Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

Baseball Joe by Lester Chadwick

Baseball Joe is the fictional subject of a series of 14 baseball books written between 1912 and 1928 by Lester Chadwick, a pseudonym for author Howard R. Garis which pays tribute to baseball writing pioneer Henry Chadwick.  Garis wrote the Baseball Joe series for the famous Stratemeyer writing syndicate responsible for other series such as Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins and The Hardy Boys.

In the first series to feature substantial baseball action, “Baseball” Joe Matson moves through the baseball ranks to achieve professional stardom.  Young Joe begins his career by earning a spot on the Riverside town team, and the series goes on to chronicle Joe’s phenomenal success as a pitcher in prep school, at Yale University, in the minor leagues, in the big leagues with the Cardinals and the Giants, in the World Series, and on a world tour.  In the 1920s, after the home run heroics of Babe Ruth, the series’ later books tranform Joe into a slugger and a team owner.[4]

Sports fans, particularly boys, anxiously awaited the next Joe installment similar to the anticipation surrounding the next release of the Harry PotterTwilight, or Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series of today.

Baseball Joe was one of a group of fictional sports heroes, capable of not only winning games but also solving crimes and extolling virtue simultaneously.  Other player-heroes in this pulp sports genre included Burt Standish’s All-American Boy Frank Merriwell and the nine protagonists of Christy Mathewson’s books–Pitcher Pollock, Catcher Craig, Second Base Sloan, etc.

Gregory S. Sojka writes, in his essay on American cultural, about Joe’s moral and ethical underpinnings.[3]

“…sports stories for boys, and Lester Chadwick’s Baseball Joe in particular, illustrate most graphically the “rags to riches” theme with supporting concepts of Protestant work ethic, dream of affluence, importance of initiative, and success as an index of true character.

Although these sports stories written for boys have been dismissed frequently as “hack work” for their stilted prose style, their unrelentingly hokum plots, and their lofty morality, they reflect as Benjamin Lowe and Mark Payne observe, “a prevailing societal ethos of the times” and set the moral pattern for the youth to emulate” with moral absolutism.

Beyond being a baseball star, Joe was an action hero.  Below is an excerpt from Baseball Joe Around the World when Joe first learns, while watching a play, that the theater  is on fire, endangering the entire audience, including his mother.

For one awful instant the crowd sat as though paralyzed.  But in that instant Joe acted. 
With one powerful leap he reached the frenzied shouter, his fist shot out, and the man went down as though hit with an axe. 
Up the aisle Joe went like a flash, cleared the orchestra rail at a bound, and with one more jump was on the stage.
The audience had risen now and was crowding toward the aisles.  Women screamed, some fainted, and all the conditions were ripe for a panic.
Above the hubbub, Joe’s voice rang out like a trumpet.
“Keep your seats!” he shouted “There’s no danger.  I tell you to keep your seats.”

The Baseball Joe Book Series

  • 1912 On The School Nine
  • 1912 Of The Silver Stars
  • 1913 At Yale
  • 1914 In The Central league
  • 1915 In The Big league
  • 1916 On The Giants
  • 1917 In The World Series
  • 1918 Around The World
  • 1922 Home Run King
  • 1923 Saving The League
  • 1924 Captain of the Team
  • 1925 Champion of the League
  • 1926 Club Owner
  • 1928 Pitching Wizard 

Author Howard R. Garis

Howard Roger Garis, (born 4/25/1873, Binghamton, New York:  died 11/6/1962, Amherst, Massachusetts) was an American author, best known for a series of books, published under his own name, that featured the character of Uncle Wiggily Longears, an engaging elderly rabbit. Garis and his wife were possibly the most prolific children’s authors of the early 20th century.

Garis also wrote many books for the Stratemeyer Syndicate under various pseudonyms. As Victor Appleton, he wrote about the enterprising Tom Swift; as Laura Lee Hope, he is generally credited with writing volumes 4–28 and 41 of the Bobbsey Twins; as Clarence Young, the Motor Boys series; as Lester Chadwick, the Great Marvel series and books featuring Baseball Joe; and as Marion Davidson, a number of books including several featuring the Camp Fire Girls.What is the Stegmeyer Syndicate [1]

The Stratemeyer Syndicate

The Syndicate was founded by Edward Stratemeyer and is best known for producing the Bobbsey Twins, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Rover Boys, and Tom Swift series. The Syndicate produced these and many other series in assembly-line fashion: one person wrote the outline for a story or series of stories, another wrote the story itself, and often still another edited the work. Most Syndicate books were published under pseudonyms. The authors named in this list are those credited as having written the series; in most cases, the names are fictitious. [5]

Writing Guidelines

All Stratemeyer Syndicate books were written under certain guidelines, based on practices Stratemeyer began with his first series, the Rover Boys.

  • All books would be part of a series.
  • To establish more quickly if a series was likely to be successful, the first several volumes would be published at once. These first volumes are often referred to as “breeders.”
  • The books would be written under a pseudonym. This would provide for seeming continuity of authorship, even when an author died, and would disguise the fact that series were written by multiple ghostwriters and plot-outliners.
  • The books would look as much like contemporary adult books as possible, with similar bindings and type-faces
  • The books would be of a predictable length.
  • Chapters and pages should end mid-situation, to increase the reader’s desire to keep reading.
  • Each book would begin with a quick recap of all previous books in that series, in order to promote those books.
  • Books might also end with a preview of the next volume in the series: “Nancy … could not help but wonder when she might encounter as strange a mystery as the recent one. Such a case was to confront her soon, The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes.
  • The books would be priced at 50 cents, rather than the more common 75 cents, $1.00, or $1.25.
  • Characters should not age or marry. Protagonists of early series such as the Rover Boys, Tom Swift, and Ruth Fielding did grow up and marry, but sales dropped afterwards, prompting the Syndicate to make a rule that characters never marry

Criticism of Syndicate Books

For decades, libraries refused to carry any Syndicate books, notoriously considering them to be unworthy trash. Series books were considered to “cause ‘mental laziness,’ induce a ‘fatal sluggishness,’ and ‘intellectual torpor.'”  Series books were considered to ruin a child’s chances for gaining an appreciation of good literature (subsequent studies have proven this not to be the case), and to undermine respect for authority: “’much of the contempt for social conventions … is due to the reading of this poisonous sort of fiction.’”

Franklin K. Mathiews, chief librarian for the Boy Scouts of America, wrote that series books were a method, according to the title of one of his articles, for “Blowing Out the Boys’ Brains,” and psychologist G. Stanley Hall articulated one of the most common concerns by asserting that series books would ruin girls in particular by giving them “’false views of [life]… which will cloud her life with discontent in the future.’” None of this hurt sales, however; Stratemeyer was unperturbed, even when his books were banned from the Newark Public Library as early as 1901, writing to a publisher: “’Personally it does not matter much to me. . . . Taking them out of the Library has more than tripled the sales in Newark. 

Sports Illustrated 1962 Article on the history of boys’ pulp sports books


One Response to “Baseball Joe by Lester Chadwick”
  1. joe kahut says:

    school of nine or silver stars first

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