Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our New Year's Eve edition of Monday's With Murray is Jim Murray's first New Years column with the Los Angeles Times in 1961.
Kicking off his first year at the paper, Murray chose to hand out his Linkletter Awards.

December 31, 1961, SPORTS


Time for Awards

    It's that time of the year again. Good-bye 1961 and your Castros and Cubas and Khrushchevs. Go and drop dead some place. Take those other guys with you and don't slam the door on the way out. Never darken our lives again.
    But before it goes, before we put on our paper hat and tin horn, reach for the bourbon and do the Twist, it is also time for our inaugural Linkletter Awards, trophies the comedian and I have collaborated on to reward, not necessarily on the basis of whether they won or lost or how-they-played-the-game, but on how much money we won on them.
    First of all, let's observe a moment of silence for those who are no longer with us. I refer to the vendor who tripped and fell in Aisle 19 and lost all his hot dogs. The dog who ate them also, because he had never eaten ballpark wieners before. And never will again. The guy who said all sharks were cowards then dove down and met one who resented his attitude. The bratwurst-maker who went broke because he couldn't cut the mustard at the World Series. The Cincinnati Reds who couldn't either.
    Our first Linkletter Award which is a series of linked letters which when stretched out spells trouble goes to the winner of the PGA tournament JERRY BARBER, for being a winning golfer so small that when he gets on the green to putt for the hole, he has to be careful not to fall in.
    And when he goes in the woods after a slice, he is harder to find than the ball. They have a two-stroke penalty for lost golfer put in just for him. He also has to be roped to his caddy when he goes down to the sandtrap.
    Our next award goes to the ITALIAN DAVIS CUP TEAM, not for getting into the Challenge Round against Australia, but for being the first team where no one knew they were there because the only balls they returned were in cans after the tournament.
    Their trip was pointless in more ways than one and our award will salute them as the team of Brotherly Love. They were supposed to give the game of tennis a shot in the arm but they missed and hit it in the head. You know tennis, of course; consolation polo for kids who are afraid of horses.
    STEVE CLARK gets an award not so much for setting a new American freestyle record but for doing it as a Yale boy. If you think it's easy to swim in a buttoned-down bathing suit with a knit tie, and not get a hernia, try it. There are several stylized swim strokes — breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly. Free style is the one you use when a shark is after you. The shark uses it, too.
    SANDY KOUFAX gets a Linkletter for setting a new league record for 3-and-2 counts. Sandy also threw two straight strikes once and the ballpark was so shocked the shout woke up Walt Alston in the dugout. They not only threw the ball out, they threw the umpire out.
    RYNE DUREN draws an award not only for striking out guys he can't see but for being the first guy to use the Braille system in baseball. When the batter calls for a look at the ball, Ryne calls for a look at the batter, and runs his hand over his strike zone.
    ROGER MARIS rates not only because he got the most valuable player award but because he has finally realized to stick in the big leagues he has to bunt and hit to left-field. We also salute the minor league manager who urged him to stop swinging for the fences, just meet the ball and choke up on the bat. This manager has been sent to the State Dept.
    L.A.'s own CAROLYN HOUSE splashes in because she won three gold medals at the age of 16 in the AAU swim nationals. Carolyn has been on or under water so much of her life she gets the bends if she gets in street clothes too fast.
    She has popularized a new hair color; natural chlorine. I won't say she astonished the swim world but they served notice the first time she grows scales she has to give the medals back.
    A. J. FOYT qualifies because he won the Indianapolis 500 at an average speed of 139.13 m.p.h. Foyt also won $117,000 which means he and his partners only took a small loss getting the car ready. Only 12 cars finished, but one of them was a Buick that made a wrong turn at Terre Haute and just thought it was the freeway rush hour. He was ineligible for prize money — it just happened to be his turn in the car pool that day — so they gave him green stamps and someone to lick them for him.
    ELGIN BAYLOR makes it because he got drafted by the Army presumably to dribble people through the Berlin Wall without drawing a foul.
    JIM BROWN crashes in as football's version of the Hollywood Freeway. Four ambulance-chasers follow him to every game but any guy who tries to tackle him single-handed gets his insurance canceled on the spot. The spot, by the way, is all that's left of the guy.
    Those, then, are our awardees. But, the moment you have been waiting for, the announcement of our ATHLETE-0F-THE-YEAR is at hand.
    Gentlemen, we give you — and please take him — the man who faced insurmountable odds and so didn't bother to surmount them — our own PETE RADEMACHER! Let's hear it out there for old Pete, our athlete of the year.
(Note:  Thomas Peter ‘Pete’ Rademacher (born Nov. 20, 1928) is a former boxer who made boxing history by being the only man to fight for the world heavyweight championship in his first professional fight.”

*Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.

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