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KING OF THE SPORTS PAGE
Rick Reilly
April 21, 1986
Jim Murray, who reigns as America's premier sports columnist, keeps 'em laughing despite a series of tragedies that have burdened his life
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April 21, 1986

King Of The Sports Page

Jim Murray, who reigns as America's premier sports columnist, keeps 'em laughing despite a series of tragedies that have burdened his life

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"If you can get over here in the next five minutes, she said she'd like to meet you."

Murray threw $2 on the table, grabbed his coat and headed for the door. Outside, his nightclub buddy caught up with him.

"I'm coming, too," he said.

"Why?" Murray asked.

"Because those two girls were mad enough to kill one of us, and it wasn't going to be you."

Murray married the girl at the piano, Gerry Brown, and theirs was a 38-year date. Folks say you've never seen two people carry on so. The Murrays appeared to be happiest at the piano, with Gerry playing (she was an accomplished pianist) and Jim belting out maudlin Irish songs. "If the phone rang at two in the morning, you knew who it was," says Tom McEwen of The Tampa Tribune . "It was the Murrays saying, 'All right, what do you want to hear?' And you'd say, 'Well, whatever you feel like.' And Murray would break into Galway Bay."

Murray longed to be a foreign correspondent—"and wear a trench coat and carry a Luger"—but when TIME called with $7,000 a year, he took it. Over the years he worked on a dozen cover stories on such subjects as Mario Lanza, the Duke, Betty Hutton and Marlon Brando.

"You'd go knock on Brando's door," Murray says, "and you'd knock and you'd knock for an hour and he'd never answer it. But as soon as you walked away, he'd fling it open and cackle like a rooster."

Humphrey Bogart became a friend, too. "He was the kind of guy who'd get nasty after a couple of drinks. What's the old line? 'A couple of drinks and Bogart thinks he's Bogart.' That's how he was.... But I remember when he was dying, his wife, Lauren Bacall, would allow him only one drink a day, and if I was coming over he'd wait, because he knew I'd have it with him."

When a sports assignment in Los Angeles came up at TIME, Murray got it—by default. His proclivity for sports was so strong that, in 1953, when Henry Luce decided to launch a sports magazine, Murray was asked to help start it up. He did, and a year later SPORTS ILLUSTRATED was in print. Although Murray did return to TIME for a while, he eventually became SI's West Coast correspondent. In 1961 he jumped to the L.A. Times, where he was ready to take on the daily world of sports. Unfortunately, that world was not ready to take him on.

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