Legendary sports writer Furman Bisher, a former Daily Post columnist, built a career full of prestigious honors, but the latest would be particularly special for his family.
It would send Bisher, who passed away last year, into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Baseball Writers Association of America named Bisher as one of three finalists for this year’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award, given annually since 1962 “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.” The other nominees are longtime New Yorker essayist Roger Angell and former Los Angeles Herald Examiner columnist Melvin Durslag.
The award winner becomes part of the “Scribes and Mikemen” exhibit at the Cooperstown, N.Y., Hall of Fame’s library. Voters will determine the Spink Award winner and will announce their choice during baseball’s winter meetings in December. The honor is presented during the 2014 Hall of Fame Weekend.
“I had the privilege of working with Furman the last few years of his life,” said Mike Gebhart, executive vice president and CFO of Southern Community Newspapers (SCNI) Inc., the Daily Post’s parent company. “His work was always top notch, including the last columns we published shortly before his passing. If ever there was a legend among scribes in the sports writing arena, it was Furman. He is most deserving of this recognition.”
Before his death, Bisher worked 59 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution until his retirement in 2009. During that time, his regular columns entertained readers and he covered noteworthy events like the inaugural NASCAR race and every Kentucky Derby since 1950.
During his long journalism career, Bisher was the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s sports editor, a Sporting News columnist and a frequent contributor to Sports Illustrated and other national magazines. He also authored several books, most notably the first biography of Braves legend Hank Aaron, and was named in 1961 by Time magazine as one of the nation’s five best columnists.
Bisher also played a part in helping get the Braves to Atlanta, a process he chronicles in his second book, “Miracle in Atlanta,” written in 1966. Among his noteworthy accomplishments in journalism was a 1949 interview with “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, who hadn’t granted media interviews since 1919, the year he was ousted from baseball in the Black Sox scandal.
An avid golfer and golf fan, Bisher played rounds with legends like Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen and won the PGA Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Awards in 1996. He wrote that his basement is an “unofficial history of the PGA Tour in this country,” because it houses every PGA media guide dating back to 1947. He kept them to look up facts, the way sports writers did in the days before the Internet.
Bisher’s numerous honors include membership in the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame, the International Golf Writers Hall of Fame and the Naitonal Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame. He also won the Red Smith Award for his contributions to journalism. His work has appeared in “Best Sports Stories of the Year” a stunning 23 times.
Following his retirement, he joined SCNI as a columnist. He wrote two or more columns per week for SCNI between early 2010 and March 2012, when he died at the age of 93 from a heart attack.