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.

Advertisements

Mondays With Murray: Reflections on a Race

MAY 5, 1964, SPORTS

Copyright 1964/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Reflections on a Race

   At the finish of the 90th running of the Kentucky Derby the other day, three exuberant youths in the infield shucked off their shirts, held their noses, and dove, head-first or feet-first, into the fountain-filled finish-line pool.

 Bettor observed this sourly. “Shouldn’t,” he asked, “Bill Shoemaker be joining them?” A mondaysmurray2companion thought about this for a minute: “Naw,” he said finally. “Not deep enough.”

  Clearly, only a high dive into 5th Avenue traffic, or a free fall from a balloon into an alligator pit would satisfy the punters who had bet more money on Hill Rise — $695,000 — than had ever been bet on a single steed in the Derby before, Shoemaker has had worse luck in Louisville than Scotch. “ ‘Shoe’ Boots It Again” was the kindest headline. The gnashing of teeth in the press box was deafening.

  There is a famous story in which a man of rather limited character references died in the Old West and was being buried. As speaker after speaker declined the chance to get up and extol his virtues, a stranger rose in the back of the room and announced: “Since there’s no one here to talk about the deceased, I’d like to take this opportunity to say a few kind words about Texas.”

  Well, I’d like to say a few kind words about Shoemaker. It has always been my custom to restrain my enthusiasm when talking about some athletes. But to give you an idea of the kind of guy Bill Shoemaker is, a colleague, not noted as the Louisa May Alcott of sports writing, either, once came up to me and said: “You know, just once I wish that Shoemaker would do something mean or snide so I could feel better about it when I write something critical. But he’s just as polite to me as if I compared him to the Pope.”

Churchill Downs Not Shoe’s Kind of Course

  It is abundantly clear that Churchill Downs in the Derby is just not Shoe’s kind of course. He’s as out of place as Veloz and Yolanda at a barn dance. It’s a cutthroat two-minute rodeo and the evidence is overwhelming it is meant to be won by someone on horseback riding with the demented fury of a sword-wielding Cossack charging into a crowd of mutinous peasants — which is as good a description of Bill Hartack’s style of riding as you can get in a hurry.

  A study of the jockeys who HAVE won this race shows that you apparently have to whomp up this kind of adrenal frenzy for it. A journalist said of one perennial winner, “I’ll tell you one thing — his mother better not be standing in that straightaway when he comes down to the finish.” Of another, he prophesied, “He’d ride his mount through a crowded classroom to get to the finish line on time.”

  Shoemaker rides as if he merely wanted to find out which was the best horse, which was the original idea of racing before they let in all those types with the holes in their shoes at the $2 window.

  Much has been said and written about Bill Hartack and his supposed indifference, not to say contempt, for notoriety and publicity. Bill Hartack is just as starved for affection and approval as the rest of us. It’s not much fun being 5-feet tall in a world where, when they think of a guy on horseback, they think of John Wayne, not John Adams. But it’s not much fun having to wear glasses if you’re a little girl, either, or having stomach ulcers if you’re a grown man, or not being able to read or write if you’re a perfect physical specimen. Put another way, why do ugly men become good dancers?

  Hartack’s posture is a classic one against rejection, which he fears far more than a guy with a pencil and notebook. He kept the press waiting for the same reason a suitor keeps a date waiting who’s secretly important to him. Hardly anyone is as mad at him as he is at himself most of the time.

Shoe Will be Big Winner in Long Run

  Shoemaker, on the other hand, adjusted to his role in life a long time ago. His dimensions made him shy, not truculent. He will win many more races — and many more friends — than Bill Hartack in the long run.

  Now, about that “terrible” ride of Shoe’s in the Derby. Consider that the winner had to run two lengths faster than the track record to beat him by a dirty neck. Consider, too, that the winner tied Whirlaway’s home stretch record of the last quarter in :24. Hill Rise was two lengths behind the winner when they hit the quarter pole, which means Hill Rise ran the last quarter in :23 3/5.

  No, the heartache was not Shoemaker’s. It was an old old man’s in a flowing topcoat and battered hat walking stiff-legged, arthritically, his glasses fogged up, out to the barns after the race to check his horse as he has done after 20,000 other races. At 73, Bill Finnegan had put the best horse of his career on the racetrack at Louisville. And he wasn’t good enough. At 73, you’re not likely to get a better one.

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

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 both 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 mondaysmurray2pimply-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 Giant 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: Gen-Xers Need Not Apply

SUNDAY, APRIL 19, 1998, SPORTS

Copyright 1998/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Gen-Xers Need Not Apply

  PHOENIX — Whither sports in the 21st century?

  That was the subject of an informal seminar of some of the ablest historians of our day when we met at the Wigwam resort in old Arizona over the weekend.

  The purpose of the convocation, in addition to trying to make par-fives in eight or less, was to consider what lay ahead for the games people play or pay to see played in the new mondaysmurray2century.

  Will baseball survive? Should it? What about boxing? Can it shake off the devastating image of what may be its greatest practitioner, its most famous personality, stumbling around with slurred speech and trembling hands?

  What about football? Is it a sport or a concussion? Can tennis survive the Rube Goldberg scoring system it’s barnacled with? How many spoiled brats can we put up with?

  To consider these cosmic issues we brought together a panel consisting of Blackie Sherrod of the Dallas Morning News, Edwin Pope of the Miami Herald, Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Dan Foster of the Greenville (S.C.) News, Dan Cook of the San Antonio Express-News and Bill Millsaps of the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch. About a century of sporting experience.

  You have to remember that, as the 20th century dawned, there was no World Series, no Super Bowl, no Masters, no NFL, no Final Four. There was, in fact, only one tentative Olympics.

  The 20th century will be defined by its craze for sports. More people can tell you the year the Mets won the pennant than can tell you the year the first atomic bomb was dropped. People who don’t know who the secretary of state is can tell you who plays center field for the Yankees. People who couldn’t find Kansas on a map can tell you where the high post is on a basketball court.

  Will the new millennium be more of the same? Our panel of experts who answer to the inelegant club name of “Geezers IV” are divided on their answers.

  Baseball is in a suicide pact with itself, Pope believes. “It’s taken leave of its senses. Someone should put a net over them when they pay $60 million to a Gary Sheffield. There is no way they can recoup that kind of outlay.”

  Sports needs saviors, larger-than-life performers, glamour figures, the panel feels. Babe Ruth took baseball out of the low-rent district when he began to hit almost one-quarter of all the home runs hit in the league.

  Will Mark McGwire bring the game back to that level? Well, it was pointed out, Roger Maris couldn’t. Neither could Henry Aaron. They both broke Ruth’s records. But they never could fill seats the way the Babe could. Or sell products.

  Basketball is the new darling of the sports firmament, the panelists agreed. Michael Jordan is the most identifiable sports figure on the scene. He’s not only good, he’s loved.

  And the game itself is the only one that has been speeded up. In baseball, players almost become cobwebbed between at-bats. Football has elements of a Geneva Convention when the striped officials get together after every play to try to sort out what happened.

  But basketball used to have a center-jump after every basket. Now they don’t have one even to start the second half. You have a jump ball only when an aggravated assault has taken place.

  Golf found its messiah (at least that’s what Tiger Woods’ father called him) wrapped in swaddling clothes and lain on its doorstep. A game that had been lost in the galling anonymity of a different winner a week suddenly had a star.

  But the panel thinks the game itself has to be rescued from its technology. What happens when a Tiger Woods is handed a bag full of instruments that turn a 600-yard hole into a three-wood and a wedge? Two- and three-irons are already obsolete. Will they be followed by four-, five-, six- and seven-irons? Thirty-five years ago only half a dozen golfers could hit tee shots 250 yards. Today, the tour average is over 280. There are more than a dozen golfers who regularly hit it out there 315 yards or more.

  Where will they find the real estate to host the game when technology mandates 450-yard drives, balls that seek the hole and compensate for breaks in the green on their own?

  Horse racing is folding in the stretch. Nobody bets on the bay any more now that they can get a bet on the red in the Native American casino or play the state lottery in the liquor store and blackjack on a riverboat.

  Millsaps says he has “fallen out of love with basketball.” He notes, “It used to be such a lovely finesse sport, now it’s a dock fight. It’s just football without the helmets and shoulder pads. They score baskets the way the Chicago Bears used to score touchdowns.”

  Baseball is too slow to last, Pope thinks. “It’s even slower on television. They had 47½ minutes of commercials in World Series broadcasts.”

  “Nobody will be able to afford baseball players,” predicts Cook, “not even Disney and Rupert Murdoch. The players will kill the golden goose.”

  Sports franchises offer confused allegiances, double-parked franchises, free-agent players who have to call the front desk to see what town they’re playing for.

  Is the situation really that bleak?

  Well, come to think of it, the panel agreed, how can it be? We’ve still got Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Mark McGwire. Maybe the Golden Age of Sport is right now. Maybe these are “the good old days.” Maybe the public likes cheering for the filthy rich.

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: Golf’s Most Revered Course Can Be Downright Devilish

TUESDAY, APRIL 6, 1993, SPORTS

Copyright 1993/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

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 here. This isn’t a mondaysmurray2telephone 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 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: 90 Years of Ridin’ The Range

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 1997, SPORTS

Copyright 1997/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

90 Years of Ridin’ The Range

  They called him “The Cowboy” and everybody loved him.

  He never went anywhere without a 10-gallon hat and snakeskin boots. A string tie, if it was formal. He was a legit son of the pioneers, born on the lone prairie of Tioga, Texas, where the deer and the antelope play and the skies are not cloudy all day.

  He was always a happy sort. He was a telegrapher by trade in Oklahoma in his youth mondaysmurray2and, one day, as he was sitting between wirelesses, playing his guitar, fate walked in. It was the greatest cowboy of them all, Will Rogers, and he was wiring in his daily newspaper column.

  Rogers listened to a cowboy lament sung by the young man and he said, “Son, you’re wasting your time sending copy. Go to New York and get yourself into show business.”

  So, Gene Autry did. Only he went west instead of east and became one of the most beloved show business figures in the history of the movie industry. He made 94 feature films as the original singing cowboy.

  His pictures were a staple of Saturday matinees all over the world. He never killed anybody in his pictures, just lassoed the varmints and, at the fade-out, rode off in the sunset, singing about home on the range.

  He never got an Academy Award. They usually gave that to some artiste whose picture lost a million at the box office. But the exhibitors loved him and complained that they wanted a Gene Autry picture instead of one of those costume dramas where everyone went around saying “Forsooth!”

  Everything he touched turned to platinum. He was a canny businessman whose handshake was as good as a 100-page signed contract. He went away to war, even though his producer, Herbert Yates, threatened to make Roy Rodgers a star in his stead if he went through with his enlistment.

  He wrote blockbuster songs with collaborators. ‘Back in the Saddle Again’ became almost as famous as ‘Home on the Range.’ He wrote ‘That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine’ and the whole country cried. He was grand marshal of the annual Hollywood Santa Claus parade and he wrote ‘Here Comes Santa Claus,’ which almost rivalled ‘White Christmas.’ In fact, Irving Berlin stopped him on stage one night and told him he wished he could write cowboy songs, too.

  Autry pioneered what has become country and western music. But he was not infallible. One day, they brought him a Christmas song he didn’t think had a chance and he proposed to put it on the flip side of a record he deemed better. But his late wife, Ina, protested.

  “It’s the song of the ugly duckling! It’s beautiful!” she told him.

  So Gene Autry recorded ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.’ It only became the biggest-selling record of all time.

  Gene bought radio stations, TV stations, bankrolled movies. He had parlayed a guitar and a saddle into megamillions and, in 1960, when baseball was going to expand, he and his partner, the late Bob Reynolds, traveled to the winter meetings to see about a radio contract with the new expansion team in L.A.

  Instead of the contract, he got the team. Baseball was overjoyed to have such an immensely popular and impeccable character. And Gene, a lifelong baseball fan, became not only the Angels’ owner but No. 1 rooter.

  He was in the locker room as often as the trainer. In a way, Gene remained a little boy all his life. I don’t think anybody ever saw him mad. In all the years I knew him, I never even heard him curse. He never acted rich. He acted as if he had just left the bunkhouse.

  He was the first owner to move his team out of L.A. But he went only 36 miles down the road to the suburbs, Anaheim. He really just wanted to get out of Dodger Stadium, where his team was like the sister with buck teeth rooming with her beauty queen sibling.

  His baseball team didn’t break his heart. Gene didn’t deal in heartbreak. He was as optimistic as a kid on Christmas morning all his life.

  But real disappointment struck on Oct. 12, 1986. In the pennant playoff against the Boston Red Sox, the Angels, leading three games to one, had two outs and a 5-4 lead in the ninth inning — Boston had a man on base — and needed only one strike to win the ’86 pennant and get into the World Series.

  Alas! The batter, a slumping journeyman named Dave Henderson, hit a two-run homer that gave the Red Sox the lead — and ultimately the pennant.

  It was one of the few unhappy endings of Gene’s career. Even that day, his team tied the score in the bottom of the ninth and had the bases loaded and only one out. All they needed was a fly ball to bring a runner — and the pennant — home. But his last two batters couldn’t do it.

  A terrible footnote to this ill-fated afternoon was that the losing pitcher, Donnie Moore, was to take his own life less than three years later.

  Gene will be 90 on Monday. A gala fund-raising dinner will be held at the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage that night. Eddy Arnold, Rosemary Clooney, Willie Nelson, Roy Clark and Glen Campbell are on the bill.

  I went out to see Gene the other day. We go way back — to the days when I was a young magazine reporter and he was the king of Gower Gulch.

  Gene is in the capable hands of his lovely wife, Jackie, who protects his sunset days.

  He and I struggled through mists of memory to recall the magical days of yore. The cast of characters of Westerns are as long gone as silent pictures. Jimmy Stewart, Hank Fonda, Duke Wayne, Tom Mix and Gary Cooper have all headed for the last roundup. Only Gene remains.

  He’s still the Angels’ Angel. Keeps 75 percent of the club but Disney runs it. He still thinks of the one pitch that got away.

  Maybe it’ll always be 1945 again and he’ll be whistling for Champion after struggling out of the bonds the rustlers put on him. Maybe it’ll be the ninth inning again and this time Doug DeCinces will hit that long fly to center with the pennant flying on it.

  Did he have any regrets? I wondered.

  “Not a one,” smiled the last cowboy. “I’d like to do it all over again!”

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: College recruiting — Hypocrisy Reigns at Hapsburg State

NOVEMBER 7, 1986, SPORTS

Copyright 1986/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

College Recruiting — Hypocrisy Reigns at Hapsburg State

   Some years ago, at a clinic in Santa Barbara, the great football coach, Bear Bryant, was holding forth on the arts and mysteries of recruiting. The hour was late and the bourbon flowing, and Bear was moved to drawl:

   “Well, if you got some boys who are good students and have some ability, you send mondaysmurray2them to Cal or Stanford. But if you have some whiskey-drinking, women-chasing, pool-playing studs who are ath-a-letes, why, you just send them down to ol’ Bear to win a championship with!”

   Never was the coach’s credo more succinctly put. The message was clear: College football is not monastic. It’s not even academic. Football players were the mercenaries of our society. They were at the university but not of it.

   They led lives as backward as race horses. Their every need was taken care of. They were told when to go to bed, when to get up, what to eat, how to think. Then, they were led out onto the field and expected to perform like the robots they had become.

   It was exploitive in the extreme. In ol’ Bear’s case, he even housed them in separatist dormitories. As if contact with the scholastic community of the school would contaminate them.

   In a way, their lifestyles always reminded me of that of cavalry officers in the old Hapsburg Empire. They were spoiled, catered to, revered. They had these fancy uniforms and looked beautiful in their plumed hats and epaulets. They were indulged in their alcoholic or sexual peccadilloes.

   They were Europe’s loafer class. They were held in reserve for wars. What they did between them was tolerated, winked at.

   What is different in today’s replay is that our society is shocked when the modern version of these cadets prove to be less than vicar-like in their behavior. College presidents who want victorious teams are less likely to be like the emperors of old and say, “Boys will be boys,” than they are to cluck reprovingly when their modern warrior class blows off steam in an antisocial, the law-be-damned way.

   Tracy Dodds, of this paper’s staff, traced the primrose path trod by one university, Nevada Las Vegas, in its quest of the big time in football, when it set out on the road-to-beating-Wisconsin.

   This road led, as is so often the case, through a police blotter. Some of the best varsity runs were not with a football but with stolen stereos or snatched purses.

   The University of Miami football team, No. 1 in your hearts and No. 1 in all the polls, has been alluded to in the public prints as the real “Miami Vice” by more than one chronicler.

   This is a team of whom a colleague, Edwin Pope of the Miami Herald, once wrote:

   Q. What is the first thing a Miami player hears when he gets into a three-piece suit?

   A. Will the defendant please rise?

   Of whom Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly wrote: “Miami may be the only squad in America that has its team picture taken from the front and from the side.”

   This is our national champion team in more than one sense.

   It is mystifying why college presidents should be so aghast at what they have wrought. They give a coach a contract for a quarter of a million, or income in that bracket, charge him with producing a winning team-and then are shocked when he picks up that team in pool halls or longshore shape-ups instead of seminaries.

   Not all coaches are of the Bear Bryant school of recruiting-and not all players are second-story men at heart.

   But whose is the hypocrisy? The coach, who knows that his charter is to win or else-else being to lose a millionaire’s style of living if he loses to State; the football player, who is taught to play the game at the homicidal level since grade school, or the academician, who wants a winning team at all costs-all costs being the enrolment of even a small percentage of semi-thugs to represent the university?

   College professors are charged with inflicting a moral code of ethics on their classrooms and are expected to turn out not only learned, but also upright members of society. But college professors are tenured. And their effectiveness is not measured each Saturday afternoon.

   If one of the school’s football coaches knew that his job was safe for a lifetime, no matter how many passes his receivers dropped or how many tackles the secondary missed, he might not be so tempted to suit up a guy whose last job was biting the heads off chickens or busting heads in a dance hall brawl.

   Frank Merriwell is dead, the way the game is played today. You get football players the same places Jesse James got his gang.

   The question is, are the nation’s best teams the nation’s best teams because they are scofflaws and hell-raisers? Or are the scofflaws and hell-raisers in the spotlight simply because they are on the nation’s best teams?

   Either way, until they start getting teams from the student body again, we won’t know. Until football coaches can be assured they’re not more than one blocked punt from going into selling insurance, they will not shrink at suiting up quasi-sociopaths or the Abominable Snowman if he can blitz.

   The defendants who should rise are the institutions themselves. The late Bear Bryant did not invent his attitude. The Bear was always good at reading defences. And figuring what the university really wanted from him. He knew he wasn’t going to get it recruiting a backfield of Rover Boys but one of Broadway Joes.

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.