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Heavyweight Championship of the Word
Jeff MacGregor
September 25, 2000
In an era when America's great sportswriters were as big as the athletes they covered, W.C. Heinz may have been the best of the bunch
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September 25, 2000

Heavyweight Championship Of The Word

In an era when America's great sportswriters were as big as the athletes they covered, W.C. Heinz may have been the best of the bunch

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Heinz kept working, more pieces for the magazines, including Great Day at Trickem Fork, a breakthrough Saturday Evening Post piece on the Selma peace marches, and another successful book, M*A*S*H, which he cowrote in 1968 with Dr. H. Richard Hornberger under the pseudonym Richard Hooker. In 1974 there was another novel, Emergency, an episodic account of life in a city trauma unit. He updated and collected his earlier work in Once They Heard the Cheers in 1979 and in American Mirror in 1982. Last year he coedited the Sports Illustrated Classics Book of Boxing, typing the foreword and introduction on that ancient Remington. Gayl, who's 49, lives down in Boxford, Mass., with her husband and their daughter.

As I say good night, Bill's helping Betty out of that chair by the window. "You ready for dinner, Mom?" are the last words I hear.

What Bill Heinz knows and what Bill Heinz wrote is that life is the biggest fix of them all, and every one of us was bought the day we were born. Maybe you can pick the round you go down, or hold out for more money, or book yourself into the main event in a bigger room. But for all the training and the roadwork, for all the hours and weeks and years spent in patient, useless practice, for all the effort and hunger of it, the brutality and the sweetness of it too, the battering and the circling and the moments of perfect, silent pain or crazy, transcendent peace, on your feet or on your knees or on your ass, you know how this fight is going to end.

What Bill Heinz knows and what Bill Heinz wrote is that the dignity, the nobility of it all, lies in the fighting itself and in taking the thing as deep into the late rounds as you can. Bill and I talk about that fight on the phone these days, checking up on each other. A few weeks ago, dizzy, he fell and cracked his head on the mantel. Gashed like he'd been butted in a clinch. I ask if he's O.K.

"Oh sure," he says, "just another writer still beating his head against the wall."

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