I had always heard that the 1973 Sugar Bowl game was so exciting that a sports writer died in the press box after the game. There was never any mention of the man’s name or where he was from, just some obscure passage about a man dying.
I was reading Turning of the Tide: How One Game Changed the South by Don Yaeger and there was another mention of this incident.
This is the internet age and there’s no reason to not be able to find out if this were fact or fiction. Time to play a little Myth Buster and see if this incident actually happened or it was just some tall tale to make that Sugar Bowl game seem even bigger.
Sadly, it was not fiction.
His name was Herby Kirby and he had just drawn the assignment of his life.
Thanks to an old newspaper article in the Gadsden Times by Will Grimsley from December 27th, 1983. The title of the article was Herby Kirby’s greatest story never got written.
I previously wrote about that 1973 Sugar Bowl game in my blog:
Herby Kirby was a high school football reporter. He also had a day job at a local Dairy in the Birmingham, Alabama area.
Kirby was not supposed to even be at this game, but he was a late fill in for his sports editor Bill Lumpkin who had suddenly become very ill.
This was Herby Kirby’s shot at the big time.
Will Grimsley described Kirby as a bubbly little man. In his early 50s, Kirby drove his wife and some friends down to New Orleans and he called this his first big trip.
Kirby was extremely nervous going into the press box with the big time reporters and made no secret of it.
The game was exciting and Kirby complained of a headache and asked for aspirin according to Grimsley’s article. Nobody much paid attention to him and why should they, this game was matching the great Alabama Crimson Tide ranked #1 and the very much just as great Notre Dame Fighting Irish who were ranked #2.
Kirby complained more of having a serious headache, but he was mostly blown off by the others doing their own jobs.
As the game ended with Notre Dame beating Alabama, 24-23, all the reporters either high tailed it to the locker rooms or started pounding on those old school typewriters.
But, Herby Kirby instead collapsed to the floor and still most people thought little of it. Eventually, some of his fellow writers took action and tried to administer first aid, but it was too late.
Bubbly little Herby Kirby, right in the middle of his big break was gone, he had passed away from a stroke.
There’s embarrassing little information out there on Herby Kirby, so I don’t know if he had family other than a wife. Does anyone even remember Herby Kirby? He passed away approximately 42 years ago and I have no idea if anyone even knows who he was.
For me, the reporter dying in the press box because the game was so great was always just a story that I had always heard.
Sadly, it really happened but the reporter happened to have a name. It was a name that should be easy for folks to remember, Herby Kirby.