Longtime Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy becomes first journalist inducted into San Jose Sports Hall of Fame
SAN JOSE — To Mark Purdy, San Jose and the South Bay wasn’t just any regular part of the country.
It was a place where significant sports moments achieved from diverse athletes were woven into its history.
Purdy, the Mercury News sports columnist for 33 years, became part of the history he long admired Tuesday night as the first journalist to be inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame.
“Outside of being a husband and a dad, this is the highest honor. I am very proud to be the first journalist to be inducted,” Purdy said during his speech. “I’d like to accept this on behalf of all the media people who covered San Jose and South Bay over the years.”
Purdy, along with five-time 49ers Super Bowl champion coach George Seifert, Olympic gold medalist Summer Sanders and Super Bowl champion wide receiver James Jones, were honored during the 26th edition of the ceremony held at the SAP Center.
“I wanted to make people aware of where they lived and what they did and be the tour guide,” Purdy said of his career which included covering 14 Olympic Games and nearly three dozen Super Bowls.
Originally from Celina, Ohio, Purdy’s father had three to four newspaper subscriptions, sparking his interest in journalism. After freelancing for his local paper in high school, Purdy attended Northwestern University.
“I stumbled down the stairs to the newspaper office and I found my tribe,” Purdy said.
After stints with the Dayton Journal Herald, the Los Angeles Times and the Cincinnati Enquirer, Purdy joined “The Merc” in 1984.
His columns pushed for more growth in San Jose because “if we’re going to be a big city and deal with the big city stuff like crime and homelessness, then let’s have some of the fun stuff too.”
The voters agreed and passed a measure in 1988 for an arena to be built. As a result, the Sharks came into town and called San Jose home.
“Mark was relentless in his efforts to make San Jose a major league sports city,” said Bud Geracie, Executive Sports Editor for Bay Area News Group. “When Jack Murphy did that in San Diego, they named a stadium after him and put a statue of him and his dog in front of it. A statue of Mark and his dog Zimmy in front of the San Jose arena would befit the work he did on behalf of the South Bay for more than 30 years.”
Senior Editor for Bay Area News Group Bert Robinson said Purdy had a quality that distinguished him from other great columnists.
“Unlike other great columnists, Mark didn’t simply write about what Mark thought,” Robinson said. “Mark was a reporter as much as he was a writer. So he gave his audience genuine insight into the people he met and into the contests he watched. And always, always, he offered tremendous understanding of the community within which he wrote, and for which he was writing.”
On Tuesday night, Purdy thanked several people including his wife Barb, former Mercury News sports editor John Rawlings and anyone who took five minutes to read his work. Though he wasn’t born or raised in San Jose, the city became his home.
“This is where we attack possibilities. This is why we have a San Jose Sports Hall of Fame,” Purdy said. “That’s why this honor tonight means more to me than any writing award because it tells me that that dream of building a community … and being a tour guide in an interesting city and an interesting place came true.”