Ralph Wiley

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Ralph Wiley
Born (1952-04-12)April 12, 1952
Memphis, U.S.
Died June 13, 2004(2004-06-13) (aged 52)
Orlando, U.S.
Occupation Journalist, writer
Nationality American
Education Knoxville College
Genre Non-fiction

Ralph Wiley (April 12, 1952 – June 13, 2004) was an American sports journalist who wrote for Sports Illustrated and ESPN's Page 2. He was well-known for his distinctive literary tone and his writings on race in America.[1]


Early life[edit]

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Wiley attended Knoxville College from 1972–75, where he played college football.[2] After suffering an injury, he landed his first professional journalism job at the Knoxville Spectrum.

Career[edit]

Upon graduation, Wiley earned a position at the Oakland Tribune, where he quickly climbed up the ranks from copy boy to beat writer and eventually became a regular columnist. In 1980, he coined the famous phrase "Billy Ball" to describe the managerial style of Billy Martin.[2] In 1982, he was hired by Sports Illustrated, where he wrote 28 cover stories over a nine-year period,[2] mainly about boxing, football, and baseball.

Wiley published several books during the course of his career, including Serenity, A Boxing Memoir; Why Black People Tend To Shout; and By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of Making Malcolm X, with Spike Lee.

Additionally, Wiley wrote articles for GQ, Premiere, and National Geographic. He was a weekly contributor to ESPN's Page 2, where he wrote more than 240 columns. His presence on TV included ESPN's The Sports Reporters and regular guest appearances on SportsCenter.

Style[edit]

Wiley was famous for his well-regarded essays on race in America.[1] He was known for his ability to mix street vernacular with literary references, and for his witty, erudite, and sometimes forceful writing style.[2] When writing for ESPN's Page 2, in skirting the line between sports journalism and literary fiction, Wiley wrote many articles in the third person, featuring discursive, jazz-inflected prose and dialogue conducted between himself and a fictionalized character whose identity the writer left deliberately obscure.[citation needed]

Death[edit]

Wiley died of a heart attack at the age of 52 on June 13, 2004 while watching Game 4 of the 2004 NBA Finals. Survivors included his companion, Susan Peacock of Orlando; his mother, Dorothy Brown of Washington; a son from his marriage to Holly Cypress, Colen C. "Cole" Wiley; a daughter from his marriage to Monica Valdiviez, Magdalena Valdiviez-Wiley; and a half brother, Samuel Graham of Memphis.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Thurber, John (16 June 2004). "Ralph Wiley, 52; Sportswriter and Author of Books on Race". LA Times. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d Schudel, Matt (16 June 2004). "Sportswriter Ralph Wiley Dies; Essays Probed Black Life". Washington Post. Retrieved 8 May 2015.