Forget Ring Lardner, Grantland Rice, and the others. Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times
was not merely the best writer but the single greatest sports columnist who ever lived—
period. Known for his highly descriptive metaphors and phrasing—e.g., “a strike zone the size
of Hitler’s heart”—Murray was a poet.
Time magazine sent the Connecticut native to Hollywood in 1948 to cover the movies. But it was at the Los Angeles Times (1961–1998) that Murray made his mark. The paper had
experienced tremendous growth, and Murray had free rein to cover virtually any topic in his
sports column. He defended pitcher Don Drysdale against accusations of poor
sportsmanship, waxed rhapsodic about Willie Mays, and praised light-heavyweight
champion Archie Moore as “the Rembrandt of boxing.” But Murray’s influence was greatest
when he spoke out against segregated college football in the South. After being subjected to
several of Murray’s public scoldings, the University of Alabama finally allowed Bear Bryant
to erase the school’s long-standing color line.
Steven Travers provides an in-depth look at a man whose influence went far beyond the
baseball diamond and the boxing ring.