RIP: Winner’s Circle Sportswriter Denise McCluggage

Today, it is colleague Steven Cole Smith's turn to pay tribute.

There is no shortage of material serving the memory of Denise McCluggage, who passed away recently in Santa Fe at age 88. Starting with the former San Francisco Chronicle, New York Herald-Tribune and Competition Press journalist’s own words:

I am asked from time to time: “When are you going to do your autobiography?” I answer: “I don’t do fiction.” That reply has become a set piece and usually gets a laugh.

A suggestion came back from a knowing colleague: “Just call it a memoir – that’s what I did. Then it’s as accurate as you can remember. It doesn’t have to be ‘true.’”

As Orlando Sentinel automotive editor Steven Cole Smith reminds today, it would have been some kind of memoir:

McCluggage had a fling with Steve McQueen. She raced at the Nürburgring. She won her class at Sebring, driving a Ferrari 250 GT SWB. She won at the Grand Prix of Venezuela sports-car race, driving a Porsche 550. And in the Rallye Monte Carlo, driving a Ford Falcon.

She knew everybody who mattered in our world – Juan Manuel Fangio, Dan Gurney, the Rodriguez brothers, Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill, Jim Clark, Stirling Moss, Wolfgang von Trips – but she also knew us, and she made us feel like knowing her colleagues was just as important to her as knowing certified legends.

McCluggage did find time to write a how-to book about downhill skiing, another sport she mastered during her thrilling life. RIP.

P.S. The Orlando Sentinel bio for Cole Smith is hilarious. It includes this paragraph:

As a child, he once fell into a vat of cement, and another time his neighbor, Jay, threw a dart way up in the air and it came down and stuck in his head, which probably explains a lot. Jay kept asking, “Are you alright? Are you alright?” Then Jay’s mother, an attractive divorcee, took everybody to see a Jerry Lewis movie.