Mondays With Murray: Not Only Does He Understand, He Shows He Cares

Twenty-eight years ago, Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray was awarded the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary. He was the last sports columnist to do so, becoming just the fourth member of this small club. The others are Arthur Daley (1956), Red Smith (1976) and Dave Anderson (1981), all of The New York Times.

From The Pulitzer Files:

“One column in Murray’s winning entry told an off-the-field story involving Jim Abbott, the one-handed major league pitcher. Murray described Abbott as ‘the only reason I know of to be glad there’s a designated hitter rule in the American League.’

 “The other principal in the column was a five-year-old girl from Indianapolis by the name of Erin Bower, whose left hand had been blown off by a bomb. We’ll leave that story to Murray, but the follow-up is special, too. The girl, now Erin Bower Patterson, became a pediatric physical therapist at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. “

Today, in addition to often being a guest pitching instructor during spring training for the Los Angeles Angels, Jim Abbott is a motivational speaker.


TUESDAY, JULY 18, 1989 SPORTS

Copyright 1989/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

 JIM MURRAY

Not Only Does He Understand, He Shows He Cares

   Too often, the major league ballplayer is portrayed as a churlish, graceless individual who comes into public view brushing the little kid autograph seeker aside, refusing to pose for pictures, announcing irritatedly that all he owes his public is a .293 average or an appearance at a baseball card show for which he gets $10,000.

   There are, to be sure, a few who fit this unflattering image. They take the $2 million mondaysmurray2and run. The fans’ love is unrequited. The record books sometime identify these worthies as most valuable players. The public concept of what these letters stand for is quite different.

   So, it gives me great pleasure today to check in with a different kind of story, the account of a major league player who belongs to the world at large, is a citizen in good standing with the rest of the community, a man who cares.

   So far as I know, Jim Abbott is the only man in a big league uniform ever to win the Sullivan Award as the nation’s outstanding amateur athlete. He’s the only one in a big league uniform who only has one hand. Jim Abbott is the only reason I know of to be glad there’s a designated hitter rule in the American League.

   We all know what kind of pitcher Jim Abbott is — eight wins, six losses, 62 strikeouts in 101 2/3 innings, an ERA of 3.45. But I have a clipping from an Indianapolis newspaper that shows what kind of person he is.

   The circumstances require a bit of explanation. On the morning of April 17, little five-year-old Erin Bower went with her mother to the local Kmart store in the Castleton Farms section of Indianapolis. There was this tube of toothpaste on the counter. Erin picked it up. It exploded. Some cretin with a grudge against the store — or the world — had placed a bomb in it.

   It didn’t kill Erin. It just blew off her left hand. You don’t even want to think about it.

   In all the outpouring of sympathy for little Erin, one letter came marked with the logo of the California Angels. It read:

   “Dear Erin:

   “Perhaps somewhere later in your lifetime you will properly understand this letter and the feelings that go behind it. Regardless, I wanted to send something along now after being made aware of your terrible accident.

   “As your parents have probably told you, I was born without a right hand. That automatically made me different from the other kids I was around. But you know what? It made me different only in their eyes. You see, I figured that’s what the good Lord wanted me to work with. So it was my responsibility to become as good as I could at whatever I chose to do, regardless of my handicap.

   “I just won my first major league game. When the final out was made, a lot of things went through my mind. I thought of my parents and all the help they provided; my brother and his support; and all of my friends along the way. The only thing, Erin, that I didn’t pay attention to was my handicap. You see, it had nothing to do with anything.

   “You’re a young lady now with a tremendous life ahead of you. Whether you want to be an athlete, a doctor, lawyer or anything else, it will be up to you, and only you, how far you go. Certainly there will be some tough times ahead, but with dedication and love of life, you’ll be successful in any field you choose. I’ll look forward to reading about you in the future.

   “Again, my best, Jim Abbott, California Angels.”

   Now that, you have to say, is the way to get an autograph. And the news from Indianapolis, as reported in the Star, is good: Erin, who turned six today, has been fitted with an electrically-powered hand at the Medical Prosthetics Center in Houston. It’ll do everything a real hand will do — except throw the curve. If Erin wants to do that, she’ll have to learn to do it with her other hand. As Jim Abbott has shown, that’s no problem.

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: Great Expectations Nearing Fulfillment

SUNDAY, JUNE 6, 1993 SPORTS

Copyright 1993/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Great Expectations Nearing Fulfillment

   When Bruce McNall traded for Wayne Gretzky in 1988, we all knew he wasn’t merely buying a hockey player, he was buying the Stanley Cup. It came attached to Gretzky. After all, he had won it four times for the Edmonton Oilers.

   And, when he didn’t win it, he was in it. The final, that is.

   No one in L.A. even knew what the Stanley Cup looked like. Or Gretzky, for that matter. All we ever saw of him was this guy skating around in a plastic helmet, waving a stick in mondaysmurray2the air after he had whipped in another goal against the Kings.

   He got 56 of them and 170 points in only 63 games against the Kings. He found them barely harder to get through than Kleenex.

   So, we hurried to the news conference when he was traded to get a fix on this new L.A. mega-star. I remember how startled we were at our first close-up at him. I don’t know what we pictured — your basic Canadian roughneck dripping tobacco juice, toothless, face stitched like a wall motto, parts of his ear missing. I guess. Something called “Boom Boom,” or “the Rocket,” or “the Gorilla.”

   Heck, this guy didn’t even look like Cowboy Flett. He had all his teeth, for cryin’ out loud! Didn’t have a stitch on him. He wasn’t big. He looked too frail to be a hockey player. Not a tattoo anywhere.

   He had this almost baby face, a nice smile, long blond hair. You would have figured him for a surfer if you’d run into him on the sand at Santa Monica. He could play the angel in a Christmas play.

   This was a guy who had scored the most goals, 92, in a single season? Who scored the most single-season points, 215? Who scored the most points in the history of the game?

   Our first thought was, those smart-alecks up in Canada had pulled a fast one. This couldn’t be the great Gretzky, this — this altar boy. This was a fax.

   But L.A. fans were patient. They told him to take all the time he’d need. Take a year, if necessary. We’d wait.

   Then, they sat back to see how he would do it. Unfortunately, his teammates did, too. Some of them should have paid to get in. They didn’t think Gretzky needed any help. All of them would have qualified for the Lady Byng Trophy, which they give in this league to the player who tries to kill the fewest opponents during the season.

   Everybody figured this was Wayne’s world. They stood around waiting for him to do it all. All they wanted to do was take the bows.

   The public kept waiting, too. Each day it kept expecting to pick up the paper and see where Gretzky had exploded for eight or 10 goals, had performed a double hat trick — after all, 49 times in his career he has had three or more goals in a game.

   But first you need the puck. The Kings could never seem to find it, get it to him.

   Gretzky handled it well, tried his best. No one brought it up specifically, but as year piled on to year, you could feel the unspoken parts of the postgame interview as Gretzky would patiently account for another disappointment.

   “Er, ah, Wayne. It’s about the Cup. Er, ah, the — ahem — Stanley Cup? Er, when can we expect that?”

   When it looked as if it would be never, along came 1993. It had not been a good season for Gretzky. All those years of getting hammered into the boards had paid off in a herniated disk. He never even got on the ice till the season was half over.

   But that was the bad news. The good news was that the Gretzky who came back was the old whirlwind, the center iceman with the uncanny knack for being where the puck was, who could find the open man in the crowd at Times Square on New Year’s Eve and get the puck to him at the precise moment the goalie was looking the other way.

   There was also the likelihood the team had learned to fend for itself in Gretzky’s absence. It had matured. The chemistry was there. Gretzky only ignited it.

   The Cup playoffs were like old times. There was Gretzky making a playoff game look like an ice show, skating around and through the opposition, pulling hat tricks, slapping in winning goals.

   Suddenly, the Holy Grail of hockey was right there for grabbing. The upstart Kings rolled through the Montreal Canadiens in the first game like the German army through Belgium. The only score the Canadiens had was kicked in by Gretzky.

   The Canadiens coach, a sly fellow, found a way out with one minute to play to win a game with a rule book instead of a puck when he invoked a hockey version of the corked bat to remove from the lineup a key player at the critical time. Hockey is the only game that does not play on a level field personnel-wise, and the hole in the lineup was fatal.

   But if anyone doubted Gretzky’s importance to his hockey team, Game 5 of the test matches would have overcome them. As these ice follies came to Los Angeles for the first time in history Saturday night with the whole town waiting to form up for a ticker-tape parade, the Kings suddenly developed a case of what is known in the theater as flop sweat. They kept, so to speak, blowing their lines, falling into the scenery.

   They fell behind, 3-0, and seemed to be looking around to see where to go to surrender.

   Gretzky wouldn’t let them. Suddenly, there he was behind the net with the puck. He spotted the open Luc Robitaille, flicked the puck to him for the score. The Kings were back in the game, calling for cards.

   Nine minutes later, after Tony Granato made it 3-2, there was Gretzky weaving down center ice with the puck on his stick, a sight no goaltender wants to see. Aaron with a hanging curve. Gretzky slapped it in from 30 feet or so. The score was tied.

   It wasn’t enough. For the second game in a row, the Kings lost quickly (34 seconds) in overtime.

   But it couldn’t obscure a central fact for the Kings. When Gretzky is on the ice, they are a Stanley Cup team. When he isn’t they are — well, maybe not a buttercup team but at least a hiccup.

   He put them in the Stanley Cup final. Will they come back?

   Even if they don’t, the fact that they’re there means the community has now found out something the rest of hockey already knew. Wayne Gretzky is half a hockey team all by himself. Behind that choirboy exterior beats the heart of a train robber. The halo slips when he gets the puck.

   He has finally done what he came to do. When you think of the athletes who came to this town with flags waving and bands playing but who crept out whining and complaining, Gretzky stands up and stands out. He starred for his sport and spoke for his sport. He put hockey on Page 1 and Prime Time. That’s a hat trick all its own.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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


What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

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

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

Monday’s with Murray: The Big Con of Spring

THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 1973, SPORTS

Copyright 1973/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

 JIM MURRAY

The Big Con of Spring

    It’s that time of year again. Every squeaky contralto in the country is boning up on “Oh, say can you see?” Organists are blowing the dust off their medley of 1910’s Top 10 song hits. Venders are practicing spilling mustard. Announcers are practising saying, “And that mondaysmurray2reminds me of the Iron Horse!” so they can get into an anecdote about Lou Gehrig that will be a whole lot more interesting than what is going on down in the field.

  It’s a time when every team is the 1927 Yankees, every rookie is on his way to Cooperstown, and every manager is a certified genius. Without their mighty celebrating, the team might finish fifth — which it will anyway. But knowing the nuances of baseball like telling the pitcher, “Don’t give him anything to hit, but don’t walk him neither.” Or telling a hitter, “Be sure to hit your pitch” knowing that HIS pitch will never show up in a big league game till they allow girls in it, is the stuff of pennants.

***********

   The manager, you see, also has to sell tickets. He knows he can’t show up at spring training and tell the press, “If you took the best skills of all 40 men I got on the big club roster and put them all together they wouldn’t make 1-1/2 major league ball players.” He’s got to deal in the big con.

   Every year at this time we offer you Murray’s Instant Decoder and flash on the screen for you, “What They Say” and “What It Means.” Just remember, the manager’s pitch looks big and fat, but you can trust me it will curve into the dirt as soon as you go for it. First, what he says. And then, the curve.

   “We think the trade will help both clubs” . . . “We got two guys they don’t want for two guys we don’t want and, pretty soon, we’re all going to find out why the other fellow didn’t want them.”

   “He’s got an arm like Koufax” . . . “It’s got five fingers, an elbow, bicep, and it can cut steak. Unfortunately, it’s attached to a guy who in no way resembles Koufax.”

   We’re going for youth” . . . “The infield looks like a slow leak in Boys Town and, believe me, ‘leak’ is the word. That fellow in Montreal, John Robertson, said they made the routine ground ball extinct. Around the league, they’re known as ‘The Big E.’ They’re going to make the infield fly rule extinct, too. They throw more ground balls than they field.”

***********

   “We got the best bench in the league” . . . “It’s the players sitting on it that aren’t much good.”

   “I saw Ruth in his prime, and our cleanup hitter is just like him” . . . “He drinks, chases girls, stays out late, and eats too much. At the plate, he looks more like his first name is Ruth.”

   “He has all the tools to make it” . . . “As a plumber.”

   “They’ve got us to beat” . . . “That’s just the trouble.”

   “This club will steal on you” . . . “Lock your lockers.”

   “You’re going to find we got the best bunch of utility men in the game” . . . “and to prove it, they’ll all be climbing light poles this time next year.”

   “I figure a year in Double A could help our outfield” . . . “I don’t have to tell you that I mean ‘Alcoholics Anonymous.'”

   “You’d have to say our starting five are all finished pitchers by now” . . . “Also by the fifth inning.”

   “This club is well-balanced” . . . “Everybody is mediocre.”

   “If we can improve in a few areas, we’ll take it all” . . . “The areas are pitching, fielding, and hitting.”

   “We figure the Big Guy will be healthy this year” . . . “He was in the whirlpool so much last year the guys started to throw him sardines.”

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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

———

What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

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

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

Monday’s With Murray: Heirloom Hockey

On Saturday, the Los Angeles Kings honoured broadcasting legend Bob Miller with the unveiling of a statue in Star Plaza, just outside Staples Center, and a banner honouring him was raised inside the arena before the Kings played the Anaheim Ducks.

Miller retired last season after 44 years as the Kings play-by-play announcer.

Hockey Hall of Famers and retired Kings players were on hand to celebrate Miller, telling their own Bob Miller stories. Jim Fox, Miller’s broadcast partner since 1990, noted: “The stories to me about Bob are about Bob telling a story. It’s hard to explain this, but Bob was able to tell a joke, and laugh at his own joke. Some people who laugh at their own jokes are trying to be the center of attention. Bob isn’t. He genuinely thinks the joke is funny.”

Miller entertained and informed hockey fans on the air, much like Jim Murray did with the written word, for more than four decades.

The following Jim Murray column, written nearly 56 years ago, shines a light on the history of professional hockey in Los Angeles before the Kings organization was founded on June 5, 1967. Jack Kent Cooke was awarded an NHL expansion franchise on Feb. 9, 1966, becoming one of the six teams that began play in the 1967-68 season. The Kings played their home games at The Forum in Inglewood, California, for 32 years, until they moved to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles at the start of the 1999-2000 season.

The Kings have won two Stanley Cup championships, 2012 and 2014.


THURSDAY, JANUARY 11, 1962, SPORTS

Copyright 1962/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Heirloom Hockey

   Because I like to study the public papers of great men and to commune with the great minds of history, I was fascinated by the word from the summit in hockey published recently by a colleague, Morton Moss.

   This was a letter from Clarence Campbell, the resident giant intellect of the highest office of ice hockey who was handed the hottest puck in the game — “When is Los mondaysmurray2Angeles going to get major league hockey?” — and asked to stickhandle it through the crowd without making anybody mad or committing himself to do anything more than send out for a cup of coffee.

   Campbell, to no one’s surprise, iced the puck. His letter in answer was as long, bland and uninteresting as an ulcer diet. The meat of it explained that “the league’s position is that it is not actively promoting or encouraging expansion of the numbers of its members at this time. It has no commitments or plans to expand but it is prepared to consider each individual application on its own merits as and when such application is received.”

   English translation: We won’t sic the dogs on you when you come around, but go away quietly, will you?

   The Los Angeles Blades, who are the hockey equivalent of a seventh-place team in triple-A baseball, drew 26,657 fans to two hockey games here over the weekend with the cellar team in the league. The reception of the game in an area where the only time you see ice is when you order your Martini on the rocks is one of the sports astonishments of the year.

   Los Angeles is used to being kept waiting with its hat in its hands and its shoes polished in the anterooms of the reigning directors of professional sports. It stood around for years begging major league baseball to let it help save the game — at a time when the sport was about to go under the third time thanks to an annual all-New York World Series — while L.A. was functioning as the only city in the history of the game that supported TWO minor league teams. It pushed professional football into the big time after that sport had roamed around the country for years like a hat-passing minstrel show.

   The ‘National’ Hockey League makes a mockery of its title by restricting its franchises to six teams, waging a kind of private little tournament of 70 games just to eliminate two teams, whereupon, like basketball, it starts all over again in the playoffs. Hockey teams play each other so often, you get dizzy, and the players get so accustomed to each other’s moves they could probably play a game by mail.

   Television is not interested in hockey because the American public isn’t. Outside of the hard core of fans in the six centers where it is played, there is no one to shave in front of. To be sure, league president Clarence Campbell, who resides in Montreal, is not immediately concerned. The Montreal Forum would sell out for an intra-squad game of the Canadiens. The management holds out only a few hundred seats for day-of-game sale to accommodate fans whose grandfathers were not foresighted enough to buy season tickets back around the time of the first Roosevelt administration. When a will is contested in Montreal, chances are the litigants don’t want the money, they want the deceased’s Forum seats.

   But what is true in Canada is hardly true in the U.S. No one has had to beat off customers with a club at Madison Square Garden recently, and the Boston Bruins have occasionally had to put a notice in the papers explaining that a game was to be played and at what time. No team is so rich it couldn’t use the television money and the exposure.

   The Blades have had to do an artful selling job here in L.A. The embarrassment of having to offer its fans Canadian tank towns as worthy opposition to the third largest city on the continent has been successfully overcome, but no one seriously supposes customers will continue to clog the freeways to watch bush league hockey in a major league city even if it is the only game in town.

   The bugaboo is raised over the paucity of players. The obvious rebuttal is that a boy would have to be dull to take up a hockey stick instead of a football when he has a total of six markets in one to sell his skill and four times as many in the other. Other big money sports are expanding, but hockey likes it there in the back of the cave.

   Any businessman will tell you that in a dynamic economy you either grow or perish. Baseball had to be dragged kicking and screaming out of its rut. Football groped its way on the end of a short rope held by Dan Reeves. Hockey just can’t sit there in the dark forever braiding buggy whips.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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

———

What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

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

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

Monday’s With Murray: Goodbye to a Friend

   Fifty-six years ago, almost to the day, the Los Angeles Examiner printed its last edition. The Examiner was a place that Jim Murray once called home and it’s because of that we bring to you this week a column Jim wrote about the death of the Examiner. Given the state of newspapers today, it seems appropriate.

   But first an excerpt from Jim Murray’s autobiography about his time at the Examiner:

   Gawd, we had fun on the old L.A. Examiner. It was a Hearst paper and the literati looked down their noses on it, but we pulled all the stops on murders, suicides, public scandals and, particularly, on Hollywood stories. L.A. was exciting. The world was in flames. We told it all in dripping red headlines.

   The city editor, Jim Richardson, was a one-eyed, iron-lunged, prototypical Hearst city editor, a tyrant of the city room. But he liked the way I wrote and for a time I was the youngest rewrite man in the whole Hearst chain. 

   I can tell you all you need to know about Jim Richardson with one anecdote: In the Black Dahlia murder, in which a young army camp follower, Elizabeth Short, was found slain and cut in half on an empty lot in L.A., the Examiner was able to score a scoop in identifying her by means of wirephotoing (a fairly new process at the time) her fingerprints to the FBI in Washington. 

   Armed with her identity, Richardson instructed a reporter, Wain Sutton, to telephone her mother in Massachusetts. “Don’t tell her what happened,” he instructed. “Tell her that her daughter’s just won a beauty contest at Camp Roberts. Then get all the information on her.” 

   Sutton did as instructed. The mother happily confided her daughter’s life history. Then Sutton put his hand over the mouthpiece. “Now what do I do?” he wondered. Richardson looked at him wickedly. “Now tell her.” He purred. Sutton looked at him. “You miserable S-O-B!” he said. Richardson just smiled. 

   One slow day, Richardson handed me a routine suicide on Skid Row (Fifth and Main streets, in downtown L.A.).  A poor old wino had hanged himself in a hotel room. 

   I wrote it straight. “John Jefferson, 51, was found dead in his room at the Hotel Barclay yesterday. Police dubbed the death as suicide by handing.” 

   Richardson handed it back to me. “Try to get a little more oomph in it,” he ordered. He meant pathos. I rewrote it. He was dissatisfied. I rewrote it again. He shook his head. Finally, in desperation, I handed in a lead: “John Jefferson, 51, tired of it all, stepped off a chair into eternity.” 

  Richardson looked at it. He knew he had driven me too far. He dropped the story in the wastebasket. “Why don’t you just go get a cup of coffee, kid?” he asked with unaccustomed gentleness.”

— Excerpt from Jim Murray: The Autobiography of the Pulitzer Prize Winning Sports Columnist – Macmillan, Copyright © 1993

——

THURSDAY, JANUARY 11, 1962, SPORTS

Copyright 1962/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

 JIM MURRAY

Goodbye to a Friend

   I don’t think I’d like to write about sports today, if you don’t mind. I don’t feel much like fun and games.

   You see, an old friend of mine died over the weekend — the Los Angeles Examiner.

   Startle you? It shouldn’t. The Examiner was competitive, sure. But no newspaperman rejoices in the death of another newspaper. A little of you dies with each one if you’ve mondaysmurray2loved this business and the people in it as much as we all have.

   Besides, I worked for the Examiner once. That was when I first came to town — 1944.

   Los Angeles was a wildly exciting place in those days. The shipyards were humming at the harbor, there were troop movements going to every point of the compass, there were so many murders the city was running neck-and-neck with the South Pacific. Life was the only thing the OPA couldn’t keep the lid on. Life and Los Angeles.

   There was seldom a dull moment. And if there were, the front page of the Examiner never admitted it. Its shrill calamitous presence was felt from Lincoln Heights jail to the hibiscus-studded mansions in Beverly Hills. As young reporters were in short supply that war year, we slept with our socks on like firefighters waiting for the next alarm in that kookie city out there that made my native Connecticut look like a monastery with a State House.

  I fell in love with Los Angeles then, an affair of the heart that I doubt I will ever outgrow and it was the Examiner that brought us together. I never wrote sports in those days, but I never missed a sporting event either. I used to jeer at the old Angels and bawl out a poor hardworking catcher named Mickey Kreitner (“Kreitner, you’re a bum!”). I cheered the old Hollywood Stars where my favorite player was a first baseman named ‘Butch’ Moran because I approved of ballplayers named ‘Butch’ automatically.

   But most of my fun was in the city room of the Examiner. There was no such thing as a small story to us. We lived at headlong apoplexy — from journalism school graduates to gold-bricking old-timers. Our leader, hardly beloved, was a city editor who was such a combination of literary light and Attila the Hun that his rewrite man, Hank Sutherland, once dubbed Jim Richardson “Half-Oaf, Half Elf.”

   The prose justified the dripping red headlines. When Tokyo fell, there was almost nothing left but to sell a front page actually in flames. Bodies were being delivered in trucks to Union Station so regularly that we were thinking of suggesting the railroad give special rates for them. Hollywood was alive with lurid stories. Louise Peete, who had murdered one man, went to prison for half a lifetime, got out and murdered again, sent the makeup editor trumpeting through the city room, cackling “Louise Peete is in a rut!”

   So, I guess were we. But we thought we were the luckiest guys on earth. New Year’s Eve 365 days a year. On a big story, the city room looked like a bust out in an insane asylum. Sob sisters turned out drivel by the ream, reporters dug up bloody angles by the edition. Murderers were on the phone every other midnight, it seemed. The torso of a young lady on an empty lot was enough to push the steel strike back in the want ads as we set about to helping the police solve the case. Neither of us ever did.

   We had campaigns and sacred cows. The ‘Chief’, Mr. Hearst himself, was alive in those days and called at midnight almost as often as the murderers. Usually he would just want something like a croup kettle or an out-of-manufacture cookie from his youth, but he would periodically discover our city was in the midst of a crime wave — usually when some acquaintance of the royal family got hit over the head coming out of a night club — and we would print a daily box score of crime, everything from spitting on the sidewalk to double-parking. It scared hell out of the tourists and we quit it.

   There were heartaches, too. I remember almost the first story I covered — a little girl on the north side got run over by a truck and lost a leg. The thought of her going through life that way made me shrink. It still does. She must be 21 years old now and I wonder how she has managed. I remember I had $8 left of my paycheck (which was only $38 to begin with in those days) and I bought her a whole armful of toys and brought them to the hospital and those silly nurses were embarrassed and told me I’d have to take them back, and I said, like hell I would, give them to that little girl or I’ll bring the power of the press (whatever that was) down on you.,

   I don’t know what they did with those toys any more than I know what life has done to that little girl.

   I suppose the Examiner really died when the Old Man did. Newspapers, like other institutions, are lengthened shadows of men who love them and drive them. All I know is it died in its sleep. And part of all of us did with it. I hope I haven’t bored you. But I just wanted to say goodbye to an old friend.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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

———

What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

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

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

Monday’s With Murray: Comes the Resolution

MONDAY JANUARY 1, 1962, SPORTS

Copyright 1962/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

 JIM MURRAY

Comes the Resolution

   First off, does anyone know where the Alka-Seltzer is? Also why that cat has to stamp his feet like that?

   If you think I’m going to try to write a column with this noise in my head, you have just lost. My brain feels like a window shade somebody has just snapped up and it’s rolling around on the roller.

   I know it was New Year’s Eve and all that, but if I ever drink any of that bottled liver mondaysmurray2solvent again, they should throw a net over me.

    On the other hand, I need something to drown those butterflies putting on an air show in my stomach. The swelling in my head is going down but only when I keep the ice bag on straight.

   I don’t know why it is we start every New Year out like this. I guess because things have nowhere to go but up from there.

   The year got off on a pretty good note. Some people from Alabama invited me down for a New Year barbecue. But they didn’t say whose. And I’m not going down till I find out whether I’m the guest-of-honor or the entrée.

   One thing that makes me sore as the New Year starts is here all these years I was reading Tarzan and I never caught on. I mean, I thought maybe they had gotten married by Dr. Livingstone. I presume, or Dr. Schweitzer. Who’d ever have thought the Apeman would turn out to be a Playboy? Just goes to show you. It’s more fun going ape than you think.

   I guess the classic thing to do this day is dredge up a lot of hokey resolutions you have no intention of keeping. I have vowed to be nicer to people and one of the reasons is I got a Christmas card from my friend Charlie Maher and his wife addressed “to our favorite calumnist.” Actually, I’m a base calumnist — a third-base calumnist.

   But that’s going to change. And while I’m at it, I think I’ll make some resolutions for others, too.

   Like, Sonny Liston should contribute to police hospitalization instead of causing it.

   The Mafia should take orphans not make them.

   Harry Wismer should take his foot out of his mouth long enough to close it.

  Floyd Patterson should join the Kennedy Peace Corps.

   Someone should enter an Edsel in next year’s Indianapolis 500.

   The Rams should rebel against their trainer for rubbing them the wrong way.

   The Cubs should hire nine more managers and fire the players.

   Jackie Robinson should make the Hall of Fame unanimously or Baseball should blush.

   The Polo Grounds should be fun again with Casey Stengel abroad in it, but he’ll have to go some to be funnier than his team.

   Bob Waterfield should smile. On second thought, I can’t think why.

   The Dodgers should win the pennant. Or they should call in the cops and evict THEM from Chavez Ravine.

   The Alabama football team should beat some team you never heard of 66-0. They should be ashamed of themselves but won’t be.

   The USC Trojans should go to the Rose Bowl.

   They should match the Major and the Chief of Police and let Polly Adler referee.

   Roger Maris should hit 50 home runs and the papers describe it as a “slump.” Anyone else hitting 40 will get the MVP award and a parade up Broadway.

   Sandy Koufax should win 30 games.

   The government should make the Washington Redskins hire a Redskin.

   Charlie Dressen should be back in baseball, a one-man community sing. The cast of characters is dull enough without benching live ones like Casey and Charlie. The trouble with guys who don’t speak their minds is they don’t have any to speak of.

   The Phillies should lose 23 more in a row to show the last time was no fluke.

   Alejandro Lavorante should get an apology from me.

   San Diego should get a professional football team. Some colleges I know should get an amateur one.

   I should shut up. And you should all have the happiest and most prosperous New Year ever.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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

———

What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

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

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

Monday’s With Murray: 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