“Just write,” he said with a smile and a firm grip on my arm.
It was a nice evening. Goody Petronelli, Marvin Hagler’s trainer and one of the kindest men in boxing was on hand along with several local sports writers Kimball had been in the trenches with.
At evening’s end George took my copy of Four Kings and, in elegant cursive script, wrote, “To Matt Hurley. All my best. And keep writing! GK, 2008.”
I suppose for George his approbation may have been no big deal. It was his night and he was in a festive mood. But that brief moment when he took me aside meant everything to me. When I had finally decided on trying to become a writer, I had always envisioned sitting in smoky bars with other writers, all of us desperately trying to make our deadlines, trading anecdotes and drinking too much. George Kimball lived that type of life, wrote about it, suffered through it and survived it. That’s old school, newspaper journalism with a bit of Gonzo self-destructive behavior thrown in for good measure. It made his prose sing.
Kimball’s work enthralled me for so many years. Even after he “retired” he continued to write and his Sunday column in the Boston Herald, filled with local updates alongside international results, was required reading. In fact, I always glanced to the last line first to see which boxing figure was celebrating a birthday, as that was always George’s sign off for those columns. It was always fun to see a “Happy Birthday” thrown out to long forgotten fighters like ‘Rockin’ Robin Blake, James ‘Hard Rock’ Green or Frank ‘The Animal’ Fletcher.
And that’s what I will miss – the work. I didn’t know George Kimball, met and talked with him just that once, but through his writing I always felt a kinship with him. His work always made me feel that if I were in a bar, reading his column, looked up from the paper and saw him on the next stool I could buy him a beer and shoot the shit with him all night long. Well, maybe a club soda as Kimball’s hell raising days were long since passed, but that everyman quality goes just as well with Canada Dry as it does with Miller High Life.
Kimball’s death casts another shadow over the boxing landscape in terms of print journalism. There aren’t many regular boxing columns in newspapers anymore. And for me, who first started reading Kimball columns all those years ago, his absence is huge. Just the realization that his last Sunday piece was his very last leaves me wanting more. That, in my estimation, is the mark of a terrific writer. That was George Kimball.Click here
July 11, 2011