About the Book
Part crusader, part comedian, Jim Murray was a once-in-a-generation literary talent who just happened to ply his trade on newsprint, right near the box scores and race results. During his lifetime, Murray rose through the ranks of journalism, from hard-bitten 1940s crime reporter, to national Hollywood correspondent, to the top sports columnist in the United States. In Last King of the Sports Page: The Life and Career of Jim Murray, Ted Geltner chronicles Jim Murray’s experiences with twentieth-century American sports, culture, and journalism.
At the peak of his influence, Murray was published in more than 200 newspapers. From 1961 to 1998, Murray penned more than 10,000 columns from his home base at the Los Angeles Times
. His offbeat humor and unique insight made his column a must-read for millions of sports fans. He was named Sportswriter of the Year an astounding fourteen times, and his legacy was cemented when he became one of only four writers to receive the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for coverage of sports. Geltner now gives readers a first look at Murray’s personal archives and dozens of fresh interviews with sports and journalism personalities, including Arnold Palmer, Mario Andretti, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Yogi Berra, Frank Deford, Rick Reilly, Dan Jenkins, Roy Firestone, and many more.
Throughout his life, Murray chronicled seminal events and figures in American culture and history, and this biography details his encounters with major figures such as William Randolph Hearst, Henry Luce, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, John Wayne, Mickey Mantle, Muhammad Ali, and Tiger Woods. Charming and affecting moments in Murray’s career illustrate the sportswriter’s knack for being in on the big story. Richard Nixon, running for vice president on the Eisenhower ticket in 1952, revealed to Murray the contents of the “Checkers” speech so it could make the Time magazine press deadline. Media mogul Henry Luce handpicked Murray to lead a team that would develop Sports Illustrated for Time/Life in 1953, and when terrorists stormed the Olympic village at the 1972 Munich games, Murray was one of the first journalists to report from the scene. The words of sports journalist Roy Firestone emphasize the influence and importance of Jim Murray on journalism today: “I’ll say without question, I think Jim Murray was every bit as important of a sports writer—forget sport writer—every bit as important a writer to newspapers, as Mark Twain was to literature.” Readers will be entertained and awed by the stories, interviews, and papers of Jim Murray in Last King of the Sports Page.
Ted Geltner spent seventeen years as a writer and editor at newspapers in California, Pennsylvania, and Florida and is currently Assistant Professor of Journalism at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia.
"The writing is both scholarly and yet accessible, with outstanding research and reporting underpinning the entire volume. It is a revealing effort that shows both the greatness and the shortcomings of a deified writer. To read this book is to understand the legendary Jim Murray." -- Vincent F. Filak, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly
"My current favorite Murray line—and it changes with the weather— is that Evander Holyfield was built like a Greek God and Buster Douglas was built like a Greek restaurant. For years, whenever I would sit down to write a column, I would think of that line, how perfect it was, how much it said in only a few words … and then tried hopelessly to come close. But I always understood: I could never be as pointed, as incisive or as laugh-out-loud funny. All I could do, all any of us could do, was try. Bravo to Ted Geltner for telling his story so well and for reminding us of so many of the immortal lines.”— Joe Posnanski, senior writer at Sports Illustrated
and author of The Machine: A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series—The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds
"Having been a longtime friend of Jim Murray I found his life story as told by Ted Geltner fascinating and his circuitous journey to the top of his sports columnist profession to be truly incredible. Los Angeles sports fans are lucky to had have such a treasure write his column for the Times
."—Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers legend and member of the NBA Hall of Fame
“I don’t know how many young sports fans were inspired to become sports journalists by reading Jim Murray, but I can tell you I was one of them. The problem is he raised the bar so high with his combination of wit, intelligence, honor, sound judgment and flair for the English language that one easily becomes frustrated in any attempt to emulate the Master. Without Jim Murray, Los Angeles has never been the same. I’m not talking about the Los Angeles Times. I’m talking about Los Angeles, period.”—Bob Ryan, sports columnist for the Boston Globe and four-time National Sportswriter of the Year