Chick Hearn's Wife Marge:
A Remarkable Woman
February 11, 2016
I once dialed my friend and traveling companion, Chick Hearn and heard his wife on the other side of the line.
“Francis,” I heard her say. “It’s Mitch on the phone.”
Years later, someone told me she was the only one permitted to call him Francis. He wouldn’t answer to anyone else.
That was his real first name but friends and millions of basketball fans who watched him on Laker telecasts and broadcasts knew him as the great Chick Hearn.
But Marge was his lifelong love and he reserved a place for her where nobody else could go. Yes, Francis and Marge, who were married in 1938, had the greatest friendship of any couple I’ve ever known.
Chick died in 2002 and the Lakers weren’t going to let Marge fade away from their scene. Dozens of times she attended games in a Staples Center location they arranged for her and a few times she stood at midcourt for a pregame ceremony speaking to the sellout crowd.
When public address announcer Lawrence Tanter introduced her the fans always cheered in appreciation.
Marge died last week at 98 of natural causes and of all the bad things that have happened in this Laker season this was by far the worst.
“A lot of the players’ wives confided in her and you could say she was the Laker mom,” said Coach Byron Scott, who got to know Marge well when he played for the team.
Team president Jeanie Buss called Marge “the first lady of the Lakers.”
Longtime broadcaster Stu Lantz, who worked so many years with Chick, said “it’s a different era for the Lakers now with both of them gone. But they’re back together.”
From a personal standpoint I fondly recall how Marge took a liking to Barbara, the woman in my life for 35 years.
Barbara wasn’t a basketball fan when we started dating but Marge watched over her in the press room and made sure she was comfortable. Before long Barbara gained confidence and began to love being a part of the scene.
Thoughout my traveling years I often sat next to Chick on the Lakers’ charter plane. But once Chick took a different flight than the team to a game in Sacramento because he was taping a TV show in LA.
Barbara was on the flight because we were going to visit friends there.
As usual, Chick was engrossed in preparing for the night’s telecast on the short flight.
When he arrived he told Marge “I saw someone on the plane who looked a lot like Barbara. What a coincidence.”
Marge just stared at him and then said “Oh, Francis. You have to be more observant.”
We had a good laugh over that one.