Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy birthday, Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice, legendary sportswriter
It is the birthday of legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice (1880), who contributed significantly to sports journalism and dominated it during the Roaring Twenties with elegant prose and thoughtful poetry. He was the first to call the 1924 Notre Dame backfield the Four Horsemen and the first to broadcast a World Series on the radio.

Rice interviewed all the major sports figures of the era and made heroes of many of them, including Jack Dempsey, Red Grange, Bobby Jones, Knute Rockne, Babe Ruth, and Babe Zaharias. His writing raised sports events to a new mythical level, comparing the contests to ancient quests of strength and courage.

Of the 1924 Notre Dame-Army game he wrote, "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden."

The 1921 World Series was the first Subway Series, with the New York Giants facing off against Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan. Grantland Rice covered the games live, broadcasting on KDKA, the legendary Pittsburgh radio station. The game was rebroadcast on Boston's WBZ. The Giants won five games to the Yankees three.

Rice often expressed his ideas in verse. One of his most often quoted lines is from a poem titled Alumnus Football. "For when the One Great Scorer comes/To mark against your name,/He writes—not that you won or lost—/But how you played the Game."

When Babe Ruth died in 1948, Rice drew on prose he had written in 1910 to compose a poem to honor the great slugger. "Game Called by darkness—let the curtain fall./No more remembered thunder sweeps  the field./No more the ancient echoes hear the call/To one who wore so well both sword and shield:/The Big Guy's left us with the night to face/And there is no one who can take his place."

Rice's biography, The Tumult and the Shouting (1945), was well received by critics and the public. It was syndicated into 15-minute radio segments in 1955 and broadcast throughout the country in 52 parts.

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