As a reminder of how much times and sportswriting have changed, let’s telescope back – courtesy of Bill Madden’s recent book 1954 – to this date 60 years ago. On September 30, 1954, New York Daily News readers were treated to the following World Series Game One summary lede by famed sportswriter Dick Young:
The story of the Giants 5-2 victory over Cleveland in yesterday’s World Series opener should be written vertically from top to bottom in Chinese hieroglyphics. It was won on a 10th inning homer that was not only sudden death but pure murder… right out of a Charlie Chan yarn.
Ming Toy Rhodes, sometimes called Dusty by his Occidental friends, was the honorable person who, as pinch hitter, delivered a miserable bundle of wet wash to the first row in right field in Polo Grounds some 258 1/2 feet down the block from the laundry.
Young was making reference here to the derogatory notion of a “Chinese homer,” used at the time to describe a weak home run, e.g. “a fly ball that is barely over a barrier or into stands that are unusually close to home plate.”
As Madden recounts, New York City’s Chinese community was outraged by the racist undertones of Young’s article. So much so that Shavey Lee, known then as the “unofficial mayor of Chinatown,” presented a petition to New York Giants secretary Eddie Brannick. “What makes a cheesy home run a ‘Chinese’ home run?” he complained.
Young wasn’t the only journalist using derogatory language to describe the key hit of Game One, which followed Willie Mays‘ famous over-the-shoulder eight inning catch. Here’s how another (unattributed) account of the James Lamar “Dusty” Rhodes homer was framed:
NEW YORK – Broadway and Main Street in Deatsville, Alabama, had something in common again Thursday night. They were playing chopsticks for James Lamar (Dusty) Rhodes. But there was no joy again along the banks of Lake Erie. The culprit Ming Toy Dusty has done it again…
Young passed away in 1985; Rhodes, in 2009.
[Jacket cover courtesy: Da Capo Press]
[H/T: Marty Chase]