Mondays With Murray: A Little Music Would Not Hurt Del Mar

DECEMBER 30, 1988, SPORTS

Copyright 1988/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

A Little Music Would Not Hurt Del Mar

  Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien and a few of their cronies opened it as kind of their very own horse parlour. It wasn’t really meant for the general public.

  It was opened in the no-man’s land, the (then) still virginal territory between the beginning-to-boom marketing areas of Los Angeles and San Diego.

 They built a gorgeous, postal card clubhouse, a cross between a Spanish mission and a 1930s movie palace, and a good time was had by all.

 It didn’t cost all that much to build a racetrack of one’s own in the Depression-gripped mondaysmurray21930s, a time when movie people alone had a corner on most of the money earned in this country. Steel mills might be shutting down, soup kitchens might be opening up, but people still found dimes to go to the Saturday matinees and dream.

 Money was never really the point of the Del Mar racetrack, camaraderie was. Which was a good thing because money was not flowing. A track 110 miles from the horseplayers put too great a strain on their love for longshots. The year Del Mar opened, its daily average attendance was 4,654 and the handle was $101,104 a day. That same year, Santa Anita was averaging 18,541 a day and a handle of $653,820. Hollywood Park was to draw 16,708 a day with a handle of $499,882.

 But Del Mar made up in charm what it lacked in coin. It came to be serenaded as the “Saratoga of the West.” Where the surf met the turf. But it was not so stuffy as its Eastern counterpart; you didn’t have to wear

a hat or carry a parasol at Del Mar, and it had amenities the New York track couldn’t offer. The Pacific Ocean on its home stretch, for example.

 You could find Harry James and Betty Grable there almost any afternoon when they were two of the biggest names in show business. Crosby and Bob Hope were on the road to Del Mar constantly. Jimmy Durante bet there. So did, of all people, J. Edgar Hoover, at a time when he was America’s invisible government. It was the FBI director’s favorite recreation spot.

 As the megalopolis to the north and the mini-megalopolis to the south grew, so did Del Mar. But not disproportionately. The handle crept from $2,224,301 its first year to $23,846,789 the year after the Second World War. It hit $166,033,640 last year. Bing and Pat’s little hideaway horse parlor became very big business indeed.

 It has never been thought of as such. It has been run by the 22nd Agricultural District as a cross between a public library and crap game. Bing bowed out because he always hankered to own a big league baseball team, and when the chance came up, in those more puritanical times, he had to make a choice between owning the Pittsburgh Pirates and owning a racetrack. Or even a racehorse.

 The track was operated for about 20 years by the Texas megabucks combine of Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson, proceeds to a charity called Boys Inc.

 But Del Mar is 50 years old. Its picturesque grandstand is considered seismically unsafe. It must be replaced. By whom and with what has become a major issue in San Diego County. Estimated cost: $75 million to $100 million.

 There are 3 groups bidding for the next 20-year lease to operate the track: (1) The entrenched management now operating the club under lease, who propose two decades more of status quo with the grandstand to be built if and when revenues warrant it; (2) John Brunetti, operator of Hialeah Race Track in Florida, who proposes addition of a 10th race daily to up the take, and (3) A joint venture group consisting of the Ogden Corporation, a concessionaire and airline maintenance conglomerate, and James Nederlander, a theatre magnate, who propose to build the new grandstand at their own expense.

 The rub? Ogden-Nederlander want to use the facility in the off-season for “entertainment and non-racing events.” Opponents hiss: “Rock concerts!” Ogden-Nederlander counter: “Bolshoi Ballet!”

 Ogden-Nederlander foresee a kind of Hollywood Bowl South. Opponents see motorcycle gangs.

 Is it time for Bing’s dark-eyed little senorita to shuck the lace-mantilla past and join the world of commerce and contracts? Will it be like his other little crony lawn party, the golf tournament, that now is an AT&T extravaganza?

 On the face of it, it looks like a match race between Man o’ War and a claimer. The private-sector option promises the massive and necessary construction at no cost to the taxpayers — and at no great damage to the neighborhood.

 “Who ever heard of Nureyev breaking up a neighborhood?” demands Neil Papiano, lawyer for the Ogden-Nederlander group. “Is the Boston Pops going to pollute the air? People don’t come on motorcycles to see La Boheme.”

 His position and the position of his clients (Nederlander is a resident of nearby Carlsbad himself) is that the facility needs the transfusion from the private sector to even survive.

 “Our plan is to upgrade the facility at no cost to the state, the taxpayer, the community. So far as we know, there are no other funds ready for this purpose. These are stands which were thrown together as a tribute to palship by Crosby and his buddies a half-century ago. The facilities are outmoded, even dangerous, but the present operators offer no proposal for restoration other than to trust the matter to the state. Our proposal requires no legislative approval, no expenditure of state funds, no gubernatorial signature.

 “The plain facts of the matter would seem to be that there are no funds available from the state for the project, that the reality is the new grandstand is going to be built by private funds or it is not going to be built at all. We see a symphonies-by-the-sea program as a valuable adjunct to the racing program and an essential support to the racetrack.”

 In short, a little night music would seem to be in prospect for Bing’s playhouse by the sea. It’s hard to believe Der Bingle could object to that — where the blue of the night meets the gold of the day.

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, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

——

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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Mondays With Murray: Gamble Was Worth More Than Money

THURSDAY, MAY 9, 1991, SPORTS

Copyright 1991/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Gamble Was Worth More Than Money

  In the year 1936, in the little North Sea German town of Aurich, hard by Bremen, when a knock came on the door in the middle of the night, every Jewish family knew what it meant. A stormtrooper would be at the door, maybe with a piece of paper and a truncheon in his hand, and a truck with a swastika on it waiting at the door. Ultimate destination: gas chamber.

  Hitler had been in power two years and terror was abroad in the land. People were mondaysmurray2being beaten on the street for their religion. Yellow armbands were being distributed. The sound of breaking glass meant rocks were being thrown through synagogue windows and the worship areas set afire.

  So, when the inevitable knock came one midnight on the door of the Gluck family, and Mrs. Gluck threw open the door with pounding heart to see one of Hitler’s burly brownshirts standing there, her worst fears were realized. The family home would be Dachau.

  But then she recognized the intruder as an old high school classmate. This wasn’t necessarily reassuring, but this man quickly put his finger to his lips and slid inside the door. He had just come from a Party meeting, he told Henry Gluck’s mother, and he had an urgent recommendation. Why didn’t they get out of there now? Leave everything, if necessary, but go.

  They didn’t use the term then, but his message was clear: A Holocaust was in the making. They would get swallowed up in it unless they got out of Germany. He recommended they not delay a day.

  For Mrs. Gluck, the path was clear. She had read the signals. Germany was becoming a Hall of Horrors.

  But her husband balked. The Glucks had been in Germany for generations, as far back in time as anyone could trace. They were Germans. Why should they have to run from this Austrian paperhanger who wanted to put them out of their ancestral home, and give up their successful wool and leather business. He wouldn’t last. Anyway, where would they go?

  Anywhere, Mrs. Gluck insisted. If they didn’t, Hitler would find a place for them. A final place.

  Mrs. Gluck, fortunately, prevailed. The Gluck family sold their business at a loss — they were lucky because if they’d waited a year it would have been confiscated — packed their son and daughter and headed to Paris and, ultimately, Philadelphia, where a brother lived.

  Little Henry Gluck was nine at the time. Running around in lederhosen and hiking shoes, he was just learning to play soccer and he could not understand why his family wanted to turn into gypsies and head for the horizon. Henry and his young sister thought life was just fine.

   “I didn’t know what was happening,” he recalled 50 years later. “I remember my father taking me to a soccer game once, and on the horizon we saw this long line of cars. Then, suddenly, they all disappeared.

  ‘Where did they all go?’ I asked my father. He laughed. ‘They went underground,’ he explained. ‘They’re building planes for the war there.’ ”

  It was a period when Germany was girding for war in defiance of the treaty that banned military buildup. It was ominous for his elders, but the young Gluck remembers thinking it was exciting.

  That was more than half a century ago. The boy who escaped Hitler’s clutches is one of the most powerful financial figures in America.

  Henry Gluck is chairman and chief executive officer of Caesars World, the gaming conglomerate of Las Vegas, Atlantic City, the Poconos and Lake Tahoe, which does an annual business in the billion-dollar range. The boy who left Nazi Germany one step ahead of Himmler’s goon squads is an entrepreneurial genius who grew up in Philadelphia, attended the Wharton School of Finance and was so successful in the tricky world of merger and conglomerate financing that he was able to retire a millionaire at 43.

  Retirement was not all it was cracked up to be. “It’s not so much what happens to you, it’s that it robs your family of an identity. Someone asks, ‘And what does your father do?’ and they have to say, ‘Nothing!’ ” Gluck said.

  He returned to the stock exchange wars in 1983 when, as a board member of Caesars World, he saw what should have been a lucrative business slumping into a $21-million loss. The management was suspected of mob ties. It had problems being licensed. Gluck was coaxed out of retirement to give it direction and respectability. His reputation in banking circles was first-rate.

  If there are two ways to put your theretofore impeccable reputation at risk, one of them is to run a gambling establishment and the other is to promote prizefights. You are in danger in both instances of finding your picture in the tabloids standing next to Fat Tony Salerno or John Gotti or to find yourself in the Wall Street Journal being chided for doing business with the Don Kings of the world. Henry Gluck ignored the dangers. He took a bigger gamble than anyone at his baccarat tables.

  One result was, Caesars was turning a profit of more than $40 million by 1986.

  Such gambles are small potatoes compared to growing up in Germany in the 1930s. “They’re all gone now, most of the relatives and friends who stayed when we left,” Gluck acknowledges. “I would be dead if we stayed.”

  Instead, he is contemplating an expansion in the Las Vegas Caesars and yet another title fight where, this June, Thomas Hearns and Virgil Hill will meet for the light-heavyweight championship of the world. “Prizefights are perfect promotional vehicles for casinos,” Gluck explains. “We have 75,000 hotel rooms in Vegas, but with the proper fight, they’re all sold out.”

  Isn’t he afraid the boxing business will sully his otherwise spotless reputation? Gluck laughs and says: “Coming from where I did and what I got away from, that’s a small worry.”

  What of the brownshirt who came to the family home that midnight so long ago and warned them to get away? Henry Gluck grows thoughtful. “I don’t know. My mother (who is still alive) wouldn’t go back. I suspect he died in a snowbank in Russia somewhere.”

  It’s a strange success story. The Gluck family is probably the only one in Germany to have a knock on the door in the dead of night, throw open the door to see a stormtrooper standing there — and have it be the best thing that ever happened to them.

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, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

——

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.

Mondays With Murray: Only His Golf Game Is Hopeless

THURSDAY, JULY 4, 1985, SPORTS

Copyright 1985/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Only His Golf Game Is Hopeless

  Independence Day. A day to honor great Americans. As the Bible says, let us now praise famous men (Ecclesiastes). So, today, I’d like to salute one of the greatest.

  He was born in England but he’s as American as ketchup.

  He never led 100,000 men to their deaths, but he’s one of the most beloved military mondaysmurray2figures of all time. A great general once said he was worth 20 divisions to his country.

  He ranked in public esteem somewhere between Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and jelly beans. Mention his name and people smile. His whole life has been a requited love affair with America.

  He’s America’s drugstore cowboy. He elevated the art of the wisecrack to literature. He is a man without malice, an artist without temperament.

  He has played shows in freezing rain, tropical heat. He has crash-landed planes, rode asthmatic buses over mountain passes, he has given unstintingly of himself for causes great and small.

**********

  He has played the Palace, Broadway’s and Buckingham’s, but he has also played lodge hall benefits for burned-out buddies you never heard of. The phrase “have tux, will travel” was invented for him.

  But if there is one thing in life Leslie Townes Hope would have been besides America’s most beloved comedian, it’s a world-class athlete. He may be America’s No. 1 sports Walter Mitty.

  He tried prizefighting (under the nom du ring ‘Packy East’), but likes to boast he was the only fighter they had to carry in as well as out of the ring. He was a knockout artist. No one was any better than he at getting knocked out.

  He couldn’t play for a big league baseball team — so he bought one. He couldn’t coach a pro football team, so he bought one of those, too. He always said the greatest regret in his life was not buying the Rams outright when he had the chance 25 years ago.

  But the really great sports passion of Bob Hope’s life is golf. I don’t suppose anybody alive has ever done more for the game, not Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, not anybody, except possibly the Scotsman who invented it in the first place.

  The Scots invented it, but Hope and Bing Crosby popularized it. When they used to do their wartime fundraising tours, the game was popularly believed to be the private reserve of guys who ran railroads or owned oil wells.

  It was restricted to posh country clubs the average Joe got into only for school dances.

  Hope changed all that. He brought the game down to the level of the common man. If Hope could play it, anybody could.

  Although he was, no one ever thought of Bob Hope as a rich man. Because he never acted like one.

  He lived in the same house in Hollywood for 45 years because it was near a golf course. He was never in it, anyway.

  For more than 50 years, Bob Hope has been either on a tee or on a stage or an airplane. His standard joke was his kids thought his name was “Goodby Daddy.”

  Hope always thought life was an easy little par-3 where he got a stroke, anyway, and he lived it accordingly.

  Hope has slept in the White House, dined with kings, golfed with the presidents, but he has never once in 82 years taken himself seriously.

  He will die with a quip, you can make book on that. Bob Hope doesn’t play Bob Hope. Bob Hope is Bob Hope.

  And, where there’s Hope, there’s golf. Bob has collected his golf experiences in a tome titled ‘Bob Hope’s Confessions of a Hooker.’ It is subtitled ‘My Lifelong Love Affair With Golf.’

  It’s as relaxed as a Saturday morning round with your brother-in-law, as much fun as a birdie.

  It is filled with the nostalgia of 50 years in the sun. Hope, happily, never got too good at the game. Being Bob Hope, he wouldn’t want to. A comedian, to be great, must be loved.

  Some of the stories are well-worn but still funny. For Bob, the game was a daily sitcom with a friendly cast of characters. Like:

  President Ford — “The man who made golf a contact sport. There are over 50 golf courses in Palm Springs, and Jerry Ford never knows which one he’s playing till he tees off. His cart is the one with the Red Cross painted on top. I try to make it a foursome when I play with him — the President, myself, a paramedic and a faith healer. The only man who can play four courses simultaneously.”

  Billy Graham — “How would you like to play 18 holes and have it raining just on you?”

  Ex-ballplayer Joe Garagiola — “When Joe was playing ball, he could never hit a curve. Well, he can now.”

  Crooner Perry Como — “We were all complimenting Perry for keeping his head down until we realized he’d fallen asleep.”

  On blind golfer Charley Boswell — “Charley tells me I’ve got the worst swing he’s ever heard.”

  Where there was golf, there was Hope. Bob figures he was lucky it was around for him. A lot of people figure it was the other way round.

  If, on this Fourth of July, we are to praise our famous, let us begin with him.

  He will never be a statue in the park on horseback or a face on a mountain. That’s all right with Hope. He’d rather be a ball washer on a par-3 at Lakeside, anyway.

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, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

——

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.

Mondays With Murray: The NBA Never Had It So Good

In honor of the underdogs (Toronto Raptors) bringing it to the big dogs (Golden State Warriors), here’s Jim Murray’s column on the old days of the NBA from Feb. 26, 1992. . . . Enjoy!

——

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 1982, SPORTS

Copyright 1982/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

The NBA Never Had It So Good

  When I began to cover pro basketball about 20 or so years ago, it was a hit-and-miss sport, mostly the latter.

  Franchises were like floating crap games. The teams dropped their bags wherever they could get a basketball and a couple of hundred people to pass the hat to. If you scratched mondaysmurray2the St. Louis Hawks uniform emblem, you might see Waterloo, Iowa stencilled underneath.

 The game was played in metropolises like Sheboygan, Oshkosh, Anderson, Ind., and Providence, R.I. The Tri-Cities Blackhawks (Moline and Rock Island, Ill., and Davenport, Iowa) were the forerunners of today’s Atlanta Hawks.

  But it wasn’t only in prehistoric times that the game was part sport, part medicine show. The public thought the Harlem Globetrotters were the best team in basketball and, to sell out Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks usually had to share a doubleheader with the Globies.

  The public was slow to warm to the game. I can remember, as late as 1961, going to a playoff game on a Sunday afternoon between the St. Louis Hawks and the Los Angeles Lakers and finding a “throng” of about 2,800 at the Sports Arena. And the floor had players on it like Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan, Clyde Lovelette, Lenny Wilkens, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Rod Hundley.

  Even with that kind of talent, I recall Wilt Chamberlain was the highest paid player in the league at less than $20,000. The Lakers had been sent to L.A. by the then-owner Bob Short, with instructions to his general manager to “keep the team going into the Pacific Ocean if they lose money there, too.” The game ultimately thrived in L.A. where the population had a large number of New York expatriates who had learned the game in their youth in the boroughs of the big city, where basketball was “the poor man’s polo.”

  I bring this up because the commissioner of modern pro basketball passed through this week with a report to the media on the state of the game in this Year of Our Lord 1982.

  One thing is sure: It’s never going back to Oshkosh.

  Lawrence F. O’Brien, once the Kennedy family’s political mentor, and ex-Postmaster General of the U.S., reports that rumors of the game’s terminal status are somewhat, if not greatly exaggerated. He broke up the fast break of the doomsayers with a little fancy “D” of his own under the basket:

  Rumor No. 1 had it that the NBA was in deep financial trouble and in imminent danger of collapse from top to bottom. “Not so,” said Commissioner O’Brien. “In the NBA, one-third of the league is highly profitable, one-third is breaking even or almost, and one-third is losing money. But corrections in the league population of 23 are not contemplated because cable revenues are just over the horizon for even the most troubled franchises.”

  Rumor No. 2 had it that television, the Great White Father of sports, is disenchanted with basketball as a prime time or even Sunday afternoon attraction. “We just signed a new four-year pact with CBS for $88 million and a $5.5 million-a-year pact with cable TV (ESPN and USA). That’s $27.5 million a year we get to split evenly among our franchises. We signed for only two years with cable because we think the numbers there are going to go up substantially and soon.”

  Rumor 3 had it that affluent white fans are becoming disenchanted with the almost all-black makeup of the game. “There is no evidence of that at all. Attendance is up eight percent all over the league and some franchises are up dramatically – a 90 percent increase in New Jersey. The color of the uniform means more to the fans than the color of the player.”

  Rumor 4 had it that fat-cat owners are pricing the league out of business, as witness Magic Johnson’s $25-million contract. “The average salary in this league is $214,500, and our figures indicate that two-thirds of all team revenues go to the players,” O’Brien said. He did not say it in so many words, but he indicated that, when the league Players Association contract is up this year, the players may have to approach the bargaining table in a “give-back” frame of mind, that, like all labor, it might behoove them to sacrifice individual benefits to preserve the industry as a whole.

  Will players be apt to take such a statesmanlike view, he was asked, or will most choose not to care what happens to the goose now that they’ve gotten their golden eggs out of it? “We hold more informal discussions than other sports,” O’Brien pointed out. “I have not personally dabbled into the preliminary negotiations, but I think we have a closer sense of fraternity and purpose about our league that some of the older, more-established sports.”

  Maybe they should have. There are lots of us still around who remember when the “league” was a bus load of players riding through the cornfields of Iowa on the lookout for an empty gym and a bunch of farm workers who just got paid, when Walter Brown bought the Celtics for $2,500 and, when someone called the arena to ask what time the game would be played, the answer might be “What time would you like it?”

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, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

——

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.

Mondays With Murray: Clippers Finally Come of Age

His nicknames included Mr. Clutch, for his ability to make a big play in a clutch situation, such as his famous buzzer-beating 60-foot shot that tied Game 3 of the 1970 NBA championship series against the New York Knicks; The Logo, in reference to his silhouette being incorporated into the NBA logo; Mr. Outside, in reference to his perimeter play with the Los Angeles Lakers; and Zeke from Cabin Creek, for the creek near his birthplace of Chilean, W.Va.

He had an extraordinary 14-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and was the co-captain of the 1960 U.S. Olympic gold medal team, a squad that was inducted as a unit into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Jerry West was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980 and voted as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996.

After his playing career ended, West took over as head coach of the Lakers for three years. He led Los Angeles into the playoffs each season and earned a Western Conference final berth once. Working as a player-scout for three years, West was named general manager of the Lakers prior to the 1982-83 NBA season. Under his reign, Los Angeles won six championship rings. In 2002, West became general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies and helped the franchise win their first-ever playoff berths. For his contributions, West won the NBA executive-of-the-year award twice, once as a Lakers manager (1995) and then as a Grizzlies manager (2004).

On June 14, 2017, West joined the Los Angeles Clippers as a consultant to the team’s front office and on May 14, 2019, he agreed to a new contract to stay with the franchise.

——  

THURSDAY, APRIL 1, 1993, SPORTS

Copyright 1993/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Clippers Finally Come of Age

   There used to be a scene in the old Westerns where one gunslinger would ride into town and come up to another and snarl, “There isn’t room enough in this town for the mondaysmurray2both of us, Buster, so why don’t you get on your horse and ride out while you still can!”

   It was sure-fire theater and sold a lot of popcorn. I was reminded of it the other night at the Sports Arena, where the Clippers suddenly came of age. They stopped being the pimply-faced kid at the end of the bar dreaming of glory and instead went up to the town bully and said, “Make me!”

   The game between the upstart Clippers and the old pro Lakers was a watershed moment. They walked down Main Street at high noon, and the Lakers blinked.

   It isn’t as if the town is the Clippers’ — but it isn’t the Lakers’ anymore.

   The Lakers, for years, didn’t even know the Clippers existed. Remember the famous time in New York when the Giants manager, Bill Terry, maliciously asked, “Brooklyn? Are they still in the league?” And the Dodgers, smarting, knocked them out of the pennant in a season-closing series?

   The Lakers, luxuriating in the glory years when they had the roughest hombres in the West — Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Wilkes, McAdoo, Cooper and Scott — had no reason to know if the Clippers were still in the league. Or where. They beat them when they were the Buffalo Braves. They beat them when they were the San Diego Clippers. They beat them when they were the Los Angeles Clippers. They beat them wherever they found them.

   The Clippers were kind of a municipal embarrassment. They went through more towns faster than the Ohio River or Butch Cassidy on the lam. They wore out their welcome right after they wiped their feet, and when owner Donald Sterling figured he might as well join the rest of the country and move them to Los Angeles, the reaction was, “L.A. already has a team. Have you given any thought to Anaheim?” Or Dubuque, for that matter.

   No one ever used that sports-page cliche, “cross-town rivals,” because there wasn’t really any rivalry. The Lakers used to treat the Clippers as kind of a complicated workout. An uncontested shootaround.

   The Lakers got to thinking they could send 10 guys from the back of a truck out there with “Lakers” scrawled on their jerseys, and the Clippers would fold. But this began to change subtly when first Kareem, then Magic, left the Lakers.

   The rivalry extended off the court. Elgin Baylor and Jerry West never played each other on the court, but as general managers, they went one-on-one with each other with customary intensity.

   Getting a winning team in the NBA is a crapshoot. A Magic Johnson or Larry Bird or Michael Jordan comes walking out of the collegiate ranks to prove to be an all-world only infrequently. More often, a guy with equal collegiate credentials can’t jump shoot in this competition.

   Most years, you don’t get superstars. You have to be crafty and figure out who are the best of the journeymen.

   Los Angeles is no stranger to the notion of cross-town rivalries. UCLA and USC would rather beat each other than win the conference. But the pros have never had any comparable feuds.

   In New York, the Dodger fans hated the Giants’. But in California, the Giants are 400 miles away. It’s easier to hate someone whose ballpark you can invade periodically to vent your hostility. In New York, they hated one another whether their teams were last or first.

   Does Los Angeles need a contender to care that much? Will the fans leave in the seventh inning or hit the parking lot with a quarter to play unless a championship is at stake?

   The Lakers look like a guy with one foot on a banana peel and the other on a roller skate. The Clippers won’t remind you of the Bird Celtics or the Magic Lakers, but they artfully use what they have.

   One of the things they have is a kind of bull-elephant backfield. Stanley Roberts and John Williams look in poor light like a pair of Alps and are as impenetrable as rush-hour traffic. When those two lock arms, the only way to the basket is by Figueroa Street. They are the only duo on the floor who are 7 feet tall-and 10 feet wide. They should play in Santa Claus suits.

   And the Clippers have Mark Jackson, a cat-quick, savvy point guard-we used to call them “playmakers” — who keeps the Clippers on their toes with his fast footwork and ear-high passes. He is to the Clippers what Joe Montana was to the 49ers. He steers them downcourt, then commands the attack under the basket, skillfully working for the open man. His idol and role model was Magic Johnson. “I’m no Magic,” he admits. “But I try to set up the floor the way he did.”

   Since Jackson played his whole career in and around New York — at St. John’s and with the Knicks, before the Clippers slickered him West — he is asked whether a New York-style rivalry is possible in laid-back L.A.

   “In New York,” he explains, “the attitude is set up by the media. It’s not that they’re more knowledgeable or more caring, they’re more demanding. They read a story in the papers and get their perception from that. They not only boo ineffectiveness, they boo great players. This town booed Babe Ruth, don’t forget. They booed Earl Monroe. There’s a lot more pressure playing in New York because you’re bucking preconceived notions.”

   It has been suggested (here) that the difference between the New York fan and the L.A. fan can be summed up in the attitude of the guy at the race track watching his horse struggle to the wire. In New York, the fan’s face is contorted with rage. “Don’t die now, ya dog!” is his scream at the mount. In L.A., the fan is more inclined to plead and encourage than to insult. “Just a few more steps, sweetheart, you can do it!”

   “They get on you here, too,” Jackson says. “But I think we passed a test tonight. We’re still a game behind the Lakers, but they know we’re here now. I’m proud of this team. We needed this win and we got it.”

   It’s the Lakers’ turn to wonder, “Who are these guys?” It’s their turn to consider getting out of town, according to the Clippers.

   All dynasties fade in time. The Lakers owned this town for a long time. But that funny little team on the other end of the freeway passed a major test Tuesday night. It was the first time since 1974, when they were the Buffalo Braves, that they have won a season series from the Lakers.

If anybody has the right to say, “Be outta town by sundown!” it’s the new kid on the block. He gets to wear the white hat in this chase.

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, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

——

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.

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

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 1966, SPORTS

Copyright 1966/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

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, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

——

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.

Mondays With Murray: Palmer Had the Open; Andretti Has this Place

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing

The 103rd running of the Indy 500 is set for Sunday, May 26. It will mark the 50th anniversary of Mario Andretti’s victory in the race.

——

SUNDAY, MAY 23, 1993, SPORTS

Copyright 1993/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Palmer Had the Open; Andretti Has This Place

   If, as has been said, it’s never a good idea to bring up the subject of rope in the house of the hanged, perhaps it’s not too advisable to bring up the subject of the Indianapolis 500 in the house of the Andrettis.

   For too long, it has been a sore spot. The purists wince, the dedicated fans groan, and well-wishers shriek “Not again!” as the tragic words come drifting over the loudspeaker mondaysmurray2in the late stages of the race, “Andretti is slowing down!” Pit crews kick the fuel tanks, owners curse, wives weep.

   It’s a bit of historic injustice that happens every year. It doesn’t seem to matter which Andretti — father Mario, or sons Michael and Jeff. Maybe, one of these years, it will be nephew John.

   The Andrettis should enter this haunted house with dread. Trepidation. It’s Little Red Riding Hood going to grandmother’s house. Hansel and Gretel strolling through the forest. Snow White and her stepmother.

   It’s galling. It’s particularly discouraging when it keeps happening to Mario. Mario Andretti is unquestionably —  now that A.J. Foyt is retired — the greatest race driver of our times still in a car.

   The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was supposed to be to Mario Andretti what the stage of the Old Vic was to Olivier, the Met to Caruso, the Bolshoi to Nureyev, a ring to Muhammad Ali. A showcase for his great talents

   The first time he drove the 500, he dazzled the natives with the confident competence with which he handled it. He was a 4F driver — fast, fearless, feisty and (usually) first. He was rookie of the year. He finished third, only ticks behind winner Jim Clark.

   When he won in 1969, it was freely predicted he might win a dozen of these before he was through.

   He has won one.

   Anyone who ever watched an auto race knows what a colossal bit of unfairness this is. Mario Andretti winning only one Indy is like Arnold Palmer winning one U.S. Open. Mario is the Arnold Palmer of auto racing. The gods of sport have it in for them.

   You will remember that Palmer, too, in winning only one Open, was second in four of them and in playoffs in three of those.

   Mario has won only once at Indy. But he has been second twice, third once and fourth once.

   You might say he was in a playoff in 1981. That was the year Bobby Unser, driving one of Roger Penske’s cars, arrived in Victory Lane, only to be told the next morning that he had been penalized a lap for passing cars under a yellow light. His “victory” was taken away from him and awarded to Mario Andretti, who had come from 32nd — next to last — on the grid to second. And then, apparently, to first.

   Andretti got the traditional pace car at the victory banquet the following Monday — but without the keys in it. He got an envelope with the winner’s check in it — but the check wasn’t signed.

   The race was turned over to the courts. The litigation dragged on until October, when a three-judge panel returned the victory to Unser — but by a vote of 2-1. Bobby got two-thirds of a triumph.

   It was the longest, costliest Indy race in history, four months from start to checkered flag. It computed out of an average of about 6 m.p.h. Covered wagons might not take that long to make 500 miles.

   So, Mario — like Palmer with golf — became synonymous with racing, a popular victim of what Aristotle called underserved misfortunate.

   Arnold won 60 golf tournaments on the PGA Tour, fourth all time. Mario has won 52 Indy car races, second all time.

   By rights, each should be multiple winners in his sport’s showcase tournament.

   The Open eluded Palmer once when he had a seven-shot lead with only nine holes to play.

   Indy has eluded Mario when he was in sight of the checkered flag, had a clear track in front of him and plenty of fuel. In 1987, he had led the race for 170 laps when, on Lap 195 of 200, his car suddenly slowed and stopped.

   In 1985, Mario not only saved Danny Sullivan’s race, he saved his life. Andretti dived down beneath Sullivan’s spinning car on Lap 120. Mario led that race for 107 laps, but finished second.

   Shouldn’t Mario stay in bed on race day? Or take the family to the beach? Get an insurance policy against even hearing the race?

   Not Mario. He couldn’t wait to get out on that track this year, as usual. He was first off the blocks on qualification day. He rolled out there and put himself solidly on the pole — for six hours — on a day the track was so hot it made pizza out of the tires and slowed the cars into delivery trucks.

   But, Mario knows those corners like Palmer knows the greens at Augusta, and he put up a number — 223-plus — that stood until late in the day and the cool of evening, when Arie Luyendyk went out and took the pole away from him by a tick of the second hand.

   Mario has won the pole three times at the Speedway. This will be the third time he has started from the No. 2 position. The first time he did, he won.

   Does he feel snakebit at this citadel of motorsport? Is the Brickyard the graveyard for Andretti hopes?

   “Well, when you consider I’ve led this race more laps than anyone in it — and more times than a guy who was a four-time winner (Rick Mears), you have to think something is at work here,” Mario concedes. “Yes, I would have thought I’d be working on my fifth win by now.”

   Instead, he’s working on his second.

   It’s the hardest race in the world to win. You don’t even win it when you do.

   Of the 1981 debacle, Mario says: “The rules say you can’t pass (cars) under the yellow (caution flag). (Bobby Unser) passed 13 cars under one yellow. He put 13 cars behind him and the pace car. The pictures showed that.

   “The rules are there. When Jerry Grant finished second (in 1972), they found he had pitted in Bobby Unser’s pit and took on fuel there. They penalized him 12 laps. Moved him back to 12th and cost him a lot of money ($72,000). They penalized Johnny Rutherford for passing under the yellow one year (1985) when he was running third.”

   So, who won the ’81 race?

   “Penske’s lawyers,” Mario says.

   Mario makes his 28th assault on the Speedway next Sunday. At 53, is he Don Quixote tilting at his personal windmill once again? Age 48 is the oldest anyone has won this race — Al Unser Sr.

   Mario Andretti is not interested in trivia. The Indianapolis 500 owes him one. Auto racing owes him plenty. The hope in the infield is that this year the exciting news that comes spewing over the loudspeakers on Lap 198 is, “Andretti is speeding up!”

   Even Arnold Palmer would applaud that. It would be fitting and just. But, if racing had any decency, Andretti would be on the pole. If it had a conscience, he would win. And we would all be 25 years younger.

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, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

——

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.