Mondays With Murray: In This Corner, With the Pen, is the New Guy

   History repeats itself, as it always does. The Los Angeles Times hired Arash Markazi, a 2002 USC Murray Scholar, on Jan. 15, 58 years after Jim Murray, then age 42, penned his first column (Feb. 12, 1961) as the lead sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

   “When I was growing up, we got the Los Angeles Times every morning. As much as I loved watching the Lakers and Dodgers, I looked forward to reading what Jim Murray and Allan Malamud had written about the teams, just as much.”

— Arash Markazi

——

February 12, 1961, SPORTS

Copyright 1961/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

In This Corner, With the Pen, is the New Guy

   I have been urged by my friends — all of whom mean well — to begin writing in this space without introducing myself, as if I have been standing here all the while only you haven’t noticed. But I don’t think I’ll do that. I think I’ll start off by telling you a little mondaysmurray2about myself and what I believe in. That way, we can start to fight right away.

  First off, I am against the bunt in baseball — unless they start bunting against the ball John McCraw batted against. The last time the bunt won a game, Frank Chance was a rookie.

  I think the eight-point touchdown has had it. It’s added nothing to the game unless, of course, you count the extra bookkeeping.

  I’m glad the Rams traded Billy Wade. I won’t say Billy was clumsy, but on the way back from the line of scrimmage with the ball he bumped into more people than a New York pickpocket. I have seen blockers make ball carriers look bad. Wade was the only ball carrier I ever saw make the blockers look bad. Those poor guys were getting cross-eyed trying to look for him out of both corners of their eyes. They never knew which way he went.

  The play usually ended up with some mastodon of a defensive end holding Billy upside down by the heels and shaking him. Like a father with a kid who’s just swallowed a quarter. Billy gave up more ground, faster, than Mussolini at the end of the war. The Chicago Bears better put his shoes on backward or he’ll dance right out of that little ballpark of theirs. I expect him to be the only quarterback ever tackled for a loss in the seats.

  I think Jim Brosnan is the best writer in baseball. I think Cincinnati would be gladder if he were the best pitcher.

  I know what’s wrong with Eisenhower’s golf swing, but I’ll be cussed if I can figure out what to do with that spasm of mine. (Ike lifts his left leg; I think I leave my feet altogether.).

  I’d like once more (if Jimmy Cannon will pardon me) to see Elroy Hirsch and Tommy Fears going out on a pass pattern and looking back for a Waterfield pass. Throw in Jimmy David on defense and I’ll pay double. David was the only guy I ever saw who could maim a guy while pretending to help him up.

  I hope Steve Bilko has lost weight. The last time I saw him in the Coliseum, the front of him got to the batter’s box full seconds before the rest of him. If he were batting left-handed, part of him would be halfway to first base before the pitch came in. Even then, the umpire could beat him down there.

  I don’t think anyone should be surprised at the disappointing showing of our Olympians in the ’60 Games. There is an old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” So our boys did. The coaches didn’t like it, but the girls did.

  I think almost every pitcher in the big leagues has a good spitball but I prefer to see Lew Burdette load one up for the batter in a tight situation and then make believe he’s only wiping his chin. The only way you can be sure the ball is wet is if the ump calls for it and Lew rolls it to him.

  I think the Washington Huskies football players were more enterprising than a bunch of Dead-End Kids in an empty candy store. But I still think the guys who are beating Minnesota over the head for claiming (correctly) that it had an edge in the second half in the Rose Bowl are the same guys who would be crying “Washington was robbed” if the roles were reversed in that game.

  I have been held up to you as somewhat of a joke athletically, but I want you to know I had one superlative as a college freshman baseball player. I was the most nervous right fielder our team ever had. Our coach, Ralph Erickson, had only four fingers on his right hand and the prevailing theory was he had the regulation five until he saw us and started biting his nails. I caught a fly once and got so carried away I almost decapitated our first baseman on the throw-in. As I remember the first baseman, it wouldn’t have affected his play much. He didn’t use his head a great deal.

  I won’t say the kids today are softies but I’d like to see them learn to play Little League with the ball I had to play with. This was a “dime rocket,” the cover of which came off after the first solid hit and it had to be wrapped in thick friction tape. I’d like to see Duke Snider throw it out of the Coliseum. In fact, I’d like to see him hit it past the pitcher’s mound on the fly. I have bowled with lighter balls.

  I was gratified by the reaction to the announcement Jim Murray was to write a sports column, an immediate and interested “Who??!” Mel Durslag did throw a bouquet, though. I’ll read the card as soon as I take the brick out.

  I came to Los Angeles in 1944 (the smog and I hit town together and neither one of us has been run out, despite the best efforts of public-spirited citizens) and my biggest sports disappointment was the 1955 Swaps-Nashua race, which I helped arrange. I have never believed Bill Shoemaker was property tied on his mount that day when they sprang the barrier. But I will ask Bill — and believe what he says because his next lie will be his first.

  I really don’t understand why the Angels haven’t signed up Bob Kelley to do their broadcasts. He’s the only guy in town who can prevent Vin Scully from throwing a shutout.

  I hope Bill Hartack, the jockey, continues to take himself off sore horses. I know it irks the stewards but I’d rather have them sore than the horses — especially if I’m betting on the race because if there’s one sore horse in the field, I’m usually on him, handicapping it all the way.

  I couldn’t tell from that letter of Billy Wade’s whether Don Paul wanted Waterfield’s job or just wanted him to eat in his restaurant.

  Every sportswriter is expected to make a prediction and because I would like to leave the game ahead, I will predict the Angels will not win the pennant — this year, anyway. On the other hand, the way they have been messing around with baseball, they just might change the game to loball. Then, the Angels would be a threat. Just my luck.

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: Don’t Look Now . . . but the Funny Little League is No. 1

JANUARY 13, 1969, SPORTS

Copyright 1969/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Don’t Look Now . . . but the Funny Little League is No. 1

   MIAMI — First of all, are you sitting down? Be sure who you tell this to or they’ll think you’ve been drinking. 

  On Sunday afternoon, the canary ate the cat. The mailman bit the police dog. The minnow chased the shark out of its waters. The missionaries swallowed the mondaysmurray2cannibals. The rowboat rammed the battleship. The mouse roared, and the lion jumped up on a chair and began to scream for help. The first thing that’s going to surprise you about the Super Bowl game is the closeness of the score. But, hang onto your hat. If you think THAT’S a shocker, wait till I get to the punchline.

  Then — come closer and let me whisper this — the NEW YORK JETS are the Super Champions of football! Cross my heart! That funny little team from that funny little league they left on pro football’s doorstep a few years back. You know the one — the team whose checks bounced and so did their quarterbacks.

  And you know that smart-alecky quarterback they got for $400,000 and the NFL sat down and like to have busted laughing? Well, turns out he was a bargain. You know, they called him ‘Broadway Joe’ and he went around wearing women’s fur coats and he closed up more bars that Carrie Nation? A sleep-to-noon guy who had been a model youth. He didn’t smoke till he started kindergarten and he never drank in high school till the sun went down. And when someone said the Jets had a “Boozer” in the backfield, someone that it was a description instead of a name.

  They said (Normal Van Brocklin did) that Broadway Joe would be playing in his first professional game in the Super Bowl. Well, he likes it better than that game they play over in that other league. He got beat three times over in that league.

  They said the Jets were the third-best team in their own league. If so, it’s a good thing they didn’t send the best. Everybody would have switched over to Heidi.

  I would say, on the basis of what we saw Super Sunday, the NFL is a couple of years away. I mean they have INDIVIDUAL performers, but the AFL appears to be better in teams.

  Joe Namath said that the Colts’ Earl Morrall would be third string on the Jets, but he may have overestimated him. Of the nine passes Morrall completed before his coach invited him to spend the rest of the game resting up for next season, only six went to his own team. He has a good arm, but they might want to check his color perception.

  It could be said to be a contest only if you consider a public hanging a contest. As usual, if you want the executioner, you have to give points. But the funny thing in this game was, the books put their expert eyes on this match and said you could have the Jets and 17½ points and there was no limit to what you could bet. If you wanted Baltimore, you had to come up with 18 points. And they wouldn’t take a check. Bookmakers are perched on ledges all over America today. For them, the score of the game at the payoff window was Jets 33½, Colts, 7.

  I would say the Colts were terrible, but that would be an overstatement. They weren’t that good. It’s hard to believe this team went through 30 NFL games and only lost two in the past two years.

  The Colts started the game as if the other guys hadn’t showed up yet. The first three plays gained 36 yards. It looked as if the only thing that might happen to them is that they might get bored to death, or have trouble staying awake. Then, they gradually lost their poise, their tempers, and, finally, the game. Namath picked them apart as though they were a safe he had memorized the combination to. The right side of the Baltimore line was as wide open as a Yukon saloon on a Saturday night. Jet halfbacks were fighting to get to run through it or by it.

  The Jets’ locker room was awash with the heady bubble of gloat. The Jets wear their names on their backs like most of the teams in the AFL. The other league grudgingly wears numbers. They figure anybody who doesn’t know who they are must be as out of touch as Judge Crater.

  “Where was their defense? Didn’t it show up?” an ex-nobody in the Jets dressing room named Earl Christy demanded. Larry Grantham, who has been in the league on this team since the days when it wasn’t even safe to take cash (without biting on it), was trumpeting, “Let them have the College All-Star game.”

  “$15,000 apiece!” glowed Gerry Philbin.

  Five years ago, you could have bought the franchise for that — maybe the league.

  It was like the turkey having the farmer for dinner, the rabbit shooting the hunter, the dove pulling the feathers out of the eagle.

  The worm had not only turned, it was chasing the early bird right down the street and up a tree. And Broadway Joe can be singing the old Jimmy Durante tune, “You Know Darn Well I Can Do Without Broadway, But Can Broadway Do Without Me?”

  Even at 400 grand, he may be the biggest bargain in Manhattan since they gave those Indians all those beads and started to put in subways. As for the NFL, it will have to start building to catch up.

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: There’s Still Hope

   Call it what you will but it will forever be known to us as the Bob Hope Desert Classic — or just The Classic, if you will. Over 60 years, the players have changed but the name remains the same . . and it seems as if they’ve returned to the original, as it should be. No longer the Humana Whosiewhatsit or the Chryslers Whatsitcalled, this year for the 60th, it’s just the Desert Classic.

   We’ll let golf writer Larry Bohannan’s column from the Nov. 1 Desert Sun explain it:

   “The desert’s PGA Tour event is bringing back a familiar name and an all-too-familiar situation: looking for a new title sponsor.

   The 60-year-old tournament, to be played Jan. 17-20, will be renamed the Desert Classic, a throwback to when the event was called the Bob Hope Desert Classic from the 1960s to the 1980s.”

   Jeff Sanders, executive director of the event for tournament operator Lagardere Sports, told The Desert Sun: “As for the Desert Classic name, the tournament was known as either the Bob Hope Desert Classic or the Bob Hope Classic from 1965 through 1985, with Chrysler’s name added to the title in 1986. The Challenge part of the title was added when Humana took over the title sponsorship role in 2012.”

   “That’s where the brand equity is. It’s where the legacy is,” Sanders said. “That’s where everything is. This is the Desert Classic. It’s sunny skies with palm trees around beautiful golf courses surrounded by mountains. This is the Desert Classic.”

   Previously committed to the field is two-time winner and World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson, who serves as the tournament’s ambassador. Other past winners committed to the field include Pat Perez, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Jhonattan Vegas and Hudson Swafford. Past major championship winners Graeme McDowell and Charl Schwartzel and 2017 Presidents Cup member Kevin Kisner, world No. 18 Patrick Cantlay and former U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson also are expected to compete.

——

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1974, SPORTS

Copyright 1974/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

There’s Still Hope

   The badge of success in show business used to be a telephone in your car, a radio on your yacht, a butler, a ringside table at the Mocambo, seven or eight divorces and a string of race horses or polo ponies.

  Nowadays, you’re nobody without your own golf tournament — and your own disease. We expect any day now to read about the “Tammy Wynette Classic formerly known as the Masters.” Or, “The Broderick Crawford U.S. Open, all proceeds to go to a bird hospital, mondaysmurray2or the fund for Rocky Mountain spotted fever.”

  The Hartford Open got along for 20 years before it became the Sammy Davis, Jr. Greater Hartford Open. The Danny Thomas Memphis Open benefits the hospital of St. Jude’s. This week, we will have the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open. Two weeks ago, we had the Andy Williams San Diego Open. So far, we haven’t had the “Engelbert Humperdinck British Open.” But, Jackie Gleason has his own tournament. So does Dean Martin.

*****

  Bing Crosby started it all. Bing’s tournament was originally a frivolous outing for his pals on the golf tour and his pals in the movie industry. Someone brought a case of whisky, someone else brought the clams. It got out of hand only when television came along.

  It was Bob Hope who first demonstrated that marquee power moved a tournament into the mink and Cadillac class. The Palm Springs Open was a nice little tour event where everybody shot 61s and the sponsors lost money and 150 or so people showed up to buy $5 season tickets and drop ice cream cones in the sand traps until the community came to Hope with its hat in hand a dozen years ago.

  The people wanted two things: a TV sponsor and money for a hospital.

  Hope is a unique guy. He probably knows more millionaires by their first names than the Secretary of the Treasury, but he manages to go through life like a drugstore cowboy with nothing more on his mind than chewing gum and cracking wise. Bob is a confidant of generals, prime ministers and presidents, but he manages to convey the impression he just put down the pool cue, or just got caught tip-toeing out of the wrong stateroom on a cruise.

  Under him, the Bob Hope Desert Classic became a gaudy, money-making carnival. Every boardroom in the country is empty for the weekend of the Hope Classic.

*****

  Bob Hope, of course, is the Armed Forces’ real commander-in-chief. He is General Laughter. In Korea, he got to Inchon before the Marines. “You must come to all my invasions,” he told the troops, wading ashore grandly. “I tried out four jokes on the Koreans; no wonder they’re ready to give up.”

  I rode around the course with Bob where he was playing with cronies Bob Bixler, Jim Chambers and Pollard Simons. “I hope I’m not butting in on a big betting game.” “Not at all,” Bob assured me airily. “This is just a friendly game. We’re just playing for Texas.”

  “How long have you been playing?” I asked. “Would you believe when this round started, we had wooden shafts?” demanded Bob. “What time did we tee up?” he asked. “Eleven o’clock,” someone told him. “Yeah, but what day?” cracked Hope. He turned to a companion. “Would you believe Polly once spent a week in a sand trap? At that, he said it was better than being in Cleveland.”

  A companion flew a shot over everything and it headed vaguely for the horizon. “Don’t worry,” soothed Bob. “They’ll stop it at the border.”

  Hope has been playing golf since 1928. He has been playing to audiences since birth. To be laughed at, a comedian must first be loved. Hope’s great talent is that he can bring a smile to the hopeless. Only once in nearly a half century of entertaining did an audience stone him. A few home front jackals hissed at a ball game — because he visited hospitals full of shot kids. For Hope, it was a little like being bitten by your own dog, or being sued by a guy you saved from drowning because you lost his hat.

  Now 70, Hope is still a tireless monologist — at an age when most people would just be tiresome monologists. He still gives you 18 holes of golf and 180 one-liners en route. He does the equivalent of a $250,000 show for free at his tournament.

  He once seethed when a magazine said he was one of the nation’s 25 largest corporations. Because money isn’t that important to Hope. Audiences are. His wealth is a billion laughs. Locked up in fool-proof vaults — the hearts of his countrymen. His monument is not a golf tournament, it’s a smile.

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: Woody’s Own War

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1974, SPORTS

Copyright 1974/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Woody’s Own War

   A lot of people were surprised to hear that Woody Hayes suffered a heart attack last spring, because they didn’t think he had one.

  When a stranger wanted to know if the incident had mellowed the old coach, the answer was, “Well, he called off practice for the day.”

  A visitor once wanted to know why a reporter didn’t stand up to Woody Hayes, and the mondaysmurray2answer was, “I can’t. I’ve got relatives in Germany.”

  When a Woody Hayes squad was circled around him at the start of a game once, a youngster in the press box asked an old-timer what he thought Woody was telling them. “Not to take prisoners,” was the cynical response.

  Woody Hayes’ Ohio State squad is not a team, it’s a horde. It is going through the Big Ten like Attila the Hun through the gates of Rome. When someone wanted to know which way the team got back from the Rose Bowl practice session each day, an observer said, “The usual way — by goose step.”

  Lots of guys lock the press out when their team loses 42-17, as Woody Hayes did in the Rose Bowl once. But Woody locked the TEAM out.

  Coach Hayes, whose idol is Gen. Patton, also slaps his troops in the heat of battle. He throws projectors at assistants, stomps on his wristwatch and once crumpled a pair of eyeglasses in a bare hand. George C. Scott gets the role if they make a movie.

  There are new books about him in the stalls this fall, ‘Woody Hayes and the 100-Yard War,’ by Jerry Brondfield, and ‘Buckeye, a Study of Coach Woody Hayes and the Ohio State Football Machine,’ by Robert Vare.

  Brondfield’s is a little more on the advocacy side, but he points out that to understand Woody you have to understand Columbus, Ohio, a place where, if you buy a piano at a certain music store, they throw in a free shotgun.

  Hayes’ success is no secret. He leaves no coal mine unturned in his search for players. He goes after great players like a playboy after chorus girls. Millionaires like John Galbreath and Jack Nicklaus help the program. You couldn’t throw a handful of birdseed in any direction in Ohio without hitting a crack football player. The state even raises them for export. Millionaires are not supposed to lure kids with new convertibles anymore, but there is no rule preventing them from hiring kids in the summer to count paper clips at $10 an hour or to guard the portrait of the company’s founder for $15.

  But Ohio State has always had great football players. It was good coaches that were in short supply. “You would think,” a sportswriter once complained, “that a state that could produce seven presidents could produce ONE football coach.” But in its long history, Ohio State produced only one coach before Woody Hayes who could be said to be successful. And Paul Brown didn’t stay around long enough to produce what is usually referred to in football as “an era.”

  Vare points out that football grosses $3.5 million at Ohio State, but coach Hayes makes only $29,000 a year. He used to hand out part of that to his players till they caught him at it. Three times he has turned down raises because he is stopping inflation that way. He once turned back a car because he didn’t wait to contribute to pollution. He has lived in the same modest house for 20 years and drives a pickup.

  There is less of an air of sanctimonious hypocrisy about Woody than some coaches. “Some coaches play on the emotions of the kid,” a longtime friend confides. “But Woody really believes it.” The most famous story about him is that he once pushed an out-of-gas car across the Ohio state line because he couldn’t bring himself to buy anything in Michigan.

  His attack is about as subtle as a brick through a plate-glass window. He regards the forward pass as subversive. He didn’t throw a pass until there were only 61 seconds to play in the Michigan game last year. Just as he suspected, it was intercepted.

  Still, his team, or rather teams, have averaged 47 points a game this season. On Nov. 23 his team meets Michigan in what may be the most thunderous collision since the Titanic. Woody intends to be the iceberg. Since the game is in Columbus, which becomes Convulsion, Ohio, for the day, Michigan can be expected to be down 14-0 by the kickoff. And no team can spot Woody Hayes’ 14 points and hope to escape alive, not even the Miami Dolphins — and maybe not even the Red Army.

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: He’d Rather Get Fruitcake

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 24, 1995 SPORTS

Copyright 1995/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

He’d Rather Get Fruitcake

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

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

“Well, it’s been a banner year for the Mulligans. Christin finally had our first grandchild, mondaysmurray2a bouncing baby girl, 9 pounds 7 ounces, who’ll probably grow up to be our first woman President.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 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: On Bull Throwing

Jim Murray used to say that you can’t write about golf and horse racing every week or you’ll lose the truck drivers. So, this week is for the blue-collar working folks out there. Those with dirt on their jeans and callouses on their hands. The ones who root for the guy on the back of the bull, not the bull. We’re going to the rodeo!

This week concludes the 60th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. The Super Bowl of ropin’ and ridin’. Where eight seconds is an eternity and being able to walk away is considered a victory. Today we take you back to November of 1962 when Jim Murray wrote about the animals that the rodeo competitors are up against. That was the first year the NFR was held in Los Angeles. LA played host to the event until 1964 when it was moved to Oklahoma City. It stayed there until 1985 when it was moved to its current home, Las Vegas.

The 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas runs through Saturday.

from Thursday, December 6 through Saturday, December 15.

——

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 1962, SPORTS

Copyright 1962/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

On Bull Throwing

   The next time you go to a game and get to your feet to cheer a tiny safety man who brings down Jim Taylor in the open field, try to imagine what would happen if Taylor weighed twice as much and had horns and two more hooves.

  And if you ever have to face Sonny Liston in the ring, take comfort in the fact, at least mondaysmurray2that after he knocks you down, he probably won’t try to bite and kick you. At least, I hope he won’t.

  Rodeo cowboys aren’t so lucky. They’re the first guys since the Roman Christians who have to fight wild animals for a living.

  And these are not just ordinary wild animals. These are the Mafia of the animal world — four-footed rubout artists. They should show up wearing pin-stripe suits and pearl fedoras. If they were human, they’d get the electric chair.

   Rodeo stock is drafted as carefully as NFL players. Scouts comb the country for the national finals looking for the meanest, orneriest cayuses they can find. Any animal that missed a chance to step on a baby carriage or push an old lay’s wheelchair down a cliff is automatically rejected. Any sign of sentimentality is fatal. These are horses you can’t feed a lump of sugar to — or they’d take your hand with it. Brahma bulls which would use you for silage if you didn’t get out of their way.

  Some of the bucking horses picked for the National Finals that opens at the Sports Arena next week have killed more cowboys than Billy the Kid. The calves get YOUR liver for a change.

  It has been said a rodeo is unique in that the bull throws the man for a change but the nationals are unique in that it is a contest of pure champions. Both man and beast are the best at their specialties that can be found. No third-round draft choices need apply. You have to be one of the 15 top cowboys in your event to qualify. And this is not left to a sportswriters poll. To prove you belong you have to have won more money at rodeo than No. 16.

  There are six events in the finals: Bull-riding, Bareback Bronc Riding, Calf Roping, Team Roping and Steer Wrestling (better known as “Bulldogging”).

  Now, high among the things I never expect to do is ride a bull. Those dagger-horned cross-bred Brahmas might be the answer to a cow’s prayer but the cowboy on his back offers up a prayer of another sort. He is one ton of hate – a 4-H club of his own, head, hooves, hate and heave. You’re on him only eight seconds but if you play it right, that’s enough.

  You don’t have to rowel a bull to get him sore. But you’re expected to do this to a bucking bronc. This is a little like being asked to spit in the eye of an opponent at the introductions or telling him you think his wife’s pretty ugly and so are his kids; but a cowboy on the scent of first money would rather find a rattler under his saddle than a sweet-tempered horse.

  Some of these critters are so long in the teeth that they might have got mustered out of the army by General Grant himself but their claim to fame is they have been ridden by men for years but these guys’ total elapsed time on horseback wouldn’t be enough to hard-boil an egg. These equine octogenarians are to rodeo what Man O War was to racing.

  They give these brutes names like “Midnight,” “Homicide,” “War Paint” and “Sidewinder” because, compared to them, Jack the Ripper loved people. If all the human bones they broke were laid end-to-end it would look like an explosion in a paleontology museum but at that, they’re not a patch on the Brahmas. A superannuated bull rider named Freckles Brown was far in the lead in his specialty this year with $18,675 won to Nov. 1 when he got aboard a freight-car-sized bull named Black Smoke.

  When he got off, his vertebrae were rearranged, and his yearly take might just be enough to pay for the six weeks in traction. At 41, Freckles is the oldest living bull-rider in captivity but the bulls sometimes seem determined he not get any older.

  On bull or bronc, the cowboys spend their time in the spotlight somewhere between the animal’s back and the sky. Also, they have to be careful with their spurs that they rake the animal’s neck and not their own.

  I come from a long line of horse-haters. My people followed the horses either with a scratch sheet or a broom and shovel. Either way, you find out what double-crossers they are. And bulls, I can take or leave alone — preferably the latter.

  When I wrestle, I prefer an opponent you can tap on the shoulder and say, “OK, I give up. You’re hurting me.” But to win the All-Around Cowboy which is the Most Valuable Horse and Cow Fighter Award, you have to be good at two or more of these events. Also, of course, you have to survive them. The Rodeo Cowboys Association frowns on posthumous awards. Gives the game a bad name. Its proper name, of course, but a bad one.

  But I wouldn’t miss this horse-and-bull Olympics at the Sports Arena Dec. 4 to 10. Ninety of the best cowboys against a couple hundred of the worst outlaws on four feet has to make the Rose Bowl look like a spelling bee.

  I’ll tell you something else: It’s nice to go to a wrestling match that isn’t fixed for a change. If these are fixed, I have to say those steers are awful good actors when, in truth, they’re bad actors.

  I also want to see the year’s leading All-Around Cowboy. Dean Oliver, go legit. Dean, you may remember, is the Idaho boy who used to hide in the ditches and ambush the cows going home to milking to practise his bulldogging. Things went all right till they started to give buttermilk. So next week it’ll be nice to see Dean getting paid to do something he used to get shot at for.

  So, fetch me my Stetson and shootin’ arn, son, I’m going into town to see thet thar “row-dee-oh” and I’m laying 8-5 on the bull. At least, I know he’s trying.

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: He Could Have Had More Than Garden of Roses

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 5, 1989, SPORTS

Copyright 1989/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

He Could Have Had More Than Garden of Roses

   For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: “It might have been!” — JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

  I was reminded anew of the poet’s lament the other day. I was interviewing this fellow for whom it all went a-glimmering years ago.

  You remember that scene in ‘On the Waterfront,’ where Marlon Brando takes his mondaysmurray2brother’s hand reproachfully off his arm, looks at him with these big sad eyes and says “I coulda been a contendah! I coulda been somebody!”

  Well, that’s kind of what it was like. Sad. Heart-rending.

  Years ago, this fellow — I will call him George, although I think his nickname was Slick back in those days — was the silkiest-fielding first baseman you ever saw. He could go to his right, he could go to his left. You couldn’t throw the ball over him or under him. He Bushhad a gun for an arm. He wore the latest thing in equipment, a George McQuinn-model mitt called the Claw.

  He played for Yale but the scouts came around by the score. They hadn’t seen anything this slick around the bag since Hal Chase, Joe Judge, Joe Kuhel. His own idol was Lou Gehrig.

   He had missed a couple of years as a fighter pilot in the Second World War but that only meant he was more mature, steadier, more reliable, not given to anxiety. He could have been great.

 Around first base, he was a combination of Frank Merriwell and Dink Stover. Flawless, graceful, sure-handed. He was left-handed, which is what a first baseman should be.

  At the bat, for some unaccountable reason, he hit right. Maybe it was ideological.

  Whatever it was, he couldn’t hit the curveball.

  Well, look. That can be learned, right? Not everybody rolls out of bed with the ability to hit .350. Not everybody is Ty Cobb. George batted .264 his senior year and helped Yale get to the College World Series, no less.

 Everyone figured a few seasons at Binghamton and Newark and it would be Yankee-Stadium-here-we-come! I mean, the good life. Old Dependable. The new Iron Horse.

  Well, we all know how those things work out. Wife, child. You need a job. You put the dreams on hold.

   Then they want you to go into the family business. Well, in this case, the family business was politics. George’s father was a U.S. Senator. Duty called.

  There was no time to iron out the kinks in the swing, spend the hours in the batting cage, go for the brass ring. It was the salt mines for him. He never got to wear the Yankee pinstripes; he wore the three-piece kind. With the old school tie.

  It was speeches on the hustings, handshakes from the backs of trains, smoke-filled rooms, a stint in the oil business. He had to put away the old uni, hang up the George McQuinn glove, put the old lineup cards in a trunk. Just another guy who never made it to the bigs.

  Oh, he’s not starving, or hanging around bars, telling guys how he went 4-for-5 off Hubbell or took Allie Reynolds downtown.

  He lives in this big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. He has a chauffeur. He has his own airplane. In fact, he has his own air force.

  But, he makes — what? $200,000 a year? Something like that. You think Don Mattingly would play for that? Will Clark makes that in a month.

  In case the guys he used to rob of hits down the line or help make the 3-6-3 double play have lost track of him, he has done all right. I mean, it’s not like being the All-Star first baseman or having a locker in Yankee Stadium or your own bubble-gum card, but George found work all right.

  He’s the President of the United States.

  Now, that’s an OK job for a guy who was the president of the debating club, or the campus wheeler-dealer. But, George Herbert Walker Bush could have been somebody. He could have been in a lineup with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Billy Martin.

  Casey Stengel could have been yelling at him: “Hey, Bush! Is that a name or a description? Don’t the Yales throw curveballs?”

  Life could have been a blast.

  You know, when the President of the United States calls, you drop everything and go. I mean, you never know. He may need you. It’s well known that I know exactly what to do about Noriega, the Middle East, the balance of trade. I could handle the Soviets in my sleep.

  I know he’d want to keep my visit a secret. So I slept at the J.W. Marriott instead of the Lincoln bedroom. No use letting Sam Donaldson get wind of it.

  I like it that people don’t know that I’m an expert on international relations.

  They even did a good job of pretending not to know who I was at the White House’s northwest gate, as usual. It was roped off when I got there. The president of Egypt was just leaving.

  There were about 10 of us sportswriter-sportscaster types on hand. I was pretty sure I was the only one who knew what to do about Angola, though.

  With Presidents, you try the oblique approach, though. I cleared my throat. “Mr. President, what did you bat at Yale?” I didn’t want to rush things. Plenty of time to get into Lebanon.

  Well, when I tell you the next 40 minutes were spent in discussing baseball, you have to know our President is a master of camouflage — don’t forget, he used to be head of the CIA — or, and here is the conclusion I came to, he still thinks wistfully of what might have been. He’d rather be running the World Series than the world.

  There have been lots of football players in the White House — Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford. Even a tennis player, Woodrow Wilson, a rail-splitting champion, Abe Lincoln, and a horseback rider-boxer, Teddy Roosevelt. But, there has never been a baseball player.

  It suddenly occurred to me, the President enjoyed the sensation of being asked by a lot of guys with notebooks things like, “What kind of a pitch did you hit?” “Why didn’t you swing at that fastball?”

  He was just like a guy sitting in front of his locker with a beer meeting the sporting press after a game in which he’d just gone 4-for-4 — or popped up ball four to lose the game.

  So if you’re stuck in a 9-to-5 job you hate, if you have to run the family business when you would rather run the Dodgers, take heart. George Bush, who was one of the best there ever was at digging out low throws and taking the cutoff to throw the guy out at the plate, spends all day talking to people who never even heard of Lou Gehrig.

  Nicaragua never came up. When someone wanted to know if the government should step into baseball expansion, the President gave the idea short shrift. There are a lot of things wrong with the country, but the Chicago Cubs ain’t one of them, seemed to be his notion.

  And the prisoner of Pennsylvania Avenue was hustled off to talk about the bustout in East Germany. You had the feeling he’d rather stay and talk about the 1953 Yankees. After all, if it were’t for a lousy break here and there, he could have been one of them. He could have been a star.

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.