LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray, a newsman for nearly 50 years with a long list of awards, won what he called the 'Academy Award' of journalism Thursday, receiving the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
'I didn't even stop to think it was that time of the year,' said Murray, explaining that the award, his first Pulitzer, took him by surprise.
Murray, who was recognized by the Pulitzer selection committee for a body of work in 1989, said the Times has submitted his columns for consideration for a number of years. This year, he said, the committee 'decided to get rid of me' by honoring him with a Pulitzer.
The 70-year-old Murray has a long list of honors to his credit. He was named America's Best Sportswriter by the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters 14 times.
He also was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July 1988 and the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 1977 and received the Associated Press Sports Editors Association award for best column writing in 1984 and the Red Smith Award for 'extended meritorious labor in sports writing' in 1982.
Also in 1982, Murray became the first sportswriter to win the Victor Award, conferred annually on outstanding athletes based on selections by sportswriters, editors and broadcasters across the nation.
But Murray made clear he regards Thursday's award as a unique event.
'You have to be realistic,' he said. 'This is the Academy Award.' In fact, he added, 'It's the Nobel Prize, the MVP, and the Oscar all rolled into one.'
Murray was cheered and toasted by his colleagues in the Times' newsroom after the prize was announced.
'One of the good things about winning is when I play golf with (Times cartoonist Paul) Conrad he can't criticize me by asking, 'How many Pulitzers do you have?'' Murray said. Conrad has won three.
Murray said he couldn't decide which was his favorite column last year -- 'I try as hard on every one of them' -- but the happiest column he wrote in 1989 was on 'Sunday Silence winning the Kentucky Derby for (trainer) Charlie Whittingham.'
A working journalist since 1943, Murray said he finds writing columns 'a lot harder now than it was 20 years ago' but confided that 'it becomes kind of a trick. You know what works after a while.'
Born Dec. 29, 1919, in Hartford, Conn., he was educated at Trinity College in Hartford, and while in college worked as campus correspondent for the Hartford Times.
Murray, who joined the Los Angeles Times in 1961, was West Coast editor for Sports Illustrated, which he helped found, between 1959 and 1961. Before that he reported for Time Magazine (1948-1959), the Los Angeles Examiner (1944-1948) and the New Haven (Conn.) Register (1943-1944).
His columns also have been compiled into three books, 'Best of Jim Murray,' 'Sporting World of Jim Murray' and 'The Jim Murray Collection.'
Asked about future retirement plans, Murray said: 'Not this week. I'll stick around to enjoy this.'