A Tip to Teddy
This epistle to President Theodore Roosevelt appeared in the very first issue of the great Baseball Magazine, in May of 1908. Teddy had just entered upon his final year in the White House, having forsworn another term despite his entitlement to take another run at the Presidency: he had served only one full term and part of another, taking the nation’s helm after the death of President McKinley in 1901. What was our leader, the hero of San Juan Hill, the trust buster and safari hunter, to do next? Grantland Rice had an idea. If President Obama is uncertain about his next steps, this might pique his interest.
Teddy, when your work is through in the presidential chair,
When another takes the shift where you’ve learned to do and dare,
You will need another job—one that’s a monstrosity,
That will soak up, day by day, all your strenuosity.
It must be a husky job—full of smoke and fire to boot,
And in looking ’round I’ve found only one I know will suit.
Only one where your Big Stick will be needed day by day;
Only one to fit in, Ted, with your rough-and-tumble way;
Only one where in the end you will someday long for rest,
Where your energy will wane and your spirit be depressed.
You will find it diff’rent from any nature-faking fuss;
You will find it harder than mauling up the octopus;
It will a rougher job than a charge up San Juan Hill,
Or a battle with the trusts—it will take a stronger will.
Fighting predatory wealth or the kings of high finance,
Culling railroad moguls down will not be a circumstance.
All in all ’twill suit you fine, never having been afraid
Of aught else upon this earth—you should be an umpire, Ted!
That’s the only job for you—take your tip now, Theodore;
Think of how your pulse will leap when you hear the angry roar
Of the bleacher gods enraged; you will find the action there
Which you’ve hunted for in vain in the presidential chair.
Chasing mountain lions and such, catching grizzlies will seem tame
Lined up with the jolt you’ll get in the thick of some close game.
Choking angry wolves to death as a sport will stack up raw
When you see Kid Elberfeld swinging for your jaw.
When you hear Hugh Jennings roar, “Call them strikes—you lump of cheese!”
Or McGraw comes rushing in, kicking at your shins and knees;
When the bleachers rise and shout, “Robber—Liar—Thief and Dub!”
You’ll be sorry for the gents in your Ananias Club.
You’ll find it’s a diff’rent thing making peace with old Japan
Than when you have called a strike on O’Connor or McGann.
Holding California down isn’t quite the same, I’ll state,
As is calling Devlin out on a close-out at the plate.
Though I’ve hunted far and near, there is nothing else to do
Where you’ll get what’s coming, Ted—all that’s coming unto you—
You should be an umpire, Ted, and I’ll bet two weeks would be
Quite enough to curb your rash, headlong stren-u-os-i-tee.
- Norman Arthur Elberfeld, Yankees player-manager.
- Hugh Ambrose Jennings, Tigers player-manager.
- John McGraw, Giants manager
- John Joseph O’Connor, Browns’ player-manager, known as “Rowdy Jack.”
- Dennis L. “Dan” McGann, Boston Nationals player.
- Arthur McArthur Devlin, New York Giants player.
- “The Strenuous Life,” speech before the Hamilton Club, Chicago, April 10, 1899; full text at http://www.bartleby.com/58/1.html