Sunday, February 03, 2013

America’s greatest athlete

On Super Bowl Sunday, when we mortal Americans worship religiously at the altar of the true god of our nation, commerce, and, oh, by the way, watch a football game, the question usually comes up (okay — it never comes up, but let’s pretend it does): “Who was the greatest athlete in the history of America?” Personally, I’d give it to Frank Merriwell, who was fictional, but who could do anything. He could play baseball (or base-ball, as it was known in those days) and football for dear old Yale (there being a paucity of pro teams in that era), and I’m supposing if he put his mind to it, he could have played basketball and outdunked everyone, or run the three-minute mile in track, or won Wimbledon in tennis.

Frank Merriwell was a superman at sports, and not only that he was modest and moral, two attributes many professional athletes seem to lack. The story of Frank Merriwell, and the prolific author who created him for the half-dime and dime novels of the era was told by Stewart H. Holbrook in the June, 1961 issue of American Heritage. Dime novels are mostly forgotten now. The authors and readers have mostly passed on to that big lending library in the sky.

A few months ago I featured more about dime novels here.

Copyright © 1961 American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc.

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