Mondays With Murray: Quotable Jim Murray . . .

Everyone who reads Jim Murray has a favorite Jim Murray quote. There are so mondaysmurray2many classic one-liners from which to choose over the many years and columns that it’s hard for us to decide. Instead of giving you a full JM column this week, we are giving you a collection of classic quotes.



Jim Murray on Sports

Jim Murray on Baseball — Aug. 2, 1988

“We are all boys of summer. The years drop off, the steps get lighter, the heart beats faster when we step through the turnstile and hear the bats cracking and smell the hot dogs cooking. It’s summer again and Casey’s coming up and the bases are loaded and this time he’ll hit it.”

“. . . the infield fly rule is about as simple as calligraphy.  It might as well be a Japanese naval code.” 


Jim Murray on Soccer — May 7, 1987

“It’s the favorite sport of millions who never heard of Babe Ruth or think the Green Bay Packers are a heavy metal group. They have to put moats around the fields in some places in the world, passions run so high. They cage the spectators, not the players. But in America, or at least North America, it ranks somewhere between quoit tossing and celebrity kayaking as a spectator sport.”


Jim Murray on Golf — June 19, 1987

“Golf is the most exasperating game known to man. First of all, it’s perverse. You hit the ball right to make it go left, up to make it go down, hard to make it go easy, easy to make it roll on and on.”


Jim Murray on the Kentucky Derby — May 5, 1988

It’s America’s race. Everything else is a copy. You win Indianapolis, you’re a race driver. You win the Derby, you’re a horse rider. Or trainer.”


Jim Murray on Hockey — March 16, 1978

“A puck, of course, is just a giant tiddlywink. It is designed for stealth, just one inch high, three inches across, and the color of skate shoes. The game is almost incomprehensible on TV, like a fox hunt on skates, in that you can’t see the quarry.”

And then he wrote:”Seeing a goal scored in hockey is like picking your mother out of a crowd shot at the Super Bowl.”


Jim Murray on Tennis

“If you write about it for two weeks in a row, the truck drivers stop reading you. They can take only so much of a sport where a shutout is called love.”


Jim Murray on Athletes

Arnold Palmer

“His rounds were never elegant exhibitions of stylish golf. They were more like Dempsey-Firpo. Arnold and the course went after each other like sluggers in dark rooms.”

Mario Andretti — March 29, 1984

“Mario is the most successful Italian export since pizza.”

“The first guy who put a steering wheel in Andretti’s hands should go down in history with the guy who first put a bat in Ty Cobb’s.”

On USC running backs — Jan. 2, 1988

“USC without a tailback is like Rembrandt without a brush, a troubadour without song, a Hemingway without a plot.”

On the PGA ’s Charlie Sifford 

Golf was not a game for the ghettos. Neither did it leave any time for carrying picket signs, joining demonstrations, or running for offer. Charlie birdied, not talked, his way through society prejudice.”

Bill Laimbeer — Feb. 23, 1988

“In the little world of basketball he’s public enemy No. 1 — and 2 and 3 and 4. Take every villain of every movie you’ve ever seen, multiply him by two — and you have some idea of the venom Bill Laimbeer of Detroit arouses in an audience. People are sure he poisons canaries for kicks. He gets the same lovable press notices as a pit bull.”

Luc Robitaille — March 6, 1988 

“You could tell right away Luc Robitaille couldn’t be a very successful hockey player. First of all, he has all his teeth.”

Kirk Gibson — March 8, 1988

“In a way, watching Kirk Gibson in baseball is like watching a rare Siberian Tiger in a cage. It’s like John Wayne playing a butler. An eagle in a birdbath. A mustang locked in a corral. A shark in a bathtub. You get the feeling it’s too confining for him.”

Fred Couples — Jan. 24, 1988

“He has the reputation as a guy who doesn’t know how well he plays this game. Lots of golfers shrug when they hit a bad shot. Fred Couples yawns. He always manages to look as if he’s in the midst of a two-dollar Nassau with the guys from the garage when he’s in the middle of the U.S. Open, when he’s got a four-foot putt to take the lead in the Masters.”

Sugar Ray Leonard — April 6, 1987

“Sugar Ray Leonard, the nearest thing to Shirley Temple in 10-ounce gloves. He’s going to tap dance right into your hearts . . . you look at Sugar Ray and you want to take him to lost-and-found and buy him an ice cream cone until you can find his mother and father.”

Sinjin Smith — Sept. 12, 1986 

“Most people go up in the air like human pile drivers and attempt to smash the ball into the core of the earth so deep under the shoreline that colonies of sea life come to the surface and it takes two strong men to excavate it. Sinjin Smith prefers to go up in the air, hang there like a hummingbird while he sizes up the defensive tendencies of the opponents, then dunk the ball softly in a corner of the court he sees they have left unprotected.”

Bob Mathias — Feb. 11, 1988

“He won the first decathlon he ever saw. Two weeks before, he had never even had a javelin or a vaulting pole in his hands. His form was atrocious. He gripped the spear like a guy killing a chicken. He went over the vault like a guy falling out of a moving car and his high jump looked like a guy leaving a banana peel. All he did was win.”

Bobby Czyz — May 12, 1987

“Bobby Czyz may have a name like an eye-chart, and a vocabulary like a schoolteacher. But he’s also got a right hand like a paving block and a left hand that could open safes.”

Elgin Baylor 

“Elgin Baylor is as unstoppable as a woman’s tears.”

Chris McCarron — Feb. 14, 1988

“Charles Dickens would have loved Chris McCarron. So would have Walt Disney. Eyes as blue as Galway Bay, framed by ringlets of flame-red hair, he looked like a cross between Oliver Twist and Bambi.”

Larry Bird

“The problem now for all the wise guys of the NBA is going to be, how you gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen L.B.? Do the scouts now have to fly into Terre Haute and rent a dog? Are there more basketball players under the harvest moon than there ever were under the neon? Or is the Bird in the hand just a needle in the haystack?”

Nolan Ryan — March 15, 1988

“Nolan Ryan is more than an athletic marvel. He’s a medical marvel. His glove should go to Cooperstown, but his arm should go to the Smithsonian.”

Dwight Gooden — June 9, 1987

“Watching him pitch was like watching an eagle fly, a shark swim. There didn’t seem to be any effort connected to what he did.”

Mary Lou Retton — April 15, 1988

“For two weeks in 1984, she was America’s Sweetest Heart. Everybody’s kid sister. She didn’t look as if she should be playing with dolls, she looked as if she was one, as if she came to the competition in a pram and bonnet. The Olympic gymnastic competition was a doll’s house come to life, and Mary Lou Retton was the most adorable of the lot. Dimpled smile, flashing black eyes, even white teeth, part tomboy, part glamour girl, you didn’t know whether to buy her a lollipop or a corsage.”

John McEnroe — April 24, 1988

“John McEnroe without a racket in his hands is a perfectly plausible, reasonable young man. With a racket in his hands, it’s like the moon comes out and he begins growing fangs and face hair and foam forms at the mouth.”

Al and Bobby Unser — August 20, 1987

“They weren’t born, they were tooled. An Unser, it was said, came into the world wearing goggles, carrying a lug wrench in one hand and a steering wheel in the other. Other families boast when their kids take their first steps or say their first words. The Unser family boasted, ‘Junior hit his first fence today.’ ”

Kirby Puckett — Oct. 19, 1987

“He makes you feel good. He’s chubby, cheerful. Comfortable. Like a favorite uncle. Kids want to climb on his knee. Fans adore him. Baseball needs him. They wish they had 30 like him. Kirby comes to the park like a kid going to a fishing hole. Life is a Christmas tree. They should make him a ride at Disneyland. A float in the Rose Parade.”

Richard Petty — June 12, 1988

“Around the South, they say Richard Petty could drive a race car through the Johnstown flood without getting it wet, or a forest fire without getting it singed. You don’t win 200 stock car races if you’re hard on machinery.”

“Richard Petty has climbed in more windows than 50 car thieves . . . he wasn’t born, he was assembled and modified.” 

Tommy Lasorda — July 12, 1988

“Tommy Lasorda is as perfect for the Dodgers as peanut butter for white bread. Or Laurel for Hardy.”

Will Clark — Aug. 19, 1988

“He treats life as if it might be a first-pitch fastball. He lives like he plays, aggressively, determinedly, confidently. If he sees something difficult about hitting major league pitching, it doesn’t show. He has the bold eyes of a guy who knows he has a loaded shotgun pointed at your ribs, making sure the deal is honest.”

On the Raiders — Aug. 25, 1988

“To be a Raider was to be considered one of the great outcasts of history. It was the football version of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang. It wasn’t a franchise, it was a hideout. To hear the rest of the league tell it, the Raiders emptied every pool room in the South, every jail in Texas, to get their starting lineup. They found their front four hiding in the bushes in Central Park at midnight. They had more hard cases on their practice field than there were on Devil’s Island.”

On Mike Tyson’s fine for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear:

“That may be the most expensive dining out in history.”

And then he wrote about Mike Tyson: “Prison is supposed to be about rehabilitation. There are social scientists who think you could put a man-eating shark in prison for a year or two and, with ‘help’ (buzzword for therapy), he will come out a goldfish.”

Maury Wills — Jan. 20, 1978

“If Maury Wills doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, then Babe Ruth doesn’t. He did the same thing that Ruth did — change a national pastime, forever. . . . He ran the Dodgers into three pennants. He restored a lost art.”

Terry Bradshaw

“He always gave the impression he had just ridden into town on a wagon and two mules. He giggled. He was as country as grits, red-eye gravy and biscuits. He was as hyperactive as a puppy with a carpet slipper.”


Jim Murray on Cities and Towns

On Spokane

“The only trouble with Spokane, Washington, as a city is that there’s nothing to do after 10 o’clock. In the morning.”

On Cincinnati

“It looks like it’s in the midst of condemnation proceedings. If it was human, they’d bury it.

“You have to think that when Dan’l Boone was fighting the Indians for this territory, he didn’t have Cincinnati in mind for it. I wouldn’t arm-wrestle Frank Finch for it. To give you an idea, the guys were kidding on the bus coming to Cincinnati one time, and they decided that if war came, the Russians would bypass the city because they’d think it had already been bombed and taken.”

He then wrote of the fun residents of Cincinnati have during heat waves “. “sitting on their front porches listening to the street tar bubble.”

On Palm Springs, the self-proclaimed golf capitol of the world:

“Palm Springs is an inland sandbar man has wrestled from the rodents and the Indians to provide a day camp for the over-privileged adults.”

On St. Louis

“The city had a bond issue recently and the local papers campaigned for it on a slogan, ‘Progress or Decay,’ and decay won in a landslide.”

“The people in St. Louis who finance the arch are ridiculed for spending . . . $50,000,000 on a damn wicket.”

On Oakland

“Oakland is this kind of town: You have to pay 50 cents to go from Oakland to San Francisco. Coming from Oakland to San Francisco is free.”

On Los Angeles

It’s 400 miles of slide area. One minute you’re spreading a picnic lunch on a table at the Palisades and the next minute you’re treading water in the Pacific. It’s a place that has a dry river but 100,000 swimming pools. It’s a place where you get 100 days for murder but six months for whipping your dog.”

On a few others . . .

New York is “the largest chewing gum receptacle in the world.”

Louisville “when the wind is right, smells like a wet bar rag.”

When the steel mill furnaces were going 24 hours a day around Pittsburgh, Murray called the town”America’s night light, a city that gave us 10,000 bowling shirts with Tic-Toc Grill across the back.”

“Minneapolis and St. Paul don’t like each other very much and from what I could see I don’t blame either of them.” 

“Growing up in Hartford gave you a split personality. You were midway between Boston and New York, geographically and emotionally.”

And, finally, Jim Murray summed up his role as a journalist with:

“I like to keep people at arm’s length because sooner or later I’ll probably have to bite ’em in the ass. Some still have the teeth marks.”

And then there were these . . .

“Sports is just corporate America in cleats. It should be listed on the Big Board. And it’s the real opiate of the people.”

“People need to be amused, shocked, titillated or angered. But if you can amuse or shock or make them indignant enough, you can slip lots of information into your message.”

“Satire is the best weapon in the writer’s arsenal to attack injustice. Frothing at the mouth turns off the reader. Angry voices are always assaulting us from all sides. The humorless we always have with us.  And they always have their soapbox. The din of indignation gets deafening.”


Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation P.O. Box 661532, Arcadia, CA 91066



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