Allan Malamud, whose breezy Los Angeles Times sports column, Notes on a Scorecard, was long a favorite among readers, was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment Monday morning. He was 54.
The coroner's office said Malamud apparently died of natural causes. An autopsy is scheduled today.
Police were summoned to Malamud's downtown apartment early Monday after his body was discovered by a maid. He was pronounced dead at 9:20 a.m.
"There were no signs of foul play," LAPD detective Russ Long said. "Nothing was disturbed in the apartment. It has all the markings of being a natural death."
Word of Malamud's death prompted a flood of calls to The Times from friends and readers expressing sorrow and seeking details.
Malamud's column had been a fixture in the Los Angeles sports scene for more than 20 years, first at the now-defunct Herald Examiner and at The Times since 1989. The column's format of short, easy-to-read notes covered the sports spectrum.
"Allan Malamud was a special figure to the sports world and to thousands of readers in Southern California," said Shelby Coffey III, Times editor and executive vice president. "He brought a breezy yet deeply knowledgeable style to his observations on the people and issues of the world he covered and enjoyed. He was a man of constant good humor, which shone through in his column. His passing leaves a gap in the Los Angeles sporting scene and here at the Los Angeles Times."
When the Herald Examiner shut down in November of 1989, Malamud signed on with The National sports daily but was hired by Times Sports Editor Bill Dwyre, who saw a need for a different type of columnist, before the National printed its first issue.
"Allan Malamud was special to the sports section of The Times because what he did for the readers was special," Dwyre said. "He didn't spend a lot of time trying to turn phrases or sound fancy. He just fed the readers, four days a week, 52 weeks a year, bits and pieces of interesting information and inside insight into the national and local sports scene. If you were a guy at the corner bar, caring lots about sports, Malamud was your Bible.
"I take great pride in the quality of sportswriting in The Times, and I want the phrase-turners and wordsmiths. But I also want the balance in that regard that Malamud gave us, and I have no idea how to replace that."
Malamud, who wrote four columns a week, wrote what turned out to be his final column for last Thursday's paper, commenting on the short but inspirational comeback of Dodger Brett Butler. Malamud lunched with former Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda on Friday and attended the first half of the USC-Oregon State football game on Saturday.
"I loved him like a brother," Lasorda said of Malamud. "I won't know what to do in the morning without his column."
Malamud was one of the few local sportswriters who recommended Lasorda for the Dodger managerial job when Walter Alston stepped down in 1976, and the two maintained a close friendship over the years. So it was not a surprise when Malamud broke the story of Lasorda's retirement as Dodger manager in July.
Lloyd Malamud, Allan's older brother, recalled how Allan had talked about being a sportswriter since he was 10 years old and that nearly every conversation over the years included something about sports.
"He liked all sports and talked about sports constantly," Lloyd said. "Our dad was a real sports nut and took us to every event imaginable since we were little kids. Allan quickly fell in love with it all."
Malamud was a Los Angeles native. He attended Los Angeles High, where he served as the sports editor of the school newspaper. He also covered high school football games for the Herald Examiner on weekends.
In college, at USC, he studied journalism and was sports editor of the Daily Trojan before graduating in 1963. He never lost his love for USC, writing frequently about the school and its football team.
"I guess it's appropriate that the last sporting event he saw was last Saturday's USC football game because he had a special feeling for his alma mater," said Tim Tessalone, USC's sports information director. "USC meant a lot to Allan, but Allan meant even more to USC."
Shortly after graduating, Malamud was hired at the Herald Examiner. He covered nearly every local professional and college team before beginning his Notes on a Scorecard column in 1974.
To gather his notes, Malamud attended local sports events each week and spent countless hours in front of the television. His list of knowledgeable sources was virtually endless and he picked the brains of co-workers for interesting tidbits and ideas for his popular "look-alikes," which matched the faces of sports figures with popular entertainers.
"Allan had all of the sincerity and objectivity that a lot of us have lost," said Mike Downey, a Times sports columnist since 1985. "He not only enjoyed sports, but he enjoyed the athletes. And they liked him too. He had a heart as big as Chavez Ravine."
Malamud's popularity helped him make a name for himself in Hollywood, as well. He was friends with producers and actors and had bit parts in 15 films, among them "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," "White Men Can't Jump," "Raging Bull," and most recently "Tin Cup."
Ron Shelton, who has written and produced such well-known sports movies as "Bull Durham," and "Tin Cup," was one of Malamud's closest friends and the two attended hundreds of sporting events together.
"Allan liked the movies because he was a character himself," Shelton said. "But Allan was real. There was nothing phony about him. He was the truest and most honest person I've ever met. He never gave in to the cynical nature of the business."
Services are pending at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Culver City.
Times staff writer Steve Springer contributed to this story.
* MEMORIES: What people in the sports world and colleagues remember about Allan Malamud. C2, C8
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Malamud on Film
Some of the films and television episodes that Allan Malamud appeared in.
* "Tin Cup"
* "Fever Pitch"
* "Down and Out in Beverly Hills"
* "White Men Can't Jump"
* "Raging Bull"
* "Car Wash"
* "Fabulous Baker Boys"
* "Blue Chips"