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Povich, Shirley (1971)

Povich, Shirley (71)

Photo of sports journalist Shirley Povich as master of ceremonies at a Cooperstown, New York ceremony.Photographer: Dante Tranquille

Shirley Povich, Bath native and veteran nationally syndicated Washington Post sports columnist .

Shirley Lewis Povich (July 15, 1905 – June 4, 1998) was an American sports columnist and reporter for The Washington Post.Having grown up in coastal Bar Harbor, Maine (then known as Eden), far from a major league team, the first baseball game he ever saw was a game for which he wrote the game story.

Povich joined the Post as a reporter in 1923 during his second year as a Georgetown University law student, and in 1925 was named Editor of Sports. In 1933, he became a sports columnist, a responsibility that continued until his death, with only one interruption. In 1944, Povich took on the assignment of war correspondent for The Washington Post in the Pacific Theater. Following World War II, he returned to his sports desk. He was the sports editor for the Post for forty-one years. President Richard Nixon once told Post publisher Phil Graham: "Shirley Povich is the only reason I read your newspaper."

He celebrated his retirement in 1973, but continued to write more than 500 pieces and cover the World Series for the Post. He would write about both the modern game and memories of years past. At the time of his death, he was one of few working writers who had covered Babe Ruth. His final column was in the Post the day after his death at age 92.

Povich served as a contributor to the Ken Burns series Baseball that first appeared on PBS in 1994 by sharing memorable baseball events.

Povich is the author of The Washington Senators (G.P. Putnam Sons, 1954) and All These Mornings (Prentice-Hall, 1969). A collection of his columns, All Those Mornings...At the Post was published in April, 2005 (PublicAffairs).


Among his prestigious honors: the National Headliners 1964 Grantland Rice Award for sports writing, the Red Smith Award in 1983, and election to the National Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 1984. In 1975, he was recipient of the Baseball Writers' Association of America's J. G. Taylor Spink Award, the Baseball Hall of Fame honor for sportswriters. He was President of the BWAA in 1955.

Povich's first name accounted for his listing in Who's Who of American Women in 1958.

He recalled in his autobiography that "Shirley" was a common name for boys where he came from, but many who read his column thought Povich was a woman; in jest, Walter Cronkite even proposed marriage to "her."

Shirley Povich Field, located in Bethesda, Maryland, is the home of the Bethesda Big Train (a team in the Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate Baseball league) and of the Georgetown University baseball team.

The Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland on November 2, 2011, announced the creation of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism, to expand its highly popular sports news program into a national leader in sports journalism education.

"Most important, the center will serve as a launching pad for students to learn, actively participate in and develop the journalistic skills they need to meet the challenges facing them as the next generation of sports journalists", said George Solomon, the former Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor for Sports who will become the Center's director.

The center is made possible by a $1 million challenge gift from Povich's children, Maury, Lynn and David.

The University of Maryland maintains the collections of Mr. Povich, including memorabilia, the documentary "Mornings with Shirley Povich", personal papers and work from his career at The Washington Post.


He is the father of attorney David Povich, American television personality Maury Povich, and editor Lynn Povich. He was fond of giving Louisville Slugger baseball bats as birthday presents to his friends' children. His wife, the former Ethyl Friedman, died in 2004.

Povich died of a heart attack on June 4, 1998 at age 92. A column he had already written appeared in The Washington Post the next day.

"In his unobtrusive manner, and with a quiet New England way of speaking that this Maine native never lost, Mr. Povich was also considered one of the finest gentlemen in the sometimes inelegant world of sports. He was known, read and enjoyed by a wide range of people -- including Presidents, starting with Calvin Coolidge."

"The name Shirley for a boy was not uncommon in Maine. He was born on July 15, 1905, in Bar Harbor to parents who were Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. His father later owned a furniture store in Bar Harbor. Mr. Povich was the eighth of 10 children and was named for a grandmother, Sarah, or ''Shirley,'' as it was loosely translated into Yiddish.

As a youth, he got a summer job caddying at a country club that catered to wealthy vacationers who owned mansions in Bar Harbor. Edward B. McLean, then the Post's publisher, suggested that Mr. Povich, 17, come to Washington where there would be two jobs for him, one as caddie on McLean's personal golf course at $20 a week and the other as a copy boy at the paper at $12 a week.

Mr. Povich, who had never been on a train, had never been out of Maine and had never owned a pair of long pants, accepted"

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