Remembering a Sports Legend
Monday, June 8, 1998 Legendary Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich died June 4, 1998, of a heart attack. Below is a compilation of thoughts and memories from washingtonpost.com users.
My Dad's favorite war story concerned how he rode a train from Chicago to Washington during the mid-'40s. In the club car on the train, a very slight man in a suit bought the men in uniform a drink. My dad was impressed by the kindness of a man he had never met before. Mr. Povich gained his position at The Post the same year my Dad was born ('24). We both read "This Morning" by Shirley Povich every morning until Mr. Povich's retirement in the '70s. I was in my teens before I found out that Shirley Highway wasn't named for him. He's already missed.
I just feel lucky to have lived in the area since 1985 to have enjoyed Mr. Povich's work...
Shad B. Ewart
Shirley Povich taught me to read. That is only a slight exaggeration: I learned to read, at old Bunker Hill Elementary, in NE, partly to read the back of baseball cards, and mostly so I could read "This Morning." His column was my basic reading practice not the adventures of Alice and Jerry, but the adventures of Mickey Vernon and Roy Sievers, as told by Shirley Povich. Later, when I was about 10, and beginning to think I could think seriously about the world, I followed his long campaign to desegregate the Redskins. It was noble: persistent, consistently well-reasoned, extending for years. I still remember after nearly 40 years some of those columns. One, in particular, ridiculed G.P. Marshall's claim that he had been trying hard to get Bobby Mitchell, but that the Browns had held up the deal by turning down the player that the Skins had offered their third-string quarterback, M.C. Reynolds.
I still read his column every time I found it, even though I've lived in exile from DC for nearly thirty years.
The Post, though it all, still seemed like The Post as long as Povich was writing for it.
I worked with Shirley at The Washington Post for about a year when I was in the sports department and Shirley was THE most wonderful man!! A DREAM to work with!! He certainly had an exciting life!!
I never got the chance but I always wanted to sit down over a few beers and have him share some of his stories with me. I guess it would have been over a few hundred beers though he had SO much to share. And what a career!! The stories he did share put me right there with him. What a great, great guy!!! We'll miss him!!
I have never read anything by Mr. Povich, but when I heard of his passing I decided to look at his final column via Internet. Now, after finishing I wish I could have grown up a boy where I could have read his columns and game stories every day, shared his experiences with friends or my father, while pouring over the latest sports page. I am sorry that I never got to read Mr. Povich but everyone who knew him, in life and through The Post, should be celebrating his life that he lived. From the little bit I have read, Mr. Povich probably would have wanted it that way.
Shirley Povich surely personified and gave meaning to the words, "A CLASS ACT"
Michael F. Feld
I, too, as a young lad once thought, "This lady Shirley sure does know a lot about sports." Having been the lucky beneficiary of the knowledge in his columns, I am able only to bow my head at the news and say "Thank you, Mr. Povich."
Growing up in Washington in the '50's and '60's, Shirley Povich and Bob Addie were my constant window on the world of sports. Through them, I followed the sometimes comical and almost always futile efforts of the Redskins and Senators. I sensed that both columnists shared my enthusiasm for the teams, but they were also able to gently chide the mistakes as well as applaud the victories. I accepted what I read in their columns as the unvarnished truth, and still believe that it was, as they saw it. Every column was well-written, witty and insightful. I did not truly appreciate what a treasure Washington had until I grew old enough to travel and read sports columns in other towns. Mr. Povich and Mr. Addie set a standard for sports journalism that will stand for many years to come. I miss them both.
Wishing you well,
When I was a teen-ager, I had an opportunity to visit with my uncle, the late Bob Considine. The most lasting memory of that trip is, when informed I lived in the D.C. area, he told me, "If you only do one thing each day, read Shirley Povich's column." I have enjoyed his work and have been intrigued by his experiences ever since.
I thank my uncle for that advice, and I thank Mr. Povich for enriching our lives.
My condolences to the Povich family.
Bob "Skid" Rowe
If only there were some young writers to take his place. Another big hole in the American sports page.
God bless you, Mr. Povich.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Povich when his wife had hip replacement surgery at National Orthopedic Hospital in Arlington. He always had a smile and time for a story or a comment on what was happening in the sporting world!!! Thank you Shirley. I will miss your prose and humour. Best wishes and my condolences to the Povich Family!!
Scott A. Holter MT (ASCP)
When Povich announced his so-called retirement from The Post in 1974, I sent a letter to the Editor (that was printed) to The Post saying my morning breakfast would never be the same again. His column was the first thing I read every day in the paper. As a former journalist myself, I must confess I often clipped his leads and saved them for future reference as they offered insights and ideas for all kinds of stories, not just in sports. My all-time favorite was the day Jimmy Brown scored 3 or 4 TDs against the Redskins and Povich wrote, in his never-ending battle with the owner, George Preston Marshall, to sign black players, that Brown rubbed it in by integrating the Redskins end zone so many times that day. He was the best damn writer I ever read. We'll all miss his him as a human being and as the greatest sportswriter of the century.
To the Povich family:
Shirley Povich's life was sports, and especially sports in Washington, D.C. I wish he could have lived to see some of the historic events in sports this year. The Capitals are in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Yankees seem to have the most dominant team baseball has seen, possibly, since the great Yankee dynasties. Roger Maris's record seems about to be shattered by Mark McGwire, the most prolific home-run hitter the sport has seen since Babe Ruth himself.
Most of all, though, I really hoped he would live to see the return of Major League Baseball to Washington, D.C.
HaMakom y'nachem etchem b'toch sh'ar aveilei tziyon v'yerushalayim.
May the omnipresent comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Simply the best!
"This Morning" was a morning I hoped I'd never see.
The loss of an immortal always comes as a shock. But Shirley Povich was a very, very special kind of immortal, a man whose very presence in the capital of the greatest nation in the history of the world was a source of great pride to that great city.
I had been reading Shirley Povich's work since I first learned to read at the age of four. He resembled my beloved grandfather, both in his appearance and in his love of the Washington Senators. Through his writings and my grandfather's descriptions, my memory is fooled into thinking that I have seen Walter Johnson throw fastballs, and Goose Goslin hit home runs, and Muddy Ruel scrap, and Bucky Harris and Roger Peckinpaugh steal bases, although I was not actually born until 1951.
When he teamed with Bob Addie, The Post had the greatest baseball coverage of any newspaper in the world.
How long would he have gone on writing were it not for the evil men who stole our Nats? He died of heart failure, it is said, but how it must have wounded his heart to see RFK Stadium dark on a warm summer's evening! I know how it makes my heart ache.
Major league baseball should put an American League team (yes, AL) back into RFK Stadium in time for opening day of next season. RFK should be refurbished and its name should be changed to Shirley Povich Stadium, and if the New(er) Senators should finish last, we will be able to assume that Shirley Povich will write about it for the Heavenly Post, with a smile on his face because all will once again be right for the lesser baseball fans on the world below.
I mourn the loss of a dear friend.
Coming out of a time when sports figures were still heroes and literacy and imagination was far more of a prerequisite for writers than in today's world of short attention spans and instant video replays, he could paint pictures with his words. And his lucid writing created clear images anyone could see while subtly building his readers' vocabularies in the process. Perhaps one of the best things about his columns was that Shirley Povich told it like it was and called 'em as he saw 'em. On that point he never appeared to even contemplate compromise.
He was an honest man's writer, who probably would have felt it beneath his standards, if not a violation of his readers' trust, to do so. And the integrity he brought to his newspaper has clearly had its influence on others there. Today, we all stand together and gaze in awe at the enormity of the void his passing has created. As a sportswriter, the man had few peers and NO superiors. In 75 years he never missed a deadline. Ever. Not even with death tugging his hands away from the typewriter keys. It is said that a man may be known by his works.
If this is so, perhaps we would do best to simply remember him by his. Besides, I think Shirley Povich would probably have wanted it that way. So move over Grantland Rice, there's going to be a new byline in heaven this morning.
J. D. Hunter, II
We extend condolences to the Povich family. We're both native-born Washingtonians (a rare breed) and grew up when D.C. had four newspapers! Shirley Povich was synonymous with sports. Watching Maury seems like a connection to his dad. Shirley Povich was a Washington landmark; we have so few true people landmarks in D.C. We've retired to coastal Carolina but still feel very much connected to our natal city.
Hugh and Sandy Chinn
I am saddened by the news of Mr. Povich's death. I especially remember his fine opening sentences, along with his eloquence which proved that often the best writing of a newspaper is found in its sports section. His columns helped us know our sports had greater value than mere entertainment. I will miss his work more than ever in these days of the vain athlete, the corporate sporting mentality, and the scarcity of truly good writing.
We'll miss ya!
Shirley's columns were always well-written and easy to understand. He had a gift for the use of words to create pictures. I especially enjoyed his writing about events he had WITNESSED, events that I only learned of as history (i.e., Gehrig's farewell, Ruth's called shot (not)). His last column was typical of his work that I enjoyed: timely, informative and entertaining. Godspeed.
Len Shapiro's tribute about Mr. Povich in today's paper was an excellent one. For 53 years I have read most of Mr. Povich's articles. As a child, I remember fondly his Sunday columns where he wrote about a potpourri of sports and his Monday morning column about the Redskins game the day before.
Over the years he sent me to the dictionary to the meaning of words that I knew not the meaning. His writing was pure poetry to me. My wife, who very rarely reads the sports page, always read it in recent years, when Mr. Povich penned an article.
We along with many others will sorely miss him and his writing.
Bertram H. and Deborah K. Meyers
Mr. Povich was a great friend of my father's John Paul Collins, who was principal of Eastern High School. I have very fond memories of Mr. Povich when I was a child. I am 70 now, so that was a long time ago.
Shirley Povich was a man of strong conviction and he will be sorely missed by everyone who had the good fortune to come in contact with him. My condolences to the family, I will miss him....
John Paul Collins, Jr.
When I was growing up in the '50's in Bethesda, my father used the sports section of The Post to teach us how to read and we always read Mr. Povich's column. We learned not only to read but about sports and more importantly, about good sportsmanship, ethics and morals. Thanks, Mr. Povich and Godspeed.
Anne McInerny Pinkston
Amid the stories of the Caps great victory and first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, the first round of the Kemper Open led by local golfer Fred Funk, the Baltimore Orioles latest box score, the news from the French Open, the NBA finals, and other current events, the defining moment of today's Washington Post sports page was the posthumous dispatch from Shirley Povich. As a longtime (read 18 years) follower of this page I only read this great journalist's musings after his "official retirement" in 1974. However, the clarity of his reports, whether on baseball, boxing or other fields of athletic endeavor showed that he was still one of the all-time greats. His passing marks the end of a direct connection to the golden age of sports populated by Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson and other immortals, of which he is now one. Not since the Senators left Washington has a departure left such an immense hole in the local sports scene. Shirley you will be missed by players, press and fans of all types.
Michael C. Fox
His surviving family members can be very proud of that.
At my first major league baseball game, I saw Bob Feller beat the Washington Senators 7-0 at Griffith Stadium in 1950 (I was 6 years old) and I started reading Shirley Povich the next day. His "This Morning" column was on the left side of the first sports page and Bob Addie's play by play was on the right. Because of his influence, I was a sportswriter out of high school for the Northern Virginia Sun. I stopped after a few years to get a "real job" but I never stopped reading everything I could by Shirley Povich. If anyone can tell me how to get a copy of his book "All Those Mornings," I would like to keep reading him as long as I can. It is hard to love someone you never met, but in this case, he pulled it off.
Thank you for all your words of wisdom. Your column always gave me a great insight into the world of sports. I'll always be grateful.
I became what I am because of Shirley Povich. From the time I was old enough to read, in the early 1960s in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C., I lived for the arrival each morning of The Washington Post, where I would receive the daily joy of reading Shirley Povich. His biting humor on yet another slipshod loss by the Washington Senators, his clear, concise and elegant prose on the latest heavyweight title fight, and his caustic, barbed indictments of the racism of George Preston Marshall and others in professional sports who would deny opportunities were words that astounded, enlightened and mesmerized me. I knew at an early age that I wanted to be a part of his noble profession never thinking I could be his equal, because only a handful ever were but merely to be a part of the same world. And it's a world decidedly poorer with his loss.
We just lost one of the greatest writer of all time. With his death we've lost a great part of baseball history. May God bless you and yours!
Warren M. Brown
End of an era. He was the last of a disappearing breed and an American original. As an aspiring young journalist, it was my great honor to have benefitted from his wise editorial counsel. His lost will be felt by many.
My sympathies to the Povich family on the passing of their dad. I first read Mr.Povich in the sports page while stationed at Andrews Field, outside of D.C. in 1953-56. He was brilliant,witty,and most of all informed of the sports scene.
I was happy when the Internet came along so once in a while I could read his columns. Otherwise, I could care less about the Washington papers. Rest in peace sir, for it will be a long time before someone of your talents comes our way again.
Growing up I read Shirley Povich's "The Washington Senators" so many times at the public library that I must have worn the pages bare. For many years after baseball left the District I would read his columns and wonder how the national game could ever abandon the nation's capital. Several years ago I had the good fortune to work very closely with Henry Thomas as he wrote the wonderful biography of his grandfather, Walter Johnson. Both Henry and his mother, Carolyn Johnson Thomas, regaled me with stories of Mr. Povich: his kindness and warmth, his accuracy and tact. I was inspired to begin work on my own history of the Senators and looked forward to one day meeting this sportswriting legend. Time and earning a living intervened but I never gave up my goal. While I am sad that I will never meet Shirley Povich, I am sadder still that the worlds of sports and journalism have lost one of their brightest. I will continue to draw inspiration from him.
Edward J. Johnson
During the early '50s, I lived around the corner from the Poviches. My first ever job was delivering the shopping news to their home. The worst part of my first ever job was collecting money from my customers. I always remembered how nice Mr. Povich was to me during this uncomfortable chore.
Jerry Del Tufo
Thank you all for sharing your family time with us. It is very difficult to lead a quiet life when you have a delightful and engaging whirlwind in your midst.
Blessings to you.
What a wordsmith! Few writers in sports are able to craft columns that stand the test of time. Shirley Povich's work did. Recently, I was reading some of his columns from the '30s, the '40s and other decades. And then I read something he had written about Cal Ripken in more recent times. Wow. He still had his good stuff ... right to the end. I worked for 10 years with the Baltimore Sun and covered the Orioles and Bullets for them. But I got my start as an intern with The Washington Post in the late 1960s and had the honor of meeting Mr. Povich and listening to him tell a few of his stories to other staffers in The Post newsroom. They don't make 'em like Shirley Povich and his unique style and choice of phrases was so beautiful. Washington area sports fans and those around the country, even here in Chicago where I live have lost a giant in this industry. Peace to you, Mr. Povich.
To the Povich Family,
May your thoughts be filled with fond memories of your loved one in this time of intense grief.
Lawrence E. Harris
A well-loved columnist, whom I read many times while residing most of my life in Washington, D.C. area.
He will be missed by many.
How badly Shirley Povich will be missed in an era of mean-spirited, self-promoting sports coverage. His integrity, wit and love of sports will be truly missed by those of us who have read him for over 40 years. My condolences to his family and to the staff of The Washington Post.
Mainers will remember Shirley and the entire Povich family as "downeasters" from the clothing store in Bath to the golf tournament Maury runs for the underprivileged here in Maine. Shirley is truly from a Maine family and God bless his memory with The Post and with folks here in Maine.
Ralph H Wilkinsom
I am only 18 years old. I lived in D.C. for 14 years until moving up here. But I remember waking up when I was 8 and racing to get The Post to see the latest Povich column. Mr. Povich I will miss you and your column. I hope that as I pursue a career in journalism that I can end up only half as successful as you.
Thank you for the memories.
I've lived in the D.C. area for almost 25 years and have enjoyed Mr. Povich's work greatly. The most impressive thing about Mr. Povich was his character and his compassion for others. Indeed, he was an excellent wordsmith whose replacement will be difficult, if at all possible. But to those who had the briefest of encounters with him, and unfortunately for those who never did, our days will never be brightened by a great sportswriter who was an even better person.
Condolences to the Povich family he was a giant in the field of journalism! I remember first reading his daily columns in The Washington Post as a brand-new midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. As plebes, we had to know all the news each day and especially the sports.
I soon learned that he gave you something special each day, something beyond the mundane scores and gossip. He made me see another dimension to sports and he always provided a special insight to the real heart of current issues and contests.
Aloha Shirley Povich!
I live in California now, but for seven years as a regular reader of The Post, my day always started with "This Morning." I heard about Shirley's death this afternoon on the CBS affiliate in San Francisco. I feel like I just lost part of my youth. May these days of mourning for the Povich family be something where they remember the best of times that Shirley produced for them.
Mr. Povich will be missed greatly by anyone who appreciates consistently thoughtful sportswriting. His passing is a huge loss. There are very few people who say as much, so well, in a column. I was, and still am, a big fan.
Shirley Povich was a man who taught about life while writing about sports. If you were one of the truly lucky ones, you learned both from him. Thanks Shirley, the past three decades have been a great adventure through life. Thanks for being the guide.
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