Mondays With Murray: Bart Starr Perfect Name for an Athletic Hero




Bart Starr Perfect Name for an Athletic Hero

  GREEN BAY — If you were going to write a novel about a quarterback, not even if you sat up all night, could you come up with a better moniker for the hero than Bart Starr.

   It’s a name right out of Burt L. Standish or Zane Grey. You see the name on a movie credit, and you know right away he’s the guy with the star on his chest, or the white horse and the white hat. If it’s a gangster movie, he’s the guy played by Robert Stack. If mondaysmurray2it’s a costume drama. Bart Starr is going to be a combination of Lancelot and Sir Galahad rescuing maidens from castle dungeons or saving Richard the Lion Hearted from his wicked brother.

  In the old Frank Merriwell days, a Bart Starr would be the trust-worthy one, always showing up in the nick of time and saying things like “Unhand that girl, you wretch!” or “Zounds, sir, I think he means to kill us all!” but later working out of his bonds and shouting “Aha! So that’s your game, you scoundrel! Well, sirrah, two can play at that game as you shall soon find out!”

  “Bart Starr” is so perfect a name for an athletic hero that I was sure it was a phony. And I was right. “Bart” Starr’s real handle is Bryan Bartlett Starr. The “Bartlett” was tacked on after a beloved family doctor, one of those guys who hitched up a team in the middle of a snow storm to sit up all night with a sick kid or an ailing wife.

  But the point is, Bart Starr LOOKS and ACTS like a Bart Starr. I mean, here he’s 6 feet 2 inches, 200 pounds, blond hair, blue eyes. You just know he’s good to his mother, is loyal, trustworthy, modest, and would never, never bet on football games.

  He is Tom Swift and his Electric Football, the Rover Boy in Green Bay, a Botticelli in shoulder pads. Naturally, he doesn’t drink or smoke, and it should come as no great surprise that he’s a Phi Beta Kappa — and there aren’t many of THOSE who make their living in cleats.

  He looks so choir-boyish, in fact, so much like a boy who could light your cigarette by rubbing two sticks together, that there isn’t a linebacker in the league who didn’t have to learn the hard way that he couldn’t be intimidated. He has had more forearm clouts on the head, more probing fingers in the eye socket, and has come out of pileups with a foot you could take corks out of a bottle with more than almost any other signal-caller in the league. “You can’t get him to flinch,” defensive tackle Merlin Olsen, the third peak from the right in the Rams’ defensive mountain range, told me the other day. “He seems to know what you’re going to do a split second before you do.”

  It’s gray matter that makes Bart Starr, Bart the Star. In a league full of young studs who can throw the ball from one country to another, and 80 yards on the fly with a flick of the wrist, Starr was asked what his range was. “I couldn’t throw the ball 80 yards in three tries,” he laughed. The point is, when he throws the ball it hits somebody. He completes 3 out of every 5 passes he throws for an annual 16 touchdowns and an annual 2,000-yards-plus.

  But the best thing he does is put a bit a Elizabethan or Victorian elegance back in the game. Crack quarterbacks are usually named Caprilowski or Ninowski — or Milt Plum, heaven help us, or Norman Snead or John Unitas, or Charley Johnson. There’s even one named “Smith.”

  “Bart Starr, All-American” has a nice onomatopoeic ring to it. It sounds as if it should belong to the young stalwart who snatches the game out of the hands of the ruffians at the last possible minute and leaves them muttering, “Curses, foiled again by that damnable Starr.” And, when he has pulled another Starr-Spangled Banner game out of the fire, and a happy rooter wants to buy him a drink, he will draw himself up and say resolutely, “Sir, I never touch liquor or gamble with dice, but I will be most happy to toast our stout-hearted team with sarsaparilla and a gum drop.”

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116


What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

Like us on Facebook, and visit the JMMF website,


A dozen years ago, Linda McCoy-Murray compiled a book of Jim Murray’s columns on female athletes (1961-1998). While the book is idle waiting for an interested publisher, the JMMF thinks this is an appropriate year to get the book on the shelves, i.e., Jim Murray’s 100th birthday, 1919-2019.  

Our mission is to empower women of all ages to succeed and prosper — in and out of sports — while entertaining the reader with Jim Murray’s wit and hyperbole.  An excellent teaching tool for Women’s Studies.

Proceeds from book sales will benefit the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization providing sports journalism scholarships at universities across the country.

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