You Know Me Al Summary
by Ring Lardner

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You Know Me Al Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

When Jack Keefe, a baseball pitcher, is brought up from the minor leagues by the Chicago White Sox, he begins writing a series of letters to his hometown friend, Al Blanchard. It is a peculiar friendship, however, for Jack is basically incapable of any of the emotions that real friendship requires. He patronizes Al and uses him. Jack is a braggart and a chronic self-excuser, and the letters give him a chance to exercise his ego. Al apparently never sees through Jack.

So sublimely self-confident that he feels every trifling detail of his life is important, Jack writes full accounts of his adventures. Having neither modesty nor shame, he even includes episodes in which he appears foolish. When Jack reports to training camp on the West Coast, he immediately annoys the team’s manager with his overeating, his refusal to take orders, and his laziness. Although he is a powerful right-handed pitcher, he is an indifferent fielder and careless about base runners. The manager tries to handle Jack with irony, but it is lost on him. Whenever Jack has a bad day pitching, he claims that his arm is sore. Any hits made against him are the fault of the fielders, the umpires, or the scorers. Jack also believes that he is irresistible to women. In training camp, he meets a girl from Detroit named Violet, and he plans to romance her when the White Sox are playing in Detroit.

Jack does well enough in spring training to be included on the White Sox roster, but in his first starting assignment against the Tigers, he pitches miserably. The manager leaves him in the game as punishment, and sixteen runs are scored against him. In addition, Ty Cobb steals four bases. As usual, Jack blames his poor performance on a sore arm. By now, the manager is thoroughly disgusted with him, and Jack is sold to a minor-league San Francisco baseball team. He sulks and says he will quit baseball, but he goes. Violet calls him a “busher”—a bush-league player.

In San Francisco, he wins eleven straight games and becomes engaged to a girl named Hazel. Recalled by the White Sox at the end of the season, he pitches well enough to be used in the City Series between the White Sox and the Cubs. Hazel asks him for one hundred dollars to pay her fare to Chicago for their wedding. He sends her only thirty dollars, and she marries a boxer instead. Jack then attempts to marry Violet, but she marries another ballplayer. Jack finally marries Florrie, the sister-in-law of a left-handed White Sox player named Allen.

When Florrie refuses to spend the winter in Bedford, Jack’s hometown, they rent an apartment across the hall from Allen and Marie, Allen’s wife. There are many quarrels between the two families, most of them occasioned by Jack’s stinginess. Jack has always been convinced that all left-handers are crazy, and his trouble with Allen only serves to strengthen his conviction. Allen is planning to take Marie along to spring training. Florrie wants to go too, but Jack says that he cannot afford to take her. Since he feels that he is underpaid, he tries to get a raise from the ball club, even though he has already signed a contract. Charles Comiskey, the owner of the White Sox, has already had contract trouble with Jack and refuses to grant him any concessions.

Jack then tries to join the Federal League, a third major league that is hiring players away from the American and National leagues; however, the Federal League will have nothing to do with him because he has signed a contract with the White Sox. Then his team learns about his attempted defection, and he is sold to a Milwaukee minor-league team as a disciplinary measure. Florrie leaves him, and Jack, protesting that he will not go to the minors again, borrows money from Al to return to Bedford. The White Sox are finally forced to keep Jack because of a technicality in the waiver rule. After gorging himself on food and...

(The entire section is 1,065 words.)