“Gallant Larry Lajoie and his Bludgeon Knouted and Lashed the Mackmen”

22 Jul

In the summer of 1913 the editors at The Chicago Record-Herald said they were tired of the “vernacular slang” that accompanied most baseball stories, and proposed that their readers vote about whether they would prefer “the use of correct English” in baseball stories.

As the example of the overuse of slang, clichés and “baseballese” The Record-Herald presented this “horrible example” from Gordon J. MacKay of The Cleveland Leader:

“Gallant Larry Lajoie and his bludgeon knouted and lashed the Mackmen into submission this afternoon at Shibe Park, and in the swirl of the attack by the Gallic Goliath the myrmidons of the lean leader were tumbled in a gulch of whitewash.”

Napoleon Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

While the paper’s readers were sending in their votes the newspaper was polling baseball men and college professors, who according to The Philadelphia Inquirer were “going at one another hammer and tongs,” over the issue.

Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey was on the side of “plain English,” telling the paper:

“What readers want to know is who won the game and how it was won.  When the facts are covered up with a lot of useless words the reader is apt to grow tired.”

Charles Comiskey, against slang in baseball stories.

Charles Comiskey, against slang in baseball stories.

Most of the players, managers and executives polled by the paper were in agreement with Comiskey.

The professors were nearly unanimously on the side of slang.  Nathaniel Butler of the University of Chicago said:

“I think it would be pretty tame to report baseball in plain, ordinary English.  There is a species of humor on the sporting page which is enjoyable. “

After a month of opinions from baseball and academia, and newspapers across the country, the result of The Record-Herald’s balloting were made public.  The New York Times said:

“Slang as a means of the proper description of baseball games in the newspapers came out a little behind straightforward English, according to the verdict of several thousand readers in a test vote taken in a Chicago newspaper.”

By a close margin of 2004 to 1926, readers voted for “the English proscribed by the dictionaries,” but The Times said the results were:

 “(Q)ualified by several thousand voters who expressed themselves in favor of the use of a moderate amount of snappy, descriptive phrases, not limited necessarily to dictionary words, however.  Many voted in favor of slang, but advocated the elimination of nicknames.”

Vaudeville comedian and songwriter Junie McCree, writing for “Baseball Magazine” presented his version of how all baseball stories should be presented as a result of the vote:

The first athlete of the opposing aggregation was unable to locate the exact proximity of the ball and smote thrice in vain.

The next member was more fortunate in his endeavor and expelled the ball with such force that its destination was problematical to the guardian of latitude left, so the runner with some exertion and much rapidity voyaged to the third station without being molested.

At this point an urchin in one of the open stands requested vehemently that the home pitcher should be escorted to the suburbs of the enclosure and someone of animation be installed in his stead. His request was unheeded, much to his chagrin.

The third station being occupied by an invader caused the infielders to become more intimate with the domestic china to prevent foreign registration.

At this moment an attempt was made to execute the famous “Caress Play,” and in the unbiased opinion of the populace was frustrated by the marvelous dexterity of the “receiving teller” of the home team, but the magistrate of strikes and balls decided to the contrary, thus bringing on himself much verbal abuse. Among the ensuing verbiage one individual intimated in stentorian tones that the umpire was a facsimile of the principal ingredient in lemonade.

The contest from here on was uneventful until the seventh inning, at which time it becomes the duty of the resident assemblage to arise en masse and exercise the elasticity of limb and body.

While the home aggregation were at bat the visiting hurler became excited and ascended into nature’s oxygen.  A florid-faced individual in the grandstand arose and shouted all sorts of adjectives until someone volunteered the recommendation that he “lease or engage an auditorium.”

The various stations were congested before a single demise had occurred. A huge gentleman of pure American birth, reservation, extraction and much muscular appurtenances approached the plate and poised himself in a very hostile attitude; he attacked the sphere with a savagery known only to the ancient Romans, and with one blow the leathered globule wandered forth into undiscovered regions of remotest territory, thereby cleansing the stations of its human debris, and totaling a quartet of tallies to the frantic delight of those present.

This gave the Hosts an advantage which their guests were unable to overcome, and the contest was decided in favor of the natives. Score, 4 to 1.

P. S.—The same gentlemen participate in another exhibition on the morrow.

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One Response to ““Gallant Larry Lajoie and his Bludgeon Knouted and Lashed the Mackmen””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Tribune’s First All-Star Team | Baseball History Daily - February 21, 2014

    […] only unanimous choice was Cleveland Bronchos second baseman Napoleon Lajoie—Lajoie appeared in just 86 games, but hit […]

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