At the height of his fame in the 1920s, humorist and short-story writer Ring Lardner was listed among the 10 best-known people in America. He wrote a nationally syndicated newspaper column, short stories for mass-circulation magazines, skits and songs for the Ziegfeld Follies, and the text of a daily comic strip. To the bulk of his readers, Lardner was the regular guy who had made it, the man who golfed with the president but was still friends with the train conductors. The only writer in the country who could get away with the salutation, “Well, friends,” he addressed the average American, the man he repeatedly called “Joe,” and he did this in a natural, unassuming style—a veritable idiom nicknamed “Lardner Ringlish”—removed from the formal conventions of correct prose.
…But earlier in his career, Lardner was best known as a baseball writer, and much of his enduring reputation is tied to the national pastime. He covered baseball in what’s been called the Silver Age of the game—from 1900 to 1919—an era that ended with the infamous Black Sox scandal, ushering in, as irony would have it, the Golden Age of baseball. Lardner’s infatuation and eventual disillusionment with baseball offer a number of lessons about how we should think about the scandals in today’s game, and his writing illuminates our own love-hate relationship with baseball.