Ring Lardner

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For his son, the blacklisted journalist and screenwriter, see Ring Lardner, Jr..
Ring Lardner
Ring Lardner LC-DIG-npcc-03879.jpg
Born Ringgold Wilmer Lardner
(1885-03-06)March 6, 1885
Niles, Michigan, USA
Died September 25, 1933(1933-09-25) (aged 48)
East Hampton, New York, USA
Occupation Writer

Ringgold Wilmer Lardner (March 6, 1885 – September 25, 1933) was an American sports columnist and short story writer best known for his satirical writings about sports, marriage, and theatre drama.

Personal life[edit]

Born in Niles, Michigan, Ring Lardner was the son of wealthy parents, Henry and Lena Phillips Lardner. He was the youngest of nine children. Lardner's name came from a cousin of the same name. The cousin had been named by Lardner's uncle, Rear Admiral James L. Lardner, who had decided to name his son after a friend, Rear Admiral Cadwalader Ringgold, who was from a distinguished military family. Lardner never liked his given name and abbreviated it, naming one of his sons Ring Jr.

Lardner was married to Ellis Abbott of Goshen, Indiana during 1911. They had four sons, John, James, Ring Jr., and David.

Writing career[edit]

Lardner started his writing career as a sports columnist, finding work with the newspaper South Bend Tribune as a teenager. Soon afterward, he accepted a job with the rival newspaper South Bend Times, the first of many professional switches. During 1907, he relocated to Chicago, where he gained a job with Inter-Ocean, but within a year, he switched to work for to the Chicago Examiner, then the Tribune.[1] Two years later, Lardner was in St. Louis, writing the humorous baseball column "Pullman Pastimes" for Taylor Spink and the Sporting News. Some of this work was the basis for his book You Know Me Al. Within three months, he was an employee of the Boston American.

During 1913, Lardner returned to the Chicago Tribune, which became the home newspaper for his syndicated column "In the Wake of the News" (started by Hugh Keough, who had died during 1912). It appeared in more than 100 newspapers, and is still published in the Tribune.

It was also during 1913 that Lardner provided lyrics for the song "That Old Quartet" by Nathaniel D. Mann.

During 1916, Lardner published his first successful book, You Know Me Al, an epistolary novel written in the form of letters by "Jack Keefe", a bush-league baseball player, to a friend back home. The letters made much use of the fictional author's idiosyncratic vernacular. It had initially been published as six separate but interrelated short stories in The Saturday Evening Post, causing some to classify the book as a collection of stories, others as a novel. Like most of Lardner's stories, You Know Me Al employs satire, in this case to show the stupidity and avarice of a certain type of athlete. The journalist Andrew Ferguson wrote that "Ring Lardner thought of himself as primarily a sports columnist whose stuff wasn't destined to last, and he held to that absurd belief even after his first masterpiece, You Know Me Al, was published in 1916 and earned the awed appreciation of Virginia Woolf, among other very serious, unfunny people." Ferguson termed the book one of the top five pieces of American humor writing.[2]

Sarah Bembrey has written about a singular event in Lardner's sportswriting experience: "In 1919 something happened that changed his way of reporting about sports and changed his love for baseball. This was 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. After the scandal, Ring always wrote about sports as if there were some kink to the outcome."[1] Lardner's last baseball writing was Lose with a Smile during 1933.

Lardner later published such stories as "Haircut", "Some Like Them Cold", "The Golden Honeymoon", "Alibi Ike", and "A Day with Conrad Green". He also continued to write follow-up stories to You Know Me Al, with the protagonist of that book, the headstrong but gullible Jack Keefe, experiencing various ups and downs in his major league career and in his personal life. Private Keefe's World War I training camp letters home to his friend Al were collected in the book Treat 'Em Rough: Letters From Jack the Kaiser Killer". The sequel, "The Real Dope" followed Keefe overseas to the trenches in France.

Lardner also had a lifelong fascination with the theatre, although his only success was June Moon, a comedy co-written with Broadway veteran George S. Kaufman. He also wrote a series of brief nonsense plays that ridiculed the conventions of the theatre using zany humor and outrageous, impossible stage directions, such as "The curtain is lowered for seven days to denote the lapse of a week."

Lardner was a good friend of F. Scott Fitzgerald and other authors of the Jazz Age. His books were published by Maxwell Perkins, who also served as Fitzgerald's editor. To create his first book of short stories Lardner had to get copies from the magazines he had sold them to—- he held his own short stories in low regard and did not save copies.

Lardner was in some respects the model for the tragic character Abe North of Fitzgerald's last completed novel, Tender Is the Night.[3]

Lardner influenced Ernest Hemingway, who sometimes wrote articles for his high school newspaper using the pseudonym Ring Lardner, Jr.[4] The two met during December, 1928, thanks to Max Perkins, but did not become friends.[5]

Lardner died on September 25, 1933, at the age of 48 in East Hampton, New York, of complications from tuberculosis.

Cultural references[edit]

J.D. Salinger referred to Lardner in two of his works, The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey. Wayne C.Booth mentioned Lardner's famous short story The Haircut extensively in his essay "Showing and Telling".

In his movie about the Black Sox scandal, Eight Men Out (1988), writer-director John Sayles portrayed Lardner as one of the clear-eyed observers who was not taken in by the conspiracy. In one scene, Lardner strolls through the White Sox train, singing a parody of the song "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles", changed to "I'm Forever Throwing Ballgames".[6]

Selected bibliography[edit]

Sons and great-nephew[edit]

John Lardner was a newspaperman, sports columnist, and magazine writer.

James Lardner, also a newspaperman, was killed in the Spanish Civil War fighting with the International Brigades.

Ring Lardner, Jr. was a screenwriter who was blacklisted after the Second World War as one of the Hollywood Ten, screenwriters who were incarcerated for contempt of Congress after refusing to answer questions posed by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He won two Academy Awards for his screenplays—one before his imprisonment and blacklisting (for Woman of the Year in 1942), and one after (for M*A*S*H in 1970).[7] His book, The Lardners, My Family Remembered (ISBN 0-06-012517-9), is a source of information on his father.

David Lardner worked for The New Yorker as a general reporter and war correspondent before he was killed by a landmine near Aachen, Germany in October 1944, less than one month after his arrival in Europe.

Ring Lardner was a great-uncle to 1993 Pulitzer Prize winner George Lardner, Jr., a journalist at The Washington Post since 1963.[8]


  1. ^ a b The Lardner Dynasty - Ring
  2. ^ [1], Andrew Ferguson, "Five Best: Some humor doesn't age well, but these American classics remain funny beyond compare, says writer Andrew Ferguson", review article in The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2006, page P8, accessed (on a free part of the newspaper's Web site) December 3, 2006[dead link]
  3. ^ Gelfant, Blanche H. (and Lawrence Graver) (2004) The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-century American Short Story, Columbia University Press (See Ring Lardner p.322)
  4. ^ Friends at www.tridget.com
  5. ^ "The Only Thing That Counts: The Ernest Hemingway - Maxwell Perkins Correspondence," Matthew J. Bruccoli, Scribner, 1996.
  6. ^ Eight Men Out Movie Review, DVD Release - Filmcritic.com
  7. ^ "Ring Lardner Jr., blacklisted Oscar winner, dies at age 85" Katherine Roth, Chicago Sun-Times 02-11-2000 The Literature Network http://www.online-literature.com/article/ring-lardner/19084/
  8. ^ "General Information: History of The Post: "For Feature Writing, by George Lardner Jr. for his unflinching examination of his daughter's murder by a violent man who had slipped through the criminal justice system" http://www.washpost.com/gen_info/history/prizes.shtml

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