You Know Me Al
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (October 2011)|
You Know Me Al is a book by Ring Lardner, and subsequently, a nationally-syndicated comic strip which Lardner scripted, drawn by Will B. Johnstone and Dick Dorgan. The book consists of stories were written as letters from a professional baseball player, Jack Keefe, to his friend Al Blanchard in their hometown of Bedford, Indiana.
Lardner was a sportswriter who moved to Chicago in 1907, where he covered the Cubs and White Sox for several city newspapers, most notably the Chicago Tribune. He took his experiences as a baseball writer and worked them into his first published piece of fiction, "A Busher's Letters Home", for the Saturday Evening Post in 1914. According to the introduction to the book Ring Around the Bases: the Complete Baseball Stories of Ring Lardner, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, the Post published nine of Lardner's baseball stories in 1914, six of which comprised You Know Me Al, published by Scribners in 1916. 
According to Bruccoli, "Despite the magazine exposure of Lardner's magazine stories – the Saturday Evening Post had a weekly circulation of 2,000,000 copies when he wrote for it – he did not reach a large book readership. You Know Me Al required just one printing in 1916 and was not reprinted until 1925 as part of the Scribners program of launching Lardner as a serious writer." (ibid)
Lardner published a total of 25 "busher" stories, featuring Keefe's fictional letters to Al, between 1914 and 1919 in the Post. According to Bruccoli, "the Post and its readers wanted all the Busher stories that Lardner could deliver. More than he wanted to write, for he tired of the character and the requirements of the epistolary form ... After he stopped writing about Keefe, Lardner reluctantly provided continuity for a syndicated You Know Me Al comic strip from 1922 to 1925," (ibid) distributed by the Bell Syndicate, for which Lardner was also working as a writer. 
Lardner scripted continuity for over 700 of the syndicated You Know Me Al strips, but, as with his "Busher" stories, he soon grew tired of it, and quit writing continuity in January 1925. According to Richard Layman's introduction to the Harvest collection of strips, Lardner continued to receive credit on the strip until September 1925, "but it is clear he worked ahead very little and after the first of February the ideas are someone else's." (ibid)
- Lardner, Ring, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Ring Around The Bases: The Complete Baseball Stories of Ring Lardner, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1992. ISBN 0-684-19374-4.
- Lardner, Ring. Ring Lardner's You Know Me Al: The Comic Strip Adventures of Jack Keefe. New York: Harvest, 1979. ISBN 0-15-676696-5.
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