Twombly, Wells A. 1935-1977
TWOMBLY, Wells A. 1935-1977
PERSONAL: Born October 24, 1935, in St. Johnsbury, VT; died of liver disease, May 30, 1977, in San Francisco, CA; son of Albert F. and Dale (Wells) Twombly; married Margaret Zera, December 9, 1955; children: Wells, Jr., Scott, Jason, Dale Helen. Education: University of Connecticut, B.A., 1957; University of Houston, M.A., 1966. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Episcopalian.
CAREER: Willimantic Daily Chronicle, Willimantic, CT, columnist-editor, 1956-58; Pasadena Star-News, Pasadena, CA, columnist, 1958-59; Hollywood CitizenNews, Hollywood, CA, columnist, 1959-62; San Fernando Valley Times, Hollywood, columnist, 1959-62; Houston Chronicle, Houston, TX, columnist, 1962-68; Detroit Free Press, Detroit, MI, columnist, 1968-69; San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco, CA, columnist, 1969-72. Sports director for KXYZ, Houston, TX, 1964-66.
MEMBER: Baseball Writers of America, Football Writers of America, Delta Chi.
AWARDS, HONORS: Named Texas sports writer of the year, 1966-67; United Press International awards, 1966, 1967, 1968; best sports story of the year award from Newspaper Publishers Association, 1967; best sports story of the year award for E. P. Dutton series, 1970; best sports story of the year awards from San Francisco Press Club, 1970, 1971; named California sports writer of the year, 1971.
Blanda, Alive and Kicking: The Exclusive, AuthorizedBiography, Nash Publishing (Los Angeles, CA), 1972.
Oakland's Raiders: Fireworks and Fury, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1973.
Shake Down the Thunder!: The Offıcial Biography ofNotre Dame's Frank Leahy, Chilton (Radnor, PA), 1974.
200 Years of Sports in America: A Pageant of a Nation at Play, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1976.
Work anthologized in Best Sports Stories, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, and 1976. Contributor of over one hundred magazine articles to Sports, New York Times Sunday Magazine, Esquire, Playboy, Saturday Evening Post, Golf, Pro, West, and other periodicals. Weekly columnist for St. Louis Sporting News; columnist for Clear Creek and Rolling Stone.
SIDELIGHTS: Wells A. Twombly, according to a writer at the Baseball Library Web site, "was on his way to becoming the most honored sportswriter in America when he died at forty-one." Ron Briley in the Dictionary of Literary Biography explained: "Rather than engaging in hero worship of athletes or extolling the virtues of the home team, the college-educated Twombly raised questions about the role of athletics in American society. While some readers found his consciously literary prose enigmatic and confusing, Twombly defended his style, asserting: 'I try to be as literate as I can be. Anybody who writes down to a reader in this age of higher education is living in the past.'"
After working as a sports columnist for several newspapers, including the Detroit Free Press and the Houston Chronicle, Twombly began working at the San Francisco Examiner in 1969. "Twombly's reputation as a sports journalist is based not on his books but on his columns for the San Francisco Examiner," according to Briley. These columns—published six days a week—were idiosyncratic in subject matter and approach, ranging from Twombly extolling the virtues of the baseball park hot dog to a discussion of Casey Stengel's eccentric use of the English language. Speaking of Twombly's legacy, Briley concluded: "Wells Twombly left behind a body of writing that suggests the literary possibilities of sports reporting and the enigmatic quality of American sports, which is both a business and a game."
Twombly once tried to explain the critical acclaim he had received in this way: "Maybe it's because I write in essay-style, try to remember what I learned in English classes, don't consider athletes anything more godly than the man who delivers the mail. I also try to be a newsman and a writer first, a sloppy, hero-worshipping sports writer way, way down the track. My motivation for getting into this business was twofold: (1) It was all I ever wanted to do from age four onward, and (2) It seemed like the most sensible way to live without working and see the world on somebody else's money."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 241: American Sportswriters and Writers on Sport, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Editor and Publisher, August 7, 1971.
Esquire, October, 1974, Randall Poe, "The Writing of Sports," pp. 173-176, 373-379.
Newsweek, July 1, 1968.
Sporting News, September 26, 1970, "The Eyes of Texas," p. 14; July 30, 1977, Art Spander, "What Drove Wells Twombly?," pp. 43-44; January 6, 1979, Bob Broeg, "Schumacher's Classic Tales: Great Writer, Story Teller," p. 38; October 13, 1979, Dave Klein, "For Some Stars, Mum's the Word," p. 26.
Baseball Library Web site, http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ (December 11, 2002).
New York Times, May 31, 1977.*