Here’s part 3 of the “Countdown to the NHL Winter Classic”.
The press box at Nationals Park is officially called the Shirley Povich Media Center. Povich is considered the most socially significant major sports voice of the 20th Century. He began his career working at The Washington Post in 1923. Two years later, he was named Sports editor, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1973. He was one of the first people who championed integration in professional sports. When Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, he wrote ”Four hundred and fifty-five years after Columbus eagerly discovered America, Major League Baseball reluctantly discovered the American Negro.” When Don Larsen pitched his perfect game for the New York Yankees in 1956, Povich wrote one of the most famous leads ever: ”The million-to-one shot came in. Hell froze over. A month of Sundays hit the calendar. Don Larsen today pitched a no-hit, no-run, no-man-reach-first game in a World Series.”
How influential was Povich in Washington? President John F. Kennedy was such a big Povich fan, he clipped Povich’s columns and used excerpts from them for his New Frontier speeches. Another president, Richard Nixon, a die-hard sports fan, once told Post publisher Phil Graham: ”Shirley Povich is the only reason I read your newspaper.” Even after his retirement, Povich 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. Fellow sportswriting legend Dan Jenkins described Povich’s style of writing as this: “He wasn’t flashy; he didn’t try to dazzle you with his footwork. He was honest and authoritative. He was the last of the breed who knew everybody and saw everything.”
Shirley Povich died of a heart attack on June 4, 1998. He was 92. He left behind his wife Ethyl (who died in 2004), and his three children, David, Lynn, and Maury.