Ralph Wiley, 1952-2004

Just saw this on ESPN: Ralph Wiley, an author who worked on the network and for a long time as a feature writer for Sports Illustrated, died. OK: I have not read one of Ralph Wiley’s books, and didn’t follow his magazine career avidly. But I remember him when we were both “copy clerks” (an upgrade from “copyboy”) at the Oakland Tribune in 1977. I was personally in a pretty bad state at the time — was angry with my life and the paper and treated the job like a piece of crap. The Tribune let me go at the end of my three-month probation period. That felt bad, though entirely deserved, and for years I thought I would never work for a paper again. Eventually, I learned something from the episode about not burning bridges.

Ralph learned something else. On the job — at a not-first-rate paper run by a publisher who liked to put on disguises to visit the city room, a paper living under constant threat of going under or getting sold — Ralph made an impression Smart, quick, good-looking, and funny; he seemed like someone who was having fun and was really on his way someplace. He moved up from copy clerk to writing for the sports department, then became a beat writer and columnist, then moved

on to Sports Illustrated. Here’s a decent obit from theWilmington (N.C.) Journal.

Next-morning update: The San Francisco Chronicle has a nice piece on Wiley by columnist Ray Ratto this morning. And the Oakland Tribune remembers him, too.

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