Greatest sports figures in L.A. history, No. 19: Jim Murray
No. 19, Jim Murray (no first-place votes, 550 points).
Jim Murray was the master of the written word in a golden era of Los Angeles media that included the greatness of the spoken word from the likes of Vin Scully, Chick Hearn and Bob Miller. They each had a sport to describe. Murray had the universe.
He was one of just a handful of sportswriters ever to win a Pulitzer Prize and he did it by painting a daily Picasso on the sports pages of the Los Angeles Times.
If you were a sports figure, he gave you his own dimensions. On the famous jockey: “Billy Shoemaker was born 2 pounds 4 ounces, and it was the only edge he ever needed in life.” Or, describing a boxer at weigh-in: “Buster Douglas looked like something that should be flying over a Thanksgiving Day parade.”
If you were a city, the wonderful needle was ever-present: “They haven’t finished the stadium in Cincinnati yet, because Kentucky had the cement mixer last year.”
Most sportswriters make enemies along the way. Murray made none. Most sportswriters struggle to get athletes to sit for interviews. With Murray, they lined up, just waiting for him to come.
People read papers back then by the millions, and a big portion of those in Los Angeles did so mainly because of Jim Murray.
Photo: Los Angeles Times sports writer Jim Murray after winning the Pulitzer prize in 1990. Credit: Los Angeles Times