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Thursday, July 7, 2011

George Kimball (1943–2011): A Memorial

The Library of America is saddened to learn of the death on July 6 of legendary sportswriter George Kimball. For twenty-five years Kimball wrote a sport column for the Boston Herald, retiring in 2005. As his friend and colleague Thomas Hauser wrote in a 2004 profile:
Over the years, Kimball has covered thirty Super Bowls, the World Series, the NBA Finals, all four golf majors, Wimbledon, the summer and winter Olympics, and countless other sports events.
Kimball is best known as one of America’s premier boxing writers, having covered more than 350 title bouts and receiving the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism in 1986. Starting in 1997, he wrote the weekly “America at Large” column on boxing for The Irish Times. As testimony to his tirelessness, his last piece, “On the (root) beer for Dunne's world title bout” appeared there on June 30.

In 2005 Kimball, 62, was diagnosed with inoperable esophageal cancer. But that didn’t slow him down. As Hauser wrote in a memorial on The Sweet Science this morning:
Many people engage in a flurry of activity when they’re in their sixties to make up for time lost when they were young. George was determined to make up for time that he knew he would lose at the end.

Over the next six years, George was living, not dying. He was as content and productive as most people are at any time in their lives.

He added to his legacy as a writer by authoring Four Kings (the definitive work on the round-robin fights among Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, and Roberto Duran). That was followed by Manly Art (a collection of George’s own columns about the sweet science). He also edited two anthologies with John Schulian (At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing [for The Library of America] and The Fighter Still Remains: A Celebration of Boxing in Poetry and Song).

George took pride in his writing. He was more than a chronicler of the boxing scene; he was part of it. He was one of the people who I knew would always be at ringside when I went to the fights. It’s sad that he’ll no longer be there.
Kimball’s note to Hauser, asking him to be available in case Kimball wasn’t able to make a reading in April of this year, is indicative of the veteran writer's kindness and humor, his clear-sighted understanding of his condition, and his indomitable will:
I agreed to do an April 7th event. But I start a pretty heavy-duty chemo regimen on Monday [January 17th]. I've had all three drugs they'll be using before, though not in this particular combination. None of them were much fun. They'll do another PET scan in early March to see if it had any effect. If it hasn't, I imagine they'll discontinue treatment and just try to make me comfortable for as long as I last. In other words, there is a possibility that I won’t last until April, in which case you might have to do my share of the reading. I have every intention of being there on April 7th. But if I'm not, I'll have the best of all excuses. Cheers, GK.
In keeping with his wishes, there will be no funeral. A memorial service will be held at a later date.

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