John R. Tunis Dan Wakefield - Essay

Dan Wakefield

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

When the verdict was read on the famous Chicago Black Sox scandal, a tearful, unknown urchin broke through the crowd to "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, one of the players accused of throwing the World Series, and, the story goes, made an appeal that has since become a classic line in American history: "Say it ain't so, Joe; say it ain't so."

John R. Tunis, a writer who has followed sports in our time since the turn of the century and kept his faith in its virtues intact through the Black Sox scandal, has [in "The American Way in Sport"] set down a verdict of his own so deep in its condemnation and sincerity that any young sports-loving lad might approach him with a tearful request to "say it ain't so, John; say it ain't so."…

[Tunis' books] always found virtue as well as excitement in organized athletics…. Even in those novels Tunis was aware of the growing commercialization of sport, but his heroes always escaped its dangers and emerged on the side of right and sportsmanship….

[But] Tunis feels that in its overorganization, its emphasis on victory at any cost, and its tremendous financial importance … big-time sport is threatening the moral values as well as the education of American youth. He reaches the drastic conclusion that we should "give up our amateur athletics, so-called" and recommends "the divorce of education and recreation."

Tunis does not want the abolishment of sport, but the revival of sport as it existed in the days before it became more business than fun….

This book, in essence, is a stirring appeal to return to the values of a world that was more concerned with faces than numbers.

Dan Wakefield, "Big Business in the Ball Park," in The Saturday Review (Entire issue copyright 1959 by Saturday Review Associates, Inc.; reprinted with permission), January 17, 1959, p. 68.

[Silence Over Dunkerque, the] fictitious saga of Sergeant Williams, Second Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, might easily have been the true story of any British soldier at Dunkerque…. [His] encounter with divergent elements of French opinion about the evacuation, [his] close shaves with the enemy build an adventure with a solid foundation in recent history. The swift pace holds the reader until the Sergeant's final and climactic escape to freedom. (p. 525)

Virginia Kirkus' Service, June 15, 1962.