BILL PLASCHKE

Murray's impact still is plain to hear

Or Murray's line about one of the Laker stars.

"Elgin Baylor is as unstoppable as a woman's tears."

Or Murray's line about Rickey Henderson.

"Has a strike zone the size of Hitler's heart."

Jim Murray was our Babe Ruth, becoming one of only a handful of sportswriters to win a Pulitzer Prize.

He was our Michael Jordan, being selected national sportswriter of the year 14 times in 16 years.

He was our Muhammad Ali, once being hailed as "the greatest sportswriter of all time" by, well, Muhammad Ali.

"I find most people hate to be informed," Murray said. "People need to be amused, shocked … or angered."

Murray had command of all those pitches, using them from his first start in 1961 until his final outing in 1998.

In Murray's debut column, written after he was hired away from Sports Illustrated, he came out firing.

"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."

In Murray's final column, written shortly before his death Aug. 16, 1998, he showed he had lost none of that fastball.

In celebration of a Free House victory at Del Mar, he wrote, "He's not a What's-His-Name anymore. He's a Who's Who….The bridesmaid finally caught the bouquet. The best friend got the girl in the Warner Brothers movie for a change. The sidekick saves the fort."

A day after writing those words, he died of a heart attack in his home, resulting in an obituary that was three times as long as most of his columns, and a star-studded funeral that would have embarrassed this most humble of men.

This is the Jim Murray who once ripped the United States Golf Assn. for a setting up a weak U.S. Open course in Merion, Pa., and then raced to the press tent after the first day of competition to write that he was wrong.

This is the Jim Murray who would stand up on press row after sending his column and sheepishly announce "Fooled 'em again."

But if he really thought he didn't matter, then he was only fooling himself.

Folks still remember how he laughed at the NBA.

"One massive pituitary gland."

How he chuckled at USC's beating Notre Dame.

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