Countdown: It’s Bisher unplugged — everybody, duck!

The Count answers to no blowhard

The Count chuckled at the Rankin lines.


Here at the Countdown, floating in our own little disturbed sector of the blogosphere, we generally like to bounce around from sport-to-sport, athlete-to-athlete and goofball-to-Limbaugh. But we’re going to do things a little bit different this today. As you may have read in Steve Hummer’s story Sunday, Furman Bisher is retiring just short of the age of 91, because, well, I guess the wimp just couldn’t make it another three weeks. Actually, he’s not really retiring. As he told me on the phone from his escape pad in St. Simons, “I’m going to get up in the morning and think of something to write.” You’ll just have to find it on Great. More competition. I wasn’t going to blog about Furman. I thought Steve’s splendid piece spoke for all of us. But after several comments, emails and Tweets suggesting that I must have something against Furman since I didn’t write about him, I thought, “OK, let’s give the peeps what they want.” So I was thinking: I’ll call, we’ll chat, maybe he’ll give me a few stock tips and I’ll get a couple of items out of it. But Furman did what he always does. I said hello and he took control of the room. So the Count and I yield to the Bish today, as he count down . . .

10. Yes, he really spoke to Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe


That's Furman on the left with Joe Jackson (with shoes).

Talking to Furman is like walking into a history book. Like Gumby. Yes, he really interviewed Ty Cobb and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. I think this was the 27th time I asked him. Furman: “People look at me like I’m in a museum or something. It’s like I’m one of those stone things, talking to you. A talking statue. They can’t quite understand it. They look at me and say, ‘You really knew him?’ It really didn’t strike me as that unusual at the time. I had known Cobb before. I’d seen him blow his stack at dinner. I had never seen Shoeless Joe before. When we spoke, he said, ‘This will be the first time I tell this story and the last.’ We got $250 apiece for that story from Sport Magazine. That was good money. It was 1949.” Never read the story? Here’s a link.

9. Next team to win a title: Falcons

If Furman could pick one guy in Atlanta sports management to run everything, it would be Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. On the next Atlanta team to win a championship, he said: “The most likely one, based on present time, has to be the Falcons. The other ones I think lack the maturity, the strength of leadership and the intelligence in the front office that Thomas Dimitroff has. I don’t know if I can give Arthur Blank much of the credit. I don’t know if he got lucky. I don’t know what led him to Thomas Dimitroff. But I know Dimitroff led him to this.”

8. Frank Wren: Close your eyes

Bobby Cox was spared the wrath of Furman. His bosses weren't so lucky.

Cox was spared Furman's wrath. But not Cox's bosses.

Furman still has opinions. Strong opinions. It’s what made him a great columnist. He wrote with a voice. And the voice left a dent in John Schuerholz and Frank Wren. When I asked him about the Braves, he said, “They had about five good years in which they were in the middle of things. Then for some reason John Schuerholz lost his touch and when he reached for someone to take to take his place, rather than look for someone new to run the whole thing, he hired somebody exactly like him. I don’t think much of [Frank Wren], to be honest with you. You asked me for an honest answer and I gave you one.”

7. No shock: Atlanta Spirit gets dinged

If Furman stuck around another 10 years, I think I could’ve sold him on hockey. I’d like to think I just ran out of time. As it was, “I don’t see the Thrashers play and I don’t watch them on television. So I don’t have the knowledge to form an opinion. The Hawks are a little different. They impressed me, beginning with that series against the Boston Celtics. I don’t know exactly what brought that up. I don’t think the management or the coaching is that good. But they happened to come together. I know you can’t give ownership any credit. They’re still in a pissing fight with themselves.But somehow, through hook or crook or absolute luck, they’ve managed to keep their heads above water. But I don’t think there’s enough leadeership there for them to win a championship.”

6. He can relate to Bobby Bowden (but prefers Paul Johnson)

You thought he was done? Sit down. We're not even close.

You thought he was done? Sit down. Not even close.

You know who Furman likes? Paul Johnson. He watches Georgia Tech play and it looks like Johnson is doing everything himself, right down to pumping up the footballs. “Tech got away with one down in Florida [State]. But you’ve got to give them credit. They’re winning. Poor Bobby Bowden. I speak from experience — if you’re that old and you’re going to keep working, you better prove you’re worthy. Are you going to get it done? But here’s Bowden on one sideline and Paul Johnson on the other, and he’s doing everything. He’s walking up and down the sideline, calling all the plays, sending the plays in. He’s not Bowden, who’s relying on Mickey Andrews and Jimbo Fisher. He’s doing the whole thing himself. And that Johnson is a deceiving son of a gun. I’ve known him for a while but I don’t think I know him at all.”

5. Note to Richt: Nice guys finish last

The difference between Furman Bisher and irate anonymous Georiga fans on message boards? Furman is not anonymous. “I like Mark Richt — I just wish he was more authorative. I wish he’d stop being [so wholesome] and start being an [backside expletive] for once. Nice guys don’t win in college football.”

4. Who knew something could be better than the Crackers?

He was here when Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was a jewel (honest).

Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium used to be a jewel. Honest.

Furman was here when the Braves arrived in 1966. I was 7 and just starting to comprehend the names “Koufax” and “Drysdale” in Los Angeles. So I wasn’t quite aware of the Braves, or even Atlanta. Furman educated me. “The Crackers had been the greatest show in town. We didn’t know anything  better. Sunday afternoon there were doubleheaders in Ponce de Leon Park. You had your plate full. People used to catch trains and ride buses to Atlanta to see Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Crackers.When the Braves came to town, we were such gullible followers. We thought paradise had arrived. That was the beginning of things.”

3.  Good news: NFL arrives. Bad news: It’s Rankin Smith

“The Falcons came at about the same time. Unfortunately, [owner] Rankin [Smith] was a nice man but he was [not lucid]. He had no leadership qualities about him. He just happened to have the money. He had no idea what he was doing. Dimitroff comes to town and nobody knew him. He had no fish to fry here. There was nobody he was trying to impress. He was just trying to put a football team together. But Rankin knew nothing. He had to call Pete Rozelle every time he wanted to pee.”

2. He liked the view from the cheap seats

Furman's old Royal, on which he wrote his final column.

He wrote his final column on his old Royal.

If I had the money, I would be a sports owner. Not a coach — too many long hours. Not a general manager — too many headaches. Bisher? He never even wanted to own a team. He laughed when I asked the question. “I just wanted to tell people how to do it. Do it my way and it would be great.”

1. And finally . . .

I came to Atlanta 20 years ago. Athletes I knew said to me, “Oh, that’s Bisher’s paper.” He was 71. I got here and it seemed like everyone was talking about his impending retirement. Everybody but Furman. I told him I didn’t think I was going to make it another 41 years to tie his record. “Given the state of things, I don’t think you’ve got much of a shot,” he said. But I’ll have a few more stories to tell now. Good bye, old friend.

(UPDATE: There are readers’ comments below referencing a story Furman wrote about Wally Butts for the Saturday Evening Post. The only problem is Furman didn’t write it. Here’s a comment he just emailed me: “A few blokes wrote in snarling about “the Butts-Bryant story” that I allegedly wrote for the Saturday Evening Post. I want this cleared up, please: I did not write the story. Frank Graham Jr. wrote the story for the Post. I had nothing to do with it. Was aware of it, but Roger Kahn, then sports editor of the Post, new on the job, commissioned Graham Jr. to do the story –NOT ME. You’ll find  a chapter in my last book, “Face to Face,” in which it is clearly explained in a letter from Frank. Otherwise, so many fun.)

116 comments Add your comment


October 13th, 2009
12:37 am

Furman Bisher will be missed. Like Larry Munson and Lewis Grizzard.
Growing old does have a down side.
Memories are priceless.


October 13th, 2009
12:40 am

maybe you can bring furman back in the form of top ten to be thankful for in november. classy sendoff. i remember the reverence i felt and had for him the last time i saw him; we chatted at a tour championship about five years ago. so approachable is how i will remember him.


October 13th, 2009
12:52 am

Jeff… I’d be a bigger liar than Mark Richt on his radio show Monday night if I told you this Furman Bisher-enhanced didn’t make me laugh and reminsce and even mist up a bit.

I’m not yet 30, so I’m old enough to remember that you used to get these hints called ink-stains on your fingers when you read the news in the morning on this tangible material called paper.

When the Braves won Atlanta’s first and only pro championship, there was only one man’s words I wanted to read.

When Tiger won his first Masters in 1997, only Furman Bisher could do the story justice.

Furman Bisher WAS the first and best reason to read this paper.

I think that you and Bradley, between the two of you, can almost make one Furman Bisher, but not quite.

Hillbilly Deluxe

October 13th, 2009
1:21 am


Just to clear things up, when I wrote that I was surprised that you and Mark hadn’t mentioned Furman, it meant just that, I was surprised. I didn’t think there was any grand conspiracy or that y’all didn’t like Furman.


October 13th, 2009
1:24 am

Thanks Jeff. The Joe Jackson article is great.
The history and people he speaks about.
Cobb, Ruth, Johnson is just awesome.
And Kennesaw Mountain Landis banned him from baseball….

Antonio Gramsci

October 13th, 2009
1:30 am

Jeff, you are so good at what you do, and I admire you so much, that it makes me damned sick. Thank you for this. My life has been measured by columnists from the AJC. The world continues to change but you have bridged the gap between old and new media. And in a way, Furman bridged a similar gap, from “olde tymes” to now. I respect you both.


October 13th, 2009
1:44 am


Now that we’ve now lost Lewis and Furman… does this mean you and Bradley will now take up their “sides?”

With you as the Bug and Mark as the Dawg?


October 13th, 2009
2:54 am

Furman doesn’t like the Japanese either. Shultz doesn’t mention that.


October 13th, 2009
4:02 am

Well, I give up… It needed a serious spin… Still, I should not have expected gravitas and the rightful honor of the moment. So Hummer’s piece will have to do, but funny that the men that shared the columnists moniker with the man after the purge just can’t rise to the occasion.


October 13th, 2009
4:17 am


Did you bother to ask Mr. Bisher if he too, like you, agreed with the Martha Burke protest on the Augusta National?” Doubtful! Mr. Bisher is a real man, not a liberal, girly man, like you, who had not the initiative to write of him proactive.

So the AJC has spiraled down to Bradly the wimp, O’Brien the cool divorcée with the leather jacket and headset, and Schultz the California dude who hates Conservatives, business owners, and embraces the “Martha Burkes” of the world. Sad. Very, very sad.


October 13th, 2009
5:07 am

Jeff, thanks for the link to Bisher’s blog.

Good column. Also a big thanks for the Shoeless Joe Jackson story link.

F-105 Thunderchief

October 13th, 2009
6:40 am

It’s buses, not busses. Busses would be kisses. Don’t feel bad, I saw an AP person make the same mistake yesterday.

Fair and Balanced

October 13th, 2009
6:41 am

This retirement should have happened 30 years ago.


October 13th, 2009
6:50 am

JSS, what gives you standing to be such a blistering critic of Schultz? You some kind of columnist I should be reading? And, if you hate the guy so much, why don’t you just take your haughty arse somewhere else? But, hey, it’s your time, waste it however you will.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

October 13th, 2009
6:51 am


Thank you for the link to the Shoeless Joe article. That was an incredible read. His words came alive. Bisher will be missed. The archives of his tributes to his son, Roger, along w. Lewis are moving articles. Thanks again!


October 13th, 2009
7:14 am

I will miss you Furman. I am still laughing over a column you wrote about the Falcons’ early years. Supposedly you and Rankin had a few drinks after a loss. Rankin, while still inebriated, went to the Falcons’ locker room and gave the team a lecture on what needed to change. Rankin’s speech produced a near riot as I recall. I am still laughing over that mental image. I will miss your columns.


October 13th, 2009
7:22 am

Great article on Jackson- JS- does this mean you’ll be with us till your 91?? And still keep the Tuesday countdown?? That could be your legacy!! Always interesting, always entertaining.

"Chef" Tim Dix

October 13th, 2009
7:22 am

Furman quotes make a great read.

The ability to tie them together would make a GREAT column.

GOOD column, Jeff. (Only good due to the fact you tied it to the countdown.) Now, I must go Rozelle.

clint ellison

October 13th, 2009
7:23 am

I’m an old fart, so Bisher is one of my heroes. Is there a compilation of some of his many notable stories over the years that I can purchase?


October 13th, 2009
7:28 am

Nice piece. Bisher’s rememberences are priceless. Would love to hear him prattle on about the Crackers and the early years of the Falcons especially as well as old time MLB.


October 13th, 2009
7:48 am

The best part of the Masters was finding Furman walking the grounds – one of the few journalists that actually watched the golf – and he would converse like you were a long, lost friend. He was genuine, always said what he thought, and was a sportsfan just like the rest of us. My greatest memories involved his TV show with Coach Meyer and Coach Dodd every Sunday – discussing college football in the south. Great Stuff! When the army sent me to Europe in the 70’s, all I asked for from home was for someone to send me all Furman’s articles each week so I could read them – that’s all I needed to know what was going on in Atlanta and what was important. Goodbye Furman – and thanks for letting us go along for the ride.


October 13th, 2009
7:59 am

If anyone ever makes it to northeast Iowa, the Field of Dreams movie site is in Dyersville, Iowa and on the wall in the first gift shop (there are two, believe it or not)you will find a photocopy of Bisher’s interview with Shoeless Joe. Priceless! Made me proud to be a Native Atlantan.


October 13th, 2009
8:02 am

thanks for the great article and the links.

Curious One

October 13th, 2009
8:14 am


What did Mr. Bisher have to say about the “THE DISGRACED DOG KILLER WHO USED TO PLAY QB FOR THE FALCONS?”

Would that start a race riot if his actual commentary saw print?


October 13th, 2009
8:32 am

There’s always been only one writer for the AJC. The rest were just typists compared to him.

Jeff Schultz

October 13th, 2009
8:38 am

Great comments everybody . . .

Bugkiller— Nice comments, thanks.

Hillbilly – No problem.

45ACP – Jackson should be in the Hall. But that’s a blog for another day.

Antonio – I don’t know what to say to that except thank you.

Bugkiller – Columnist’s rule of thumb: Can’t tell the truth and take sides. It’s one or the other.

GH – That didn’t come up in our conversation.

Larry – Can’t recall what he wrote, but I’m pretty sure he was pro-club, anti-Martha. And don’t call me dude.

Wxwax – No problem. Enjoy.

F-105 – Maybe I was throwing out kisses? (I’ll correct it.)

Lowcountry – Thanks.

Tom – Funny story. Thanks for sharing.

Miltown Dawg – Thanks. But no.


Clint Ellison – Maybe a book’s been done. If you can’t find, send me an email and I’ll look into it.

BnB – Get the feeling a Crackers stories could feel an evening by themselves.

Mark – He’ll be missed most at the Masters every year. But he’ll be there every year still, just not writing for us.

Mighty Quinn – Wow, I didn’t know that. Never been to the Field of Dreams.

Reebok – You’re welcome.


October 13th, 2009
8:45 am

Furman Bisher is Saint Simmons.


October 13th, 2009
9:00 am

Good column Jeff and this old reader of Furman and the AJC (which was once two papers) for nearly 40 years appreciates it. I agree the Falcons now have the leadership to take it all at some point. The Smith family years were so, so poorly lead it was pityful to be a fan of all teams Atlanta during them.

Left to Right

October 13th, 2009
9:00 am

“Funny” how none of these tributes, including Jeff’s, mention the Bisher article in the Saturday Evening Post that falsely accused Bear Bryant and UGA AD Wally Butts of fixing the 1962 Georgia-Alabama game. The article was very poorly researched and reported and violated numerous tenets of good journalism (like “be sure to get confirmation of the story”).

The resulting lawsuit (which eventually went to the Supreme Court and was won by Butts) helped bankrupt the Saturday Evening Post. It was an important event, and yet the AJC and its minions have airbrushed out of existence.

“Read all about it” as they used to say, right here:


October 13th, 2009
9:08 am

Thanks for the link to the Joe Jackson story. I had never read that piece.

No one has mentioned it I think, but Furman’s Sunday college football show has never been equaled. And Furman was not the star, the stars were the reporters who covered the games. He gave them their full say on the game they covered.

Haiku Man

October 13th, 2009
9:08 am

The Flames leaving town
Was my saddest day ever
Until Furman left


October 13th, 2009
9:09 am

I am lucky enough to know Furman personally (through his wife) and you have captured him perfectly and conveyed him so accurately. He just tells it like it is and if you happen to be on the receiving end and it’s not a flattering statement, you really can’t be offended because he’s usually right!

Reid Adair

October 13th, 2009
9:11 am

Very well done, Jeff. I have always respected Furman’s opinions, and to hear him say that he has no faith in Frank Wren is fantastic. Furman will be missed.

Then, of course, we have people like “Fair and Balanced” who have no semblance of decency or respect. And for “Left to Right,” I’m sure you’ve never made any mistakes in your life either, huh?


October 13th, 2009
9:24 am

Furman is 91? His mind sure doesn’t seem to be that old.

Radical Conservatives Give the Rest a Bad Name

October 13th, 2009
9:34 am

Guys like Larry really make me sad. Such hatefulness, no matter what the situation or occasion. Larry, your mother would not be proud of you.


October 13th, 2009
9:35 am

I grew up around this guy and my impression of Bisher was always that of a country club elitist. I also have to agree with some others here. His relevance passed many years ago.

Old Time Atlantan

October 13th, 2009
9:40 am

Great point Left to Right. Bisher railroaded Butts out of there with false accusations and never gets talked about. He also has always loved throwing the jabs but can’t take a punch himself.The only thing that I will miss is his knowledge of sports history although he uses way too much opinion when telling us about it. He used his barrel of ink to hurt many people but never could take criticism himself. Sad to say, Good riddance but 50 years to late.


October 13th, 2009
9:44 am

I started reading Furman Bisher and Jesse Outlar at age 6, back in 1957, and with the advent of the internet, I have been able to continue to read Mr. Bisher for many years after moving to Texas in 1991. Yep the old fart will be missed, Furman had a way with stating the obvious, telling the painful truth at times, yet always interesting and never seeming to make enemies. For the most part he never let his politics come to the surface like so many of the sports writers of today…present company excepted.

Best wishes in all your coming endeavors, and I will be checking out

Dallas, TX

Mike Lum

October 13th, 2009
9:46 am

As an old fart myself, I’ve always enjoyed Bisher’s columns…though quite a few these last few years have been a little out of touch. Same with the Wren comment. Had Frank not rebuilt the pitching staff last off-season the Braves would not still been in contention on October 1st. He made the tough calls on Smoltz and Glavine, and surprized MLB with the McLouth & LaRoche trades.

But mostly, I agree with the rest of the Countdown.

Jimmy Pritchard

October 13th, 2009
9:59 am

Good riddance. Bisher is a pompous bore whose sell-by date was passed way back in the 80’s, and next to the also-departed (and also un-missed) Terance Moore, had the most un-read column in the paper. And you guys wonder why subscriptions dried up so quickly…


October 13th, 2009
9:59 am

Nice article. Furman always loved Georgia Tech and Bobby Dodd, in particular. My father was an Auburn graduate. We would always watch the Sunday TV program with Bisher and company, and my father would rail against Bisher for his Tech slant. In the early 50’s, Tech refused to play Auburn anywhere but at Grant Field, which always gave Tech the advantage, plus Dodd had some great teams. Bisher loved Tech but hated Alabama and Bear Bryant. When the thug, Darwin Holt, thumped the Tech player in the mouth, Bisher was livid and probably remains so. In spite of whatever slant Bisher took, he was still one of the best writers around. I seldom missed one of his articles. About 30 years ago, when I was in the Army, I got to chat about the old TV program with Jim Minter. He was visiting Ft. Bragg, and I was escorting him to some training exercises. I pointed out my father’s displeasure with the Georgia Tech slant to the program. Minter just laughed.

Boo Boo

October 13th, 2009
10:05 am

Was it Furman Bisher who was shot and robbed of his typewriter crossing Capitol Avenuse after a Braves game? Or was that Jesse Outlar?


October 13th, 2009
10:10 am

There is a lot more to the Furman Bisher/Bear Bryant matter. For those of you not old enough to remember, Bisher was the “journalist” who wrote an article that accused Coach Bryant and Wally Butts of rigging a game. The article appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. Bryant and Butts subsequently filed suit and were awared a sizable verdict (I believe it was in the neighborhood of $400,000 in 1960’s dollars). Bisher’s article was totally discredited. It appears he has not gotten any sharper with the passing years.

Seriously, Wally Butts was the head coach at Georgia from 1939 to 1960. Bisher’s accusations involved both coaches (admittedly, it would probably be more difficult for one coach to rig a game, though I suppose it is possible). Coach Bryant’s case was tried in federal court in Atlanta. It did not turn out well for the Post. I have always assumed Bisher’s continued employment was attributable to being married to the publisher’s daughter or some similar circumstance.

Ted Striker

October 13th, 2009
10:21 am

Nice read and good questions for Mr. Bisher. He’s a legend and he’ll be missed by many.

Larvell "SugarBear" Blanks

October 13th, 2009
10:22 am


Your best Tuesday Countdown period! What a great idea! I wish I could put into words what this man has meant to me as a sports fan. He was and will ALWAYS be the best sports columnist I have ever read. I remember as a kid growing up in Carrollton and running down with baited excitement to our mailbox to be the FIRST to grab the paper and pull out the sports section just to read Furman. Jeff, I miss that unbridled excitement when it comes to reading Sports today. Times change but Furman was that rock we could hold on to and relive our youths!

Ted Striker

October 13th, 2009
10:25 am

p.s. I remember getting a “I beat Bisher” shirt back in the 80’s. Maybe you can look around and find a box of them in the boiler room and give ‘em out for prizes or something. I know your promotional department has cut back on letting you send out AJC coolers, jackets, and other swag.


October 13th, 2009
10:33 am

Radical Conservatives Give the Rest a Bad Name,

Not “radical,” actually quite moderate and have voted for both democrats (Jimmy Carter) and republicans (Ronald Reagan). You see, unlike Jeff (”don’t call me dude”) Schultz, I do not measure the conservative agenda by what Rush Limbaugh says or writes as I do not measure the liberal agenda by what Al Sharpton says or writes. Both are extremists!

However, growing up as a democrat, this party of the people has swung so far that their idols are void of morals and values, and in the end, regardless of the political affiliation, I will vote for the best person to protect the rights of the innocent unborn, our national safety, and a person that I can easily sit beside my two young daughters and not have to explain to them why their president gets serviced by their young interns (Clinton), has had multiple affairs (Clinton or any Kennedy), or ill equipped to lead a nation (O’Bama).

Just think about it–what party has the most followers that do not believe in a God, are in prison, rely on the government for subsistence, have the highest divorce rate, the most illegitimate children, etc, etc, etc. Certainly not “conservatives.” I’ll take my chances on one with basic human standars and values over who looks and sounds the coolest!

Our democratic leaders have become nothing more than political pimps that offer free goods and services to their constituency (slaves)in exchange for a vote to keep them in power so they can live an exorbitant lifestyle at the expense and support of their slaves. You keep the pimps in office–I’ll vote for the one best suited to protect my coutry, my rights, and stay the hell out of my personal business and finances.

Get Off My Lawn

October 13th, 2009
10:35 am

Several years ago he stopped writing about games for the next day’s paper. And then a lot of writers lost their jobs. No resume justifies that lack of ethics.

Another perspective

October 13th, 2009
10:37 am


When do we get to read an article on the hatchet job that Bisher did on Bryant and Butts who had a 21 Georgia year career but whose reputation will forever be tarnished by what Furman did to him?

Why was this guy even retained by the AJC if his bogus story was so bad that a jury of 12 of our peers looked at the totality of the evidence and rewarded huge judgements to Bryant and Butts?

Last, how many people at the Saturday evening post lost theri jobs when the post went out of business all because Furman decided to try to make a name for himself by ruining the reputations of these 2 men. Did anyone ever do a story on that? When do we get to see some articles from the AJC about the trash this man wrote about these 2 good men?

Matt the Brave

October 13th, 2009
10:48 am

I loved reading Furman Bisher, especially on Sundays when Lewis Grizzard was still alive. Bisher would cover the Tech game and Grizzard the Georgia one, and it was often funny to see the jives towards one another. The Atlanta paper’s sports section has taken quite a hit with Bisher leaving. But my Lord, he’s 91. I think that he gets to enjoy at least a few years without having to report to someone other than his wife.

Good article Jeff, looking forward to more like this in the future!