Jay Cronley: A literary original

Jay Cronley was the featured columnist for his local newspaper, wrote for national magazines and penned a handful of novels that Hollywood converted into movies.

But for some of his finest work, he never received credit.

First for the Tulsa Tribune and then the Tulsa World, Cronley for decades wrote a non-bylined piece called The Picker, a sports page fixture that chewed up and spit out politicians, coaches, entertainers and television meteorologists.

With Cronley at the keyboard, a former Oklahoma State football coach became “Pitty” Pat Jones, an underachieving OU assistant was labeled Chuck “third and” Long and a famous singer was dubbed “Girth” Brooks.

Cronley, slinger of all things pointed, died Sunday. He was 73.

I worked nearly a combined 30 years with Jay at the Tribune and the World, and at no time did he come off as conventional. At the Tribune, he put out cigarettes on the surface of his desk.

At the World, where I sat next to him more than a dozen years, he was a sight — and sound — to behold.

He yelled “hello” into the phone, which he seldom answered, screamed “MEDIC” when I sneezed and summoned “tech help” when he couldn’t get his computer to cooperate, which was often.

Whenever I said something that caught his attention, he would say, “Consider that stolen,” which meant you had become an unnamed contributor in his next column.

He adored his springer spaniels and took them to the nation’s best surgeons when they had to go under the knife.

Jay’s words could be as cutting.

Always willing to pick a fight, he typically drew lines in the sand with his opinions, aiming to crush any colleague who disagreed with him.

I kept my views to myself, and perhaps for that reason, I saw his best side.

Jay constantly inquired about my kids as they went through high school and college. He called me at home to belittle my favorite sports teams as they were losing.

Cronley was generous with his time to students, especially aspiring writers.

In his final World column in March, he implored anyone who wanted to learn how to write to do one thing copiously: read. To that advice, I would add my own.

Read Jay Cronley.


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