T.J. Simers

Jack Disney has lived, breathed and written of SoCal's sports icons

The sportswriter turned horse racing publicist is stepping down after almost 60 years on the local scene.

An athlete plays 15 or 20 years, retires and there is great fanfare upon his departure. Maybe tears, maybe gifts given, maybe his number hung in honor.

Los Angeles' very own Jack Disney calls it a day and he's just gone.

Disney is good people. There is no announcement when he leaves Santa Anita, some 3-year-old horses drawing more attention than he does as he ends almost 60 years as a sports reporter and horse racing publicist.

He's John McKay's first beat man at USC; the first reporter the Lakers would know upon their arrival; he is working as a colorful scribe before the Dodgers are here and before the Angels go major league.

"I'm sitting in a restaurant with another reporter when USC President Dr. Norman Topping sits down," says Disney. "He wants our serious opinion; he says he's torn whether to bring McKay back or not.

"We urge him to bring him back. McKay says that talk with Dr. Topping was instrumental in his staying."

Why did Disney urge Dr. Topping to keep McKay?

"McKay was quotable," says Disney, and what more does a writer want in a coach?

Years later, Disney is in Tampa when he gets a call from McKay, who wants Disney to join him in the front row for a Frank Sinatra concert.

"That probably wouldn't happen today," he says. And so far no Barbra Streisand concert invite from Arte Moreno.

Disney lives a lifetime in L.A., born here 11 minutes after his identical brother Doug, and now 77.

Jack graduates from Fairfax High, enters Occidental and counts Jack Kemp and Jim Mora as fraternity brothers before he drops out to be a newspaper copy boy.

A few years later, Disney is covering the first Super Bowl in the Coliseum, although it's not called the Super Bowl. His assignment is to shadow Vince Lombardi.

"He would meet with the press in his hotel room," Disney says. "Lombardi was careful not to say anything inflammatory, but he poured a generous cocktail."

It's a different time. Disney flies with Marcus Allen to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony and Allen sets him up with a stewardess.

When Allen plays for the Raiders, Disney writes something that doesn't sit well with Allen. They're no longer so chummy. Some things never change.

He says, "The best athlete I ever saw by far was Bo Jackson; the most dominant athlete, Bill Russell."

Muhammad Ali flatters him, he says. "He tells me I'm not as dumb as I look."

He says former USC coach John Robinson is "the "easiest guy I ever had to work with."

He parties with everyone, remembering especially Chick Hearn, Elgin Baylor and Frank Selvy with fondness.