December 29, 1919 – August 16, 1998

James Patrick Murray (December 29, 1919 in Hartford, Connecticut – August 16, 1998 in Los Angeles, California) was an American sportswriter at the Los Angeles Times from 1961 to 1998.

Many of his achievements include winning the NSSA's Sportswriter of the Year award an astounding 14 times (12 of those consecutively). In 1990, he won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his 1989 columns, and the Baseball Hall of Fame awarded him the J. G. Taylor Spink Award in 1987. Cited as an influence by countless sports journalists, Murray was a fixture at the Los Angeles Times for over 30 years. After he won the Pulitzer in 1990, Murray modestly said he thought the prize winner should have had "to bring down a government or expose major graft or give advice to prime ministers. Correctly quoting Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda shouldn't merit a Pulitzer Prize."

He was offered $1 million to join The National Sports Daily, but declined.

Prior to his tenure with the Los Angeles Times, Murray was a writer and columnist for Sports Illustrated from 1953–1961 and Time magazine from 1948-1955. He was also a reporter for the Los Angeles Examiner from 1944–1948, the New Haven (CT) Register and The Hartford Times. A native of Hartford, Connecticut, Murray graduated from that city's Trinity College in 1943.

Murray was noted for his great, albeit occasionally caustic, sense of humor and ability to turn a phrase, including the following: he wrote of the Indianapolis 500 automobile race, "Gentlemen, start your coffins"; that baseball player Rickey Henderson "has a strike zone the size of Hitler's heart"; and that UCLA basketball coach John Wooden was "so square he was divisible by four".

Although eventually afflicted with blindness, Murray continued covering and writing about sports as long as he was able. He wrote a column from the Del Mar racetrack for the L.A. Times on the day before he died.

He was inducted in the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1978.

In 1982, Murray was honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors, who awarded him the Red Smith Award, which is America’s most prestigious sports writing honor. For his contribution to sports in Los Angeles, he was honored with a Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum "Court of Honor" plaque by the Coliseum commissioners.

A testimonial dinner in Beverly Hills was held for Murray after he won his Pulitzer Prize in 1990, at which the guests included many show-business and sports luminaries, as well as Nancy and Ronald Reagan. Murray's funeral in 1998 was attended by a variety of notable sports figures including Marcus Allen, Elgin Baylor, Al Davis, Rafer Johnson, Chris McCarron, Peter O'Malley, Luc Robitaille, Bill Russell, Donald Sterling, Danny Sullivan and Mike Tyson.

A Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated posthumously to Murray in 2008.

Jim Murray is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City.


Notable quotes

  • On the Indianapolis 500 auto race: "Gentlemen, start your coffins."
  • On Spokane, Washington: "The only trouble with Spokane is that there's nothing to do there after 10 o'clock. In the morning."
  • On Oakland, California: "Oakland is this kind of town: You have to pay 50 cents to go from Oakland to San Francisco, but coming to Oakland from San Francisco is free."
  • On San Francisco: "Its legacy to the world is quiche."
  • On Cincinnati, Ohio: "They still haven't fixed the freeway. It's Kentucky's turn to use the cement mixer."
  • On New Jersey: "Its principal export is soot."
  • On Baltimore, Maryland: "Baltimore is a great place if you're a crab."
  • On Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota: "They didn't like each other and, from what I can see, I didn't blame either one of them."
  • On Iowa visitors to the Rose Bowl: "thousands of people in calico and John Deere caps in their Winnebagos with their pacemakers and potato salad, looking for Bob Hope."
  • On a Brookline, Massachusetts golf club: "I won't say this place is stuffy, but if you ever want to play here, bring your monocle."
  • Los Angeles "is underpoliced and oversexed."
  • Elgin Baylor "is as unstoppable as a woman's tears."
  • Rickey Henderson "has a strike zone the size of Hitler's heart."
  • John Wooden "is so square he's divisible by four."
  • Roger Staubach "is as square as a piece of fudge."
  • "Tommy Lasorda is as noisy as a bowling alley."
  • On Merlin Olsen: "He went swimming in Loch Ness and the monster got out."
  • On Boog Powell: "They're going to make an umbrella stand out of his foot."
  • On Billy Martin: "Some people have a chip on their shoulders. Billy has a lumberyard."
  • On Sandy Koufax: "Sandy's fastball was so fast, some batters started to swing while he was on his way to the mound."
  • "Willie Mays's glove is where triples go to die."
  • On Reggie Jackson: "He didn't swing at a pitch, he pounced on it like a leopard coming out of a tree."
  • On Maury Wills: "He studied pitchers the same way heist men studied banks. And for the same reason: larceny."
  • On Steve Garvey: "He was the most controlled individual I have ever known in my life. He could make the Pope look temperamental."
  • On Kirk Gibson: "If Reggie Jackson is Mr. October, Kirk Gibson is at least hey-what-about-me?"
  • On Sonny Liston vs. Cassius Clay: "One hundred and eighty million people will be rooting for a double knockout."
  • "Mike Tyson should be able to fight only a thing that can bite back."
  • "Baseball is a game where a curve is an optical illusion, a screwball can be a pitch or a person, stealing is legal and you can spit anywhere you like except in the umpire's eye or on the ball."
  • "Don Quixote would love golf. It's the impossible dream."