His 1976 Pulitzer Prize cited Red Smith for his literary quality, vitality, and freshness of viewpoint. His criticism was always professional, never personal. He wrote with a light, wry touch even when taking aim at favorite targets like Bowie Kuhn and George Steinbrenner. Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Smith graduated from Notre Dame in 1927 and went to work for the Milwaukee Sentinel at $25 a week as a general assignment reporter. The next year, with the St. Louis Star, his first sports assignment was a night football game, which he wrote from the viewpoint of an indignant glowworm on the field.
He formed close friendships with Grantland Rice and Fred Lieb while spending ten years with the Philadelphia Record. In 1945 he moved to the New York Herald-Tribune. By 1954 he was the most widely syndicated sports columnist, eventually appearing in 500 newspapers, including Women’s Wear Daily. When the Tribune folded in 1966, he continued the column and, in 1971, he joined The New York Times.
“Sports is the real world,” he wrote. “People we’re writing about, they’re suffering, living and dying, loving and trying to make their way through life just as bricklayers and politicians are.” He wrote an 11-word sentence that immortalized him for all sportswriters: “Baseball is a dull game only for those with dull minds.” Collections of his columns were published as Strawberries in the Wintertime and Out of the Red.