Last King of the Sports Page
The Life and Career of Jim Murray
by Ted Geltner
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 the life and journey of Jim Murray’s experiences with twentieth-century American sports, culture and journalism.
At the peak of his influence, Murray’s words were published in more than 200 newspapers. From 1961–1998, Murray penned more than 10,000 columns from his home base at the Los Angeles Times. His off-beat humor and unique insight made his column a must-read for millions of sports fans. He was named Sports Writer 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 from all walks of life: William Randolph Hearst to Henry Luce, Marilyn Monroe to Marlon Brando to John Wayne, Mickey Mantle to Muhammad Ali to 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. When terrorists stormed the Olympic village at the 1972 Munich games, Murray was one of the first journalists to report from the scene. Media mogul Henry Luce handpicked Murray to lead a team that would develop Sports Illustrated for Time/Life in 1953.
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 sports 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 17 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.