ENGL 3300-002 Baseball as Writing
- Henry Chadwick is the literary ancestor of all other baseball writers, pioneering scorekeeping, game reportage, and annual compendia of baseball stats and lore. Baseball lent itself readily to print. Games could be played in the afternoon and reported (or partially so) in evening papers. Box scores could be perused over coffee the next morning. The game, with its formulaic play, lends itself to verbal description.
- The Merriwell Brothers, Frank and Dick, played all sports for their high school and for Yale, as here in a 1906 dime novel. Gilbert Patten wrote the Merriwell stories under the pseudonym "Burt L. Standish."
- Ring Lardner is a major figure both in baseball journalism and baseball fiction. You Know Me Al featuring "busher" Jack Keefe bridged a gap between newspaper humor and book-length fiction. Lardner's Jack Keefe became a comic strip (with a curious overlay of motion-picture concepts).
- Great Chicago sportswriter Hugh Fullerton wrote for daily papers and national weeklies One has to pick through Shaun Payne's essay for glimpses of Fullerton's writing on the Black Sox, but it's worth it.
- The 1910s and 1920s were a Golden Age of sorts in the world of baseball journalism: Damon Runyon, Grantland Rice, Heywood Broun, and many others wrote for the "white" papers during segregation times. Sportswriter Sam Lacy (can you name the athletes flanking him in that picture?) was the best-known of the baseball writers for the "black" press, a champion of integration.
- MLB GameDay is not conceptually new. In the 1910s and 1920s, newspapers would erect giant graphic scoreboards to clue customers in to game action as it happened.
- Historic Baseball has a thumbnail sketch of some of the history of baseball broadcasting on radio. As with print, the predictable, visualizable plays and rhythms of the game supported rich verbal descriptions. In fact, announcers did not need to be present at games; they could re-create both action and selected sound effects using telegraphic feeds of games.
- Great baseball writing hardly disappeared after the second World War. Here is Red Smith of the New York Herald Tribune on a 1947 World Series game:
At the risk of shattering this gazette's reputation for probity, readers are asked to believe these things happened in Ebbets Field:
After 136 pitches, Floyd Bevens, of the Yankees, had the only no-hit ball game ever played in a World Series. But he threw 137 and lost, 3 to 2.
With two out in the ninth inning, a preposterously untidy box score showed one run for the Dodgers, no hits, ten bases on balls, seven men left on base, and two more aboard to be left. There are still two out in the ninth....
In the ninth, Lindell pressed his stern against the left-field fence and caught a smash by Bruce Edwards. Jake Pitler, coaching for the Dodgers at first base, flung his hands aloft and his cap to the ground.
And finally, Bucky Harris, who has managed major-league teams in Washington, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia and New York, violated all ten commandments of the dugout by ordering Bevens to walk Peter Reiser and put the winning run on base.
Lavagetto, who is slightly less experienced than Harris, then demonstrated why this maneuver is forbidden in the managers' guild.
Cookie hit the fence. A character named Al Gionfriddo ran home. Running, he turned and beckoned frantically to a character named Eddie Miksis. Eddie Miksis ran home.
Dodgers pummeled Lavagetto. Gionfriddo and Miksis pummeled each other. Cops pummeled Lavagetto. Ushers pummeled Lavagetto. Ushers pummeled one another. Three soda butchers in white caps ran onto the field and threw forward passes with their white caps. In the tangle Bevens could not be seen.
The unhappiest man in Brooklyn is sitting up here in the far end of the press box. The 'V' on his typewriter is broken. He can't write either Lavagetto or Bevens.
- But for our purposes, we will detour into the Guide to Baseball Fiction for a survey of the print literature of the game.
- The most influential post-war baseball nonfiction book was surely Jim Bouton's Ball Four, mild by "today's" standards because it helped create those standards: an uncensored look at the language, ethos, and antics of major-league baseball players.
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