Publish date:

Man With A Mike

In this highly readable though lamentably uneven memoir, the
famous sportscaster recalls an eventful 50 years in television.
Like so many careers in his curious medium, Jim McKay's owes
much to serendipity. He began his professional life after World
War II as Jim McManus, news reporter for The Baltimore Evening
Sun. But when the newspaper's publishers bought a local TV
station, he was ticketed for broadcasting duty, solely because
as an undergraduate at Baltimore's Loyola College he had been
president of the dramatic society.

In 1950, CBS in New York hired him to host a new variety show,
and the general manager of the station insisted that McManus
change his surname to match the name in the program's title, The
Real McKay. During McKay's 11 years at CBS his work, including
stories about sports, impressed a young producer at rival ABC.
Roone Arledge hired McKay in 1961 as host of Wide World of

McKay achieved a form of television immortality for his live
reporting on the kidnapping and massacre of Israeli athletes by
Arab terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. He earned that
assignment after Arledge discovered that he had been a newspaper
police reporter. McKay begins his book with a chilling
hour-by-hour account of the Munich tragedy. Then he balances
this with often hilarious recollections of his own misadventures
in early television. Unfortunately, the final two thirds of his
book, while maintaining a reasonably crisp pace, devolves into
the sort of conventional sports memoir that renders discerning
readers limp with ennui.

Occasionally, though, the eloquent McKay of Part 1 of the book
re-emerges, as in this description of the thoroughbred
racehorse: "It is the most artistically conceived creature in
the natural lovely as a ballerina, as touching as a
little child and game to the point of exhaustion."

Read Part 1 of The Real McKay with a pure delight; you can skim
Part 2.

--Ron Fimrite

COLOR PHOTO: DUTTON [Cover of book The Real McKay]