Melvin Durslag wrote about sports for the Hearst newspapers in Los Angeles — the Examiner and then the Herald Examiner — from the time he was a freshman at USC in 1939 until (with time out for World War II service) the HerEx closed in 1989. For most of that time, he was a featured sports columnist. It has been said that when Otis Chandler became publisher of the Los Angeles Times in 1960, and began to modernize what had been a parochial partisan newspaper, the choice came down to Durslag or Jim Murray. The Times went with Murray, and for a couple of decades they were rival Los Angeles columnists read widely across the country, including Durslag's columns in TV Guide and the Sporting News and pieces for Sports Illustrated, Playboy, and Esquire.
After the Herald folded, Durslag briefly joined the Times. His last column ran in 1991, says today's LAT obit. Durslag died on Sunday at a convalescent home in Santa Monica after a brief illness.
On Facebook, former Herald Examiner sports writer Bob Keisser writes that Durslag "was a brilliant writer who was years ahead of the industry in focusing on issues that have become standard in sports these days - franchise movement, over-reaching owners, the use of public money for facilities, performance enhancing drugs."
He had great influence on those who worked for him at the Herex and always made himself available to younger writers. The influence of the Times was so great during that era, but Mel more than held his own as a writer, someone who could turn a phrase and always avoid the cliche, and as a reporter who was on top of major stories including the Rams leaving the Coliseum, and the Raiders coming to L.A.
Herald Examiner alumni and other LA journalists past and present are contributing comments at Keisser's post, among them Chris Long, Chris Foster, Ted Vollmer, Andy Furillo, Steve Horn, David Israel, Ed Kociela, Pam Palitz, Pete Wevurski, Ted Sobel, Tom Timmermann and Steve Clow. Sportscasters Pete Weber and Rich Marotta also give comments.
"Mel wielded a rapier and not a sledgehammer," posted former Herald Examiner sports editor Rick Arthur. "The droll humour; the elegant turn of phrase; the mix of short, medium and long sentences; the engaging lede; the just-strong-enough walk-off; the well-founded skewering of fools and villains — his writing provided lessons for us all."
Durslag began stringing sports items for newspapers even while at Los Angeles High School.