Saturday, June 8, 2024

Sport Story Magazine March 1, 1939

at Flickr

Download the full scan here

Or read online or download in .pdf format from my Internet Archive shelf here.

The cover to this issue by Modest Stein was featured on the 2023's edition of The Pulpster in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first issue of Sport Story Magazine.  It's far from my favorite Stein but does possess a kinetic energy and celebration of sport.   Michelle Nolan has pointed to this issue as the only sport pulp to feature women on the cover.   In Warming the Bench, the editor (I'm not sure who it was at the time) writes about having Jackson Scholz visiting his office and admiring Stein's painting which would become the cover for the issue.  He asks Scholz (three time Olympian and ultra-frequent contributor to the magazine with three stories in this issue alone) if he can come up with a story for the painting.  No problem, boss.

I've read this one before posting (fittingly in a fun week of sports including the first game of the NBA Finals as well as some great NCAA softball and baseball) and will give a quick teaser on these.  I do like synopses and reviews but don't want to spoil the fun.

Hoop Lesson - the cover story by Scholz - Carl Temple has taken a job with Grayson Tire perhaps a prize for the fact his grandfather owns a large share of stock in the company.  Shown the company gymnasium (and corporate teams are often the setting of sports pulp stories, a facet of athletic life that's largely receded in American life), Carl has an adverse reaction to the fact women are on the court.  As fate would have it, one of the women players is the daughter of the company President and has recommended Carl, a former college Center, be recruited for the company team.  Done with basketball, Carl nonetheless is cajoled into taking a back-up spot and is even roped into chaperoning the women's team on a trip out of town.  Can Carl get his basketball groove back and make peace with the fact women have hoop dreams, too?  Can he find his footing on the court and keep his feet out of his mouth?  An excellent sport story and maybe a bit of romance, Scholz writes a good lead story here with the type of inspiration one might expect of the genre, even if the source might be a twist.  The call of the action on the court might leave a little to be desired but in an era when a final score might be 22-21, I imagine the game was indeed very different than today.

Iron Chin begins with a young rube making the error of bending down behind a donkey and taking a hoof to the jaw.  Amazingly the lad remains still standing, but lodgers happen to witness the event, one being a former light heavyweight in the fight game.  Does an iron chin a boxer make?  Our rube will find out as he's tricked into a match far beyond his skill.  How I do love boxing tales.   

Illustration by Frank Kramer who did most if not all of the art for the interior. At Flickr

Ben Peter Freeman who wrote a great number of novels for Dell's Five-Novels Monthly writes Ten-Grand Set.  Playboy Dusty Dean takes the game none-to-seriously giving in when the game gets tough.  A tough-minded uncle holds back his inheritance, though, forcing Dean to grind it out on the low end of the pro circuit.  Things take a turn, though, when a top pro does his pal dirty.  Can Dusty Dean get his act together and win the (Twenty) Grand Set? A fun story.  Freeman is best remembered as a writer on TV's Adventures of Superman.

 at Flickr

Six Girls and a Basket by  Handley Cross - Cross must have been some sort of sports writer, as he handles this article on the rise of women's hoops as well as the later sections on Big Moments in Sport (running down a couple of big games from the last season in various sports) and Trainer and Coach (advice for athletes getting in shape for the Spring Season).  Here Cross gives the lowdown on women's basketball c.1939 citing such authorities as James Naismith and Phog Allen and describes an epic game between Wichita and Little Rock as well as variations between the men's and women's rules.  Having Six women per side seems to be the most shocking difference in rules, but odder than that might be the fact each player was allowed a single dribble.  Cross easily seems the worst writer in the issue, so perhaps it's best he's confined to the non-fiction areas of the magazine.  In the Trainer and Coach department, regarding cigarettes and athletics, Handley writes, "Smoking?  Well that depends. If you are a runner, you had better stop altogether.  But baseball players and many other athletes seem to be able to smoke moderately without it doing them any harm.  If you continue smoking, make certain that your smoking is moderate."  Lucky Strike advertises on the back cover of this sports magazine and no wonder my high school still had a smoking section in the early 90s :D

Telemark Tension by Leonard Lupton, longtime practitioner in the sport genre with a mystery tale involving the Ski Jump and shots fired mid-flight. I think this might be the first Ski Jump tale I've ever come across...

Home-Town Hero by Leslie McFarlane, writer in many genres and described by Fictionmags as "Newspaperman; prolific hack; also author of “Hardy Boys” stories under name of Franklin W. Dixon."  The story of loutish Skates Kelsey, washed up hockey player, gambler, drunkard, and scout for the Chiefs who finds himself fired and penniless at story's outset.  Luckily for him, he gets a tip about a local hockey prospect that Skates intends to use for at the very least train fare back to the big city.  A rewarding tale of devious and loutish behavior, small town pride, and competing interests on ice.

.400 Eaters by Royal Hall, pseudonym of Scholz, but this time in a humorous vein.  My favorite story in the issue regarding a baseball team that's gotten fat and lazy and put on a no-lunch diet by a coach that has seen it all.  Called up to aid the struggling team is a lanky player from AA with a huge head with sunken cheeks and gargantuan feet that match his enormous appetite.  The rookie puts coach's dietary regimen to the test and hilarity ensues.  Any coach that's gotten a bit of wicked glee hitting fungo to lazy players is going to get a kick out of this one.

Seal-Skinned by Jack Volney, another pseudonym of Scholz, regards a water polo team for a feed manufacturer.  Sadly, when a team member goes to collect payment for goods rendered to a visiting circus, he receives payment in the form of trained seal.  All the horses were taken.  The seal becomes the team mascot, but can they keep him out of the water? 

A uniformly excellent issue with only a low spot or two.  A nice mix of sports and story types as is usual for the sports pulps.  If you haven't read a sports pulp before, this might a good place to start.  If you must pick only a story or few my faves were 1) .400 Eaters 2) Home-Town Hero and 3) Ten-Grand Set.  The opener gets special mention, too, as a meditation on women's sports and the nature of mojo.  Exactly what inspires our hero to action might irk those of us with a feminist bent (me!), but maybe not...

Notes on the scan:  there's some variance in page color from page to page.  The edit matches the copy I scanned from, and, as mysterious as the coloration may be, I rolled with it - the color edit is uniform across all of the interior pages.  I did remove all the pencil from the crossword, "Skull Practice," just in case any cruciverbalists want to try their hand at an 80 year old sports puzzle.

One last image, the inner back cover, Lee Jeans and Ripley's Believe it or Not

at Flickr

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