A long-time baseball writer for The New York Times, Murray Chass began covering baseball with the Associated Press in Pittsburgh. Games 6 and 7 of the 1960 World Series were the first games he covered, and they marked the end of his status as a Pirates fan. Rooting and writing don’t mix, he decided early on.
He had been a huge Pirates fan in his earlier years, spending one teen-age summer watching 50 games from the left field bleachers at Forbes Field for a dollar a game. There has never been a better summer.
Some games he couldn’t watch in person. He sat in the Pitt News (student newspaper) office at the University of Pittsburgh on a May night in 1959 and listened to Harvey Haddix retire 36 consecutive batters in Milwaukee before he lost his perfect game in the 13th inning. He graduated from Pitt in 1960, began working for the AP that year and moved to the news agency’s New York sports department in December 1963. Six years later, he was writing about baseball for the Times, and during the 1970 season he began covering the Yankees.
He was there from day one of the George Steinbrenner regime, and he made it through the George and Billy and Reggie years, ending his daily coverage of the Yankees at the end of the 1986 season.
During that period he reported three of his four all-time favorite quotes. The fourth came more recently:
- “The two of them deserve each other; one’s a born liar, the other’s convicted” — Billy Martin on Reggie Jackson and Steinbrenner in 1978.
- “There’s nothing more limited than a limited partner in the Yankees” — John McMullen, then the Houston Astros owner but once a limited partner of Steinbrenner, in 1979.
- “Where is Reggie Jackson? We need a Mr. October or a Mr. September. Winfield is Mr. May.” — George Steinbrenner in September 1985.
- “The Evil Empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America” — Larry Lucchino, Red Sox chief executive, in 2003.
Chass made some other significant contributions to baseball writing. For one, he created the coverage of contracts. Salaries in sports had been largely guess work before he began reporting contracts of baseball’s free agents once free agency began in 1976. For another, he pioneered the intensive coverage of baseball labor negotiations, later covering labor matters in the other three major sports as well.
Chass was one of the early authors of a Sunday baseball notebook and was unique in writing the notebook throughout the year, not just during the baseball season. From August 1984, through March 2008 he wrote 1,155 Sunday notebooks, developing more than 4,000 items ranging in length from one paragraph to more than 1,000 words.
In January 2004 he switched from reporting baseball news to writing baseball columns, writing from two to five columns a week.
In December 2003 the Baseball Writers Association of America voted him the J.G. Taylor Spink award for his baseball coverage; the award put him into the writers’ wing of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, the following summer. A month before winning the Spink award he was inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Pittsburgh.