Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Quote of the Day (Edna Ferber, on an Adonis in a Dirty Baseball Uniform)

“Any man who can look handsome in a dirty baseball suit is an Adonis. There is something about the baggy pants, and the Micawber-shaped collar, and the skull-fitting cap, and the foot or so of tan, or blue, or pink undershirt sleeve sticking out at the arms, that just naturally kills a man's best points. Then too, a baseball suit requires so much in the matter of leg. Therefore, when I say that Rudie Schlachweiler was a dream even in his baseball uniform, with a dirty brown streak right up the side of his pants where he had slid for base, you may know that the girls camped on the grounds during the season.”—American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright Edna Ferber (1885-1968), “A Bush League Hero,” in Buttered Side Down: Stories (1912)

If the name “Edna Ferber” is recognized nowadays, it’s less because of her once-wildly-successful novels and plays than how often Hollywood saw them as hot properties worthy of adapting to the screen—works like Giant, Cimarron, Saratoga Trunk, Dinner at Eight, Show Boat, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning So Big. Many of these are regional works, ranging from Texas to Alaska.

That’s why I was astonished to find that Ferber had written a much less sprawling work—a short story—and even, God help me, a short story about baseball. I’d have understood it about her contemporary, Ring Lardner, who started out as a sportswriter, but Ferber is a different matter.

I still don’t know enough about Ferber to tell you whether she was a fan, but judging from this excerpt from her work, she sure noticed things (like that “Micawber-shaped collar”).

I suspect that the allure of an Adonis, even in a dirty business uniform, remains compelling to many a female fan more than a century after Ferber wrote these words. That would account for the matinee-idol status accorded, at least for a while, for Yankee shortstops Bucky Dent and Derek Jeter.

It’s even more the case for a movie baseball player: Robert Redford’s Roy Hobbs in The Natural (in the image accompanying this post)..

I couldn’t find a shot of Hobbs’ uniform beginning to seep with blood from a terrible past wound reopened, but I’m presenting the next best thing for my female readers: his face dirty, sweating and tense, as he awaits a pitch that can redeem a season and even his own life.

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