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King of The Sports Page
Rick Reilly
May 16, 1994
This SI Classic from April 1986 examines the life of Jim Murray, America's top sports columnist, who, despite a series of tragedies, always keeps 'em laughing
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May 16, 1994

King Of The Sports Page

This SI Classic from April 1986 examines the life of Jim Murray, America's top sports columnist, who, despite a series of tragedies, always keeps 'em laughing

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FRANK HOWARD: "...so big, he wasn't born, he was founded... not actually a man, just an unreasonable facsimile."

BOOG POWELL: "... when the real Boog Powell makes...the Hall of Fame, they're going to make an umbrella stand out of his foot."

BILL BAIN: "Once, when an official dropped a flag and penalized the Rams for having 12 men on the field...two of them were Bain."

Arnold Palmer had two of them bronzed. Jack Nicklaus calls them "a breath of fresh air." Groucho Marx liked them enough to write to him. Bobby Knight once framed one, which is something like getting Billy Graham to spring for drinks.

Since 1961, a Jim Murray column in the Los Angeles Times has been quite often a wonderful thing. (He's carried by more than 80 newspapers today and at one time was in more than 150.) Now 66, Murray has been cranking out the best-written sports column this side (some say that side) of Red Smith. But if a Smith column was like sitting around Toots Shor's and swapping stories over a few beers, a Murray column is the floor show, a setup line and a rim shot, a corner of the sports section where a fighter doesn't just get beaten up, he becomes "sort of a complicated blood clot." Where golfers are not athletes, they're "outdoor pool sharks." And where Indy is not just a dangerous car race, it's "the run for the lilies."

In press boxes Murray would mumble and fuss that he had no angle, sigh heavily and then, when he had finished his column, no matter how good it was, he would always slide back in his chair and say, "Well, fooled 'em again."

Murray must have fooled all the people all the time, because in one stretch of 16 years he won the National Sportswriter of the Year award 14 times, including 12 years in a row. Have you ever heard of anybody winning 12 anythings in a row?

After a Laker playoff game against Seattle in 1979, Muhammad Ali ran into Murray outside the locker room and said, "Jim Murray! Jim Murray! The greatest sportswriter of all time!"

Which leaves only one question.

Was it worth it?

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