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Bud Furillo, 80; Covered Southland Sports

July 19, 2006|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Bud Furillo, who covered sports in print and on the air in Southern California for nearly 60 years, has died. He was 80.

Furillo died in his sleep Monday night or Tuesday morning at the Gables, an assisted-living facility in Ojai, according to his son Andy, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee.

Known as "the Steamer" because his lively sports column was called "The Steam Room," Furillo was still writing periodic columns for the Ojai Valley News and working on a book about his life and career.

Steve Kelly, who was Furillo's broadcast partner at Palm Springs radio station KPSI-AM (920) for four years in the late 1990s, said he talked with Furillo by phone Sunday night.

"He sounded great," Kelly said. "He was telling stories and laughing."

Furillo, a native of Hubbard, Ohio, moved with his family to California in 1940. They settled in Maywood, and he graduated from Bell High School in 1943. He served in the merchant marines until 1946, then attended East Los Angeles College for a year while working nights at the Bethlehem Steel plant in Huntington Park.

He began his newspaper career in 1947 as a copy boy at the Los Angeles Herald-Express, which in 1962 merged with the Examiner and became the Herald Examiner. Furillo was sports editor of the Herald Examiner from 1964 to 1974.

The Herald Examiner sports section under Furillo was highly regarded. The staff included nationally syndicated columnist Melvin Durslag, plus well-known local columnists Allan Malamud and Doug Krikorian.

The Herald Examiner, after surviving a union strike in 1967, folded in 1989.

Furillo began his long career in sports radio in early 1974, doing a sports talk show for KABC-AM (790) while he was still the Herald Examiner sports editor. He left the newspaper later that year when publisher George Hearst said he could not keep both jobs.

Furillo left KABC in 1975 for radio station KIIS-FM (102.7) but returned in 1979. He left KABC again in 1987 and was replaced by Stu Nahan.

Furillo had a stint at KFOX-FM 98.5 in Redondo Beach, then moved on to KPSI in Palm Springs and retired in 2000. He lived at the Gables for the last two years.

Ross Newhan, The Times' recently retired Hall of Fame baseball writer, covered the Angels with Furillo in the early 1960s.

"As a young reporter getting started on a major beat, I learned a lot from Bud about pursuing news and framing a story," Newhan said Tuesday. "In my 40-plus years in the business, I would never meet anyone more passionate about newspapers or who cared more about getting the story."

Furillo had his ups and downs. Former KABC colleague Tommy Hawkins once said of him: "If he was something mechanical, he'd be an elevator. He's as complex as Chinese geometry."

Furillo could be moody, but he was also a great newspaper man who could write his column, plan an entire section -- complete with pictures and headlines -- and still have time to take staff members out for lunch and/or dinner.

Besides being a sports journalist, Furillo also was a fan. He loved USC football and bled Dodger blue right along with Tom Lasorda. For a time, his license plate read "LA 38 9" in honor of the Los Angeles Raiders' 38-9 Super Bowl victory over the Washington Redskins in 1984.

Objectivity? That was for political reporters.

Andy Furillo, in a 1987 interview, said, "My dad stands for taking a stand. His whole thing about USC, for instance, and about 'being on the bus' with the Dodgers is his way of saying you've got to stand for something. And I think it has a whole lot of meaning that goes beyond sports."

Besides Andy, Furillo is survived by two other sons, Frank Jr. of Madison, Wis., and Michael of Newport Beach; three daughters, Gail of Ojai, Jill of Tujunga and Jackie of Encinitas; a sister, Roberta Weatherbee of Palm Springs; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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