“John grew up in the shadow of a father who was a great writer,” said A. J. Liebling. “This is a handicap shared by only an infinitesimal portion of any given generation, but it did not intimidate him.”
When John Lardner was ten-years old, he wrote a short verse that appeared in a F.P.A column:
Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey,
Both sultans of the swat.
One hits where other people are,
The other where they’re not.
John Lardner was born in Chicago but raised mostly on the east coast. He went to the Phillips Academy in Andover (his three brothers would follow), spent a year at Harvard and another at the Sorbonne, before he returned to New York and got a job at the New York Herald Tribune in 1931. He was nineteen-years-old. His father, Ring, who was already ill with the tuberculosis and heart diesee that would kill him a few years later, sent a note to Stanley Walker, a Texan who’d made the Tribune into the best writer’s paper in New York.
“You will find him a little reticent at times, but personally I never felt this was a handicap.” Walker later said that John “came close to being the perfect all-around journalist.”
John worked at the Tribune until 1933, the year his father died. The two men were close in Ring’s final years and the old man was proud of his son’s early achievements. “We are all swollen up like my ankles,” Ring wrote in a letter to his nephew, Richard Tobin. John was offered a syndicated sports column when he was twenty-one for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Carried locally by the N.Y. Post, Lardner wrote about sports, and then the war, for NANA until 1948.