Murray on an unfinished highway to a stadium in Cincinnati: "It must be Kentucky's turn to use the cement mixer."
On New Jersey: "Its principal export is soot."
On Philadelphia: "A place to park the truck and change your socks."
Murray's Banned-McNally became so famous that Spokane begged to be done. "The trouble with Spokane," the compliant Murray wrote, "is that there's nothing to do after 10 o'clock. In the morning."
Murray never went on The Sports Reporters, never had his own radio show, never even liked his picture to be in the paper. But he had more impact than any sportswriter since Grantland Rice. The 10-shot cut rule in golf was Murray's idea. It was Murray who shamed the Masters into finally allowing Lee Elder to play, in 1975. ("Wouldn't it be nice to have a black American at Augusta in something other than a coverall?" Murray wrote.)
One time, at a U.S. Open, Arnold Palmer found himself in a ditch. He was trying to figure out what shot to play when he looked up and saw Murray. "What would Hogan do in a situation like this?" Palmer asked. Murray looked down and said, "Hogan wouldn't be in a situation like that."
It wasn't all laughs, yet through heartache, illness and sorrow, Murray wrote on. His son Ricky died of a drug overdose, and Jim blamed himself in part. The love of his youth—his first wife, Gerry-died of cancer 14 years ago, and I thought Jim would never turn the lights up in his house again, until Linda came along. His eyes had this annoying habit of going out on him. He dictated the column blind for six months and was still better man anybody in the country.
America tried to tell him. He won a Pulitzer. He's in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was named National Sportswriter of the Year for 12 straight years, 14 in all. There was a little dinner honoring him a few years back. Nothing special. Kirk Douglas showed up. Dinah Shore. Barron Hilton. Some couple came in to hand Murray the Richstone Man of the Year community service award: President and Mrs. Reagan. Yet Murray was so humble that when you left him—even if you were the third-string volleyball writer in Modesto—you couldn't remember which of you was the legend.
Finest man I ever knew.
Lately, I was waiting for Jim to retire and hoping like hell he wouldn't. "Writing a column is like riding a tiger," he used to say. "You'd like to get off, but you have no idea how."