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In the old days, before the gentry of the ring had learned the wisdom of investing their winnings in solids instead of liquids, this used to be a favorite conundrum: When is a prize-fighter not a prize-fighter?

Chorus: When he is tending bar.

I rise to ask you Brothah Fan, when is a ball player not a ball player? Above the storm of facetious replies I shout the answer:

When he's a shoe clerk.

Edna Ferber was famously a member of the Algonquin Round Table, the snippy cabal of New York writers that featured the corruscating wit of Dorothy Parker. They were also sports enthusiasts with a particular love of the great American pastime, baseball. To the best of my knowledge, this is Ferber’s only baseball story (nice radio play version here) and was published before the group started meeting. At any rate, it is so darkly humorous it could have been by Parker herself.

A young woman is home from school and lazing about the house, so her father makes her go to a minor league baseball game with him. She seems uninterested in the proceedings but notices the handsome star pitcher. Soon she’s going to the game every afternoon and spending an inordinate amount of time with the ballplayer, to the consternation of her parents. After all, what sort of reputation will a young girl of good family acquire hanging around with a bush leager?

But then, in a delicious plot twist–SPOILER ALERT-it is revealed that she has fallen in love with the game, not the man:
For the rest of the season Ivy met her knight of the sphere around the corner. Theirs was a walking courtship. They used to roam up as far as the State road, and down as far as the river, and Rudie would fain have talked of love, but Ivy talked of baseball.

"Darling," Rudie would murmur, pressing Ivy's arm closer, "when did you first begin to care?"

"Why I liked the very first game I saw when Dad----"

"I mean, when did you first begin to care for me?"

"Oh! When you put three men out in that game with Marshalltown when the teams were tied in the eighth inning. Remember? Say, Rudie dear, what was the matter with your arm to-day? You let three men walk, and Albia's weakest hitter got a home run out of you."

"Oh, forget baseball for a minute, Ivy! Let's talk about something else. Let's talk about--us."

"Us? Well, you're baseball, aren't you?" retorted Ivy. "And if you are, I am. Did you notice the way that Ottumwa man pitched yesterday? He didn't do any acting for the grandstand. He didn't reach up above his head, and wrap his right shoulder with his left toe, and swing his arm three times and then throw seven inches outside the plate. He just took the ball in his hand, looked at it curiously for a moment, and fired it--zing!--like that, over the plate. I'd get that ball if I were you."

"Isn't this a grand night?" murmured Rudie.

"But they didn't have a hitter in the bunch," went on Ivy. "And not a man in the team could run. That's why they're tail-enders. Just the same, that man on the mound was a wizard, and if he had one decent player to give him some support----"
That is hilarious. And things only get worse for Rudie later on, as Ms Ferber had telegraphed at the beginning of the story (see quote above).

Suffice it to say, never meet your heroes.


Grade: (A+)


Edna Ferber Links:

    -FILMOGRAPHY: Edna Ferber (IMDB)
    -STAGEOGRAPHY: Edna Ferber (IBDB)
    -ENTRY: Edna Ferber (American Literature)
    -ENTRY: Edna Ferber American author (Encyclopedia Britannica)
    -ENTRY: Edna Ferber (
    -ENTRY: Edna Ferber (Spatacus Educational)
    -ENTRY: Edna Ferber (Chicago Literary Hall of Fame)
    -ENTRY: Edna Ferber (Humanities Texas)
    -OBIT: Edna Ferber, Novelist, 82, Dies; Edna Ferber, Novelist Who Chronicled America, Is Dead at 82 (NY Times, 4/17/68)
    -SITE: Algonquin Round Table
    -RADIO PLAY: A Bush League Hero (Edna Ferber, 12 February 2024,
    -ETEXT: A Bush League Hero by Edna Ferber (American Literature)
    -ETEXT: Buttered Side Down (Project Gutenberg)
    -VIDEO STUDY GUIDE: A Bush League Hero by Edna Ferber | Book Summary, Plot, Themes (Literary Pleasures)
    -STUDY GUIDE: A Bush League Hero (Lesson Planet)
    -ESSAY: Edna Ferber Revisited: The first-generation Jewish American novelist exposed entrenched prejudices of her day. A reissue of The Girls introduces her wit to new readers. (Kathleen Rooney, January 18, 2023, JStor Daily)
    -ESSAY: Edna Ferber, Jewish American Feminist (Ann R. Shapiro, Winter 2002, Shofar)
    -ESSAY: GIANT and that Texas State of Mind: The "national movie of Texas" is back. Forty years later, what does it tell us about who we are-and who we used to be? (Kirby F. Warnock, September 1, 1996, D Magazine)
    -AUDIO ARCHIVES: Edna Ferber (Librivox)
    -ARCHIVES: Edna Ferber (Internet Archives)
    -REVIEW: of One Basket, by Edna Ferber (Lillian Blumberg McCall, Commentary)
    -REVIEW: of EDNA FERBER'S AMERICA by Eliza McGraw ( Lori Harrison-Kahan, Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature)

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