Drooling on the Pillow

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Inimitable Red Smith 

To my mind, Red Smith was far and away the premier sports writer of my generation.

Today was the 100th anniversary of his birth and the Times ran an article by his son and a column by Smith which he wrote on the occasion of Hank Aaron's historic 714th home run.

I believe it's telling that none of the regular columists for the Times was given the job of honoring him, because there isn't one of them with the chops to do the job.

Dave Anderson isn't bad, but that's really about the best you can say and that puts him head and shoulders above the others. The rest of the crowd write copy that happens to concern sports, but they always seem to be writing for an Ivy League sociology department rather than for your average guy who loves sports and appreciates fine writing. If there is not a racial or gender angle to it, their hearts just aren't in it.

Smiths columns were graceful and witty, allusive and charming, but so very easy, conversational and calm. He had an agenda, a point of view, but it was something you got to know about him, as with a friend, not a punishing sword held out in front of the story.

I can't think of anyone in his class on a regular beat in New York today. Lupica at the Daily News is good. He's clever and he can write. But when something happens, a big fight or an amazing horse race or when the pennant race gets intense, it would never occur to me to look forward to what he's got to say. I'd never buy a paper just for his column. But Red Smith was always worth the price of the paper.
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