Ring Lardner, Sr.

Ringgold Wilmer Lardner was born in Niles, Michigan on March 6, 1885. He was one of six children. The older group includes William, Henry, Jr. and Lena. The younger group, born within a period of three and a half years, consisted of Reginald (Rex), Anna (Anne) and Ringgold (Ring). His parents were Henry and Lena Lardner. After courting Ellis Abbott for four years - mostly through correspondence - they married in 1911.


Ellis when she was courting Ring and attending Smith College.

His first journalistic job he, in a sense, took from his brother Rex. After a brief attempt at higher education and years of bouncing from one job to the next he was hired as a baseball reporter and general handy man on the South Bend Times. There are several stories as to the actual account of how he came into his first job, but Jonathan Yardley does a nice job piecing it together.

According to Yardley, his brother Rex was writing for the South Bend Tribune and the Times had noticed his writing. They were interested. "Sometime in the late fall of 1905 Stoll made a trip to Niles especially to see Rex, in the hope of hiring him away as a full-time staffer" (Yardley, p. 62). Stoll was the editor and had found Ring to ask where his brother was. Ring told him Rex was contracted to someone, which was the truth, and then proceeded to ask about the job. When asked if Ring had ever done any newspaper work, he lied and said that he helped his brother often. As a result, Ring was offered the job of society reporter, court-house man, dramatic critic and sporting editor.

He moved to Chicago in 1907 and began writing for the Inter-Ocean, which was the worst of the four newspapers in Chicago. He quickly moved to writing for the Chicago Examiner where he was assigned to travel on the spring tour with the Chicago White Sox. By 1908 he was baseball reporter for the Chicago Tribune (Topping, online).


Ring at the Chicago Tribune.

In 1910 he left the Tribune to try his hand at being a managing editor for the St. Louis Sporting News. Here, he was encouraged by Taylor Spink to try his hand at writing a column about major league baseball. This turned into a humorous column called "Pullman Pastimes." These articles turned into the beginnings of his most famous work, You Know Me, Al (Sporting News, online). After staying there only three months, he went to Boston to write for American.

By 1913 he began writing "In the Wake of the News" at the Chicago Tribune which made him an instant household name. Not only were his "Wake" columns becoming very popular, but also his short stories were well received in magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire. Lardner wrote more than 4,500 columns and articles, and at the height of his popularity his work was syndicated in more than 115 newspapers.

What made him so popular was his use a slang and the vernacular of the baseball players. This is why characters like Jack Keefe and Alibi Ike were so popular with the people - they spoke like the real baseball players of the time (Cosmic, online).

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 (National, online). After the scandal, Ring always wrote about sports as if there were some kink to the outcome.

Through his entire life, Ring tried to be a great songwriter and playwright. Unfortunately, few producers thought his works were worth noting. The only play of his that gained any real popularity was June Moon, which is still performed today. Many of his songs were flops as well, but you can listen to his song "Gee, It's a Wonderful Game" still. The song was written about the same time as "Take me out to the Ball Game," but obviously didn't become as popular.

Ring died in 1933 at the age of 48. He had been struggling with alcoholism and tuberculosis for five years before he suffered from a heart attack. He went into a coma and never came out of it.