Henry Grantland Rice was born November 1, 1880 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
He went on to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he played football for three years before graduating in 1901.
After working in Atlanta and Cleveland as a reporter, he was hired as a sportswriter for the Nashville Tennessean and became very successful.
He married Katherine Hollis in 1906 and had one daughter that would grow up to become the actress Florence Rice.
Grantland Rice served in World War I, where his sense of honor can be seen in his own actions. Before leaving for service, he entrusted his entire fortune, about $75,000, to a friend. On his return from the war, Rice discovered that his friend had lost all the money in bad investments, and then had committed suicide. Rice accepted the blame for putting “that much temptation” in his friend’s way. Rice then made monthly contributions to the man’s widow for the next 30 years.
After the war, Rice became well known as a sportswriter and went on to hold a series of prestigious jobs with major newspapers in the Northeast.
Rice authored a book of poetry, Songs of the Stalwart, which was published in 1917 by D. Appleton and Company of New York.
Unlike many writers of his era, Rice defended the right of football players such as Grange, and tennis players such as Tilden, to make a living as professionals, but he also decried the warping influence of big money in sports, once writing in his column:
“Money to the left of them and money to the right
Money everywhere they turn from morning to the night
Only two things count at all from mountain to the sea
Part of it’s percentage, and the rest is guarantee”
KDKA out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania became the first commercial radio station on November 2, 1920 when it was launched by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation.
The first baseball game was broadcast by Harold Arlin on August 5, 1921 between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Grantland Rice was then hired by KDKA to announce play by play of sports on radio.
1921 World Series
The New York Yankees had purchased Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox after the 1919 season.
The much-anticipated 1921 World Series featured John McGraw’s New York Giants, dedicated practitioners of the dead-ball era’s “inside game”, and the New York Yankees, who relied on the “power game” exemplified by Babe Ruth, who was coming off of what was arguably his best year ever statistically.
The Series was the last of the experimental best-five-of-nine series, with each team alternating as the nominal “home team” since the Yankees had subleased the Polo Grounds stadium from the Giants for the 1913 through 1922 seasons, so that it was the home park for both teams during the regular season of those ten years.
This marked the first time in World Series history that the series occurred at a single site.
For New Yorkers, this was the first subway Series in World Series history.
Game 1 of the series was held October 5, 1921 with 30,203 fans at the Polo Grounds.
It was also the first World Series to be broadcast on radio, with Grantland Rice covering the games live through Pittsburgh’s KDKA. It was rebroadcast on WBZ in Massachusetts.
Announcer Tommy Cowan also recreated the games over Westinghouse-owned WJZ in Newark as he listened to phoned-in reports from the stadium.
The Yankees won the game 3-0 off the winning pitcher Carl Mays.
The Giants went to win the World Series five games to three.
Today, Grantland Rice is perhaps best known as the writer who dubbed the great backfield of the 1924 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team the “Four Horsemen” of Notre Dame. A Biblical reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, this famous account was published in the New York Herald Tribune on October 18, describing the Notre Dame vs. Army game played at the Polo Grounds:
Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.
The passage added great import to the event described and elevated it to a level far beyond that of a mere football game. This passage, although famous, is far from atypical, as Rice’s writing tended to be of an “inspirational” or “heroic” style, raising games to the level of ancient combat and their heroes to the status of demigods.
Rice became even better known after his columns were nationally syndicated beginning in 1930, and became known as the “Dean of American Sports Writers”.
He and his writing are among the reasons that the 1920s in the United States are sometimes referred to as the “Golden Age of Sports”.
Grantland Rice died July 13, 1954 in New York City at the age of 73.
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