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Books: Bestseller Revisited, Apr. 11, 1955

3 minute read

THE TUMULT AND THE SHOUTING (368 pp.)—Grantland Rice—Barnes ($5).

To millions of U.S. fans, Grantland Rice belonged as much to the golden age of sport as the heroes he wrote about—Tilden and Ruth and Dempsey, Rockne and Jones and Cobb. His phrases were memorable. Of Notre Dame’s 1924 victory over Army, he wrote: “Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”

The Tumult and the Shouting, Granny Rice’s autobiography, which appeared last fall, shortly after his death at 73, has been near the top of the bestseller list for 20 weeks. An odd kind of personal history, it is all about others, the heroes he worshiped. It is a rambling book, tumbled about with scraps of Granny’s syndicated verse—it used to be said that he was the only man in the U.S. who could wire a poem collect. There are also recollections of college days at Vanderbilt. But mostly, the book is packed with nostalgic stories that call back the champions of the golden ’20s.

Out of Great Neck. As a 24-year-old Atlanta sports editor, Rice was bombarded with wires and postcards from all over Georgia and Alabama about a deer-footed young player on the Augusta baseball club. In 1904 he broke down and printed the first story about Ty Cobb. Long after his spectacular career was over, Cobb confessed to Rice that he wrote and sent all the messages himself. Once, when President Harding invited him to Washington to play golf, Rice brought along his pal Ring Lardner. The President, a little puzzled, asked why Long Islander Lardner was there. “I want to be appointed Ambassador to Greece,” said Ring. “Why?” asked Harding. “My wife doesn’t like Great Neck,” Lardner said.

When Walter Camp died in 1925, Rice was asked to pick Collier’s All-America football teams. After 50 years of picking them Rice in his autobiography named not only his alltime best college footballers but the best baseball pitchers. Though Dizzy Dean is not on the list (“He didn’t pitch long enough”), he obviously rated a favored spot in Rice’s heart. After reeling off a flock of other peoples’ stories about Dean, Granny tells of the time he sat on the train with Diz and his brother Paul the season the two Ozark hog callers won 49 games for the St. Louis Cardinals. Paul was lustily swigging a bottle of pop when the train roared into a long tunnel. “Diz,” exclaimed Paul. “You tried any of this stuff?” “Just fixin’ to,” replied Diz. “Don’t!” cautioned Paul. “I did, and I’ve gone plumb blind.”

Across the Styx. Toward the last, Rice stopped following the champions down the fairways and into the dugouts. But he loved to goout and bet on the ponies, and though the rest of the rhymesters and paragraphers had largely disappeared from the newspapers, he kept up his occasional verse. After many of his friends had died, he wrote a characteristic verse to Charon, the boatman of the Styx:

The Flame of the Inn is dim tonight— Too many vacant chairs— The sun has lost too much of its light—Too many songs have taken flight—Too many ghosts on the stairs— Charon—here’s to you—as man against man— I wish I could pick ’em the way you can.

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