The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes


Thursday, March 5, 1936

“He Was a Man’s Man,” Summary Tommy Munns Offers


Sports Editor of The Globe

“He was a man’s man.” Use that phrase, hackneyed though it is, and you have made the most appropriate start possible in describing Lou Marsh, whose sudden death yesterday shocked the sports world. He was an outstanding figure in the world of sport throughout the years, attaining prominence as a competitor, an arbiter, and, above all, as a writer and critic. Dynamic, sometimes vitriolic, in his writings, especially when championing a cause, and confidently forceful in his character, he made a profound impression in every sphere of activity he entered.

Lou Marsh was a man of action, so much so that it is hard to realize that his driving power has been stilled. Competition never lost its zest for him, and newspaper work, after years of experience in it, never lost its fascination. When he retired from such sports as running and football, he turned to sailing, motor-boat racing and other recreations, and into them he put a will-to-win effort or a whole-hearted, wholesome enjoyment if it was just a pastime.

Noted for His Fearlessness

There never was a more fearless writer nor was there a referee who could more thoroughly dominate in a competent, masterful manner, a competition of which he had charge. We are referring first to those things because he put himself, his personality, into them as few could do. If there was a contentious subject on which to comment he fearlessly wrote his views. It mattered not if he was a minority of one if he believed in the principles of amateurism, and supported them staunchly where and when he found them, but he refused to be misled by “shamamateurism” or to protect those who sought to commercialize sport under the name of amateurism. Against such men he wrote scathingly. Because of his strong views and the definite expression of them, many formed what may have been a wrong impression of him. They were the ones who didn’t know him. His friends realized that his heart and his sympathies were great even though to “keep in character,” as he would express it, he sometimes tried to refrain from exhibiting too much of the sentiment that was a far larger part of his make-up than those who did not know him personally were ever to realize.

An Individualist as a Writer

To say that he affected a slangy, breezy style of writing is almost superfluous. He was noted for it, and his remarks, usually in crisp sentences that jolted his meaning home, never beat around the bush. He grew to love that type of writing, and to glory in every new originality he could introduce into it, but from time to time he switched to a more conservative but non-the-less graphic style. And when he did so he turned out a masterpiece or something closely approaching it.

Usually that would be the obituary of some friend, mourned by himself and many, as he himself day-to-day is mourned by so many thousands. Sometimes it would be a story he considered so important that it required a treatment different to the ordinary. And occasionally he would surprisingly seize on one of the simple things in life, find a big meaning in something apparently small, and paint a beautiful world picture of it. It was at times like that his sentiment broke away from his usual writing and gave his reading public a glimpse of a side of him they usually didn’t stop to consider. In private life, we who were his friends can tell you, countless incidents showed how human and how great he was.

Personal Memories of a Lost Friend

I’ve tried to write this impersonally, but any one who knew Lou was influenced by his powerfully magnetic personality can’t keep that up. He was a real friend to me in many ways from the time I started on the Globe a “cub reporter,” more than 16 years ago. He might have been brusque to a reporter of his own experience, but to a beginner he went out of his way to be helpful, not because I meant anything to him, but because he saw a youngster to whom a “pointer” in regard to actual news or in how to present it might be valuable.

I’ve known Lou so long and seen him under so many conditions that pictures of him that flash through my saddened mind are myriad. And everyone one of them stands out vividly. You can’t remember any incident connected with him but what you have a clear-cut impression of Lou as the central figure.

He Was Everywhere in Sport

I hardly have to close my eyes to see him writing “running copy” of a lacrosse game at the old Scarboro Park; peering through his binoculars at a Woodbine race; trying to keep himself from getting as excited as a high school kid over a close hockey game or even lighting one of his favourite cigars amid a bunch of athletes in a dressing room.
It is easy, too, to recall him, as so many thousands have seen him, keeping a tough hockey game under control, jerking his thumb over his shoulder to point to a refractory player to the penalty bench or circling around a boxing ring with watchful eyes in a pair of leather mittened battlers.

Just as he loved writing, he loved his work as a referee. If it wasn’t a good bout he made it his business to see that it became one. If necessary, he talked to the boxers in short, choppy sentences:

“Come on, you; keep those gloves up.”

“Start fighting, you two; you’re paid to give the crowd action.”

“This is the last round. My ticket goes to the boy who wins it.”

Fond of Outdoor Recreations

He was an ideal pal for any man. Ask any man who has been hunting or fishing with him. Those were two sports he loved, and he went at them in his usual energetic way, letting no thought of weather or country conditions upset his plans. It wasn’t my fortune to know him on many of those trips, but I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday, though it was 15years ago, going away for two weeks’ vacation with Lou and three others in a couple of dinghies along Lake Ontario.

Then as in almost any gathering in which he appeared, he took charge. He was a born leader.

Staunch Friend Charitable Causes

Lou did many fine things for charity, but unless it was absolutely necessary, he kept his part in the background. It would be a surprise to many, though, to know how many times he refused to accept a fee for refereeing because the show was for charity.

Several years ago he decided to retire as a referee, but he did a couple of “comebacks.” The last time he was in a boxing ring, to my knowledge, was when he acceded to Charlie Ring’s request and refereed for the Bowmanville Lions club.

He Broke His Own Rule Because It “Would Help”

Just a few weeks ago he refereed a wrestling match. That was for charity, too, and if it had not been he wouldn’t have dreamed of entering the ring.

Jack Corcoran had more than once offered Lou as much as $500 to referee a wresting bout in Toronto. It looked like a good publicity move, because Lou didn’t like “modern wresting,” and the public knew it. The request always was met with a curt refusal.

Corcoran arranged a Hamilton wrestling show, all the proceeds to go to a charitable cause. He told Lou, and half jokingly, asked him to referee.

“Listen, Jack,” came the answer. “ If you think I can help, I’ll referee one bout if you’ll do the same.” And the bargain was kept.

One could reminisce for hours, but when it was all over one would finish, not with a flowery verse, but, more simply and with more meaning to it, with the words “Good-bye, old friend.” Lou would prefer it that way.