"I know your boss, Keith Morris."
That's a line most of our writers in the field have heard, from athletes in almost every sport, about Keith Morris, 52, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Director of Publicity and Special Events. Although Keith is not even in the editorial end of the business, it is understandable why so many athletes feel he must run the show. Because of his omnipresence, he is probably known to more people in sports than anyone on the staff of the magazine.
Morris undoubtedly holds the world indoor record for attending the most sports breakfasts, luncheons, banquets and press conferences. In between functions, he hustles around with his tape recorder, preparing his five weekly interviews with sports personalities that are heard on 334 radio stations across the nation, and in many foreign countries, or to a television studio for a TV interview that will be aired by some 230 stations.
When not interviewing athletes, Morris is presenting them with awards and pictures: everyone who appeals in FACES IN THE CROWD receives a silver bowl, and cover subjects, as well as many of those who have been featured inside the magazine, receive either a copy of the cover or a copy of a photograph or drawing that illustrated the article about them.
Another of Morris' responsibilities is staging sports festivals at which athletes put on demonstrations and clinics, and he is currently president of the Touchdown Club of New York, a nonprofit organization founded by John Heisman that provides scholarships for deserving high school athletes and raises funds for the Olympics and other amateur sports activities.
Perhaps his most time-consuming task is heading up our speakers' bureau, which, for a fee, supplies athletes to organizations for personal appearances. "We have more than 2,000 people from every area of sports on our speakers' list," says Morris. "Last year we had requests for them to appear at 1,500 functions. I never envisioned that the job was going to evolve into anything of this size."
Morris came to us in 1954 from the Time Inc. office in Philadelphia, where he was a zone manager in the circulation-promotion department, and 25 years later we continue to be impressed by the scope of his endeavors.
Morris credits his ability to get things done to his adherence to two rules. "I always try to keep my sense of humor," says Keith, whose trademarks are a rich laugh and a broad, unfailing smile, "'and whatever I promise to do for people, I always do immediately. The toughest thing is that it's a seven-days-a-week job, because so much in sports happens at night and on weekends."
During his first 10 years at SI, Morris was on the road three-quarters of the time, he calculates, but now he gets a chance to relax at home in Ardsley, N.Y. with his wife Lotta and son Keith Jr. The Morrises also have two married daughters, Mrs. Vicki Morse and Mrs. Gloria Jack man.
"The most gratifying thing has been all the friends I've made," Morris says. "And the fact that often I'm treated by the athletes as a friend, rather than as a business representative."
MORRIS: MR. SPORTS BANQUET, HIMSELF