FanPost

Baseball's 'Twain' at the Examiner, finale

Eighteenth and last in a series of posts

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Charles Dryden, "the Mark Twain of Baseball," had joined the Chicago Examiner in April of 1909, after 2 years at the Tribune.

He did not cover the World Series that year between the Pirates and Tigers.

There is no way to know if he covered the 1910 series between the Cubs and Athletics. The Chicago Public Library Digital Collection, only online depository of the Examiner's archives, is missing the entire month of October.

But he definitely did not report on any World Series after that until 1917, when the White Sox defeated the Giants in 6 games.

This was the beginning of his front-page story on Oct. 16:

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NEW YORK -- A ninety-foot sprint by the Great Zim [ex-Cub Heinie Zimmerman] chased the 1917 championship of the ivory dome (or world's baseball) series into the waiting pockets of the White Sox. Score, 4 to 2.

We point with pride to the prediction that the coin would carry the Sox to the place they wished to go. They arrived to-day in the early part of the first dog watch.

Figure that out for yourselves if versed in language nautical. We are going fishing and do not care to monkey with statistics.

[end of excerpt]

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With no score in the fourth inning, Zimmerman, playing third base, threw away a grounder by Eddie Collins, letting him reach second. He sprinted to third when the right fielder dropped a fly ball.

The next batter bounced to the pitcher, Rube Benton, who fired the ball to Zimmerman, hoping to catch the lead runner. As he did, catcher Bill Rariden headed up the line, anticipating a rundown.

More from Dryden:

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With the pill in his hand Zim approached Collins, who ducked past Rariden and sped for the vacant rubber [i.e., plate] with Heinie camping on his trail like a houn' dog in pursuit of a John rabbit.

The bugs stood and watched the race with bated and also baited breath.

Zim, like Collins, is a college man. He took a course in sprinting at Harvard '06, but never told it to a soul except a female hair dresser at Jacksonville, Fla.

Beware the female of the species. She is more deadly than the male.

Anyhow, the Giants fell back and granted the sprinters a clear field. Collins was the faster. He was sprinting for his whack of the $30,000 [to be earned by the winning team] and so was Heinie.

The pride of the Bronx needs it worse than the other sprinter, who has some [cash] already.

Collins had the jump and he won the $30,000 classic, sliding over the rubber on the rear platform of his pantaloons with Heinie almost touching him with the ball. Heinie had been doing that for the last sixty feet of the race.

[end of excerpt]

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The other runner and batter wound up on second and third. Both scored on a single moments later and the Sox never were headed en route to the title-clinching victory.

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'SWAN SONG'

Dryden's account of game had begun in the left-most column on the Examiner's front page. Its banner headline was:

250 DIE ON TORPEDOED LINER

Many of the other stories on the page also were about the Great War raging in the Atlantic Ocean and across western Europe.

Not surprisingly, Dryden, a sailor and ship captain before turning to journalism, chose a military theme for his annual farewell column, which appeared in the Examiner the following Sunday, Oct. 21.

Here it is, in full, with its headlines and original subheads. Paragraph breaks added for easier reading.

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Dryden Sings Swan Song

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Ready for Warlike Winter

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He Tells of Secret Preparations for Stay at

Ocean Springs; Let Submarines Beware.

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Ever since the knockers of the nation started panning Uncle Sam for lack of pep I have been making secret preparations for a warlike Winter at Ocean Springs, Miss. Let a submarine stick its fat face into our share of the gulf and the Boche will get what's coming to him.

Just lamp this preparedness chart:

--As far back as February 20 [former Cubs traveling secretary] Charley Williams gave me a lapel flag. All the rest of the munitions were bought and paid for. I followed the little emblem of democracy 26,000 miles this season helping make the second division safe for the Cubs.

The flag is somewhat travel stained and streaked with suds and gravy. There may be a drop of hang-over gasoline in the tank of the Tut and I might dry-clean the tiny Star Spangled Banner while the U-boats wait.

--One Red Cross button and a receipt from the American Red Cross Society which certifies I am a member in good standing and entitled to the magazine depicting a beautiful nurse in uniform on the title page. In other words, I get the magazine.

--Liberty bond buttons galore. (I am unmarried and sew 'em on myself. No bond of holy mat buttons in mine.)

Check for Bat and Ball Fund.

--One canceled check which denotes a modest contribution to Clark Griffith's bat and ball fund. My bit went down in midocean with the torpedoed Kansas and that made me more warlike than before, but not to the extent of another check.

I tossed four bits into the hollow cannon ball Color Sergeant Hank Gowdy [first Major League play to serve in the war] passed around among the deans at the Polo Grounds during the Ivory Dome series.

--Two army shirts with plaited lockers on the chest expansion, the lids being battened down with horn buttons and waxed thread. Regular U.S.A. stuff. Cost $10.

--Two pairs of army shoes -- Norwegian oil tanned, Munson last; and a bottle of pink goo for their complexion.

The first pair cost seven bucks and the second $8.50 four weeks later. I should have purchased the last pair prior to the first while the purchasing was good. Pulled a boner there. Total, $15.50.

--Eighteen dollars' worth of fishing tackle, including one bait casting rod, a loose-leaf reel and a hatful of mine sweepers; i.e., wooden minnows, broken out with six weeks' growth of hooks. Somebody has got to show me if there is something these disguises will not pick up.

Some Engines of Destruction.

Dug from the old war chest the following engines of destruction: One cast-iron, open-ended, brass-lined thimble with verdigris in it; a squat, bow-legged pair of scissors, and a bone-handled, squared-toed jack-knife carrying a brass shackle at the stern.

Uncle Sam himself sold me these salt water antiques at cost price -- 85 cents -- nearly forty years ago. Had they been worth anything I should have lost them a thousand times, and yet it would require a large piece of change to take that junk away from me now.

The knife has done everything but saw the periscope off a submarine, and may do so yet.

Before I had been jolly tarring a week I could balance sixteen navy beans on the keen steel blade and stow them away without cutting my face, even when the warship turned a sharp corner in the ocean.

My ship was a canvas-rigged, wooden sloop of war christened Wachusette, before wine was invented, and my commander was the late Captain Alfred T. Mahan, acknowledged as the world's greatest naval tactician.

One precept he taught the blue-gilled, cornfield sailors from Illinois and Iowa sticks in my top hamper to this day:

"Heave nothing to windward but hot water and ashes."

Try it yourself and see how long memory can and will endure.

Sighting Eye on the Blink.

With the foregoing cargo of munitions I'll try to do my bit in a pinch. I'm too old and fat to enlist as seaman, gunner, diver or bell hanger, and besides my sighting eye in on the blink. Got to use a range finder to pick up the bill-of-fare.

Moreover, the eleven-inch, smooth-bore, muzzle-loading Dahlgren gun has gone the way of the dodo bird and the mustache cup.

Reckon I'll just call myself from labor to refreshment, stick around and fish, keep a sharp lookout for submarines and S. O. S. City Marshall George Dale when I see one.

C. Dryden, No. 17; after pivot gun, train tackle, side block and second rifleman, sir.

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CHANGE IN VENUE

On Friday, Feb. 22, 1918, the Examiner printed this story, in a 2-column box at the top of its sports page: (some paragraph breaks added)

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Dryden to Sox Camp Early;

O'Day Beats Him Fishing

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CHARLES DRYDEN, the Examiner's famous baseball humorist, is going to travel with the world champion White Sox this year. In order to get a little advance dope on the South Siders, Mr. Dryden intends to precede them to their Texas training camp. He announces his plans in the following letter to Sam P. Hall, the Examiner's sporting editor:

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss., Feb. 19, 1918.

My Dear Sam:

These few simple sentences are to let you know I am about to pry myself loose from these parts, on or about March 1, and wiggle over to Mineral Wells, there to await the coming of the champeens.

While at the Wells I might pick up a little dope now and then to prepare the palpitating bugs for the grand splash -- i.e., the advent of the champeens in our midst and the welcome awaiting them in the land of the cactus and the coyote.

My fondest recollection of M. Wells centers around the prickly pair. It reminds me of [long-time Sox pitcher] Nick Altrock's ears.

[Former umpire and 1-season Cubs manager] Hank O'Day, than whom there is none which, paid me a visit last week. He wired from New Orleans that he was coming over to fish and get acquainted with our prominent citizens.

Hank did both with his usual eclat and savior faire, or whatever it is you say about such things. The greatest living umpire made an instant hit with the population and there was a crowd at the station to bid him good-bye.

Last Friday, which is an ideal fish day in many parts of the world, I took Hank up the bayou on a fishing trip. He caught one shiner and a crab and I failed to get a k-nibble.

Hank was so elated over his success as an angler that he went back to New Orleans with the avowed intention of catching an I. C. train for Chicago. He said I might be able to catch a local freight or something after the way he showed me up on the fishing trip.

One night Hank and I were among those present at the picture show here, lamping a fillum entitled "Mystery of the Double Cross." Hank said there was nothing mysterious about that. A guy could get the double cross anywhere, more especially in Russia.

Regards to the bunch. Yours et cet.

C. DRYDEN

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NO MORE CUBS

So, after covering the Cubs for 9 seasons, many of them from start to finish, Dryden was not around the team in 1918, when it not only snapped a string of 3 straight losing seasons, but won the National League pennant.

Before the season was cut short by government order on Labor Day, the Cubs won 84 games, 10 more than the year before and most since 1913.

They lost only 45 games, an eye-popping 35 fewer than in 1917.

Their .649 winning percentage was their highest since their .675 in 1910, when they had finished 104-50.

The Cubs claimed first place on June 6, with the sixth of what would be 9 straight wins, and held the lead the rest of the way, winding up 10.5 games in front of the runnerup Giants.

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RAGGED FINALE

On May 7, Dryden was in Cleveland, watching the White Sox win, 13-3.

His story in the next day's edition of the Examiner appeared in the first column of its sports page. It contains Dryden's usual wit, such as:

"To-night in the hotel lobby Manager [Pants] Rowland hung the Croix de Guerre on several of his athletes. [Pitcher Joe] Benz got one and so did Chick Gandill for meritorious services in tearing off four hits and as many runs for himself in seven frames."

But much of the story is nearly impossible to read, as the original page from which the digital version was made has a ragged tear all the way down the left side.

There is no such problem with the front page, which features a banner headline, GREAT GERMAN DEFEAT. That headline is 6 columns wide, rather than the usual full 8, because an announcement, in larger-than-usual type, occupies the 2 left-most columns. This is how it begins:

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TO OUR READERS:

The Chicago Examiner announces that there has been arranged a combination of the Chicago Examiner and the Chicago Herald.

The newspapers thus combined . . . will dominate in the field of news, combining unrivaled news service with the striking "features" of both newspapers.

The combined newspapers, of which publication begins to-morrow morning, will be known as THE CHICAGO HERALD AND EXAMINER.

This amalgamation of two great newspapers, making for still greater efficiency in news and other departments, applies to both the daily and Sunday editions.

...

It concluded, several paragraph later, with:

Combining the forces, facilities and all the properties of two great newspapers in the new and greater newspaper -- THE CHICAGO HERALD AND EXAMINER -- should produce a publication of exceptional value in service to the city, state and nation.

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OFF LIMITS

Among the "features" that continued in the combined paper -- soon to be known more simply as the Herald-Examiner -- were the stories and columns of Charles Dryden.

Sadly, those stories and columns are not available for review by members of the general public.

The paper's archives are not among those at newspapers.com, nor in the Chicago Public Library Digital Collection.

They exist only at the University of Illinois library, which has digital versions for July 1-31, 1919, and all of 1926, and microfilmed versions from its first edition, on May 2, 1918, through its last, more than 2 decades later.

But the university permits access to the material only to university affiliates -- i.e., faculty and students.

So, this series of posts can provide no more excerpts from Dryden's delightful prose.

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LATER YEARS

Dryden may well have covered the 1918 World Series, in which the Cubs lost to the Red Sox in 6 games.

He may have been in the press box the next year, when the "Black Sox" threw the series to the Reds.

But unless the University of Illinois allows public access to the Herald-Examiner archive, we never will know for sure.

...

Here is what we do know:

In June of 1921, about 3 months after his 61st birthday, Dryden had an appointment with an eye specialist in Chicago.

While being examined, Dryden suffered an massive stroke, which left him paralyzed on one side of his body and unable to speak.

He lived in that condition for nearly another decade, at his cottage in Ocean Springs, Miss., cared for by his widowed sister Louise, who was 20 years younger than her brother.

He was a month and a day from turning 71 when he died, on Feb. 11, 1931, at a hospital in Biloxi, Miss., less than 5 miles southwest of Ocean Springs, across Biloxi Bay.

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'BROKEN SCRIVENER'

An obituary was published in The Sporting News on Feb. 19, under the headline:

Charles Dryden -- Games' Greatest Humorist, Creator of Baseball Literature -- Passes.

It said he "died a broken scrivener, who, for years, sat all day motionless in a chair, helpless, uncomprehending, with only the tick of the clock to remind of the passing of time."

What an incredibly sad ending for a man who had written millions of words during a career that spanned 32 years, 1889-1921, and had brought so much joy and laughter to so many readers, in Chicago and across the country.

The Sporting News obituary said baseball writing was dull and prosaic before Dryden came on the scene. He had made it "almost a religion at whose shrine thousands worshiped."

A remembrance of Dryden in the same edition of The Sporting News described Dryden as "a master of style and color" and said he "created a vogue that lifted baseball accounts out of the commonplace and gave the game a distinctive language all its own."

Today, more than 90 years after his death, baseball writing has evolved -- not always for the better.

Dryden's pioneering work, alas, is all but forgotten.

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His body was taken by train 870 miles north, to his birthplace, Monmouth, Ill., The town is located in the western part of the state, 67 miles northwest of Peoria and 213 miles southwest of Chicago.

His grave is marked with a simple stone, the top of which is at most 6 inches above the ground. It bears his name and the dates of his birth and death.

The front side is inscribed: THE DEAN OF SPORTS WRITERS.

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DEMISE OF A NEWSPAPER

Dryden's final employer, the Herald-Examiner, outlived him under that name by only 8 1/2 years.

This story appeared on the front page of the Chicago Tribune on Aug. 27, 1939:

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The Chicago Herald and Examiner, which has been published as a morning newspaper for more than twenty years, will suspend publication with today's issue. An announcement to this effect was made by the management last evening.

The Chicago Evening American, one of the William R. Hearst chain of newspapers, as was the Herald and Examiner, will take the name Chicago Herald-American. It will continue to publish an afternoon newspaper and will also have a Sunday edition. The change will become effective tomorrow. . . .

The Herald and Examiner contained within itself all that remained of seventeen former Chicago newspapers. It had existed under that name since May 2, 1918, when Hearst bought the Chicago Herald and merged it with his Chicago Examiner, founded in 1902.

The Chicago Herald, which had been established four years earlier, carried into the combination the relics of fifteen newspapers. They were: The Chicago Courant, Young America, Chicago Times, Chicago Herald (an earlier publication), Herald and Times, Chicago Times (No. 21), Daily Telegraph, Morning Herald, Times-Herald, Morning News, Chicago Record, Chicago Record Herald, Morning Post, Chicago Republican, and Inter-Ocean.

[The Courant, oldest of the group, had been founded in 1853.]

Present high costs of publishing have been blamed in the last two years for the suspension of daily papers all over the United States. A compilation shows that between June, 1937, and Aug. 1, 1939, a total of seventy-six ceased to publish, thirty-five of them since last Jan. 1.

Competition from the radio and the neon sign, which gave outdoor advertising a new lease on life some fifteen years ago, had their effect. Increasing taxes and higher costs, which could not always be passed on to readers and advertisers, were factors just as important.

Newsprint prices rose 25 per cent between 1933 and 1938. Wage rates of Chicago Unions increased, in the same period, from 8 to 33 per cent. At the same time the Chicago newspapers were asked to employ more help. The number of tradesmen employed on the Chicago papers was 14 per cent greater in 1938 than in 1936.

...

The Herald-American became simply the American in 1953. It was sold in 1956 to the Tribune, which changed it to Chicago's American.

In 1969, the Tribune switched it to a tabloid format named Chicago Today. It lasted only until Sept. 13, 1974, when it published its final edition.

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ONE FINAL STORY

This extended series of posts has featured dozens of tales told by, or about, Charles Dryden

Here is one more, from a remembrance of Dryden written by a former colleague, Ashton Stevens, and printed in the San Francisco Examiner 3 days after Dryden's death, on Feb. 14, 1931:

...

As pretty a piece of writing as Dryden ever did was for the Chicago Herald and Examiner about the first "Buffalo" ten-dollar bill.

He described it as Joe Pennell would have described a Whistler etching. He even described the number printed on it.

Then he described the girl who had the bill. Then (this was in the days of longer skirts and heavier hosiery), Charley thanked God for open-work stockings.

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If you read any or all of these posts, I hope that you enjoyed reading about "the Mark Twain of Baseball" as much as I enjoyed writing about him. Thank you.

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