Wednesday’s Book Review: “Last King of the Sports Page: The Life and Career of Jim Murray”


thCA7J0ORQLast King of the Sports Page: The Life and Career of Jim Murray. By Ted Geltner. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2012.

As the editor of the “Sports and American Culture” series published by the University of Missouri Press, I was most pleased to see this book come to fruition. It is a superb addition to the series.

Many younger sports fans, unfortunately, do not know who Jim Murray was. No question, he was a one of the most significant sports writers of the twentieth century. Although he held a number of positions, including as one of the early journalists working for “Sports Illustrated,” he is most noted for his longstanding sports columns in the Los Angeles Times. From that position in the sports hierarchy Murray wrote highly personal, sometimes moving, oftentimes humorous, and always insightful columns on all manner of sports activities, personalities, and happenings. His voice was a unique one, along with such contemporaries as Jerome Holtzman, Shirley Povich, and a couple of other columnists. For the years that he was active, especially the 1950s and 1960s, Murray was one of the top five columnists in the U.S. As an elder statesmen in the sports reporting world in the 1980s and 1990s, he still had a profound impact on the course of journalism.

Among many other aspects of this book, I was moved by Murray’s championing of desegregation in sports, and especially his criticism of the segregated University of Alabama football team in 1961. For his stand in the LA Times Murray was accused of every vile action imaginable and every name one could come up with. Murray was right and the segregationists were wrong; it is amazing how hard it was to force major football powers in the American South to enroll African Americans that would greatly advance the excellence of these teams. Even when the direct result of desegregation could be measured in more wins and fewer losses on the field the reluctance, and the vehemence with which it was opposed, was palpable.

Tim Geltner’s biography of Jim Murray is superb.

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