1 LAST KING OF THE SPORTS PAGE: THE LIFE AND CAREER OF JIM MURRAY 1919 1962 By TED GELTNER A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DE GREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2009
2 2009 Ted Geltner
3 To Jill, Cassie, Bethany and Luke
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank the members of my doctoral committee, Dr. William Mc Keen, Ted Spiker, Dr. Maria Coady and Dr. Ronald Rodgers for their support and guidance during the research and writing of this dissertation. Their assistance has been invaluable and without it this project would not have been possible. This project also w ould not have bee n possible without the help of the friends, relatives and colleagues of Jim Murray who were willing to answer my questions and offer suggestions as to the best way to pursu e this story. Among them were : Andy Crichton, Bill Christine, Bill Thomas, Blackie Sherrod, Bob Steiner, Carol Hamel, Bob Creamer, Frank Deford, Frank McCulloch, Furman Bisher, Gilbert Lilijedahl, Jack Disney, Jerry Suppicich, Joe Santley, Marge Everett, John Hall, Jon Sandberg, Eric Sandberg, Marie Hewins, Melvin Durslag Richard Patrissi, and valuable research he had previous ly conducted into the Murray family history. I also wish to acknowledge Dr. Mark Smith and Dr. Pat Miller of Valdosta S tate University for providing me with the support to pursue this project while at the same time helping to get me up and running as a lecturer and student newspaper advisor in the English Department at VSU. This project was greatly assisted by the researc h conducted by Peter Knapp at the Watkins Library at Trinity University, Ken Buckbee in Connecticut and Shane Wilson in Georgia. Thanks also to Dr. Winkler Weinberg for his medical wisdom. Together, Dr. David Bulla of Iowa State University and I began re search into the life of Jim Murray in 2006 and co authore d an article about Sports Illustrated Dr. Bulla graciously stepped aside and allowed me to pursue this dissertation, and for that I am grateful.
5 Linda McCoy Murray helped me more than I ever c o uld have hoped for or dreamt She did Jim wear when he wrote his columns friends and associates. And she invited me into her home, allowed me to spend hours sifting recreation director for four enjoyable days in La Quinta, California. For all of the above I will forever be in her debt. I wish to thank my parents Mike a nd Jane Geltner, for all of the tremendous love and support they have provided me, on this project and in many other pursuits through the years. They have offered unquestioning encour agement in all my pursuits, and I will never be able to adequately express my appreciation The trio of Cassie, Bethany and Luke Geltner provided ample assistance by both cheering me on as I struggled t whenever n eeded. They make my life better each and every day with their smiles and laughter. And above all, I am thankful to my wife, Jill, for making my life worth living She has patiently assisted me every step of the way toward this degree, and has always been willing to pick up the slack while I pursued my goals Even more, though, I am grateful to her for always being there to help me to remember what is truly important in life
6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENT S ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 8 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 9 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 11 A Short History of the Sports Column ................................ ................................ ................... 17 Methodology ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 22 Literature Review ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 23 The Jim Murray Archives ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 29 2 THE CONNEC TICUT YEARS, 1919 1943 ................................ ................................ .......... 34 A Place Called Sligo ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 34 A House Full of Uncles ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 37 ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 43 The First in the Family ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 46 Writing for Money ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 48 3 THE LOS ANGELES EXAMINER YEARS, 1944 1947 ................................ ........................ 60 ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 60 Life in the Big City ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 65 Of Passion and Crime and Greed ................................ ................................ ............................ 69 Love and M arriage ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 74 The Halls of Justice ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 80 We Slept With Our Shoes On ................................ ................................ ................................ 84 4 THE TIME YEARS, 1948 1953 ................................ ................................ ............................. 96 Joini ng the American Century ................................ ................................ ................................ 96 Hollywood Reporter ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 98 A Parade of Stars ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 101 Man of the World ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 105 Finding a Voice ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 109 A Hidden Talent Emerges ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 113
7 5 THE SPORTS ILLUSTRATED YEARS, 1953 1960 ................................ ............................ 118 ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 118 The Great Experiment ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 121 Part time Sportswriter ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 126 A Deadly Serious Fan ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 131 Ocean of Joy ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 135 A Fateful Choice ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 138 6 THE LOS ANGELES TIMES 1961 62 ................................ ................................ ................. 145 Megalopolis ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 145 A Good Man in a Bar ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 148 ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 150 Boys of Summer ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 152 Stirring the Pot ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 156 City Assassin ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 160 7 CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 169 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 175 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 180
8 LIST OF TABLES Table page 5 1 Topics covered in bylined articles authored by Jim Murray for Sports Illustrated 1954 1961. ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 131 6 1 or the Los Angeles Times 1961. .................... 153
9 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2 1 graph and entry in the 1943 Trinity Ivy. ................................ ............ 49 3 1 Jim Murray photograph, Los Angeles Examiner 1944 ................................ ..................... 74 6 1 Cartoon National Observer August 19, 1972. ................................ ............................... 165 7 1 Los Angeles Times ............ 172
10 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Pa rtial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy LAST KING OF THE SPORTS PAGE: THE LIFE AND CAREER OF JIM MURRAY, 1919 1962 By Ted Geltner August 2009 Chair: William McKeen Major: Mass Communication This dissertation is a biographical and historical narrative covering the first half of the life of journalist and sports columnist Jim Murray, one of only four sports writers to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. At the height of his career, Murray was syndicated in more than 200 newspapers in North America and was one of the most influential and beloved writers for more than three decades. Using an in qualitative interviews with his relatives, friends and colleagues, his story is chronicled here This dissertation follows Murray from his childhood, through his early journalism career in Los Angeles, through his 13 years in the Time/Life Corporation and finally to his ascension to the position o f sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times While writing for the Times Murray would become one of the most important journalists on the subject of sports and American culture. The author attempts to illustrate and explain the episodes between 1919 and 1962 that put Murray on the path toward his eventual accomplishments. Further, the author attempts to place in context the times and circumstances in which Murray developed his style, voice, and journalistic philosophy, and examine how those circumstances helped turn him into a nationally prominent sports columnist at the Times
11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Late in the afternoon on August 26, 1961, Jim Murray looked dejectedly out the window of his motel room, watching the rain wash through the streets of C incinnati below The same s game, which Murray had hope d to use as the subject of Los Angeles Times Murray was now starting hi s second week on the road with the Dodgers his second week living out of motel rooms, away from his wife and four kids back in Malibu The first week had taken the team through San Francisco and St. Louis and had included a string of eight consecutive los s second place position in the National League standings The mood among the Dodgers coaches, players and staff had gone steadily downhill. Tension ran high. Younger players were arguing with ea ch other, veterans were snapping at waitresses, coaches and managers were going nights without sleep. Just the day before, Dodger first baseman Norm Larker coming off a game in which he had struck out twice and dropped an easy foul ball, had nearly come to blows with one of the beat writers along for the trip The beat writer shook his head. ered. The response sent Larker into a rage. 1
12 It was in this atmosphere of losing and disgust that Murray struggled to think of a way to fill the 25 column in ches the sports desk at the Times would be expecting from him in a few 2 ), covering topic s from player nicknames to poker games to their sleeping habits on planes. But now the endless trip was sapping his creativity. As he struggled, he remembered some sage advice from a city editor many years before: 3 It was an epiphany that both gave Murray the impetus to fill those 25 inches, and sent his column in a direction that would catapult him into the national consciousness for the first time. Murray wrote: I seekers go th r ough on one of these road trips for the honor and glory of baseball. you have any sense, is territory he you an idea, the guys were kidding on the bus coming in here, and they decided that if war came, the Russians would by think it had already been bombed and taken. 4 Those three paragraphs, on that rainy afternoon, achieved the short term goal of chewing as that he also had gone a long way toward finding his voice as a sports columnist, a voice that, in the next four decades, would become arguably the most recognizable in American sports journalism.
13 The reaction was immediate. Murray later wrote that Los A ngeles is a city of transplants, and most of the 20,000 transplanted Cincinnatians living in Southern California clipped that column and sent it back to their hometown. By the time Murray and the Dodgers crawled back to Los Angeles, the column was in the h ands of the Cincinnati newspapers and the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. Murray was now known, and hated, in Southern Ohio. By the time the Reds met the New York Yankees in the World Series two months later, women were walking around the streets with home 5 Murray and his editors at the Times knew they had struck a nerve. Soon, he was taking on cities from coast to coast, even going on road trips to the remotes of Northern Canada with the Los Angeles Blades minor l eague hockey club in order to find suitable targets for his barbs. It would lead quickly to national syndication, elite status among his peers, and, eventually, national fame. But though it was his penchant for ribbing cities that gave him the boost he nee ded, Murray came to the role of Times columnist in early 1961 as a skilled writer and an experienced journalist. He already possessed the characteristics that would eventually lead to his success: an extensive knowledge of history and culture gained during childhood, a deep understanding of human nature and a personality that allowed him to relate to even the most adversarial of interview subjects, and, most memorably, a razor sharp wit with which he wrote laugh lines that would be repeated over and over by peers, readers and sports figures. white American male with a speech pattern that ranges somewhere between the sound a porpoise makes underwater and an Abyssinian rug merchant 6 About UCLA 7
14 Writing about oversized Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman Bill Bain, Murray said: or having twelve men on the 8 9 thick skin, poor hearing, and you like flying through blizzards, room service, old movies and Holiday Inns. A spy 10 acy of his years at the typewriter. But the millions of words he typed while churning out the more than 10,000 sports columns are filled with a much wider array of topics, styles and techniques. He wrote profiles that captured the essence of his subjects w ith humor and pathos, never glossing over the negative, but somehow almost never appearing overly critical. He traveled extensively, viewing the epic events of the second half of the 20 th century from press boxes across the nation and around the world. He principle that his job as a journalist was to report the news, even if the news had little to do with the final score. 11 His column became a must read in Southern California and beyond, with loyal readers, male and female, who looked to him for humor and sage commentary on issues throughout the world of sports and beyond. While h is contemporaries among sports columnists generally began their journalism careers covering sports in some fashion and worked their way up through the ranks, Murray took a different path, one that gave him a different perspecti ve, and it came across in his writing. In
15 the first two decades of his career, Murray apprenticed under the umbrella of two of the titans of 20 th Century American journalism, William Randolph Hearst and Henry Luce. As a crime Los Angeles Examiner in the 1940s, Murray covered the lurid tales of murder and betrayal in Hollywood and beyond. He wrote of death and mayhem, all in a sensational style that fed the cravings of the growing Los Angeles metropolis. As a Hollywood correspondent for Time magazin e, the beacon of the Luce Empire, he covered the elite of the motion picture industry. Along the way he developed relationships with the movie stars and moneymen of the day, from Bogart to Wayne to Brando. When Luce had the idea to start the first national sports magazine, Murray was one of the team of editors and writers he handpicked to launch the publication. It was Luce, Murray said, who turned him into a sports writer. 12 Murray was instrumental in the development of Sports Illustrated and then spent t he next six years covering the West Coast for the magazine (while simultaneously covering Los Angeles for Time and Life .) From this journalism education, he moved seemingly effortlessly into the role of sports columnist. Because he spent all those years c journalism second class citizen status that many sports writers hang onto. Instead, he used his background and skills to expand the nature of the role he was given. His knowledge of Los Angeles history and culture, both within sports and beyond, allowed him to develop a feel for the could be found on the front of the Times sports section without fail, six days a week (though he was rarely seen within the walls of the Los Angeles Times headquarters.) Though he confronted his share of physical and personal hardship in his life, including two heart surgeries, temporary blindness and the loss of his wife and youngest son, he rarely missed a column. He complained,
16 as many of the great columnists do, that the column took over his life. It became both his just like any o 13 By the time Murray was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1990, he had become one of the elder statesmen of American sports wri ters. He lived among celebrities in Bel Air, California. With a vacation home in Palm Springs, he fed his life long love of the game of interview with Murr ay like a meeting with the Pope. He acquired journalism awards like the Yankees acquired pennants. He won national sports writer of the year 14 times, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and received innumerable honorary degrees and honors, accept ing each and every one with humor and grace. The status he had achieved late in life was illustrated at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Murray was 72 years old. This was the year of the USA Dream Team, an assemblage of American basketball st ars the likes of which had never been seen, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and a team full of internationally known names. The hype surrounding the team had reached astronomical levels. Anticipation ran high among the media and throug hout the Olympic Village. On arrival, Johnson, head coach Chuck Daly and some other members of the team were brought in by officials from the Olympic Committee for a press conference with the entire international press corps. The interview room was packed shoulder to shoulder. After a short question period, an Olympic official abruptly cut off the microphones and shut down the proceedings.
17 The crowd, which had been shuffling papers and heading for the exits, refocused on the dais. The Olympic official sneered at Johnson, but grudgingly turned the microphones back on. Quietly, Murray asked his question. 14 A Short History of the Sports Colu mn 20 th century, those that created the genre, as it does with his contemporaries or those who followed him. Sports journalism in America was an outgrowth of America recreation, which began to develop in earnest during the early 19 th century. Spectator sports, starting with horse racing, and followed by prize fighting and eventually baseball, gathered popularity throughout the 19 th century, and coverag e of such events followed suit. The first genuine sports publication was American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine a monthly magazine devoted to horse racing results, breeding and care, which debuted in 1829. Spirit of the Times a sports journal which covered a variety of sporting pursuits, began publishing in 1831 and was the first successful publication of its kind. Spirit lasted for a good part of the century and eventually began covering baseball as the popularity of that sport exploded in the U.S. The cover sports events on a regular basis. 15 The influence of American newspapers grew exponentially with the rise of the Penny Press, which began in New York in the 1830s. Before, newspapers were largely published for focus on political news. Starting with the New York Sun in 1833, a new type of publication appeared w
18 These new publications were the progenitors of the general newspapers that would become prevalent in the 20 th century. These newspapers operated in part based on advertising rev enue, were circulated mainly through street sales, and moved away from political partisanship and toward objective news reporting. 16 The success of these new entities sent editors looking for new topics with which to entertain the masses. New York daily ne wspapers like the Sun the New York Herald and the New York Transcript began covering prize fights, horse racing and track in the 1830s. The growth in the popularity of baseball led to interest in that emerging sport, and interest in college football soon followed. Newspapers prior to the Civil War used general assignment reporters to contribute sports coverage, or accepted submissions from subscribers. A few papers employed regular horse racing writers, often specialists with a connection to the horse indu stry. 17 By the later part of the 19 th century, however, sports writing took another step in its evolution, with the New York World leading the charge, offering a sports section as early as th e 1870s, leading newspapers in most large American cities began to hire trained sporting editors with staffs specifically dedicated to the coverage of sports. 18 The top writers of sports at the leading newspapers began to gain name recognition among fans an d participants. Joe Vila of the Sun became associated with college football coverage, and the general public first became aware of Damon Runyon through his sports writing in the Denver Post and the New York American As the century came to a close, spectat or sports were increasingly becoming a part of the everyday existence of the American population. Major sporting events, such as heavyweight championship prize fights, major horse races and, starting in 1903, the baseball World Series, became national obse ssions that would attract tens of thousands of spectators and hundreds of sports writers from across the country.
19 Some newspaper writers gained fame for their writing during these years, including Arthur Brisbane of the Sun Charles Dryden of the Philadelp hia North American H.R.H. Smith of the New York Times Ring Lardner of the Chicago Tribune and others. 19 Murray read Lardner in his youth and referred to him regularly in his writing and when discussing the Golden Age of sports throughout his life. It was that Golden Age that produced the first large wave of sports columnists, as we understand the term today: a newspaper writer whose work appears on a regular basis, with his or her name prominently displayed, and producing a mixture of opinion, reporting, humor and anecdote, usually with a personal style that sets the writing apart from the objective sports th century phenomenon. Prior to about 1920, the term columnist was used to describe humorists sketch writers and contributors of satire and miscellany. Often, these writers were talented subscribers to the newspaper who contributed their efforts on a regular basis, and many gained strong followings. Some popular humorists were widely syndicated b affairs that was carried widely in American newspapers through the 1930s. After the turn of the century, feature syndicates picked up on the popularity of such offerings and developed a wide variety of columns, which would be offered daily or every other day, on politics, art, music, sports, travel, and a variety of other subjects. 20 Political columns first ga ined wide syndication serious political analysis by Washington correspondents from major newspapers that were in turn pmann, first writing for the New York World and later for the New York Herald Tribune
20 columnist. Other poli Go the scenes commentary on the ways of Washington and the political class. 21 In the 1920s, spectator sports truly exploded in America. The Jazz Age had ar rived. America was booming economically, enjoying newfound power in the world, and Americans were spending more of their money on recreation and frivolous pursuits. With the arrival of radio, the population was more aware than ever of events outside of the ir personal spheres. Sports leagues and promoters capitalized on this growing prosperity and interest, and the sports media was right there beside them. The Golden Age of Sports was also golden for sports writers, who became as highly paid and well known a s the athletes they covered. 22 This was also the age of sportswriter as myth maker. Sports columnists turned out thousands upon thousands of column inches on the top athletes in the most popular sports, creating legends that ignored human foibles and saniti zed the lives of the athletes for an adoring public. Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Bobby Jones, Red Grange and many others were turned into national icons, adored by millions, in large part due to the sports pages of newspapers, which at the time was still by f ar the dominant information source. (Radio was still in its infancy, but quickly gaining influence.) In turn, writers such as Lardner, Paul Gallico of the New York Daily News Heywood Broun of the New York Morning Telegraph and Grantland Rice of the New Yo rk Herald Tribune developed name recognition and deep followings that went beyond their home cities. Rice was the dean of sports writers, by far the most famous and influential of the era. In 1925, when Babe Ruth was at the height of his celebrity and was rewriting baseball record books and single
21 than the next highest paid baseball player. Rice earned the same figure. 23 ed the sports column and the role of sports columnist on the American sporting scene. Historians divide writers of this era into two camps: These writers were the m ythmakers who painted the athletes as larger than life in their columns. subjects and poked holes in the heroes that were created by their sports writing brethren. Wi th the arrival of the Great Depression and World War II, American journalism in general, and sports writing specifically, became more adversarial. Sports columnists lurched toward the cynical side of the spectrum. A second generation of sports columnists a rrived, led by Arthur Daley of the New York Times Stanley Woodward of the New York Herald Tribune and, Red Smith, who during this era wrote for the Philadelphia Record and the Herald Tribune 24 Smith wrote his first column in 1936 25 and his writing chang ed the nature of what a reader could expect from a sports column. He counted Ernest Hemingway among his fans, and his writing was studied by literature classes at Harvard and Yale. A master of irony and an uncompromising devotee of literature, Smith was th most widely syndicated sports columnist by the end of the 1940s (Rice remained the first.) 26 Jim Murray would quickly ascend to the upper echelons of the profession when he joined the Los Angeles Times in 1961, and it would be Smith whom Murray would be compared to most often throughout his career. By the time Murray joined the press box, television, which first appeared in 1947 and became ingrained in American life during the 1950s, had fundamentally changed the role of newspaper sports journalism. Print journalism had long since given up the primary role of
22 reporting sports results; columnists had to provide something that went far deeper than what a television viewer could see. Murray was at the vanguard of that evolution at Sports Illu strated in century old tradition of the American sports column. Methodology This dissertation is primarily a historical narrative. The author has extensively exa mined and attempted to interpret primary sources related to the life and career of Jim Murray. These include his published writings in newspapers, magazines and books as well as his available personal and business correspondence, unpublished writing, notes clippings, personal collections and all other documentation available to the author. Secondary sources were consulted. Those include books and articles authored by friends and colleagues of Murray, as well as historical accounts of the journalistic enter prises in which he was involved and historical accounts of the times in which he lived and the industry in which he worked. In addition, the author conducted qualitative interviews with a number of relatives, friends and colleagues of Murray. All of the a bove materials were evaluated by the author, and when contradictory or unsatisfactory information was discovered, the author used his best judgment to determine the source or credibility of the information in question. For example, some articles published in newspapers were not attributed to Murray in the particular publication, but the author makes the confronted with incomplete historical records, the author atte mpted to use caution and recognize the limitations of the available materials in order to make the best possible appraisal of the materials. 27 The author analyzed all of the available materials and attempted to create an accurate and coherent composition.
23 Literature Review This section examines the literature that relates to the journalism career of Jim Murray, examines some of the works that relate to the media e ntities for which Murray worked, as well as some of the men and women whom he worked for and with. This section also includes some were helpful in the researc hing and writing of this project. In regards to scholarly research, very little has been undertaken in the area of sports journalism that directly relates to the work of Jim Murray. Academic researchers have generally exhibited a news bias and have tended to ignore most aspects of sports journalism. Journalism Quarterly did not even have a subheading for sports until 1963. However, more attention has been paid to sports related research in recent years. Most of the research can be placed in three categories : 1) studies of sports news content that address the question of what and how sports gets covered; 2) studies of specific sports writers; and 3) studies of consumers of sports content. 28 The great majority of the available literature on sports journalism hi story comes from newspapers, magazines and general interest books written by historians and sports writers. In 1993, Murray published an autobiography, aptly titled Jim Murray: An Autobiography 29 About one third of the material he covered relates directly to his own life and career; the remaining chapters deal, sport by sport, with the major personalities and issues Murray wrote about during his time as a columnist. Murray told friends and relatives at the time that he had difficulty writing about his own life. The result is a book that reads like extended Murray sports columns in most sections. However, the chapters that are not sports related are rich in anecdotes concerning his childhood and career and provide a roadmap to incidents, people and issues th at were important to him at various points in his life.
24 The Best of Jim Murray was released in 1965 and includes columns, which Murray chose, from the February of 1961, when he first started writing for the Los Angeles Times to 1965. The Sporting World of Jim Murray was published in 1968, and contains columns written from 1965 to 1968. The Jim Murray Collection ins columns written between 1969 and 1982. Two compilations were published posthumously by the Times: Jim Murray: The Last of the Best and Jim Murray: The Great Ones which is a sport by sport collection of profiles written by Murray about the most well known of his sports subjects. The Last of the Best includes speeches after his death. On the Road w is a diary nearly completely blind. Scheibe, a Times sports copy editor at the time, was assigned to Murray by the Time s. He chauffeured Murray to his day to day assignments and assisted Murray in all aspects of his job. He accompanied Murray on a number of road trips, including to the 1979 World Series in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The account offers a glimpse into Mu and professional life, and examines the Times peers and acquaintances. Reporter: Memoirs of a Young Newspaperman consists of reminiscences of the Los Angeles newspaper industry in the 1940s. The book includes a chapter devoted to Los Angeles Examiner in 1943 and the two became lifelong friends. Fowler details the relationship between the two, as well as covering
25 significa of the Examiner during that era, and includes profiles of and anecdotes related to many of 30 Another resource that covers that era of Los Angeles newspaper journalism is Red Ink White Lies: The Rise and Fall of Los Angeles Newspapers 1920 to 1962 by Rob Leicester Wagner. Wagner chronicles the battles between the several major daily newspapers that operated in Los Angeles during those years. Wagner interviewed Murray twice during the research for the book. Several of the major stories that Murray worked on are documented in Red Ink Wagner highlights the intense battles for scoops and readership that took place during the height o f the Los Angeles newspaper wars, following the story from the peak of newspaper activity through the eventual demise of several newspapers, concluding in 1962, when the Times accelerated its rise to market domination. 31 years at the Examiner penned memoirs that delve Newspaperwoman by Agness Underwood, is the autobiography of the first female city editor on a major metropolitan Am erican newspaper. Underwood eventually rose to the position of assistant managing editor of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner for the Hearst chain. Murray served under Underwood on the Examiner rewrite desk and worked closely with her through his years on th For the Life of Me: Memoirs of a City Editor also includes sections focusing on the Examiner city room during the 1940s. Richardson was the city editor for the Examiner who hired Murray in 1943, and served in that
26 role in a number of high profile stories the two worked on together on the Examiner staff. Murray spent his formative years working for the Hearst chain. A number of books have Cit izen Hearst follows the growth of the Hearst Corporation, the evolution of the Hearst style of journalism, and William Randolph Hearst: A Portrait in His Own Words edited by Edmond D. Coblentz, is a collection of Hearst with many aspects of his business and journalistic philosophy. The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst by David Nasaw, is a more recent examination of the life of Hearst. The author had the benefit of examini Murray had little or no contact with Hearst, but he became a close confidant and personal friend of Henry Luce, whom he worked for from 1947 to 1961. Like Hearst, Luce had been the subject of numerous bio graphies and historical accounts. Henry Luce and the Rise of the American News Media is a scholarly treatment of the life of Luce which places him in the broader context of American journalism and examines the innovations and attitudes that came about due to the influence of the Time Inc., empire. The rise of Time, Inc. and the development of the Luce Empire are chronicled in The Powers That Be examines the rise of the modern American media through portraits of four moguls Luce, Norman Chandler of the Los Angeles Times William Paley of CBS, and Phillip Graham of the Washington Post The book provides insight into Chandler and his son Otis, who was the publisher of the Times whom Murray also had a close personal and professional relationship. Thinking Big: The Story of the Los Angeles Times, Its Publishers, and Their Influence on Southern California by Robert Gottlieb and Irene Wolf, is
27 a more in depth look at the Chandler cl an which follows the story through the mid 1970s, when the Times was at its peak of profitability. Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and The Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty by former Times reporter Dennis McDougal, is a more recent examination of the Chandler empire, placing more of the focus on the years in which Otis Chandler held the reigns. McDougal gives Otis Chandler much of the credit for transforming the Times from a second rate, poorly run operation into one of the premiere media entities in A merica during the second half of the 20 th century. McDougal also argues that unbridled greed and personal dysfunction led to the ultimate failure and end of the Chandler dynasty. Sports Illustrated under the auspices of The Franchise: A History of Sports Illustrated Magazine a scholarly look at the genesis of the magazine and its evolution from the urray as part of his research for The Franchise A section of the book is devoted to the initial planning and production of the with Sports Illustrated through 1961 when he left Time, Inc. for the Los Angeles Times The subject of the growth and development of sports journalism in America is covered by a variety of academic publications. In addition, a number of anecdotal recollections exist on the subject in book form, thanks to the penchant sports writers have for the relating of their press box war stories. by John Rickard Betts, examines the growth of sports and recreation in America from the social, cultural and economic perspectiv es. Betts devotes a significant amount of space to the early pioneers in sports reporting and the effect of technological advancement of the early 20 th century on the rise of spectator sports and its coverage. Betts also ties the growth of the sporting pre ss to the increase in leisure time in the
28 lives of most Americans from the 1920s forward. He chronicles the enormous growth in the interest in sports across America during the eras of prosperity following World War I and World War II. Sport: Mirror of Amer ican Life by Robert Boyle, is an examination of the impact of sport on life in America and the relationship between the two. Boyle was a colleague of Sports Illustrated through the 1950s. He researched Sport during a series of assignments for the magazine. The book includes chapters that follow the rise of sports in the United States from colonial times through the 1960s. It also looks at the ways various levels of American society view sports and how sport had become ingrained in the American psyche. Boyle also deals with controversial cultural issues such as race, class and gender and how they Sports Reporting t of sports journalism has 32 Garrison outlines the careers of some of the most famous and influential sports writers and columnists from the earliest sp orts coverage through the 1970s. Garrison includ es M urray in the generation of writers who flourished in the second half of the 20 th century. The seminal work when it comes to an anecdotal history of American sport s writing is No Cheering in the Press Box Holtzman was a sports writer himself. From 1971 through 1973, he conducted interviews with 44 sportswriters who were part of the two generations of sports journalists prior to his. No Cheering contains 24 of these interviews Together, they offer a view from the inside of the changes that took place in sports coverage from the ear ly part of the century through the period in which Murray joined the fray. Some of and Jimmy Cannon are included among the interviewees. Stanley Woodward, a sport swriter of some renown through the middle part of the
29 century, wrote Sports Page in 1949. The book examines every aspect of the profession at the time from the point of view of a working writer, and provides a n enlightening view of the state of the profess Woodward included a chapter about sports columnists, which provides an interesting description of the syndication process and the importance of columnists to the public persona of a newspaper. A m uc h more current look at the life of a sports columnist is included in The Rise and Fall of the Press Box completed two weeks before his death in June of 2003. Koppett was a lifelong sports reporter and columnist in New York and Los Ange les starting in 1947. His book is both a which overlapped very closely with that of Murray. Koppett argues that the prestige and exclusivity of the press box and the inner circle of sports journalism w as slowly eroded, first by television and later by the rise of the Pond Scum & Vultures: bout Their Glamorous Profession is a humorous look at sports writin g in the modern era, containing anecdotes and episodes mostly from the 1970s and 1980s The Jim Murray Archives ection of letters, documents, notes, clippings, scorecards, articles, newspapers photos and assorted other materials constitute an extremely rich resource from b elongings are housed in the home of his widow, Linda McCoy Murray, in La Quinta, Calif ornia Murray was a pack rat who saved artifacts from his life including his first job i n journalism as well as some mementos from his childhood. He spent considerably less time organizing that
30 which he s aved. McCoy Murray has done considerable organization al work in the years since his d eath, but to date there are still boxes of artifacts t hat remain in the condition that he left them. From examination of the materials, it appears Murray began saving clippings of his articles when he first started as a full time professional journalist, for the New Haven Register in June of 1943. Several fol de rs contain clips, cut and glued on cardboard sometimes accompanied by handwritten notes explaining his inv olvement or the editing process. These clips date to his time at the Register and include clips from his years at the Examiner The majority of the articles Murray clipped were published without a byline (as did most of his published writing during these years) so it can be assumed that he was saving clips of his own published writing Murray worked out of his home for the last 38 years of his care er and kept his own filing system, which has been left largely untouched. The cabinet is organized by subject. A subject Brooklyn Dodgers moving to Los A ngeles in 1958 alongside clippings about M ark McGuire run record during the summer of 1998, and mat erial from the intervening decades as well. The files also contain some personal correspondence related to each particular subject. Also contained within his files are pages upon pages of the research and background reporting that Murray did during his years at Time, Inc. Since Time did not publish bylines during those years, these pages of research are invaluable in determining which stories and subjects Murray was involved with during the period between 1947 and 1961. In addition, the files contain hundreds of articles he clipped from other publications, presumably as ideas and research for his own columns. McCoy Murray has devo ted a good portion of her organizational effor ts to date to Murray saved letters from famous readers, sources friends, acquaintances and colleagues throughout his life. He saved very few of the letters he
31 wrote himself, however. The majority of the letters i n his collection are from people he featured in his column thanking him for his coverage, but there are also a great many that document disputes or substantive discussions concerning the content of his column and related issues. (A folder in his filing sys Murray answered fan mail out of his home office has well, but little of the mail he receiv ed from readers has been saved. Also included among the letters and within the filing system are work employers and supervisors, from editing comments concerning stories he had filed to mundane requests for vacation pay and medical insurance. Murray also kept files of his own published writing, the majority of which are copies of his columns from his year s at the Times He also worked on a freelance basis for dozens of newspapers, magazines and other publications during his life. Some of these efforts have been saved as well. Murray clipped articles written by others about him, including profiles, book rev iews, public appearances, etc., and he also saved many clipping about himself that were sent to him by friends and readers. Some unpublished works, mostly undated, are hidden throughout Though McCoy Murray has given away some o f his books, m ost of his collection remains, some titles dating back to childhood. An auction was held for some of his that w ent in the auction remain in his personal collection. The preceding is an incomplete description of what is currently available to researchers based on a three day survey of the materials in February of 2009. A more thorough examination of the contents is needed, as is a professional arch iving of the materials that remain in McCoy 1 Jim Murray Los Angeles Times August 25, 1961.
32 2 J Los Angeles Times August 24, 1961. 3 Los Angeles Times January 31, 1962. 4 Los Angeles Times August 26, 1961. 5 The Dayton Journal Herald February 13, 1974. 6 Linda McCoy Murray, Quotable Jim Murray: The Literary Wit, Wisdo m and Wonder of a Distinguished American Sports Columnist (Nashville, TN: TowelHouse Publishing, 2003), 20. 7 Ibid., 31. 8 Ibid., 50. 9 Ibid., 40. 10 Ibid., 25. 11 Los Angeles Times November 29, 1961. 12 Jim Murray, Jim Murray: An Autobiography (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 193), 42. 13 Los Angeles Times March 12, 1961. Murray wrote those lines after only one month on the job. 14 Frank Deford, interview by author, DATE. 15 William A. Harper, How You Played the Game: The Life of Grantland Rice (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1999), 5 7. 16 Edwin Emery and Michael Emery, The Press and America: An Interpretive History of the Mass Media 5 th Ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, In c., 1984), 140 143. 17 Bruce Garrison, Sports Reporting (Ames, IO: Iowa State University Press, 1985), 225 226. 18 Harper, How You Played the Game, 8. 19 Garrison, Sports Reporting 228 229. 20 Frank Luther Mott, American Journalism: A History: 1690 1960 3 rd Ed. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1962), 689 691. 21 Ibid., 691. 22 Garrison, Sports Reporting 230. 23 Charles Fountain, Sportswriter: The Life and Times of Grantland Rice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 206 207. Jack Dempsey was the only ath lete who earned more money than Rice during the 1920s. 24 Garrison, Sports Reporting 231. 25 New York Times January 16, 1982.
33 26 Fountain, Sportswriter 270. 27 James D. Startt and Wm. David Sloan, Historical Methods in Mass Communications (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1989), 139. 28 Handbook of Sports Media edited by Arthur A. Raney and Jennings Bryant, (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, 2006), 105 106. 29 30 Fowler, who died in 2003, also produ 31 Rob Leicester Wagner, interview by author, January, 2009. 32 Garrison, Sports Reporting 223.
34 CHAPTER 2 THE CONNECTICUT YEARS, 1919 1943 A Place Called Sligo 1 In fact, Murray first came into the world jus t three days before the dawn of the 1920s, the Jazz Age, the years that he would suffer along with the rest of America through the Great Depression. The suffering he would live through as a young child, including two near fatal diseases, the divorce of his parents and the constant shuffling of the adults in his life, was his and his alone. Murray was born on December 29, 1919, at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Con necticut. 2 By then, the Murrays had been in America for two generations. Before that, the Murrays were a close knit clan from near the small village of Knockawer, outside Tobbercurry in County Sligo in the farm country of Northeastern Ireland. Family reco land owned jointly by members of the Murray family. The family subsisted on cattle and sheep farming, as did their neighbor s and the rest of the rural region around Knockawer. It was an isolated existence. Occasional trips for supplies to the town of Sligo were the extent of contact fi ve siblings, all of whom would join the second wave of Irish immigration during the final third of the 19 th century. 3 According to family lore, Michael Murray had the same feeling about Ireland that Jim would have 80 years later about Connecticut: a strong desire to be somewhere else. Michael left Ireland at the age of 17, and always said he would have left much sooner if he Jim wrote. 4
35 Michael Murray and his siblings were part of a wave of Irish immigration to the United States that had been going on for most of the century. The Irish Potato Famine of 1845 to 1849 caused unimaginable hardship in Ireland and left a population ripe for exodus, but the tide of immigration was already going strong by the time the famine began. Including the great famine, there were five catastrophic famines between 1818 and 1847. About 2 million people died of disease and starvation, which consti tuted nearly a quarter of the Irish population. The Great Famine, though, was a turning point. Many Irish believed they were sacrificed for the survival of the British merchant class. Feeling toward America, however, was just the opposite. Help came from t hose who had already made the move to America. In most major American cities, organizations raised funds for victims of the famine. American relief ships brought cargoes of corn and clothing. The federal government and members of U.S. Congress became invol ved in relief efforts. The response to Irish suffering played a large role in convincing the population of Ireland that America was their promised land. 5 In 1860, around the time that young Michael Murray and his siblings came to America, the Irish made u p about 40 percent of the foreign born population of the United States. Irish immigrants were coming to America at the rate of about 50,000 per year. The majority of them ended up in the Northeast or Illinois. By the end of the century, the Irish populatio n of America exceeded the population of Ireland itself. The first generation of Irish immigrants generally found work as laborers, doing the heavy lifting that was needed in urban America. They were masons, bricklayers, carpenters and sweat shop workers, l ongshoremen, street cleaners, tailors and stevedores. 6 Michael Murray settled in Hartford, Connecticut, in the late 1870s. He had married Bridget Gallagher prior to immigration, and by the early 1880s, he was employed by the Pratt & Whitney Company of Hart ford, where he would work for the rest of his life as a
36 machinist. 7 Pratt & Whitney was a successful firm that produced industrial machinery, and later in life Michael Murray spent his working days building airplane engines for commercial and military use. 8 His occupation was a stable source of income that kept the family fed and clothed, and helped the next generation of Murrays live through the Great Depression. The Murrays lived comfortably in Hartford, and before 1920 moved to West Hartford, a small, af fluent suburb of Hartford. 9 most of his childhood and would play an enormous role in his development. They died within four months of each other in 1934. 10 James P. Murray, Ji October 31, 1889. Jim wrote very little about his father, so little written description of him exists. James was by all accounts a good student and a sparkling wit. In fact, he was s upposed to be the first of the Murrays to attend college. A display of Irish stubbornness, however, kept that from happening. Late in his senior year of high school, James came to Latin class without having or not to call on him, and after agreeing, the out of school. E ven after a deal was struck in which an apology would get James back into school and back on the road to graduation, he refused to apologize. He never graduated from high school, and instead of matriculating to Trinity College, where his son Jim would go 2 0 years later, he became a pharmacist. 11 old 12 and settled in New London, Connect icut. Molly worked as a nurse through most of her
37 adult life. James and Molly had three children. Mary Elizabeth, known as Betty, was born in 1918, Jim in 1919, and Eleanor, born two years later. During these years, James was a successful druggist, at one time owning three separate pharmacies in the Hartford area. It was in the early A House Full of Uncles When he was four years old Jim Murray had what his family called a nervous breakdown. 13 What he actually had was an obscure disease called Saint Vitus Dance, or patient to lose control of his limbs, to lose the ability to walk, to twitch wildly, and to exhibit facial grimacing. 14 Saint Vitus Dance is often associated with streptococcal infection such as strep throat, and can last for months, which was likely the case with Murray. A disease of this nature can throw a family into chaos even with mod ern be most of the rest of his childhood. Things had already bee insurance clerk, living in the household as well. 15 Prohibition had been in effect s ince 1920, and no different. He kept a water cooler filled with gin in his shops, as did almost every other pharmacy in Hartford. Liquor laws were indiscrimin ately enforced, and after James got into a feud with a local cop, 16 the law came down on him. At 2 a.m. on January 13, 1922, police officers took him from his bed and brought him to the Hartford Police Station for booking. He was bailed out by his father fo r $1,000 twelve hours later. The arrest made the front page of the
38 Hartford Courant. The newspaper reported that police had arrested a bootlegger named Michael Delaney two days earlier. Liquor valued at thousands of dollars had be two days. Justice moved quick in Hartford at the time; Delaney was already serving a 60 day sentence in Hartford County Jail by the time James Murray was hauled down to the precinct. 17 James Murray pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the case went to court on January 28. testimony of Delaney, who claimed to have sold nine cases of scotch to Murray, which were part of a shipment of liquor that had been stolen from Delaney. As reported in the Courant it is difficult to understand why Murray and his lawyer fought the charges in court. Murray admitted to agreeing to buy t he scotch from Delaney and admitted to receiving the scotch. His lawyer seemed to be something deeper involved in the case than what was disclosed in court. Wit h or a business owner was effectively over. 18 Whether it was the strain of their legal and financial problems or the stress of a child with a major illness, t he marriage of James and Molly could not withstand the difficulties. They split up when Jim was four, and from then on Jim was raised by committee, with his grandparents taking the lead. Divorce in an Irish Catholic family was a black mark of immense propo rtions, and not to be discussed in public. Jim was now property of the Murrays, and they closed ranks around Hamel, who was 13 years younger than Jim and later live d in the same household, said the hat
39 not, but the old Irish would, we ll, they would write her off. 19 remained with Molly, his father moved into an apartment, and Jim moved to West Hartford with the Murray clan. By the time Jim made the move, his grandparents lived at 21 Crescent Street in West Hartford in a large, three story home built for two families. The house had three bedrooms and a second kitchen on the second floor and three more bedrooms on the third floor plenty of room to harbor an uncle or two and a few aunts and some cousins and other assorted relatives. During leaner times, more of the extended family would take up residence in the home. The living arrangements throughout the extended family were fluid; at one point during the depths of the Depression, Jim, his father and sis ters all moved into the house at 21 Crescent Street, while Molly was forced to move back to New London to board with her parents. Jim also spent time living at times with his aunts, Margaret, known as Peg, and Katherine, known as Kit. Both took on maternal table, smoking cigars and arguing about the Red Sox or Jack Dempsey late into the night. 20 The eventually became fire chief of New Canaan, Connecticut; Uncle Jack, a machinist who moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts; Uncle Frank, who manage d and owned apartment buildings in Hartford, and later owned a diner frequented by boxers, and Uncle Charles. 21 22 But it was Uncle Ed, the black sheep of the family, who Jim devoted the most ink to when
40 from then on made his living wi th dice, cards and assorted other cons. He was a stocky, curly haired pug with a round face, a squashed nose and a quick temper. He resembled Jimmy Cagney. Murray reme mbered coming downstairs and watching Uncle Ed boiling eggs and dice in the s. Once, the eyes swollen shut. He lanced them with a razor so Ed could get out of bed. 23 ackrooms and pool halls he received from his uncle. While his father and the other uncles took him to fights and ball games, Ed brought him to places like the Greek American Club and the Parkville Young Democratic Club, illegal all night establishments whe re gambling went on through the night. Throughout his life he repeated the many rules to live by that Ed shared with him: 24 As an adult, Murray usually played his Uncle Ed stories for laughs, but the Murray family held an honorable reputation in the community, and Ed often brought shame on the family. He was arrested on gambling charges more th grandmother into financing his schemes. As a child, Murray feared him and fantasized about knocking him out. When Murray was a bit older and money was extremely tight, Uncle Ed stole
41 his shoes and slept with them under his pillow. Murray got up the courage and one morning 25 Ed also introduced Jim to horse racing. He took Jim to Agawam Race Track in Massachusetts, where Jim won his first bet, on a horse named Kievex. Ed played the angles in the horse game, too, always looking for a way to bend the rules. One scheme he was particularly successful with, for a time, was called past posting. He worked the scam with his partner Johnny Pachesnik. Ed would pay a spotter to watch the race and relay to Ed which horse was winning headed into the stretch. Johnny, meanwhile, would run up a minor losing streak, gaining the accept bets a minute or so after post time. Then Ed would come into the bookie parlor wearing a sweater with 12 buttons. The button that represented the winning horse he would leave unbuttoned. Johnny would place the bet, and the two would split their winn ings. Unfortunately for Ed and Johnny, the bookie got suspicious when Ed came into the parlor wearing a sweater in 90 degree weather. He found their spotter, and paid him a little bit more than Ed was paying him. Pretty soon, Ed and Johnny were putting the ir money on losers, and the house, once again, got its money back. 26 Murray, remembe would have 27 Uncle took its toll, and he died in 1954 at the age of 52. As much as anyone in the Murray family, pals, who knew how to work angles and game the syst em, but ultimately found themselves on
42 promoters and shifty horse players with humor and admiration. He would form easy associations with Uncle Ed type characters he enco for one man 28 Though they never assumed the roles of primary caregivers for long stretches after Jim Sr. was a very smart guy by common consensus, the smartest of the Murrays, and they were all smart. They were all achievers remembers his grandfather as friendly and bright. In the 1950s, when Sandburg was four years old, he asked James about a belt he was wearing. By the next day, James had bought one for him. s that a 4 year 29 The watched as his father kept getting up to fill his glass from the water cooler. Pretty soon, his eyes were red and his speech was slurred. It was an image that stuck with Jim. 30 James and Molly stayed in touch while Jim was a child, and even into adulthood. Among th e many letters Jim saved is a get 31 Jim had a more contentious relationship with his mother, Molly. Though she was frozen get in touch with
43 length. In later years, she tipped the scales at 250 pounds and was known to berate relatives to the point of tears at family gatherings. Suppici ch, who traveled with her years later to visit Jim She was a tough old Irish War Horse a tough old bitch relationship with her, other than to say California migh t not have been far enough away 32 When she died in 1968, Sandburg attended her funeral. After the viewing, he went outside to smoke a cigarette. Jim came l 33 West Hartford in the 1930s was a melting pot, with Swedish, Italian and Irish families representing the majority, but with several other ethnicities thrown in. It was a bu colic suburb where pre teens played baseball in the street, traded baseball cards and played checkers on the they could afford it) and argued about the Yankees and the Red Sox. 34 Around the neighborhood, Jim was known as 35 Jim developed his sense o f humor at a young age, and his lifelong desire to be a playwright surfaced early. He would write and direct neighborhood productions, and enlist his sisters Eleanor and Betty to star in them. Kids from the neighborhood would watch the results. 36 One of the ray, 37
44 At the age of 10, Jim was once again felled by disease. This time, it was rheumatic fever, and it was very nearly fatal. As with his earlier bout of Saint Vitus Dance, rheumatic fever is the result of a strep infection, and the fever is usually seen two weeks after a case of strep throat. The pneumonia and pleurisy, and last rites were performed for him at Our Lady of Sorrows Church. He hovered between life and death for days. 38 After the development of antibiotics in the 1960s, incidence of rheumatic fever went way down. In the 1920s, however, the only treatment was aspirin, given to reduce inflammation, and the disease was very often fatal. 39 would take years, during which he spent innumerable hours on bed rest. Even into high school, he was on a reduced schedule that had him attending classes in the morning and back home in the afternoon. Sometimes he would be so overcom e with boredom that he would yell and scream, upsetting his Aunt Peg, who looked after him through many of these years. Carol Hamel, heard Jim screaming in anger from his room on the third floor. When they went to investigate, Jim, already a grammar hound, was disgusted with a split infinitive he had found in the Hartford T imes He demanded to use the phone so he could call the city desk and complain. 40 But all the time spent in his room allowed Jim to develop an extraordinary understanding ch about history as Toynbee. I knew 41 He wrote and received letters from the prime minister of Ireland, and he wrote his first award winning story for a newspaper contest, for which he won $5. He devised
45 a baseball game using playing cards (a jack was a single, a queen was a double, etc.) and refined the rules until the game approximated real baseball statistics. Despite missing class time, Jim was a good student. He attend ed Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School through elementary and middle school, where writing and language was stressed. Students wrote a theme paper a week, and grading was strict. 42 In 1933, when he was in the eighth grade, Jim made the municipal spelling be e, where he was the most nervous contestant on stage. He misspelled impetus -I M P E T O S -and his competitive spelling career was over. 43 Crescent Street. The two would Hartford Courant and whatever sports magazines they could afford. Joey was the best athlete in the neighborhood, and playing. The summer several times. They would go to see the Hartford Laurels, a Class A minor league baseball team in the Boston Braves organization. Joey went on to play college baseball at S taunton Military Academy and had an opportunity to play in the Yankees farm system, but his baseball career was cut short by World War II. 44 On Labor Day, 1933, Jim went to Yankee Stadium to see a double header between the Yankees and the Philadelphia Athle tics, a chance to see Babe Ruth, and his other favorite player, sports act of the era: Ruth knocking one over the fence, wobbling around the bases on his spindly
46 there by years of purple prose. The home run itself was hardly a cataclysmic event. But 45 The First in the Family Jim graduated from William Hall High School in West Hartford in May of 1939, and in the fall, he took the path that his father was supposed to take 20 years before an d matriculated at Trinity College in Hartford. He dreamed of attending Dartmouth, but family finances would not allow it. 46 Trinity was a fine alternative, however, and his aunts and uncles were thrilled to have one of their own in higher education. On his application to Trinity, Jim wrote that he expected to 47 At the end of the 1930s, a col lege education was still a relative rarity in the United States. During that decade, American universities and colleges would collectively award less than 100,000 degrees annually. By 1947, 2.3 million students would be enrolled in American colleges and un iversities. 48 Trinity College was founded in 1823, the second college in the state of Connecticut to open its doors. A small liberal arts college of less than 300 students in 1939, Trinity has an Episcopalian heritage, but was a non religious entity by the time Murray arrived. campus, it boasted collegiate style Gothic architecture that gave the campus the feel of medieval academia. 49 The liberal arts doctrine of the sch himself into the study of history and English, the two areas where he concentrated the majority of his efforts. He commuted to school, living with the Foleys at 21 Crescent, and working as a waiter to pay t uition costs. 50 During his spare time, he also wrote for the Trinity Tripod the campus newspaper, wrote fiction and plays for the Trinity Review and worked as a campus correspondent for the Hartford Times 51
47 e peak of his competitive athletic career, in terms of actual performance. As a kid, he was fast and athletic, but a nervous outfielder who usually hoped the ball would be hit to somebody, anybody, other than him. He would promote fights in the neighborhoo d, roping off a ring with clothesline, and grudgingly step in to the ring from a rival troop named John McMahon beat him senseless, giving him a bloody nose and a cut been fighting for a half 52 But baseball was a different story. Jim loved the sport. So when he got to Trinity as a freshman, he earned a sp ot on the freshman baseball team, his first with a peg from the outfield. He was a college baseball Moonlight Graham, who never even got an official at bat. Once, he was in the on deck circle as a pinch hitter when the batter in front of him hit into a triple play. Jim was beginning to get the idea that a baseball ca reer was not to be. His career highlight 53 the time, and had joined the team without her knowledge. Education ina dvertently left his uniform on the bus. Somehow, it found its way back to his aunt, and at her urging, Jim quit the team a short time later. 54
48 Despite not achieving success on the diamond, college life suited Murray. He made friends easily, and even with h is work responsibilities, participated in many extracurricular activities. He International Relations Club, and was a member of the Trinity Club as well. 55 By that time, weekends, to deal cards, play croquet, and have a few drinks. 56 While he was pursuing the pleasures and goals of college, however, many of his friends fro m the neighborhood, kids he had Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the U.S. declared war on Japan during his junior year at Trinity, and Murray, like most young men his age during this era, wanted desperately to be in uniform. The Selective Training and Service Act had become law in August of 1940, before the United States en tered the war, and in 1941 the age of induction was set at 21 to 27 years. Murray and those in his age group were the backbone of the U.S. armed services. 57 Murray tried to enlist, but, as he knew he would be, was rejected because of his heart ailment. Near ly 30 percent of enlistees during World War II were given 4 58 and Murray fell into that category. He contacted every political official in the Hartford area in an attempt to get around the classificat ion, but to no avail. He was destined to remain on the sidelines for the duration of the war. 59 Writing for Money the spring of 1943. On May 16, the day Jim Murra y received his degree, the United States launched the largest air attack yet into German air space, showering the Nazi naval base of
49 Emden with bombs. American and British air forces carried out sweeps in France, while the American air war in the Mediterra nean continued unabated. In the Pacific, American troops were Figure 2 1. photo and entry in the 1943 Trinity Ivy the Trinity College yearbook. Reprinted with permission of The Watkinson Library, Trinity College. making progress against t he Japanese on the island of Attu in Alaska, the only battle during World War II to take place on American soil. Japanese planes attacked allied positions in New Guinea. U.S. President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were in
50 meetings to plan war strategy. 60 Adolf Hitler, the day before, had installed himself as one man ruler of Germany indefinitely. 61 At home, news was no less concentrated on the war effort. The front page of the New York Times : No Relief Seen 62 The war seeped into graduation ceremonies at Trinity College as well. Trinity Class Day, a traditional event held at the co llege the day prior to commencement in which students receive awards and give humorous speeches about their four years on campus, took on a gloomy tone. The Class Day chairman spoke of how the members of the class knew they were living on borrowed time and how some of their classmates were in uniform already, and many more would 1918, who related the experience of the graduating class to his class, full of soon to b e soldiers headed to Europe to fight in the first Great War. 63 So it was a subdued affair on Sunday night at the Trinity College chapel when Murray finally received the first college degree in his family. Remsen Ogilby, president of Trinity, had declared th at morning that the class of 1943 would be the last graduation of a normal class at the college for four years. Colonel Robert Butler of the U.S. Army delivered a commencement address in which he heaped invective upon the Germans and Japanese. But for Mur ray, it was still a time to celebrate accomplishment. He and 59 of his classmates received their Bachelor of Arts degrees in the Trinity chapel on a warm Hartford evening. The Murray family brought a large contingent to the occasion, which was celebrated a s a milestone for the Murray clan. Murray had little time to celebrate himself, however. Before graduation, he had already lined up a job with the New Haven Register with a weekly salary of
51 $23.50. New Haven is about 40 miles south of Hartford, a slightly smaller city, on the Atlantic, known to most people as the home of Yale University. For the first time, Murray would be living on his own, having secured an apartment in New Haven. 64 Because of the war, able bodied men who were still on American soil were scarce. The young men who would normally populate newspaper city rooms were, to a large part, directly involved in the war effort, so cub reporters were few and far between. Murray joined a news staff at the Register of mostly older, experienced veterans of the newspaper business, and a few 4 Fers like himself. And as last man in the door, he initially drew the cub reporter assignments. Soldiers Master, and other simil ar stories fell to the newest reporter. In his first month on the job, he covered the always divisive issue of the ice cream shortage in New Haven. In a story If yo stool at your favorite soda fountain for your next treat. Because the way gallons of that priceless dessert have been disappearing from the fountain refrigerators thes e days with Old Sol doing his best to parboil the poor working people make longer be able to drop into the nearest dispensary on the old catch as you can basis and order your favorite double scoop sundae. 65 Murray went on to supp ly his readers with the vital information that ice cream had been content, hungry New Haveners would be more likely to get their hands on sherbet products i n the near future. As the summer wore on, Murray tried to add flair to his soft news assignments and society page features. In the late summer, he earned his way onto the police beat, albeit as a brief writer, mopping up the misdemeanor level misdeeds of the New Haven criminal element.
52 Murray, from the very beginning, was dutifully clipping his writing, all of it unbylined, and gluing clips into a journal, meticulously writing notes concerning his coverage and delineating the sections of the finished produ compiled a collection of crime briefs that the city desk had proffered on him. He wrote about a string of four stabbings in New Haven, an illegal Italian lottery, a 19 year old who refused to t knowledge thanks to his Uncle Ed, a dice game that turned violent. A dice game last Saturday night which turned out to have all the markings of a frontier day bar room melee when two of the participants were discovered to be toting firearms to the scene yesterday resulted in sentences being meted out to seven offenders the aggregate total of which is equal to several months in jail and more than two hundred dollars in fines. 66 67 and in that time he was accumulating skills beyond the city desk whenever he could. He wrote movie previews, outlining the new he wrote headlines for the copy desk, and he took publicity jobs to earn a little extra cash. (On his first publicity job, he wrote a 2 column story for the Yale Hope Mission to earn a cool $5.) 68 During the fall, he took on another extra assignment that wo uld lead to his first published sports writing. The Mulvey let Murray go along on Saturday nights to cover Yale football games and serve as the Yale Bowl press box, the first one he had ever been in. Murray diligently clipped his cutlines an d
53 r in the 39 7 rout by Army, is shown underway late in the second period on a spectacular dash from Yale 25 marker to Cadet 38. Tackled by Army defensive halfback Minor after the swift 37 one of their all too infreque nt chances to root as he outran the entire Cadet team along the west sideline before being caught by Minor in a last ditch tackle. 69 Even at this point, only a few months into his fledgling journalism career, Murray was preparing to move on to bigger things and apparently to get out of Connecticut. He had begun submitting articles on spec to Time magazine, with no success. 70 And he began compiling a list of Los Angeles editors and saving them in his clipping book with an eye toward future employment. The eff showed himself to be a determined, energetic reporter who liked to get his hands dirty. By weekend assignments that gave him access to the major crime and disaster stories without the turf battles with other reporters. On Saturday, November 13, he was on cop duty when a shooting made for some weekend excitement. 71 ough in handwritten notes to the scene I had with Ralph Harsh and Eddie Shields. I was sitting in the detective bureau when the call came in and I jumped in the car with Harsh and Shields and rode to the place where the 72 a war worker who bea soldier. 73 Christmas, he covered a fire that burned an entire city block to the ground, inclu ding 13 businesses. 74 that would help him in the very near future. Acting on a tip f rom the Chief of the Connecticut
54 State Police, Leo Carroll, with whom Murray had developed a relationship, he stumbled on the kind of lurid love triangle that would occupy a good portion of the next decade of his career. An heir to the wealthy Almadon fami ly had been having an affair with a married woman, and the brought it to his editors at the Register The Register passed on the story. A disappointed Murray took the story to the Walt Cochrane, the Connecticut bureau chief for the Associated Press. The Associated Press was impressed with the story, which was played big in New York and Washington, D.C. newspapers. Cochrane would enthusiastically recommend Murray to his 75 month apprenticeship at the Register was short but fruitful, and now he felt ready for the next challenge. A variety of forces had been pushing him in that direction, actually any direction that led him out of Connecticut, for some time. He had clearly outgrown New Haven and the Register journalistically. Fires and police briefs had excited him initially, but New Haven was a smal l major metropolitan daily. Now he had learned that if he got his hooks into a really big story, his own editors were likely to turn it down. Aside from journali sm, Murray was ready for adventure. was also ready to get outsid e of the grips of his family, particularly the strange and strained relationship he had with his parents. He had developed a kind of claustrophobia related to all of his relatives, and New Haven was the first step toward extricating himself. 76 But by now it was proving to be not far enough. Finally, it was his own 4 F status and the constant reminders that
55 his peers were defending the country in Africa, the Pacific and across the world, and he was still in Connecticut. Worse, his peers were dying. He later s of mothers whose sons had been killed or maimed in the war. He knew they were looking at him, 77 Murray stayed in New Haven and worked Christmas day. He covered two house fires, one fatal, an auto accident, and traffic on Broadway Street. On December 29, 1943, he reported on his first and last real murder that would find its way into the pages of the Register James Streeto, the caretaker of the Boxwood Manor Summer Resort in Old Lyme, Connecticut, 15 miles up the coast from New Haven, had been stabbed, shot and bludgeoned with a blunt force instrument. His sweetheart, Miss Delphine Betrand, said three unidentified yo uths had done the deed, but she State Police found Streeto already dead, lying in a pool of blood half out of the kitchen door on the floor of the closed in rear porch. Blood streaks on both the kitchen door and the rear porch door, just short of where he f ell, led to the belief he may have been attempting to grope his way out of the building when death struck him. Veteran police intense hatred must have driven the as sailants. 78 It was, hands down, his bloodiest story yet. 79 And it was good practice for where he would end up next, a newspaper where blood was expected and appreciated where in fact, the editors shouted through the newsroom for reporters to pour on the bl ood in buckets. The year 1943 in New Haven had closed with a deadly flourish, and Murray had only three more days during which he could call the state of Connecticut his home.
56 1 Murray, Jim Murray 1. 2 State of Connecticut, Bureau of Vit al Statistics, Birth Certificate Dec. 29, 1919. 3 Matt Allen, interview by author, Feb. 12, 2009. The history of the Murray family in Tobbercurry was compiled by led to the region several times and maintained a relationship with members of the Murray family still living in Ireland. 4 Los Angeles Times March 17, 1961. 5 Carl Wittke, The Irish in America (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisi ana State University Press, 1956), 8 9. 6 Ibid., 23 25. 7 Obituary of Michael F. Murray, Hartford Courant May 17, 1934. 8 Glenn Weaver, (Woodland Hills, CA: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1982), 80 81, 116. 9 This account comes from genealogical research done at the behest Matt Allen. The Hartford, Connecticut, City Directory lists a Hartford address for the Murrays in 1900 and 1910. By 1930, the directory lists them as living in West Hartford. 10 O bituary of Bridget A. Murray, Hartford Courant August 23, 1934. 11 Gerald Suppicich, interview by author, November 19, 2008. 12 United States Government, Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census of the United States Hartford, Connect icut, 1920, series T625, Roll 183, Page 164. 13 Murray, Jim Murray 3. 14 Dr. Winkler Weinberg, interview by author, February 2009. 15 United States Government, Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census of the United States, Hartford, C onnecticut, 1920, series T625, Roll 183, Page 164. 16 Gerald Suppicich, interview by author, November 19, 2008. 17 Hartford Courant Jan 13, 1922. 18 Hartford Courant January 29, 1922. James Murray gave notice of appeal and furnished bond of $1,200 at the time. The Courant did not report further on the case, so the question remains as to whether the appeal was heard and wheth er Murray served the sentence. James Murray would work for other pharmacists to earn a living for the rest of his life, in addition to other jobs. On his application for admission to tory worker. 19 Carol Hamel, interview by author, January 29, 2008. 20 Marie Hewins, interview by author, January 24, 2008. 21 Gerald Suppicich, interview by author, November 19, 2008.
57 22 Murray, Jim Murray 3. 23 Jim Murray, The Sporting World of Jim Murray (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1968), 32 33. 24 Ibid., 34. 25 Murray, Jim Murray 7. 26 Los Angeles Times July 12, 1990. Murray wrote this column on the occasion of the first running of the Jim Murray Handicap at Hollywood Park in Los Angeles. 27 Marie Hewins, interview by author, January 24, 2008. 28 Murray, The Sporting World 34. 29 Eric Sandburg, interview by author, November 14, 2008. 30 Murray, Jim Murray 2. 31 James and Mary Murray, letter to Jim Murray, September 24, 1957. 32 California about four times between 1943, when Jim moved West, until 1968 when she died. 33 Eric Sandburg, inte rview by author, November 14, 2008. 34 35 Gerald Suppicich, interview by author, November 19, 2008. 36 Linda McCoy Murray, interview by author, February 19, 2009. 37 Eric Sandburg, interview by author, Nov ember 14, 2008. 38 Murray, Jim Murray 3. 39 Dr. Winkler Weinberg, interview by author, February 2009. 40 married name was Margaret Foley, assumed the role of primary caretaker for Jim. 41 Murray, Jim Murray 3. 42 43 Jim Murray, unpublished, undated manuscript, 1. This manuscript appears to be the first three pages of an autobiographical piece. 44 Ri chard Patrissi, interview by author, January 7, 2008. Joey Patrissi served in the Army Air Corps in Panama during World War II. He died at age 42. 45 Jim Murray, Murray 12 13. Murray may have misremembered when he actually saw Ruth hit the home run. In h is autobiography, and it his column, he sets the date for the game as Labor Day, 1933. On that day, the Yankees did
5 8 the night cap, in whic h Lou Gehrig hit a game winning home run. 46 Linda McCoy Murray, interview by author, February 19, 2009. 47 James Murray, Application for Admission, Trinity College, January 17, 1939. 48 Christopher J. Lucas, American Higher Education, A History 2 nd Ed. ( New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 247 248. 49 http://www.trincoll.edu/AboutTrinity/CollegeHistory.htm (accessed March 19, 2009). 50 Murray, Jim Murray 8. 51 As a campus correspondent for the Times Murray worked for Ci ty Editor Max Farber. He remembered Farber as soon as I looked up wrote. 52 Murray, Jim Murray 4. 53 Jim Murray, unpublished, undated manuscript, 1 2. This manuscript appears to be the first three pages of an autobiographical piece. 54 Carol Hamel, interview by author, January 29, 2008. 55 Trinity Ivy (Hartford, Connecti cut: Trinity College, 1943), 33. 56 Gerald Suppicich, interview by author, November 19, 2008. 57 Thomas Parrish, ed., The Simon and Schuster Encyclopedia of World War II (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), 560. 58 The 4 F Class http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0800/frameset_reset.html?http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0800/stories/0801_0106. html (accessed, March 19, 2009). 59 Gerald Suppicich, interview by author, November 19, 2008. 60 The New York Tim es May 16, 1943. 61 The New York Times May 16, 1943. 62 Headlines from page 1, The New York Times May 16, 1943. 63 en in Hartford Courant May 16, 1943. 64 Linda McCoy Murray, interview by author, February 19, 2009. 65 New Haven Register June 22, 1943
59 66 New Haven Register 1943. 67 Jim Murray, unpublished, undated manuscript, 2. 68 Murray also sold a 13 Bridgeport Sunday Herald a l church. For this story, Murray received $1. The story is about a New Haven resident who called to inquire about an apartment vacancy immediately after the apartm police. 69 New Haven Register October 24, 1943. 70 Eleanor Welch, Time Since his is s o far a one man campaign, we could not use it. However, if he indulges in any more high jinks and 71 New H aven Register weapon at Roco Candella after a dispute over the setting up of a clothesline. 73 New Haven Register December 4, 1943. 74 New Haven Register December 24, 1943. 75 Will Fowler, Reporters: Memoirs of a Young Newsp aperman (Malibu, CA: Roundtable Publishing, 1991), 115 116. 76 Gerald Suppicich, interview by author, November 19, 2008. 77 Linda McCoy Murray, interview by author, February 19, 2009. 78 New Haven Register December 30, 1943. On March 17, 1944, when Murray was two months into his job at the Los Angeles Examiner of work, but remember this always, that if it were not for this violent and untimely death, your path and mine would 79 Delphine Betrand pleaded guilty to a reduced charge o f manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in Prison on April 11, 1944. She admitted to shooting James Streeto and bludgeoning him with the butt of the pistol s 10 15 Years In Hartford Courant April 12, 1944.)
60 CHAPTER 3 THE LOS ANGELES EXAMINER YEARS, 1944 1947 So lik e the forty niners, the Joad Family and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jim Murray succumbed to the great golden dream of C alifornia and pointed a course W est. Los Angeles held the allure of mystery and opportunity. It was, Murray would find, a place where you could slice away your past and remake yourself, find a new identity and place a stake in fresh, unmarked territory. It offered endless sun, a topography that, to an Easterner, felt as exotic as the Moon, and exploding growth that was just waiting to be exploite d. Just 20 years before, Los Angeles had been little more than a blip on the United States Census. Between 1920 and 1940, the population nearly tripled, reaching more than 1.5 million people in 1940, with nearly 2.8 million in the County of Los Ange les. The decade of the 1940s would continue the expansion, and by 1 Murray had been planning his exodus for some months, and set the end of the year as his launch date. On January 2, 1944, he took the money he had saved from his 7 month tenure at the New Haven Register and a few suit cases, went down to the station in Hartford and boarded a steam train bound for Los Angeles. He also brought along a list of contacts at Los Angeles newspapers and wire services that he had compiled while at the Register Murray was embarking on a trip that would take him beyond the boundaries of the Northeast for the first time in his life. To this point, he had been to New York City and Boston, spent some time at his ome in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and taken a few rides on the Hoboken Ferry in New Jersey, but that was the extent of his travel. The rails during the war years were overloaded with 1 Leonard Pitt and Dale Pitt, Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997), 403.
61 e struck up a conversation with a uniformed female traveler, but the stares of male GIs, which Murray interpreted as ominous and slightly threatening, ended the relationship before it began. But the euphoria of discovery was thick, and Murray years later r emembered the excitement of the he went through the town of Rancho Cucamonga as they were approaching Los Angeles, and he loved the name, and the names of the other Southern California towns; they were so lyrical. The windows were down and he could smell the orange blossoms. H e thought 2 When he got to Los Angeles, the euphoria of adventure wore off as he began to realize that he had no job and only $106 to his name. His first stop was the Los Angeles bureau of the Associated Press. Bureau chief Hub Keavy was already aware of him after the recommendation from his colleague, but no position was available at the time. 1 Murray had a list of contacts in the city including the City News Service, the Los Angeles Herald Express the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Examiner but no personal connections at those outlets, and had no success. 2 Murray rented a room in Ocean Park, a small, neighborhood in the Sout hwest corner of Santa Monica that in those days was populated mostly by Jewish immigrants. 3 He went to see Keavy again and received the same response, but this time Keavy put in a call to Bud Lewis at the Times Lewis told Murray to come back a week from T hursday, but Murray knew he would be flat broke by then. With desperation creeping in, he went back to Keavy at AP. Examiner told him. 4 2 Linda McCoy Murray, intervie w by author, February 19, 2009.
62 Murray did as told. On a bright, 80 degree Los Angeles day, he showed up at the Examiner office wearing a rust colored overcoat, wing tipped shoes, a button down collar and a vest. Richardson pegged him for a fresh East Coast transplant immediately. nded. anger rising. Richardson threw his pencil down. Richardson hired Murray on the spot and told him he could start the very next morning. Murray enthusiastically accepted, and asked Richardson for an advance on his s alary. 5 So fortuitously, Murray was to start his Los Angeles newspaper career at the Examiner a crime and scandal fueled Hearst broadsheet instead of the Times which at that time was a stodgy Republican rag that existed mostly to put forth the anti union ist sentiment of publisher Harry Chandler. Los Angeles in 1944 was a thriving newspaper market with four dailies competing for the ever expanding readership. There was the Los Angeles Daily News an evening paper which had been founded by Cornelius Vanderb ilt Jr. in 1923 as a clean alternative to the scandal sheets Los Angeles Evening Herald & Express an afternoon tabloid that reveled in sensationalism and was
63 used as a model for Hollywood movies of the day that depicted yellow journalism. There was Times which stayed above the fray, and in doing so had made itself a regular Examine r century. 6 By the time Murray joined the chain, the Hearst brand was firmly established in American newspapering. William Randolph Hearst had been born into wealth. His father, George Hearst, had set out to pan for gold in 1 850 and had made a fortune mining the Pacific Coast for gold, silver and copper. In 1887, at the age of 23, young William persuaded his father, then a U.S. Senator, to let him run the San Francisco Examiner which George Hearst had acquired against a bad d ebt. W.R. Hearst began to develop his populist style of journalism, which relied on flashy headlines, color comics, gossip and a healthy dose of jingoism. He quickly doubled the circulation of the San Francisco Examiner and then set his sights on New York He bought the floundering New York Morning Journal New York World then the leading paper in the city. 7 Hearst spent lavishly and led his papers into crusades, most famously fanning the flames of America n outrage with headlines and editorials that eventually pointed the country on the course toward the Spanish American War. 8 During the next three decades, he built a media empire that by 1935 included 28 newspapers, 13 magazines, eight radio stations, two motion picture companies and assorted other real estate and mining entities that together was worth $220 million. At that time, his corporation employed 31,000 people. 9
64 In 1904, Hearst had been elected to the United States House of Representative, and he quickly launched a candidacy for president. It was as another outlet to get his message to potential Democratic Party voters that Hearst started the Los Angeles Examiner in 1904. 10 The Examiner rapidly rode the Hearst formula to the position of No. 1 mor ning newspaper in Los Angeles. In the 1940s, the newspaper had the highest circulation in the West, but it was a day to day, edition to edition battle for supremacy that had editors, reporters and photographers engaging in anything short of outright crime to gain an edge over the competition. Editors thought nothing of sending staff members into competing newsrooms to surreptitiously steal news pages to get a jump on a story. Reporters regularly blackmailed or bribed police captains and government officials in order to get exclusive information. A favorite practice among photographers and reporters was stealing pictures out of the homes of the families of crime and disaster victims. 11 In the old days, t he competition was fierce, Exam iner We used to do all we could think of to get a scoop. We used to fight each other like dogs for stories. 12 And at the forefront of the daily pursuit of the sensational was Jim Richardson, once famously call 13 Richardson was a bellowing, blustering terror on upholding his standards of cutthroat journalism. Many of these outbursts c oncluded with a firing. Richardson had started in Los Angeles newspapers in 1913, when, on a family vacation, he witnessed the collapse of the Long Beach auditorium. He left the volunteers helping the dead and maimed and called the story into the Los Angel es Herald fighting off the injured and rescuers so he could keep the phone line open and deliver the entire scoop to the paper. 14 From there, he fought, lied and backstabbed his way to the top of the Los Angeles reporter pool, and became the
65 youngest city editor in the Hearst chain. He lasted only a few months before embarking on a decade of hopping from job to job, bottle to bottle, and wife to wife (there were four of them.) He awoke from a bender in a Japanese whorehouse on Christmas morning 1936, and lo oked around at the dank, depressing room trying to remember where he was. 15 He never drank again, and in 1937 began his second tenure as the Examiner city editor. This run would last 20 years. 16 During those years he drove himself and his staff to insanity, throwing tantrums related to the most important of stories and the most inconsequential of briefs. He ran through a string of assistant city editors, who were forced to sit at the desk next to him and take the brunt of his fury. One after another either sl ipped into alcoholism or left the business entirely. 17 Richardson was despised by a great many of those who worked under him during his tenure, and Murray had his share of dust ups with his boss. The two remained friends well after Murray left the Examiner 18 Life in the Big City The morning after his impromptu hiring, Murray dutifully reported for work at the Examiner office at Broadway and 11 th Street in downtown Los Angeles, a five story, cream colored stucco building with an enormous American flag flying over it. The structure took up an entire city block, and on street level, passersby could vi ew the Examiner whirring away. The building had a small elevator, but reporters normally climbed the 38 stair 19 The difference between coming to wor k in the sleepy newsroom of the Register in the one newspaper town of New Haven and the nerve center of a Hearst newspaper was shocking. The Examiner City Room housed more than 100 staffers, including city side, the sports department the copy desk, the re write desk, the art department and the society department. Dozens of
66 T he tension level in the City Room would gradually increase throughout the day, and by late afternoon, it would reach a boiling point, said Joe Santley, a writer on the rewrite desk in the bout deadline time, for the first edition, the damn place wa s a mass of smoke. There was pipe smoke, cigar smoke, cigaret tes; the second hand smoke was as bad as a 4 Santley said. 20 Richardson showed no quarter on new reporters. Once, he barked at a cub reporter to get out on an interview. The cub stopp ed at his desk to leaf through the phone book. Richardson stared through him with his one good eye (he lost the other one in a sling shot accident when he was 7). 21 Richardson had a series of initiation rites which every new reporter was required to go through. He would send each newbie on a bogus meatpacking story at a slaughter house, so they would be exposed to blood and organs; they would cover a gory car wreck; they would be required to watch an autopsy be performed; and, in a task that would prove most psychologically damaging to the reporters, they would have to take liquor drenched dicta tion from the Hearst movie columnist Louella O. Parsons. 22 Murray started out like any other greenhorn, writing obituaries and two graph fire stories (some of which would have made the front page at the Register .) He was put through rituals like any other new hire. On March 4, 1944, he got his chance to
67 interpret Parsons drunken gibberish, an interpretation which would run coast to coast throughout Colonel Tom Lewis will welcome the stork, and if there are any two people happier in the world 23 Murray seemed to survive the phone call, but it was one of his very first Examiner stories that left a deeper impression on his p syche. Richardson sent him to report on the story of six year old Margaret Wade, whose leg was amputated after she was hit by a car. The fact that the inches of column space to it. Murray wrote: The child was returning from Huntington Drive School, where she is a second grader. She saw her father leaving for work and ran across the street to meet him. She may never run again. Her left leg was amputated at Ge neral Hospital while her agonized parents waited in a ward corridor. She had been struck by a car driven by Mrs. Magda Singleton, 73, of 917 Locust Street, Pasadena, and carried under its hurtling wheels for 140 feet before they came to rest against a pole 24 After he finished his shift, Murray took the $8 he had r emaining from his first paycheck (his starting salary was $38 a week), and spent it on toys for Margaret. He brought the toys to with the Examiner he told them 25 savor one of the rewards of Los Angeles journalism, at least for one night. One the night of March 2, 1944, Murray got the plum assignment of covering the Academy Awards. As he did at
68 the Yale Bowl a few months earlier, he tagged along to save somebody else from the menial task into childhood. Back in early infatuation with journalism had much to do with the foreign correspondents portrayed in the Hollywood noir films of the 1930s. He l oved the movies of Ronald Coleman, David Niven, and any other actor who would put on a trench coat and carry a Luger on screen. 26 At this time in his career and for years forward, he harbored dreams of writing for the stage and the screen. 27 At the New Haven Register he had been allowed to take a shot at the Hollywood beat, which consisted of writing synopses of the films that were opening that week at the cinemas in the New osby, men who would become the subjects of his profiles a decade later, and his close friends a decade after that. 28 J. for the Deanna Durbin Louella Parsons is quoted further down the ad display.) And Hollywood was still on his mind when he made the decision to come West. Bef ore leaving for Los Angeles, he asked one of his professors at Trinity to write him a letter of recommendation to bring to Hollywood screenwriter Alan Scott: The bearer of this note of introduction, James Murray, is a Trinity graduate of the class of 1943 He distinguished himself at Trinity through his writing and as a good and reflective student. His ambition is to be a scenario writer and I thought it worthwhile to introduce him to you, who has made such a good success in your chosen field. If you can b e of help to Murray I shall appreciate it as a personal favor. 29 The Academy Awards ceremony Murray covered in 1944 was the first one in which the festivities moved from a banquet to a theater setting. The event, which originated in 1936, had grown in stat ure as the movie industry in Los Angeles increased in reach and influence. That
69 director awards. 30 Photos of best actress Jennifer Jones, a 24 year old first time actress who starred in the March 3 Examiner, lamorous story. 31 Less than three months removed from stringing together film capsules for the Register he was roaming the same theater as Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Rosalind Russell, Greer Garson and the many other top screen superstars of the day. Of Passion and Crime and Greed Richardson ran off many a cub reporter, but Murray proved immediately to be an asset to the Examiner and the primary reason was the very skill he promised his boss at his interview: deftness with the language. However dedica ted Richardson was to getting the ultimate scoop, he was equally dedicated to purple prose that he felt made news stories sing and Hearst newspapers fly off the racks. He was always looking for writers who could turn a run of the mill story into a masterpi ece with one glorious lead. Once, Richardson pulled a story of the Associated Press wire about a devastating tornado that had hit a small town in Kansas in the middle of the night. The became apoplectic with excitement and made it his personal mission to find and hire the writer of the lead. He found him a few months later on the copy desk of a Chicago paper and brought him to the Examiner 32 Richardson demand ed the lead of each and every story be given the Hearst treatment. It was a lesson he had learned three decades before, during his first days as a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald He had written a story about a court appearance by a woman who had been arrested for public drunkenness. An older Herald reporter who had taken an interest in
70 33 Murray quickly proved to have the chops to write for Richardson. The straight news leads that appeared on his briefs during his first few wee ks quickly morphed into Hearst style nuggets that earned him praise in the newsroom. When he was given a throwaway assignment about a Pasadena woman who killed herself unexpectedly out of town, Murray spiced it up enough to earn him 15 inches of column spa ce: Born unwanted and dead by mistake. That was the official version yesterday which Chicago authorities put upon the tragic suicide of Miss Virginia Thompson, beauteous ap parently mistaken belief that she had lost his love. 34 The editors awarded a weekly and monthly prize for the best written story, and Murray quickly began accumulating the $25 and $50 war bonds that came with winning the awards. In June, he won story of the month when he covered the downward spiral of actress Frances Farmer, who had gone from leading roles in A list films to debilitating mental illness: Frances Farmer lost her way yesterday on the road back to fame and riches in Hollywood. She re ached the end of the road she once contributed such a rich and warming heritage, but in a grimy dusty jail cell in her famous name. She was tattered, destitute 35 In July, Murray won the best written story award again for his coverage of a blind man who regained sight after ex perimental surgery. (Murray would have a similar experience himself 45 years later.) By now, some of his stories were receiving bylines, a sign of privilege among the Examiner staff. He wrote:
71 Blind for 30 years, and then e Simply, in a voice devoid of emotion, William Firber described a miracle of the 20 th century going to be able to see again. 36 Murr ay continued to monopolize the awards. Within six months of joining the Examiner he was promoted to the rewrite desk, and for a time was the youngest rewrite man in the entire Hearst chain. The promotion of a relative newcomer so angered fellow rewrite ma n Reggie 37 Newspapers in the first half of the 20 th century had a rewrite desk, separate from the copy desk, where the newspaper sometimes called legmen, and organize and improve them to prepare the stories for publication. A good rewrite man was difficult to find, and promotion to the rewrite desk would lead to a salary increase of at least $5 a week. 38 The duties of a staffer on the rewrite battery would vary. About half of the time, they would man the desk and rework the stories of other reporters, often called in from the field. The other half of the time, Richardson or an assistant city editor would send them out on their own a ssignments. 39 One downside of taking the promotion and the extra $5 a week was the fact that as a Murray was now in the line of fire. Once, Richardson handed Murr ay the story of an unknown bum who had hanged himself in a skid Barclay yesterday. Police dubbed it a suicid
72 twice more and each time Richardson handed it back to him and glared. He handed it to Ric hardson. The incident inspired another Examiner rewrite man, Johnny Reese, to write a poem that would later be published and The rewrite man was writing the death Of a miserable Skid Row whore From the after effects of a drinking bout Some two or three weeks before. The facts were simple and dull and brief And he had it almost done When suddenly came the raucous voice Of James H. Richardson. The rewrite man gave a startled cry At the mention of mystery. And round eyed, turned to the desk and said: oved her, too.
73 th grade ograph e Japanese The rewrite man, with a ghastly leer Started again, and finished at last At twenty five after three. The climax came the following week. He was gratified to set The prize for the finest writing to
74 Appear in the overset. MORAL It served the bastard right, of course, As philosophers will note, For being a rewrite man at all When he could have slit his throat. 40 Figure 3 1. Jim Murray removed hail from the windsh ield of a car in the winter of 1944, shortly after moving to Los Angeles and joining the staff of the Los Angeles Examiner The photograph was published in the Examiner Love and marriage By the summer of 1944, Murray had settled into his role on the rewri te desk and started to adjust to life in Los Angeles. He lived in a rented upstairs room from a family named Quinn in Ocean Park. 41 When commuting to and from work via streetcars proved to be untenable, he saved up his rewrite money and bought a used Pierce Arrow automobile, a large, box shaped four door used clunker from the turn of the century car manufacturer that had shut down eight years earlier. The car had a statue of an Indian with a bow and arrow as a radiator cap, and
75 42 The car was a gas guzzler, and Murray would have to save his gas ration stamps to get enough fuel for a trip to the beach. About three months after Murray joined the Examiner another young reporter with Eastern roots, Wi ll Fowler, joined the staff. Fowler was only 21 when he started at the Examiner in the Examiner after a 2 year stint in the Coast Guard. He had enlisted on July 4, 1942, and after two successful convoys in which his unit sunk Japanese submarines, he had developed a high fever. Doctors discovered that the illness had caused a hole in his lun g, and in 1944 he was medically discharged and ready to begin a newspaper career that for Fowler had been a foregone conclusion. 43 Fowler was destined for the newspaper business, and more specifically the Hearst chain. His father, Gene Fowler, was newspa per royalty, a legend among Hearst men. During the heyday of Jazz Age celebrity journalism, Gene Fowler was a household name who counted among his friends the biggest names of the day, from writers such as Runyon, Lardner, Winchell and Rice to athletes and sporting celebrities such as Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and John McGraw. He had grown up in Denver during the last years of the Wild West. He drifted into journalism; during a college course he took on the subject, his professor shared the old journalism cli ch that a dog Denver Republic where he offered his home to an out of wor k, ragged Jack Dempsey years before the fighter became known to the world as the Manassas Mauler and heavyweight champion of the world. 44 Fowler had made his way East, first in Chicago, then coming to New York. He
76 famously demanded a $100 weekly salary from Hearst to come aboard the staff at the New York American 45 He became the youngest managing edit or of a metropolitan newspaper at the American After a decade of New York newspaper exploits, much of it as a sportswriter, Fowler moved his son Will and his family west to Hollywood, where he became a top author and highly paid screenwriter. His circle o f friends included W.C. Fields, John Barrymore, and Jimmy Durante, the latter two of whom he penned best selling biographies. 46 idealized the world of 1920s journalism. Will, named William Randolph after the Chief, was born in 1922. His father devoted his time to newspapers rather than fatherhood, but as a teenager Will served as a designated driver for his father, and used it as an opportunity to develop relationships wi Examiner written by his father and phoned into the Examiner city desk. 47 In the summer of 1 944, he and Murray quickly bonded, and along with Joe Santley, Mel Durslag and a few other staffers, they fell into a routine of chasing stories until deadline, and then chasing women and drinks in the Examiner was put to bed. They frequented the famed Ambassador Hotel and some of the clubs that surrounded it, including an Examiner favorite, the Balbo a Club, on 12th and Hill Street. At the small club near the Ambassador, they met Nat King Cole, who had just formed the N at King Cole trio. 48 The city room at the Examiner was populated by heavy drinkers, as was the entire profession in that era, and a long day in the
77 I was raised by a bunch of drunks. I started very young on the paper, and I worked with a lot of drunks. They all drank. T h ey kept a fifth in their drawer. T he real alcoholic was the guy who kept a half pint in his pocket. Murray felt co mfortable in a bar and adapted easily to the lifestyle. However, his time as a bachelor would be short. In the summer of 1945, Murray stepped into the 575 Club, a small neighborhood bar at 575 South Fairfax, and quickly became infatuated with the girl on t he piano. Gerry Brown had come to Los Angeles around the time Murray had. She had grown up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and played the piano through childhood. In Los Angeles, she had landed a job as a medical receptionist, and asked the owner of the 575 Club i f she could play for free for he was on a double date with a friend and two dental hygienists. He excused himself to call the 575 Club, where a friend on th some money on the table, raced out of the restaurant, and piloted his Pierce Arrow through the stree ts at top speed, arriving as Gerry was leaving. He convinced her to stay that night, and less than a year later convinced her to be his wife. The couple was married in October of 1945 and honeymooned at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, coming home a day early when they ran out of money. 49 50 enough to move him and his new bride into an apartment in Park La Brea. Park La Brea was an enormous new complex built by the M etropolitan Life Insurance Company that spread across many blocks in the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles. It consisted mainly of two story garden apartments amid rows of green lawns, built specifically to mesh with the surrounding
78 neighborhoods. Park L streets allowed for a sheltered urban existence. 51 Fairfax Avenue, was very close to the hub of Los Angeles professional sports in 1945 a decade and a half before the major professional leagues would make their way West. Three blocks over, at Third Street and Fairfax, sat Gilmore Field, home of the Hollywood Stars Triple A baseball franchise. A few blocks to the west was Gilmore Stadium built in 1934, where the Hollywood Bears minor league football club played their games, and midget automobiles raced. Also within a few blocks was Pan Pacific Auditorium, home to the Los Angeles Monarchs ice hockey team, and also the facility where USC a much of his free time attending sporting events and familiarizing himself with the Los Angeles sports scene. 52 And the fr anchise that had the most character at the time was easily the Hollywood Stars. At that time, the Stars were owned by Bob Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby restaurant chain, a local landmark with its flagship restaurant located at the intersection of Hollywoo eat, and be seen eating. Cobb had four Derbies in the Los Angeles area, known for their brown dome roofs and the signature dish which he had invented, the Cobb salad. The wa lls of the Derby Field, named for Los Angeles oil barons, had ope ned in 1939, a single deck, all wood stadium with only a few feet between the baselines and the crowd. For night games, which became more common after World War II, the entrance to the field sported a lit movie marquee announcing Spectators flocked to see the games (the Stars were first division in
79 the Pacific Coast League in these years), but also with the hopes of spotting Danny Kaye, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Barbara Stanwyck, Bing Crosby, Gracie Allen, Gary Cooper or some of the other celebrity regulars, some of which doubled as minority investors to the Stars. Cobb was a showman who took his promotional instincts from the restaurant to the ball field. The team for a time fielded female cheerleaders to excite the crowd. Another s eason, Cobb decided to do away with uniform pants for the Stars, and replace them with striped shorts. 53 One opening day, Cobb had paper mache stars placed at each position in the field, and as each regular was announced to the crowd, they would leap throug h the stars. 54 Murray spent a lot of time at Gilmore Field and at the other venues when he could. Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams), was born in July of 19 46, the same week that millionaire aviator Howard Hughes crashed his experimental plane into a Hollywood mansion. Murray remembered this period in his life as idyllic; he was free to perfect his craft while Gerry devoted herself to the family. In the newsr oom, Murray was still consistently winning the Examiner best story awards, and he was developing a higher profile as a writer. Writing under the byline James Murray, his name appeared more regularly in the pages of the Examiner With the end of World Wa r II, the steady population growth of Los Angeles accelerated. Schenecta 55 The city was beginning to develop the characteristics that would later define it, and Murray was there to cover it for the Examiner He wrote about the financing and building of the Hollywood Freeway, a mammoth undertaking that would put the city on the road to its auto centric
80 personality. 56 He wrote about the air pollution that overtook the city in the 1940s and earned it the reputation as the smog capital of North America. But the Examiner paid the bills with crime and passion, and Murray was soon to happen upon a series of stories of that nature that would place his byline on the front page and eventually pave the way for his exit from the world of daily journalism. The Halls o f Justice rewrite desk over accepting assignments that took him out of the office. By 1946, he had some seniority and was occasionally sent on the road for important st ories. In February of 1946, he went to Phoenix to cover the divorce trial of wealthy socialite Gioia Gould, heiress and great and the marriage had produced two children. However, while Grimditch was in the army, Gould had come West and fallen in love with wealthy Arizonan Blake Brophy, conveniently recorded it all in a diary, and then let the diary fall into the hands of her jil ted husband. Murray wrung all the drama he could out of the trial, of which there was plenty, as Gould wept daily as Grimditch revealed the contents of the diary, and later admitted her love for Brophy on the witness stand. 57 Gould was eventually awarded cu stody of the children and the unhappy couple parted ways. made the front pages on both sides of the Atlantic. In October, Murray went to Las Vegas with a team of Exami ner staffers to cover the trial of Irish war bride Bridget Waters. Waters had married an American Air Force officer named Frank Waters who had been stationed in Ireland during the war. Shortly after the war had ended, Brigit Waters became pregnant. She inf ormed her husband who promptly announced he wanted nothing to do with the baby or his war bride
81 gave her $50, and left for France. Brigit Waters had the baby, and her husband made his way back to his home state of Nevada, where he met a Las Vegas showgir l named Lucille Griffith. The happy couple decided to marry, and Frank sought a divorce in Las Vegas court. T he judge on the case flew Brigit and child across the ocean to contest the divorce. The reunion of the estranged couple was not amicable, and Brigi t shot her husband dead with a three inch pistol month old baby in her arms. 58 The Bridget Waters story rang all the bells in the Examiner city room. It had sex, infidelity, passion, murder, and for good measure, a Vegas showg irl. Sensing a story that could hold the attention of Los Angeles for weeks on end, Richardson sent Murray, Fowler and photographer for chasing stories, which alway s placed the emphasis on scoops and was notoriously light on ethics. Las Vegas was still a tiny outpost in the dessert that was just beginning to sprout the four cell jail, and Fowler quickly sought out and befriended the city official in charge of the jail, hen that he was a reporter for the Examiner With his increased bargaining power, Fowler secured exclusive rights to photograph and interview Waters behind bars. An Associated Press photographer followed Fowler and Olmo to the jail and managed to get a pho to of Waters, but Fowler had the antidote for this problem, too. He broke into the curio shop that AP was using to transmit photographs, disabled their equipment, and then found a pilot to fly him back to Los Angeles with the film, ahead of the competition 59
82 The trial happened to coincide with the opening of the Flamingo Hotel on the burgeoning Las Vegas strip. The Flamingo was the brainchild of Los Angeles gangster Bugsy Siegel. Siegel already had a long and confrontational history with the Examiner tha nks to the antagonism of Richardson. Siegel fancied himself a Hollywood insider and sought to distance himself from his to his violent temper decades earlier as part of the New York mob. Richardson made it a point to Examiner news pages. 60 Murray had not crossed paths with Siegel in Los Angeles, so he was meeting him for the first time when he received a personal tour of the still incomplete Flamingo along with a delegation of British reporters in town for the trial. He was struck by movie star good looks, as well as the incredible opulence of the new hotel. Siegel was spending ordered execution in a Hollywood mansion. Murray later surmised that it was the cost overruns at the 61 The Waters trial got underway on October 21, 1946. Murray played up the Western justice vividly remembered, Bridget Waters, Irish war bride accused of killing her American husband, 62 The judge 63 and the blue e yed, 26 year old war bride (as she was repeatedly referred to in the Examiner ) commenced to do her part to gin up the type of story that month old child, who had been injured in the shooting, was ever present during the proceedings. Waters regularly shrieked
83 Murray and Fowler conducted at the Las Vegas jail. Fowler and Olmo pulled off another coup d uring the trial, securing a photo of Griffith, the showgirl. After Olmo had failed to get a photo of Griffith by roaming the grounds outside her house, Fowler convinced James Young, the Las Vegas Assistant Coroner, that Griffith needed to be present at the trial. Young brought Griffith to the courtroom, which was packed with locals interested in the proceedings. Olmo snapped a photo of her in the crowd. When the other photographers present asked him which woman was Griffith, he pointed to another woman in t he crowd. Another scoop had been secured. 64 The trial continued, highlighted by the presentation of the murder weapon, a three inch gun which has marked her fea tures for the past two days disappeared as her attorney commented little nickel plated revolver with which Frank Waters was killed was placed on the tabl 65 Brigit Waters pre trial sworn testimony had portrayed a murder scene in which she had fired the fatal bullet as Frank Waters kneeled near his child, but in court it morphed into a violent struggle and an accidental shooting, according to the defense description. Either way, both judge and jury bought into Brigit scorned portrayal. The defense rested and the judge gave the case to the jury on Saturday, November 2 and by Sunday night Waters had been found guilty o f a lesser charge, involuntary manslaughter. Five days later, as the cries of her 18 month old toddler echoed through the Las Vegas courtroom, Judge A.S. Henderson let Waters off with what would turn out to be a 17 out to the defendant and her child. But on behalf of the people of the State of Nevada I feel I 66
84 Murray would later write that the Bridget Waters trial and outcome prompted the notion that murder was just a misdemeanor in Nevada. 67 The Examiner team had been on the offensive been a fixture on the Examiner front page for two weeks. On return to the Examiner offices, he spent his expense account. To balance his finances, he decided he had spent the discrepancy, $99, on cab fare. He turned in his expense report to Richardson, includi ng the cab expenses. Richardson, who had been elated with the coverage, immediately focused on the questionable charge. nine dollars! 68 W e Slept With Our Shoes On As the calendar turned to 1947, the Examiner was reaching its pinnacle of achievement as a newspaper. It was the circulation leader in burgeoning post war Los Angeles, and, under Richardson, had such a finely honed news operation that Los Angeles police investigators often came to the Examiner for leads on fast moving cases. 69 The staff was experienced and highly motivated, and they fed off the thrills and bloodlust they found when pursuing crime stories. Durslag was on the sports d esk in those years, and remembers watching the news team in action. reco gnized good work when he saw it. T side was so good. G od 70 In the first few months of 1947, they would turn their atte ntion to two of the biggest crime stories in Los Angeles history. One would go down as the would captivate the city for months, and eventually lead to Jim Murra Examiner staff.
85 On the morning of January 15, 1947, Fowler and photographer Felix Paegel were returning from reporting a story when they heard on the police scanner that a drunken woman was lying in grass east of Crenshaw Boulevard. When they arrived on the scene, ahead of the police, what they actually saw was the naked body of a young woman. It was in two pieces, having been surgically sliced in half across the middle. Paegel snapped two photos of the body before the police arrived, and the two phoned Richardson and then rushed back to the newsroom with the film. So began the case of The Black Dahlia, and the Examiner had been dealt, by luck, a tremendous jump on the story to end all stories. 71 one of the body, the o ther of Fowler kneeling beside it with an Examiner peeking out of his jacket pocket were used on the front of the Extra that the paper published just a few hours later. As Paegel emerged from the darkroom with the dripping wet prints, the city staff gath 72 month. Though the Examiner was far ahead fro m the outset, it was Jack Smith, then a rewrite man for the Daily News would later anchor the Times anchored the Times sports page.) neatly in two at the waist, was found early today on a vacant lot near Crenshaw and Exposition because, a s Smith later said, all dead naked women found in Los Angeles in those years were beautiful. 73 The Examiner was the first to identify the victim, Elizabeth Short, by transmitting her fingerprints to contacts at the FBI in Washington. Short turned out to b e the stereotypical
86 Hollywood murder victim, a young girl from somewhere back East, in this case Medford, Massachusetts, who had come to California in search of stardom. Examiner reporters were also Phoebe Short and initially told her that her daughter had won a beauty contest. Then, after all the 74 The story crawled forward fast enough to maintain intense reader and editor interest, but not toward any real conclusion. It turned out Short had a series of boyfriends in the months leading up to the murder. One in particular, Red Manley, became the focus of an intense manhunt by checked out. An anonymous tip sent Examiner reporters on a hunt for a trunk full of love letters and photos of Short with former boyfriends. The trunk was found at the Greyhound s tation, unleashing another round of Examiner exclusives. Scoops were coming so fast, the Examiner began pushing all other news off the front page to page 3. In all, the case remained on the Examiner front page for 32 consecutive days. 75 The Examiner also ra n sidebars to each major scoop, lauding their own work and fermenting the image of the hard bitten city reporter to the eager public. 76 For all the effort and manpower devoted to the case, however, an arrest was never made in the Black Dahlia case. Most of the air went out of the story when the key suspect was exonerated. After the story had faded somewhat, the killer mailed an envelope containing the Examiner building. He had also made taunting phone calls to the city desk. Through the years, more than 500 people have confessed to the crime. 77 What pushed the Black Dahlia completely out of the Los Angeles consciousness was the next big crime drama to enrapture the city. For this one, Murray took a starring role in the
87 coverage The case of the Overell Yacht Murders made a far lighter historical footprint, perhaps because it eventually came to a satisfying conclusion, but at the time it drove newspaper circulation and interest even beyond that of the Dahlia case. At its height, copies of the Examiner 78 ngeles. A young, cocky pre Louise Overell, the slightly plump, pampered heir to the Overell furniture fortune. Walter and March 15, 1947, a tremendous explosion killed the Overells on their yacht, the Mary B, which sank in 16 feet of water. The young lovers had dynamited the yacht after beating the Overells to death with a ball peen hammer. The Examiner ran photos on Sunday, but coverage began in earnest on Monday morning. Richardson radioed to Fowler and asked him if he had seen the story in the Sunday edition. Fowler said no. Richardson cursed him, slammed down the radio, and turned to Murray on the rewrite desk and asked h Murray a ticket to Santa Ana, where he would spend March 17 to October 6 living in a motel, covering the case along with two dozen other reporters and photographers from Los Angeles newspapers and the news services. 79 When a second set of dynamite that had failed to ignite was found, wired to a timer, the young lovers were arrested and jailed. Ea rly on in the coverage, Murray was working the courthouse and had heard a rumor that Gollum and Louise had been surreptitiously passing notes
88 to each other at the jail house. Richardson had heard the rumor, too, and began to press Murray to find out more. any letters. One night when I was drinking with Maury Godchaux of the Times and feel ing extended road trip. But Richardson, who preferred his reporters to be single and unat tached, cigar knowledge about the California justice system. Gallagher passed Murray a golden tip: The letters were being passed between Gollum and Louise via a j ailer, who was photocopying them before he passed them along. 80 Richardson made the next move. As city edi tor for a Hearst paper, he had considerable pull within state politics. Hearst knew how to use his newspapers to influence politics and elections, so politicians understood it was usually in their best interest to remain on good terms with those who made n ews decisions at the Examiner and the other Hearst papers. To anger went to the Attorney General, Fred Howser. Howser agreed, and a plan was put in place. An
89 Exam iner reporter would pick up a motel key at a designated location. The letters would be in the motel room, under the blanket on the bed. Richardson chose Lloyd Emerson, a veteran reporter, to make the pick up. Murray, who was not informed of the plan or the whereabouts of the letters, would unknowingly act as a decoy. When the letters made it back safely to the newsroom, Richardson claimed the story for himself. The Examiner editor, Ray Van Ettish, assigned Richardson a single room, with one copy editor and one linotype operator to set the type. To fool the competition, which regularly sent someone to grab an early edition of the Examiner in case of scoops, Richardson had the press run dummy copies without his story. 81 Examiner were greeted with a 22 column scoop than ran hard to determi excerpts that Richardson did feel were tame enough for his readers, it would seem the level of vileness that Bud Gollum was capable of was relatively low. Gollum wrote in his let make passionate and violent love to you. I adore you. Your lovely hair, your eyes, your lips, your into the local room. As I walked to my desk, the reporters simply stared at me in silence. No one said hello or offered co ngratulations or anything. But I could feel what they were thinking. Why, the old bald headed son of a 82 Murray learned of the transaction when he read it in the Examiner But the rest of the press believed it was he who had pulled off the scoop. Attorney General Howser came down from
90 safe to steal the letters. Was it Murray? asked Godchaux of the Times Hoswer in dicated it was. The focus of the press now turned on him. Rivals dropped their coverage at the police station and the courthouse to follow Murray around. His notes were stolen. A reporter was found hiding under his bed. He heard strange clicks on his telep hone calls. 83 The trial lasted for 19 weeks, and more than 120 witnesses testified. In the end, the jury found the couple innocent, deciding that Walter Overell had mishandled dynamite on his boat, and dismissed evidence of the hammer beating. The letters were declared inadmissible. (Near the end of the trial, Murray had broken a story that the jury was tainted because a juror falsely claimed friends of the defendant s had intimidated her.) 84 When the verdicts were read, a tremendous cheer erupted from the crowd of hundreds gathered around the courthouse as reporters raced for the telephone banks in the courthouse hallway, and fought their way to Louise to ask her if th 85 The Overell case was not only another in the long historical line of miscarriages of Los both this case and the Wa ters case had raised his profile within the industry, if not among the general public. And professionally, he was beginning to feel as though he was outgrowing the Examiner The excitement of chasing Hollywood divorces and sensational crime stories was dim inishing, just as the demands of that type of work was infringing on his personal life. He and Gerry now were raising a family and had a life to maintain, one that would work better with more money and a less hectic schedule.
91 In late 1947, Time/Life approa ched fellow Examiner rewrite man Joe Santley about a I was just Jim 86 Sidney James, Los Angeles bureau chief, was aware of Murray from his coverage of the Overell case and some of his other work, and was excited to add him to the interview list. 87 Time interviewed 40 people for the position, but it was Murray who received the offer. It was the money, he said, that sealed the deal. Time offered $7,000 a year, a figure that would more than double his salary, as well as much better benefits than he received at the Examiner As a farewell celebration just before he left the staff, Fowler asked his father to bring some of his famous friends along f Examiner friends were joined by Gene Fowler, ex heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, famed Grantland Rice. The group gathe celebrated late into the night. 88 It was a fabulous final act for a time in his life that he would always remember fondly. In four years, he had become a skillful writer and an experienced journal ist. And now, he was going from the Hearst chain to Time magazine, a move, he would write many years later, which was like going from a honky tonk to Park Avenue. 89 1 Folwer, Reporters 116. 2 Jim Murray, personal journal of newspaper clippings. 3 Pitt, Los Angeles A to Z 363. 4 Fowler, Reporter s 116. 5 Murray, Jim Murray 1 2.
92 6 Rob Leicester Wagner, Red Ink, White Lies: The Rise and Fall of Los Angeles Newspapers, 1920 1962 (Upland, CA: Dragonflyer Press, 2000), 9 10. 7 New York Times August 15, 1951. 8 Emery, The Press and America 285 295. 9 New York Times, August 15, 1951. 10 David Nasaw, The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company), 170. was presented for the presidential nomination at the Democratic convention in St. Louis in July of 1904, but he lost the nomination to Alton B. Parker. 11 Fowler, Reporters 145 147. 12 Melvin Durslag, interview by author, January 30, 2009. 13 Joe Santley interview by author, February 3, 2009. 14 Jim Murray to Ed Copps, Time magazine, New York, August 6, 1957, 3. Background notes for Time magazine 15 Melvin Durslag, interview by author, January 30, 2009. 16 Time August 19, 1957. 17 Jim Murray to Ed Copps, Time magazine, New York, August 6, 1957, 4. 18 Jim Murray to Ed Copps, Time magazine, New York, August 9, 1957, 3. Additional background notes for Time 19 Fowle r, Reporters 7 8. 20 Joe Santley, interview by author, February 3, 2009. 21 Jim Murray to Ed Copps, Time magazine, New York, August 6, 1957, 12. 22 Fowler, Reporters 23. 23 of Lieut. Col Tom Los Angeles Examiner March 5, 1944. 24 Los Angeles Examiner February 18, 1944. 25 Los Angeles Times January 11, 1962. 26 Linda McCoy Murray, interview by author, Feb ruary 19, 2009. 27 Murray, Jim Murray 18. 28 New Haven Register fall, 1943.
93 29 Jim Notopoulos to Mr. Alan Scott January 17, 1944. It is not clear whether Murray or Notopoulos had any personal connection to Scott. that same month, his only Academy Award nomination. 30 Robert Osborne, 65 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards (New York: Abbeville Press, 1994), 7 8 79. The ceremony held in 1944 was also the first in which the winners of the best supporting actress and best supporting actor awards received Oscar statuettes. Prior to that year, they received only plaques. The ceremony was also broadcast via radio to the armed forces serving overseas. The radio broadcast was hosted by Jack Benny. 31 Los Angeles Examiner March 3, 1944. 32 Jim Murray to Ed Copps, Time magazine, New York, August 6, 1957, 2. 33 Jim Richardson, For the Life of Me (New York 50. 34 Los Angeles Examiner December 14, 1944. 35 Los Angeles Examiner July 29, 1944. 36 Los Angeles Examiner July 3, 1944. 37 Murray, Jim Murray 125. 38 Frank McCulloch, interview by author, April 3, 2008. 39 Joe Santley, interview by author, February 3, 2009. 40 Fowler, Reporters 120 123. 41 Linda McCoy Murray, interview by autho r, February 19, 2009. 42 Folwer, Reporters 117. 43 Ibid., 11. 44 Los Angeles Times July 2, 1961. 45 Associated Press, July 3, 1960. 46 New York Times July 3, 1960. A prolific inated this line, still 47 Fowler, Reporters 6, 95 97. W.C. Fields died on Christmas day, 1946. 48 Melvin Durs lag, interview by author, January 30, 2009. 49 Murray, Jim Murray 124 125.
94 50 Examiner to the Associated Press. 51 Pitt, Los Angeles: A to Z 383. 52 Fowler, Reporters 119. 53 K evin Nelson, The Golden Game: The Story of California Baseball (San Francisco: California Historical Society Press, 2004), 257 262. 54 Richard Beverage, The Hollywood Stars: Baseball in Movieland 1926 1957 (Placentia California: The Deacon Press, 1984), 10 2. 55 Murray, Jim Murray 128. 56 Los Angeles Examiner April 22, 1944. The Hollywood Freeway was completed in 1948. 57 Los Angeles Examiner February 25, 1947. 58 Los Angeles Examiner October 30, 1946. 59 Fowler, Reporters 146 147. 60 James Richardson, For the Life of Me 5. 61 Murray, Jim Murray 129. 62 Los Angeles Examiner October 22, 1946. 63 Los Angeles Examiner October 21, 1946. 64 Fowler, Reporters 147. 65 Los Angeles Examiner October 28, 1946. 66 Los Angeles Times November 7, 1946. 67 Murray, Jim Murray 129. Waters served time in Carson City, Nevada, and was paroled on May 3, 1948, and deported to Ireland. ( Los Angeles Times May 4, 1948.) 68 8 Ball Final 4 th Annual Edition, Los Angeles Press Club, 1950, 6 8. 69 Richardson, For the Life of Me 296. 70 Melvin Dursla g, interview by author, January 30, 2009. 71 Wagner, Red Ink 208 209. 72 Fowler, Reporters 75.
95 73 Los Angeles Times January 10, 1996. Smith was also Fowler wrote that the nickname came from the Long Beach correspondent, Bevo Means, after hearing Elizabeth Short referred in that way by customers at the coffee shop where she often ate lun ch in the months before the murder. 74 Wagner, Red Ink, 213 214. 75 Fowler, Reporters 85. 76 Wagner, Red Ink 218. 77 Fowler, Reporters 85. 78 Richardson, For the Life of Me 282. 79 Wagner, Red Ink, 220. 80 Fowler, Reporters 128 129. 81 Wagner, Red Ink 221 22 2. 82 Richardson, For the Life of Me 289 291. 83 Wagner, Red Ink 222. 84 Ibid., 224. 85 Los Angeles Times October 6, 1947. Louise Overell married a guard from the Santa Ana jail nine months aft er the trial. The couple divorced a short time later. Overell died of acute alcohol poisoning in Las Vegas in 1965. 86 Joe Santley, interview by author, February 3, 2009. 87 Frank McCulloch, interview by author, April 3, 2008. 88 Fowler, Reporters 132. 89 Mur ray, Jim Murray 131.
96 CHAPTER 4 THE TIME YEARS, 1948 1953 Joining the American Century It was 1948, World War II was receding into the past, and Jim Murray had become upwardly mobile, much like his country. The post war boom in the United States had firmly taken hold. The U.S. then nearly three years beyond its military triumph around the globe, had emerged from th e war as the dominant economic power in the world. Influence abroad and affluence at home defined the mood of the country. By any historical standards, the economic growth in the 50 states was phenomenal. In the 1940s, the U.S. made up 7 percent of the wor manufacturing output around the globe. merican per capita income was more than 50 percent greater than the next highest countries, the Western European nations. The economic statistics were indicators that told the story of the new reality that Americans were beginning to feel in the late 1940s Most Americans ate better, made more money, lived more comfortably and generally lived a higher quality of life with unlimited opportunity than did their parents. 1 c ulture as well. The country was becoming dominated by the middle class. The post war class system began to resemble a diamond, instead of a pyramid, as it had always in the past, with the middle class accounting for the central bulge, the 60 percent of the population that fit that description. The country was becoming more educated as well a college education was now the suburbs to escape the traffic, crime and
97 congestion. And, in a development that Murray had bore witness to on Examiner assignments, 2 the era of television was emerging and beginning to change how Americans received their news and viewed their world. 3 The cultural changes that had occurred and would continue to occur in the coming years made it an opportune time for Murray to make the move from metro news reporting to national news magazine work. And he was landing at a magazine that, thanks to its emin ent founder Henry Luce, would come to symbolize, as well as tirelessly promote, the new American dominance around the globe. For a journalist in the late 1940s looking to make his mark, Time was the pinnacle of the industry. Time, Inc., was born 25 years p rior, when Henry Luce and Britton Hadden, recent Yale graduates and editors at the Yale Daily News discovered an unfilled to synthesize the important issues of the day world affairs, science, technology, arts, industry, etc. and make it accessible to busy Americans. By the end of the 1920s, the idea had taken off and Time had a national circulation of more than 200,000. Hadden died in 1929, and Luce took control of the corporation and directed it to new heights. First, he added Fortune a business publication aimed at those in the top gathering organization grew alon g the way. And in 1936, he launched Life a photo dominated magazine that soon became immensely popular. 4 By February of 1948, when Murray joined the staff, Life had far eclipsed Time and had become a money making juggernaut, with a circulation that had c limbed to nearly six million readers. (The circulation of Time was then between two and three million.) 5 Right from the start, Murray had to adjust to a very different working environment. The quiet offices of the Los Angeles bureau of Time/Life, locate d in posh Beverly Hills, were very
98 different than the smoke filled, cacophonous environs of the Examiner city room. The Los Angeles bureau was the second largest in the Time/Life Corporation, behind only the Washington, D.C., bureau. The headquarters of Ti me/Life were located at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. About 25 people worked out of the Beverly Hills office. Several were photographers who worked exclusively for Life ; the majority of the rest were correspondents who reported for publications. Murray quickly found that working in the far reaching Time/Life news service was a completely different type of reporting. Instead of getting his assignments from Richardson or an assistant city editor, just a few desks away, his marching ord ers now usually came from 3,000 miles away, in the New York office. About 60 percent of the work done at the bureaus was at the direction of headquarters. With their remaining time, reporters could pursue stories and pitch them to the bureau chief, who wou ld then try to sell New York on the idea. 6 The backgrounds of his co workers had changed as well. Examiner writers and editors had often kicked around Los Angeles from paper to paper, or perhaps started out in the newspaper business as a copy boy and hung around long enough to find their way onto the writing staff. To find the starting point of the majority of the Time staff, however, one needed only look northeast, to the Ivy League. A Time/Lifer was a highly educated, ambitious and skilled journalist who, Murray would write later, immediately wanted to cover the State Department, the White House or Winston Churchill. 7 Hollywood Reporter Though his beat would eventually include politics, crime, sports and much of the rest of the happenings in and around L os Angeles, Murray was ostensibly hired to cover Hollywood for Time His duties included writing a regular background report on the ins and outs of the movie reporters wo uld produce lengthy background dispatches, rich in anecdotes, quotes and human
99 interest, and send them off to New York, where the information would be combined with the work of other reporters and fashioned, by the New York editing staff, into an article t hat fit nicely into the Time asically you ju McCulloch, who started at the Los Angeles bureau with Murray and later became bureau chief. our job was to transport a g uy sitting in a New York office some hundred s or thousand s of miles to the scene of the story you were doing, and mak e the sights, sounds and smells real to him. So you always over wrote, unless you were on a very tight deadline, you always over wrote, because that was your function. Just l ike he did four years earlier as a cub reporter at the Examiner Murray grabbed the rookie assignments that he was given early on and managed to use them to distinguish himself. An early story in Americana section looked at oddities cropping up in A merican manners and morals. Time still ran largely without bylines, but the Time/Life news service would include in house bylines, coveted by writers. On this particular story, the brand new Murray outshone his counterparts and scored points with the home Murray set the tone of the story by his excellently written piece on Ozzie Osborne 8 but both have had the byl 9 The Osborne portion of the article that Murray contributed eventually appeared in Time as a single sentence of 26 words. 10 As he quickly gained the confidence of his superiors and the New York office, Murray industry at the time was in a state of flux. Several factors were changing the ways movies were made, and the players in Hollywood were struggling to develop a new order. The traditional
100 Hollywood system that had grown out of the early days of the film industry allowed the major studios to control the production, distribution and exhibition of films. Writers, directors and actors were usually employed with long term, fixed contracts with a single studio. In 1948, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the majors had an illegal monopoly over the industry and ordered distribution and exhibition to be run separately. At the same time, the film industry was looking over its shoulder at the growing influence of television, which many at the time regarded as the death knell for film. 11 Hollywood box office did decline in the early 1950s as television rapidly became available to the growing American middle c lass, but the actual threat would pale in comparison to the overreaction among movie by a few million and that product would be mo re needful than ever. Hollywood simply got its 12 Time break up the weekly parade of politicians and statesmen with the occasional Hol lywood starlet. cover subjects, make contact and begin the reporting. That part of the job was made more 0s was a male dominated era in the Hollywood film industry. Names like Cary Grant, John Wayne, Kirk Dougla s and Humphrey Bogart dominated the screen and filled cinema seats across the country. Many of the female stars of years earlier Joan Crawford, Bett e Davis, Barbara Stanwyck were no longer causing the box Time then, mirrored the work being done by the studios. Hollywood, Time reported, was
101 13 Murray did his part, and during his early years at Time such as Betty Hutton, Ava Gardner, Lucille Ball and Elizabeth Taylor appeared as cover stories. Taylor, 14 A Parade of Stars trail of Marilyn Monroe when she was just a blip on the Hollywood radar. He first met Monroe when she was a mistress of Joe Schenk, chairman of 20 th Century Fox and one of the most influential men in the industry. Director Joe Mankiewicz gave Monroe a bit for Schenk, and she lit up the screen and quickly began generating buzz. Murray pitched a story on her to Time editors, who agreed, hoping to eventually to spin the project into a multi page photo spread o f the blonde beauty in Life Murray got to know her during the next few years, detailing her rising career arc in the pages of Time On one occasion, he showed up to take her to dinner at 7 p.m. and waited for an hour and a half for Monroe to get ready, du ring which she went through four to seven dress changes. 15 Murray interviewed her through dinner, but around dessert Monroe began to look distracted. 16 DiMaggio, recently retired but still one of the most popular athletes in the country at the time, had met Monroe after a photo of her in the sports page of a newspaper had caught his eye. 17
102 in., 118 lbs., bust 37 in., hips 37 in., 18 19 54, but Murray developed a relationship with DiMaggio that would last years longer. box office star dated back to the mid 1930s, and Murray would see him from afar at Hollywood Stars ry told him to wait in an outer office. Thirty minutes dragged by, and Murray thought the singer had forgot about him. He approached the secretary and was assured that Crosby knew he was waiting. Another hour passed. Murray told the secretary he had other appointments and was on deadline. The secretary Time 19 A little mistreatment at the hands of a star with an oversized ego was part of the price to be paid to hold down one of the most coveted beats in the Time/Life empire. Where a few years guest with prime aisle seats, as he was at t he major movie premieres. 20 Marlon Brando was another actor who put Murray through his own little initiation rites. Murray went to meet Brando upper echelon of Ho llywood stardom. A new breed of star, Brando was a rebellious independent thinker who delighted in riling the Hollywood power structure and those who ran it. Films such
103 s room bungalow behind the Beverly Hills Hotel for a scheduled appointment. He knocked, rang the bell, knocked again, to no avail. He sat on the steps and waited, then knocked again. Finally, after an hour, he was pinning a note to the door when behind the front window. 21 Later, Murray took Brando to a restaurant for breakfast. Brando ordered eggs, and when the waiter brought them, he was not sati sfied. He sent them back, and on redelivery, sent them back again. Finally, Murray paid the check and told Brando he knew a place where he could get Brando his eggs just how he liked them. The pair drove to the Murray home, and Gerry answered the door with a towel on her head to see Murray and Brando standing before her. 22 The Brando profile ran as a cover story in October of 1954. Brando had already made a habit of sparring with the Hollywood press, and the profile that Murray had worked on exacerbated tha Louella Parsons, was one of two Hollywood gossip columnists who wielded tremendous power in the industry the other was Hedda Hopper of the Esquire Feather Syndicate, whose column r an in the Los Angeles Times The two were rivals, and each were said to have the power to shut down production of any Hollywood film if they so desired. Both had played a large part in the birth of celebrity journalism. 23 The Time profile included a lengthy 24 That little gem, it turned out, was not one that Brando wanted to see in print.
104 This was one occas ion where Murray was helped by no byline policy. Shortly after publication, Brando wrote a letter of apology to Parsons and forwarded a copy of it to Murray, along with a long, rambling letter to Murray explaining himself. Brando found Murray blamel ess to the New York editors who included it in the published appear overly concerned about the faux pas. Brando wrote to Murray: I really think that most of the time (Parsons) is really just a big poop, but out of respect to what I believe to be fair she deserves some considerati piece was as fair and truthfully wrought as it could possibly be this side of a lengthy of which is the new perspective he lent me o f myself in relation to the world about me and secondly is your having been as honest and thorough as you were. Most of all it was your lack of preconception and your insistent openness of mind that made it the most pleasant experience with the press to da te. Please give my very best to Frances. 25 I hope that she and the kids are well. Looking forward to having some dinner blabber or something with you. 26 The ability to turn a somewhat adversarial interview situation into a friendly experience was a gift that Murray would come to rely on and one that would allow him to create profiles that were rich in the human interest his editors demanded. His position at Time opened doors, t d epended on your personality, knowledge and so forth, as to what you got out of the stars, and Jim was a perfect interviewer, hatever the quality is, he had it in great amounts, empathy, and persuasion. (They) always knew they were going to be treated fairly 27 Murray got to know John Wayne while reporting a story on him in 1952. Murray had been promoting the idea of a Wayne cover story for months before, but none of the Time editors had movies. Theater exhibiters, however, knew all about Wayne, and he was proving to be box office magic. Murray played poker with Wayne
105 and the two developed a lasting friendship. As the box office receipts piled up, the Time editors s cover pitch, and Wayne graced the cover in early 1952. 28 During the reporting of the story, Murray went to interview John Ford, the legendary director who was Time magazine or their superior attitude, and proceeded to browbeat Murray throughout the ad Ford hooted with laughter. 29 te. 30 Man of the World After he had a few years of Time/Life paychecks under his belt, the Murrays were ready to graduate from apartment dwellers to homeowners. Murray had decided that living in the middle of the city was not the right environment in which to raise children. 31 They moved to a roomy white house in a neighborhood called Pacific Palisades with a walled in backyard that gave the the backyard you could s mell the Pacific salt in the air. 32 Pacific Palisades was about 17 miles outside of downtown Los Angeles. The modernist style homes became a desirable suburb in the late 1940s and 1950s and attracted artists, architects, writers and theater people. 33 The Mur third child, Pam, their first daughter, was born in 1951, followed in 1953 by Eric, who the family would call Ricky. That same year, Frank McCulloch came aboard as a correspondent for Time McCulloch and the man who would play the most direct role in turning him into a sports columnist. McCulloch was the son of cattle ranchers from
106 western Nevada, and served in the Marines in World War II. Afterward, he worked his way from small newspapers in rural ea stern California to a position at the Reno Evening Gazette where he wrote for the AP and UPI wire services on the side. His work was recognized by Time, and he was hired on, initially as a correspondent in the Los Angeles bureau. He quickly came to be vie wed as someone with leadership potential, and after short stints in Dallas and New York, was back in Los Angeles as the bureau chief. 34 Murray and McCulloch developed an immediate friendship. They felt kinship as two non Ivy Leaguers in a sea of Princeton, Yale and Dartmouth graduates. (McCulloch had graduated from University of Nevada Reno.) They also shared a McCulloch also had a heart condition that kept him stateside. public relations office in San Francisco. 35 McCulloch and his wife, Jakie, became social friends with the Murrays; the two young couples went to plays and sporting events together regularly. It was during his years in the Lo s Angeles bureau that McCulloch first made his mark journalistically. Through persistence, he managed to become the one journalist to gain the and aviation mogul. ice on the on Hughe nt. McCulloch would go on to have a distinguished journalism career, first as a war correspondent, and later as a editor and chief at several California newspapers. He served as Southeast Asia bureau chief from 1963 to 1967, and
107 was considered one of the most distinguished of the early Vietnam War reporters, and one of the first to become disenchanted with the American war effort. 36 branch out into other areas of coverage, from politics to crime to religion. He convinced Time editors to devote some coverage to the early crusades of Billy Graham in 1949, after the idea had been rejected several times. The article eventually filled an entire page in religion section. 37 Graham later said appearing in Time was the most important breakthrough in his rise to fame. In a le comments from various parts of the world on your fair and complimentary presentation of the cause of evangelism. This has gone a long ways to help in putting evangelism to the forefront 38 In 1952, he got his first shot at presidential politics, when he was assigned to cover the West Coast campaign of Richard Nixon, then a young California congressman running for vice president on the Dwight Eisenhower ticket. Nixon, then 38, had been chosen because of his influence in California, but was still a relatively unknown politician nationally. Murray viewed the trip, which was to be a whistle stop train through the Northwest, as a fun little excursion and a c hance to get a break from the movie crowd. It turned out to be a stressful lesson in deadline reporting. Just as Murray joined the campaign, the Los Angeles Daily News and the New York Post broke a story about a secret slush fund that a group of Californi a Nixon supporters had created. press corps, but they had miscalculated. The Washington Post and the New York Times picked up the story, and the controversy threa
108 been in favor of Nixon as the vice presidential choice, did little to ease the situation. (Nixon in ma 39 As the firestorm grew, the Eisenhower campaign cut off the train tour early for Nixon to fly down to Los Angeles, so he could appear on television to explain himself. With the press in tow Nixon and his handlers flew down to L.A. on a Monday night in preparation for the speech on Tuesday morning. The problem for Murray was that Time went to press on Monday night. Before the flight left from Oregon to L.A., Murray received a call from Max W ays, national affairs editor and one of the top men in the company. reamed. Murray fretted through the entire flight from Oregon to Los Angeles. Access to Nixon was blocked off by his handlers. Murray decided to wait until Nixon used the rest room. Late in the flight, Nixon made his move, a nd Murray waited for him to emerge. When he did, Murray grabbed his arm and told him of his predicament, deadline, and how he must know the contents of the speech. Nixon considered the request, and then told him to see Jim Bassett, one of the candid speech to Murray. Murray was perplexed at first, but then he understood. Bassett was telling him that Nixon was going to L. the ticket. When the plane landed, he called New York to deliver the news, and then retired to
109 the bar at the Ambassador Hotel, where the press was staying, to celebrate. One drink in, ho wever, his calm was once again disturbed. A reporter for United Press came to the bar and told Time was ab out to be 100 percent, irreversibly wrong, and it would be completely his fault. He sprang up, went back to the phone, urging, Rogers went to ask Nixon, and when h 40 a maudlin, melodramatic presentation, but it worked t o settle the controversy and keep Nixon on the ticket. Nixon looked into the camera and declared that the only gift he had taken was a dog. It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate Black and white spotted. And our little girl Tricia, the 6 year old named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they sa y about it, we're gonna keep 41 Shortly thereafter Eisenhower threw his support firmly b ehind his ticket mate. During the episode, Eisenhower had made the comment that his campaign should be played a role in the incident. Murray was invited to join, and in early 1953, after Nixon had assumed the office of vice president, 42 Finding a Voice The life of a Time field correspon dent had plenty of advantages money, access, sense of importance but there were some drawbacks, too, particularly for those with literary ambition, which meant almost everybody in the news service. The correspondent knew that the thousands
110 of words he typed each week would go through layer upon layer of editing, and would be f you wanted to encourage yourself, you co uld find phrases and even parag raphs you had written and once in a long long while, es pecially whe n you filed a story as the maga zine was about to close, once in a long while frustration caused some writers to eventually move on to other pursu its, but the majority felt ometimes a reversal of conte nt made you angry, but there were two other considerations ne was the prestige of working for Time and the other more important one was tha t Time best stories. And so that second one was a huge compensation, and you eventually wou ld adopt done with it in New York 43 One thing a correspondent could do in an effort to break free of the anonymity was to offer his services to Life sister publication often ran bylines, gave writers the occasional chance to break out of patented Time style, and, of course, had a circulation of nearly six million. Murray asked for and received the opportunity in April of 1950, and used it to show an early ability to generate an emotional response from readers. The article, headlined the magazine, the first person piece described in de tail why the New York Yankees domination of baseball for the past three decades was strictly a financial proposition. In 1950, the Yankees had won 16 of the last 29 American League pennants, and 12 of the last 29 World Series. Murray used his space to disp
111 mystical quality from the great Babe Ruth that had propelled them to be champions for eternity. Of the myth, Murray wrote: Nothing could be more preposterous. For my money the Yanke es were and are superchampions for the same reasons General Motors or U.S. Steel or Standard Oil are superbusinesses. They have more fans paying more money than any other club in the uld feel sorry for Standard Oil because it was getting slightly the worst of it in a marketing fight with an Sox to win, and if DiMaggio is slow rounding into shape a somehow. 44 The New York Yankees had an enormous national following that had grown out of the sports boom of the 1920s and their stars, from Ruth t o Gehrig to DiMaggio, were legendary and beloved from Maine to California. So it was unsurprising that Life readers let it be known that they felt the same way about Murray as he did about their team. The magazine devoted two pages to letters, mostly negat was the worst article I ever read in Life It upset the whole family, especially my 10 year old crackp ot. I do not believe Mr. Murray was qualified to write an article on any major league team, H. Quinn of Ojai, California. column photo of Murray, holding a bat over his shoulder and grinning, was included in the letters sectio n. 45 article about sports, it was one he cherished and often mentioned in later years when his sports column would touch upon similar issues. Secondly, the article was h is first personal experience with the visceral reaction that an opinionated sports article can engender in his readers. The
112 point by point, fact supported style he used in the piece was one he would repeat in his early sports writing for Time/Life. 46 The ar ticle no doubt led to considerable discussion within the Los Angeles bureau and through the New York offices of Life An article that generated enough of a response to call for publishing a photo of a heretofore anonymous cog in the news service machine wa plus employees of Time, Inc. in fact became one of the more enduring lines Murray would writ e. The comparison of the Yankees to U.S. Steel and General Motors (see above) had legs. It soon became a sort of catch phrase that was found often in the baseball writing of the next few decades, or the length of time the Yankees remained dominant. 47 Murray was aware of this, and wrote a column in 1966 for the Los Angeles Times claiming credit for the line: ause he articulated for so James Patrick Murray. April 17, 1950 around the house? Gen. Eisenhower is on the cover. He always was in those days. Open to Murray, Time 48 Later, the l ine was most often attributed to Red Smith, who was already established as a Life Murray addressed the issue in his autobiography, claiming credit once again, but acknowledging the ephemeral q Life piece. I lived with it. 49
113 A Hidden Talent Emerges throughout the news service, and eventually many would become dependent on him on those rare occasions that leadership chose to devote column space to sports related subjects. Murray claimed 50 One of his first sports related assignments came from fact checking department, and it allowed him the opportunity to meet a personal hero of his, golfer Ben Hogan. Hogan had won the U.S. open the previous summer, alo ng with nine other tournaments, establishing him as the premiere golfer at that time. He would become the first golfer on the cover of Time sports editor Marshall Smith spent a week with Hogan in October of 1948, but by the time the magazine was re ady to publish the piece in January of 1949, 51 the researchers assigned to the needed to be run by Hogan. Because Hogan was in Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Open tournament, the researchers sent a 5 page, single spaced list of questions to Murray. He received the list just hours before the magazine was scheduled to go to press. Murray waited in the locker room for Hogan to finish his practice round, and then for t he famously meticulous golfer to try putt after putt on the practice green until darkness had fallen. When he finally made himself available to Murray, he showed the same attention to detail with the article that he had with his golf game. He disputed many Time Inc. presses in Chicago waited, at a tremendous cost, for Murray to deliver the final version of the story. Hogan refused to OK a statistical chart on his average shot distance, arguing that
114 Hogan compromised, and the presses were set in motion, several hours behind schedule. 52 writi ng and reporting role in the projects. Time put sports personalities on the cover of the magazine even less frequently than it did movie stars, but at least a page of each issue was dedicated to sports. When sports topics were chosen which had a Southern C alifornia connection, Murray was usually the correspondent who would get the call. He worked on a cover story on Olympic sprinter Mel Patton 53 and did the majority of the research for a cover piece about decathlete Bob Mathias. 54 He said he was assigned the feature on Notre Dame star quarterback Johnny Lattner 55 56 For the Lattner article, Murray traveled to South Bend, Indiana, to cover the football game between Navy and Notre Dame in October of 19 53. With the majority of the piece written, game is dedicated. If the 57 When the Lattner cover story hit newsstands, Murray was already a few months into the next stage of his career with Time/Life. His reputation for sports expertise had gotten him in on the ground floor of the next prolific journalism career. The secret project pointed Murray east, to the New York headquarters o f Time/Life, where he would assume a new position in the company, and begin the transition from news writer to sports writer. 1 James T. Patterson, Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945 1974 ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 61 65.
115 2 KTLA, the first commercial television station in Southern California, broadcast for the first time on January 22, 1947. 3 George Moss, America in the Twentieth Century (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1989), 273 277. 4 Emery, The Press and America 459 460. 5 Robert T. Elson, The World of Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise, Volume Two: 1941 1960 (New York: Atheneum, 1973), 182 183, 436 437. 6 Ibid. 7 Beverly Hills 1 2 3 June 3, 1992, 7. 8 year old Virginia man who set the record for flagpole sitting 52 days, 13 hours, 58 minutes not the bat eating glam rocker who emerged four decades later. 9 Los Angeles memo, Time/Life, October 1, 1948. 10 Time 11 Richard Maltby, Hollywood Cinema 2 nd Edition (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), 154 155. 12 Murray, Jim Murray 19. 13 Time 14 Eric Sandburg, interview by author, November 14, 2008. 15 Murray, Jim Murray 21. 16 Sp orts Illustrated April 21, 1986, 82. 17 Nelson, The Golden Game 256. 18 Time 19 John Scheibe, On the Road with Jim Murray: Baseball and the Summer of 2007), 41. 20 Murray, Jim Murray, 19. 21 Ibid., 27. 22 Eric Sandburg, interview by author, November 14, 2008. 23 Sam Kashner and Jennifer Kashner, The Bad and the Beautiful: Hollywood in the Fifties (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2002), 278 292. 24 Time 4. 25 Brando appears to have misremembered the name of Gerry Murray.
116 26 Marlon Brando to Jim Murray, October 9, 1953. 27 Frank McCulloch, interview by author, April 3, 2008. 28 Time 29 Murray, Jim Murray 24. 30 John Wayne to Jim Murray, February 28, 1952. 31 Gerald Suppicich, interview by author, November 19, 2008. 32 Fowler, Reporters 133. 33 Pitt, Los Angeles, A to Z 375. 34 Frank McCulloch, interview by author, April 3, 2008. 35 American Journalism Review June/July 2004. 36 Hughes as a fraud. Irving claimed to have worked with Hughes on the book, and had sold the rights to Life when Hughes called McCulloch to tell him that he had never met Irving. 37 Time 38 Billy Graham to Jim Murray, November 28, 1949. 39 Patterson, Great Expectations 256 257. 40 Murray, Jim Murray 36 40. 41 Patterson, Great Expectations 256 257. 42 Richard Nixon to Jim Murray, February 20, 1953. Murray later wrote that he flew home early from a vacation in Hawaii in 1960 to cast his vote for Nixon. He said he felt he still owed him for his help in the Check ers incident. 43 Frank McCulloch, interview by author, April 3, 2008. 44 Life April 17, 1950, 26 36. 45 Life Letters to the Editors, April 24, 1950. 46 Murray addressed the topic of New York Yankee dominance many times onc e he became a full time sports norma busted into four first 47 Two examples are similar lines found in the October 21, 1953, and January 6, 1954, issues of The Sporting News 48 Los Angeles Times February 23, 1966. Bennett Cerf was a founding publisher of Random House and published a number of compilations of stories, jokes and puns.
117 49 Murray, Jim Murray, 14. 50 51 Time 949. 52 Murray, Jim Murray, 81 83. The Hogan cover story was one of a series of articles to which the Time sports cover jinx can be traced. Hogan was in a life threatening auto accident shortly after the cover appeared. Three years earlier, the Illinois rac ing stable of Elizabeth Arden Graham burned down the day a Time cover on Arden reached newsstands. A year later, baseball manager Leo Durocher was suspended as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers the day before a cover profile on him came out. The legend later morphed into the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. 53 Time 54 Time, 55 Time 56 Writer s Digest August 19 77, 23. 57 Byron Riggan to Jim Murray, telegram, October 31, 1953. Notre Dame defeated Navy, 38 7.
118 CHAPTER 5 THE SPORTS ILLUSTRATED YEARS, 1953 1960 orts writer. But first, indirectly of 1 1953, but the famously hands on CEO made his way to every outpost in the Time/Life chain, so their paths had crossed enough to give Luce an awareness of Murray and his work. Now, however, they would work side by side in the creation of what was at the time known only as Project X. 2 way Murray would view his role as a journalist and a writer. Having started Time magazine with classmate Briton Hadden, almost immediately after college in 1923, Luce was still only in his late 40s when Murray joined the company. Murray, however, considered him larger in life than the president of the United States. Luce, though, was a down to earth leader who appreciated and depended on input from his employees. He developed personal relationships with as many Time/Life employees as he co uld and asked them all to call him Harry. On the day Murray joined the Time/Life staff, Luce was on one of his annual four week shifts as managing editor of Time ago given up as a full ut Luce came from a 1 A journalist to the core, Luce had an exceedingly inquisiti ve nature and Time/Lifers came to be ready for a slew of questions whenever he was around. When he would make his 1 Los Angeles Times March 2, 1967.
119 intermittent trips to bureaus, the staff member who had been assigned to transport him around town would often make a dry run, memorizing fact s and names about the geography and history reporter who drew the assignment to drive Luce from Los Angeles to San Francisco was unable to go on a dry run. By abo ut halfway through the ride, the writer was becoming overwhelmed by the questioning. After a few more miles, the two passed a large excavation for a new building. 3 first view of the world soaked every page of every publication his company produced, and indeed his idea of journalism held that total objectivity was a myth and it was the job of the journalist to provide analysis and point of view. His fo rmula for team journalism, comprehensive reporting that also offered more than a dash of perspective, raised the in the largest sense was Luce that this was the American Empire, this was the century of the American Empire, and ated he editors, all of whom were promoted over time working for him his editors all reflected that view. They wanted to keep their jobs, so they damn well better reflect that view. 4 A meeting with Luce could be a tense experience for a young reporter. He had a commanding presence. He was tall and stood straight with ice blue eyes, thick eye brows and a 5 He talked rapidly, firing his questions and arguments in staccato bursts, his mind often outracing his speech and confusing those who te he 6 But he appreciated and respected those who could match his
120 arguments, and often allowed his subordinates to change his positions. On editorial matters, he strived to achieve consensus with his top editors before handing do wn a decision, a process that in every aspect of the Time/Life oper 7 But he felt a tremendous kinship toward all business 8 Luce was always open t o ideas from Time/Life employees, and in the early 1950s a development department was created to evaluate ideas from the field and choose the best of them to be considered for implementation. One of the early submissions that came to the department was a m emo from a young executive named Robert Cowin. After conducting a readership survey in Columbus, Ohio, Cowin was amazed by the number of women respondents who said their husbands spent too much time devouring various sports publications. Time/Life, Cowin o pined, could produce its own sports magazine, one that would far surpass what was currently on the market. Such a magazine would be tapping into the growing market of weekend athletes and sports aficionados who were awash with more free time for recreation 9 project for Time/Life, Inc.
121 The Great Experiment By J une of 1953, Luce and his lieutenants had come to the decision that the company should move forward with plans to develop a new sports publication. The idea had been tried before by several different publishers, to varying degrees of success, but no nation al sports magazine had been able to sustain any real success. Despite market analysis conducted by his believed sports was the great untapped market in publishing He had no particular knowledge of or interest in sports himself, but he had noticed that dinner party conversation always drifted in that direction. 10 In July, Murray received a phone call from Ernie Haverman, a well respected reporter and editor at Life who had been tapped to lead the new project. Haverman had been chosen because of his experience as a sports writer at the St. Louis Post Dispatch years earlier. Now he was putting together a small team that would come to Time/Life headquarters in New York and begin the job of developing a prototype. Murray had been recommended by Clay Felk er, a Life reporter who was picked for the project because, similar to Murray, he was known as the rare Time/Life staffer with a sports background. 11 Haverman asked Murray to come to New York and join the team. Only weeks earlier, Murray had declined a simi lar offer from another editor who wanted him to participate in the creation of a culture oriented magazine. With this offer, however, Murray was intrigued. The next week he took the train east. 12 When Murray arrived in New York, he found the newly formed d epartment already in disarray. At the time there were only seven members of the team, and Haverman kept to himself
122 in a separate office with the door closed. Murray quickly got the sense that throughout the building, the new magazine, derisively referred t term 13 Editors had already begun taking the opportunity to dump questionable expenses, such as junkets to the Caribbean, on the proj with the project. 14 Haverman had already become disenchanted with the project, a fact that he would disclose shortly, so the responsibility fell to Murray to determine what the group w ould cover and who would provide the coverage. He assigned himself to a fight card at Madison Square Garden and sent other writers around the country to events he felt had national significance. 15 t. They even assumed the responsibility of walking dummy pages over to Madison Avenue advertising agencies for early review. shut down the project before it got started. His 11 detailed the litany of reasons that led Haverman to the conclusion that a weekly sports magazine spend on it will be wasted and that if we should ever actually publish, it would be a costly within the halls of the Time/Life building: The sports readership did not have a common in terest to tie the magazine together. Sure, there were readers for special interest sports magazines, such as Field & Stream Yachting and The Sporting News but subscribers to those magazines were satisfied and would not read a magazine that covered their subjects of interest along with others that did not interest them. st century climate of 24 hour sports entertainment
123 saturation, but in the early 1950s, sports was heavily regional and seasonal. Baseball, the most national of sports, only went as far west as the Mississippi River on a major league level, and attendance had been in decline since the late 1940s. Pro football was grow ing, but was a Northeastern and Midwestern phenomenon. Pro basketball was relegated to the East and still thought of by many as a bush league sport, drawing small crowds in minor league towns like Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Rochester, New York. Most believed college sports fans were only interested in their own school and conference. The National Hockey League had only six teams, four in the United States. Haverman foresaw a long winter with nothing to fill the pages of the magazine. tswriters who could produce articles that would rise to the level of quality expected from Time and Life readers. Consequently, the expense of hiring a staff or editing the work of outside writers would be prohibitive. The readers that would pick up the ma gazine were not the type of people that Madison Avenue advertisers were interested in reaching. Sports fans were either actual or overgrown adolescents, or working that Madison Avenue was selling to mag azine consumers. 16 ogged about one of his ideas, and Sid 17 Haverman proved to be prescient, if only on that last point. Luce chose to ignore his well reasoned arguments, and Sidney James, an editor known for his unyielding enthusi asm and the same man who had hired Murray for Time five and a half y ears earlier, was given the rei ns. Murray and the staff of the experimental department found out about the change on James first day on the job when he walked through the doors of the 17 t h floor offices. 18 James proceeded to pose the same qu estion to the rest of the crew, getting similar responses. It was with that type of overriding passion that James drove the project forward.
124 After his stint in Los Angeles, James had moved up to assistant managing editor of Life Now he took on the projec arguments and the negativity within the company. Luce, who had been in Rome, where his wife, Clare Booth Luce, was serving as ambassador, now came back to New York and became intim ately involved in Project X. Heretofore an unknown entity to most of the small staff, he now became a regular presence in said. He had regular lunches with the m embers, peppering them with his trademark questions. 19 Staffers often got the call to take Luce to a sporting event and provide an explanation of the sport. His total ignorance of the subject was a constant source of humor. At one meeting, Luce recounted a recent outing with an official in Rome who had taken Luce to a basketball game. Globetrotters Harry 20 In the fall of 1953, Murray headed back to Los Angeles, but continued to contribute to the project, which now was quickly accumulating staff and beginning to produce copy and pages. In January of 1954, the first prototype was produced and sent to Time subscribers in Minnesota. 21 It was titled simply The New Sports Magazine and was 140 pages long, filled with a mix of spectator and participatory sports articles, from wrestling to fox hunting. On the cover was an overhead shot of spectators, most, as in the fashion of the day, wearing hats, intently observing a sporting event which was taking place outside the frame of the camera. Luce saw promise, in both the fin
125 lways be crossed about futures, but it does indeed look as if we have Murray. 22 A second dummy issue went to press in April 1954, but the decision to publish still had not been made. Murray joined the advertising a nd editorial staffs of the new magazine at a convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, that month where it was announced that the decision had been made to go ahead. With publication for the first live issue set for August, the magazine still had no name Murray and some of the others on the experimental staff advocated the title Fame Time, Life, Fame and Fortune 23 Luce preferred Sport but the name was owned by MacFadden Publications, which was dem anding $250,000 for the rights to the name, a figure Luce was unwilling to pay. In the end, Time/Life was able to obtain the title Sports Illustrated from a friend of publisher Harry Phillips for $5,000. Finally, on August 16, more than a year after Murra y had received that fateful phone call, the inaugural issue of Sports Illustrated reached newsstands. The cover photo was Milwaukee Braves slugger Eddie Matthews batting in a game at Milwaukee County Stadium. Inside, the magazine was a mix of pieces contri buted by Time/Life staff writers, many written in the Time style, and others produced by well known contract sports writers such as Red Smith and Herbert Warren Wind, writing on their subjects of expertise. 24 Reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Subscripti on orders poured in. Even President Eisenhower, whom Luce had sent a copy,
126 inkering and financial losses before it would finally hit its editorial and financial stride. 25 Part time Sportswriter As with all start ups, Sports Illustrated struggled to define itself in its first years of existence. Was it a general interest sports r ag geared toward the everyday beer and a hot dog bleacher bum? Or was it a high brow literary sports journal for Ivy Leaguers to read over tea in the smoking room at the country club? Or, as long time Sports Illustrated writer Dan Jenkins called it before 26 In the early days, the majority of editors and writers in the Time/Life family thought it should lean toward the latter, while those who were producing the magazine on a weekly basis began to feel like the only route to ultimate success was to move toward the former. Time/Life advertising executives hungrily eyed the wealthy readership of the New Yorker and other high brow publications, and believed these were the readers Madison Aven ue desired. With James at the helm, the push from above for coverage of upper crust leisure activities had a willing ear. In the 27 Andy Crichton, an editor who joi ned the staff of the magazine in 1954, felt at the time there was the first Cricht as dummied up to go throu gh Sunday evening, and he turn ed the pages, on this long yacht story, and he c And a c 28 Murray, back in his position in the Los Angeles bureau, quickly became Sports de facto West Coast correspondent. His contributions straddled both sides of the leisure sport vs. spectator sport debate, and, in total, underscored his expert ise in an extremely
127 wide swath of sports subjects. One week, he would analyze the upcoming college football season; the next issue he would write about Ch. Crown Crest Rubi, an afghan breed winner at the appeared in the magazine in January of which at the time was a runaway financial success and a growing national attraction. As he would through his tenure at t he magazine, Murray wove his connections within and knowledge of the Hollywood movie industry into his coverage of sports. Photos of MGM founder Louis B. the ge ms of the racing industry: Out in Arcadia, Calif., a warm sun dappled down on a million pansy blossoms and a crowd of 30,000 felt a pleasurable shiver of anticipation as a gaudy gentleman in the scarlet greatcoat and furry top hat of a Dickensian outrider strode to the center of the harrowed track and raised his long stemmed bugle to his lips. It was the call to the colors for the start of the 18 th annual Santa Anita Park racing season. A moment later a dozen sleek, shiny glistening in the sunlight, burst onto the track and minced toward the starting line. To the racegoer, it was the prettiest sight in the world. 29 It was at that same track, less than two months later, that Murray got involved in his first major sports st ory, one that would also prove to be an early chance to leave a national footprint for Sports Illustrated In the mid 1950s, horse racing was riding a decade long wave of popularity and was challenging baseball as the top spectator sport in America. With a little extra money in their pockets, Americans felt free to spend some of their excess at the track. And outside of Las Vegas, there was very little competition for the American gambling dollar. In cks; by 1959, that figure rose to 33.5 million. During those same years, the amount of money wagered at tracks rose from $1.4 billion to $2.5 billion. 30 In late February, Murray covered the Santa Anita Derby, which was the coming out party for the next gre at star of the sport, a horse named Swaps. Swaps was owned by an
128 Arizonan named Rex Ellsworth and trained by his friend Mesh Tenney, both devout Mormons. In 1933, Ellsworth, the son of a rancher, had rented a truck and driven to Lexington, Kentucky, with $ 600, money he intended to use to start his racing stable. He had come back to Arizona with six mares and two weanlings, and gradually built a thriving thoroughbred business, one that would eventually become the most successful in the western U.S. 31 Choosing functionality over appearance, Ellsworth eschewed the Kentucky style horse farm of white picket fences and majestic barns in favor of the v mesh wiring of a western cattle pen. With no money for purchasing horses with top bloodlines, Ellsworth and Tenney managed to use their knowledge of conformation and skill of preparation to develop a string of winners. 32 By 1955, the Ellsworth operation was an unquestioned success, and Swaps, a long, tall, and wide chestnut colt with dazzling speed, would be their first opportunity to showcase their stable nationally. In the Santa Anita Derby, Swaps went off as the second favorite, and after grabbing the way wide but 33 Swaps won by half a length, and, as happens following all major stakes races in the winter and early spring, talk turned to the Kentucky Derby. Swaps was both bred and trained in California, and it had been 33 years since a California bred horse had won th e Kentucky Derby. California race fans seized upon Swaps as the next great Western hope. Arriving at Churchill Downs prior to the race, Tenney became incensed when he noticed a sleeping security guard, and decided to bed down in the stall with his prize co Life The public became infatuated with Swaps and his eccentric owners, and an Eas t vs. West racing showdown was born.
129 The other half of the brewing rivalry was Nashua, a quirky, quick tempered Kentucky bred colt that had the backing of the Eastern racing establishment. Nashua was owned by William Woodward, Jr., heir to the Kentucky br eeding fortune of William Woodward, Sr., a member of the American racing royalty. The horse was trained by Hall of Fame trainer Jim Fitzsimmons, who had trained two Triple Crown winners, Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935. 34 On the morning of the Kentuc ky Derby, Western bettors anted up enough to make choice. Swaps was to be ridden by Bill Shoemaker, a young star of the sport in 1955 who would go on to become both was Eddie Arcaro, another top tier jockey, one who was known to have a heavy hand with the whip. When the gates opened, free running Swaps grabbed the lead, and Arcaro and Nashua wait turned on the speed down the stretch and pulled away, leaving Nashua in his wake. Murray wrote later. 35 Instead, the story continued, helped along by Murray himself and his colleagues at his upstart new magazine, less than a year old at the time. To the dismay of the Eastern racing chiefs, Ellsworth packed up Swaps and took him home, for saking the final two legs of the storied Triple Crown, the Preakness and the Belmont. Nashua won both races, and public sentiment for a rematch quickly materialized, helped along by the coverage in Sports Illustrated se racing writer, spearheaded the magazine, he broke the story that both camps had agreed to such a race, to take place in August at Arlington Park in Chicago, wit h $100,000 going to the winner. Match races were a rare
130 occurrence, a once in a generation spectacle that could ignite the horse racing world. In 1938, Seabiscuit had beaten War Admiral in a match at Pimlico that captivated the country during the depths of the Depression. Sports Illustrated hyped the Swaps Nashua match up through the summer, with the help of the trainers, who freely engaged in what would years later be known as mile to two miles 36 Murray did his part from the track at Hollywood Park in June, where Swaps trounc ed the best thoroughbreds California had to offer and set a world record in doing so. In July, Murray contributed a lengthy profile on Ellsworth, complete with a four page photo spread of the horseman in his trademark jeans and cowboy hat at home with Swap Arizona cow boys has not only crashed the select circle or championship horse breeders, they 37 When the race finally went off in August, it was a disappointment. Swaps gouged his foot on a rock weeks before the race, and Ellsworth calle d for the race to be postponed. But it was scheduled for closing day at Arlington Park, and too much money and hype had been invested. The show would have to go on. When the gates opened, Swaps ran gamely, but was clearly in and his normally smooth stride was so scrambled, he looked like 38 By the stretch, Swaps was far behind and made no real attempt on the lead. Arcaro, who, Murray wrote, had practically started t o whip the horse in the paddock, kept flogging Nashua through the finish line, winning by a
131 comfortable six lengths. Nashua would win Horse of the Year in 1955, and Swaps would come back in 1956 with one of the most successful years in the history of racin g, winning eight stakes races and breaking three more world records. 2 The two champion colts would never face each other again, but they had helped to significantly raise the profile of a struggling magazine in its first year of existence. Table 5 1. Topi cs covered in bylined articles authored by Jim Murray for Sports Illustrated 1954 1961. Topic Number of articles Percentage of total Horse Racing 16 21% College Football 16 21 Baseball 8 10 Professional Golf 7 9 Boxing 5 7 Professional Tennis 3 4 Professional Football 3 4 Track and Field 3 4 Sailing 2 3 Mountain Climbing 2 3 Other (Professional Basketball, Croquet, Dog Show, Fans, Olympics, Biography, Travel, Water Skiing, Auto Racing, Motorcycle Racing, College Golf one article on each topic ) 11 14 Total 76 A Deadly Serious Fan Despite his time and energy being split between the new magazine and his other duties in the Los Angeles bureau, Murray became one of the early writing stalwarts of Sports Illustrated 2 The Blood Horse June 2006. In a str ange footnote to coverage of the Swaps Nashua rivalry, the magazine chose approve a photo of Woodward, his wife Ann, jockey Ed die Arcaro and Nashua for the cover when it was learned Podres for Woodward for the honor.
132 In its early days, the magazi standard of excellence for deadline writing. Time/Life staffers with limited knowledge of sports and writers for hire often slipped into the play by play style of newspaper sports coverage, providing little or no perspective. Murray and a few other select writers began to use their space in the magazine to go beyond the plays and the outcome, and discuss the scene around the event. The better articles gave a larger context to the events and offered re aders analysis not found in daily newspapers. 39 At the same time, Murray made sure the West Coast was not ignored in the pages of Sports Illustrated life as a sportsman, and the penchant some Hollywood titans had developed for playing croquet. 40 He reported and wrote profiles of Southern California sports stars and personalities from a wide variety of sports, and recommended many others through his reg ular backgrounders. The small editorial staff of Sports Illustrated operated on the lower rung of the Time/Life ladder of importance while working at double the pace. (The magazine was producing 60 pages of editorial content each week compared to 4 0 pages, with far fewer bodies.) But the job was another opportunity to escape the anonymity of Time and the personal recognition that came with seeing their names in print kept the morale of the writers high. 41 For Murray, it was a chance to experiment wi th another type of journalism. Starting in 1956, he wrote a number of opinionated essays on topics designed to both make his point and raise the passions of his readers. The articles were given prominent play in the magazine, often running alongside artist ic way he did with his Life strongly supported with historical examples, coming down firmly on one side of the debate. The
133 afterward. In June of 1956, the editor of a Murray junior circuit upstart but a deadly serious fan who (in the days before his current disenchantment) named his oldest son for Ted Williams. Murray is fully prepared to defend his stand all summer lo American League dominance in professional baseball, which he traces to the early 1920s, when es of Babe Ruth. describes how the advent of the black Major Leaguer had brought the National League back to y intention to prove, was to the National League what Babe Ruth was to the American. He was a revolution. The sociological aspects of 42 The content of the article, and the flame fanning headline, Murray wrote later. 43 Later that same summer, Murray used another one of his essay style articles to perform his journalistic duty and give voice to the voiceless: he made a plea for the poo r, persecuted every nities fans of the mid 1950s suffered, from ancient stadiums to hard seats to crooked parking lot attendants to obstructed views. Alongside the article ran pencil drawing of cheerless fans and their angry tormenters by famed illustrator
134 Robert Osborn. Atte foothold continued to grow. The great majority of baseball stadiums at the time were more than 30 years old, and the amenities had fallen below modern standards. Murray placed the blame disregard of the needs and wants of their customers. He predicted that the migration away from ame. To illustrate, he drew upon what must have been a lifetime of slights and humiliations attending sporting events on his own dime: still tooling around the antiquated ball park in the family sedan looking for a place to park; still emptying out his pockets to pay off that shark who steered him to a fender denting hold outside the left field wall, or giving his last eight bits to the free tips he gets for dusting off reserved seats. Could even be, in mid still around, the fan is, behind his pole or maybe standing in line outside the rest room, the around, but maybe not for long. d, at that. Maybe he finally listened when the little woman hand in Technicolor on a Wide Screen with Stereophonic Sound, and where they have those big comfortable loge seats with air conditioning and hot popcorn would get f or his reserved seat ticket, and the sweating effort of cheering himself hoarse for a pack of athletes who would make obscene gestures at him or take to the public prints to the 44 For the first time, Murray allowed his humor to show in his published writing. The humor satirical situations which run the gamut of the belittling experiences of the everyday fan, or more accurately, Jim Murray the fan. Sports Illustrated correspondents from cities around the Major
135 Leagues contributed anecdotes of fan mistreatment at the various stadiums. And Murray incorporat favorite hometown minor league club, the Hollywood Stars, to support his premise. The piece was one of the first in which Murray exhibited an ability to use wit to both entertain his r eaders and drive home his point. The sports essays were an attempt on the part of the editors at Sports Illustrated to make made it to Time/Life readers. One Creamer, an editor who had been on the staff of the magazine since before the first issue. often allow for writ his inter It was fun reading his dispatches And it was great to read. But I think it hampered Jim, because he worked in this format, he supplied the material for the writers to do their pieces, but I think it kept his light under a bushel 45 Ocean of Joy $15,000, a figure which went a long way in California in the 1950s. He was professionally made another move, one that would provid e both an immediate increase in quality of life and long term financial dividends. The family left Pacific Palisades and moved about 25 miles up the
136 coast to Point Dume, a community at the western edge of the city of Malibu. The new home was on a promontor y overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with a sweeping ocean view, something that had 46 The city of Malibu had been largely left alone by development until the 1930s, when the Pacific Coast Highway was completed. After that, many mo vie industry heavyweights migrated north, and the area became known as the Malibu Movie Colony. favorite Ronald Coleman were all Malibu residents at one time. 47 Point Dume was still in its infancy when the Murrays arrived. Murray said the move made his commute to the bureau tradeoff. 48 The purchase also would be a profitable one for acquired real estate in a location where land values were soon to go through the roof. When he finally sold the Point Dume property 18 years later, the buyer was Bob Dylan, and Murray had made a small fortune on the investm ent. 49 The Dylans would have never moved in had it not been for the power of Time magazine, because the home would have likely burned to the ground. Wildfires are a constant threat in Malibu, where houses are set off on separate hills, surrounded by brush. One day, Murray heard reports of a wildfire in Point Dume while he was at work at the bureau. He rushed home. He soon reached a police blockade, and pleaded to the officers that his wife and four children were in the home and he should be let through. Nobo dy is allowed past this point, he was told. Murray hopped back in his car, and drove another route toward the home, only to encounter another police blockade. This time, he pulled out his Time press pass, and announced he was covering the fire for the maga zine. The cops deferred, and Murray was able to get to the house before the
137 fire reached his property. He climbed on his roof with a water hose and successfully defended his new home from disaster. 50 moving Malibu bl aze, there was another persistent Even before the formation of the sports magazine task force, the home office had been pushing for him to transfer to another off ice, with the carrot being career advancement. It was customary within the company for correspondents to move throughout the news service on their way up the New Yo rk and back to Los Angeles between 1953 and 1960. 51 At one point, Murray was offered, The Boston chief, Jeff Wylie, was slotted for Los Angeles. Fortunately fo r Murray, Wylie thought even less of the idea than he did, and soon left the company to enroll at Massachusetts beloved Los Angeles was once again safe for the time being. 52 The constant pressure to vacate the West Coast would take its toll, however, and eventually accelerate his departure from Time/Life. the New York office had of sending reporters west to encroach on what Murray had come to view as his turf. Of course, California was far too large a territory for a single correspondent to cover for a national sports magazine. But on occasion, Murray bristled at the idea of a New Y ork writer being sent out to cover what he felt was his story. When the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, Murray covered the story for Time doing the bulk of the work on a cover 53 (The New York Giants m oved to San Francisco
138 that same year.) However, when the teams began play out West, Creamer was dispatched to cover the inaugural series. The slight was just one example of the type of occurrence that tended friend Mel Durslag, who was still writing for the Los Angeles Examiner at the time, pissed off at New York and at Time 54 A Fateful Choice rnalism career remained on the slow arc toward the world of sports. He had spent a dozen years in the Los Angeles bureau. He continued to carry out his duties as a correspondent in the Time news service, filing his weekly reports, the Los Angeles Letter an d the Hollywood Letter, as well as contributing background dispatches when called upon on California politics, crime and culture. But his output for Sports Illustrated was growing. time write rs. In August of 1960, he co wrote a two part, 15 page series on a successful mountain climbing expedition to the summit of Dhaulagiri, a previously unconquered peak in the Himalayas and the seventh highest peak on Earth. 55 In the m onths following, he cover ed auto racing, track and field, boxing, professional and college football and other assorted sporting events and topics, all resulting in bylined articles in the pages of Sports Illustrated In December, he took his first extended road trip for the magazi ne, spending a week in various Eastern cities with the Los Angeles Lakers over the Christmas holidays. The team had moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles during the tual basketball game action off stage, instead concentrating on the daily life of professional players in the fledgling National Basketball Association, as they moved through the airports, hotels and bars of the urban Northeast. Using dialogue and characte rization and taking the story beyond the
139 56 in Sports Illustrated events had already been set in York, Frank McCulloch had returned to Los Angeles as bureau chief. Like Murray, he felt it was just a matte r of time before a transfer order would come in from the Time/Life home office. A few years earlier, in 1957, McCulloch had written a profile piece for Time on Norman and Buffy Chandler, publishers of the Los Angeles Times The Chandlers had been impressed with the was promoted to publisher of the Times and was putting together a new team of top editors. At the suggestion of Norman and Buffy, McCulloch was consid ered for the position of managing 57 I 58 After he gained his footing, McCulloch began the task of trying to improve the quality of the writing st aff at the Times His strategy was essentially to hire his friends away from Time/Life. Eventually, he would hire away enough talent from the Los Angeles bureau to cause I had good personal relationships with them, and I pai d them a little more money than they were making at the time, nd the Times of course, particularly at that time, was enormously dominant in Los Angeles. I f you worked for the Times it was just fine in L a hesitancy about doing it. Murray
140 the East was rising again. This time, however, the offer was much more enticing. He wa s asked to come to New York to take a position as one of the top editors at Sports Illustrated The magazine was undergoing a shake up at the top levels in 1960. Andre Laguerre, the man who would eventually pilot the magazine toward financial and editorial managing editor in waiting for four years. In April, when Sid James was promoted to publisher, Laguerre was handed the reins of the magazine. 59 candidate for a top position, and now the o it or leave 60 The Murrays celebrated Thanksgiving in 1960 with his friend Will Fowler and family. of fers from Sports Illustrated and the Los Angeles Times A decision needed to be made, and soon. Both offers meant more money. Staying with Time/Life meant security and upward mobility, but, of course, it meant hats, overcoats and snow shovels as well. The Times offer would be a leap into the great unknown. Murray had never written a single sports column for publication. He was well known to Los Angeles area journalists, but to Los Angeles readers he was almost completely anonymous. But the column, he told F owler, would be a new challenge. 61
141 Times After he went downtown to the Times offic es to make it official, he stopped by the home of Mel Durslag on the way back out to Malibu. Durslag and Murray would now be competing lead sports columnists on the two top newspapers in Los Angeles. Just nine months earlier, the position that Murray had j ust accepted had been offered to Durslag. Times editors had brought him to the Biltmore Hotel for a drink and for Hearst for all those yea Times position. Murray was just beginning to comprehend what he had signed up for: six sports columns a week, every e were talking about writing a column, and he was sort of trying to get himself org anized, see. H nd I said the first thing you have t o do, Jim, is develop a routine. Y ou need to develop a very rigid routin e when you write a daily 62 Luce and the Time family were discouraged but resigned to the fact that Murray had chosen California over them. The decision was not unexpected. Murray had burned no bridges and remained held in the highest regard at Time f the pioneers who, along with the rest of the very privileged few, were in at the beginning to stand up before the slings and arrows. There is something very special about a pioneer and something especially special about a magazining pioneer in the mid Tw he heard the news. 63 going to bed that night thinking, 64 1 Los Angeles Times March 2, 1967.
142 2 Michael MacCambridge, The Franchise: A History of Sports Il lustrated Magazine (New York: Hyperion, 1997), 19. 3 Los Angeles Times March 5, 1967. 4 Frank McCulloch, interview by author, April 3, 2008. 5 Los Angeles Times March 2, 1967. 6 Los Angeles Times March 5, 1967. 7 Elson, The World of Time, Inc., xi xiii. 8 Los Angeles Times 9 Elson, The World of Tim e, Inc., 339 341. 10 MacCambridge, The Franchise 14 15. 11 After leaving Time/Life, Clay Felker achieved success as the editor of New York magazine, cultivating the careers of writers such as Tom Wolfe, Gloria Steinem and Jimmy Breslin. 12 Murray, Jim Murra y 34 35. 13 MacCambridge, The Franchise 20 21. 14 Murray, Jim Murray, 35. 15 MacCambridge, The Franchise 20 21. 16 Elson, The World of Time, Inc., 343. 17 Ernie Haverman to Jim Murray, September 30, 1953. 18 Murray, Jim Murray 41. 19 Elson, The World of Time Inc., 344. 20 MacCambridge, The Franchise 32. 21 For sentimental reasons, the prototype was tested in the same way that Life was introduced 18 years earlier, right Time and Life is one 22 Henry Luce to Jim Murray, December 26, 1953. 23 Murray, Jim Murray 42. 24 MacCambridge, The Franchise 45 47. 25 Elson, The World of Time, Inc., 353 354. The magazine first turned a profit in 1964, and revenue grew steadily thereafter.
143 26 Los Angeles Times, October 19, 1997. 27 MacCambridge, The Franchise 68. 28 Andy Crichton, interview by author, August 29, 2007. 29 Sports Illustrated January 10, 1955. 30 Mary Simon, Racing Through the Century: The Story of Thoroughbred Racing in America (Irvine, CA: Bowtie Press, 2002), 153 154. 31 Sports Illustra ted February 28, 1955, 12. 32 Simon, Racing Through the Century 170 171. 33 Sports Illustrated February 28, 1955, 12. 34 Simon, Racing Through the Century 170. 35 Los Ange les Times May 2, 1961. 36 Simon, Racing Through the Century 165. 37 Sports Illustrated July 18, 1955, 52 57. 38 Los Angeles Times May 2, 1961. 39 MacCambridge, The Franchise 71, 73 74. 40 Sports Illustrated 41 Elson, The World of Time, Inc., 359 360. 42 James Murray, Sports Illustrated June 11, 1956, 11 13, 74. 43 --Los Angeles Times, July 9, 1961. In this column, Murray blamed the virulent response to his Sports Illustrated angry enough for my editor. So he hung a title on it that was certain to win me the rotten egg award for 1956 enough to hang my name under it and send it out in a world he was sure would include a lot of Ame rican League 44 Sports Illustrated August 20, 1956, 36 43. 45 Robert Creamer, interview by author, March 22, 2007. 46 Fowler, Reporters 134. 47 Pitt, Los Angeles A to Z 313 314, 397. 48 Fowler, Reporters 134.
144 49 Gerald Suppicich, interview by author, November 19, 2008. Bob Dylan purchased the property in 1973, along with three other homes in the area, to create a small compound overlooking the Pacific. He divorced shortly thereafter and his wife and sever al children remained. 50 Ibid. 51 Frank McCulloch, interview by author, December 17, 2007. 52 Murray, Jim Murray, 131 132. 53 Time, 54 Melvin Durslag, interview by author, January 30, 2009. 55 Norman Dyhrenfurth and James Sports Illustrated August 29, 1960, 35 49; Sports Illustrated September 3, 1960, 47 53. 56 Sports Illustrated January 10, 1961, 52 59. 57 David Halb erstam, The Powers That Be (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), 286. 58 Frank McCulloch, interview by author, December 17, 2007. 59 MacCambridge, The Franchise 86 88. 60 Sports Illustrated It seems unlikely, however, since Andre Laguerre had been promoted to that position just months bef ore. It is more likely that Luce saw Murray as a good candidate to take a high level editor position at the magazine, and assist Laguerre, with whom Murray was well acquainted. 61 Fowler, Reporters 134. 62 Melvin Durslag, interview by author, January 30, 2 009. 63 Sidney James to Jim Murray, January 18, 1961. 64 Murray, Jim Murray 133.
145 CHAPTER 6 THE LOS ANGELES TIMES 1961 62 Megalopolis The Los Angeles of 1961 was an entirely different entity than the overgrown coastal village that Jim Murray had encountered when he stepped off the train 17 years ea rlier. The wave of growth that he had been part of had continued unabated. The highway system, the origination of which he had chronicled during his days as a cub reporter, had sent out tentacles in every direction, earning Los Angeles the moniker of the F reeway City. Transplants from every region continued to grow the population, and the residential base was topped with a floating population of tourists, conventioneers and visitors. 1 The population growth had fueled the rise of spectator sports. In the pas t three years, the city had gained three professional sports franchises: the Los Angeles Dodgers and the California Angels in baseball and the Los Angeles Lakers in basketball. The Los Angeles Sports Arena had opened in 1959 as a home for the Lakers and ot her sports and entertainment events. A stadium would be completed at Chavez Ravine as a home for the Dodgers the following year. Los Angeles, which had been drawing more than a million spectators to its minor league teams for years, was finally in the proc ess of becoming a major league city. 2 The playing field in the newspaper industry had changed since Murray had been gone as well. Television, which was just a speck on the media radar in the late 1940s, had by 1961 fundamentally changed the way news was co were still recording strong circulation figures and maintained a somewhat loyal readership, a thinning of the herd was in progress, as it was in most major metropolitan areas in the country. 1 1 Wagner, Red Ink, White Lies 287.
146 And while the Los Angeles Examiner that would lead to its demise in 1962. The Los Angeles Times do minated the market. The previous year, circulation at the Times was 532,078 on weekdays and 970,027 on Sundays, while the figures were 384,760 on weekdays and 678,280 on Sundays. 3 Herald Express and the Chand Mirror still held circulations of between 300,000 and 400,000, but the highway system and the increased reliance on automobiles had drastically reduced the demand for an afternoon news product. Within two years, the Chandlers would shutter the Mirro r and Hearst would merge the Herald Express and the Examiner and Los Angeles would become a two newspaper town. And it was the Times that would come to dominate the market. The Chandler family had run the Los Angeles Times since the 1880s, when Harry Chan dler had married the daughter of General Harrison Gray Otis, who had purchased control of the company a few years earlier from a partner. From the very beginning of the Otis Chandler partnership, the paper had been a staunchly conservative voice of the cit voice for management and be an enemy to labor. For the first half of the century, the paper served as an instrument of the Republican Party in California, a reactionary rag that Time magazine called baiting, Red 4 By the 1940s and 1950s, the Times was a national laughing stock. A national poll conducted by Time in the late 1950s named it the second worst paper in the United States. Humorist S.J. Perelmen unfortunately, the man, hard of hearing, brought me the Los Angeles Times
147 Los Ang eles Times and know that I could be Circumstances had begun to change in the late 1950s. For one, the Times, which had s close ties to the business community, capitalized on the market growth far more than its competition. In 1960, the Times was the top newspaper in the entire country in the amount of news published and in the amount of advertising. 5 The Chandlers felt hur t by their status in the industry as a punch line and longed to join the upper echelon of their industry. With the financial foundation in place, they decided to Times executive initiation rituals, having worked in various departments throughout the company. Around the same time, Nick Williams was given the post of editor. Upon his hiring, Norman Times to be fair, and I want it to dig in, to that day on, Williams later said. 6 The newspaper began to strive for editorial excellence and, at the same time, it began to dominate the Los Angeles market. Bill Thomas, who was city editor at the Times 1980s, said th e change in attitude and outlook came about quickly under the direction of Otis Otis became publisher, and with that came the infusion of a lot of people with a totally different lled. 7 The editorial staff received a boost when the Mirror closed and the top talent from that staff joined the Times And McCulloch did his part with his raiding of the Time bureau
148 A Good Man in a Bar McCulloch saw the Times sports department as yet ano ther way to improve coverage and drive up readership. With the influx of sport franchises and interest, Williams and McCulloch department, the Times sports section had earned an excellent reputation for coverage over the years. When Murray joined the staff, the sports editor was Paul Zimmerman, a veteran of the Los Angeles sports scene who was beloved by his staff. One of the lead columnists was Braven Dyer. Dyer was another old timer, having been on the Times sports staff since the 1920s, when he was one of a group of regional sports writers who helped Grantland Rice choose the annual college football All America team for magazine. Dyer was a well known fig ure on the Los industry. 8 In 1961, Dyer was preparing to cover the California Angels first season. Frank Finch held the Dodgers beat at the time. Finch had a sha rp wit, present both in the newsroom and in his copy, though he had a penchant for using clichd language from the golden age of sports writing. The rest of the colorful sports staff included turf writer Bion Abbott, Cal Whorton, who covered boxing and the Los Angeles Rams, Al Wolf and a team of experienced copy editors and photographers. 9 Murray was joining a sports staff with a solid core of writers and editors, and he came aboard in an unconventional manner. Generally, sports editors handled th e hiring, and a columnist position had to be earned through several years of exemplary coverage on an of page one sports columnist. (The Times also published colu mnists regularly on the inside of the sports section.) Murray knew he would face resentment initially. According to McCulloch, the sold himself as an individual and
149 as a journalist to the oth er people in the sports department, nd his column was so immensely popular so quickly, and it enhanced the sports section so immensely, that everyone, whether the y liked him or not, had to recognize that 10 dly relationships with people, which had allowed him to glide freely through the movie industry and create an enormous network of friends and contacts, helped him quickly assimilate at the Times Durslag remembered Murray in those years as having a quiet, friendly, unassuming quality that made people want to be around him. He spent a lot of time socializing and drinking with the other writers, both at the Times and at the other newspapers, and was completely comfortable in social situations. He was, Durslag 11 On February 5, 1961, the Times announced its new columnist to its readers. In an article was recounted, along with a tongue in cheek the 37 yard dash (the distance from the nearest street corner to the light pole in front of his Times the article stated, six days a week, page one, starting the following Sunday. 12 The rival Examiner took note of their new opposition. The following Sunday, the day as to appear, the Examiner ran an article across the top of its sports screamed the headline. The article heaped on the praise of Durslag, with comments from William Randolph Hearst, Jr., 13 Ex aminer was telling its
150 readers. Not from some ex Time man from back East with a multi syllabic vocabulary. The article went on to say that Mel Durslag could now be read regularly at all Hearst newspapers throughout the land, but the focus would still be sq uarely on Southern California. 14 What Durslag In the winter of 1961, there was no shortage of fodder for a sports columnist. The Los Angeles Lakers, with a rookie named Jerr y West and an established star named Elgin Baylor, were in the midst of their first season in the city. The California Angels were preparing to open training camp as a Major League baseball team for the first time, and the Los Angeles Dodgers were preparin g for the fourth season in the city, and their last at the Los Angeles Coliseum. (Dodger Stadium at Chavez Ravine was under construction, not without controversy, and would be ready for opening day 1962.) Heavyweight boxing champion Floyd Patterson was pr eparing for his third bout with challenger Ingemar Johansson of Sweden, with whom he had split the previous two matches. And at the track, the Kentucky Derby prep season was just getting underway. To announce his newfound presence in the Times Murray cho se to touch on all of these subjects, and many more. Running down the left side of the sports page, with a pencil drawing picturing an erudite Murray with thick rimmed glasses, a bow tie and the smallest trace of a grin on his face, his introductory column was a series of one liners about Murray, his outlook and the Los Angeles sports scene. He wrote: I have been urged by my friends all of whom mean well to begin writing in this space without introducing myself, as if I have been standing here all the myself and what I believe in. That way, we can start to fight right away. unless they start batting against the ball John McGraw batted against. The last time the bunt won a game, Frank Chance was a rookie. I think the eight unless, of course, you count the extra bookkeeping
151 I was gratified by the reaction to the announcement Jim Murray was to write a sports I came to Los Angeles in 1944 (the smog and I hit town together and neither one of us has been run out despite the best efforts of public spirited citizens) and my biggest sports disappointment was the 1955 Swaps Nashua race, which I helped to arrange. I have never believed Bill Shoem aker was properly tied on his mount that day when they sprang the barrier. But I will ask Bill and believe what he says because his next lie will be his first. 15 The tenor of his column was to become apparent to his readers right from the starting gate. His subject matter for the first month included very little analysis or description of current had hyped. His early columns presented a slightly off kilter vie w of secondary sports issues, if they could be considered issues at all, such as how many vowels a baseball player needs in his last name to be successful, or how a computer would perform if given the job of managing a professional baseball team. Instead o focused on marginal characters on the fringes of the sports world: perpetually broke horse players, crooked fight promoters, minor league baseball veterans or second rate club golfers. And they were packed with humorous anecdotes, many going back decades, and a generous helping of sports (and world) history. His goal was apparent. He was writing to entertain; informing was secondary. Times readers reacted strongly, some positively, some less so. A re ader named Craig at Sports Illustrated anymore, so he could stop wri would write about baseball when somebody was playing baseball) and fewer history and English
152 lessons. And of course, he beg an to hear the familiar request that he go back where he came more than 100 letters of praise in the first month, as well, however, including many from his celebrity friends, such as George Kennedy and Frank Capra. 16 Only one month in, he reported that the column had already begun to consume his life. It was an observ ation he would make for the rest of his life. He tried to sweet talk Gerry, telling her worthless at any task beyond his all encompassing chore of filling the colu mn. Like all 17 Boys of Summer As the Southern Californ ia heat index began to rise and Murray grew more comfortable with the life of a columnist, he began to develop his own personal sports beat, which included many of the haunts he was familiar with as a longtime Los Angeles sports fan. Coming up with six sub jects a week was a difficult task, even in a sports obsessed newspaper market like Los Angeles. (Durslag was still required to produce seven columns a week at the Examiner .) 18 He found he could get a column or two out of a day at Hollywood Park or Santa Ani ta race tracks. A major fight card at the Olympic Auditorium would produce one or two preview columns, usually profiles on fighters, trainers or other assorted boxing riff raff, as well as a recap column the morning after the event. A short trip to Las Veg as for a golf tournament or a boxing card would produce two or three columns, and a trip to Palm Springs, just a 90 minute drive from Los Angeles, for Angels spring training offered unlimited subject matter. The remaining days could
153 Table 6 1. Topics cove Los Angeles Times 1961. Topic Number of columns Percentage of total Baseball 45 22% Boxing 32 16 Pro Football 19 9 Horse Racing 17 8 College Football 16 8 Golf 16 8 General (multi sport columns, Broadcaster/journ alist profiles) 15 7 Track and Field 5 3 Personal 5 3 Letters 4 3 Auto Racing Pro Wrestling Holidays Mountain Climbing Harness Racing Hunting Other (Karate, Hollywood, Gambling, Rodeo, Bullfighting, Lifeguarding, Weightlifting, Surfing, Tennis, Yachtin g, Ice Hockey, Chess) 3 3 3 2 2 2 12 2 2 2 1 1 1 6 Total 201 be filled in with think pieces, straight humor columns, and the odds and ends of the sports scene (and his own life) for which he could conceive an angle. In one two week stretch in the dog d ays of summer, before the baseball pennant races heated up, he wrote about spending a day with a orts figures, and the 19 But baseball was still the national pastime in Am erica in the early 1960s, and both
154 significant time and space to the Angels, who were struggling through their inaugural season in the American League, and the Dodge rs, who seemed to be headed to a World Series, only to give away the pennant on that fateful road trip Murray took with the team in August. The national issue which dominated sports pages across the country in the late summer of 1961, however, was the chas run record, and the infamous Ford Frick asterisk. By July, New York Yankee sluggers Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were far ahead of the pace that Babe Ruth followed when he set the record of 60 home runs in a single season, a number that had attained mythical status in baseball. Ruth was a baseball legend, and all that he symbolized about the Golden Age of the sport was intertwined with the magical number of 60 home runs, set in 1927. For 1961, the baseball season had been expanded fr om 154 games, which it was when Ruth played, to 162 games. On July 17, Frick, the commissioner of baseball and a close friend 154 games to break the record, it would go into the holy baseball record books with an asterisk. 20 Baseball was a house divided. Everybody hated somebody: Frick, Maris, Mantle, or Ruth. Or all of the above. Murray weighed in for the first t record would be il legitimate because it was set under different conditions. Where do you draw the line? Murray asked rhetorically. Should modern hitter s have to face the same number of spitballs that Ruth faced? Hit as many home runs into the wind as Ruth did? Hit as many h ome
155 take his fat pension and retire and become personal custo 21 The column brought the inevitable letters accusing Murray of being a Yankee hater and much worse. 22 run chase that already had captured the imagination of the nation. In September, Murray joined the legions of baseball writers covering the story in Chicago to se e the side show for himself. Ma ris had hit 56 home runs at that point, Mantle, 53. 23 The games had become a side show. Fans, even those of opposing teams, expected a home run every at bat. The stands emptied after each time Mantle and Maris batted, and the home team pitcher was booed for striking them out. There were so many reporters around, 24 The 1961 home run chase wa s, to that point in time, the high water mark for sports media feeding frenzies, with television raising the ante, and the players, the reporters, and baseball management were not prepared for the storm. The Yankees organization offered Mantle and Maris no protection and provided no buffer from the media; reporters, most of whom they did not know, followed them to breakfast, to the hotel, to the stadium, wherever they could find them. 25 e of the record, and crowd of reporters. Pack journalism was not in his nature. He had joined the Yankees press corps in Chicago in mid September and followed th em to Detroit, where the team finally cut off access to Maris (Mantle had fallen behind and was largely out of the race by then.) In the visiting dressing room, the reporters sent a delegation to Yankee manager Ralph Houk to speak to Maris. Houk blew up at them.
156 Maris was a reticent Midwesterner who had neither the skill nor the desire to win over the fans or the media. By late September, the immense pressure had gotten to him. W ith Mantle out of the picture, he was now the sole focus of the press and the fans. He developed rashes and his hair began to fall out. 26 Murray was sympathetic to his plight, and confessed to be rooting for the commissioner of baseball, the ghost of Ruth will be picketed out in right field for Maris the toughest shift in history. I hope he hits the 27 Maris hit his 60 th home run on September 26 and went into the last game of the season, on October 1, with one last shot at the record, albeit a record now with an asterisk. By then, Murray had come off the road and Frank Finch was in New York to record history for the Times In t he fourth inning, Maris drilled a fast ball off Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stollard into the right field stands at Yankee Stadium. 28 He had accomplished a nearly impossible feat, but the record was tarnished, and the press was slow to let up. After the ga me, a radio reporter asked him if he had thought of Mickey Mantle as he was rounding the bases after the home run. 29 Murray put the battling history as well as the pitchers. And the commissioner of baseball did not level a brush back pitch at him in the middle of it. He did not have to play with 30 Stirring the Pot The very next month, Murray ventured into an area far more emotionally charged than home runs and asterisks. He traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, to cover a football game between Georgia Tech and the University of Alabama, an d in the process inserted himself into the growing struggle for civil rights. University of Alabama was a football powerhouse in the early
15 7 1960s, under the leadership of head coach year s old at the time, was a gruff, hard dri nking Arkansan known to browbeat reporters and do far worse to his players. He had come to Alabama three years before and quickly turned the program into a winner. He had become a hero to whites across the South. 31 The Crimson Tide football team was all whi te, like the entire student body of the University of Alabama. Segregation was strictly enforced. What drew Murray to Alabama was the brewing controversy over the upcoming Rose Bowl, which was supposed to feature two of the top college football teams in th e nation. Both Alabama and UCLA were undefeated and each was considered a likely candidate for the Rose Bowl. UCLA featured black players, however, and the team was threatening to boycott if Alabama was invited to play in the game. In 1961, the civil righ ts movement was gaining steam, and to say the white establishment in the South was on edge was an understatement. The possibility for violence and conflict was present whenever the subject turned to race. The Congress of Racial Equality, a growing civil ri that year. Groups of blacks and whites moving together would deliberately enter segregated restaurants and stores. They were often met by violent mobs and ended up b eaten and jailed. Earlier in the year, in Anniston, Alabama, less than 40 miles east of Birmingham, a Greyhound bus in which a group of freedom riders had been travelling had been burned. A mob tried to hold the riders on the bus while it burned, and when the riders escaped the vehicle, they were viciously beaten. 32 bed and be gan fielding questions from the assembled press.
158 Bryant thought for a moment. responded. The hotel room went silent as the reporters shuffled papers and looked at the floor. A local reporter had turned beet red, Murray noticed. The reporter gat hered himself and spoke. fixed on Murray. After the meeting broke up, Murray was approached by two Southern reporters, Fred Russell of the Nashville Banner and Bill Lump kin of the Birmingham Post Herald remark of that knot Not a word about the Georgia Tech Alabama game wa human. The water fountains in the airport jar people. If you Murray went on to write that Russell and Lumpkin had told him that the Alabama football community expected the boycott. how can
159 force them back in those 33 As Murray now knew would happen, his column in the Times was mailed back to accused of forwarded the column by a reader, John Bloomer, managing editor of the Birmingham News 34 Murray was surprised, however, to see that the outpouring of abuse was smaller than he had expected. He received letters of support from both Times readers and some Alabamans. Other Times readers, however, wrote to tell him to stick to sports on the sports page. This was something he clearly had no intention of doing: 20 th t admit it. A writer even a sportswriter is supposed to cover news. The real news of the game I covered had very little to do with the score. It had to do with s 35 Alabama ended up playing in the Sugar Bowl in Louisiana instead of the Rose Bowl. UCLA faced Minnesota in the 1962 Rose Bowl, so the threatened boycott never materialized. Eighteen months late r, the federal government forced the integration of University of Alabama, 36 white. What eventually forced integration of the Crimson Tide team was when bowl committees became uncomfortable inviting segregated Southe rn teams to the party. Alabama and the rest of the Southeastern Conference desegregated back to Alabama in 1970, this time to Tuscaloosa, home of University of Alabama, when the Tide first agreed to host a team with black players, USC. He was going South again not to see
160 st since the second day at Gettysburg, or 37 City Assassin While Murray was doing his part for the civil rights struggle, the wheels were in motion in a chain of events that would eventually bring his column to newspaper readers acros s the United States. Prior to his trip to Alabama, he had gone to New York and Cincinnati to cover the 1961 World Series. The Reds had overtaken the Dodgers in the National League, but were overmatched against the American League champion Yankees, and the series was a glum, one sided affair, which New York won in five games. In Cincinnati, Murray witnessed the impact of his lighthearted attack on the city just a few months before. His photo ran on the front page of the Cincinnati Post and Times Star with t 38 The impact was also not lost on the Post and Times Star The newspaper received more than 250 pieces of ma ever been received for a single article. Post and Times Star sports editor Pat Harmon contacted the Los Angeles Times to inquire about publishing Murray on a syndicated basis. The Time s 39 McCulloch, however, felt otherwise. He called Rex Barley, then the top executive with Los Angeles Times Syndication, and recommended Murray.
161 Times editorial content for syndication. He returned with 10 newspapers signed on to publish Murray, quite a good haul for a first t ime effort. 40 To that point, Murray had sprinkled in a paragraph here and there poking fun at cities. Now, he made it the centerpiece of his act. In the winter of 1962, he stepped up his travel, and he now began taking road trips in part for their sports va lue, part for the destination itself. He tagged along on a mid western swing with the Lakers, which brought him to Detroit, St. Louis, Morgantown, West Virginia, and Dayton, Ohio. Murray took his best shot night after night. aying up all night on a cake of ice, then taking a cold shower upon 41 42 d 43 Dayton, for some reason, got off scot free. Soon, cities began to return fire. The West Union Record of West Union, West Virginia, of the writing profession the sports hack. The author of this piece of flagrant misrepresentation is a bespectacled Irishman named Jim Murray who looks more like a fugitive from the roof gutter of a post of a gargoyle, was drunk on weak beer when he wrote the column, and it was their fond hope that Murray would eventually starve to death. Murray reprinted the entire editorial in th e Times and West Union Record
162 44 Durslag, at the Examiner it a brilliant way to fill that ever o see, when you knock a city, you set up two columns for yourself: one you knock the city, second, you he oy, is th e mayor of Pittsb 45 residents in other cities began to be aware of the Murray treatment. Just a few weeks after the Laker road trip, Murray accompanied the Los Angeles Bla des, a minor league ice hockey team, to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and Spokane, Washington. A minor league ice hockey road trip one sports columnist, but for Murray it was too good to pass up. When he arrived in Edmonton, 46 But when he got to Spokane, a delegation of city officials met him at the airport begging him to rip their city and make them famous. collection of used bricks in the world. They ought to knock it down and ship it to North The sports writer tried again.
163 47 Murray began to hear it in the press box, too. Bill Christine was a sports writer for the St. Louis Globe Democrat in the early 1960s when he first met Murray. He would join the Times about the town right off, somebody in the pr When a re you It was almost a Don Rickles thing. I f then there was something wrong with your town. 48 Murray enjoyed riling people up and was reaping the benefits. Each month, more newspapers were requesting his column. After one year in syndication, he was appearing in more than 50 newspapers nationwide. He could be read in Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, St. Louis and dozens of smaller cities in between. (The Cincinnati Post and Times Star first to request his column, was now a satisfied customer.) 49 There were always people lacking a sense of humor who were lurking, however, ready to take the fun out of the whole enterprise. In August of 1962, another Dodger road trip brought him to Pittsburgh, which he proceeded to eviscerate in print: the sun in dismay f which were sent to the FBI and identified as 50 Murray was in Cincinnati by the time the column ran in the Times and made its way back to Pittsburgh. The mayor of Pittsburgh had spoken out against Murray, and had seen no humor in the situation. He demanded an apology, while insulting Los Angeles at the
164 say 51 The angry letters poured in to the Times 52 T hen, in the press box at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, he was told he had a phone call. A caller from Pittsburgh was on the line, and said he and several of his friends were going to find Murray when he came to New York (the Dodgers were scheduled to play t law 53 The Mets games went off with no viol a reader would fail to see the humor and threaten some type of retribution. (A few years later, board members at Churchill Downs race track considered denying Murray press credentials to the Kentucky D 54 He would continue to take aim at cities from Warsaw, Poland to DuQuoin, Illinois for the rest of his career, but never to the extent that he did in his first few years writing the column. He weathered the vicious letters and the humorless city officials through the years, and mistakenly gained a reputation, in some areas, as a mean spirited writer, which he was not. For the most part, his vitriol was aimed at p laces and institutions, not at individuals. But most took it in good humor. Early in 1962, after a St. Louis sports editor opined that Murray wrote his city material for commercial reasons, he offered a response that summed up his philosophy behind the col umns: writing colleague of mine went to Moscow to cover
165 a track meet. He was the only guy in a whole magazine empire who could be c leared to go Know what it was about? A track meet. So help me. For all the clues in the prose, it editors, censors or whoever. But I remember I was never so disappointed in my life. I resolved right then and there never to get so afflicted with press box myopia that I would not comment on the surroundings if I found them as interesting as the event. I propose to continue to do so. 55 Figure 6 1. and towns, National Observer, August 19, 1972. Times syndication department aggressively marketed him to newspapers, with trem endous success. Murray received half of the proceeds, which, within a few years, would bring him around $50,000 a year, on top of his Times salary. 56 And the national visibility led to recognition from his peers. In the fall of 1961, his old friends at Time built a reputation and following that, in just six months, qualifies him as one of the best 57 He was nominated for the National Sportscasters
166 and Sportswriters Association national sports writing award, along with Red Smith of the New York Herald Tribune and Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal 58 And a resolution was read by the Los Angeles City Council declaring that 59 The recognition, combined with growing comfort in his routine, gave him a more positive outlook about his decision to become a sports columnist than he had exhibited in his early days at the Times. On the anniversary of his joining the Times 60 1 John Caughey and Laree Caughey, Los Angeles: Biography of a City (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1976), 399 401. 2 Bill Shirley, ed., Sports Pages of the Los A ngeles Times (New York: Harold N. Abrams Inc., 1983), 8. 3 Editor & Publisher, Editor & Publisher International Yearbook (New York: Editor & Publisher Co., Inc, 1961), 34 36. 4 Halberstam, The Powers That Be 107 108. 5 Los Angeles Times February 12, 1961. The Times held this title consecutively until 1975. 6 Dennis McDougal, Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty (Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2001), 215 219. 7 Bill Thomas, interview by author, December 12, 2008. 8 John Hall, interview by author, January 23, 2009. 9 Los Angeles Times Februar y 12, 1961. 10 Frank McCulloch, interview by author, April 3, 2008. 11 Melvin Durslag, interview by author, January 30, 2009. 12 Los Angeles Times February 5, 1961, M1. 13 William Randolph Hearst, Sr., d ied in 1951, and his son took over as chief of operations for Hearst, Inc. 14 Los Angeles Examiner February 12, 1961. 15 Los Angeles Times February 12, 1961.
167 16 Los Angeles Times April 28, 1961. 17 Los Angeles Times March 12, 1961. 18 Melvin Durslag, interview by author, January 30, 2009. 19 Ji Los Angeles Times August 16, 1961. The championships featured an 18 year old Bobby Fisher, who refused to show up for the final match, which ended in forfeit. 20 Los Angeles Times July 18 1961. 21 Los Angeles Times July 25, 1961. 22 Los Angeles Times August 1, 1961. 23 Los Angeles Times September 15, 1961. 24 Jim M Los Angeles Times September 14, 1961. 25 David Halberstam, October 1964 (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1994), 168 170. 26 Ibid., 169. 27 Los Angeles Times September 20, 1961. 28 Los Angeles Times October 2, 1961. 29 Halberstam, October 1964 169. 30 Los Angeles Times October 3, 1961. 31 Time 32 Moss, America in the Twentieth Century 33 0. 33 Los Angeles Times November 20, 1961. Alabama won the game, beating Georgia Tech, 10 0. 34 John W. Bloomer to Mrs. W.C. Farrar, December 1, 1961. 35 Los Angeles Times November 29, 1961. 36 New York Times September 5, 1963. 37 Los Angeles Times September 11, 1970. 38 Los Angel es Times, October 9, 1961. 39 National Observer August 19, 1972. 40 Frank McCulloch, interview by author, April 3, 2008.
168 41 Los Angeles Times February 1, 196 2. 42 Los Angeles Times February 5, 1962. 43 Los Angeles Times February 6, 1962. 44 Los Angeles Times March 6, 1962. 45 Melvin Durslag, interview by author January 30, 2009. 46 Los Angeles Times March 6, 1962. 47 Los Angeles Times March 7, 1962. 48 and Murray occasionally went to Rickles for material for his column. He would often credit Rickles for particular lines in a column. 49 Advertisement, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, 1962. 50 Los Angeles Times August 17, 1962. 51 Los Angeles Times August 20, 1962. 52 H.K. Baum, letter to the editor, Los Angeles Times August 30, 1962. 53 Los Angeles Times August 22, 1962. 54 National Observer August 19, 1972. 55 Los Angeles Times February 26, 1962. 56 National Observer August 19, 1972. 57 Time September 1, 1961. The article went on to list some other top sportswriters, including Durslag, Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal best, most polished, literate and readable of them all Time determined. 58 Los Angeles Times 59 Los Angeles Times 60 Los Angeles Times February 13, 1962.
169 CHAPTER 7 CONCLUSIO N Murray stayed on the tiger for the rest of his life. Like many of the legendary sports writer s to come before him, he kept his seat in the press box until he had taken his last breath, and his final column rolled off the presses hours before that final b column for only a decade, he had begun to discuss when he would give it up. Through the remainder of his career, he threatened repeatedly to stop writing the column and either move on to other pursuits or retire al togethe r. At the time of his nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in 1990, plans were already in place for him to retire completely the following year. 1 But it never happened. He wrote for eight more years. Murray died after returning home from a trip to San Diego t o cover the Pacific Classic at Del Mar race track. that surrounded his early journalism career, prepared him for what he would become: one of the most influential w riters and commentators on the subject of sports and American culture in the second half of the 20 th century. From 1963 until his death in August of 1998, Murray continued to hold the position of lead sports columnist in the Times At his peak, he was synd icated in more than 200 newspapers. Murray would go on to be an influence for a generation of journalists and sports writers. Eventually, in 1990, he would become the fourth sports writer to win a Pulitzer Prize, one of the myriad of journalism honors he e arned throughout his life. Characteristically, he 2 The three other sports writers to win the Pulitzer Prize Arthur Daley, Red Smith and Dave Anderson, all of the New York Times each spent their entire journalism career covering sports. Indeed, Murray stands out among his contemporaries as one of the few who spent
170 significant time as a news reporter. Eighteen years covering crime, politics, Ho llywood, culture and many other topics gave him a perspective that was unique to the sports page. In addition, he spent a childhood immersed in history and literature, providing him a deep reservoir of knowledge, which he used to contextualize the people, places and events that populated his writing. When Murray joined the staff of Time magazine, he was a young but experienced newsman with a flair for writing. It was under the tutelage of Henry Luce and the editors at Time/Life that he perfected the skills that he would utilize for the rest of his career. Time had created its own style of in depth reporting and analysis that allowed the writer or writers to offer clear, perspective and dispassionate assessment of their subject. At Time, Murray learned what was needed in the way of reporting to be able to create a penetrating profile piece. He learned to work outside of the pressure of daily deadlines, instead only under the pressure to produce complete and thorough journalism. Though the home office often pr oved to be an annoyance to the experience taught him what was needed before a subject could truly be covered effectively. When he was called upon by Time/Life to a ssist in the creation of Sports Illustrated Murray was already an effective magazine writer adept at the method of producing high quality editorial content. Newspaper sports writers, Murray and his fellow Sports Illustrated staffers found out, had not dev eloped the analytical and reporting skills to be able to produce articles that met the Time/Life standard of quality. To Murray, it was already second nature. So when he joined the staff of the Los Angeles Times Murray was an accomplished writer at ease producing coverage at the highest levels of American journalism. And he was joining an institution that was just beginning to strive for the same sort of editorial excellence Murray had
171 spent the last two decades perfecting. In the years immediately after Murray joined the Times it would go from an extremely profitable but underperforming regional news organization to the editorial voice of the Western United States. In the 1960s, with its newfound focus on editorial quality, the Times began earning the s coverage of the Watts Riots in 1965 earned the Times a pair of Pulitzer Prizes and at the same time gave it the cache t to begin attracting top talent from across the country. The newfound reputation o f the newspaper combined with the allure of Southern California brought the Times a slew of applications from the Ivy League and an infusion of new talent that further invigorated the push toward excellence. 3 Concurrently, the Times was experiencing even g reater financial success. What had always been a profitable enterprise now reached stratospheric levels. It had become the largest media conglomerate in the West, and it published more advertising than any other daily newspaper in the world for 25 straight years. And the leadership, from Otis Chandler Times writers and photographers would go to the ends of the Earth to pursue a story, always flying first class, dining at 5 st ar restaurants and hopping from continent to continent to chase down the slimmest of leads. 4 It was a tremendous pulpit from which to preach, and for Murray it allowed him to travel freely in pursuit of any story or subject. And it put his writing in front of millions of readers across the nation. From the beginning, Murray understood that he was writing not just for the regular readers of the sports page, but for the general readership. His philosophy on writing was that people liked to read about people, not things. He believed his objective was to entertain. People like to information or message you choose to include. 5 From the beginning, he also understood that half
172 of the reading audience was women, and he did not want to write them out of his audience, as readers of whom I have a lot interrupt the flow too much to def 6 Times editors caught on, as well. Murray regularly was chosen by readers as the most popular writer in the paper, above even the enormously popular local columnist Jack Smith. 7 For a sports columnist to attain that status was extraordinary. The Times syndicate department understood this as well, advertising Murray to other newspapers as a writer who could attract as many women readers as men. 8 Figure 7 1. Los Angeles Times To be sure, he was not beloved by all. He was staunchly opinionated, and rarely backed
173 retraction. 9 He could form opinions about people based on surface observation and t hen stubbornly stick to those positions. Still, his positions evolved over time. He hammered Muhammad Ali in print for years before reversing his stance toward the boxer. Those on the receiving end of his comical attacks on cities or institutions often fai led to see the humor in the writing and felt it crossed the line of good taste. His defense was always simple: lighten up. But his use of humor, to some, could become overuse. Critics often said his column could devolve into a gag bag, competitive one line rs that would amount to nothing of substance. 10 But what little criticism existed was easily drowned out by praise. His innate ability to find humor in situations and to find unique and creative ways in which to approach his subjects allowed him to stand out from the thousands of voices competing with him daily. While most wrote. It was the Murray flavor, oft imitated by his peers and the generation of writers t hat followed. His column often read like a comedy act, a string of progressively more outrageous one liners that would both invoke laughter and present an original characterization of his subject. He mixed word play, inventive language, outrageous metaphor hyperbole, sarcasm, and self about the same event or individual, could feel safe in choosing an angle for their story, because they knew they would not step o 11 His column, each and every time, would be distinctly Murray. His readers knew it, too. He was able to write in a way that transcended newsprint and allowed readers to develop a personal connection to him. is 37 year career at the Times is certainly ripe for further study for journalism historians. His style and influence have become his most lasting legacy, but the particulars of his coverage and writing can shed light on the evolution of his profession and
174 on certain significant events in which he took part. For instance, his forward looking stances on racial issues started right out of the gate, and he continued to be a champion of civil rights within the American sports scene for the remainder of his life In addition, his views on certain issues and individuals evolved throughout his life. What caused these changes? And how did his own style and method evolve through the final three and a half decades in which he was writing? To answer these questions and essential to place this important journalistic career in historical context. 1 Entry form, Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism, Los Angeles Tim es January, 1990. 2 The Washington Post April 21, 1990. 3 Bill Thomas, interview by author, December 12, 2008. 4 McDougal, Privileged Son 315 316. 5 Murray, Jim Murray 215. 6 L.A. Village View October 15, 1983. 7 Bill Thomas, interview by author, December 12, 2008. 8 Advertisement, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, 1962. 9 Los Angeles Times, June 14, 1961. 10 Seattle Times January 1, 1982. 11 Bill Christine, interview by author, December 19, 2008.
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180 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Ted Geltner was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in the Washington, D.C., area. He survived 17 years in the newspaper business in California, Pennsylvania and Florida. He is currently a journalism lecturer and advisor to the student newspaper at Valdosta State University. He lives with his wi fe, Jill, and his children, Cassie, Bethany and Luke in Valdosta, Georgia.