Wiley, Ralph 1952-2004

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WILEY, Ralph 1952-2004


See index for CA sketch: Born April 12, 1952, in Memphis, TN; died of heart failure June 13, 2004, in Orlando, FL. Author. Wiley was a prominent sports writer who also was well known for his writings about race relations in the United States. Although his B.S. degree from Knoxville College in 1975 was in business management, his career began and ended in journalism. His first job was with the Oakland Tribune in California, where he was a sports writer and columnist until 1982. He was then hired by Sports Illustrated, where he wrote mainly on the sports of baseball, boxing, and football until 1991, becoming a senior writer with the magazine. While at the magazine, he coined the phrase "Billy Ball," which described the style of play used by the Oakland A's under manager Billy Martin. Wiley appeared on television more and more often during the 1980s, serving as a sports commentator and, in 1989, NFL analyst for the program NFL Live on the NBC network; beginning in 1990, he appeared on ESPN's SportsCenter, and he was also on that network's Sports Reporters. Wiley became a regular writer for ESPN.com and, in 1987, founded his own company, Heygood Images Productions, Inc., in Landover, Maryland. In 1989, he published his first book, Serenity: A Boxing Memoir. Increasingly, though, Wiley started broadening the subjects he wrote about beyond sports. Leaving Sports Illustrated in 1991, he began publishing books about race and other social issues in America, beginning with Why Black People Tend to Shout: Cold Facts and Wry Views from a Black Man World (1991). This was followed by such books as What Black People Should Do Now: Dispatches from Near the Vanguard (1993) and Dark Witness: When Black People Should Be Sacrificed (Again) (1996). A friend of film director Spike Lee, Wiley collaborated on two books with Lee, By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of Malcolm X (1992) and Best Seat in the House (1997), as well as a television pilot for ESPN that was based on Lee's film He Got Game. Wiley was also a collaborator with Dexter Scott King on the book Growing up King: An Intimate Memoir and on Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story.



Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 8, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1994.


Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2004, p. B8.

New York Times, June 17, 2004, p. A27.

Washington Post, June 16, 2004, p. B6.


ESPN.com,http://sports.espn.go.com/ (June 14, 2004).