Dan Jenkins, the Fort Worth and Texas sportswriter who graduated from TCU before launching his remarkable career, has died. “Incredibly saddened to hear the news that Dan Jenkins passed away this evening,” Jeremiah Donati, the TCU athletic director, tweeted late Thursday night. “Dan was one of the all-time greatest sport writers and was a proud Fort Worth native. We were blessed to have him in the Horned Frog family. RIP Dan...you will be missed by many.”
Jenkins’ early career took him through the Fort Worth Press and Dallas Times-Herald, and, later, he was published everywhere from Playboy to Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest. Jenkins grew up in Fort Worth.
Excerpts from a Fort Worth Magazine review in 2014 of Jenkins’ “His Ownself: a Semi-Memoir:”
“The fact is, I’ve been the luckiest sumbitch ever to make a living as a writer,” he writes in the first chapter.
The insight into the world of the Fort Worth newspaper wars between the Press and Amon Carter’s Star-Telegram is particularly fascinating. He describes in detail how the Press fought the good fight against a paper with deeper pockets and better circulation in the 1940s and ’50s as well as learning the ropes from sports writing legends like Blackie Sherrod.
Of the Press staff in the late-’40s and its continued improvement, he writes: “Blackie officially took over as boss, and we all received raises. I leaped up to $34.50 a week. Blackie devoted the next three years to hiring original talents like Bud Shrake, Jerre Todd and Gary Cartwright to join up with himself and myself to form the best sports staff in America – in our own minds.”
His Ownself tackles events from marriages and family life to the Ryder Cup to college football. The book is not necessarily a traditional autobiography, more of a rambling mélange of vignettes of the author’s life, and Jenkins comes across as a great storyteller. Interspersed are stories of golfing legends like Ben Hogan as well as a treasure trove of tales involving some of sports’ biggest events.
Before joining up with Sports Illustrated as an official staffer, the magazine assigned occasional articles to Jenkins – many a bit out of the ordinary. Some of Jenkins’ trademark humor comes through in his reminiscence on covering a rodeo: “Then they assigned me to cover the world championship rodeo finals in Los Angeles. I was a Texan, right? All Texans know about rodeo, right? I’d been going to Fort Worth’s annual indoor rodeo since I was a kid, but what I knew about rodeo equaled what I knew about drag racing. I’d been on one horse in my life. That was in junior high, and I quickly discovered that I didn’t like sitting up there so high.”
The sports world, and certainly the business of newspapers, has undergone major changes since the high times for writers like Jenkins and Sherrod, but His Ownself features some wonderful anecdotes of the heyday of the industry and men who mixed it up with athletes as much as they wrote about them.
PHOTO: Jenkins (left) and Vance Minter in Fort Worth