They’re throwing a dinner for Bud Furillo Monday night at the Sheraton Premier Hotel in Universal City. The $100-a-plate affair will have an all-star lineup of guests, among them Tom Lasorda, who will be the master of ceremonies, a number of Dodger players, Al Davis, John McKay, John Robinson and wrestling’s Freddie Blassie. Proceeds will go to the City of Hope.
Furillo has been covering the L.A. sports scene for about 40 years as a sportswriter and more recently as a sportscaster for KABC radio. Furillo is known as the Steamer, a nickname he picked up when he began writing a column called “The Steam Room” for the old Herald-Express, which merged with the Examiner in 1962.
Furillo became the sports editor of the Herald Examiner in 1964 and held the position for 10 years before moving on to KABC.
The coach: During his 10-year reign at the Herald Examiner--and reign is what it was--Furillo called the sports department the toy department, but he didn’t view the job as just fun and games. He took it very seriously. He ran the department, of which this reporter was a member, as Woody Hayes would have. He scolded his players when they were bad, praised them when they were good. He was more like a father than a boss. A tough father.
As a coach, however, his record wasn’t very impressive. In 1957, he persuaded Al Davis, then a USC assistant football coach, to use halfback Don Buford as a kickoff returner in a game against Cal. Buford fumbled the opening kickoff, Cal scored and went on to win, 12-0.
Earlier in his career, Furillo was covering a Fairfax-Hollywood high school football game for the Herald-Express. His photographer was set up on one sideline and hadn’t gotten any good shots. So the Steamer asked the Fairfax coach to run a play around that end. The coach did, the runner fumbled and Fairfax lost.
The intimidator: When Furillo was sports editor of the Herald Examiner, the first thing staff members said when arriving at work was: “What kind of mood is Bud in?”
If he was in a bad mood, everyone stayed out of his way.
Furillo still has his ups and downs. KABC’s Tommy Hawkins said: “If he was something mechanical, he’d be an elevator. He’s as complex as Chinese geometry.”
KABC’s Lisa Bowman said: “We check his mood thermometer every day.”
Bowman added: “We have sort of a paternal-maternal relationship. It’s paternal in that he helps me a lot to learn more about sports, and it’s maternal in that I get very concerned about him when he’s down.”
Said KABC General Manager George Green: “We have seen a transition with Bud. He has learned to trust his teammates on ‘Sportstalk,’ and what at one time was a hostile atmosphere, when there were other people on the show, is no longer that way. Lisa, Tommy and Bud like each other very much, they care for each other, and the show is a lot better for it.”
Big-hearted: While sports editor of the Herald Examiner, Furillo always threw a Christmas party for his staff at his home, and he would give each member an expensive gift--binoculars, a tape recorder, an engraved pen or the like.
Every morning, he invited four or five underlings to go out to breakfast, and always picked up the tab.
When one young employee bought his first house and invited Furillo to a house-warming party, Furillo insisted on paying the expenses.
Another young reporter, whom he had chewed out during the week, was invited to Furillo’s house that weekend. Furillo gave the reporter an entire bedroom set.
In 1983, when Lynwood High football player Shawn Powell was paralyzed during a game, Furillo visited him at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey at least once a week. Because of Furillo’s devotion to the youngster, a car dealer gave Powell a van with a wheelchair lift.
Said Furillo’s son, Andy, a reporter for The Times: “There is nobody I know who is as compassionate as the Steamer. I remember when we were teen-age kids and we had a lot of friends who got kicked out of their homes by their parents. The Steamer used to take them all in. He did that with at least three friends of ours, none of whom he was particularly fond of. But he did it in an effort to try to help some people when they were down and maybe get them straightened out in the process.”
The fan: Furillo’s license plate reads “LA 38 9" in honor of the Raiders’ 38-9 Super Bowl victory over the Washington Redskins. But USC football is his first love.
He is also very close to the Dodgers. He bleeds right along with Lasorda. He pulls for all the L.A. teams. Even Cal State Fullerton. When the Titan basketball team advanced all the way to the NCAA’s West Regional final in 1978, he called the Herald Examiner to suggest that the paper run a banner headline saying: “Go, Fullerton, Go.”
Objectivity? That’s for political reporters. L.A. sportswriters should be behind their teams, Furillo believes.
Furillo’s pet peeve today is the critical style used by some reporters. “Think of how it feels to be on the receiving end,” he often says.
Not to say Furillo is never critical. But he doesn’t criticize just to criticize.
Said Andy Furillo: “My Dad stands for taking a stand. His whole thing about USC, for instance, and about ‘being on the bus’ with the Dodgers is his way of saying you’ve got to stand for something, and I think it has a whole lot of meaning that goes beyond sports.
“His support for USC, when they’re losing or winning, gives him something of a reference point from which to view the world, and it’s his view that you’ve got to stick with your reference point even when it isn’t going so hot. That’s what builds character, the Steamer would say. . . . It’s not like he’s saying, I’m for USC and you’re for UCLA, and you’re wrong. He appreciates everybody taking a stand and sticking with their reference point, and he loves them for it. He appreciates anybody who is for something. What upsets him is when people are against things for the sake of being negative.”
Notes Last week, Channel 7’s news director, Terry Crofoot, was asked about his station’s plan to do a Sunday night sports wrap-up show, similar to the ones currently being done by Channel 2, Channel 4 and Channel 5. He said plans to do such a show had been shelved for the time being and asked that nothing be written about it. But the show was televised Sunday night, just as the show’s host, Ted Dawson, had earlier said it would be. . . . Crofoot also had been asked about a rumor that announcer Harold Greene was going back to news reporting and that Dawson would be taking over Greene’s sports spots at 6 and 11 o’clock. Said Crofoot: “We are not contemplating any personnel changes at this time, and you can quote me on that.” Monday, Greene was back on news reports and Dawson was doing the sports at 5, 6 and 11 o’clock. . . . The Times was told that the switch had been agreed upon before Crofoot was asked about it. An attempt was made this week to reach Crofoot for an explanation. Crofoot did not return the calls.