgh, and Wynn was taken by Minnesota. All three of those teams were literally taken.
Trivia Question of the Week
Only one MLB player ever got four hits in a World Series game on two different occasions. Who? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.