Mondays With Murray: He Does Everything Else Right

  It used to be known simply as the Bob Hope. Now the Desert Classic is sponsored by American Express, and it runs from Thursday through Sunday at PGA West in La Quinta CA.

  Today, we take you back to 1992 when Jim Murray took to his Sunday column to write about Phil Mickelson, the lefty from San Diego.

  ENJOY!

——-

SUNDAY, JANUARY 12, 1992, SPORTS

Copyright 1992/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

He Does Everything Else Right

 CARLSBAD — You can tell right away what Phil Mickelson is doing wrong over the golf ball. He’ll never get anywhere that way.

 He’s standing on the wrong side of it. He’s got it all mixed up. Someone should have straightened him out.

 Look! What’s the first thing they tell you on the lesson tee? Keep your left arm straight, right?

 Phil Mickelson’s is as loose as a wet noodle. You have to figure he’s hopeless.

 I can hear Jack Nicklaus telling me now, Lesson 2: “Put your weight on your right side going back, shift to your left side coming down.”

 Mickelson’s got it absolutely in reverse.

 You know, you listen to golf aficionados in the better locker rooms and, for a couple of mondaysmurray2years, they’ve been telling you Phil Mickelson is the next great player. John Daly is the wild card. He’s either going to make a 2 — or an 11. But Mickelson is the full house. He’ll make a 2 — or a 3.

 His credentials are impressive. He won consecutive NCAA championships.

Only two other guys have done that. He won the U.S. Amateur. That’s a major. He won the NCAA and the Amateur the same year. Only one other has done that — fellow named Jack Nicklaus.

 Then Mickelson won a pro tournament as an amateur. In the modern era, only Gene Littler, Doug Sanders and Scott Verplank have brought this off.

  So, you can see why golf has been telling you this is the New Nicklaus, the Next Palmer, the messiah, the throwback to the monarchy years.

 Then I went to see this pretender to the throne down here at the Infiniti Tournament of Champions at La Costa Spa and Resort.

 I was shocked. This guy plays the game backward.

       You’re amazed they let him get this far this way. He is — come closer — a left-hander!

 He’s the only left-hander who has ever won the U.S. Amateur. But the only other left-hander who has won a major is New Zealander Bob Charles, who grabbed the 1963 British Open in a playoff.

 Golf is tough enough without playing it backward.

 Now, I don’t know about you, but my teachers used to whack me across the knuckles if I wrote or ate with my left hand. It’s been considered bad luck or bad form since time immemorial.

 It’s nonsensical, I admit, but remember the word sinister comes from the Latin word for left-handed. (The word dexterous comes from the Latin word for right-handed — dexter — which gives you an idea what the ancients thought of southpaws: They were cursed.)

 It is the notion of your correspondent that fully 50 percent of the world population is left-handed. Some have been bullied out of it, others have bowed to custom.

 But golf has been as inhospitable to left-handers as a medieval soothsayer. It all but outlaws them, excommunicates them. Would you believe Ben Hogan, no less, was left-handed?

 You couldn’t get left-handed clubs hardly anywhere then, and particularly not if you were dirt-poor and caddying in Texas. Ben had to change over. Golf had no accommodation for left-handers. Change or get a job on a truck.

 Baseball has always been receptive to lefties. The bats were ambidextrous — there’s that word again — and the grand old game was replete with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Ted Williams — all great left-handers. Left-handed pitchers, more often than not, threw harder than righties. Tennis was slow to get on the bandwagon, but left-handers from McEnroe to Martina have sprung up all over the ad courts.

 So, you might say Phil Mickelson is an advance party for a rash of left-handed players and the toast of the Left-handers of America.

 Except, Phil Mickelson isn’t a left-hander!

 It’s a perfectly astonishing story. The only thing Phil Mickelson does left-handed is play golf. Otherwise, he’s as orthodox as a bishop. He eats, writes, scratches and dials phones with his right hand.

 It all happened when he was either 1-1/2 or 2 years old. His father was demonstrating the proper way to swing a golf club, and it was as if his young son were standing in front of a mirror. He did exactly what he saw his father do, swing the club from left to right.

 By the time his father realized what he had done, it was too late. His son had gotten comfortable over the ball swinging in reverse.

 It’s interesting that circumstances forced a natural left-hander such as

Hogan to strike the ball right-handed — and he became almost the premier striker of the ball in history. Accident turned Mickelson into a left-hander — and he bids fair to become one of the premier strikers of the ball of his generation.

 Whatever the genesis, Mickelson’s success is sure to set off a boom in lefty golf. There must be some golfing Cobbs, Stan the Mans, even Babe Ruths out there waiting to hit the ball naturally from the port side.

 Mickelson departs from the stereotype in another particular.

Left-handers, as a class, are supposed to be so flaky you could put bananas and cream on them.

 To be sure, Phil passed up the $180,000 he won for taking the Tucson Open last year. For remaining amateur, he couldn’t collect. But his reasons are as sound as a banker’s. He wants to stay in college. He wants a career to fall back on when the putts stop dropping. He figures that without competitive golf in college, his attitude — and his aptitude — will atrophy. To play college golf, he needs to remain amateur. To play pro golf, he would have to leave college.

 Bobby Jones remained amateur all his life. Jack Nicklaus, believe it or not, seriously considered it.

 But that was back when a U.S. Open victory paid $3,500 or $5,000, and the total purse money for the year was like $820,000. Now it’s $48 million.

 Mickelson will turn pro. He won’t say when for the record.

 But he’ll never turn right-handed. He’ll continue shifting his weight to the right at address with the Vees pointing to his right shoulder.

 He sees no reason he should have changed, no reason he can’t be a major success. There’s only one other left-hander on tour right now, Russ

Cochran, but if Mickelson starts adorning magazine covers, it should be like the spring breakup on the Yukon.

 Mickelson sees no problem with being left-handed. Doglegs go both ways on golf courses. Putts don’t care which side the golfer stands on.

 With a U.S. Amateur under his belt, Mickelson joins an august list on the tour — Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gene Littler, Lanny Wadkins, Mark

O’Meara, Craig Stadler. Mickelson doesn’t worry about which side of the ball he stands on at address. He worries about which side he’s standing on after he hits it. He would like to be directly behind it. He usually is. He has a chance not only to be the greatest left-hander in history, but one of the greatest players in history. And the game sees nothing sinister in that.

-——

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: Two for the Price of One

  Today, we take you back to a time in the NFL when seeing a female reporter in the locker room was not quite as commonplace as it is today,  and it caused a big problem for the then-owner of the New England Patriots.

  Because of the importance of this subject matter, we offer two columns. The first from June of 1990 and the second from October 1996.

  ENJOY!

——

OCTOBER 9, 1990 SPORTS

Copyright 1990/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Taking the Wraps Off Stupidity

  I guess I have to address the Lisa Olson-locker room sexual harassment issue. Everyone else has.

  The party line, we journalists’ stance, is: How dare these scumbag athletes harass this sportswriter in the dressing room just because she’s a female? OK, I’ll buy that. I’m a mondaysmurray2journalist. I’m on her side.

  And sexual harassment of any kind is unconscionable whether it takes place at the office water cooler or Central Park. It’s ugly, dangerous. It’s criminal. Do it in Central Park and you go to jail. Do it in the New England Patriots’ locker room and the owner profanely defends you.

  OK, to sum up, here is my view:

  1) Lisa Olson, as an accredited journalist, had every right to be in the football locker room. As a woman and a citizen, she had every right to be free from sexual harassment by a gang of allegedly naked bullies. Anywhere.

  2) Harassment of journalists by athletes in locker rooms is not new and predates women in the locker room by about a century. It went on before women went in locker rooms. It’ll go on after.

  Item: Sam Wyche, Cincinnati coach, was fined $30,000 for denying a female reporter access to his locker room. Jim McMahon never even got a reprimand from the league for blowing his nose in the direction of a reporter in another locker room in San Diego.

  Like most sportswriters, I have been abused, vilified, threatened and ignored in locker rooms, even thrown out of one once by a ballplayer who didn’t like something I wrote. It’s one of the hazards of the business. If you put out oil-well fires, you expect to get burned. You deal with athletes who have just lost a ballgame — or a World Series — you expect to get abused.

  When the harassment takes on sexual overtones, it becomes ugly, although there were jeers along those lines even in the all-male days.

  I am old-fashioned enough to have been shocked when the first women appeared in locker rooms. And, frankly, if I were an athlete, I would not want a chorus of strange women watching me take a shower. I do not look good in a shower. I don’t work out often enough and I prefer to meet women in a tuxedo if possible.

  However, having said that, I must admit that I have never seen a female reporter behave in anything but a highly professional manner in a locker room. I have never heard one tell a leering, off-color joke about it afterward. I have heard plenty from male reporters.

  The interesting point about equal access is that most of the time male reporters are not permitted to enter women’s locker rooms, so female reporters have to be barred (from women’s locker rooms), too. In other words, if men can’t go in, neither can women.

  So, tennis and golf and volleyball and track dressing rooms are generally off-limits to all reporters, and the cognizant associations require their athletes to consent to a news conference immediately after the competition in a neutral site where dress is not optional.

  It’s come to this anyway in major athletic events. A Super Bowl. With upward of 1,500 sportswriters on hand, the league has had to resort to the postgame tactic of bringing the star performers to a mass interview staging area where they stand on platforms to field questions from the media. The World Series has had to do that, too, although in both cases the locker rooms are also open.

  The rub is, in this day of super-saturation of an event by television, print reporters have to come up with another dimension to the story, other than who-won-and-how. To do this, they need the one-on-one, locker-side interview.

  It wasn’t always this way. Back in the old, pre-TV days, plenty of beat reporters never bothered with the locker room. Jim Brosnan, who pitched for several seasons in the old Coast League, was at my house and I idly mentioned a writer who had covered the team for years. “You know so-and-so?” I asked Brosnan. He shook his head. “But you must have seen him in the locker room in all those years?” “Never,” said Brosnan. “He never came in.”

  You can’t do that today.

  The Constitution guarantees equal rights for all. There are laws to protect women from sexual harassment. These are facts that should have been known by the owner of the New England Patriots.

  To me, the reactions of the owner are as reprehensible as those of his players. Victor Kiam, as an owner, should know how important the media is to his sport. You don’t expect rookie players to realize that they’re getting $2 million a year to bounce a ball upcourt or fall on a fumble because of the millions of words of free publicity given to their sport. Owners should know it. Owners should also know the Constitution. Football players sleep through classes. Guys who own electric-razor companies presumably don’t. Kiam’s insensitive remarks smacked of those guys who cheered a rape in a Massachusetts bar.

  Equal access has been court-ordered by a federal judge (and a woman at that), Victor, and you and your team better get used to it.

The social scientists tell us we are trending toward a unisex society anyway. Well, the hell with that. On that, I’m on the side of the French, Vive la difference!

  But the relationship between athlete and journalist in a locker room is, too often, an adversarial one. There are mature adult athletes who recognize the value to their profession of publicity. Then there are those who refuse to talk to the media at all. Their privilege.

  Then there are the cretins who profanely and obscenely knock you out of their space. It’s probably good news for everybody that they have been called to account, and Lisa Olson may have taken a big step toward promoting civility to all in the locker room. If you still have confidence in the system, that is.

  As Lincoln said, “To give any man (or woman) freedom is to give it to yourself. To deny any man freedom is to deny it for yourself.

—————

JUNE 30, 1996 SPORTS

Copyright 1996/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

As Owner, He Wasn’t the Victor

  Well, don’t talk to Victor Kiam unless you want to be disenchanted. He owned the Remington electric razor company and a few other lucrative and thriving businesses when the ownership of the New England Patriots pro football team was up for grabs. The Sullivan family, which had owned it since inception, came on hard times — mostly through sponsoring a Michael Jackson concert tour.

  Victor Kiam bought the Patriots. He thought it would be a nice hobby, might get his picture in Sports Illustrated. Movie stars promoting their pictures might be coming through and would like to see the Patriots play the Cowboys on a Sunday. They’d ring him up.

  Then came the day when Kiam, so to speak, found himself on the Bears’ five-yard line. Standing there with the ball and no one open and a 350-pound lineman with a bad temper trying to get at him.

  Pro football can be a very dangerous game. I mean, how’d you like to find yourself on the Chicago Bears’ five-yard line, third and goal, with a minute to play and the Bears four points ahead?

  Or would you prefer to be fading back to pass with a guy they call the Refrigerator bearing down on you?

  But if the game is tough on the field, it’s supposed to be a piece of cake in the front office. You know. You sit in your luxury box and entertain a dozen of your best corporate friends. You get the best tables at restaurants. Secretaries of state try to get on your jet to go to the Super Bowl, maybe even the vice-president.

  It’s the good life, right? The American Dream, owner’s division.

  It looked like the good life. Money as far as the eye could see. The product was expensive, but depreciation was generous and compared to making razors, a glamorous way to make a living.

  It all happened because of the league’s press rule. The one that said female sportswriters had the same access to men’s locker rooms after the game that men had. This was somehow thought to be because men had an unfair advantage in being able to get to the athletes before they had time to cool down, collect their thoughts. It’s a highly dubious proposition, but political correctness doesn’t always depend on reason.

  What happened next was a now-infamous confrontation between Lisa Olson of the Boston Herald and tight end Zeke Mowatt of the Patriots. Kiam was about to be tackled for a big loss.

  In a postgame session in the locker room, Mowatt made what is, by all standards, a disgusting gesture toward Olson. She was outraged and she said so loudly and publicly.

  Well, it became a cause celebre. Some athletes fled into the night recognizing the affair for the ticking package it was. Some sided with Olson, others sided with Mowatt.

  Journalism rallied around Olson. After all, freedom of the press was at stake here.

  Soon, Kiam got drawn in. Not surprisingly, he sided with his player. He found himself quoted as calling the reporter “a classic bitch.” His denials — “I don’t use those words!” — were too late.

  Lawyers came from everywhere. So did women’s groups. Depositions flew around like leaves in a high wind. Kiam’s public image was a shambles. Some of Olson’s depositions seemed to leave questions.

  In this one, it seemed, everybody would be a loser. The league levied fines, but there is some question as to whether they were ever collected. Olsen eventually took a newspaper job in Australia.

  Meanwhile, back at the counting house, Kiam was like a guy in a bunker. Women’s groups called for a boycott of his razors and other products. Since he also owned Lady Remington jewelry company, this was not funny.

  Lawyers’ fees were crippling. So was public obloquy. The more Kiam protested Olson’s version of events, the more he emerged as a villain.

  Kiam had always been an impetuous entrepreneur. After his wife had given him a Remington razor one Christmas, he liked it so much he bought the company. He did its TV commercials himself.

  He didn’t always fare so well. He tells of mistakes he made. He had a chance to buy a product featuring a fabric that adhered to itself re-usably without zippers or tracks but he turned it down. It became known as Velcro. He also sold 1,000 shares in a computer chip company called Intel. He sold for $23,500. If he held, those shares would be worth $5 million today.

  But he leaped at the chance to buy the Patriots. “I lost $30 million,” he ruefully confessed the other day. He tried twice to move the franchise, he says. He was turned down. He is currently suing the league because at least one of the owners who blocked him has since moved himself.

  He finally had to sell the Patriots. He also had to sell part of his Remington holdings to make up for losses. The guy with the ball on the Bears’ five-yard-line had it easy by comparison.

  Kiam, back to entrepreneurship, was in town with his newest product, EarPlanes, a device to banish ear discomfort on airline landings and takeoffs. He has kicked football.

  In the musical ‘Annie Get Your Gun’, there is a lugubrious character playing the part of Sitting Bull whose constant complaint and refrain to those around him is the advice “No put money in show business!”

Victor Kiam wishes he had been listening.

-——

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: Ravages of Time

Happy 100th Birthday to Jim Murray in that big press box in the sky. 

December 29, 1919 — December 29, 2019

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 laying 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 three-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.

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 mondaysmurray2grandchild, a 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.

——

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: Setting the Record Straight

Friday, December 2, 1988

Los Angeles Times Sports

Jim Murray

Setting the Record Straight

 

  Years ago, when I first got involved in it, I always thought the Heisman Trophy was for a guy who combined good football with good citizenship and scholarship — a kind of Frank Merriwell in modern dress. He didn’t need a helmet, he had a halo.

  Then, they gave it to some guy who went around robbing gas stations in the off-season and I was disabused of that notion.

  My colleagues patiently explained to me that the award was to go to the guy who was mondaysmurray2certifiably the best football player in the land, that morals were beside the point and no sentiment attached.

  So, I bought that.

We blew it, a lot of years. You all know how that goes. Jim Brown never won a Heisman. Otto Graham never won it. Hugh McElhenny finished eighth in the balloting. Sammy Baugh never got better than fourth. Gale Sayers never higher than 12th. Neither did Walter Payton — in fact, he got 14th. Lynn Swann never came close. Neither did Randy White. Eric Dickerson only finished third, John Elway second.

  So, I thought I would pay very strict attention and not throw my ballot away anymore. If a guy didn’t have to be moral, he at least had to be mighty. To ensure this, you had to give some attention to how the candidate might do in the pros. Would he validate your faith in him, would he truly prove he was the best of the best when he got into a league where, so to speak, everyone was Heisman caliber? 

  It’s no good to say this shouldn’t count because almost all the disappointed candidates I have cited above were those who went in the pros and proved the voters made a mistake. To avoid embarrassment, you have to look over the field more like a pro scout than a journalist.

  To do this, it seems to me, you don’t go by stats alone, you have to go by competition. Occasionally, very occasionally, a pro scout will find a genuine superstar playing in a league or conference that is several notches below his capabilities. But that was more true in the late, unlamented, days of segregation than it is now. Top college coaches know where the good players are, all right. They don’t miss many.

  Which brings me to this year’s Heisman. The groundswell seems to indicate that it may very well go to a running back at Oklahoma State, Barry Sanders.

  Now, I don’t know the young man. He may be a combination of Red Grange and O.J. Simpson. He may be all Four Horsemen.

  But I’m a little disturbed to find he has done some of his fanciest running against Tulsa, Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State. Oh, yes, he did have a good day rushing against Miami. That’s Miami of Ohio, however, not to be confused with the man-eaters of Miami of Florida.

  Now, Miami of Ohio had an interesting season. Didn’t win a game. As a matter of fact, neither did another team on Sanders’ schedule, Kansas State. Kansas did better. It won one game. Missouri won three. Tulsa won four.

  Now, I hate to be picky, but when you’re running against two teams that didn’t win a game and another that won only one, and two others that won only seven between them, rolling up 300 yards an afternoon doesn’t seem that big a deal. The ball’s not that heavy.

  You have to wonder whether the guy’s good or the opposition isn’t. Can you win the Heisman ripping through a field of tackling dummies? Should you?

  Pee Wee Reese, the baseball player, once gave me the best one-sentence description of the importance of competition I ever heard. When the Dodgers arrived in L.A. to open the season in 1958, they had never even seen their new home field, the Coliseum. A breathless reporter greeted Reese, the captain of the Dodgers, as he led the team down the gangplank at the airport.

  “Mr. Reese,” he said, wide-eyed, “do you know a college team, the SC Trojans, played a game in the Coliseum yesterday and 11 home runs were hit?”

  Reese was underwhelmed. “Just tell me one thing, son — who was pitching?”

  The lesson was clear: It’s not what you do. It’s whom you do it against.

  Now, Barry Sanders has run against Nebraska and Oklahoma this season. No day in the park. But my candidates beat Oklahoma and Nebraska.

  Rodney Peete of USC, to pull the first name out of the hat, beat Oklahoma, 23-7. He played a schedule that included Oklahoma, Washington, UCLA and Notre Dame. Every team he played had won games and most of them had won more than they lost. Two of them were undefeated when he played them and one had lost only once.

  Troy Aikman of UCLA beat Nebraska when the Cornhuskers were undefeated and faced Washington and USC when they were undefeated. Isn’t a Heisman about winning? Shouldn’t it be? Rodney Peete put his team in the Rose Bowl two years running. Troy Aikman came within a touchdown of it.

  Barry Sanders has marvellous stats. Sometime this weekend, he will break the single-season rushing record of Marcus Allen (Heisman ’81). He has a record 35 touchdowns already. But he got an awful lot of those yards — and 17 of those touchdowns — against teams that won four or fewer games. (He also scored six against Nebraska and Oklahoma).

  He may deserve his Heisman. But I seem to remember a player named Art Luppino who regularly made the news service overnights with stories of records he kept setting by the week in the middle ’50s. But he played for Arizona when the Wildcats were competing in the Border Conference. The Heisman voters were unimpressed. So were the pros.

  A couple of years ago, there was a flurry of campaigning for a player at Holy Cross, Gordie Lockbaum. It was an audacious idea. But you can’t win the Heisman running wild against Rhode Island.

  Can you against Kansas State (0-11)? Apparently.

  Maybe Barry Sanders is the best college football player in the United States. Maybe he’s another Walter Payton. If he wins the Heisman, I sure hope so.

-——

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: Butkus Speaks: ‘Bleepandblurkandgetthefreakouttahere!’

Happy 77th birthday to Dick Butkus!

——

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 1971, SPORTS

Copyright 1971/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Butkus Speaks: ‘Bleepandblurkandgetthefreakouttahere!’

  Dick Butkus is one of the leading pass receivers of the National Football League. He led all of the Chicago Bears’ wide receivers in passes caught Sunday against the Rams at the Coliseum. He caught two footballs on the fly and one on the ground.

  What makes Butkus so valuable is, he often catches a football before it is thrown. This is mondaysmurray2because, in addition to catching footballs, he also catches people who have them. He shakes them upside-down till they let go.

  Butkus has 19 lifetime receptions, which is remarkable since he wasn’t the primary receiver — or even the secondary — on any of them. Roman Gabriel completed 15 passes against the Bears on Sunday — four to Josephson, three to Snow, two each to Rentzel and Ellison, one to Smith, one to Masslowski and two to Butkus.

  Butkus recovered his 18th career fumble in the second quarter, and four plays later, the Bears had scored their only points of the day, three. He is the nearest thing to an offense the Chicago Bears have. Only the quarterback gets his hands on the football more than Dick Butkus.

  I thought I would go down to the locker room Sunday to interview this All-Pro wide receiver of the Bears, find out how he ran his patterns, what moves he put on the defenders (and one moving into Butkus’ zone hoping to catch a football has to be classified as a defender).

  I expected, of course, the conversation to be in sign language, and I brought a stalk of bananas, my bush hat, an elephant gun, and scribbled my will on the back of an envelope. It is inadvisable to approach Dick Butkus on the heels of a 17-2 loss in anything less than a reinforced Land Rover with a white hunter, armed, abroad.

  They say Fay Wray locks herself in her room when Butkus comes to town. And when he hits New York, the Army surrounds the Empire State Building while the Air Force buzzes it. Other players play in a face mask, with Butkus, it’s a muzzle.

  First of all, I’m happy to report it can talk. The rumor going around that Dick Butkus went through college on a vine, or that he was discovered by a scout for a Tarzan picture is not true. Neither is the report that he dresses by himself because his fur makes his roommate sneeze.

  I know it can talk because when I knocked on its dressing room it said clearly, “fuzzandblurkandgetthefreakouttahere!”

  I went over to safety man Ron Smith’s cubicle. “If I come flying out of there,” I said, pointing to Butkus’ locker, where shoulder pads, helmets, socks and cleated shoes came flying through the air accompanied by screams of rage, “will you call for a fair catch?”

  Smith grinned. “He’ll be all right as soon as he has his couple cups of blood,” he soothed. “You see, he hasn’t had his quarterback today yet.”

  “Does he shower or just lick himself clean?” I asked.

  “Listen,” said Smith, “I knew Butkus when I was a sophomore at Wisconsin and he was at Illinois and he was mean then and he was still mean as of a few minutes ago. He chews cement and spits out sidewalk.”

  I tapped on his cage again.   “Bleepandfreakandblurpandcrockandchickandcreep!” it roared. “Cantcha wait till I get dressed?”

  He came out of the shower a few minutes later. Mighty Joe Young would have run screaming up a tree. I gave a nervous laugh.

  “I didn’t recognize you without a quarterback under your arm,” I joked feebly. Butkus glared. He never smiles.

  “Listen, did you see what they’ve done out there with their little fairy plays? Those little end-around tippy toes, the chicken-trip stuff and then those twerps sneak back on you, those little elves give you a slip, and those bleep-censored officials say ‘one more word out of any of you and it’s 15.’ You call that football?! If I came out of here for a dance, I’d have worn pumps. Lemme comb my hair, fer cryin’ out loud!”

  A moment later, the defensive genius of the Chicago Bears, the last Monster of the Midway, stalked out with that rolling gait of his like a charging rhino. “Hey, Butkus!” yelled the crowd. “You got quarterback sticking to your whiskers.” “Hey Butkus, make yourself at home! Eat somebody!” “Hey, Butkus, do they let your cage on the airplane with the rest of the people?” “Hey, Butkus, do they bring your food on a plate or on a rope?”

  Butkus just glared. “Bleepandfleepandtweerpandfagandbagand,” he growled. “Girls’ football!”

  Someone nudged me in the ribs. “You’re lucky he’s in a good mood today,” he said.

-——

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: Baseball is Erasing History

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Last weekend, for the first time in 35 years, the NFL suspended a player for betting on NFL games. CB Josh Shaw of the Arizona Cardinals won’t be eligible to petition for reinstatement until Feb. 15, 2021.

This got us thinking about another player who was caught betting on his sport . . . Pete Rose. The big difference is Shaw, unlike Rose, will be able to petition to get back in the game. Rose was never offered that luxury but rather was banned from baseball, and his inevitable induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, for life.

Maybe now, after 30 years (Rose was banned in August 1989), MLB will consider lifting his ban and letting the all-time hits leader into the hall that should have a wing named after him.

Please enjoy Jim Murray’s 1991 column headlined “Baseball Is Erasing History” about Rose’s many accomplishments that will go unrecognized in Cooperstown.

——

January 13, 1991, SPORTS

Copyright 1991/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Baseball Is Erasing History

  Pete Rose never got 4,256 hits. Pete Rose never got 746 doubles. Pete Rose never played in 3,562 big league baseball games. Pete Rose never played in six World Series, seven playoffs.

 Pete Rose never slid head first into home plate, scattering the catcher and the ball as he went. Pete Rose never ran out a base on balls.

  There’s no such person. Pete Rose never existed. He is a non-person. He is like one of those Soviet despots they expunge from the history books.

 Pete Rose never paced a dugout with that funny little gap-toothed grin, waving his mondaysmurray2Popeye arms and explaining with gestures and rolling slides in the dirt exactly how the game should be played.

  Pete Rose never played the game for 24 years with the little boy’s zeal and wonder until, if you closed your eyes, you could picture him with his cap on sideways, knickers falling down to his ankles and dragging a taped ball and busted bat behind him, looking for all the world like something that fell off Norman Rockwell’s easel.

  Must have been some other guy. Because Pete Rose ceased to exist on Thursday. He was erased from society by a group of judges they must have found in Salem.

 What are they trying to tell us? There was no Charlie Hustle? There was no swaggering, pixieish No. 14 who for two decades filled notebooks and headlines and seemed to epitomize all that was fine and right with the grand old game?

  There was no guy who spoke up for baseball and promoted it all he could, who never hid in the trainer’s room or ducked out a side door in defeat, who never just took the money and ran?

  There was no guy who, when the World Series in Boston was rained out four days out of five, came dutifully to a news conference to keep the scribes in print and the Series, which was to become one of the greatest ever played, alive?

  There was no such guy as the Reds’ third baseman in that Series who turned to a base runner from the other team and said, “Ain’t this great? Ain’t this fun?”

  Pete Rose was a figment of our imagination? He was a cartoon character like Yogi Bear?

  We’re supposed to forget he was ever real? We’re supposed to expunge all his records? Banish him to a corner of the sports world inhabited only by the Black Sox of 1919 and one or two other non-persons in the game?

 Get outta here! What for? Because he had a gambling addiction? Because he couldn’t pass a bookie parlor or a 9-5 shot or the overs-and-unders on the Bears’ games without wagering a few bob?

  What about the guys who had other addictions? The crowd that got caught in the cocaine busts in Pittsburgh? Hey, Babe Ruth had an addiction, too. He liked rye whiskey. And that was as illegal as cocaine in his time.

  I wish we could get some of those judges who voted to take Pete out of circulation to sit in on rape trails once in a while. I wish they could serve on some of those appellate court benches where they throw a serial killer’s conviction out because the cop interrogating him forgot to call him “sir” or didn’t have a warrant to take his knife away from him.

  I wish I could figure out why guys who kill eight nurses in five states get people holding candle vigils outside their prison cells while Pete Rose gets the book thrown at him.

  Do you want to stand there and tell me Pete Rose wasn’t good for baseball? Lord, he was baseball. He’s a menace to the game? Gimme a break!

  I’m a law-and-order man myself. I’ve been known to deplore the fact that society has lost its capacity for indignation, has shrunk from punishing its criminals.

  And I completely understand that you hold the highly successful to a different set of standards than the less privileged. You want to kick a president out for hushing up a robbery, that’s OK with me.

  But hey! Pete Rose didn’t go to Harvard. Pete Rose never took prelaw. Stop and think about it, Pete made a living in an industry where it’s not only all right to steal, it’s expected of you.

  Pete never discussed Stendhal. Pete never went to the opera. You don’t take Pete to Buckingham Palace. Pete played baseball for a living. It was probably that or mow lawns.

 A lot of people have sympathy for Shoeless Joe Jackson. He was even the hero of a movie, for cryin’ out loud!

  But wait a minute! Shoeless Joe Jackson was a crook. He was an accessory before the fact. He was part of a conspiracy to throw the World Series, no less. That’s major league trifling with the faith of a nation. Whether he threw the Series or not is beside the point. He agreed to do it. His silence made him a co-conspirator.

 If Pete threw ball games, why don’t they tell us about it? Why don’t they prove it? Ax murderers get a better day in court than he did.

  He couldn’t have thrown any World Series. His team won three of the six he appeared in.

  Oh, he cheated on his income tax? He didn’t declare some income he earned?

  Noooo! Who could believe a person would do that? Try to pay as little as they could to the government?

  He didn’t fill ballparks for all those years. He didn’t have the dirtiest uniform in the National League. He didn’t wisecrack around the batting cage each spring: “I’ll tell you three things gonna happen this summer — the grass gonna get green, the sun’s gonna get hot and Pete Rose is gonna get 200 hits.” He’d like to tell you: “I may not be the best hitter on this club, but I’m the best white hitter!”

 But he never did those things. They never happened. He never happened. Ty Cobb’s the only guy in history who ever got more than 4,000 hits. They’re going to take Pete Rose away.

  I don’t know about you, but I’m going to miss him.

-——

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.