Fifty-one years ago, Jim Murray's face and words were introduced to the people of Los Angeles as he kicked off a 37-year tirade during which he wrote more than 10,000 columns. His work rocked many a sports fan back on his or her heels and certainly gave everyone a whole new perspective on the world of sports writing.
Through the years, he was honoured by his colleagues and various institutions. He won 14 sportswriter-of-the-year awards (12 in a row), was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and won a Pulitzer Prize, which was the pinnacle of his career.
Murray's place has been etched in the annals of time as truly one of the greatest wordsmiths to write about sports. Then, again, Jim didn't write about sports, he wrote about people who just happened to play games for a career.
He always just wanted to be Ernest Hemingway. Henry Luce just had different plans for him.
Here, then, is Jim Murray's column from Feb. 12, 1961 . . . the column that launched a 37-year love/hate relationship with the people of L.A. and the world.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1961, SPORTS
Copyright 1961/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY
In This Corner, With the Pen, is the New Guy
I have been urged by my friends — all of whom mean well — to begin writing in this space without introducing myself, as if I have been standing here all the while only you haven't noticed. But I don't think I'll do that. I think I'll start off by telling you a little about myself and what I believe in. That way, we can start to fight right away.
I think the eight-point touchdown has had it. It's added nothing to the game unless, of course, you count the extra bookkeeping.
I'm glad the Rams traded Billy Wade. I won't say Billy was clumsy, but on the way back from the line of scrimmage with the ball he bumped into more people than a New York pickpocket. I have seen blockers make ball carriers look bad. Wade was the only ball carrier I ever saw make the blockers look bad. Those poor guys were getting cross-eyed trying to look for him out of both corners of their eyes. They never knew which way he went.
The play usually ended up with some mastodon of a defensive end holding Billy upside down by the heels and shaking him. Like a father with a kid who's just swallowed a quarter. Billy gave up more ground, faster, than Mussolini at the end of the war. The Chicago Bears better put his shoes on backward or he'll dance right out of that little ballpark of theirs. I expect him to be the only quarterback ever tackled for a loss in the seats.
I think Jim Brosnan is the best writer in baseball. I think Cincinnati would be gladder if he were the best pitcher.
I know what's wrong with Eisenhower's golf swing but I'll be cussed if I can figure out what to do with that spasm of mine. (Ike lifts his left leg; I think I leave my feet altogether.).
I'd like once more (if Jimmy Cannon will pardon me) to see Elroy Hirsch and Tommy Fears going out on a pass pattern and looking back for a Waterfield pass. Throw in Jimmy David on defense and I'll pay double. David was the only guy I ever saw who could maim a guy while pretending to help him up.
I hope Steve Bilko has lost weight. The last time I saw him in the Coliseum, the front of him got to the batter's box full seconds before the rest of him. If he were batting left-handed, part of him would be halfway to first base before the pitch came in. Even then, the umpire could beat him down there.
I don't think anyone should be surprised at the disappointing showing of our Olympians in the '60 Games. There is an old adage, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." So our boys did. The coaches didn't like it, but the girls did.
I think almost every pitcher in the big leagues has a good spitball but I prefer to see Lew Burdette load one up for the batter in a tight situation and then make believe he's only wiping his chin. The only way you can be sure the ball is wet is if the ump calls for it and Lew rolls it to him.
I think the Washington Huskies football players were more enterprising than a bunch of Dead-End Kids in an empty candy store. But I still think the guys who are beating Minnesota over the head for claiming (correctly) that it had an edge in the second half in the Rose Bowl are the same guys who would be crying "Washington was robbed" if the roles were reversed in that game.
I have been held up to you as somewhat of a joke athletically, but I want you to know I had one superlative as a college freshman baseball player. I was the most nervous right fielder our team ever had. Our coach, Ralph Erickson, had only four fingers on his right hand and the prevailing theory was he had the regulation five until he saw us and started biting his nails. I caught a fly once and got so carried away I almost decapitated our first baseman on the throw-in. As I remember the first baseman, it wouldn't have affected his play much. He didn't use his head a great deal.
I won't say the kids today are softies but I'd like to see them learn to play Little League with the ball I had to play with. This was a "dime rocket," the cover of which came off after the first solid hit and it had to be wrapped in thick friction tape. I'd like to see Duke Snider throw it out of the Coliseum. In fact, I'd like to see him hit it past the pitcher's mound on the fly. I have bowled with lighter balls.
I was gratified by the reaction to the announcement Jim Murray was to write a sports column, an immediate and interested "Who??!" Mel Durslag did throw a bouquet, though. I'll read the card as soon as I take the brick out.
I came to Los Angeles in 1944 (the smog and I hit town together and neither one of us has been run out, despite the best efforts of public-spirited citizens) and my biggest sports disappointment was the 1955 Swaps-Nashua race, which I helped arrange. I have never believed Bill Shoemaker was property tied on his mount that day when they sprang the barrier. But I will ask Bill — and believe what he says because his next lie will be his first.
I really don't understand why the Angels haven't signed up Bob Kelley to do their broadcasts. He's the only guy in town who can prevent Vin Scully from throwing a shutout.
I hope Bill Hartack, the jockey, continues to take himself off sore horses. I know it irks the stewards but I'd rather have them sore than the horses — especially if I'm betting on the race because if there's one sore horse in the field, I'm usually on him, handicapping it all the way.
I couldn't tell from that letter of Billy Wade's whether Don Paul wanted Waterfield's job or just wanted him to eat in his restaurant.
Every sportswriter is expected to make a prediction and because I would like to leave the game ahead, I will predict the Angels will not win the pennant — this year, anyway. On the other hand, the way they have been messing around with baseball, they just might change the game to loball. Then, the Angels would be a threat. Just my luck.
*Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times.
Jim Murray Memorial Foundation | P.O. Box 995 | La Quinta | CA | 92247
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