Bud Furillo, the man who taught me this business, died last week.
He was 80 and even last season he was in the Coliseum press box, watching his beloved USC football team and telling wonderful stories.
We listened and learned, as we did more than 40 years ago when we were his kids at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. I’m referring to a long list of young journalists who were starting in the business. He was the sports editor, our boss and mentor.
The group includes the late Allan Malamud, who became a famous sports columnist for the Herald Examiner and then the Los Angeles Times; Steve Bisheff (Orange County Register and author of five books); Jack Disney (publicist at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park); Jim Perry (USC sports executive and author of a book on announcer Dick Enberg); Doug Krikorian (Long Beach Press Telegram and LA radio personality); Bob Keisser (Long Beach Press Telegram); Larry Stewart (LA Times) and so many others. Melvin Durslag was the Herald’s brilliant sports columnist and Furillo was in charge of the staff.
We were too young to appreciate some of Furillo’s methods, but as the years went on and our careers took shape the appreciation grew for what he did for us.
Specifically, it was about what to do. Get the story, and if a rival (often the Times) got it first then take it away from them the second day by finding a new development. Some of our best reporting came after another paper had the story first.
We weren’t paid as well as the Times staff, but a lot of people said we had the better sports section. It was lively because of Furillo’s leadership. If you read the Herald you knew what was going on with the LA teams.
It wasn’t just a job, it was a way of life. We worked in the office in downtown LA, had parties at Furillo’s Downey home, attended sports events together.
One year Furillo invited us over for a staff Christmas party but became occupied with a bowl game on television. Several of us commented that he was ignoring his guests.
“Just wait,” he said. “You’ll see why.”
The game ended and Furillo grinned broadly. He had bet on the game and won, and that’s how he gave us Christmas bonuses. It didn’t come from the newspaper’s management. It came from him.
I joined the staff in the early 1960s working midnight to 8am putting out the first edition. It was an entry level position and Furillo promised he’d get me a writing beat as soon as possible.
That turned out to be a very long 10 months, but one night he showed up and threw something at me. I reached for the object, caught it and saw it was a book of parking passes for Angel games. He had decided to put me on the beat and a few days later I flew to Baltimore for a series against the Orioles. That was one of the greatest days of my life.
Before becoming sports editor he had covered the Angels, so the beat was very important to him and I felt honored to be chosen. His trust in me was inspiring.
Later I became best known for covering the Lakers, something I have done at various papers for close to 30 years. Furillo didn’t know basketball like he knew baseball and football but the lessons he taught still applied. Get the story, be fair, become a guy the players respect even if they don’t agree with everything you write, make your deadlines.
In recent years Furillo lived in Ojai and could be read in USC Report, a privately-owned newspaper dealing exclusively with Trojan sports. When he showed up at Trojan games the hour before kickoff was like a staff reunion in the press box.
He was unorthodox and I don’t expect to meet anyone like him ever again.
There is a movement among our group to have the Coliseum press box named after Furillo. He is deserving, and it would be a permanent tribute to one of the pioneers of Los Angeles sports journalism.
Bisheff is heading the project which has my complete support.
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It was sad to hear of the passing of sports writer Bud Furillo. I grew up in Los Angeles and fondly remember the sports pages of the Herald Examiner. I read the “steamer” (Furillo) “Mud” (Allan Malamud), Melvin Durslag, Doug Krikorian and others in what was generally considered the best sports pages in L.A. history. I used to sell the paper on the corner of La Cienega and Cadillac. I had to weave through the cars and deliver the afternoon paper to motorists stopped at the light. “MAN BITES DOG – READ ALL ABOUT IT,” “KOUFAX-DRYSDALE HOLD OUT FOR $100K+.” I got people to buy the paper. This, by the way, was just a few years after the Santa Monica Freeway opened and a major onramp was nearby. People were considerate and no one was hurt, but I have not seen much of that type of “hawking” of papers lately. Perhaps it is because many of our unique sportswriter characters are gone and the papers are far less interesting (of course I consider the Mirror an exception). The dirty little secret of newspapers is “Sports Sells.” First thing I read on Sundays is Murray Chass of the New York Times sports section. I used to read Jim Murray every morning when he was alive. Every column was a masterpiece. And I always devoured the great sports writing at the Examiner. The paper was shut down after a union strike and left this town poorer as a result.
Michael Rosenthal, Publisher