One day in 1930 Merv Hyman marched into the editorial offices of The Press, a weekly in Englewood, N.J., his hometown, and offered to become sports editor. The boss found this an offer he could refuse—Merv was 12—but he did agree to pay five cents an inch for everything Merv wrote that was printed. A career was born.
Six years later Merv began working for TIME magazine as a copyboy for $15 a week. His first day on the job, hoping to make a good impression, he came hustling down the hall carrying copy, turned the corner and slammed into Henry Luce, "impressing him," as Merv later put it, "to the floor." Luce was, of course, the founder and owner of TIME and, in 1954, of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, an idea, Luce was certain, whose time had come.
Hyman's enthusiasm for sports and journalism made him an SI pioneer. He was on our first masthead, as writer and researcher, and when he retired in 1982, he had set a record for service at Time Inc.—46 years. But when Merv died last week at the age of 78, of complications following heart surgery, it was the quality of that service, more than its quantity, that was affectionately remembered by his colleagues at SI and his numerous friends in the world of sports.
A few facts, winnowed from a blizzard: During his years at TIME, Merv finally became sports editor of Englewood's Press—moonlighting—and wrote a bylined column and two pages of news each issue. At the same time he had a weekly radio sports program. In his first 15 years at SI, Merv established himself as one of the most prolific writers in the history of the magazine, chiefly covering college basketball and football. In nine years as chief of research and 4� as assistant to the managing editor, he hired dozens of aspiring reporters, most of them fresh out of college, trained them in the techniques of weekly journalism, then watched as they moved up our masthead and those of other publications. (Some are on this week's SI masthead, and his granddaughter Lisa Hyman is one of our staffers.)
In the early days of SI we ran a feature called COLUMN OF THE WEEK, reprinting an especially good newspaper column or article. These were sent in from around the country, and Merv would select a few for the managing editor's final choice. One week he recommended a column by the then sports editor of the Corpus Christi ( Texas) Caller, Roy Terrell. It ran and led to Terrell's joining our staff in 1955. Terrell was our managing editor from '74 to '79.
Not all of Merv's recommendations met with such success. In a 1967 college basketball issue cover story he proposed and argued that the baskets be raised to 12 feet, on the grounds that players, on average, were vastly taller than those for whom Mr. Naismith had arranged the sport's dimensions. It was an idea whose time, perhaps unfortunately, had not come.
Sorry, Merv...and farewell.