The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Lou Marsh

The Sports Writer

Lou Marsh was a pioneer in sports journalism. A rugged, natural, multi-sport athlete and professional referee, his total immersion in sport brought a unique perspective to his writing. His style was unique, his paragraphs brief and his sentences punchy. He created his own lexicon. If he was stumped for words or phrases he simply created new ones.

Although his credits include countless pieces that promote or criticize some facet of sport, he is best known for his trademark daily column 'With Pick and Shovel.' Originating in 1925, it characterized his attempt to dig into sport in all its ramifications. In fact, Lou Marsh became known as 'Old Pick and Shovel.'

His column rarely lacked colour. His creative vocabulary, gift of brevity and use of humour made for graphic reading. In the view of many Canadian sportswriters at the time, 'With Pick and Shovel' became the most widely read piece of sports journalism in Canada. Readers with little interest in sport were attracted to its breeziness and originality.

The simile may be one of the few conventional literary tools he used and even these were brilliant: On attending a six day bicycle race he felt "...as comfortable as a Bedouin suddenly set down on the shores of Baffin Bay." (Toronto Daily Star, Six-Day Race). In 1925 he noted that C.N.E. sports director, Elwood A. Hughes was "...as busy as a yellow dog with eczema." (Toronto Daily Star) While campaigning for greater forward passing allowances in ice hockey at a time when forward passing was greatly restricted, he wrote: "For thrills a 6-5 hockey game lays over a 1-0 hockey game like an ostrich would over a humming bird's egg." (Toronto Daily Star)

Marsh was clever and fearless. He was comfortable delving into virtually every arena of sport: the politics, the personalities, Canadian women, amateurism, and professionalism; few sports were left off his radar. He covered the Olympics for 12 years before his death. In his fourty-three years with the Toronto Star, the latter five as its Sports Editor, Lou Marsh gave Canadians a one-of-kind look inside sport.

What did a sportswriter do to merit the honour of being equated to the highest athletic award?

In his paper, The Contributions of Lou Marsh to Canadian Sporting Journalism, Dr. Don Morrow, Ph.D., examines this question and takes a fascinating look into the life of Lou Marsh and his influence as a journalist. Click this link - http://www.webscapesstudios.com/loumarsh/morrow.pdf (Adobe PDF, 3.12MB).

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In the news

SPORTS WRITERS’ TRIBUTES ON PASSING OF LOU MARSH Adobe PDF Transcript

RILED WESTERNERS BUT THEY LIKED IT Adobe PDF Transcript

WITH PICK AND SHOVEL Adobe PDF Transcript