The Annotated Brooks Conrad

As Dave Cameron has already noted in these electronic pages, Brooks Conrad’s game-winning grand slam last Thursday was pretty amazing. In fact, a table inserted into Jon Cooper’s recap of the game (where you can also see video of the homer) reveals that “Brooks Conrad’s walk-off grand slam to overcome a three-run deficit was the 23rd in Major League history.”

Scrolling down said table, one sees — second to last — the name Babe Ruth, who ended a game via grand slam on September 24, 1925.

I wondered idly whether it might be possible to find an account of Ruth’s heroics. Sure enough, some able database-ing (coupled with some less able image editing) gives us the following story — written in some of the purplest prose you’d ever care to see — from the September 25th edition of the New York Times. I’ve included some notes after the article, so’s to help the modern reader fight his way through author James B. Harrison’s (now very obscure) references.

It’s very likely that the above story raises some questions for the modern reader. Questions like:

Q. Who the frig is Ralph Henry Barbour?
A. Barbour was, according to Wikipedia, “an American novelist, who wrote popular works of sports fiction for boys.” Among his bibliography, one finds such titles as Double Play: A Story of School and Baseball, Finkler’s Field: A Story of School and Baseball, and the significantly naughtier sounding Partners Three, which I can only assume has kind of a Wild Things vibe to it.

Q. Who the frig are Frank and Dick Merriwell?
A. Once again, thanks to Wikipedia, we find that Frank Merriwell was “the fictional creation of Gilbert Patten, who wrote under the pseudonym Burt L. Standish.” The entry continues:

The model for all later American juvenile sports fiction, Merriwell excelled at football, baseball, basketball, crew and track at Yale while solving mysteries and righting wrongs. He played with great strength and received traumatic blows without injury.

Dick, it appears, was the half-brother of Frank.

Q. Who is Stover and what is he doing at Yale?
A. Stover at Yale is a book that, apparently, was actually pretty important at the beginning of the 20th century. For the third time, Wikipedia comes to the rescue, revealing:

Stover at Yale, by Owen Johnson, is a novel describing undergraduate life at Yale at the turn of the 20th century. The book was described by F. Scott Fitzgerald as the “textbook of his generation”. Stover at Yale recounts Dink Stover’s navigation through the social structure at Yale and his struggles with social pressure.

Q. What’s that word “Siwash” mean near the end of recap?
A. In this case, the Random House Dictionary (by way of delivers the goods, defining it as “a conventional designation for any small, provincial college or for such colleges collectively (often prec. by old): students from old Siwash.”

The term, specifically, comes from “a fictional college of the same name in At Good Old Siwash (1911) and other books by U.S. author George Helgeson Fitch (1877–1915).” (Please do feel free to peruse Fitch’s Wikipedia page here.)

Q. Finally, who is this James B. Harrison character?
A. This is actually kinda hard to say. A cursory Google search reveals that Harrison seems to have written other sporting articles for the Times in and around the mid-1920s; however, there’s little else about the man who witnessed one of the earliest walk-offs of its kind.

We hoped you liked reading The Annotated Brooks Conrad by Carson Cistulli!

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Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Are ‘safeties’ base hits?


My very question. My mind immediately went to football, where giving up seven safeties would be something of an embarrassment.


“Reach base safely” perhaps? An early reference to OBP! (Yes, I’m kidding)