I never had the chance to meet legendary columnist Jim Murray during my tenure at The Los Angeles Times. I began several years after his death. But his presence could easily be felt on the sports desk, where I worked. Then-editor Bill Dwyre and columnist T.J. Simers both fondly recalled working with Murray during the latter years of his career.
Murray is a mythical figure — a Pulitzer Prize-winning, Hall-of-Fame sports writer whose name is forever linked with Red Smith as the greatest of all time. But until recently, Murray remained a distant figure to me. What I knew of him I read in books or retrospectives.
Then last fall, George Solomon, former Washington Post assistant managing editor for sports and current director of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland, asked me if I was interested in writing a book chapter about Murray. Solomon had found out that I was a former Times writer, and like any good editor assigned me some long overdue homework.
I gladly accepted.
Several months and many interviews later, I gained a new appreciation for Murray’s acerbic wit, tightly written prose and unusual career arc that took him from crime reporting to celebrity journalism to sports writing. I discussed Murray and his legacy with Dwyre, Simers, Roy Firestone, Dave Kindred, Murray biographer Ted Geltner and Murray’s wife, Linda.
In the coming weeks, the chapter on Murray will appear in the new online book, Still No Cheering in the Press Box, a follow-up to Jerome Holtzman’s book about the lives of legendary sports writers. The Povich Center is spearheading this ambitious project, of which I’m honored to be a part.
Stay tuned for updates about the publication date.