Tag Archives: Elgin Baylor

My annual tribute to the great Jim Murray, the best sportswriter who ever lived. Two very different-sized dogs happily play together. And the Royals are in first place (finally!)

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And a Happy Friday to you all! I’m happy for many reasons today, one being that both my first child and the U.S. Open tennis tournament will be arriving in the next few weeks (if the baby can hold off being born until after the U.S. Open, that’d be cool. Relax, I’m (mostly) kidding), that I’ve survived another year of life (I turn 39 on Sunday, and I’m already dreading the big Four-Oh), and that it’s time to celebrate Jim Murray again.

Every year on or about August 16, the anniversary of his death, I salute in this space the work of the legendary Murray, the greatest sportswriter who ever lived. I still read his old columns sometime, for inspiration, or for a laugh, and the all-time best email I got as a result of writing Wide World of Stuff was from his widow thanking me for remembering him.

And so once again, on the 16th anniversary of his passing, a little bit of Murray greatness. The man who once wrote “Rickey Henderson’s strike zone is smaller than Hitler’s heart,” and “Elgin Baylor is as unstoppable as a woman’s tears” was truly a legend. So many hundreds of sportswriters (me included) tried to copy his style over the years, but it was like trying to sing like Sinatra, or paint like Picasso.

Here are my two favorite columns of his: First, a touching tribute to his first wife Gerry who had just died. Here’s an excerpt:

She never grew old and now, she never will. She wouldn’t have anyway. She had four children, this rogue husband, a loving family and this great wisdom and great heart, but I always saw her as this little girl running across a field with a swimming suit on her arm, on a summer day on the way to the gravel pit for an afternoon of swimming and laughing. Life just bubbled out of Gerry. We cry for ourselves. Wherever she is today, they can’t believe their good luck.

And second, Murray’s elegy for his left eye, which finally gave out on him in 1979, rendering him mostly blind. The last four paragraphs are just perfect, but here’s another excerpt:

I lost an old friend the other day. He was blue-eyed, impish, he cried a lot with me, saw a great many things with me. I don’t know why he left me. Boredom, perhaps.

We read a lot of books together, we did a lot of crossword puzzles together, we saw films together. He had a pretty exciting life. He saw Babe Ruth hit a home run when we were both 12 years old. He saw Willie Mays steal second base, he saw Maury Wills steal his 104th base. He saw Rocky Marciano get up. I thought he led a pretty good life.

 One night a long time ago he saw this pretty girl who laughed a lot, played the piano and he couldn’t look away from her. Later he looked on as I married this pretty lady.

He saw her through 34 years. He loved to see her laugh, he loved to see her happy …  He recorded the happy moments, the miracle of children, the beauty of a Pacific sunset, snowcapped mountains, faces on Christmas morning. He allowed me to hit fly balls to young sons in uniforms two sizes too large, to see a pretty daughter march in halftime parades. He allowed me to see most of the major sports events of our time. I suppose I should be grateful that he didn’t drift away when I was 12 or 15 or 29 but stuck around over 50 years until we had a vault of memories. 

**Next up, this cracked me up: A tiny dog and a giant dog spend about a minute scrapping lovingly, before finally giving up and embracing. Too funny. Little dogs always think they’re so tough.

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**And finally, the Kansas City Royals, a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since “Back to The Future” was in movie theaters (1985), are in first place on Aug. 15. And I am really happy about that, because maybe it’s the Jets fan in me, but I’ve always had a soft spot for fans who’ve suffered mightily.
The Royals play in a small market for an owner who won’t spend money, and have been miserably awful for most of the past 30 years. I root for franchises like that because I know their fans have endured so much, that it’s so extra-special when the team starts to win.
And these Royals are legit good. They get great pitching, just enough hitting, and those powder-blue uniforms sure do look swell.

I really am pulling for them to make the playoffs; the baseball postseason is so much more fun when new teams make it. Just listen to fan named Joy Jackson Bess on Facebook:

“This is so much fun! Baseball is fun again and it’s tastes like a cold glass of sweet tea on a hot KC August day. We’ve been too thirsty for too long.”

Go, Royals, go.

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A fabulous HBO documentary on “Aunt Diane.” Honoring the late Jim Murray. And the King of Jordan is the world’s richest Trekkie.

Sometimes you see a movie that stays with you for days, and keeps you staring at the ceiling at night.
I saw a movie like that last weekend. It’s a documentary on HBO called “There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane,” and it’s about the tragic 2009 car crash when a woman named Diane Schuler killed herself, her daughter, three nieces and three strangers when she drove in the wrong direction on New York’s Taconic Parkway.
The movie is haunting as it interviews basically everyone in Diane’s life, trying to figure out what made a 37-year-old mother of two decide to do something incredibly reckless. The filmmaker, Liz Garbus, gets cooperation from Diane’s widow and her sister-in-law, as they, too, look for answers.
An easy answer can be found in Diane’s blood-alcohol-level (0.19, twice the legal limit) and the traces of marijuana in her system.
Her family, of course, says she was never a drinker, even though a bottle of Absolut was found in the car after the wreck. It’s heartbreaking to watch Diane’s family grope for any possible answers to what happened. They don’t believe she was depressed or crazy or anything like that; they think something happened to her medically to cause her to drive for two miles on the wrong side of the highway.

Garbus does a terrific job telling the story from all sides, from the victims to the witnesses to the police who handled the case, and you alternate between feeling sympathy for Diane’s family, and anger at her for destroying so many lives.

I kept asking myself after the movie how so many people in her life could’ve missed the signs of trouble in Diane Schuler. But maybe there weren’t any signs. Maybe she was just barely holding on for a while, and something that July morning in 2009 just made her crack.
It’s truly a terrific film; check it on HBO all month, and on HBO on Demand.

**Today, as I do every year on Aug. 16, I’m thinking about Jim Murray. The greatest sportswriter who ever lived died on this date in 1998, and as long as I have this blog, I’ll do my tiny part to honor him on this day.

Murray wasn’t just a great sportswriter; he was a storyteller, a comedian, and a man who wrote with a tremendous heart. He wrote now-legendary lines like “Rickey Henderson’s strike zone is smaller than Hitler’s heart” and “Gentlemen, start your coffins,” at the Indy 500. He also said, of the in-his-prime Muhammad Ali, “I’d like to borrow his body for just 48 hours. There are three guys I’d like to beat up and four women I’d like to make love to.” and that former Lakers star Elgin Baylor “was as unstoppable as a woman’s tears.”

If you’ve never read the former L.A. Times columnist, here are a couple of my favorite pieces by him. The first is a beautiful elegy to his late wife, and the second is his heartfelt “obituary” to his left eye, which had finally completely failed him. Enjoy. And rest in peace, Jim Murray, the greatest there ever was.

**Say what you want about the King of Jordan, King Abdullah, but the man sure as hell knows how to spend his money.
Apparently he had a spare $1.5 billion lying around. And instead of using it to feed the world’s population or something useless like that, he’s building an environmentally-friendly Star Trek theme park!
Seriously, look at this thing. Isn’t it worth going to Jordan just to stand on line at this bizarro place?
And how much money do you think it would take to get William Shatner to come for the grand opening to host this thing?