He Had Game
Over the years, Murray memorably suggested beginning the Indy 500 with the announcement "Gentlemen, start your coffins!" He called legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden "so square, he was divisible by 4," and verbally wiped out whole cities, from Spokane ("There's nothing to do there after 10 o'clock. In the morning") to Cincinnati ("They still haven't finished the freeway...it's Kentucky's turn to use the cement mixer"). But Murray was more than a man with a million rim shots. Venting moral outrage about the once all-white Masters tournament, the lifelong golf nut wrote, "It would be nice to have a black American at Augusta in something other than a coverall."
Like many who made their name in L.A., Murray came from somewhere else—Hartford, Conn. After getting his start at the New Haven Register, he jumped to the Los Angeles Examiner in 1944. Four years later, Murray went to Hollywood as correspondent for TIME, becoming one of Humphrey Bogart's drinking buddies. In 1953 he was asked to help start SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, and in 1961 he moved to the Times.
Murray soldiered on in later years through near-blindness—from a cataract and a detached retina—and grief over the death of his 29-year-old son in 1982 from a drug overdose and the 1984 loss of first wife Geraldine to cancer. (In 1996, Murray married Linda McCoy, who, along with his three grown children, survives him.) "He made his readers laugh and cry," says Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, "all the while peppering them with enough one-liners to land you a week at the Palace."