BOSTON – When Bill Millsaps looks back at his long and storied career, he doesn't think about the events he's covered. He remembers the people he covered them with.
Millsaps recalls time in the press box with great writers such as the Miami Herald's Edwin Pope, longtime Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Furman Bisher and the late Jim Murray from the Los Angeles Times. Coincidentally, Pope, Bisher and Murray all won the prestigious Red Smith Award and now, Millsaps joins that club, too.
Millsaps was presented with the Red Smith Award at the 38th Annual Associated Press Sports Editors convention in Boston on Friday. The award is the top recognition for sports journalism in the country and it is given to someone who has made “major contributions to sports journalism” over the course of his career.
For someone who idolized Smith, the magnitude of the honor was not lost on Millsaps.
“I don't know what the award means, but it means the world to me,” he said. “I was never able to write like (Smith). But I'm honored to win the award named after him.”
While Millsaps may have tried to live up to Smith's standards, other editors and journalists were finding it difficult to live up to his.
Another Red Smith Award winner, Dave Kindred, was quoted as saying about Millsaps: “(His writing was) always clean, always straight forward. He was authoritative – he always knew what he was talking about. … He always seemed to know everything that needed to be known.”
A former APSE president, Millsaps spent 39 years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch working his way up from sports reporter, where he started in 1966, to sports editor in 1977, to executive editor in 1994.
When he retired in 2005, Millsaps left a track record that would be hard to match – 11 time Virginia Sports Writer of the Year, a member of the Virginia Communications, USBWA and Virginia Sports Halls of Fame and under his guidance, the Times-Dispatch won the Virginia Press Association's highest honor for public service and journalistic integrity four times.
The impressive resume still didn't keep Millsaps from quipping, “I sure when I won the award I said, 'Me?' And when people heard I won the award they said, 'Him?'”
Millsaps was introduced by his former boss at the Times-Dispatch and current Chairman of the Board of Media General Inc., J. Stewart Bryan III.
Bryan said it was an honor to be asked to offer the introduction of the newest Red Smith Award winner, but made a small confession when talking about Millsaps.
“My biggest mistake was not asking him to change jobs sooner and become managing editor,” Bryan said. “He would have won this award a lot sooner.”
Current APSE president Phil Kaplan presented Millsaps with the award and Tim Franklin, director of the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University, presented him with a replica of his placard that will hang in the APSE Hall of Fame on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.