Des Moines | Born - August 31, 1896; Died July 20, 1987

Inducted 1989 | Category: Journalist

Bert McGrane worked at the Des Moines Register for 41 years until his retirement in 1964. After spending five years as a copy editor, McGrane started a writing career that brought him national fanfare. Most of the recognition came from his coverage on golf and college football. He served for a short time as the Iowa Golf Association’s president.

McGrane chronicled the Golden Age of sports in America, from Babe Ruth in baseball to Knute Rockne in football and Bobby Jones in golf. He was also the voice of sports in Iowa. McGrane covered Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnnick and Iowa’s Ironmen of 1939, and Jack Fleck’s 1955 U.S. Open playoff victory over Ben Hogan.

McGrane had a flair for descriptive phrases, and hyperbole, when writing about golf. This was in an era when there was no television, and he had to paint a picture of a scene most didn’t see with their own eyes.

Covering the 1948 Iowa Amateur at Brooks in Okoboji, McGrane witnessed a stirring semifinal match between former University of Iowa teammates John Jacobs and Tom Chapman Sr. Jacobs won, 1 up, making an 8-footer for birdie on the final green on top of the 16-footer Chapman had just holed.

“Johnny Jacobs met a fighting man here Friday and beat him in a golf duel so hot it fairly showered sparks over the fairways,” McGrane wrote.

After McGrane passed away at 90 years of age on July 20, 1987, Des Moines Register columnist Maury White gave readers a glimpse of McGrane at work.

“Bert was one who could make a typewriter sing, particularly if Hawkeyes or Fighting Irish were involved,” White recalled. “Watching him do it was a miracle for those of us just breaking in. Bert would crank in a blank sheet of paper, put self into trance and woe unto anyone who broke the spell. Once he started typing, the words flowed. Rarely was there a false start.”

McGrane’s influence in sports journalism was recognized when in 1974 the Football Writers Association of America established The Bert McGrane Award.

“The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, has been awarded to person who has performed great service to the organization and/or profession since 1974. McGrane is a former Des Moines, Iowa sportswriter-editor, who served as the association’s executive director from the early 1940s until 1973.” – From The Fifth Down, the online newsletter of the FWAA.


Bert Mcgrane Award Recipients

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