Murray’s great legacy comes to UH
WHERE To begin when writing about, as Sports Illustrated's Steve Rushin deemed in his farewell "Air and Space" this week, a "columnist god."
Jim Murray. The late, very great syndicated sports columnist who brought class and poetry, wit and wisdom to the pages of many a newspaper during his 37 years with the L.A. Times.
One of four sportswriters to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Murray was a founder and an inaugural staff member for Sports Illustrated. Or, as it was originally named, "The New Sport Magazine."
Several of the first "dummy" copies of the magazine, as well as the inaugural issue, made its way to Gerald Kato's journalism class last Wednesday at the University of Hawaii. But those well-preserved treasures, shared by Murray's widow, Linda McCoy-Murray, were overshadowed by her announcement that UH has been selected as the 28th school eligible for the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation's Murray Scholars program.
The JMMF awards seven $5,000 scholarships annually, one to Trinity -- Murray's alma mater -- one to Columbia -- which presents the Pulitzer prizes -- and five dispersed among the remaining eligible schools.
"Jim loved Hawaii," McCoy-Murray said. "We were here in 1993 for the Lanai Visiting Artists Program when Jim's autobiography was released. It's how we met Neil Everett (former KGMB sportscaster now at ESPN). Neil and I still keep in touch.
"We look for schools that are deserving, and there's a good journalism program here. We'd like to cover all 50 states eventually.
"I think it's huge when we do select a school."
So does Kato, chair of UH's School of Communication.
"It is a distinct honor for our program to be included," Kato said. "It opens new opportunities for our students, and that's always welcomed.
"Beyond that, Jim Murray is a role model for our students: He was more than a sportswriter, he was a writer who happened to write about sports and did it with humor and wit. It raised daily journalism to an art form, and that's a goal toward which I hope our students will work."
All one has to do is pick up a copy of one of Murray's books to understand. His wife donated both "The Great Ones" and "The Last of the Best" to UH, as well as "Quotable Jim Murray," the one she had published after his death in 1998, coincidentally on Aug. 16, the same date as Sports Illustrated's debut 44 years earlier.
McCoy-Murray began the foundation in 1998 because "Jim always said he wouldn't be out of here more than 6 minutes before they'll be saying, "Jim who?' " McCoy-Murray said. "I didn't want his legacy to die."
Now it will live on at UH with the yearly possibility of being recognized for greatness ... and humility, much like Murray himself.
Murray Scholars receive a certificate "to hang, and aspire to a Pulitzer to hang next to it," McCoy-Murray said.
There are many more stories and anecdotes from Wednesday's class. Too many to fit in this space.
But as Murray once wrote: "You know, golf isn't a talent. It's a trick. Just like writing a column."