The world has become a less enjoyable place. Shep Goldberg died Tuesday at 65, and although you might not recognize his name, you’d know the people and teams he worked for during a remarkable behind-the-scenes sports career.
Goldberg most recently was an agent for figure skaters, notably two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan and Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek, and before that, for gymnast Mary Lou Retton. Long ago, he represented soccer standout Johan Cruyff, introducing Cruyff to American journalists. Goldberg represented his clients fiercely and well, acting as much a father figure as a gatekeeper while maintaining a sense of humor with the not-always-polite media.
Goldberg was a native of Philadelphia but his career had deep roots in California, where he spent about 25 years. He was the public-relations director for the Oakland Athletics and NHL’s Oakland Seals under Charlie Finley, which gave him a rich vein of stories that he mined for years to come. He also was the Lakers’ public-relations director in the late 1970s as well as the director of publications for California Sports Inc., which made him responsible for all Lakers and Kings publications and the Forum Yearbook.
The cover of his 1977-78 Lakers media guide provided a conversation topic for decades: It featured an attractive young woman — his girlfriend at the time — wearing a Lakers jersey/dress outside the team’s locker room at the Forum and showing off a sign that said “Lakers Dressing Room Players Only.” The cover didn’t go over well with his bosses.
Goldberg had lived in Northville, Mich., since 1996. He is survived by his wife, Janet, daughters Haley and Carly, and a universe of friends. The family planned to announce funeral or memorial-service information later Tuesday or on Wednesday.