Ryder, Frederick Bushnell 1871-1936
RYDER, Frederick Bushnell 1871-1936
PERSONAL: Born November 16, 1871, in Oberlin, OH; died of a heart attack June 5, 1936. Education: Williams College, graduated, 1892.
CAREER: Sportswriter. Cofounder of a preparatory school for boys, Columbus, OH, 1890s; worked briefly on a cattle boat; Ohio State University, Columbus, football coach; Commercial-Tribune, Cincinnati, OH, columnist, 1904; Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, sportswriter and editor, 1904-36. Founder of the Baseball Writers Association of America, 1908. Military service: U.S. Army, served during Spanish-American War.
AS JACK RYDER
(Editor) Edward Michael Ashenback, Humor among the Minors: True Tales from the Baseball Bush, Donohue (Chicago, IL), 1911.
Also author of column "Ginger Jar" for Cincinnati Commercial-Tribune; contributor to Spalding's Official Baseball Guide, various annuals.
SIDELIGHTS: Frederick Bushnell Ryder, who was known as Jack Ryder, spent his entire sportswriting career in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he covered the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. Lee Allen wrote in The Cincinnati Reds: An Informal History that "breakfast in Cincinnati was plump sausage and barnyard-fresh eggs, strong, fragrant coffee, and Jack Ryder's column," and said that Ryder "always spiced up his columns with gentle sarcasm, sly digs, and subtle quips about life in general."
Ryder was born in Ohio but raised in New England. His father, a Congregational minister, was also a professor of theology at Andover Academy in Massachusetts. Ryder graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire and Williams College, where he played guard on the football team. He and his brother Robert founded and managed a preparatory school for boys in Columbus, Ohio for several years until 1898, when Ryder worked on a cattle boat for his passage so that he could travel in Europe. He returned to the United States and joined the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War but was never sent further than Florida and Alabama.
The brothers both pursued journalism careers. Robert began as an editorial writer for the Ohio State Journal, and Ryder, after one year of coaching football at Ohio State University, joined the staff of the Commercial-Tribune in Cincinnati, where in 1904 he began writing his column "Ginger Jar." In December of the same year, he moved to the Cincinnati Enquirer, where he succeeded Ren Mulford as baseball reporter and editor. The Reds were playing in League Park, also known as the Palace of the Fans, and in 1909 Redlands Field opened. (It was renamed Crosley Field in 1934.) The team was unspectacular during the first part of the century, but Ryder always found positive things to say in his column and often injected humor into his writing, called "florid" and "typical of the era" by James B. Dworkin in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Dworkin wrote that Ryder's writing "was filled with the droll words and catchphrases of early baseball: foozle for an error, bingles for hits. Ryder strove for color and irony as well as a clever introduction."
Two of Ryder's favorite targets were New York Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson, who joined the Reds in 1916 as a player-manager, and Giants manager John J. McGraw. On August 7, 1908, McGraw refused to postpone a game with the Reds after rain had soaked the field, thinking that his team would easily win. McGraw miscalculated, and the Giants' loss cost them first place in the National League standings. In typical Ryder style, he wrote in the next day's column that "Mr. John J. McGraw thought he was cutting into a fine, ripe cantaloupe this afternoon and was much surprised to find a lemon of the sourest variety."
Ryder was sometimes able to include both Mathewson and McGraw in the same column. After Mathewson joined the Reds, he and Giants manager McGraw were taken to court for playing a Sunday game in violation of the Sabbath laws. The case was dismissed, and the judge complimented the managers for entertaining the soldiers who sat in the stands. Ryder wrote that "as a comment on the hypocrisy of human nature, however, it was necessary for him to announce that he let them off because the money taken in at the gate was paid by the fans to hear the alleged sacred concert which preceded the game, and not to see the contest. It's a queer world!" Allen said Ryder wrote about the Reds "as if he were describing the gallant battle of the titans, but still gave the impression that his tongue was in his cheek." Although Ryder later tempered his style, he once wrote that "a man who can crack out such a hit, with the bases full, is entitled to all the candy, cigars, booze, household goods, and other paraphernalia that comes to the four-base hitter on the home lot." Allen, who for a time was an unpaid assistant to Ryder, went on to become a writer, researcher, and baseball historian.
As one of the organizers of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), Ryder served on the rules committee and helped write the guidelines that defined the group's goals of fairness, uniform scoring, simplified rules, better facilities for reporters, and the regulation of box scores. The first meeting of the BBWAA was held in New York City, and Ryder was elected spokesperson of a committee to approach the two major leagues with proposals.
In selecting the National League's Most Valuable Player of the 1924 season, a controversy erupted when Ryder failed to include in the list of nominees top hitter Rogers Hornsby of St. Louis, who had hit .424 that year. Instead, the award went to Brooklyn pitcher Dazzy Vance. The next year Ryder was replaced by Tom Swope from the rival Cincinnati Post. Hornsby biographer Charles C. Alexander noted that in 1962, the BBWAA "awarded Hornsby 'a silver bat' . . . retroactively recognizing him as the National League's Most Valuable Player for 1924 and finally undoing Jack Ryder's dirty work."
Ryder was a strong proponent of playing by the rules and living by the decisions of umpires. In 1924 when St. Louis Cardinals manager Branch Rickey postponed three games in a row because of threatening weather which never came to pass, Ryder, who knew that Hornsby had suffered an injury, said the games had been called off "due to cold feet. Umpires and not club owners should decide such matters." He pulled no punches in writing his opinions. When Pittsburgh's Fred Clarke contested three games in 1911, Ryder called him "a fancy protester." He was blunt in writing that Rube Benton, who was known to come to the mound after bouts of drinking, "will pitch for the Reds if he puts in an appearance by game time." In 1913 Ryder interviewed the new Reds player-manager Joe Tinker, who blasted owner August Herrmann for the team's poor performance. Herrmann responded that Tinker's comments were a violation of baseball etiquette. Ryder allowed Tinker to use his column for his reply, in which he stated that there was no law that required that only positive statements be made about the management of the club.
The 1934 season found the Cardinals, led by pitcher Dizzy Dean and his brother Paul, winning forty games, just five short of the Pennant. At the beginning of the season, Ryder downplayed the brothers' abilities and the chances of the team leading the League, but by its close, he was enthusiastic in his praise of the Deans. Ryder's Reds came in last, and he made excuses for their abysmal finish. When they won, wrote Dworkin, "Ryder's enthusiasm poured over into his prose: 'Red stood out all over the place during the super-heated matinee yesterday on the sun-baked turf of Crosley Field. The countenances of the athletes glistened under the violent rays of Old Sol, an umpire had to be removed in a parboiled condition, and our boys climaxed an afternoon of brilliant hue by soaking the Cardinals.'"
Thoroughout his career Ryder persisted in using archaic terms, like "tallies" instead of runs, "hard blows" instead of hits, and "frames" or "rounds" rather than innings. His lingo was criticized in particular by Stanley Woodward of the New York Herald Tribune, although Woodward eventually dropped it. "Ryder remained unfazed," said Dworkin. "He may have been a dinosaur, but he was still popular and respected by his readers and by most of his peers. If Damon Runyon, Westbrook Pegler, Paul Gallico, and other 'Golden Age' writers were stretching the genre, while still others like John Lardner and Frank Graham were giving it new respectability, Ryder seemed willing to 'stand the gaff,' as he might have put it."
Ryder died of a heart attack in 1936. His paper wrote in tribute that he "worked as hard at each game as did the players, rejoicing when the Reds won and sorrowing when they lost....Asa news getter, he had no peer. His convictions were strong, and he did not hesitate to state them by mouth or in print."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Alexander, Charles C., Rogers Hornsby: A Biography, H. Holt (New York, NY), 1995.
Allen, Lee, The Cincinnati Reds: An Informal History, Putnam (New York, NY), 1948, pp. 241-243.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 241: American Sportswriters and Writers on Sport, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001, pp. 259-265.
Eskenazi, Gerald, The Lip: A Biography of Leo Durocher, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993, pp. 54-59, 65.
Fleming, G. H., The Unforgettable Season, Holt, Rinehart and Winston (New York, NY), 1981, pp. 68, 69, 71, 95, 118, 158, 177-178, 180, 257, 290, 296.
Fleming, G. H., The Dizziest Season: The Gashouse Gang Chases the Pennant, Morrow (New York, NY), 1984, pp. 8, 76, 102, 134-135, 196, 260-261.
James, Bill, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Villard (New York, NY), 1985, pp. 73-74.
James, Bill, Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?: Baseball, Cooperstown, and the Politics of Glory, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1995, p. 143.
Spink, Alfred H., The National Game, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 2000, pp. 350-351.
White, Edward G., Creating the National Pastime: Baseball Transforms Itself, 1903-1953, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1996, p. 161.*