Mondays With Murray: Plenty of Bread in NBA’s Circus

JULY 28, 1996, SPORTS

Copyright 1996/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

Jim Murray

Plenty of Bread In NBA’s Circus

You know, it was not too long ago — I’m old enough to remember — when, if you were seven feet tall, the best you could do with your life was join the circus. Or get a fur hat and open cab doors for rich folk outside a New York hotel. Now you get $17 million a year and all the Rolls-Royces you need. People open cab doors for you.

  And you get it while you’re young and can enjoy it. It’s not as though you have to work your way up the business ladder or plug away at Wall Street as J.P. Morgan had to do. You mondaysmurray2don’t have to invent the elevator or electric light. All you have to do is post up, whatever that means.

  I can remember when if you were seven feet, you couldn’t play basketball. For one thing, you had to bounce the ball on the floor if you went to the basket, and seven-footers were too slow and too clumsy to do that. Today, you can go to the basket like a guy running for a bus and everybody scatters out of your way. Also, seven-footers aren’t pituitary freaks anymore. They’re perfectly proportioned.

  Dr. James Naismith invented basketball precisely so you couldn’t carry the ball like a fullback. He wanted a sport in which brute strength didn’t count so much as finesse and grace.

  You think Naismith ever envisaged the dunk shot? You think he ever envisaged anyone signing a $120-milliion contract to play his game?

  Of course, it’s the oldest con in the world, as old as the Roman Empire. Juvenal first called attention to it in the 1st century A.D. when he wrote, “Two things only the people require — bread and circuses.” The Roman emperors gave it to them. Chariot races, Christians vs. lions. Only, the best the Christians could get was their freedom; the best the lions could get was a Christian for lunch.

  Nothing changes. To keep the citizenry from becoming mutinous, you give them the circus — something that lets them paint their faces blue or red and jab their forefingers in the air and scream “We’re No. 1!” on television. Nero would have understood.

  You think basketball fans aren’t high-fiving each other over the capture of Shaquille O’Neal by the Lakers? Get real.

  You think the public cares what Shaq cost? They think it’s somebody else’s money. Television’s, maybe.

  It isn’t. It’s their money. Even if they don’t pay the $600 per game for the courtside seats, they pay for the dunk shots, the sky-hooks, the fast breaks. “Free TV” is an oxymoron. Every time you buy a Ford or Toyota or can of Pepsi or pair of Nikes, you’re paying for what they sponsor. The cost of the ad is factored in the cost of the car. You’re paying for your circuses.

  Sometimes it’s difficult for us old-timers to comprehend what’s happening in the counting houses of sports these days.

  I’m also old enough to remember when Bob Short first brought the Lakers to Los Angeles. They were going broke in Minneapolis, where the games were played in relative privacy.

  They didn’t exactly have SRO, either. Basketball was far from a sports-page staple. Baseball was America’s sport of choice. Football. Boxing. The highest salary in the NBA those days was $19,000 a year. Plumbers did better.

  I went to a playoff game once — a playoff game! — at which there were 2,800 paying customers.

  All that changed. I helped. I had the sport almost to myself. And what a sport! Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain. The Big O. I was like a kid in a candy store. I traveled with the Lakers. What a cast of characters! They almost wrote themselves.

  But modesty dictates I must confess it was Chick Hearn who did the most to make the Lakers household names in L.A. First on radio, then on TV. Television was slow to pick up on the sport, but basketball, like football, was uniquely suited to the TV screen, a rectangular sport with a large ball.

  The pro game didn’t even have a radio contract at first. Teams played league games in places like Sheboygan, Morgantown, Peoria. A league game was a prologue to a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition. The Globies drew the people, not the Knicks or Lakers.

  The graph grew. Smart entrepreneurial owners such as Jack Kent Cooke moved in. Jack knew what sold tickets — stars. The Lakers had an Academy Award lineup. What they didn’t have was the clincher — the big man in the pivot. Jack twisted arms till he wound up with Wilt Chamberlain. When Wilt left, Cooke angled to get Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Jack didn’t want playmakers, point guards, sixth men. Jack wanted the marquee players, guys nicknamed “Magic.”

  Now, Jerry Buss has joined the owners’ wing of the Hall of Fame. He has done what Cooke did, brought the Big Man to town, put the team on Page 1 again.

  The circus is in place; the bread is somebody else’s problem.

  Will O’Neal be a tumble-down Shaq? Or are Michael, Olajuwon, the Admiral Robinson, Patrick Ewing ready to yield their positions?

  Is even a championship circus worth that kind of bread? Do you know how much $120,000,000 comes out to? Well, if you spent $1,000 a day for the next 300 years you’d still have almost $11 million left.

  But there’s only one Shaq. And Buzzie Bavasi, the baseball man, said it best. “You don’t mind giving all those millions to a Babe Ruth. But where does it say you have to give $34 million to a second baseman hitting .230?”

  Exactly. It’s the other guys on the coattails who boggle the mind. Chris Childs is getting $24 million for six years? Who, pray tell, is Chris Childs? Antonio Davis is getting $38.5 million for seven years? I wouldn’t know Antonio Davis from Bette. Dale Davis is getting $42 million for seven years. Allan Houston is getting $56 million for seven years. He played for Detroit last season, in case you didn’t know.

  Don MacLean is getting $12 million for four years and you almost feel like taking up a collection for him. Alonzo Mourning is to get $112 million for seven years. Gary Payton gets $85 million and nobody ever called him “Mr. Clutch” or “The Big G.”

  I’m always happy to see a kid move up in the world. But I can’t help but feel sorry for all those earlier-day giants who had to bend crowbars or tear telephone books or sit in the sideshow with the bearded lady or the tattooed man to earn a living. One sure thing: Dennis Rodman could handle it either way. And bite the heads off chickens if you wanted.

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

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Mondays With Murray: A Boot for Soccer

Friday, June 30, 1978, SPORTS

Copyright 1978/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

A Boot for Soccer

It’s the world’s biggest athletic extravaganza. More than 140 nations took part. More than a billion people watched it live or on TV. The World Series dwarfs by comparison. The Super Bowl is just a football game.

It has everything. Patriotic fervour, betting interest. Monarchs watch it. Prime ministers keep a radio to their ears. A guy in Brazil kills himself because his team lost. The New mondaysmurray2York Yankees might be a bunch of guys from Texas and Florida but in this game the ‘home’ team is really the home team.

It’s World Cup soccer, a quadrennial frenzy that catches up four continents in its excitement.

Why not Americans? What is it about this world sport that turns us off, that keeps it a bush league event in this country, a country that always likes to go where the action is, to join the party?

Over the years, under pressure from complaining friends who are perplexed because the U.S. does not take soccer to its bosom, I have tried to come up with an answer. Imperfect as they may be, I have several.

—————

First of all, the U.S. sports fan wants more than just a game. The essence of sports in this country is competition — and controversy. The American fan also demands suspense. Soccer lacks two of the three.

Come with me to the broadcast booth. It is the Super Bowl game. The score is Cowboys 17, Oakland Raiders 14. There are two minutes to play and Oakland has the ball on the Cowboys’ 40-yard line, first and 10. Listen to the announcer:

“And it’s a pitchout to Clarence Davis and he’s on the 39, 38, 37 — all the way to the 35-yard line and it’s second and five and there is one minute and 48 seconds to play! And Stabler is fading back — there’s a man open! — it’s Biletnikoff and he’s down on the 25-yard line! And there’s one minute and 25 seconds to go! They’re in a slot right, it’s a fake handoff to Van Eeghen and it’s Stabler back to pass. It’s complete on the 16 and it’s second down and one to go and the seconds are ticking away!”

It goes on like that. The suspense builds and builds. Hearts pound, people can’t bear to look. Time out is called to adjust defenses, rearrange strategy.

Now, let’s look at the soccer game. Boom! a guy kicks the ball down to the (in effect) 10-yard line. Boom! a defending player kicks it back to the, in effect, 75-yard line. The peril does not build. It is all but invisible. I would imagine soccer would be totally unsatisfying as a radio sport.

————

That’s point one. Now, take controversy. Americans love to sit around the hot stove all winter and argue strategy. They even have a name for it: the Hot Stove League. What do they talk about?

“He shoulda bunted. Why din he bunt in that situation — two men on and one out and trailing by one run in the seventh. I woulda bunted.”

“Why din he walk him? Why let Henry Aaron beat you a game? He shoulda walked him!”

“Why din the Raiders kick a field goal in that situation? They tie the score and go into overtime. Win the toss and you win the Super Bowl!”

“Why din Stabler try an end run? They were looking for the pass!”

Or, “Why din Stabler pass? Caster was wide open. He shoulda saw the Cowboys were in a stack!”

In basketball, they might say, “Why din he foul ’im?”

And so on. Americans love to chew over victories and defeats. “Why din he put in a pinch-hitter?”

What do you chew over in soccer? Do they sit around pubs and second-guess all winter? If so, over what?

There are other inhibiting factors. You use only part of your body, your legs. You can play the game in handcuffs. The host country wins suspiciously often. The World Cup was inaugurated in 1930 in Uruguay. Naturally, Uruguay won. When it is held in England, England wins. When it is held in West Germany, West Germany wins. When it is held in Italy, Italy wins. And when it is held in Argentina, Argentina wins. Brazil is almost the only “road” team ever to win World Cups and it won three of them. On the road.

Well, these, I think, are some of the reasons Americans are slow to join the chorus. It’s not the fact the game is not violent enough for us. What’s violent about golf? Tennis? It’s just that the game takes away our inalienable right to second-guess. And our right to scream “Hold that line!” when the enemy forces are massed on the one-yard line, fourth and goal to go. In soccer, goals are kind of like mother-in-law’s visits — unexpected, unwelcome, without warning and — most fatal — unable to be anticipated.

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

Monday’s With Murray: Racing Holds Its Breath Over Secretariat

THURSDAY, JUNE 7, 1973, SPORTS

Copyright 1973/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Racing Holds Its Breath Over Secretariat

Just five weeks ago, 28 horse owners were ready to buy a rope and go after a lady who had sold them a horse. 

  Mrs. Penny Tweedy didn’t look much like a David Harum, but selling 28 guys the same horse was a pretty good start.

  That wasn’t the worst. She charged them $5,320,000 for it and kept four points for herself. Jesse James would have whistled in admiration.

  The horse had all its legs and eyes and could pull a plow all right, but that afternoon in mondaysmurray2April he had just run down the track to a stablemate and a West Coaster who had just gotten off a plane from Santa Anita which, as everyone in New York knows, is a track that runs downhill.

  Twenty-eight guys had just paid $190,000 apiece for the stud fees to a 7-furlong horse. Now it wouldn’t even be able to get a blind date.  

  Well, that was April. Now it’s the week of the Belmont Stakes and Secretariat, the horse, has been on the cover of Time, Newsweek, The Blood Horse, Sports Illustrated, and he looks like a $6-million steal. His stud book will be busier than a sultan’s. If he loses the Belmont, he’s going to take more money with him than a bank president absconding to Rio. He’s scared everybody out of the race except poor old Sham, his

faithful old Indian companion who’s chased him across three state lines now. 

  The horse writers have pulled out all the stops. To hear them tell it, you’d think this horse talked, or could pull babies out of burning buildings. They named him Horse of the Year when he was only two years old, which is like making an outfielder from Peoria the MVP.

——

  The Triple Crown (Kentucky, Preakness and Belmont races) has been harder to win than a crap game on the waterfront, or a fight with your wife, and any horse who wins it immediately becomes Babe Ruth. Eight horses have won it, lifetime, and each of these races is now 100 years old or better.

  All racing will be holding its breath as Secretariat heads for home Saturday. If his leg snaps in the stretch, or the boy falls off, the Jockey Club puts a wreath on the door. Or moves the Belmont to Juarez.

  One hundred years they’ve been improving the breed, and all they turn out is hemophiliacs. The Hapsburgs could have told them that. It’s good for any society to have the daughter elope with the milkman every now and then, or marry a guy who doesn’t need a monocle.  

  Still, an examination of the fine print shows the Triple Crown not to have been all that difficult. Since Citation last won it in 1948 several have flunked out. Does anyone doubt Native Dancer should have won it in 1953? That was one of the Great-Mistakes-In-Sports-History, ranking with Sam Snead not winning the Open, Ernie Banks not playing in a World Series, or John Barrymore never winning an Oscar. The Kentucky Derby was the ONLY race Native Dancer ever lost.

  Tim Tam should have won in 1958, but he had only three legs by the head of the Belmont stretch. Damascus probably should have won it in 1967, but came up to the Derby short on conditioning and lost to a 30-1 shot that he easily disposed of in the other two ‘Crowns.’ Gallant Man should have won it in 1957. He was easily the best in the Derby until Bill Shoemaker, like a bus rider who misjudges his stop, got off too early. He didn’t contest the Preakness, but lumped Bold Ruler and the rest of his company again in the Belmont.

  In all, seven horses have come up to the Belmont with two-thirds of the Triple since Citation. And at least two other horses (Nashua, Damascus) won the wrong two.

  Well, let’s hope there’s nothing hiding in the hedges that will un-crown Secretariat on Saturday. Much is made of the fact that there were only about 5,000 foals in Citation’s natal year that he had to beat, while Secretariat was one of 25,000. I don’t buy that.

  Whenever you’ve got 25,000 of something, you can bet me it ain’t as good as something there’s only 5,000 of. That goes for horses, money, marbles, diamonds, paintings, books — and people. And words, too. The Gettysburg Address, remember, fits on an envelope.

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

Mondays With Murray: End of an Era/The O’Malley Years — 1950-1998

FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 1998, SPORTS

Copyright 1998/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

 JIM MURRAY

END OF AN ERA/THE O’MALLEY YEARS:  1950-1998

   When Walter O’Malley moved the Dodgers out of Brooklyn, a lot of people there wanted to hang him in effigy. Others wanted to hang him in person.

   But what he had done just might have saved baseball.

   You don’t think so? Think that might be a little hyperbolic?

   Well, just ask any .248 hitter earning $3.1 million. He would have been lucky to get 35 mondaysmurray2grand back in the days when God was in Heaven and the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn.

   O’Malley moved the game to a new level. TV was a catalyst, but there was TV in 1958, too.

   The trouble was, baseball wasn’t national till O’Malley came along. It was a pretty exclusive club, largely confined to the northeast section of the country.

   The Boston Braves didn’t upset the status quo much when they moved to Milwaukee in 1953. And in 1955, the Philadelphia Athletics moved only to the perimeter, Kansas City.

   Baseball was so intermarrying, you’re surprised it didn’t get hemophilia.  Thirteen times since 1921, the game’s shining crown, the ‘World’ Series, had been an all-New York affair, a so-called ‘Subway Series.’ The game was like a key club. Bring references. Wipe your feet. Anything west of the Hudson was Hicksville. West of the Mississippi, Indians.

   When the Braves broke the mold and moved to Milwaukee, no one much cared. The Braves were the stepchild of Boston. The game there belonged to the Red Sox. The Braves used to play before crowds so small you could count them. And they had won only two pennants in their long history, both before the First World War.

   In Philadelphia, the A’s had a long history of dismantling championship teams for money. This time, they sold everything — players, franchise, license to play, even home plate. They moved out of economic necessity.

   But the world wasn’t ready for O’Malley’s shock. He not only moved the Dodgers, he took the Giants with him.

   New Yorkers couldn’t have been more outraged if he had jacked up the Empire State Building and moved it to Peoria. It was the biggest heist in sport history.

   Actually, Giant owner Horace Stoneham wasn’t much of a hard sell. He was going to move to Minneapolis anyway.

   And the Dodgers in Brooklyn weren’t really paupers in baseball terms. They were the most successful franchises in National League history. They had won six pennants in the 10 years before the move, had been in pennant playoffs twice. They had finished no worse than second over those years, drew a million customers a year, led the big leagues in net profit after taxes — $1,860,744 — for the five-year period 1952-1956.

   They were the darlings of every political activist in the country because they had integrated the sport a decade before.

   O’Malley had acquired the club for an initial outlay of $720,000, after he had been sent by the Brooklyn Trust Co., executor for the estate that owned the club, to oversee its operation.

   He oversaw it, but he didn’t overlook it. He could see the club’s value. It was a one-of-a-kind among only 16 in the world, rarer than diamonds, and he chafed under its penny-ante operation.

   He wanted to build his own ballpark in downtown Brooklyn. He was playing in a rundown, cracker-box firetrap built in the early 1910s.

   He wanted to move no farther than the intersection of Flatbush Avenue at Atlantic, but, even though the governor himself, Averell Harriman, came down to sign the enabling legislation, O’Malley got the runaround. The Sports Center Authority there, so to speak, died on third.

   So, O’Malley sang, “California, Here I Come” and took his team to the airport.

   Bill Veeck and his St. Louis Browns had tried to make this move a few years earlier, but Veeck was persona non grata with the execs of the game, notably Yankee owner Del Webb. O’Malley, on the other hand, was so powerful, it was said when Commissioner Ford Frick spoke, you could see O’Malley’s lips move.

   When O’Malley moved, he built his own ballpark in L.A., the last baseball executive to do so, but only after the city had deeded him 184.5 acres in Chavez Ravine and spent $4 million more grading and asphalting the property. O’Malley traded them the minor league ballpark, Wrigley Field, for the Chavez Ravine site, which was kind of laughable, since Wrigley Field was headed for the wreckers’ ball anyway and, at 41st and Avalon, was hardly prime real estate. (In San Francisco, Stoneham got his city-built ballpark for a paltry $125,000 a year!)

   The O’Malleys profited hugely from the transfer from Flatbush to Chavez Ravine. But how about the city of Los Angeles? How has it fared?

   Well, compared to the blandishments other cities hold out to major league franchises from football to basketball, it may seem to some that the Dodgers came cheap.

   How do you put a price on the community of five World Series titles, nine National League pennants and nine division titles, plus other close title races?

   How much business does that attract to a town? How much does the fact the city has a major league franchise in the first place play in attracting tourists, conventions, new businesses? The facts are, any city bids high for a Super Bowl, which comes with a high price tag affixed. Even a World Cup with an alien sport commands spirited bidding.

   The good to the game of baseball is incalculable. How much vitality does it attach to a sport to have out-of-town cadres hanging up “Beat L.A.!” signs? To have a franchise playing the bad guy in the melodramas of baseball? To move into an area where the rest of the country had already beaten them? The state is 32.6 million now. It was probably half that when the Dodgers came.

   The Dodgers were the first team to attract more than three million fans in a single season, 3,347,845 in 1978, and they have done it 12 times. Before the Los Angeles Dodgers, not only had no team ever drawn three million, only one, the Cleveland Indians in 1948, had ever drawn two million.

   There used to be a boast in Los Angeles — “No matter how hot it gets in the daytime, it’s still cool at night.”  The puckish movie producer Bob Goldstein amended that once, observing wryly, “No matter how hot it gets in L.A. in the daytime, there’s still nothing to do at night!”

   The Dodgers gave L.A. something to do at night.

   O’Malley had to survive a battle with J.A. (Black Jack) Smith, brother of San Diego’s C. Arnholt Smith, who owned the minor league franchise, the Padres. Black Jack got a referendum put on the ballot that would have nullified the O’Malley’s deal with the city, and it failed to pass by only a few hundred votes.

   One of Smith’s charges was that O’Malley would build a papier-mâché ballpark in Chavez Ravine and, after a few perfunctory years, tear it down and put the land to more lucrative use.

   Instead, O’Malley built the Taj Mahal of ballparks. It is as pristine today as it was 36 years ago, when it was built. It looks years younger than Eastern ballparks that were built years afterward. Part of that is climate. But part of it is Dodger care and maintenance. You can almost eat off the floors of Dodger Stadium. The O’Malleys treated their fans as guests, not intruders (try a Shea Stadium usher if you don’t think the opposite can be true}.

   So, who got the better of the deal? I would say it’s a wash. The Dodgers have been good for L.A. And, of course, L.A. has been good for the Dodgers.

   It’s a different game today. I doubt if any Brooklyn Dodger ever got more than $100,000 a year. I doubt if any got that much. I know none got a million a year.

   Today, you stay in contention extending multimillion-dollar contracts to 12-13 pitchers, .245 hitters, backup infielders. Baseball grew incrementally after the Dodgers’ move. In real estate, the watchword is ‘Location! Location! Location!’ O’Malley was far ahead of his fellow moguls in spotting that.

   O’Malley and the Dodgers have been good neighbors. They maintained a franchise and an image remarkably free of controversy and scandal. They perpetuated a profile of a Dodgers player who was a cross between Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson, if not a model citizen at least a reasonable facsimile. Dodgers players didn’t hit night court. If they did, they were shortly no longer Dodgers players. Not our kind, you see. Not Raiders, thank you.

   They didn’t exactly run the business like a mom-and-pop store. But it was a family business, catering to moms and pops. And grandpops. I don’t know of any sport you can bring a granddaughter to more comfortably and confidently than to Dodgers baseball.

   I would hope that doesn’t change. Before the Dodgers, L.A.’s hometown heroes were Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, John Wayne, Clark Gable, James Stewart and Bob Hope, to name a few.

   The Dodgers added Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Jim Gilliam, Maury Wills, Fernando Valenzuela, Steve Garvey, Tommy Lasorda, Vin Scully and Mike Piazza, to name a few.

   That’s not a bad trade.

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

Mondays With Murray: This Pitcher Knows About Finishing Jobs

FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 1984

Copyright 1984/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

This Pitcher Knows About Finishing Jobs

    I never interviewed Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Grover Alexander or Christy Mathewson, but I guess one of the things that would have impressed me about all of them was their ratio of complete games to games started. Cy Young finished 751 games mondaysmurray2out of 818, Johnson 531 out of 666, and Grover Alexander 436 out of 598.

   Pretty good. But how about a pitcher who finished all but two games?

   I have interviewed the guys with the most no-hit games, Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax — they have five and four, respectively), but the other day I interviewed a pitcher who has 50. You heard me. Five-oh. Half a hundred.

   The pitcher I talked to makes Cy Young look like an in-and-outer, Grover Cleveland look careless and Ryan look like, if not a junk pitcher, at least a guy who had to scatter hits.

   Lots of pitchers strike out Reggie Jackson and lots of pitchers manage to keep him in the ballpark on his hits, but Reggie never even got a fair ball off this pitcher. He never hit the ball forward, if you please.

——

   The pitcher I refer to is right-handed, tall (6-2), is a submariner like Kansas City’s Dan Quisenberry, has a fastball that has been clocked at 96 m.p.h., a pitch we used to call the upshoot back on the sandlots of New England and a changeup that appears to come to home plate by parachute.

   The greatest earned-run average in major-league baseball history is Walter Johnson’s 2.37. This pitcher has an 0.19 ERA. Match that around the Hall of Fame.

   Bob Feller has the most one-hit games in baseball, 12. This right-hander has 22. Shutouts? Well, Walter Johnson had 110. This pitcher has 111.

   So, why haven’t the Dodgers signed this phenom? Shouldn’t someone with those statistics be starting the All-Star Game in San Francisco next month?

   Well, there is this one tiny little complication. How would it look for the greatest ballplayers in history to get the bats stuck up their ears by a curveballer named Kathy? What kind of a part is that for Robert Redford?

   The greatest pitcher I ever interviewed, by cold stats, is probably the only pitcher I thought it might be fun to go dancing with after the game. Pitchers with earrings are not that big a novelty anymore, but they look better on this one than they do on, say, Pascual Perez. Anyway, this is the only no-hit pitcher in the game who might be somebody’s mother.

   Meet Kathy Arendsen, sports fans, who might do things with a thrown ball no Cy or Sandy or Rapid Robert or Big Train or Big Six ever did.

   Joe McGinnity pitched five doubleheaders in his career? Kathy pitched 10 games in three days once in Salt Lake City. She pitched 26 innings once in Houston in 100-degree weather. They called McGinnity the Iron Man. Compared to Kathy, he seemed like a spot pitcher.

   Of course, Kathy’s field of endeavor is the softball pitch, as the British call the field of play, where she is only 40 feet from the batter, the runners can’t steal till she lets go of the ball and the batters all swing like girls because they are girls.

   On the other hand, the balls are 12 inches in diameter, the bases are only 60 feet apart, the fences are only 200 feet away and the bats are aluminum.

   Cy Young won 511 games. But he lost 313. He leads in both categories. Kathy has won 162 games. But she has lost only 15. Steve Carlton has struck out more than 3,800 batters, but in 4,600 innings. Kathy has fanned 2,063 in only 1,191 innings.

   Of course, Kathy pitches for a dynastic organization that makes the New York Yankees look patchwork. The Yankees won 33 pennants and 22 world championships in 64 years.  Kathy’s team is the Raybestos Brakettes who have won 19 world or national championships in 36 years. The Yankees won 7,119 games in their span. They lost 5,341. The Brakettes won 1,894 and lost only 241 in their run.

   “They hardly ever let a hit ball touch the ground,” Kathy says admiringly of her support. Cliques don’t form, no lightning bolts come down from the front office.

   Kathy struck out Reggie Jackson three times in an exhibition in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse during the baseball strike in 1981. In 21 pitches, Reggie managed to foul two back to the screen. “Give him lots of credit,” Kathy says. “Not many ballplayers would risk it. Ted Williams is supposed to have thrown his bat in disgust.”

   The greatest pitcher I have interviewed is in the L.A. area for the Women’s International Cup competition at Whittier Narrows Park today through July 4. It brings together the eight best fast-pitch women’s softball teams in the world. The Brakettes represent the U.S. against teams from Japan, China (titillatingly enough, teams from mainland China and Taipei will face each other), Holland, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Canada.

   Don’t laugh. The Detroit Tigers would be underdogs in this tournament. And just remember, when I asked Kathy about her team’s bullpen, she said, “A what?” I said, “A place for relief pitchers.” And she said, “What’s a relief pitcher?”

   And, why would you need one?  I mean, we’re not talking Cy Young here.

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

Mondays with Murray: Eloquence Belongs to No One

DECEMBER 13, 1994, SPORTS

Copyright 1994 /THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Eloquence Belongs to No One

Why can’t a woman be more like a man. — Prof. Henry Higgins in ‘My Fair Lady’

Prof. ’Enry ’Iggins should have hung around a while. Women race cars, ride thoroughbreds, make putts, serve aces, play point guard, hit home runs, go into space, mondaysmurray2direct movies, run corporations, even run countries nowadays.

   They not only play sports, they write them. They go into battle, sit in the Senate, make our laws, judge them and set our policy. Santa Claus might turn out to be a woman next.

   One of the secrets of the sports world for a long time was that women were often the biggest and most dedicated group of fans in any sport. Baseball put ‘Ladies Day’ into the scene early in the game and those of us on the sports desk who checked our daily mail were well aware women made up the bulk of the readership some days.

   It was women, really, who first embraced pro basketball and it was nothing to see fully half the spectators courtside at the Forum female. Doris Day and Dyan Cannon were Hollywood representatives at games long before Jack Nicholson and Billy Crystal.

   It wasn’t long before they wanted to do more than watch and cheer. They wanted to comment, advise, second-guess, be a part of the sports scene. It wasn’t long before women were as familiar a sight circulating in a sports locker room as trainers.

   They had first cracked the barrier of sports journalism giving the “woman’s angle.” Turned out the woman’s angle on a home run or an end run or an Olympic run wasn’t significantly different.

   A home run was a home run, a goal was a goal, and, of course, an adverb was an adverb. Also, a “No comment!” or a “Get out of my face!” knew no sex.

   There were some contretemps. Some athletes had as much trouble with gender equality as some editors. Some lawyers had to find court rulings that were conspicuously sexless but, of course, lawyers have no trouble finding what suits them or their clients.

   So, it’s altogether appropriate that a colleague, Ron Rapoport of the Daily News, should see fit to collect and publish an anthology of sportswriting by women and show the craft is in good hands.

   Ron’s collection is not “You’ve come a long way, baby.” It doesn’t treat the subject as Barbie Doll journalism. He notes that Mary Garber, who was to sportswriting what Amelia Earhart was to aviation, once presented several articles at a seminar of sports editors and asked them to identify the authors by sex. No one could.

   The book is called ‘A Kind of Grace’ and it offers a compilation of 73 pieces from the women’s side of sports viewing. It is good stuff. For example:

On Page 223, Joan Ryan of the San Francisco Examiner begins her piece, “Nine years before Mary Bacon put a bullet in her head at a Motel 6 in Ft. Worth, Tex., she had already begun to die.”

    Runyon ever say it better? John Lardner?

    On Page 104, Claire Smith of the New York Times is holding forth: “Steve Palermo and Dr. Lonise Bias would not seem to have a lot in common, one being a major league umpire (shot and paralyzed by an armed robber), the second being a doctor of religion.

   “Bias has also suffered grievous wounds in her life, having lost two sons, one to a drug overdose, one to murderous gunplay. Len Bias, Bias’ talented basketball player son, died of a drug overdose on the eve of a professional career with the Boston Celtics.

   “She speaks to athletes, most recently to major league rookies who gathered in Dallas last weekend. ‘You have a responsibility on this earth. Will you cause other young men to be a curse upon this earth or will you cause them to be a blessing? For, you see, good advice with poor example is very confusing. You are educators whether you want to be or not. You will influence the decision of someone sitting at the table with you or someone who will be sitting in a ballpark looking at you. Either you will lead them to a life of prosperity or one of death and destruction.’ ”

   Who needs Dickens?

   Take another Joan Ryan piece on page 332 on the other side of the Super Bowl:

   “Wendy Kusuma walked last Sunday afternoon through downtown San Francisco, which was quiet and nearly empty. So many people were home watching the 49ers-Dallas Cowboys game. ‘I had this feeling of dread: Before the night’s over we’ll have more battered women in either Dallas or San Francisco,’ she said.

   “Football Sundays are heavy workdays for battered women’s shelters. A woman is battered by a husband or lover every 15 seconds of every day. One-third to one-half of all female murder victims die at the hands of spouses or lovers.

   “Next week’s Super Bowl Sunday would be the worst day of the year for battered women. It usually is. A wife or girlfriend steps in front of the television. She doesn’t fetch his beer quickly enough. She can’t keep the children quiet. She contradicts him in front of his friends. Anything can trigger the beating. But it’s usually the beer, the betting, the bruising and banging of players on TV that lead the way. The athletes on screen — men often admired to the point of reverence — reaffirm the batterer’s belief of what it takes to be a man: aggressive, dominant, physical.”

   Go Raiders!

   On Page 114, Michelle Kaufman of the Detroit Free Press zeroes in on a familiar figure. “Her father bought her a .22 rifle when she was in kindergarten and chopped off the stock so it would fit her tiny hands. Her mother has been married seven times. A drunk half-brother once tried to kiss her; she retaliated by burning him in the neck with a curling iron. Twice in the past two years, she filed for divorce and sought restraining orders against her hot-headed husband. Three months ago, police seized a handgun from her after it went off during an argument.

   “Less than a month before the Winter Olympics, Tonya Harding faces the toughest chapter of her tough life.

   “Harding’s background contradicts every image associated with figure skating. The new U.S. champion enjoys drag racing, rebuilding engines, playing pool, hunting, fishing. She smokes cigarettes, despite a serious asthmatic condition. While other skaters choose classical music, Harding has skated to such tunes as ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Funky Cold Medina’ and her skating dresses are a far cry from designer beauties.”

   OK. How’s that for who, what, when, where and why, the journalist’s fab five?

   On Page 360, Helene Elliott of The Times takes the high road: “When he was a rookie, and other players mocked his devout Christianity, and his decision to abstain from sex until marriage, A.C. Green’s steadfast faith helped him silence his doubters. ‘One thing about me is, I don’t feel I have many limitations. I feel I can really do anything. The Bible tells me — and I really believe the Bible — Philippians 4:13 says, ‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,’ and this Scripture I take to heart.’

   “Green runs a summer camp for children and someday he’d like to establish a home for unwed mothers. ‘There has to be more emphasis put on self-control and responsibility. If there’s so much sex education going on in school, why are teen-age birth rates and abortion rates on the increase? There’s a lot of things that weigh on my heart.’ ”

   Well, was Dr. Bob Schuller more eloquent at the Crystal Cathedral?

   A powerful argument for gender equity is this book. Of course, these women never hit a major league home run, scored a touchdown in the NFL, served aces at Wimbledon or high-sticked Wayne Gretzky. Come to think of it, neither did we.

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

Mondays with Murray: Magazine Illustrated Sports’ Importance

OCTOBER 19, 1997, SPORTS

Copyright 1997/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

 JIM MURRAY

Magazine Illustrated Sports’ Importance

When Sports Illustrated first came out, it had a hard time identifying with the hardcore sports public. I know. I was there.

Dan Jenkins, who later rode to its rescue, dismissed its early editions as “a slick cookbook for your basic two-yacht family.” Still others saw it as “a coffee table item for polo mondaysmurray2players’ living rooms.” A colleague wondered when we would publish a lead story, “Falcons Are Fun,” referring to the peregrine kind, not the Atlanta football team.

An editor at Hearst’s Cosmopolitan, Jack O’Connell, used to ask us regularly at the bar at Toots Shor’s, “When are you going to stop wasting Harry Luce’s money on jock straps?”

Even in the company (Time Inc.), the chorus of doom was deafening. The editor first tapped to get it off the ground, Ernie Havemann, gave up on it and wrote a 26-page memo, intending to inter it.

Only two men believed in it: Sid James, who came down from the flagship of the Time Inc. fleet, LIFE magazine, to take over from Havemann. And Harry Luce. Luce had learned the hard way that sports were important. Though sports-illiterate himself — he was raised in China — he grew vexed when top-level dinner talks with prime ministers and foreign ministers turned to sport.

“If it’s that damn important, why don’t we have a magazine on it?” he demanded.

The extraordinary story of the watershed magazine is explored in a new book, “The Franchise,” a 434-page history of the 43-year old magazine,written by Michael MacCambridge after detailed research.

It ‘s impossible to downplay the importance of the magazine on the incredible explosion in sports in the last half of the 20th century. Consider that one player, the great Joe DiMaggio, was paid as much as $100,000 in that benighted era. Today, high school kids make more than any Rockefeller then.

Sports Illustrated came out in the era and the aura of television, the great Aztec god of games. I remember some of us were leery of the challenge. TV already had begun to bring down the cash cow of the company, LIFE, whose still pictures couldn’t compete with TV ‘s moving, talking pictures.

James was reassuring.

“TV will show them how they won. We’ll tell them why,” he said.

I was right in one exchange with early days management. The assistant publisher, Dick Neale, told me confidently one day why the mag would be a success.

“We can buy the subscription lists of the New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post and find the readers,” he said.

I was dubious, warning, “You better be sure the writing is of a high order.”

It was. The publication reached out and found the country — and the world — awash with poets of the playing fields. It mined Texas and found the incomparable Jenkins in Fort Worth, giving the country a writer in every way the equal of Ring Lardner.

Quoting Jenkins’ leads of one-liners became a favorite indoor sport of a thousand locker rooms. He became the signature hole of the magazine. He verified it, put the stamp of literature on it the New Yorker might envy.

He was followed by others. Today a Jenkins clone, Rick Reilly, anchors the tradition.

But MacCambridge’s book lists the casualties of that never-ending war between talented editors and talented writers, nuclear outbursts that no one won — and the world and the magazine lost. When Jenkins and editor Gil Rogin got in each others’ gun sights, they both wound up in orbit, Jenkins going to a golf magazine and his novels, Rogin to wandering, bewildered, in the corporate halls, finding no place to light.

The book is replete with office gossip, scorecards on the pitting of one editor against another in an obscene public struggle for one job. Management called them “bakeoffs” but they resembled nothing so much as replays of the Christians versus the lions, with the publisher playing Nero.

As someone wrote, the talent was so Vesuvian, it’s no surprise that the lid blew off periodically and the editorial offices got covered with lava.

The cast of characters of the men in charge ranged from James, without whose optimism and dogged spadework the magazine would have died in its crib, to Andre Laguerre, a Frenchman who had been Gen. de Gaulle’s first lieutenant, to Mark Mulvoy, a stage Irishman with a sure instinct for what the fan on the street wanted from S.I.

Pro football was a presence but not a religion when Sports Illustrated hit the scene. Major league baseball was declining precipitously in attendance, going from 21 million in 1948 to 14 million in ’54 when S.I. hit the newsstands. Last year, attendance was 29,718,093 in the American League and 30,379,288 in the National.

Pro basketball was an acquired taste, like the olive martini, before S.I., and college basketball was attended only by students — usually for the dance afterward. We all played a part in making golf a sport that Tiger Woods could come along and take over, but none more than S.I. It did more for golf than Arnold Palmer.

How much did one magazine play in the boom? Plenty, thinks MacCambridge. It has survived, even thrived, in a field since saturated with TV. When we started it, we were afraid we might not even meet the 350,000 in circulation that was guaranteed advertisers. Last time I looked, its weekly circulation was 3.2 million.

On my wall in my living room is one of my prized possessions. It’s a letter from Henry Luce, sent me the day after Christmas, 1953, just after we had pulled together the first three advertising dummies for the new magazine.

He wrote: “Fingers must always be crossed but it does indeed look as if we had a good magazine coming up.”

We sure did, Harry.

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