Remembering a Sports Legend
Monday, June 8, 1998 Legendary Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich died June 4, 1998, of a heart attack. Povich recently celebrated his 75th year at The Post, and his death at age 92 prompted an outpouring of remembrances from fans and colleagues alike. Below is a compilation of thoughts and memories from washingtonpost.com users.
I drove 500 miles to attend Glenn Brenner's service. I started walking to Washington as soon as I learned of Shirley Povich's passing. Washington, what are we going to do to honor this greatest of journalists and devoted fans?
Donna M. Alexander
It is usually said that those of the younger generation have no idea as to what is going on, nor do they show much respect. That is why I write this.
I didn't have a chance to read much of Mr. Povich's work, but I knew who he was, and because of that he commanded respect. I respect his work because unlike many of us he could tell stories that were only myths or fables for most of us. Shirley Povich was the reason that many in Washington and this country were "there."
I have been in the sports reporting business for only a few years, but I certainly do realize that not only has The Washington Post lost a great writer, but the world has lost an icon.
Shirley Povich. Thanks for the memories and rest in peace.
Shirley you will be missed. A great loss.
Much of what appears in sports sections today more closely resembles collections of words rather than genuine writing. Mr. Povich was a writer before he was a sportswriter. He understood the rhythms of language and he wrote stories, not articles. Many of those stories live on in my memory.
As editor of my high school newspaper, I met Shirley Povich in the spring of 1960. He was wonderfully supportive and kind. Attending a (then fledgling) legendary high school and meeting a legendary sports-writer...it was a 17-year-old's idea of heaven.
Professor Gregory J. Segreti, DeMatha High, 1960
Shirley was the most well-rounded newsman I knew at The Washington Post. His interests were collegiate, well beyond the sports pages which he loved. My condolences to Ethyl and his wonderful children.
Ben W. Gilbert
While living in Maryland for nine years I was a huge fan of Washington Post sports and especially Shirley Povich. He was one the last true links to the golden age of sports. When asked who I would most like to eat lunch with, I always responded with "Shirley Povich." Unfortunately, now I will never get my chance.
As a young journalist just beginning a writing career, Povich provides inspiration and a link to an era when keeping it real and writing with guts meant something. He will be missed by a generation a century removed from his own.
Staff Reporter, Missoula Independent
As a youngster growing up in Washington and Maryland during the '40s and '50s, Shirley Povich was always someone I read. At that time, the sports pages were virtually all I read. I was especially into baseball and Shirley always provided the erudite view of sports. I discovered many a new word in his column and had to scurry to a dictionary often to discover the meaning of some new term. Ersatz was one that seemed to be in his constant use. Godspeed, from am old Post paperboy.
Jorge A. Valladares
Sorry to see you go. Just going upstairs to a different job, but [you'll] still be writing. BYE Shirley
I read "This Morning" with Shirley Povich every morning, as soon as my father was finished with it the first thing both of us read in The Post each morning. Years later I wrote to Mr. Povich asking whether he had any memories of the old megaphone announcer at Senators games, E.L. Phillips, who I was writing an article about for a baseball journal. He was kind enough to reply with a beautiful letter, typed on an old manual typewriter on old Post sports section letterhead, full of fond memories and good, funny stories. The Post and sportswriting will never be the same.
God bless you Shirley! I'm a 37-year-old woman who has grown up with you (I'm still in the process). No sport will be the same without you, I know that for sure. Sports were always the only way I could ever share something with my less-than-functional father, and I grew up loving the Redskins, the Orioles and the PGA Tour. Although I'm an at-home mom of a toddler boy and teen-age (adult) girl, and marriage and parenting can be very challenging on many levels, the one thing my husband and I can always share with the kids is a love of ball games!
I truly believe you were the main reason I started reading the newspaper religiously under the age of 10! I've always admired your "ethical enthusiasm" for all areas of the sports world, even when some might have considered you "old-fashioned." I think the Juwan Howards, Chris Webbers, Leslie Shepherds, Brian Mitchells, Letrell Sprewells, Greg Normans and Albert Belles of contemporary sports would do well to study your gentlemanly approach to the games. Maybe "respect" and "good sportsmanship" would become as integral to professional sports as big-money contracts have become.
God bless family and friends that Mr. Povich has left behind. Thanks for sharing him!
Shirley Povich embodied all that was good, just, and virtuous in his profession. Anyone who plied the same trade had the misfortune to be measured against him, but the good fortune to call him a colleague. The elegance and grace of his prose, his common decency a monument as sturdy as any in Washington will endure for generations.
While his family, his colleagues at The Post and his readers will undoubtedly share a sense of loss, they should also share a feeling of pride at having lived in his time.
I read Shirley Povich's column this morning and when I got to the part where he talked about Bobo Holloman my mouth dropped he had put Holloman on the St. Louis Cardinals, when in fact Holloman had pitched for the Browns.
I went straight to The Post's home page to drop him a line and chide him for making, far as I could tell, the first mistake he'd ever made in a column, maybe tease him about what starts to go at 92. I hadn't read the italicized preamble to his column, so I had no idea he had passed away.
I became a Senators fan in '55 and although I lived 100 miles away, I read his column in my university library every day. Today was the first time I had ever tried to reach him by mail, and all I can say now is I've lost a friend I never got a chance to meet.
He is my hero. Such crisp clean copy. He made writing seem so easy, you know he had to work really hard at it.
We lost Vince Lombardi.
Thanks, Shirley, for being a part of every Washington sports fan's life for so many years.
Shirley represented a far more innocent time in sports when players loved the game for the game, not for extracting as much cash as they can from the ticket buying fans. He was remarkable in his ability to see good throughout 75 years of coverage. I'm glad he was able to live life to the fullest and die gracefully. It is fitting for such a dignified man.
The loss of Mr. Povich is one of great proportions. I honestly can't think of another gentleman that I would have enjoyed speaking to more. I would have given anything to sit down with him for even just an hour to get just a sampling of the amazing stories he's known.
I am 34 years old and have never written a fan letter to anyone. Ever. This is my first one, and I can't think of anyone more deserving of tribute. I moved to Washington in 1989, long after Mr. Povich had "retired." Nonetheless, I quickly became an ardent reader of everything he wrote. Whether it be baseball, boxing, football or whatever, Mr. Povich was always a pleasure to read, a highlight of the day. I was especially impressed by the way he could so easily compare modern stars to the greats of the past, not through historical stats, but by personal observation. His final column is no exception. By comparing McGwire and Ruth, Wells and Larsen, Showalter and Richards, he was a living link to the bygone days. He was a true journalist, able to "speak" to his readers, rather than just provide sound bites.
I recall one particular time when I was reading one of his columns, and my young son interrupted me. I said "Shhh ... Mr. Povich is talking." He has passed the torch to Thomas Boswell, and I have confidence that he will carry it well. Nonetheless, Mr. Povich was a treasure, and we shall all miss him.
So very sorry to hear of Shirley Povich's death. I knew Lynn when she worked in the teen department of the Hecht Co. in D.C, and I worked in the Advertising department. I grew up in the District and although I was a Star newspaper carrier, I read The Post many times for such things such as Shirley's column.
It's sad to see these institutions such as Shirley Povich disappear, but I have a lot of personal memories to reflect back on.
My condolences to the Povich and Post families on the loss of a real icon of the journalistic craft. How fitting that he died with his boots on, so to speak, having written that comeback column. I feel fortunate to be visiting in a place where I can pick up today's paper the old-fashioned way, with ink on paper. And I feel more fortunate to have had a small chance as a former Post staffer to see Shirley Povich at work up close. I hope every press box in the country observes a moment of silence before reopening for business, regardless of what is in season.
And thanks to Lenny Shapiro for a very nicely done obituary. I enjoyed reading every word of it.
Shirley Povich retired a year after I was born. So I guess you could safely say that we are from different generations. However, the Shirley Povich I read and enjoyed showed me that for some people there is no such thing as a generation gap.
He will be greatly missed.
Ever since I was old enough to read, I've read and enjoyed Mr. Povich's work and words. He helped me appreciate, even in the dark days of '60s Redskins and Senator debacles, what the of magic sports could mean. I became a fan of 'Panorama,' the talk show Maury co-hosted with John Willis, once I found out Maury was his son. Even if we never see his like again, we were at least fortunate enough to see his like in this lifetime.
Shirley Povich was truly one of the best sports writers of this century (or any century). I am thankful that I was exposed to his writing before it was too late. He was an inspiration to all who aspire to be sports journalists (I am one). He will be truly missed.
From the Philippines, my sincere condolences to the family of Shirley Povich, my favorite sports columnist from as far back as the 1950's when I resided/studied in DC for 15 years...and when I became an avid reader of his interesting sports columns about our pro teams in DC!! I will surely miss him and his columns...without whom my stay in Dc would have been uninteresting sports-wise!!! Goodbye old friend...You may never fully realize how many people's lives were 'touched' by your interesting and inspiring articles on the Washington Senators and Washington Redskins...etc.
Felix J. Teodoro
My sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to the Povich family. I always found Mr. Povich to be a knowledgeable and a gentle person. He will surely be missed.
My condolences to the Povich Family. I am 32 years old and I remember reading the "This Morning" columns as a child. However I remember most of the "after retirement" columns. We truly have had a treasure in this city that we could read a column by a person who have SEEN Ruth, Louis, Johnson, Cobb, and Jackie Robinson. The columns that were written about the integration of the Redskins are simply priceless. The last column he wrote was wonderful. He will truly be missed.
You will be truly missed by Washingtonians. Growing up with out a father, my mother and I used you and your articles to teach myself the fundamentals of sports.
My thoughts and prayers are with your family.
God saw that you needed this rest, Shirley. He knew this last article would be well remembered. May God keep you in perfect peace.
Mrs. Sherial Hunter-Maynard
I feel so fortunate I could appreciate his work while he lived. I was there, though only for the last few years, but I was there! Finding his column in The Post was a special treat for me.
Say hello to Babe and the Big Train for me!
I grew up in Washington, loving to play sports and read about them in The Washington Post (and Evening Star) sports sections.
Like all Washingtonians worthy of the name, my favorite sports teams were the Senators and the Redskins. Nobody wrote about them better than Shirley Povich. I used to love to read his columns the day after Senators' games, especially the doubleheaders. He'd focus his comments on one aspect of one of the games, and conclude the piece with something like, "They also played a second game. Naturally the Senators won that one, too." I loved sports anyway, but reading Shirley Povich made me want to write about them, too. I couldn't do it as well as he did, of course, but I gave it a whirl for a couple years.
He was a great one, a rare blend of insight, wit and grace that would have made him stand out in any sphere. It just happened to be sportswriting. Thanks for the memories; they're really good ones.
Shirley always represented the best side of sports. His appreciation for and understanding of the game of baseball might not ever be matched. I wish I could have sat and talked baseball's history with him for a few weeks. He was a great writer and an even better man. Best wishes to his family.
I remember in one column he wrote "Walter Johnson told me...." I can't even recall what it was Johnson said. I was just amazed that he could actually begin a sentence that way.
When Ben Hogan died, Povich having visited the doctor's office office in the morning chipped in with a column filled with the perspective that only he could provide. George Solomon, The Post's sports editor, said "Shirley Povich is carrying this section on his back."
It wasn't the first time.
Truthfully, I never met the man. I only knew of his legend, his abilities, and his kind heart, second-hand of course. Mr. Shapiro's piece on Shirley Povich moved me to tears, laughter, and comfort. My best friend, Gene Wang, works for your paper. He was brought on by Mr. Povich himself, which lays claim to the fact that he never forgot that everyone needs a break, a chance so to speak, to realize their dreams. Mr. McClean gave young Shirley a chance, and he obviously never took it for granted for even a moment. Life is short for most of us, but Shirley Povich lived longer than most of us ever will, but he did so probably because he had to. Who else could pass down such a wonderful account of history for everyone to know and cherish? I am sad today, for not only the loss of a living legend, but for the loss that everyone of us will feel by his passing.
Being a native of Washington and having seen the Senators play ball at RFK and reading Povich I grew to love the game of baseball and its subplots. It's made me a better softball player at 44 years old, better then I was much younger. Thanks for the great articles and the inspiration you gave to all of us, including Boswell.
It is rare that I become sad over the death of someone I've never even met. So few sports heroes remain and now we have one less. Today my heart truly aches.
It was a privilege for me to have read and enjoyed the work of Shirley Povich over the years, though I don't live in the Washington area. He was probably the last of his breed in this business sharp but never mean, stylish with a distinct wit as dry as his native Maine accent.
I still have a letter he wrote me a decade ago, which was as gracious as his writing. It is now a personal keepsake.
The tarnished world of sports is not what it was when I was younger. Shirley Povich was one of its true pillars. The Post, and fans of great writing everywhere, are poorer by his passing.
Oh, yes he was a lot more than Maury's dad!
To Shirley Povich's family and friends:
"You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age" (Genesis 15.15).
Read Mr. Povich for many years, great man, great writer. A hero of mine in many ways....
After my own dad, there was no one I'd rather listen to talk about baseball (or any other sport) than Shirley Povich.
I'm sure he's already landed a job with the Heaven Gazette, sitting in Griffith Stadium, watching one heck of an All-Star game, and writing a column that's respectfully critical of some of the Great Manager's decisions about who made the team.
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