Heywood Hale Broun, the television commentator and writer who cast an irreverent eye on the world of sports with a flair reflecting yet another career as an actor, died September 5, 2001 at Kingston Hospital in Kingston, NY. He was 83.
Broun, who had a particular fondness for horse racing and its many colorful characters, broke his hip last spring while at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, KY, and he later had pneumonia.
The son of Heywood Broun, the famed columnist of The New York World and the founder of the American Newspaper Guild, and Ruth Hale, a drama critic and feminist, Broun attended several private schools in New York city then majored in English at Swarthmore, graduating in 1940.
He joined the New York City tabloid PM in 1940 as a sportswriter, served as a sergeant in the field artillery during World War II, then became a sports columnist for PM and wrote for its successor, The New York Star, which went out of business in 1949.
In 1965, Broun received an offer from CBS to become a commentator. He accepted after a Broadway play in which he was appearing, "Xmas in Las Vegas," closed within a week. Broun became a well-recognized figure on CBS, his rust-colored droopy mustache and multicolored sports jackets complementing his verbal flourishes as he covered baseball, golf, thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown events or the purely amateur sports.
He once said he was content to tell of "those athletes who exist merely for the sun that shines on them." Even doing that, he steered clear of reverence.
His commentary often reflected the classics.
Reporting on how the star outfielder Carl Yastrzemski propelled the Boston Red Sox to a surprising pennant victory in 1967, Broun remarked, "He was not just hitting home runs but was, in fact, accomplishing the ninth labor of Hercules, bringing a championship to Boston, a city whose previous baseball idol, Ted Williams, resembled that other Greek, Achilles, who fought a great fight but spent a lot of time sulking in his tent."
In 1970, Clifford Roberts, the chairman of the Masters golf tournament, expressed a distaste for having Broun wander the fairways of Augusta National.
"I guess that Roberts regards his golf tournament more important than the passion plays at Oberammergau and that I might come down to make fun of his dogwood," Broun retorted. He did cover the Masters, wearing a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat and a cape.
Broun once expressed some regret over not being an athlete, liking his craft to "that of a company clerk to the Musketeers or veterinarian to the Light Brigade."
As for his many callings, he once said, "I'm either a Little League Renaissance man or simply a person who can't make up his mind."