Mondays With Murray: Football Announcers — What They Say, What It Really Means




Football Announcers — What They Say, What It Really Means

  Many years ago in this country, bankers used to communicate in code. They weren’t evil men, just careful, and they didn’t want the public worrying about their money.

  There are fewer secrets in today’s world and codes are, by and large, used only mondaysmurray2by spy groups who seek to hide their identity by waling up to strangers and saying such things as, “The moon is red and rises in the East,” or, “The snows have melted in the Karakoram early this year.” That way, if you get the wrong guy, he can say, “Oh, wait a minute you want Goldberg the spy. He lives upstairs with his sister.”

  But there is one profession where talking in ciphers is alive and well — the football broadcasting booth. Here is the last bastion of talking in tongues in our society. The object here is not so much to continue the counterspy as to protect the mystique of football.

  Football is a game consisting of blocking and tackling and not much else. But it is the duty of those who promote it and have a stake in it to invest it with the trappings and liturgical cant of an occult Eastern religion. It is imperative that those who interpret it for you convince you there’s more here than meets the eye.

  Still, it is part of the journalistic covenant with the public not to demystify football, exactly, but to decode it into understandability, take the buzz out of some of the words. Accordingly, we bring you here some of the better-known cryptographs broken down into their common English meanings:

  “This is a big third-down play.” There is no such thing as a small third-down play unless, of course, it is Harvard’s. Custom dictates that third downs be singled out, but remember that big third-down plays are often preceded by even bigger first- and second-down plays.

  “They have good field position.” An overworked and misleading observation by hindsight. For instance, sometimes the worst field position you could have would be on the Chicago Bears’ four-yard line. You might be better off with the ball on your own four. Just having the ball sometimes made for poor field position against the Seattle Seahawks.

  “They are showing blitz.” The defense is going to run forward instead of backward for a change, and play football instead of volleyball.

  “They are in the zone.” Running backward again.

  “They’re in a rotating zone.” They started to run backward and bumped into each other.

  “He called time out, he didn’t like what he saw.” What he saw was the defensive end starting to drool and paw the ground, or he got a copy of the psychiatrist’s report on the cornerback.

  “He got a good read on the quarterback.” He saw him coming out of the disco at 4 in the morning.

  “He audibilized on the line of scrimmage.” The coach sent in a quarterback sneak but the quarterback had a date that night.

  “That play is called Yellow 30.” The formation in which the quarterback refuses to sneak.

  “The end was supposed to kick out on the Y back but the nose man ran a stunt.” Five-yard loss.

  “He threw into coverage.” The pass was so wobbly that six guys had time to get under it.

  “We’ll take what the defense gives us.” Four field goals.

  “He’s throwing underneath the coverage.” Two-yard gain.

  “They’re going into their two-minute drill.” Everybody’s trying, finally.

  “The safety had deep responsibility but he needed help on the inside coming across the middle.” Touchdown.

  “He tried to force the ball in there.” Interception.

  “He’s got a quick release.” Terror.

  “He’s got quick feet.” Terror.

  “He holds the ball to the last second.” Stupidity.

  “They’re dominating the line of scrimmage.” They’ve got two more sociopaths than the other guys.

  “The momentum just shifted.” So did the ball.

  “The coach’s game plan was genius.” Yeah. He wrote in the three fumbles, blocked punt and the two interference penalties in the last five minutes.

  Just remember the spread is not a formation, it’s a sucker bet; a tight end is not necessarily a lush, and, as soon as you start understanding any or all of these terms, start therapy.


Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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


Mondays With Murray: No One Can Say the Guy Chose the Wrong Field


The world lost one of the most recognizable names in the game of baseball, Tommy Lasorda, on Jan. 7. Lasorda lived, breathed and bled Dodgers blue until til the end.

Arash Markazi, a JMMF board member and sports writer/radio host, remembers Lasorda:

Tommy Lasorda’s office at Dodger Stadium was like a museum. It included a tombstone he loved showing off to visitors. “I want to see the Dodgers win before they put that tombstone to use,” he once told me.

Tommy kept a letter he wrote to God that gave thanks for his wife, Jo, in his desk drawer. He loved her. He once told me, “I want my wife to put the Dodgers’ schedule on my tombstone. When people are in the cemetery visiting their loved ones, they’ll say, ‘Let’s go to Lasorda’s grave and see if the Dodgers are playing today.'”

He loved Frank Sinatra and next to his desk hung a painting of Sinatra kissing Lasorda’s mother, Carmella, on the cheek after visiting her at her home in Norristown, Pennsylvania, for a home-cooked meal.

He took care of my mom. He brought her to his show, he dedicated it to her, he gave her flowers, and that’s the kind of man he was,” he told me. “He was a generous man, but if he didn’t like you, look out.”

The last time I talked to Tommy was last year at a New Year’s Eve party. It was one of the few highlights of 2020. He said the Dodgers were finally going to win the World Series in October. He was right and he was there to see it.

RIP in Blue Heaven, Tommy.”





No One Can Say the Guy Chose the Wrong Field

  If you had a licence from God to construct yourself a baseball manager, you would probably begin with one with a big belly and short legs that were slightly mondaysmurray2bowed or pebbled with lumps so that they looked like sacks of walnuts. You would want one who had his own syntax, a voice that sounded like an oncoming train in a tunnel. It’d have to be a nice part for Vincent Gardenia.

  He wouldn’t have been a big star in his youth. A .500 pitcher, perhaps. A .260 hitter who made a lot of noise. He’d have to know how tough this game is. He’d never have a self-doubt or a moment’s anxiety. He’d come into a room as if he were leading a parade. Everybody would be his best friend. He’d talk to shoeshine boys, parking lot attendants. He’d sell baseball. He’d be sure God was a baseball fan. He’d know that America was the greatest country in the world, otherwise how could a poor boy like him grow up to be part of the greatest organization in the world?

  He’d never be at a loss for words, he’d like to eat, he’d cry at sad movies, but he’d have a temper like a top sergeant whose shoes were too tight. He’d be sentimental, cantankerous, on speaking terms with the president of the United States but, if you asked him what his foreign policy was, he’d say, “Beat Montreal!”

  He’d be part press agent, part father figure, all man. He’d have an anecdote for every occasion, always with a moral attached. He’d tell at the drop of a hat of the time when he knocked the big league batter down the first time he faced him because that batter had refused him an autograph as a knothole kid years before. His stories would be more entertaining than true, but no reporter ever would leave his office with an empty notebook or stomach.

  He wouldn’t be one of those tense, secretive guys like the manager in the World Series last year who looked as if he was guarding a gang hideout and you were the Feds. He’d be selling baseball. It would be his job, and come from a long line of people who did their jobs.

  He’d have a lot of con in him. He’d never forget he was dealing with kids, and that he would make them pick the shell without the pea under it if he had to.

  When he’d have a player who didn’t want to transfer from the outfield to catcher, he’d say, “Didn’t you know the great Gabby Hartnett, the greatest catcher of all time, started out in the outfield?” Gabby Hartnett started out in a catcher’s mask, but a good manager is resourceful.

  When a team was floundering in a 10-game losing streak, this manager would reassure them that “the 1927 Yankees, the greatest team of all time, lost 11 games in a row that year!” The 1927 Yankees didn’t have 11 losing innings in a row, but that would be irrelevant.

  He’d know baseball wasn’t nuclear physics. It was show business. It was “Entertainment Tonight.” The pictures on his wall would not be Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Stuffy McInnis, Connie Mack, John McGraw, guys sliding into second. They’d be the heavy hitters of show business, Sinatra, Rickles, Berle, Kaye.

  He’d be a star in his own right. People would have his picture on their office walls.

  He’d be Tommy Lasorda. He’d be Mr. Baseball, a guy with his own show. He’d get the best tables in restaurants, he’d be part of the fabric of the glitter and glitz of a town that prides itself in it. He’d never be out of character when the spotlight was on. He’d be on the dais of every black-tie dinner there was, he’d make a speech at the tap of a glass.

  Some managers are worth five games a year to their franchises. Sagacious moves can account for that much success. Tommy Lasorda is worth something more — a few hundred thousand in attendance.

  His predecessor, Walter Alston, was a great manager. He had to be. But he was as quiet as snowfall. He dressed with his coaches. He led by example. His office had a picture of his wife and grandchildren in it. He never made a headline in his life. He was patient, kindly, courtly, a gentleman of the old school. A guy you would most want to be in a foxhole — or a lifeboat — with. Dependable, matter-of-fact, as untemperamental as a butler, he knew more about the balk rule than any man who ever lived.

  It’s not what baseball is about. It’s no secret the late owner Walter O’Malley chafed under Alston’s monkish managerial policy. He was stuck with him because Alston was so good. It was hard to fire an annual pennant. So he did the next best thing: he gave him an annual one-year contract.

  It was all well and good to be low-key in the corner of the dugout when the Dodgers were new to the town and every night was New Year’s Eve and they had Koufax and Drysdale and Maury Wills and The Duke and the Davis boys and you didn’t have another major league baseball team, football teams (two) and pro basketball teams (two) and a hockey team and a lot of other promotions to vie for your space in the sports sheets.

  You think the Dodgers are going to hire Tom Kelly, or the manager of Seattle (if it has one) or some minor leaguer who understands the infield fly rule backward and forward (which reads the same, anyway)?

  Tommy Lasorda is as perfect for the Dodgers as peanut butter for white bread. Or Laurel for Hardy. A lot of people were surprised when the Dodgers broke precedent and signed him to an early extension on his contract. Why? Peter O’Malley is Walter’s son, isn’t he? The only way Tommy Lasorda could be let go is if Casey Stengel suddenly became available. God is not going to let that happen. Or the real Angels are going to have a drop in attendance.

  Neither is Peter O’Malley going to let his manager become available. There are, conservatively, 14 big league teams who would sign Lasorda tomorrow for more money than the Dodgers pay him. But Lasordas do not change their religions, either. “Who gave me a chance to manage?” he yells. “The Yankees? The Phillies? No, it was the Dodgers.” Lasordas dance with the one what brung them. “Lack of loyalty,” Lasorda shouts, “is rooning this country!”


Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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


Mondays With Murray: Ravages of Time




Ravages of Time

  I woke up Monday morning and looked in the mirror — and an imposter winked back at me.

  That fellow in the mirror was 50 years old that day. Not me. I’m somewhere between 26 and 39.

“Good morning, Mr. Hyde. How does it feel to be 50?” I asked him. I’ve been needling him for years.

You see, this fella has been playing tricks on me for a long while. For instance, mondaysmurray2being young, I have a cast-iron stomach. HE gets gas on the stomach. Lately. When HE gets gas on the stomach, I belch.

I never should have taken the old fool on. You know, I can hear perfectly well. The trouble is the sounds come through HIS ears. Therefore because of HIM, I find myself saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

   He’s insidious, implacable. My enemy was in that mirror. It’s like fighting China. He’s got all the time in the world. One of these days, I’m going to be lying on my back in bed with a sawbones looking grave above me and people crying in the corner, and I’m gonna say, “Do me a favor. Go in and take a look at that old creep in the mirror and tell him to get a new boy. That I’m going over the wall. I’ve had enough of carrying his load.”

  You see, I know what he’s going to do to me. He’s already begun. You know that nice turn I used to take off a teed-up golf ball? Well, now it sounds like twigs snapping under an elephant. My backbone was as supple and gristly as a baby shark’s. Shucks, it was only three years ago, I was the best twister at the office party.

  Now, he’s got me taking a three-wood off the tee.

  You remember how I used to fire those long, arching passes to the boy out in the lot? Well, he’s taken all the lube out of the bow joint. I throw underhanded like a girl now.

  My eyes are just as good as they ever were — 20/200. He has clouded them over for reading fine print. My belly used to be as flat as Texas. HE has put on weight. I would try to outwit him by jogging 10 miles or so every day, but the doctor tells me dead men sell no scales.

  The worst he’s done is corrupted my mind. I mean, I still have 31 of my 32 teeth (they got more gold in them than the city of Florence) and two million separate strands of hair on my head, but I’ve got HIS neck. It’s beginning to wattle.

  But the worst disease he carried is nostalgia. I mean, I’ve always been a guy who wanted news, the latest thing, the newest gimmick. But, you see, this old creep I took in out of the cold 49 years 11 months and 30 days ago is now using me like a ventriloquist. Someone says an electric toothbrush is a great invention and — in my voice — my enemy says, “Anybody who doesn’t have the strength to push a brush up and down his teeth should put them in a glass, anyway.”

  But, worst of all, youngsters say, “Boy, that Rod Carew is a great hitter!” and you find yourself screaming, “Rod Carew! I thought he was a coxswain! Why, with the ’27 Yankees, he’d have to take batting practice with the bullpen crew. The regulars would be afraid to pick up bad habits just watching him. Now, Babe Ruth, THERE was a hitter. Used to warm up against machine gun bullets. He could bat .360 against the Gatling gun.”

  “Paul Warfield is a great end,” they say. “Paul Warfield! I thought he was a baritone! He’d be in a taxi on the 1950 Rams. Now, Hirsch and Fears, THERE were ends. They were, you might say, THE ends.”

  Or, they may bring up some hot-shot young golfer. “Couldn’t shag for Hogan,” you sniff.

  Well, my enemy’s gums hurt. His hands shake, his blood is tired, and he wants to go put on something by Lawrence Welk, and he’s worried about sitting in a draft and wants to go sit in a blanket with Musterole and do crossword puzzles. Me, I want to go surfing.

  I suppose now I’ll go out and get hit on the head by some young punk that a young athlete like me would kick under the car if I didn’t have that coward at the control. He’s jealous is what he is. He’s been trying to turn my hair gray for 10 years, but my hair is younger than both of us. I think he’s got one week to give me rheumatism or they make him turn in his scythe. He keeps telling them I’m only Shangri-la on the outside, but inside, I look like Ptolemy. He ought to know. He’s in there. Not me.


Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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


Mondays With Murray: He’d Rather Get Fruitcake





He’d Rather Get Fruitcake

  Stop me if you’ve heard this, but are you as tired as I am of the upbeat Christmas letters, the look-at-us, hurray-for-our-side family chronicles you get this time of year?

  You know what I mean. The ones that start out something like this:

  “Well, it’s been a banner year for the Mulligans. Christin finally had our first mondaysmurray2grandchild, a bouncing baby girl, 9 pounds 7 ounces, who’ll probably grow up to be our first woman President.

  John has taken over the Federal Reserve System. Paula is still working on a cancer cure at Johns Hopkins and we expect a breakthrough any day now. A Nobel Prize, perhaps?

  “Dad and I are enjoying our retirement. He has produced a new hybrid rose for our garden that is hailed by horticulturists everywhere.

 “I am still busy with my charity work, saving the whales, protecting the spotted butterflies, supporting a Hottentot village in the South Pacific and still have time to combat illiteracy in our universities and lobby for outlawing the death penalty but legalizing abortion. Dad thinks I take on too much but I was on Howard Stern twice last year and am taking dead aim on Oprah Winfrey.

  “Phil got his PhD in optical engineering and is working on the telescope with which they hope to bring in Heaven by the end of the century. Rita is in the Peace Corps some place where they can only get a message out by bottle but finds her life fulfilling and thinks the dysentery is only temporary. Harriet is still into archeology and they have found the lost city of an Aztec sun god of the second century BC, but she can’t find her car keys.

 “So, all in all, it’s been a joy and we look forward to more of the same in 1996 and hope you all are enjoying the happiness and success that has been our fortunate lot this year.”

  Well, when I read those, I have this irresistible urge to pen the kind of letter I dream of receiving:

  “Well, it’s been a good year on balance for the Mulligans. Clarence got out of prison in time for Christmas and the good news is, he likes his parole officer.

 “Hilda got another divorce, her ninth, and she has moved back home with her 11 kids. We don’t know where her ex-husband is. Neither do the police. He’s two years behind in child support to Hilda and 10 years behind to his other five wives.

  “Paul has stopped sucking his thumb. We’re proud of him. He’s only 16.

 “Carl is doing better. He’s happy to say he cleared $30,000 last year begging from cars at the corner of Crescent Heights and Santa Monica Boulevard. He is buying a new Mercedes. He loves it when they yell at him, ‘Get a life!’

  “Frank lost his job at the factory. They’re downsizing. Particularly with guys like Frank who they said was late 47 times last year, didn’t show up at all on 20 other days and got caught making book in the company cafeteria.

  “Tom goes around burning flags. He’s not unpatriotic. He says it’s a good way to meet girls.

  Alice’s movie career is progressing nicely. She got to wear clothes in her last flick — a garter belt. She also got a speaking part — all moans. It’s not Shakespeare but it’s a start.

  “Jonathan flunked out of another college. The dean explained, ‘Jonathan missed the question “What year was the War of 1812?” but he only missed by 2.’ We tell him if he had a good jump shot, he could miss it by a century and still graduate cum laude.”

  Face it. Wouldn’t a letter like that be a welcome relief? So, have a great New Year. Just don’t tell us about it, eh?


Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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


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


Mondays With Murray: You Don’t Know This Yet But . . .




You Don’t Know This Yet But . . .

  Now I know why Jimmy Cannon invented the “Nobody asked me but . . .” column.

  He needed the day off.

  So do I. So, here goes. I think I’ll call mine, “You don’t want to know but . . .”

  It’s easy to swallow your pride when that’s all you’ve had to eat that day.

  Trash talking is something eight-year-olds in a schoolyard do. So, what’s the mondaysmurray2mental age of a millionaire who does it on the basketball court or the football field?

  Australia wants to cut the women’s tennis tournament $330,000 below the men’s. Why? I’d rather watch Steffi Graf than Andre Agassi any old day.

  Why is it that waiters who keep interrupting your pre-meal jokes are nowhere to be found when you want the check or some more cream for your coffee?

  I throw in with the guy who says you know you’ve had it when your wife says, “We’ve got to talk.”

  I’ve never known a guy who didn’t think he was five strokes better than he was on the golf course.

  Baseball needs a commissioner like the Mafia needs a godfather. To cut down on the free-lance larceny. All I know is, Bud Selig ain’t it.

  I wish Evander Holyfield would retire. Boxing needs another tragedy like baseball needs another strike.

  Albert Belle scares me.

  I wish my whole life were timed by those clocks they use to measure the final seconds of a basketball game. I’d be 11 years old now.

  The way they let them travel in the NBA, they should put handles on the ball. The players look more like bellhops than athletes.

  Commercials are going to kill network TV.

  If I ever get in trouble with the law, I want Don King’s jury.

  Why don’t cars making a left turn move to the middle of the road so the car behind them can make one too?

  Let me get this straight. Five and a half million people vote for a thing, then 15 elitists and one judge get to throw it out and they call it democracy? Give me another look at that dictionary.

  If I’ve got a horse in the Derby, Chris McCarron gets the ride. He gets more out of a horse than anyone since Shoe.

  You have to figure Corey Pavin came down with the dreaded U.S. Open disease. You win the Open, then disappear. Just ask Curtis Strange, Payne Stewart, Tom Kite and Ernie Els.

  I make Citation the greatest race horse I ever saw because he won on three legs when he was five years old, but Affirmed was worse than second only twice in his career.

  Am I the only one in the country who thinks naming teams after Native Americans is a compliment to them, not a denigration of them? Is calling a team the Cowboys meant to insult cattle wranglers?

  How could they have left Ben Hogan’s winning his first U.S. Open at Riviera in 1948 off the list of “100 Greatest Moments in L.A. Sports History?” I made it no worse than second.

  The University of Cincinnati graduated only 19 per cent of its basketball player “students.” Stanford graduated 86 per cent. But before I throw my hat in the air I have to see the subjects in which they graduated. Also, find out whether they were good enough for the pros to abort their pursuit of knowledge.

  Read me where it says we have to have, like, 10 heavyweight “champions” at a time. Till Riddick Bowe and Mike Tyson fight, we don’t have any.

  I never understood why a city builds a $200-million stadium for a football team to come in and play seven or eight games there. Why not use the money to build a factory for GM or GE to come in and hire 20,000 workers? That’s a lot of money to invest for 45 non-residents and a few peanut vendors to get employment.

  I don’t care if the Fiesta Bowl has the two greatest teams on the planet, it still ain’t the Rose Bowl.

  What’s wrong with naming Carl Lewis the greatest athlete of the half-century? It’s either he or Jackie Robinson.

  That’s a wrap.


Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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


Mondays With Murray: Golf’s Most Revered Course Can Be Downright Devilish

Sunday, OCTOBER 26, 1986, SPORTS



Golf’s Most Revered Course Can Be Downright Devilish

  AUGUSTA, Ga. All right, all you tour two-putts, take the A game out of the bag. Put the eight-iron in a vise and see if you can get grooves that will make a ball stop on glass.

  This is the Masters, Sonny. This isn’t some amusement park four-ball. This isn’t a romp through the cactus and tumbleweed in Arizona; they have trees mondaysmurray2here. This isn’t a telephone company pro-am. If there are any “arms” here, they won the U.S. Amateur or the medal on the Walker Cup team. It’s not the Kmart Greater Tuscaloosa Classic or the chocolate company invitational. It’s golf, not pool.

  Bring the two-iron. Sleep with your putter. Get some old films of Hogan and Snead. Check your throat because the pressure will get to be about what it is 50 fathoms down in the Mariana Trench. You’ll get the bends just driving into this place.

  This is the Vatican of golf. The most magnificent 250 acres in the game. The azaleas, the towering pines, the ponds would move a poet to rhapsody — but if the ball goes in them, don’t expect hymns. Just curses. You can’t one-putt these greens. But you could ski them.

  It’s hallowed ground. Hogan won here. So did Snead, Nelson, Sarazen, Palmer. Nicklaus won six times.

  The foreigners have all but taken it over with six victories in the last decade.

  But don’t expect an upset. “Unknown Wins Open” is a familiar headline. But “Unknown Wins Masters” is as far out as “Republican Captures Massachusetts.” Hackers don’t make it in this field. God wears a green coat. And carries a one-iron. Winning the Masters is almost a religious experience. The winner is the Pope of golf.

  A lot of people consider the Masters stuffy. It simply has a reverence for the past. What’s wrong with that? Golf never was meant to be stickball in the street. You wipe your feet and take off your hat when you come to the Masters. You whisper here. No “You the man!” countenanced at the Masters. After all, this was founded by the honorable Bobby Jones, Esq., himself. It’s a cathedral of golf courses. Enemy bombers would spare it in a war.

  Outside its lordly magnolias, the surrounding countryside is Tobacco Road. But inside, you can almost smell the incense. It’s not a course, it’s a shrine.

 They name the holes after flowers here. No. 1 is the “Tea Olive,” for example. No. 2 is “Pink Dogwood,” No. 3 “Flowering Peach.” And so on.

  But if you play it, you may have a different view. It may look more like 7,000 yards of hay fever to you. Walter Hagen told his partners to be sure to smell the flowers along the way. But the Haig made birdies. It’s harder to smell them through the bogeys. They’re just weeds to the guy who hits into them. He doesn’t want to smell them, he wants to pull them.

  So, romantic as they sound, I have to think the holes are misnamed. I have to think no golfer cards a 6 and walks off thinking, “Aren’t the azaleas pretty?” I think the holes should be identified with the sounds you hear on these 18 public enemies masquerading as flower girls. For instance,

  No. 1 — is not the “Tea Olive.” This is “Oh, God, not over there!”

  No. 2 — “Pink Dogwood?” Uh-uh. This is “Anybody see where that went?”

  No. 3 — “Oh, hit another one. I was breathing on your backswing.”

  No. 4 — “I think that’s out. Got another ball?”

  No. 5 — “What’d I do wrong?”

  No. 6 — “Fore on the right!”

  No. 7 — “I don’t understand. I got there with a four-iron yesterday.”

  No. 8 — “What in the world did they put a sand trap there for? I hit that good?”

  No. 9 — “How could anybody putt this green? It’s not a golf green, it’s a hockey rink! Next time, hand me a puck. Or let Gretzky make it for me.”

  No. 10 — “What do you think the cut’s going to be? Do you think 11 over will make it?”

  No. 11 — “What have they got water over there for? What is this, a golf course or a hatchery?”

  No. 12 — “Where’s that going? Come down! Bite! Bite!”

  No. 13 — “Sarazen made a double-eagle here? Well, let me tell you something: That’s the only way the ball would go in the hole on that green. With a four-wood. You can’t do it with a putter. As he would have found out. If it doesn’t go in, he makes 6.”

  No. 14 — “Where are the ‘breather’ holes around here? Even Notre Dame has a patsy now and then. And the 1927 Yankees had a couple of .200 hitters. This is the real Murderers’ Row. Every hole is Babe Ruth.”

  No. 15 — “Who designed this hole — Dracula? They should call this hole ‘Silent Screaming.’ What’d they do with the wolves?”

  No. 16 — “What is that out there — Lake Erie? Never mind the golf clubs. Get me a canoe and a ukulele. It looks like a U-boat pen. You don’t know whether to swim it or play it. Maybe they thought this was a regatta.”

  No. 17 — “They should call this hole ‘Help!’ ‘The Nandina?’ Don’t make me laugh! Hah! ‘The KGB’ would be more like it. It’s ruined more careers than Stalin. At night, you can hear the ghosts of guys moaning, ‘I was sure it broke left.’ Johnny Miller had its number. ‘You hit three perfect shots — and you still have a 25-foot putt left.’”

  No. 18 — “The only good thing about this hole is, it’s the last. You can go home and cut your wrists. You play it with a driver, an eight-iron — and a priest. You get a green straitjacket if you get above the hole. Which you will.”

  And when someone comes up and burbles, “the Masters is beautiful this time of year!” the golfer can look him (or her) straight in the eye and say “Yeah? So is Devil’s Island.”


Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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


Mondays With Murray: Ripley Wrote the Script for World Series

Thirty-four years ago, one of the most talked about errors of all time happened in Game 6 of the World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox. From that moment on, the name Bill Buckner would be synonymous with that easy ground ball down the first base line that went between his legs and turned the tide for what would be a World Series victory for the New York Mets.

On Saturday night, the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Los Angeles Dodgers with a ninth inning that was the 2020 version of the ‘Buckner.’

After the game, someone said: “If 2020 was an inning, that was the one.” The Dodgers won Game 5 on Sunday and lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, going into Tuesday’s sixth game. The Dodgers are one victory away from their first World Series title since 1988.

Bill Buckner died on May 27, 2019, of Lewy body dementia.


Sunday, OCTOBER 26, 1986, SPORTS



Ripley Wrote the Script for World Series

  I don’t believe this. 

  But, then, I don’t believe any of October. It must be sun spots or something. Maybe it’s Kadafi. 

  Baseball used to be this nice formful sport where 3 strikes, you’re out, 4 balls mondaysmurray2you walk, take 2 and hit to right, you bunt the pitcher. 

  You take a two-run lead into the bottom of the 10th, you win. 

  You hit this little trickle ground ball down the first-base line with two out and it’s three out. 


  Baseball as we know it and love it has taken a sabbatical this year of Our Lord. The quote I’ll remember from this year of the grand old game is that of New York Mets’ pitcher Ron Darling, who said earlier in the week, “It just goes to show you baseball makes no sense at all.” 

  The picture I’ll always remember of the 1986 World Series is that of Billy Buckner, Boston Red Sox first baseman, making a long, drudging walk through cordons of screaming fans, helmeted policemen and stunned teammates to face the horror of a night seeing a routine third-out ground ball trickling through his legs for one of the most historic boots in baseball. 

  Billy Buck was already a tragic figure of this tournament, hobbling out to his position night after night in these grotesque high boots to protect feet too deformed by injury to permit him to walk right, never mind run. It gave Bill the appearance of scurrying along the ground like some modern Quasimodo. He looked out of place not swinging from a bell in Notre Dame Cathedral. 

  Billy belonged in a walker, not a ball game. One more twisted ankle and he could qualify as a poster boy for the March of Dimes.

  He makes a Pantheon of non-heroes now, like Fred Snodgrass, who dropped a routine fly ball in a World Series finale once; Mickey Owen, who let a third strike for a third out slide by him in the catcher’s box; Ernie Lombardi, who lay in a swoon at home plate while Yankee after Yankee raced by him to touch that plate and score for a World Series victory, and Willie Davis, who filled the outfield with dropped fly balls in the last World Series game Sandy Koufax would ever pitch. 

  You can only imagine the indescribable feeling that must have gone through Billy Buck’s mind when the horrible thought struck him that the ball was not going to hop in his glove but run under it like a little white rat while a game-winning run scored from second. 

  Major league ballplayers can never even permit themselves to picture this kind of thing happening. Otherwise, they’d never make a play. It isn’t supposed to happen. 

  As a manager would say, “Billy Buckner makes that play in his sleep.” It may be some time before Billy Buck is able to sleep after Saturday night. 

  It cost the Red Sox a game they had won three times up to that point. They won it first when they took a quick 2-0 lead in this sixth game. In this Series, the team that scored first had won every time. 

  The Red Sox were sailing along with baseball’s best pitcher, certifiably, Roger Clemens. The Mets were able to tie the score on a walk, a stolen base, a hit-and a double-play ball. Hardly, the stuff of baseball legend. 

  In the seventh inning, the Red Sox won the game again on a walk, an error and a double-play ball that turned out to be a one-out (at first) play when the front end of the twin outs misfired. 

  Their ace pitcher retired the Mets in order in the bottom of the seventh, but his manager, unaccountably, decided to remove him for a pinch-hitter in the eighth. 

  It was not the most felicitous decision in the world. His replacement, Calvin Schiraldi, had more trouble picking up bunts than a one-armed street-sweeper, and the Mets managed to tie the score in the last of the eighth. 

  The 10th inning goes right into Ripley. Or Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Straight to Disneyland. It came from Alice’s Wonderland. 

  The Red Sox, as was their wont on this raw, chilly night, won it again in the 10th when their super sub, Dave Henderson, who has turned into the real Mr. October, hit another apparent game-winning home run. The Sox added another run. 

  The bottom of the 10th I can only tell you happened. As Marconi once said of radio, “We know how it happens. We don’t know why it happens.” 

  There were two out and nobody on and the score 5-3 when Baseball 1986, the most perverse genie in the universe, went to work. 

  Gary Carter got a hit. The people pouring out of the ballpark scarcely looked up. Kevin Mitchell got a hit. Ray Knight got a hit, scoring Carter. Well, everyone thought, the Mets are going down with flags flying, guns out and boots on. 

  With Mitchell on third and Knight on first, a new pitcher, Bob Stanley, uncorked a wild pitch. The game was tied. Seconds later, Mookie Wilson hit the most fieldable little 3-to-1 ground ball down the first-base line you ever saw. 

  Billy Buck will see that little trickler the rest of his life. In his dreams he will pick it up, flip it to the pitcher coming over and make the out. 

  But only in his dreams. He never even touched it. The 1986 world championship may have gone right through his wracked ankles and odd little orthopedic shoes. It’s a treachery that never should have happened to a fine major league ballplayer. But this is 1986, the year of baseball’s lunar holiday.


Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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


Mondays With Murray: Here’s a Team Not to Be Taken Lightly




Here’s a Team Not to Be Taken Lightly

  Wow! Look who’s in the World Series!

  That funny little team that couldn’t, did. The over-achievers beat the under-achievers.

  Give my regards to Broadway. But tell them I won’t soon be there. Tell all the gang at 42nd Street to eat your heart out. The boys from Hollywood are the new boys of summer.

  How’d they do it? You tell me. I mean, we’re not talking the 1927 Yankees here. mondaysmurray2This was a team that had more holes than a Chinese checkerboard. They lost their most charismatic pitcher, they traded away their key slugger. They lost 89 games last year. They had to rely on a pitcher who was that baseball staple, the player to be named, a throw-in. All Tim Belcher did was become a live candidate for rookie of the year.

  They weren’t supposed to be in the playoffs. When they got into them, they drew a team that had beaten them 10 out of 11 times during the season.

  They hung off more cliffs than Pearl White. They kept getting tied to the track and escaping in the nick of time. It wasn’t a series, it was a serial. They got their best relief pitcher suspended. And they won. They got their big hitter lamed. And he won for them.

  God must love the Dodgers. The gamblers sure didn’t. Whenever the Dodgers needed a break, they got it. The Mets were rallying? A ground ball jumps up and hits a baserunner. They’re down to their last out against one of the great pitchers of all time? A lead-footed catcher who hits a home run only every other eclipse of the moon jacks one out of the lot.

  Someone asks the broadcaster if outfielder Kirk Gibson should be the team’s most valuable player. No, says Vin Scully, it should be Tinker Bell. This team has a fairy godmother. The manager suggests it is a team from Lourdes. It is enough to make you believe in flying saucers. Or Santa Claus.

  But, in the final analysis, it wins because the enemy underestimates it.

  Consider this: Dwight Gooden of the Mets is a pitcher for the ages. He can hang up some pitches that not even Lourdes can take care of.

  And what he was doing sitting in the dugout as this winner-take-all seventh game began is something for his manager to explain, not me.

  Dr. K had two days of rest. If they were saving him for Game 1 of the World Series, you would have to wonder which one.

  As a matter of plain fact, he did pitch. Too late. Mets manager Davey Johnson apparently thought his second-best pitcher was enough for this ragtag lineup of Dodger non-hitters. Gooden got the role of mop-up pitcher in this contest.

  It was a serious miscalculation. Ron Darling is a fine pitcher. But he’s no Doc Gooden. Very few pitchers are. Ron Darling doesn’t scare you. Doc Gooden does. Doc Gooden could scare Babe Ruth.

  You don’t put Doc Gooden in a game that’s already 4-0 with the bases loaded. Not unless you want to throw away the 1988 pennant. The Mets might have lost the tournament in the dugout.

  The Dodgers knocked them out in the second round. It wasn’t a Mike Tyson knockout. The Dodgers got five runs on only four hits, all singles. One of them was a popped bunt that might even have been catchable. The Mets contributed two errors and an uncounted fielding lapse. That’s the Dodger way to play baseball in this year of our Lord, 1988. In the immortal words of the golfer Lloyd Mangrum, the Dodgers can say sweetly, “Are we playing how? Or how many?”

  But, golly gee, aw shucks! The Dodgers won because they have this character who looks as if they found him on his way to a fishing hole with a pocket full of hooks and worms. You see Orel Hershiser and you look around for the dog. He looks more like a scoutmaster — or a scout — than a ballplayer. The rest of the club is squirting and swigging champagne, Orel is looking around for a cookie and a glass of milk. His idea of dissipation is a chocolate malt.

  But what a pitcher! Orel Hershiser threw his ninth 1988 shutout Wednesday. As Gooden would have been, he was pitching on two days of rest.

  Hershiser has been more important to the Dodgers than luck this season. When Fernando Valenzuela left the lists with an over-used arm, Hershiser turned into a combination of Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson. They not only couldn’t beat him, they couldn’t score on him. It got so, if someone got to third, he wanted to stop the game and take the bag home with him. He was baseball’s Big O. Another pitcher might be Goose, Hershiser was Goose Egg.

  Superstars usually walk around before a game with a faintly aloof, even disdainful air about them, as if they were above it all. Hershiser was walking around Wednesday like a kid collecting autographs. He stopped to chat with writers, he waved a bat, compared golf swings with a broadcaster and, in general, acted as if he were about to pitch a softball game at a family picnic. He managed to convey the impression of a kid looking into a candy store window. Lucky to be there.

  You get the feeling Orel Hershiser thinks pitching to Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds is more fun than a day at the zoo. He probably can’t wait to see what Jose Canseco does with a sinker. You get the feeling he’d like to pitch again tomorrow.

  He’s the reason the Dodgers, the funny little team that was supposed to finish fourth, is in the fall classic. They may not last much longer than Michael Spinks, but they’re playing with house money.

  They don’t leave everything to chance. Their manager didn’t leave Orel Hershiser in the dugout, didn’t trust the ball to his second or third best pitcher, however rested. He led with his ace. Mr. O (for Out) Hershiser. That’s H as in Happy. The best piece of luck the lucky Dodgers had.


Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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


Mondays With Murray: Remember Those Early Laker Days?




Remember Those Early Laker Days?

  The letter came right after the Lakers’ win over the Celtics. It opened a window on memory.

  “Dear Mr. Murray,” it began.

  “In reflecting on yesterday’s stupendous Lakers’ victory, I felt compelled to write you ‘in remembrance of things past,’ of my father, Lou Mohs, and for the mondaysmurray2sake of my mother, Alice, who lives with me and is alive with such memories of Lakers’ early days.

  “I remember so well coming out to Los Angeles with the Minneapolis Lakers all those years ago (1960). It was difficult in the beginning. Bob Short, the owner, had sent my Dad out with the team and a debt of $300,000 with the order, ‘Call me for anything but money.’

  “That very first year was lean. My Mom recalls, quite happily, how our family bought the first basketballs, how Mom washed the team jerseys at home, how we all sat up late at night after home games, counting ticket stubs, how the young players, out before their families arrived, would come over for home cooking.

  “The team in the early ’60s was a family nucleus with all the wives and children gathering for holiday parties while the team was on the road. At each home game, everyone involved sat in one corner area of the old Sports Arena and silently prayed, not necessarily for the team but watching the counter mark for each fan’s arrival. Once it had marked 4,000, we knew we had made it into the black for the game — and sometimes that was a struggle.

  “But with marvellous players, the likes of Baylor and West, and with LaRusso, Selvy, Hawkins, Felix, Hundley, Schaus, along with the voice of Chick Hearn, L.A. soon learned to love the Lakers.

  “With the memory of so many almost-wons against the Celtics . . . it was with such pleasure to see this year’s team blow away the ghost of the past. I am sure (the late) Lou Mohs, Bob Short and Jim Krebs were all rooting loudly, wherever they are. Do you remember those days?”

        Martha Mohs Higgins

         Rancho Mirage.


  Dear Martha:

  Do I remember those years?! Better than last year.

  I recall so well the last story I did as a magazine reporter was a 10-day trip with the Lakers called in the book, “Ten Tall Men Take a Trip.”

  I hate to brag, Martha, but I was one of the only writers west of the Pecos writing on pro basketball in those days. I know I was the only columnist. Even in New York, the citadel of basketball, the journalistic heavyweights like Red Smith, Jimmy Cannon, and Dick Young pretty much ignored basketball.

  In order to draw in those days, pro basketball had to schedule doubleheaders with the Harlem Globetrotters. I remember, I went to the Sports Arena one Sunday afternoon in the first few months I was writing a column, and the Lakers were playing a playoff game against the St. Louis Hawks — and the “crowd” on the Sports Arena counter was 2,400. They get that to watch them practise today.

  Your Dad, Lou Mohs, told me Wilt Chamberlain was making $15,000 a year in those seasons, and that was also what they paid Jerry West.

  You bet, I remember Lou Mohs and Fred Schaus and Hot Rod and Elg and all the guys. I learned more basketball in one trip with those guys than I have since. The game kind of passed me by when they stopped having 3-to-make-2, and something called the “loose ball foul” came into being. We didn’t have any fancy-schmancy rules about “loose ball fouls.” You got a foul, you went to the line in those days.

  We used to go on trips in quaking, asthmatic old planes, one of which had plowed up a cornfield in a blizzard with the Lakers one night, and often, the little two-engine wheezer would be occupied by both Lakers and Knicks en route to a doubleheader in Syracuse or Kankakee.

  I remember those days proudly, as you do, because Lou Mohs commissioned a portrait of me by the Laker center, Gene Wiley, a painting that still hangs in my living room. “That’s in appreciation,” Lou told me. But about that time, Bob Short got a whole bunch of portraits of General Grant, or whoever it is on thousand-dollar bills, when Jack Kent Cooke bought the club from him for $5,175,000 in cash.

  I like to think we all kind of washed jerseys for the Lakers in those days, Martha. But you and I and Chick Hearn and Jerry West and Elgin are the only ones around who remember it. Thanks for bringing it up.


        JIM MURRAY, 1985


Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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