By: Red Smith
Date: September 30, 1934
Source: Smith, Red. "Dizzy Dean's Day." The St. Louis Star, September 30, 1934. Reprinted in Smith, Red. The Red Smith Reader. Dave Anderson, ed. New York: Random House, 1982, 137–140.
About the Author: Walter "Red" Smith (1905–1982) began his sportswriting career in St. Louis. He eventually moved to the Philadelphia Record, New York Herald Tribune, and, finally, to The New York Times. There he wrote a column four times a week, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his work in 1976. He was a lifetime newspaperman, who covered a wide range of sports, from baseball to boxing to horse racing to fishing. By the time he died, he was widely considered America's preeminent sportswriter.
On September 5, 1934, the St. Louis Cardinals were seven games behind the New York Giants in the National League pennant race. By the end of the month, however, they had overtaken the Giants for the right to meet the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Their ace pitcher, Jay "Dizzy" Dean—who compiled a masterful 30-7 record that season, with an earned run average of 2.66—led their stunning comeback. Dean pitched seven shutouts in 1934 and held opposing hitters to a...
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Fifteen-Thirty: The Story of a Tennis Player
By: Helen Wills Moody
Source: Wills, Helen. Fifteen-Thirty: The Story of a Tennis Player. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937, 287–291.
About the Author: Helen Wills Moody (1905–1998) was one of the best women's tennis players in history. She reached the finals of the U.S. Open at age 16. Although she lost that year, she went on to nineteen singles titles at the French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open. She was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1969 and died in 1998 at the age of 92.
Between 1919 and 1938, Helen Wills Moody won fifty-two of the ninety-two tournaments she entered, boasting a 398-35 match record and a .919 winning percentage. From 1927 to 1932, she did not lose a set in any of her singles matches. Wills, who wed in 1930 and adopted the married name Moody, set a standard for excellence that is still the measuring stick for female tennis players everywhere.
The numbers bear out Moody's lofty stature. She won the Wimbledon title eight times—a record that stood until Martina Navratilova broke it in 1990—losing only in her first appearance in 1924. She won the French Open four times and the U.S. Open seven times. She won nineteen of the...
(The entire section is 2149 words.)
Cincinnati Reds v. Brooklyn Dodgers, June 15, 1938, Box Score
By: The New York Times
Date: June 16, 1938
Source: Cincinnati Reds v. Brooklyn Dodgers, June 15, 1938, Box score, The New York Times, June 16, 1938.
About the Author: Sportswriter Roscoe McGowen wrote the article from which this box score was taken. Beginning in 1929, he worked for thirty years as a correspondent for The New York Times. He also served as a longtime contributor to The Sporting News.
Box scores tell stories, allowing fans to know the performances of individual batters and pitchers, and to recognize a team's ability to turn a series of consecutive hits into a string of runs or its failure to knock home a runner.
The box score of the baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Dodgers on June 15, 1938, tells the reader that Johnny Vander Meer, pitcher for the Reds, threw a no-hitter. Not one single Dodger managed to get a hit off of Vander Meer, though he walked eight batters. Cincinnati scored four runs in the third inning and then added one run each in the seventh and eighth innings to make the final score 6-0.
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"Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral"
By: Bryan Field
Date: November 1, 1938
Source: Field, Bryan. "Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral." The New York Times, November 1, 1938. Reprinted in The Greatest Sport Stories From "The New York Times": Sport Classics of a Century. Allison Danzig and Peter Brandwein, eds. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1951, 496–499.
About the Author: Bryan Field was a correspondent for The New York Times from the 1920s to the 1940s, serving as turf editor in charge of all horseracing coverage. He later held the position of president and general manager of Delaware Park, a renowned racing facility outside of Wilmington, Delaware.
The story of Seabiscuit and War Admiral begins with Man o' War, the legendary thoroughbred. Man o' War lost only one race during his life, as a two-year-old, when a botched start left him caught in the gate while his competitors gained a large lead. He never lost again and was so dominant that he once beat another horse by one hundred lengths. He was voted the greatest horse of the first half of the twentieth century.
Man o' War sired War Admiral, who won the Triple Crown in 1937 and was undefeated in eight starts. Man o' War was also the grandfather of Seabiscuit,...
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"61,808 in Gehrig Tribute"
By: The Sporting News
Date: July 12, 1939
Source: "61,808 in Gehrig Tribute." The Sporting News, July 12, 1939.
Lou Gehrig (1903–1941) was born in New York and died there of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a hardening of the spinal cord that is now more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Gehrig played first base for the New York Yankees from 1923 to 1939, ending his career only when physically unable to perform because of his increasing disability. He was a special player who enjoyed great success on the baseball diamond. But more importantly he was a special man who articulated the best of the human spirit. His speech on July 4, 1939, when the New York Yankees retired his uniform and so many of his old teammates came out to honor him, may stand as baseball's most sentimental moment. However, the power of the moment should not be dismissed, for Gehrig displayed great courage on that day and throughout his last few years.
His achievements on the field were of the very highest caliber. Gehrig was a lifetime .340 hitter and hit 493 home runs in his career. He ranks fourth among all players, with 1,995 runs batted in. He had a daunting .632 slugging percentage and an impressive .447 on-base...
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"Sepia Stars Only Lukewarm Toward Campaign to Break Down Baseball Barriers"
By: Sam Lacy
Date: August 12, 1939
Source: Lacy, Sam. "Sepia Stars Only Lukewarm Toward Campaign to Break Down Baseball Barriers." The Washington Tribune, August 12, 1939. Reprinted in Reisler, Jim. Black Writers/Black Baseball: An Anthology of Articles From Black Sportwriters Who Covered the Negro Leagues. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1994, 15–17.
About the Author: Sam Lacy (1903–2003) was the first black member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. He was a longtime contributor to The Baltimore Afro-American and also wrote for The Washington Tribune and The Chicago Defender. He was one of the first black sportswriters to push actively for the integration of major league baseball. For his work he won numerous awards, including four National Newspaper Writing Awards.
Since the mid-1880s, black players had been banned from participating in major league baseball. Integration would come only when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. In order to compete, black players had to join teams that eventually combined into what were known as the Negro Leagues. Often these teams would barnstorm across the country, picking up games wherever and whenever they...
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Wings on My Feet
By: Sonja Henie
Source: Henie, Sonja. Wings on My Feet. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1940, 70–76.
About the Author: Sonja Henie (1912–1969) was born in Oslo, Norway. She first laced up a pair of skates at age eight and, at ten, won the first of six straight Norwegian figure-skating championships. She had stunning success as a figure skater, winning the European title for eight consecutive years and winning the world championship ten years in a row. She won Olympic gold in 1928, 1932, and 1936, after which she turned professional and began a career in Hollywood as a movie star.
Sonja Henie dominated amateur women's figure skating from the late 1920s into the 1930s. Her record of success and longevity at the top of her sport, by today's standards, is breathtaking. She first competed at the Winter Olympics at the age of twelve and won her first gold medal at age sixteen. Eight years later, she was still at the peak of her skating powers, having won all the major figure-skating titles for years on end. With nothing more to prove in her sport, and still only in her mid-twenties, it was time to look elsewhere.
Henie moved permanently to the United States in 1936, turned...
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The Babe Ruth Story
By: Babe Ruth, as told to Bob Considine
Source: Ruth, Babe, as told to Bob Considine. The Babe Ruth Story. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1948, 192–194.
About the Author: George Herman "Babe" Ruth (1885–1948), born in Baltimore, was the most celebrated athlete of his time and is widely considered the best player in baseball history. After a tumultuous childhood, he started his career in 1914 as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox, winning three World Series. In 1920, Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees, where he transformed himself into baseball's most prolific slugger and won four more World Series. After his retirement in 1935, Ruth became much sought after as a television personality. He died in 1948 in New York City at the age of 53.
Babe Ruth's lifetime statistics speak for themselves: a .342 batting average, 714 home runs, 2,210 runs batted in, 2,056 walks, a .690 slugging percentage, and a .474 on-base percentage. And that's just as a hitter. As a pitcher, he was 94-46, with an earned run average of just 2.28. He was one of the best pitchers of his era before he turned full-time to hitting, at which point he dominated the game far and above his peers.
The fans loved...
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This Life I've Led: My Autobiography
By: Babe Didrikson Zaharias, as told to Harry Paxton
Source: Zaharias, Babe Didrikson, as told to Harry Paxton. This Life I've Led: My Autobiography. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1955, 47–50.
About the Author: Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson (1914–1956), born in Port Arthur, Texas, was by many accounts the greatest female athlete of the twentieth century. Borrowing her nickname from baseball hero Babe Ruth, Didrikson distinguished herself in any number of sports. She set numerous records in track and field, was a three time All-American in basketball, and won every major women's golf championship, including amateur and professional titles. She died of cancer in 1956, at the age of forty-one.
Babe Didrikson was a precocious teenage athlete in the small town of Beaumont, Texas, when she was discovered by Colonel M.J. McCombs. He brought her to Dallas to play basketball for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), the women's team he sponsored through Employers Casualty Insurance. Didrikson starred for the team, earning All-American honors three times. She also excelled in track and field, representing the United States in the 1932 Olympics. Her performance there, in which she set records for the javelin...
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Golf Is My Game
By: Robert Tyre Jones Jr.
Source: Jones, Robert Tyre Jr. Golf Is My Game. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1959, 163–164.
About the Author: Robert Tyre Jones Jr. (1902–1971), better known as "Bobby," was the most accomplished American amateur golfer of his day or since. He was the only golfer to ever win the Grand Slam of golf, which he did in 1930. However, he never turned pro, choosing instead to work as a lawyer after graduating from Harvard. However, he did go on to help design and found the Masters Tournament in 1934. He died at his home in Atlanta in 1971.
Born in Atlanta in 1902, Bobby Jones began competing in national amateur tournaments at age fourteen and retired from active competition just fourteen years later, at age twenty-eight. He won thirteen of the twenty-one major championships that he entered between 1923 and 1930. His record of success was striking for a golfer who only entered six or seven tournaments annually.
Jones maintained a number of interests, many of which were inspired by his success on the links, including writing a series of syndicated newspaper columns. However, he never played a tournament as a professional athlete, maintaining his...
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Maybe I'll Pitch Forever
By: Leroy Paige, as told to David Lipman
Source: Paige, Leroy, as told to David Lipman. Maybe I'll Pitch Forever: A Great Baseball Player Tells the Hilarious Story Behind the Legend. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday,1962. Reprint, Lincoln, Nebr.: University of Nebraska Press, 1993, 75–76.
About the Author: Leroy "Satchel" Paige (1906–1982) was born in Mobile, Alabama. A talented ballplayer, he barnstormed across the country, pitching for any team that offered him secure payment. In 1948, he was sold to Cleveland and became the oldest rookie in major league history, helping the Indians win the World Series that year. In 1965, Paige pitched three scoreless innings for the Kansas City Athletics, becoming the oldest player to ever play in the big leagues. He died in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1982.
Leroy Paige—nicknamed "Satchel" because of his prowess as a childhood baggage handler—was the Negro Leagues' biggest gate attraction in the 1930s, pitching for the Pittsburgh Crawfords and, later, for the Kansas City Monarchs. With a wide array of pitches complementing an overwhelming fastball, Paige was a difficult assignment for hitters. He struck out eighteen batters in one game in 1934. That same...
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Jesse: The Man Who Outran Hitler
By: Jesse Owens, with Paul Neimark
Source: Owens, Jesse, with Paul Neimark. Jesse: The Man Who Outran Hitler. New York: Fawcett, 1978, 86–90.
About the Author: James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens (1913–1980) was born in Alabama and later moved with his family to Cleveland, Ohio, where he blossomed as a high school track star. He continued his success while attending Ohio State University, breaking a number of world records in competition. At the infamous 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, he won four gold medals in track and field, becoming a symbol of American patriotism in the process. Owens died in Tucson, Arizona, in 1980.
The athletic achievements of the 1936 Olympics were largely overshadowed by politics, as Germany's chancellor, Adolf Hitler, used the Games to showcase his ideology of Aryan superiority. Leni Riefenstahl, who had directed Triumph of the Will, a propaganda film about the Nazi party rally in Nuremberg in 1934, filmed the games and edited the footage. Despite this and other pro-Nazi tactics, Jesse Owens' extraordinary performance during the Olympics exploded any notions about the superiority of the Aryan race. A year earlier, Owens had demonstrated remarkable skill in...
(The entire section is 2520 words.)