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.
In 1944 after I returned to the U.S. from serving the South Pacific with the U.S. Marine Corps, I was stationed at the old Marine Guard Battalion in an old building on the corner of 23rd and Constitution.
Being a sports fan, I religiously read the local sports pages and became an instant fan of Shirley Povich.
I was thrilled to meet him in person at one of the Washington Redskins games in old Griffith Stadium. He couldn't have been nicer to anyone than he was to me that Sunday afternoon. He wouldn't talk about himself, wanting only to talk about my youth and having gone through the Guadalcanal campaign and mostly, having made it back home!
A treasure for the American sports fan. I'll always remember him. Every time I see Maury Povich on TV I think of his dad. So I hope to keep being reminded for a long time.
Thanks for this opportunity.
So long and thanks, Shirley.
Glad I attended Gallaudet University during the 1960's and became acquainted with The Washington Post. I read his columns every day every time I grabbed the papers at dormitory. His columns are peerless and impartial. He often made nice comments about other teams, especially the Yankees. I have been a die-hard Yanks fan since I was a child in New Jersey. Thanks for all memories.
Speaking out against injustices in sports or the community is what I will remember about since I was a kid in the '60s. He is the reason why I read Kornheiser, Wilbon and Boswell, the best writers in the sports section.
My condolences to the Povich family and The Washington Post.
My profound condolences to all the family. How fortunate you were to have him for so long. How fortunate for us, the public, to have the opportunity to be taught by him through his columns. I certainly hope that a book of his columns will be forthcoming. His career is an example to all.
Haile Selassie Makonnen Dagne
I was not yet conceived on that fall day in 1956 when Don Larsen pitched his perfect game. Nor had I been aware in '72, when the Olympics were struck with the terrifying deaths of eleven Israeli athletes. Considering I am but 14 years of age, this is easily understood. My recollections of memorable sporting events (during my lifetime) extend only as far as Cal Ripken's 2,131st game. But my memories are enlightened by the past, thanks to the writings of Shirley Povich and others who shared his passion for sports. I wrote a letter to Mr. Povich but a month ago. The letter said much of what is said above, and he replied to this letter to my ultimate delight. His reply lies framed upon my desk. It goes to show that a man that has devoted his life writing about our boyhood heroes, the likes of Johnson, Gehrig, Ruth, and Ripken is a hero himself.
As a youth in the Maryland suburbs, I will always remember Mr. Povich's columns. But the one that will always stand out for me was when he was covering the NASL Soccer Bowl in 1980 at RFK Stadium. He approached the stadium press entrance he stopped and asked a parking lot attendant, why all the commotion over a soccer game. The parking lot attendant told him that there really wasn't that much of a difference between this Soccer Bowl or the Super Bowl, just that at the Soccer Bowl the fans all speak different languages. When I read that quote in his next column I felt very honored that I had in some small way contributed to the great legacy of Shirley Povich. My sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Povich.
I am a biologist in Oregon, but I grew in Washington and Shirley Povich set the standard for clear writing that I strive for to this day. I think I learned to read so I could read the sports page, and from Shirley Povich I learned that there was more to sports than winners and losers.
I am 65 years old and Shirley Povich has always been with me. He will still always be with me.
Thank you for the eloquent prose and the marvelous insight you provided regarding sports. Your style will stand as the standard for all writers to emulate.
To the Povich family:
Mr. Povich graced many lives, including mine during the past half-century. Please accept my condolences.
I had the pleasure of reading Mr. Povich's columns when I attended school at College Park in the early 1950's. When I moved back into the area in 1988 I again was able to enjoy his occasional columns.
Last fall, I wrote Mr. Povich a note congratulating him on his column on the baseball restructuring proposal. A week or so later, I received a note back from Mr. Povich thanking me for my comments.
No doubt, he was the "class act of his class."
To the Povich family:
My heartfelt condolences. May God bless you and keep you in his loving arms.
I grew up in Takoma Park during the '60s and was both an avid sports fan of the twice-departed Senators and the then-hapless Redskins, as well as a delivery boy for The Washington Post. I shudder to think of how many of my customers' flower beds were trampled as I walked, head down, reading Povich's columns and game coverages in the dim light at 5 a.m. Povich represented a time for me when sports, players and sports writers were all something to be looked up to and admired. Somehow, I think that if the events and people that Povich made come alive for me still existed, the world of sports would still contain heroes. There is no doubt that Povich was the best at what he did. To make people read his coverage of yet another "Nifty Nats" (Senators) humiliation and hang on his every word, showed the incredible talent that he had.
I went to Washington to study at Catholic University in 1988. It wasn't until about five years later that I started to read The Post's sports page daily. I can't remember which of Mr. Povich's columns I read first, but I do remember thinking that he was "on the money" and why didn't The Post have him write a column every day! Imagine my surprise when I first learned shortly thereafter that he was well into his 80s and retired from The Post. I have since moved to Rochester, N.Y., but I will always remember Mr. Povich's columns as part of my Washington experience. Thanks Shirley Povich, and rest in peace.
Dear Mrs. Povich, Thank you for sharing your husband with us, his readers, for all of these years. I am 54 years old, and a much better person man for having read every one of Mr. Povich's columns on which I could lay my eyes. My favorite Povich-ism occurred in one of his columns protesting Washington's loss(es) of its baseball team(s). In that column he remarked to the effect, "Washingtonians have long lived with the belief that halitosis is better than no breath at all."
May you find comfort in your grief.
My first meeting with Shirley Povich came on my grandfather's front room floor in 1943. God could he write Mr. Povich had a way with words that made him easy to understand, regardless of age, and a view of his subject that made it worth the time to ingest his prose. One of a kind? You bet. Thank God my time and his time crossed paths.
Rest in peace, you will be missed.
A class act who wrote poetic sports articles. He talked about what happened between the lines in such a way that you wished you were there.
I am 57 years of age and a sports fan for life. If I could pick one person, past or present, to talk to for just one hour, about sports, it would be Mr. Shirley Povich. He has seen it all.
My father, Loran V. Ward, who celebrated his 50th year of coaching last year on the coaching staff of the Virginia State Group AAA, Division 6 High School Football Champions, Robinson High School, sees Shirley's passing as the last of a breed of the early sportswriters who described the world of sports as it once was, and not the big business that it has now become.
Shirley will be missed by all that had the opportunity to read his columns.
In utmost sympathy for the Povich family,
Shirley Povich helped me love and understand the Senators and the Redskins. Most of all he helped me love and understand good writing. I've been a writer for 25 years. Mr. Povich taught me how.
I was a freshman at LSU and hoping to someday make it as a sportswriter. I decided one day I would write to Shirley Povich asking his advice. Luckily, he wrote me back and answered all the questions I had.
It was funny, I thought, that he wrote me back with an old typewriter, and some of the letters were messed up. But the great thing I'll always remember was that he took time out to help give a peon sportswriter like myself some confidence and direction, which I'll always remember.
It was with great sorrow that I learned of the passing of Mr. Povich. What a class act the man was!!! In an era of sports media personalities who seem to think that they are the real story and who treat their readers or listeners in less than a courteous manner, Mr. Povich shined like the midday sun. Even at 92 he was wholly on top of his game. He will be sorely missed.
Best wishes to his family.
I'm a long time Yankee fan and a Mantle fan. I never got to read Shirley. But, I have read every thing that I can find about him in The Post and also watched a piece about him on TV. Sorry about our loss. In all my readings, I have noticed that he never mentions Mantle. I wonder if he though he was irrelevant or that I haven't read enough of him material. My prayers to the family.
When my father, Merito Acosta, came from Cuba as a 16-year-old baseball player for the Senators, he got to know Mr. Povich. They became friends and remained so until my father's death in 1963. Our family has looked upon him with great respect throughout the years and will miss his writings and presence in The Post.
William H. Acosta
On the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak, more than 500 members of the media were at Camden Yards. Everywhere you looked it was a Who's Who of celebrities on the field, from Joe D. to Ernie Banks to Chris Berman. But right behind the batting cage, there was a circle about four people deep around Mr. Povich. In his graceful, articulate and unpretentious manner, he held us captive with his tales of Gehrig, including witnessing his farewell speech. A couple of us looked at each other in stunned reverence: here, on this historic night, Mr. Povich turned black and white images to living color because he saw Ruth and Gehrig play. Wow.
Dennis Tuttle, freelance sports writer
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