A sign of the (L.A.) Times … and N.Y. Times … and the Washington Post … who reads their sports sections, and why, compared to 20th Century consumption?
In addition to the L.A. Times piece we crafted this week about John Schulian’s new book, “The Great American Sports Page: The Greatest Writers, the Greatest Games, All on Deadline,” we wanted to touch on several other things discussed that didn’t actually fit into print — yes, that happens:
Sculian admits that when he grew up in Inglewood in the late 1950s, he delivered 77 editions of the Los Angeles Herald-Express each day before heading out to baseball practice — it was an afternoon edition, which are all but non-existent now. Mr. Lockwood was his route manager.
But it wasn’t until Schulian moved in 1958 to Salt Lake City with his family that he found Jim Murray, a syndicated writer who started working at the L.A. Times in 1961 after a run at Sports Illustrated and Time magazine.
“Whoever plucked him out of relative obscurity did a great service to sports writing,” said the 74-year-old Schulian the other day from his Pasadena home. “When I read him as a kid, he spun my head around. No one was doing that kind of writing in Salt Lake City.”
When Schulian eventually moved to L.A., he became a fan of the L.A. Herald Examiner, the latest incarnation of the Hearst newspaper in Southern California, with the shrine of a building on Broadway and 11th Street. It shut down for good in 1989.
“I couldn’t live without it,” said Schulian, who still holds that the old Red Smith-led New York Herald Tribune was “for my money the greatest sports section ever.”
The L.A. Her-Ex was the constant underdog to the neighboring L.A. Times, which made you want to root for it’s survival in the journalism business.
“They didn’t have nearly the resources as the Times but they knew how to marshall their forces and go after that one really great story every day that the Times didn’t have,” said Schulian. “That wacky sports section — Doug Krikorian, Mel Durslag, Alan Malamud, great beat writers who were real tough and on the prowl. There’s always a place in my heart for papers either thread-barren or struggling to exist. In some of those papers were some great sports sections.”
Schulian admitted he also had to cut about 100 pages from GASP — should we really abbreviate “Great American Sports Page” when that’s what we’re left with? — which forced him to pull a piece he enjoyed by Johnette Howard (formerly of N.Y. Newsday and the Washington Post, now with The Athletic) and Jason Gay (currently with the Wall Street Journal).
“I really wanted a cross section of the country, include women like Diane K. Shah, Sally Jenkins, Jane Leavy … and African-Americans needed to be represented,” said Schulian. “With Sally Jenkins, nothing gets past her. Her father (Dan Jenkins) would rile up a college town with one sentence, and both are great at what they do. But the apple bounced in a different direction when it fell off that tree.
“We had to be diverse as well geographically. There was a time back in the day when the goldmine was the Boston-Washington corridor. So many great sports writers came from that piece of real estate. But you can’t be New York centric and have to realize all the work done in other cities.
“L.A. was one of the few places that could compete with that East Coast juggernaut.”
We asked what he subscribes to these days — he said that in addition to the L.A. Times and N.Y. Times landing in his driveway, he gets to check in on the Washington Post, New Yorker magazine (“it’s mandatory,” he added), Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Magazine, Esquire, Sports Illustrated … and Garden and Gun.
Yep, it’s a real thing.
“It’s actually very classy,” said Schulian of the Southern culture magazine out of Charleston, S.C. “The name is just for shock value.”
More to read on this:
== Schulian’s book is reviewed by The Daily Beast (subscription needed).
== Schulian has a Q&A with the Library of America, the non-profit that published his book.
== Our 2010 story about Schulian’s book, “The John Lardner Reader: A Press Box Legend’s Classic Sportswriting” (done mostly for magazines, not newspapers)