Lost Advertisements–Frank Frisch, “Dr. Eliot’s Five-Foot Shelf”

12 Feb



In 1923, P.F. Collier & Son Co. used New York Giants second baseman Frank Frisch in advertisements for the 51-volumes of great world literature, now known as The Harvard Classics, then called “Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf.”

The collection first appeared in 1909.  Harvard University President Charles William Eliot claimed that anyone could receive a liberal education by spending 15 minutes a day reading from a collection of books that could fit on a five-foot shelf.

Charles William Eliot

Charles William Eliot

The anthology was borne out of that claim:

“When Frank Frisch first appeared at the Polo Grounds in 1920, he was hailed as the smartest young college player who ever broke into baseball.  He is still smart and still studying.  This column tells how.”


Brain’s are Frank Frisch’s main asset as a Champion ball-player

“When John J. McGraw started in 1920 to rebuild the Giants he looked about for young, smart, teachable players.

“From Fordham College, he took young Frank Frisch–and Frisch made good in the first game he played and is still making good.  His main asset is his brain; he thinks faster and further ahead than do most other players.

“But ballgames are short and so is a professional player’s active career.  What does Frisch do in the rest of his time? You will find him, not scattering his time and thought, but curled up somewhere with a good book in his hand.

“In his private library, for instance, is Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf of Books. He bought it with his earnings as a ballplayer, and now studies it to make his mind still faster and so to increase his earnings–both on the diamond and in later life.”



The use of a professional athlete, even one with a college education like Frisch, would likely have not pleased Eliot, who had a general contempt for sports.  He attempted, unsuccessfully, to abolish football at Harvard in 1905, and is often quoted having said about baseball:

  “Well, this year I’m told the team did well because one pitcher had a fine curve ball. I understand that a curve ball is thrown with a deliberate attempt to deceive. Surely this is not an ability we should want to foster at Harvard.”

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