Monday morning quarterbacking—and much more—from the long-time Washington Post sportswriter.
As Post readers once knew, Shirley Povich was practically synonymous with the sports pages. Hired after caddying a golf match between New York Post publisher Joseph Pulitzer and Washington Post publisher Edward McLean and being genially argued over, Povich went to work in D.C. in 1922 in that most legendary of ways: “Go up to the city room,” an editor barked when he showed up, “and tell Mr. Fitzgerald you’re the new copyboy he’s been asking for.” Four years later, Povich was sports editor, and seven decades later, he was still at his desk, dying in 1998 just after finishing a column. Povich (the father of talk-show staple Maury) covered an extraordinary range of events, some history-making. One was the 1938 run at Pimlico between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. Another was the 1924 World Series, in which, for the first and only time, the Washington Senators won the title, thanks to pitcher Walter Johnson, who, writes Povich in what seems to be knockoff Hemingway, “tried to please the crowd. So he threw his speed balls with all the speed he could muster for four innings then he weakened in the fifth inning because he wanted to please the crowd with his speed balls.” Another was the 1936 Berlin Olympics, whose host’s disdain Povich, the son of Jewish refugees from tsarist Russia, took pains to record: He cites a Nazi Party paper’s scornful certainty that America could have won no medals without “black auxiliaries,” then adds, happily, a note that Norway beat the Third Reich in soccer 2–0. Povich was back in Germany for the 1972 Olympics, where he recorded the tragedy in Munich. Strong on being in the right place at the right time—and in sheer longevity—Povich lacked the fluency and style of contemporaries such as Red Smith and Ring Lardner. But, as this chock-full collection shows, he certainly knew his stuff.
He knew his readers, too: a perfect gift for all those Washingtonians who miss reading Povich over their morning coffee.