April 29, 2014
In his 32 years at Sports Illustrated, Gary Smith won four National Magazine Awards for his writing.
Bill Frakes/SI

Commas. In the hands of an amateur, they can murder a reader. In the hands of a master, they create poetry. I've never seen a writer use the punctuation staple as elegantly as Gary Smith did, and no piece of sports writing has witnessed commas travel with more elegance than the tale of Jonathan Takes-Enemy, Crow Nation basketball legend. Here is but one graph: Through the sage and the buffalo grass they swept, over buttes and boulder-filled gullies, as in the long-ago days when their scouts had spotted buffalo and their village had packed up its lodge poles and tepee skins, lashed them to the dogs and migrated in pursuit of the herd. Damn, that's perfect.

Richie Parker: Cover date June 24, 1996
Jeffrey Lowe/SI
Writers and editors constantly marveled at Smith's ability to get deep into a story and uncover information that no one else could get subjects to reveal.
Bill Frakes/SI

And that's the hard part.

Pat Tillman: cover date, Sept. 11, 2006.
Courtesy of the Tillman family

In 2008, Gary Smith published an anthology of some of his best work -- Going Deep: 20 Classic Sports Stories.

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