I once asked Jim Murray if he kept a few extra columns in the bank for days when he had the flu or a tee time or an incurably blank computer screen. "Of course not!" he yowled. "What if I die one ahead?"
On Sunday, Jim Murray, the greatest sportswriter who ever lived, kissed his gorgeous wife, started to put on his pajamas, said, "Linda, something's wrong," and collapsed. The doctor was there in five minutes, but it was too late. Jim had died of a heart attack. He was 78.
He got his wish, though. He didn't have any columns saved up. Too bad. We could use a few laughs right now.
Murray on huge Boog Powell: "They're going to make an umbrella stand out of his foot."
On how they ought to begin the Indianapolis 500: "Gentlemen, start your coffins."
On baseball: " Willie Mays's glove is where triples go to die."
On Roger Staubach: "Square as a piece of fudge."
On Elgin Baylor: "Unstoppable as a woman's tears."
Murray could write anything; sports just happened to get lucky. He was TIME'S Hollywood correspondent in the 1950s, and the stars loved him. He drank with Bogey, played cards with the Duke, dined with Marilyn. He carried a solid-gold money clip given to him by Jack Benny. Murray could've made millions in die studios. He used to moonlight doctoring dialogue for Jack Webb. I'll pulverize ya! the script would say. Murray would change it to, Say, how'd you like to end up as six feet of lumps?
He wrote the nation's best sports column for 37 delicious years at the Los Angeles Times, but, come to think of it, the column was about sports sort of the way Citizen Kane was about sleds.