W.C. Heinz: Rest in Peace
The great writer/journalist passed away earlier this week at the age of 93. You can read his NY Times Obit here.
I haven't read much Heinz but he was the writer with the most clips in The Best American Sportswriting of the Century — a great collection for any sports fan — and a source of inspiration to David Halberstam and the New Journalists of the 1960s. He also tells one of my favorite sports stories ever in his profile of football great Red Grange, “The Ghost of the Gridiron,” for True Magazine in 1958. Red Grange is talking:
“Once about fifteen years ago, on my way home from work, I dropped into a tavern in Chicago for a beer. Two guys next to me and the bartender was arguing about Bronco Nagurski and Carl Brumbaugh. On the Bears, of course, I played in the backfield with both of them. One guy doesn't like Nagurski and he's talking against him. I happen to think Nagurski was the greatest football player I ever saw, and a wonderful guy. This fellow who is knocking him says to me, 'Do you know anything about football? Did you see Nagurski play?' I said, 'Yes, and I think he was great.' The guy gets mad and says, 'What was so great about him? What do you know about it?' I could see it was time to leave but the guy kept at me. He said, 'Now wait a minute. What make you think you know something about it? Who are you anyway?' I reached into my wallet and took out my business card and handed it to him and started for the door. When I got to the door, I looked back at him. You should have seen his face.”
Great Clark Kent moment and Heinz knows enough not to get in the way of the story. Then he ends the piece poignantly. Read it, if you can.