Gee, It's a Wonderful Game

    Who discovered the land
    Of the brave and the free?
       I don't know, I don't know.
    'Twas Christy Columbus
    Is what they tell me.
       May be so, I don't know.
    There's only one Christy
    That I know at all
    One Christy that I ever saw.
    He's the one who discovered
    The fade away ball,
    And he pitches for Muggsy McGraw

       Baseball, baseball
       Ain't it a wonderful game?
       Old Christy Colum'
       Found this country, by gum
       But the extras don't carry his name.
       If old man Columbus
       Had sat in the stand
       Had seen Matty pitching that
       "Fader" so grand
       He'd have said
       Boys, I'm glad I discovered this land.
       Gee! it's a wonderful game.

    Who lost out in the battle
    Of old Waterloo?
       I don't know, I don't know.
    They say 'twas Na-po-le-on
    May be it's true.
       May be so, I don't know.
    The pink sheets don't print
    Mr. Bonaparte's face
    No stories about him today,
    'Cause he never could hold down
    That old second base
    Like his name sake,
    Big Nap Lay'-oo-way.

       Baseball, baseball
       Ain't it a dandy old game?
       The gen'ral of France
       Couldn't lead 'em like Chance,
       So no wonder his Waterloo came.
       If down in his pocket
       Napoleon had dug,
       Had paid his five francs
       To see Tyrus Cobb slug,
       He'd have said, I give up:
       I'm a bug, I'm a bug!
       Gee! it's a wonderful game

    Ring Lardner (1885-1933)

Ringgold William Lardner was born in Niles, MI and worked as a humorist writer trying to be a song writer and playwright. From 1907 to 1919 he worked as a newspaper columnist and sports reporter first attracting attention with his witty depictions in a magazine serial of a young baseball player. Finally published as You Know Me, Al; A Busher's Letters (1916). The one play that remains a success is June Moon and is still performed today. His talent was in portraying the lives of ordinary Americans with satire.

Gee, It's a Wonderful Game was composed around the same time as Take me out to the Ball Game. It was the early 1900's and baseball was fast becoming America's national pastime. Published in 1911 Ring smartly ties together Christopher Columbus, Napoleon Bonaparte, with his great love baseball. Just about anyone who heard it then would have known immediately who the baseball figures he was referring to and would have enjoyed the spoofery of these icons put beside the historical characters. Here's a brief bio of these Hall of Famers:

  • Christy Mathewson beginning in 1903 while pitching for the New York Giants won 373 games over 17 seasons with his famous fade away pitch.
  • Muggsy McGraw was a hot headed third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s credited with the innovations of the Hit and run, Baltimore chop and the squeeze play, he later became better known as an autocratic and innovative field manager Giants.
  • Nappy Lajoie or Napoleon Lajoie was renowned for hitting the ball hard and one of the best second basemen ever. No one has yet top his record. He managed and played for Cleveland Indians who even changed their name to The Naps for a brief period of time in his honor.
  • Frank Chance, the anchor of the double play combination Tinkers to Evers to Chance and the manager of the Chicago Cubs. He is subject of a another another poem in their honor that you may enjoy reading about it in the write up Baseball's Sad Lexicon.
  • Tyrus Cobb, is of course the legend who hit .366 over 24 seasons. The Georgia Peach was one of most intimidating players to ever don a Detroit Tigers uniform. He stole a total of 892 bases during a 24-year career.

Ring's name will forever be a part of the baseball lexicon, however, he suffered a great disillusionment from the Black Sox scandal when the Chicago White Sox sold out the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Ring was exceptionally close to the White Sox and felt he was betrayed by the team. As a result much of his humor showed his alienation and bitterness. His stories of salesmen, boxers, songwriters and theatrical people display his thorough knowledge of their characters and sharp ear for phraseology and the accents of everyday American speech. The combination of tuberculosis, alcoholism and a heart attack finally took their toll on Lardner, at the age of 48 he succumbed to a coma and never came out of it.

Sources:

Blair, Bob:
http://www.geocities.com/~bblair/020306.htm

Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Lardner, Ring," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

The Lardner Dynasty - Ring:
iml.jou.ufl.edu/

The National Baseball Hall of Fame:
http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/index.html

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:
http://www.geocities.com/~bblair/rlwonderfulgame.htm

CST Approved.