This is not a column, as in sports column. It’s a heartfelt feeling about two fellows who just passed away. One was an athlete and a leader of men, the other I never met — but I knew him by his broadcast personality. I’ll get to him first.
Royal Marshall teamed up with a personality most unlikely to win your heart. Neal Boortz is about as likable as a pair of shoes that are too tight. Oh, there is a lot of good in Boortz, but he fights to keep it subdued. He’ll go out of his way to turn off any cause, or person, he considers a flagrant liberal, which made it so unusual that he would take Royal Marshall into his morning talk show.
There was nothing flagrantly liberal about Royal. What I liked about his broadcast personality was his evenness. He could take you, or leave you alone, which is how he dealt with Boortz. And that’s what Boortz liked about him, I guess. And why am I writing about him when I never met him?
Well, I do know Boortz, and have known him for years. I know how irascible he can be, and I realize that most of that is like a left punch. It’s part of his schtick, his act. And Royal moved right in without a flinch, and played his role until his heart gave out, a terrible loss to those of us who have a taste for evenness. It pains me that I never got to know the real Royal.
Roy Hartsfield was a leader of men, a baseball coach and manager after his playing years were done. He was a local, grew up around Atlanta but played most of his minor league career all around the country. He was an infielder who knew the game and had a penchant for leading, which was borne out when he became the first manager of the Blue Jays when the American League expanded to Toronto.
Roy was one of a rare kind of individual whose personality was that of a sergeant, and once his playing career was done, he was always in demand as a manager or a coach. He played only three seasons in the major leagues, with the Braves, and oddly, his managerial career at Toronto lasted only three seasons. But, baseball was a life, and he made it last from the age of 17 until he was a grizzled veteran.
You had to like him. He was that kind of guy.
And when baseball was finished with him, he came home to Georgia, settled in the mountains at Ellijay and played a lot of golf. But baseball was his life until he ran out of steam. Not many guys made the game their life until they had to cut the uniform of his body, and that was Roy.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The long-time Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures likes Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.