THE BEST sportswriter ever to put fingers to a keyboard died last Sunday in Atlanta. His name was Furman Bisher, he was 93, and had written for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 59 years when he retired in 2009.
In the words of Jim Minter, former editor of the AJC:
“He put more quality words on newsprint than any other writer in the last half of the 20th century. He never wrote a bad column.”
In another life, I spent 19 years writing sports for this newspaper. I frequently sat next to Bisher in the press box.
During that time, Bisher was the number one hate for Alabama fans, but he was my hero. Clyde Bolton, former sports columnist for the Birmingham News, felt the same. And he loves to tell the story of a Saturday afternoon when the two of us were sitting a couple of seats from Bisher.
I was struggling to write a “lede,” the opening lines that keep readers, well, reading. Bisher, in the days of typewriters and copy paper, was doing the same, jerking “lede” after “lede” from his typewriter, throwing them on the floor.
Clyde loves to tell the rest of the story:
“George turned to me and said, ‘You know, what ticks me off is there are better ledes there on the floor than I can write.”
True story, true statement.
One aside to that is on one Saturday afternoon, as we were leaving the press box, Furman turned to me with, “If you ever want to leave Anniston, give me a call.”
I never called, but that is still one of the best compliments I was ever paid.
God speed, Mr. Bisher.
QUOTABLE: “If you’re wrong, you can’t afford to argue. If you’re right, you don’t need to.” — Unknown
FOR THOSE of you who live here and don’t keep up with “there” — as in Heflin — the Hometown Restaurant is open again and under the same owner, Barbara Marcum.
Barbara closed for a few weeks, but the best “meat-’n-three” in the whole country came back with open doors three or four weeks ago. I know a lot of people “here” had no problem with a drive east on old U. S. 78 for lunch, especially on Sunday.
The restaurant was originally owned by Barbara’s parents. She bought it from her mom like 20-plus years back. And the reason I know it’s best is I spend a lot of time looking for something other than “quick.”
Hometown gets my vote.
A FRIEND of mine says the best way to get back on your feet is to miss a car payment.
IN A RECENT column, I told you of the passing of Marian Richards, a lady from Oxford who was on duty in England on June 6, 1944. Then, in September, she waded ashore on Omaha Beach in Normandy and went about tending the wounded in a field hospital.
Trouble is, I spelled her name Miran and a very nice lady sent me an email correction. The lady was kind enough to say she misspelled the name in talking with me on the phone.
Talk about a class act. Not many step up like that and I thank her very much.
QUESTION: What is a fist buster?
A good guess is not many of you have the answer to that. And Google won’t help you with this one.
LET ME give you a tip if you’re already planning your Easter Sunday dinner.
The guys at Saks Baptist out on U. S. 431 will again have their smokers going. This time it will be Boston butts, hams, turkey breasts and whole chickens.
I did one of their Boston butts this past Christmas and it was beyond “wow!”
Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted on times available.
George Smith may be reached at 256-239-5682 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org