Walking in, Murray turns heads. For some in the sports world, seeing Murray come into a room without a guide is sufficient reason for a celebratory dinner. "How ya feelin', Jim?" asks Red Auerbach. "How you makin' out, Jim?" asks Bob Lanier. "Everything O.K. with you, Jim?" asks Bob Uecker.
Over in the corner, Boog Powell cannot quite get up the courage to say hello. "I've never met him," says Powell, "but I've read his stuff for years. And he's written about me, I don't know, half a dozen times, but I've seen him in a locker room only twice. He's a great man. I'm one of his biggest fans."
This is how it is now for Murray. He is in that the-legend-walks-and-talks-and-eats-breakfast stage. The Last King of Sportswriting, boys, sitting right over there.
But Murray the writer has seldom seemed younger. He was named the nation's best columnist for 1984 by the Associated Press Sports Editors. Odds are that Murray will go on winning awards three years after he is buried.
Why he has never been awarded the Pulitzer Prize is an unsolved mystery. Then again, only three sportswriters have won it—Red Smith, Dave Anderson and Arthur Daley—and all three worked for The New York Times. "If Murray worked for the Times," says Dan Jenkins, author of Semi-Tough, "he'd already have three."
Murray doesn't care. "Gerry's gone. So what?"
He misses her. "I'll be watching TV once in a while and I'll see somebody we knew, and I'll say, 'Gerry, come take a look at....' And then I'll catch myself."
Two years after Gerry died, friends are still telling him, "Why don't you move out of that house? It'll help you to forget." And he answers, " 'Cause I don't want to forget."
So he fills his days at home, in a house that is far too big for him, the lights always turned on low. He's a steel ball in a giant pinball machine, banging around off the walls, nothing much in the refrigerator, stacks of books and untended mail cluttering up the counter space. No room in the house really means much to him anymore except the corner of a small downstairs bedroom where he writes his column by the light of a lamp and a window. It strained his eyes to make out the tiny print on his portable computer, so someone hooked up a magnifying monitor. It is chilling to watch him with his back to the door, his shoulders hunched over an eerie green light, writing jokes for the greater Los Angeles area.
And Murray never misses a column. "What else would I do?" he says.