In the early 20th century, as baseball’s national appeal expanded and its popularity exploded, there emerged a journalistic culture in which sports writers were not merely reporters of the news, but guardians of what they perceived to be America’s national treasure. In an era in which sports writers glamorized the games they covered and conferred heroic status upon the men who played them, Ring Lardner (1885-1933) was a notable exception. As a columnist who covered the Cubs and the White Sox for the Chicago Tribune, Lardner was considered one of the America’s most expert and authoritative baseball writers. He gained national prominence when he began to write fiction stories for The Saturday Evening Post. Though Lardner did not write exclusively about baseball, his fiction about the “national pastime”—specifically the collection of “Busher” letters that later comprised You Know Me Al (1...
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...s function as a metaphor America, as emblematic of America’s culture and values. In this paradigm, sports become not merely a game, but a symbol of the American Dream ethos. Writing in the introduction of Connie Mack’s autobiography, My 66 Years in the Big Leagues (1950), historian Francis Tevelyan Miller articulates the symbolic significance of baseball, which he believes to be, “democracy in action; in it all men are ‘free and equal,’ regardless of race, nationality, or creed. Every man is given the rightful opportunity to rise to the top on his own merits … It is the fullest expression of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly in our national life.” (qtd. in Orodenker 18) The democracy of sports was unwelcoming to women and people of color, and that is reflected in a sports literature that has been written almost exclusively by white men.
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