Now Pitching for Bartlett's
Immortality is assured for Shakespeare, Shelley, Pope, and a couple of fellows named Anonymous and Ibid. by inclusion in Barlett's Familiar Quotations, and I am glad to learn that Bartlett, in his latest edition, has moved Ibid. over a few inches to make room for Joe Jacobs, better known in his years on this green footstool as Yussel the Muscle. It may well be that Mr. Jacobs is the first fight manager in history to be tapped for Familiar Quotations --- not that the late shareholder's fame depends on such kudos.

"Joe could get along without Bartlett, but could Bartlett get along without Joe?" was the reaction in the cauliflower market when the boys heard from Uncle Daniel Parker, the New York Daily Mirror poet, that Yussel was in. That is a fair summary of the values in this case. No quotation book that calls itself a quotation book can look you in the eye these days unless it includes "I should of stood in bed."

This department notes that the book has been further enlarged to accommodate the second of Joe's great coinages: "We wuz robbed!" The phrase is attributed by some scholars to Anon. and by others to Ibid., but it was the work of Jacobs. It incorporates, as you see, the managerial "We," which is otherwise absent from Bartlett. It was uttered after Max Schmeling and Mr. Jacobs had licked the stuffing out of Jack Sharkey, only to hear the verdict go against them.

According to the poet Parker, who evidently reads Bartlett in his bathtub, the origin of "I should of stood in bed" is wrongly described in the book. It seems there is a nonsensical footnote to the effect that Jacobs gave birth to the words after losing a bet on the World Series of 1934.

As it happens, the great man coined them two feet from your correspondent's ear. It was the only time I ever heard a famous quotation in the making. I used to pal around with Shelley quite a bit, but he always remained mute while we were together. With Joe Jacobs it was quite the contrary, unless he was playing pinochle. On this occasion --- 1935, it was --- he was seeing his first and last ballgame. Mr. Jacobs had the seat behind me in the press box at Detroit for the opening game of the World Series, and, though Lonnie Warneke was pitching very nifty ball for the Cubs, Mr. Jacobs did not like it. An icy wind was curdling his blood, along with everyone else's. It was the coldest ball game I can remember.

A neighbor asked Joe what he thought of baseball, and Joe to him these deathless words did speak: "I should of stood in bed." He left the place in the fourth inning. The rest of us had to stay and work. I recall that a flagon of hot tea from the tea fields of the brothers Haig, which I had brought, was all that saved the lives of several fellow convicts and me while we wrote our pieces after the game.

Yussel the Muscle had other claims to celebrity which do not concern Bartlett. He was the only man ever to lose a fight south of the Mason-Dixon Line --- that is the managerial "he" --- and win it north of same. His man Mike McTigue was the loser to Young Stribling by the vote of the crowd in Columbus, Georgia, but McTigue, Jacobs, and referee Harry Ertle caught the train north and reversed the decision as soon as they reached Pennsylvania. It went down in the books as a draw.

Mr. Jacobs was the only man ever to salute Hitler with a cigar in his mouth --- Joe's mouth, I mean to say. He joined a mass "Heil!" to the leader from a prize ring in Hamburg. Since he had to hold his hat in one hand and salute with the other, there was no place for the panatela except between his teeth. "Fuhrer Insulted by Noted Non-Aryan!" the German headlines screamed.

Mr. Jacobs was the only man ever to be hit over the head with a plaster statuette of Schmeling. The statuette was aimed by Joe's business partner, the late Billy McCarney, and the gesture dissolved the partnership. However, McCarney says they remained good friends. So now Joe, in the heavenly meadows, has a piece of Barlett's Familiar Quotations. It is a nice break for both sides.

--- From The John Lardner Reader
John Schulian, Editor
©2010 Bison Books
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