John Hall, a sportswriter whose columns and stories appeared for more than four decades in L.A. newspapers, died Monday. He was 90.
Hall died at a hospice facility near his home in San Clemente, according to his wife, Toni. He was in good health until recently, and she said the cause of death was pending.
Hall might have gotten his start in high school writing for the Manual Arts Daily, but it was at the Los Angeles Times where he made his mark as the longtime Page 3 columnist writing the “Hall Truth,” a notes column that was among one of the most read things in the Sports section.
After starting at the Hollywood Citizen News, Hall moved to the afternoon L.A. Mirror in 1952 and stayed there until the paper was folded into the morning Times in 1962. He continued at the new combined paper that carried only the Times name and stayed until 1981, when he left for the Orange County Register.
Hall ventured outside of journalism and served as the baseball Angels director of public affairs for a year and as director of special projects for the Orange County Sports Assn. for five years. After retiring from the Register, he continued to write an around town column three times a week for the San Clemente Sun Post for 15 years.
Though Hall covered a variety of sports, his passion was boxing and USC. He is a member of both the World Boxing Hall of Fame and California Boxing Hall of Fame.
Hall was not afraid to take some chances to come up with a good story. He once got into the boxing ring with Bobo Olson, a world middleweight champion.
“I was doing boxing publicity and I got him to strap on the headgear and go two rounds with Bobo Olson,” said high school friend Don Fraser, a boxing promoter and president emeritus of the California Boxing Hall of Fame. “He quit after one round when he figured out that Olson wasn’t going to take it easy on him.”
Hall was well known around USC, often spending time at Julie’s Trojan Barrel, a hangout for USC coaches, alumni and boosters. It closed in 1999.
“He had lunch almost every day with [former USC coach] John McKay,” said Steve Springer, a former Times sportswriter who worked with Hall at the Register. “The joke was always that [USC athletic headquarters] Heritage Hall was named after John.”
It was after Hall moved to The Times that his signature “Hall Truth” became a must read for hard-core sports fans as a counterbalance to the more literary approach taken by Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Murray.
“If Murray was Batman, John was Robin,” Springer said.
Hall’s style was gentle and he was never known as someone who would take on athletes or coaches.
“When John would write about someone he liked, he would almost adopt them,” said Steve Bisheff, a former columnist at the Register.
Hall left The Times when he and sports editor Bill Shirley failed to agree on much.
“He legitimized the Register sports section,” Bisheff said. “The Register became a big-league sports section as soon as he arrived.”
Hall retired from the Register in 1993 and quickly unretired to write the “Hall Around Town” for the Sun Post in his home of San Clemente. By his count he wrote 2,196 more columns before retiring again in 2010.
“I don’t go to funerals, so I don’t want one,” Fraser recalled Hall often saying.
No funeral is planned.