Something I stumbled across while doing a little research for an upcoming post/poll for the site was this 1966 Sports Illustrated article by Frank Deford entitled Lots Of Fun With A Poison Pen.
Deford follows and writes about legendary Boston Globe sports columnist Clif Keane in this feature, focusing on Keane as “an irreverent humorist, a Boston sportswriter who gets his best stories from the athletes he needles the most.”
Here are a few snippets from the piece:
At 54, Keane believes that he is mellowing, but few people he writes about would agree, even after they get the hatchet out of their backs. As a reporter, Keane remains a model of brutal objectivity-or objective brutality. When President Eisenhower visited Newport to play golf, the Globe dispatched Keane, a golf nut himself, to cover the action. Keane wired back a story that began by reporting that the President cheated on the fairways and in the rough. That was the last President the Globe has let Keane cover.
Then a little later on is an example of Keane’s needling:
But, uh-oh, here comes Clif Keane now, into the Cleveland clubhouse. “We’ll have some fun,” he says, rubbing his hands together and peering over his bifocals for new targets. There are a lot of lines around Keane’s eyes, but they are not like the crow’s-feet on most people’s, for they only appear when he laughs-or in the mere anticipation of hanging it on someone. This is what happens now, as soon as Clif sees Early Wynn, the pitching coach.
“Hey, you big dumb Indian,” Keane calls warmly, “when’re you going back to the reservation? You’re so fat you couldn’t get in the teepee anyway.”
“You talk,” Wynn says, thumbing at the game ball.
“When’ll McDowell be really ready?”
“I’m only the coach, you’re the expert,” Wynn replies. Around Keane his antagonists seem to play the roles he assigns them.
“You’re just an unpleasant man,” Keane says. “No wonder we stole Manhattan from you guys.”
Wynn remains in the impassively stoic character that Keane has set for him. “I got by Williams,” he grumps, “and I got by Greenberg. I can get by you, Keane.” Poison Pen roars, and the laugh lines bloom.
Light-hearted as that exchange was, you’d never be able to get away with that in today’s world.
I thought this bit was interesting:
Keane never went to college, nor did he ever write a newspaper story until he had been with the Globe for 13 years as a copy boy and real-estate space salesman. But since he began a quarter of a century ago he has covered virtually every sport, including a memorable dog show. A famous dog died, but Keane, unaware of the dog’s esteem in the canine world, did not mention the fact until near the end of his story. The managing editor called him in to find out why. “A dog died,” Keane replied. “I buried it.”
What? A newspaper writer who didn’t go to college? Worked his way all the way from the bottom to become one of the top sports columnists in Boston? Not bad.
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