Today we take you back to Jan. 2, 1986 when Jim Murray took on the state of Iowa in his column and created a backlash that not only got him banned from the state by the governor but also made him the target in a news article headlined ‘Dear Jim Murray: You Stink — Iowa’.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 2, 1986, SPORTS
Copyright 1986/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANYJIM MURRAY
Aw, Shucks, City Slickers Win It Again
Well, I guess the good old American farmer is in worse trouble than we thought.
A bunch of corn-kickers from Iowa came out to the big city for New Year’s and got shucked again.They came out with the egg money and blew it on the wrong shell again. They’re going home, so to speak, with a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge and a watch that loses an hour a day and turns green on their arm.
It’s getting embarrassing. Another defeat for home cooking and mom’s apple pie. Quiche is better for you.Throw away the fudge. We’re beginning to wonder what’s so great about the Fourth of July, picnics in the park, rhubarb and homemade jelly.
I mean, you’re going to have to start covering your eyes when these guys come to town in the family Winnebago with their pacemakers and the chicken salad. I bet they didn’t even get Bob Hope’s autograph or get to see Tom Mix’s footprints in the Chinese Theater.
These people are the salt of the earth. They feed the world.They just can’t play football.
They can butcher hogs, grow grain. Why, we wouldn’t have frosted corn flakes if it weren’t for them.
But when they get to the Rose Bowl, they act like guys who just got off a truck with a straw suitcase and the rent money sewn into their jackets. They’re ripe for the old pigeon drop and other bunco games the city slickers put on them in wicked old L.A., where people take their clothes off in the picture shows and drink beer from a bottle. You folks all know the kind of things they do right there in L.A. And with the shades up, too.
Whatever happened to Midwest verities, to Big Ten football? Don’t they go down in the coal mines for players anymore? Don’t they fan the corn rows for the boys who can plow without a horse and lift a tractor with one hand anymore? Doesn’t anybody make biscuits and gravy anymore?
It’s enough to make you afraid of America. How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm if they keep getting beat, 45-28?
It isn’t as if they hit the bright lights. Iowa’s coach kept his football team from visiting the fleshpots of L.A., like Knott’s Berry Farm and Marineland and other dens of iniquity. He wouldn’t even let them eat out. Iowans don’t hold with going where you’ve got to order off a menu. I never saw so much potato salad in my life.
Rodeo Drive got a good leaving-alone from them, too. They don’t buy anything that doesn’t come in a catalogue — or give coupons.
But, this time, they thought they really had the team that was slick enough to make them proud. Iowa doesn’t come to the Rose Bowl that often that it can afford to get its hat pulled down over its ears and a note pinned on its back reading “Kick me.”
The last time Iowa came to the Rose Bowl, it didn’t even score (28-0), but its coach, Hayden Fry, thought he could spot the trouble right away. It was going to Disneyland and all that honky-tonking, as he called it. Also, eating roast beef in a place that had tablecloths. I mean, how could a guy keep his mind on football in a place that had merry-go-rounds and monorails and Mickey Mouse? The biggest threat to morals since pictures started to talk.
That kind of surprises you about Hayden, who looks like a pretty good city slicker himself. I mean, he’s not Broadway Hayden, but he does look like a guy who has peeked at a hole card himself now and again. In fact, he might have known what it was when he dealt it. Hayden is a traveling man from Texas, and people who have played with him there say you better be sure to cut the cards.
But, Hayden not only sheltered his team from the temptations of the magic kingdom, he didn’t even bring his team out here till the dark of night, five days before kickoff. He didn’t land in wicked L.A., he chose a windsock airport out in the boonies, and his team came in wearing dark glasses like spies.
Now, any man who chooses to prepare his team for a game in 80-degree temperature in a state where 20-above is a balmy day has got to be a guy who would let you bring your own deck. Getting ready for a game in a field house you have to steam heat to 85 in preference to a place where to get 85, you only have to open the doors, is missing a point somewhere. Practicing indoors is smart only if you’re going to play indoors. And something other than football.
But Hayden Fry didn’t lose the game, a guy named Eric Ball won it.
The history of the Rose Bowl is fecund with tales of second-stringers who came in and turned the game around and on its ear. Doyle Nave comes to mind with last-second heroics in the 1939 game, but nobody ever took over a Rose Bowl game any more thoroughly than Eric Ball did Wednesday. All he did was rush for 227 yards and four touchdowns. He put the ball in position for the fifth touchdown, which was inches away from the goal line on third down, when the coaches let the quarterback sneak it over, for reasons best known to themselves. Five TDs would have been a record.
The extraordinary thing about Eric Ball is not what he does, it’s where he’s from. He was raised in Ypsilanti, Mich., and for those of you unfamiliar with the geography there, that’s about a two-mile walk from the University of Michigan Stadium and a local call from coach Bo Schembechler’s office.
Eric probably saw something in Big Ten football before the rest of us, because he didn’t stop going till he got 2,000 miles from it. “He came in with his father to visit — it wasn’t a tough recruit at all,” UCLA coach Terry Donahue revealed.
Eric was a candidate for a rubber room on the last day of the season when, with the ball on the USC goal line and the winning touchdown and Rose Bowl in full view, he tried to dive across the line. He made it. The ball didn’t. The ball popped so high in the air it came down with snow on it. It came down in the arms of USC’s Marcus Cotton and, if Arizona State hadn’t lost that night, Eric Ball might have spent New Year’s in hiding instead of in spotlights.
Coach Fry seemed to think in a complete state of shock after the game. “We were completely annihilated,” he whispered. “That (UCLA) is the finest group of athletes we have ever played against. We couldn’t stop them. Nobody could stop them. Obviously, if they played all season like they played tonight (sic) they’d be the national champions. We held Michigan to nine first downs. UCLA made, what, 29 first downs? Michigan was supposed to be No. 3, but Michigan couldn’t hold a light to this bunch.”
What of Eric Ball? He was asked. “Ball?! Hell, I couldn’t tell him from the rest of them. What’d they have — a hundred? They all ran by us.”
Should he have let his team visit the sin palaces of Disneyland and the berry patches? “Do you realize what the score would have been if I let them go honky-tonking around?” demanded Fry, indignantly.
Actually, he probably should have brought his players out in August and let them have the run of Sunset Boulevard and the Playboy Mansion and wear a neckful of gold chains and shoes without socks and smoked glasses and eat quiche. Down Home America ain’t what it’s cracked up to be anymore. River City better wise up.
Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times
Jim Murray Memorial Foundation P.O. Box 661532, Arcadia, CA 91066
After a successful 20-year run, the JMMF dissolved and distributed its remaining financial assets to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., to create the Jim Murray Sports Communications Scholars Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and MLB share significant and timeless overlapping history with Jim Murray. He wrote more columns on baseball than he wrote on any other sport, bringing baseball’s history and legends to life through sports journalism.
The Jim Murray Sports Communications Scholars Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is expected to continue in perpetuity or until contributions to the program are exhausted. The HOF’s development team created a special link specifically for donations designated to this program. Please note that this page will exist in tandem with a new webpage to come this spring ’23 with all info necessary for prospective students to apply.
CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE NEW HOF/JMMF WEBPAGE supporting its new Jim Murray initiative.
Meanwhile, for those of you wishing to make a donation by check, please make payable to:
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and mail to:
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Please specify: Jim Murray Scholars Program
The JMMF is extremely grateful to all our donors over the past two decades. You have helped ease the financial burden of a college education while helping to share the work of one of, if not THE best sportswriters in the world.
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