A female sportswriting pioneer remembered

Diane K. Shah, the first woman to write a regular sports column for a big-city daily newspaper, pulled off a rare feat that had eluded many of her male counterparts during her stint with the now-departed Los Angeles Herald-Examiner in the 1980s:

She got Steve Carlton to talk.

Sports author Michael MacCambridge (“America’s Game,” “The Franchise”) provides the back story before dusting off Shah’s brassy column in Grantland earlier this week. Sally Jenkins, then cutting her teeth at the Herald-Examiner, marveled at Shah’s persona, as did nearly everyone who came across her. As MacCambridge notes:

“Shah understood the give-and-take between athletes and writers, but the tone of this piece was emblematic of her tough, sophisticated style. ‘I was never intimidated,’ she says. Others couldn’t help but notice Shah’s confidence and the way it affected the subjects of her columns. ‘They would freak out,’ says Jenkins. ‘Diane would saunter through the locker room wearing Armani and a gold wristwatch, and she just radiated I don’t need this fucking job.’ “

After six years at the Herald-Examiner, Shah embarked on a steady career writing crime novels.

MacCambridge’s remembrance is the latest “Director’s Cut” feature from Grantland, which runs these too infrequently. More Hunter Thompson, Gay Talese and Paul Hemphill please, and less disjointed pop culture schlock that has little to do with sports.

I know I am asking for too much, since this is the Bill Simmons oeuvre, and he’s fashioned a sizable audience for this. But then why have the name that’s on the masthead?

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