Mondays With Murray: Ravages of Time

Jim Murray was born on Dec. 29, 1919, so we are preparing for what would have been his 100th birthday. Today we take you back 50 years to a column Jim wrote about turning 50.

Enjoy!

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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 1969, SPORTS

Copyright 1969/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Ravages of Time

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

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

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

  You see, this fella has been playing tricks on me for a long while. For instance, being mondaysmurray2young, I have a cast-iron stomach. HE gets gas on the stomach. Lately. When HE gets gas on the stomach, I belch.

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

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

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

  Now, he’s got me taking a 3-wood off the tee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116

———

What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

Like us on Facebook, and visit the JMMF website, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

——

A dozen years ago, Linda McCoy-Murray compiled a book of Jim Murray’s columns on female athletes (1961-1998). While the book is idle waiting for an interested publisher, the JMMF thinks this is an appropriate year to get the book on the shelves, i.e., Jim Murray’s 100th birthday, 1919-2019.  

Our mission is to empower women of all ages to succeed and prosper — in and out of sports — while entertaining the reader with Jim Murray’s wit and hyperbole.  An excellent teaching tool for Women’s Studies.

Proceeds from book sales will benefit the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization providing sports journalism scholarships at universities across the country.

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Mondays With Murray: There’s Been No Change of Heart

 

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 24, 1982, SPORTS

Copyright 1982/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

There’s Been No Change of Heart

  When Lefty Gomez was going in for open-heart surgery, the old Yankees pitcher was worried. He wanted to know which way to bet, as usual. “What are my chances?” he asked. “Aw, don’t sweat it, Lefty,” the doctor told him. “A piece of cake. We have a 98 percent success rate.”

  Suddenly, Lefty went home. Almost immediately, his phone began to ring. His cousin from Visalia called. Her brother had the operation, and he was out climbing mountains. mondaysmurray2A neighbor called. Same thing. His father had the operation and he was years younger. An old friend called from New York. He had come through with flying colors. An ex-teammate called. He had it and was OK.

  Suddenly, Lefty broke into a cold sweat anyway. “I suddenly realized I was up to 68 percent. Two more phone calls and I was an underdog. I shut off the phone.”

  I bring this up because, I, too, recently had heart surgery. But it wasn’t well-meaning friends who gave me sleepless nights. It was the medics. For openers, the surgeon, Dr. Jack Matloff, the old Yale football player, came in the night before and told me all the things that could go wrong. He made it sound as if I should get points in this game. “First of all,” he said, “you could die.” And that was the good news.

  Part of the bad news was, they were going to replace my worn-out valve with a pig’s valve. My doctor, Gary Sugarman, was quick to see the obstacles in this. “That means you’re ‘trafe,’ ” he said. “That means you can never go in a Beverly Hills delicatessen again as long as you live.”

  “In that case,” I told him, “this will be the first operation in history to save a heart and a gallbladder at the same time. Irving Caesar used to say that pastrami killed more Jews than the Pharaohs.”

  Another doctor on the case, Jeffrey Helfenstein, was even more helpful. “Look at it this way: When your readers write in that you’re a pig, they’ll be part right.”

  But, my problems were more metaphysical than medical. What I was worried about was the big picture, the effect all this would have on my career. I reasoned this way: The heart is the seat of the emotions, right? Now that I had a new set of emotions, how would this affect my whole approach to life? I mean, would I now become Mr. Nice Guy? No more Mr. McNasty? Would I now start seeing two sides to every story? Would I start to admit it when I was wrong? Would I stop being an opinionated jerk? Would I get that fatal columnists’ disease, fairness? Would I start to like Cincinnati?

  The thought was too appalling to contemplate. Would they scalpel malice right out of my system, and leave me a journalistic eunuch? One of those guys who says, “On the other hand . . .?”

  You know, when I went in for the operation, a lot of the wags were ready: “Jim Murray had a six-hour heart surgery. Took ‘em one hour to fix it and five hours to find it.” And so on.

  You know, when I first came to California way back in ’43, I realized I would have to guard against the local diseases — cheerfulness, optimism, tolerance, sympathy, orange juice poisoning of the brain, kind of like you watch out for malaria in the tropics. I guarded against the symptoms night and day. When I covered the movies, for instance, I didn’t like any of them. I even ripped Academy Award performances. Especially Academy Award performances. I only liked pictures nobody went to see. If Spencer Tracy wasn’t in it, I knocked it.

  Then, when I got into sports, I was horrified at the attitude of the fans out here. They were, if you can believe it, well — “understanding” is the word. Patient. Sympathetic. Terrible flaws in a sports fan.

  I used to sit behind them and heard them implore: “Please, Steve, don’t strike out.” Good Lord! This is no way to spectate. Brought up in the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field, I knew the real procedure: “Hey, Steve, strike out so they’ll know you! I hear you’re writing a book, ‘My Greatest Days in Baseball.’ It’ll be thinner than the Texas social register. Hey, Steve, is your nickname ‘Popeye’ or ‘Pop Fly?’ Hey, Steve, one more strikeout and that school they named after you is ‘Lincoln Junior High’ once again. Can they carry out decimals in that school far enough to find your batting average? Hey, Steve, does your Rolls Royce have stained-glass windows — or just a chair in the back and incense? Do they call you ‘goody, goody’ because you’re bucking for saint or because that’s what the pitchers say when you come up? The next time you go to Lourdes, bring your bats.”

  You can sit there, as fans do here, and murmur encouragements like, “We’re with you, Fernando, baby!” You have to go for the jugular, shake him up. “Hey, Fernando, show us how to throw a home run. Hey, Fernando, who takes care of your pet gopher when you’re on the mound? Hey, Fernando, two more pounds and they have to tether you. They’ll put a propeller on you and take pictures over the Rose Bowl next New Year’s. Hey, Fernando, the movies want you! They’re doing a remake of the Hindenburg disaster. You’re gonna play the Hindenburg. Hey, Fernando, how do you say ‘ball four’ in Spanish? Better learn, you’re gonna be saying it a lot!”

  In horse racing, the accepted form of cheering in the stretch here is, “Come on sweetheart, stay there! Only an eighth of a mile, you can do it, baby!” The universal hate form on the other hand is, “Don’t die now, you damn dog, you got all my money ridin’ on ya! Hold on, you bucket o’ glue! Jockey, hit that snivelling quitter — or are you in on the fix, too?!”

  Soft-heartedness is the graveyard of sportswriting, too. The minute you think, let alone write, “Well, the poor fellow was doing his best,” you are through. The instant you lead off with “Steve Garvey gave it his all yesterday, but took a called third strike to write finish to the Dodgers’ pennant race,” you are ready for the copy desk and the condo in Chula Vista. You have lost the hop on your hard one.

  If life, they say, “No news is good news.” In journalism, they say, “Good news is no news.” You have to put a stone in your heart and a sneer on your lips and write, “Steve Garvey liked the pitch so much he couldn’t bear to bruise it. So he stood there like a guy getting his first look at the Mona Lisa, overcome with awe and admiration. He looked as if he had come to paint it, not hit it. Of course, the Philistines were screaming, ‘Swing, ya dummy! It’s a strike, not a work of art!’ But what do they know of works of art?”

  I took up the problem with Dr. Sugarman, when he found fluid around the heart. “You don’t think it’s the milk of human kindness, do you?” I wondered anxiously. Gary shook his head. “No,” he said.

“You can tell that from the stethoscope?” I pressed.

“No,” he said, “from the column you wrote about the St. Louis Cardinals.”

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: Magazine Illustrated Sports’ Importance

Sports Illustrated cut more than 40 members of its staff on Thursday, Oct. 3, as part of a restructuring plan. There is more right here.

Jim Murray, who worked as a California correspondent for Time and Life, was reassigned to New York in 1953 to help produce that new magazine, Sports Illustrated.

Magazine magnate Henry Luce, who was called “the most influential private citizen” in the America of his day, launched and closely supervised a stable of magazines that transformed journalism and the reading habits of millions of Americans. Time summarized and interpreted the week’s news; Life was a picture magazine of politics, culture, and society that dominated American visual perceptions in the era before television; Fortune reported on national and international business; and Sports Illustrated explored the world of sports. 

Luce chose Jim Murray because he had written profiles of actors and athletes in the California bureau. Murray’s career at Sports Illustrated ran from 1953-61 where, in SI’s infancy, he sold ads, created dummy layouts, reported/wrote and promoted the magazine. SI saw itself as being high quality letters — Hemingway, for instance, wrote for the magazine from time to time.

——

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 mondaysmurray2polo players’ 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 T V ’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 comparable and 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 T V. 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.

——

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: Rented Defenses

JANUARY 7, 1964, SPORTS

Copyright 1964/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Rented Defenses

  They were playing the American Football League playoff game in San Diego; so I packed up my adding machine, abacus, ran over the multiplication table again in my mind, told Barron Hilton to send the plane around at noon and took off.

  There’s always a lot of suspense going to San Diego these days because you never know when President Johnson might order it closed or mothballed — or transferred to Newport News. But I guess they’re afraid of a serious dislocation in the tattoo industry.

  The AFL, as you may know, is not a league so much as an exercise in geometric progression. I don’t think it prepares defenses, I think it rents them, at the last minute. Or they send a truck down to the Union Rescue Mission an hour before game time, load up the first 11 guys they can find and draw positions out of a hat. The ‘defense’ is just a costume masquerade. The score is usually 7-7 by the kickoff. In fact, I’m not sure AFL games don’t come like taxis — with points already on the meter before they start up. If one team is late getting on the field, they’re behind 20-0 before they can make it. The officials don’t notice when there’s no defense on the field because the team with the ball runs through them even when there is.

You Watch the Scoreboard

  You don’t really watch the game, you watch the scoreboard. The touchdowns come too fast for the naked eye. Actually, when you see your first AFL game, you think the scoreboard has developed a stutter. The stock market ticker would run a day behind. The radio announcers broadcasting the games sound like tobacco auctioneers. They should really start both teams at -10 to give the crowd a chance to keep up.

  There were only 61 points scored in the championship game, only 10 of them by Boston which had its hands on the ball only about twice. I think the Boston Patriots not only got their defense from Union Rescue but their offense as well. They should change their name to Boston Patsies. You would have thought they were blindfolded. I have seen guys find a keyhole in the dark after a night of wassailing easier than these guys could find the ball.

  You don’t need shoulder guards in this game. You could play in sunglasses, in fact, in a monocle. The only resistance you get is from the wind. A vendor got in front of me making change for a quarter and I missed three touchdowns and a field goal attempt. Even at half-time, the bands play three songs in the time it takes normal ones to play one. There is more body contact in Olympic sprint heats or a Willie Pastrano fight. The only reason they ever got bloody noses in these things is the altitude. All a trainer needs is Kleenex.

Chargers on Run in a Hurry

  San Diego reeled off more ground faster than a guy who suddenly hears the husband coming home. On the second play from scrimmage, a guy went 54 yards. With his shoelaces untied. You could play in your stocking feet.

  The Chargers’ Keith Lincoln alone almost equaled the two-year rushing total of the German army in 1939-40. But Boston could have moved faster underground.

  The Charger crowd began chanting “We want the Bears” after the second touchdown, which took two whole plays. The first touchdown took four plays and coach Sid Gillman was understandably cross when his team ran off the field. “What kept you?” he wanted to know. There were three touchdowns in the first 10 scrimmage plays.

  The Chargers have a right nice little team. Ron Mix is an offensive tackle who knocks down more people than a missing top step. Dave Kocourek scattered more Bostonians than a bomb scare in Scollay Square.

  But the game wasn’t a test of much except arithmetic. It did show the San Diego Chargers far and away the best team south of the lower reaches of the National Football League. Even in wind sprints, 610 yards. Total is impressive. And when the history classes in San Diego in the future say “What did Lincoln do?” the kids may answer, “He made 329 yards against Boston in 1964.

  This is a league that has been kept alive by wholesale injections of money. The Texas Big Rich poured it through the windows of 10-second halfbacks like coal chutes along with such glittering promises of jobs that Texas in the future will be run by football players, which may or may not be an improvement over the present system.

  But this league moves the ball — and its customers. It plays its All-Star game two weeks hence — and I think the score is already 21-21. The Bears might prove them to be just bull — or bush. But the Bears wouldn’t beat them 100-0 as some predict. Of course, they might beat them 1,000-100. But at least the game would be a great challenge to the electronic industry and they might have to score it by logarithm. Well, why not?

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116

———

What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

Like us on Facebook, and visit the JMMF website, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

——

A dozen years ago, Linda McCoy-Murray compiled a book of Jim Murray’s columns on female athletes (1961-1998). While the book is idle waiting for an interested publisher, the JMMF thinks this is an appropriate year to get the book on the shelves, i.e., Jim Murray’s 100th birthday, 1919-2019.  

Our mission is to empower women of all ages to succeed and prosper — in and out of sports — while entertaining the reader with Jim Murray’s wit and hyperbole.  An excellent teaching tool for Women’s Studies.

Proceeds from book sales will benefit the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization providing sports journalism scholarships at universities across the country.

Mondays With Murray: The Dawning of the Age of Cable TV

Today we take you back to 1981 when Jim Murray’s column was focused on a brand new TV channel, ESPN, and the man who made it happen, Chet Simmons.

  Sports broadcasting and cable pioneer Chester R. (Chet) Simmons served as president of ESPN when it launched in 1979. As a founding father of sports television, Simmons started in 1957 with Sports Programs, Inc., which soon evolved into ABC Sports, where he was instrumental in the development of Wide World of Sports. He became president of NBC Sports and later of ESPN, and was founding commissioner of the USFL.

   Thank you, ESPN, for always being in the JMMF corner.

  ENJOY!

—————

THURSDAY, JUNE 4, 1981, SPORTS

Copyright 1981/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

The Dawning of the Age of Cable TV

  In the early 1920s, a new medium, radio, and a new monopoly, network broadcasting, burst on an unprepared public and the satraps of the industry were quickly locked in bitter ideological conflict.

  On one side were forces headed by Gen. David Sarnoff, ruler of a conglomerate, Radio Corporation of America. He held that the greatest good the new medium could perform mondaysmurray2was to move goods. In other words, it should be a giant advertising agency whose entertainment specialties, like the old medicine shows, should be used primarily to sell snake oil, to unclog the pipelines of American’s manufactured goods.

  On the other side were the forces of free enterprise, which thought the entertainment should be sold directly to the public at the marketplace, just as stage, screen, sports and penny arcades were. Put your nickel in the slot and see the show. Pay-radio, not advertising — subsidized radio.

**********

  Gen. Sarnoff prevailed. He usually did. Pay-radio never came into being. Instead, toothpaste companies controlled the medium. They hired the comics, paid the orchestras, leased the wires. Razor blade companies brought you the World Series. Beer bottlers put on the Wednesday night fights. Pro football broadcasts carried sales pitches for shaving lather.

  When television came in, the old argument reopened. Executives such as Gene McDonald, president of Zenith Radio and Television, argued for selling products direct to home owners. His reasoning: Why should a World Series, which could gross $40 million a day if everybody who watched paid a dollar, sell radio rights for $175,000 and TV rights for $65,000 (as it did then in 1949)?

  McDonald and pay-TV advocates were blocked at every turn, largely by an aggressive mob of 12,000 movie exhibitors whose business was doomed anyway. They collected signatures and stopped pay-TV in its tracks. It was like the buggy-whip manufacturers collecting signatures to prevent the manufacturer of carburetors, but for a while the illusion of “free” TV prevailed. There is no such thing as free TV, actually. You paid for Jack Benny and the World Series, anyway.

**********

  But all this is ancient history, Pay-TV is alive and well and proliferating. Only this week the industry, which once held its convention “in a clothes closet in Las Vegas,” drew 12,000 conventioneers and 350 exhibitors to its three-day annual gathering in Los Angeles, attesting to its growth and vitality. The business’ enemies thought two decades ago they had patted it in the face with a shovel.

  It’s called Cable TV today, but it’s the same business. Gen. Sarnoff would be aghast. It managed to escape the political buzz-saws of “fee” TV in the nick of time because it happened to be needed. When there proved to be massive pockets of population unreachable by an ordinary TV signal because they were behind mountains or other interrupters, entrepreneurs built community antennas and charged the subscribers for piping the pictures into their living rooms. Not even Gen. Sarnoff could say, “You can’t do that!” Nobody could collect signatures to take away television altogether from your home screen. So, pay TV had its foot in the door.

  I had breakfast the other day with a TV executive who has a foot in both doors. Chet Simmons, when I first knew him, was in charge of sports programming for NBC in the days when competition for network sports preeminence made the Dodgers-Giants look like two sisters dancing.

  It’s well to remember that the American Football League succeeded where earlier expansion leagues had failed, simply because NBC needed it. No other single factor contributed so much to its success. NBC could not tolerate putting on Sunday afternoon zoo shows while CBS was showing the real Lions and Rams and keeping score.

  Chet Simmons runs an operation called The Total Sports Network, ESPN (for “Entertainment Network”) with headquarters in Bristol, Conn., of all places. It’s an audacious enterprise bankrolled by Getty Oil. It welcomes advertising, but it distributes its product by cable system, a bit of Roman riding that Gen. Sarnoff never thought of.

  “We are advertising-supported, we generate revenue the same way the three networks do,” Simmons said. “We are in affiliate agreements with cable systems. But we are in one business and one business only, we are a program source for the cable industry, that’s all we do.”

  Where does a 24-hour all-sports network find product? Would you believe televising the NFL draft? Twenty guys sitting around a room for 8-1/2 hours sorting out photographs of kids with 20-inch necks whose classes had graduated from A&M (usually without them). That’s entertainment?!

  “Believe it,” says Simmons, convincingly. “To our viewers, it’s news, it’s entertainment, it’s suspense.” Lyrics by Irving Berlin.

  What do you show at 4 o’clock in the morning, Chet, barroom fights? Reruns of the Cincinnati Bengals picking a linebacker? No. Chet said reruns of an event first programmed live the evening before are as avidly watched by sports fans as Saturday afternoon cowboy movies are by kids. They will watch the same film over and over. Especially if the good guys win.

  Where otherwise do you get product? Well, Simmons notes, the major networks leave an astonishing amount of prime sports footage just laying around. Not Notre Dame-Michigan, the World Series or the Super Bowl, perhaps. But they do leave the college World Series of Baseball and the NCAA golf tournaments.

  Even the famous Notre Dame-Brigham Young basketball playoff of last year was up for grabs. ESPN grabbed it. ESPN has the advantage, too, that it is all sports. It does not have to go pettifogging off after comparative trivialities such as elections, assassinations, wars, revolutions, drownings, floods, and other dilemmatic happenings of the non-world out there. If it doesn’t happen between the foul lines, so far as ESPN is concerned it’s a non-story.

  Network-station sportscasts usually have a breathless announcer trying to cram in 24 scores, a shouted interview with a third baseman on the way to a shower, and a look at a three-horse spill at Aqueduct, all sounding like Donald Duck interviewing Mel Tellis — film at 11. Rush-hour train-calling at Grand Central is more entertaining — and informative.

  How fair is the box office?

  “In May of 1979, we had a million and a half subscribers,” reports Simmons. “In May of 1981, we have 10 million.”

  How close is cable TV to bidding competitively against the networks for a World Series, a Super Bowl, the Olympic Games?

  “We are a long way from making money,” Simmons said “But, when it was estimated that it would take $400 million to wire the Borough of Queens for pay-TV, 20 applicants bid for the privilege of spending $400 million. So you know what the return is they were looking at. The networks are now looking into cable TV themselves. What does that tell you?”

  It tells me it’s a good thing Gen. Sarnoff isn’t around to hear it.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116

———

What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

Like us on Facebook, and visit the JMMF website, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

——

A dozen years ago, Linda McCoy-Murray compiled a book of Jim Murray’s columns on female athletes (1961-1998). While the book is idle waiting for an interested publisher, the JMMF thinks this is an appropriate year to get the book on the shelves, i.e., Jim Murray’s 100th birthday, 1919-2019.  

Our mission is to empower women of all ages to succeed and prosper — in and out of sports — while entertaining the reader with Jim Murray’s wit and hyperbole.  An excellent teaching tool for Women’s Studies.

Proceeds from book sales will benefit the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization providing sports journalism scholarships at universities across the country.

Mondays With Murray: If You’re Expecting One-Liners, Wait a Column

This week we bring you one the most-requested of all Jim Murray columns. When asked what their favorite column is, most Jim Murray fans will reply that it is the 1979 classic titled headlined ‘If You’re Expecting One-Liners, Wait a Column.’ Since we are asking for your help — check our website right here — it’s only fitting that this week we give you what you’re always asking for.

So grab a tissue and enjoy this classic column from July 1, 1979.

——

JULY 1, 1979, SPORTS

Copyright 1979/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

If You’re Expecting One-Liners, Wait a Column

   OK, bang the drum slowly, professor. Muffle the cymbals. Kill the laugh track. You might say that Old Blue Eye is back. But that’s as funny as this is going to get.

  I feel I owe my friends an explanation as to where I’ve been all these weeks. Believe me, I would rather have been in a press box.

  I lost an old friend the other day. He was blue-eyed, impish, he cried a lot with me, mondaysmurray2laughed a lot with me, saw a great many things with me. I don’t know why he left me. Boredom, perhaps.

  We read a lot of books together, we did a lot of crossword puzzles together, we saw films together. He had a pretty exciting life. He saw Babe Ruth hit a home run when we were both 12 years old. He saw Willie Mays steal second base, he saw Maury Wills steal his 104th base. He saw Rocky Marciano get up. I thought he led a pretty good life.

  You see, the friend I lost was my eye. My good eye. The other eye, the right one, we’ve been carrying for years. We just let him tag along like Don Quixote’s nag. It’s been a long time since he could read the number on a halfback or tell whether a ball was fair or foul or even which fighter was down.

  So, one blue eye is missing and the other misses a lot.

  So my best friend left me, at least temporarily, in a twilight world where it’s always 8 o’clock on a summer night.

  He stole away like a thief in the night and he took a lot with him. But not everything. He left a lot of memories. He couldn’t take those with him. He just took the future with him and the present. He couldn’t take the past.

  I don’t know why he had to go. I thought we were pals. I thought the things we did together we enjoyed doing together. Sure, we cried together. There were things to cry about.

  But it was a long, good relationship, a happy one. It went all the way back to the days when we arranged all the marbles in a circle in the dirt in the lots in Connecticut. We played on-old-cat baseball. We saw curveballs together, trying to hit them or catch them. We looked through a catcher’s mask together. We were partners in every sense of the word.

  He recorded the happy moments, the beauty of a Pacific sunset, snow-capped mountains. He allowed me to see most of the major sports events of our time. I suppose I should be grateful that he didn’t drift away when I was 12 or 15 or 29 but stuck around more than 50 years until we had a vault of memories. Still, I’m only human. I’d like to see again, if possible, Rocky Marciano with his nose bleeding, behind on points and the other guy coming.

  I guess I would like to see a Reggie Jackson with the count 3 and 2 and the Series on the line, guessing fastball. I guess I’d like to see Rod Carew with men on first and second and no place to put him, and the pitcher wishing he were standing in the rain someplace, reluctant to let go of the ball.

  I’d like to see Stan Musial crouched around a curveball one more time. I’d like to see Don Drysdale trying not to laugh as a young hitter came up with both feet in the bucket.

  I’d like to see Sandy Koufax just once more facing Willie Mays with a no-hitter on the line. I’d like to see Maury Wills with a big lead against a pitcher with a good move. I’d like to see Roberto Clemente with the ball and a guy trying to go from first to third. I’d like to see Pete Rose sliding into home headfirst.

  I’d like once more to see Henry Aaron standing there with that quiet bat, a study in deadliness. I’d like to see Bob Gibson scowling at a hitter as if he had some nerve just to pick up a bat. I’d like to see Elroy Hirsch going out for a long one from Bob Waterfield, Johnny Unitas in high-cuts picking apart a zone defense. I’d like to see Casey Stengel walking to the mound on his gnarled old legs to take out the pitcher, beckoning his gnarled old finger behind his back.

  I’d like to see Sugar Ray Robinson or Muhammad Ali giving a recital, a ballet, not a fight. Also, to be sure, I’d like to see a sky full of stars, moonlight on the water, and yes, the tips of a royal flush peeking out as I fan out a poker hand, and yes, a straight two-foot putt.

  Come to think of it, I’m lucky. I saw all of those things. I see them yet.

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: Operation Leprechaun — Put Paddy on the Earth

TUESDAY, AUGUST 12, 1969, SPORTS

Copyright 1969/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Operation Leprechaun — Put Paddy on the Earth

  DUBLIN — Now that we’ve put a man on the moon, I have evolved the next daring celestial stunt. We’re going to put an Irishman on the earth.

  I approached my new friend, Paddy O’Cell, with the idea.

  “It’s daring,” he conceded. “We’ll have to have the right man for the job.”

  “What we’ll have to do first is get him a faster horse for his jaunting cart — so he can mondaysmurray2get used to speed.” I said. “Then, we’ll send him to basic training. We’ll put him in a simulated automobile and show him visions of cars driving at high speeds — up to 30 miles an hour — at him.

  “Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” said Paddy. “The poor devil will have a nervous collapse.”

  “Then,” I went on, “we’ll get him ready for intra-space communication with Ireland, a box you can talk into at one end and hear out of the other.”

  “And what would that be?” Paddy demanded.

  It’s called a ‘telephone in outer space,” I told him. “It was invented by Don Ameche and Alice Faye. Perhaps you remember the famous first words when he invented it?”

  “I seem to,” said Paddy. “Something like ‘What has God gone and done now?’ ”

  “No. The first words were ‘It’s busy,’ ” I told him. “Now, we’ll get our Irish earthonaut accustomed to pictures being shown on a screen.”

  “Ah, we have them!” shouted Paddy. “Only the other night I saw the Gish sisters and Milton Sills.”

  “No, Paddy,” I shook my head. “These pictures talk, too. And they’re showing something that’s taking place right now.”

  “In the name of Heaven, man, talk sense!” growled Paddy. “Or are ye daft altogether?”

  “He’ll have to get used to great heights — like going up to the 101st floor in a closet.”

  “The 101st floor!” shouted Paddy. “Sure and who’s going to build anything that high? Why, you’ll find St. Peter on the 35th floor!”

  “We’ll increase the automobile simulator to 50 miles an hour and, if he doesn’t get the bends, we’ll next take him to the room where he’ll have to get used to the lack of oxygen.”

  “They don’t have oxygen on earth?” Paddy wanted to know. “Like we do here in Ireland, I mean?”

  They do, Paddy,” I told him. “But it’s mixed with carbon monoxide and sulphur and ozone and hydrocarbons thrown in the air by cars and factories. We’ll have to blacken his lungs a bit and teach him how to see the water running out of his eyes. Otherwise, he’ll perish in that hostile environment.”

  “Will he be meeting any savage creatures out there on the planet earth?” Paddy wanted to know.

  “Only in Central Park,” I told him. “He will meet some friendly natives but we’ll have to condition him to that. I have a year’s subscription to ‘Playboy’ which should take care of that. You see, these creatures walk around in skirts that barely came to the top of their legs and not those long things you see here.”

  “Well, he can always go to confession,” Paddy allowed. “Tell me, do you happen to have any pictures of these creatures?”

  “When he gets to the second stage — Paris — he’ll send back some pictures,” I assured him.

  “D’ye think maybe he could capture a few of these creatures and send them back here for study?” Paddy wanted to know.

  “He’ll bring samples of lots of things,” I assured him. “Most of them will be curable, however.”

  “Now, we’re a poor country,” warned Paddy. “Will we be able to afford this great program — what is it you call it?”

  “‘Operation Leprechaun,’” I told him. “Well, it’ll cost a hundred quid, Paddy.”

  “My God, you’ll bankrupt the country!” gasped Paddy. “Why that money could best be used among the poor. D’ye realize that would buy a pint for every man jack on O’Connell Street?”

  “But, Paddy, astronomers have proven there’s sunlight and palm trees and running water and blondes in bikinis and tropical drinks and hula skirts and businessmen’s three-martini lunches out there!”

  “Say no more!” shouted Paddy. “I’ll go meself! Lock me in the pressure suit and say goodby to me dear old mother and me parish priest. I’m off to put Ireland on the map!”

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.