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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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He championed the cause of the beleaguered, retired Joe Louis: "As an economic entity, Joe Louis disappeared into a hole years ago and pulled it in after him. He cannot tunnel out in his lifetime. He owes the United States more than some European allies."

Crazy, isn't it? For a man half blind, Murray sure could see.

I lost an old friend the other day. He was blue eyed, impish, he cried a lot with me, laughed a lot with me, saw a great many things with me.... He had a pretty exciting life. He saw Babe Ruth hit a home run when we were both 12 years old. He saw Willie Mays steal second base.... He saw Rocky Marciano get up.... You see, the friend I lost was my eye....
July 1, 1979

The beginning of the end announced itself in Miami, three days before the 1979 Super Bowl. "Funny how dusty the air is in Miami," Murray said to Dallas Cowboy linebacker Thomas (Hollywood) Henderson. "Been like this all week."

"What do you mean, Jim?" Henderson said. "It's as clear as a bell out."

The retina in Murray's left eye had become detached—and that was his good eye. The right one had carried a cataract since 1978, leaving him only peripheral vision. Now both eyes were out, and Murray was legally blind. Over the next year five operations on the left retina could not restore it.

"At that point, I did not care," Murray says. "I would like to have died, actually. When you're blind, there's no quality to life."

I guess I would like to see a Reggie Jackson with the count 3 and 2 and the Series on the line, guessing fastball.... Rod Carew with men on first and second and no place to put him, and the pitcher wishing he were standing in the rain someplace.... Muhammad Ali giving a recital, a ballet, not a fight. Also, to be sure, I'd like to see a sky full of stars, moonlight on the water, and yes, the tips of a royal flush peeking out as I fan out a poker hand.... Come to think of it, I'm lucky. I saw all of those things. I see them yet.

Funny, he didn't feel lucky, even as sympathies stacked up in his hospital room. Once, when Murray had just come out of surgery and was not allowed visitors or phone calls, the phone did a funny thing. It rang anyway.

"Hello?"

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