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Class Act

Ron Fimrite, one of the signature voices at Sports Illustrated (he was at the magazine for more than thirty years) passed away late last week of pancreatic cancer. He was 79. Fimrite worked the baseball beat for SI as well as anyone ever has, and from what I understand he was an old smoothie to boot, a real stand-up guy.

Here’s a short selection of some of his memorable work at SI:

On Ralph Branca and Bobby Thomson.

On Pete Rose.

On Hank Aaron’s 715th home run.

On Jackie Jensen.

And finally, peep this bonus piece on Harry Caray:

In the face of…adulation, Harry exhibits a generosity of spirit common only to those who know they deserve the best. He stops to chat and sign autographs. His manner is engaging, familiar: “Hiya, sweetheart…. Whaddya say, pal?” Earlier in the evening, Harry had hit a couple of spots, and in each he was accorded the sort of welcome John Travolta might receive should he appear in the girls’ locker room of a small-town junior high school. “Hey, Harry!” “You’re the greatest, Harry.” “Hey, Harry, say hello to the people of the world.” This had been a day like any other in his life, which is to say, utterly chaotic, a continuing test of his pluck and durability.

Harry had arisen brightly that morning after a revivifying four hours of sleep. He placed a call to Jon Matlack, the Texas Ranger pitcher, identifying himself as Brad Corbett to the hotel operator when informed that Mr. Matlack was not in his room. It is Harry’s conviction that even baseball players will return telephone calls if the caller is someone of recognizable financial clout, and Corbett is the principal owner of the Texas baseball team. Harry wanted to discuss with Matlack some intemperate remarks the pitcher had made to the press, to the effect that Harry should be “killed” or, at minimum, have “his lights punched out” for saying on the air that the tumultuous booing Matlack’s teammate, Richie Zisk, had received from Chicago fans was richly merited.

Zisk, a White Sox player last year, had himself been critical of Chicago fans, a sin in Harry’s eyes comparable to denouncing the game itself. Matlack returned the call and Harry said he would see him in the visitors’ clubhouse at Comiskey Park that evening. There Harry found Matlack to be more contrite than murderous. Zisk was less conciliatory, but he concluded a protracted harangue ambiguously by insisting, “You say anything you want, Harry. O.K.?” Harry, ever unflappable, agreed he would do just that. When the crowd booed Zisk even more ferociously that night, Harry apologized, in a way. “There must be something wrong with your television sets,” he advised his listeners.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Sports Illustrated

Tags:  rom fimrite  Sportswriters

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One comment

1 Bluenatic   ~  May 5, 2010 7:37 am

Fimrite penned one of the best "Point After" columns S.I. ever published, back in 1989, about his relationship with his father. This story is one of the things that inspired me to try writing about sports myself:


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