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Sports References in Turtledove's Work

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Like many authors, Harry Turtledove references the broad effect sports and athletes have (or have had) on society. Sometimes, these references can give a reader insight into how a particular timeline differs from OTL. Other times, they are more incidental and designed to invoke a specific era or culture. What follows is a list of such references which can be found in Turtledove's body of work, organized by athlete.

Note: As many homages are subtle, they can easily escape the notice of any given reader. Therefore we strongly encourage anyone who has found, or believes he has found, an homage not already on this list, or by an author not represented, to add it.

Cap AnsonEdit

Adrian Constantine "Cap" Anson (April 17, 1852 – April 14, 1922) was a Major League Baseball (MLB) first baseman. Including his time in the National Association (NA), he played a record 27 consecutive seasons. Anson was regarded as one of the greatest players of his era and one of the first superstars of the game. Anson spent most of his career with the Chicago Cubs, serving as the club's manager, first baseman and, later in his tenure, minority owner. He led the team to five National League pennants in the 1880s. Anson was one of baseball's first great hitters, and the first to tally over 3,000 career hits. Anson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

In the Worldwar series, during the Battle of Chicago, Lt. Mutt Daniels choses the name of Cap Anso as a password, on the theory that the Lizards would be likelier to have heard of recent players.[1]

Hank ArmstrongEdit

Henry Jackson Jr (December 12, 1912 - October 22, 1988) was an American professional boxer who fought under the name Hank Armstrong. He fought in the Featherweight, Welterweight, and Lightweight divisions. He is one of very few boxers who has held the championships of three weight divisions (Featherweight, 10/29/1937-9/12/1938; Welterweight, 5/31/1938-10/4/1940; Lightweight, 8/17/1938-8/22/1939). He is also the only boxer to hold three different weight classes' championships at the same time.

In The War That Came Early, Pete McGill reflected that the United States Navy's attempts to offer battle to its Japanese counterpart did not resemble the epic bout between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, but was more like Hank Armstrong on Benzedrine. The Navy's commanders had expected a massive engagement resembling the Battle of Jutland, but were forced into retreat by enemy aircraft without even making contact with the main Japanese naval formation.[2]

Primo CarneraEdit

Primo Carnera (October 26, 1906 – June 29, 1967), nicknamed the Ambling Alp, was an Italian (and for a while American) professional boxer and the World Heavyweight Champion from June 29, 1933, to June 14, 1934. While continued to box until 1944, his record was more or less average after 1934. He left boxing after having a kidney removed. He became a wrestler in 1946, and had a successful career until 1962. He also appeared in several films.

In the novel Joe Steele, Charlie Sullivan thinks that Senator Carter Glass looked like he'd walked into haymaker from Primo Carnera upon leaving a 90 minute meeting with President Joe Steele in March, 1933[3]

Bob CruesEdit

Robert "Bob" Crues (December 31, 1918 - December 26, 1986) was a minor league baseball player. He is remembered for tying Joe Hauser's record of 69 home-runs in a single season, in 1948. He also drove in 254 runs throughout the year. Crues record was broken by Joe Bauman, a one-time teammate, in 1954.

Crues' record is mentioned at the beginning of "The Star and the Rockets".

Joe DiMaggioEdit

Joseph Paul "Joe" DiMaggio (November 25, 1914 - March 8, 1999) was starting centerfielder for the New York Yankees baseball franchise from 1936 to 1951. He retired with a .325 batting average and 361 home runs. As of 2010 he is the only major leaguer with over 300 career home runs whose lifetime ratio of home runs to strikeouts (369) approaches 1:1. He played in ten World Series and his teams won nine of them. He is best known for hitting safely in 56 consecutive games in the 1941 season, which shattered the record for longest hitting streak and has never been approached since. He was American League MVP in 1939, 1941, and 1947, AL batting champion in 1939 and 1940, selected to 13 All-Star teams, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955. He was briefly married to Marilyn Monroe.

DiMaggio has been referenced in several Turtledove works. In Homeward Bound, the final volume of the Worldwar franchise, in 2031, Glen Johnson, whose stints in cold sleep have extended his life span dramatically, realizes that no one left alive would have any memories of watching Joe DiMaggio play. In the same volume, when Jonathan Yeager tell his father, Sam Yeager, that being his son had hampered his career as a Lizardologist, Sam lamely attempts to cheer Jonathan up by saying "If Babe Ruth's kid had been Joe DiMaggio, he would have done all right."

Abner DoubledayEdit

Abner Doubleday (June 26, 1819 - January 26, 1893) was a soldier of the United States Army for more than thirty years, achieving the rank of major general of volunteers and brevet colonel of the Regular Army. He saw service in the Mexican War and in the American Civil War.

In 1905, over a decade over Doubleday's death, National League President Abraham Mills chaired a committee assigned with determining the origins of the game of baseball. The committee's final report, issued on December 30, 1907, claimed that Abner Doubleday had created the modern rules of baseball in Cooperstown, NY in the summer of 1839. In fact, Doubleday had moved away from Cooperstown in 1838, and Mills' claims have since been discredited. Still, Doubleday's name remains indelibly linked with the history of a game which he may well never have seen played.

In "The Star and the Rockets", Joe Bauman's home run totals for the 1954 season approachs 70, he reflects that no baseball player, on any team, in any league, had ever hit 70 home runs in a single year since Abner Doubleday created the game. (Apparently Bauman is unaware of the evidence refuting the Mills Commission's findings.)

Bob FellerEdit

Robert William Andrew Feller, nicknamed "Rapid Robert," "Bullet Bob," and "The Heater from van Meter" (November 3, 1918 - December 15, 2010) was a Major League Baseball starting pitcher from 1936 to 1956. As his nicknames testify, the speed of his fastballs was legendary. However, he often struggled with control; he retired in possession of the record for most bases-on-balls allowed over a career, and continues to hold the single-season record for that category, with 208 walks in his rookie year.

Feller's career, which spanned 21 years, was played entirely with the Cleveland Indians. Feller led the American League in wins six times, in strikeouts seven times, in ERA once, and won the Triple Crown in 1940. He was an eight-time All-Star and won a World Series ring with the Indians in 1948. When he retired in 1956, he owned the record for most career no-hitters, three. That record has since been broken, but one distinction that continues to be unique to Feller is throwing a no-hitter in his team's first game of the season.

Feller retired with a career win-loss record of 266-162, an ERA of 3.25, and 2581 strikeouts. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.

Joe Orsatti's failed attempt to pick up a cocktail waitress at the Hibiscus Blossom in Honolulu is compared to a high school kid flailing against Bob Feller.[4]

Lou GehrigEdit

Henry Louis "Lou" Gehrig (June 19, 1903 - June 2, 1941) was the starting first baseman of the New York Yankees from 1925 to 1939, during which period he started 2130 consecutive games, a record for durability which stood for decades. Over his career he had a .340 batting average and 493 home runs, which were good for second place on the all-time home run list behind only his teammate Babe Ruth at the time of his retirement. 23 of his home runs were grand slams, a record which stands today. Gehrig led the American League in hitting in 1934, led in home runs three times, was a seven-time All-Star (in fact he was named to every AL All-Star Team from the first inception of the Midsummer Classic in 1933 through his retirement in 1939), was MVP in 1927 and 1936, won seven World Series with the Yankees, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame immediately upon his retirement, in 1939.

Gehrig's career ended abruptly and prematurely in 1939 when he contracted the incurable neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The disease caused Gehrig to die at the young age of 37 despite his always having been an exemplar of excellent physical fitness and, unlike some of his contemporary players, a practitioner of a scrupulously healthy lifestyle. The Yankees held Lou Gehrig Day on July 4, 1939, and he delivered a short but legendary address expressing his gratitude for the opportunity to play for the Yankees, describing himself as "the luckiest man on the face of the earth" and ending by saying "I may have gotten a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for." On that day he became the first athlete in the history of U.S. professional sports to have his uniform number (4) retired.

In The War That Came Early: Hitler's War, Gehrig's declining health in 1938 is indirectly referenced when Herman Szulc suggests that Gehrig might be past his prime.[5]

In American Empire: The Center Cannot Hold, Gehrig, like nearly every other OTL baseball player appearing in Southern Victory, is a football player. Not long after the Great Depression begins, a reporter remarks that Gehrig's salary is higher than that of the President of the United States, Hosea Blackford. Gehrig replies "I had a better year than he did." This response is borrowed from Babe Ruth when asked the same question about his salary in relation to Herbert Hoover in OTL.[6]

Joe GordonEdit

Joseph Lowell Gordon (February 18, 1915 - April 14, 1978) was an American professional baseball player in the mid-twentieth century. He was the New York Yankees' starting second baseman from 1938 to 1943, at which point his career was interrupted by World War II. After the war he returned to the Yankees but was soon traded to the Cleveland Indians, where he would play four more years.

Gordon was a lifetime .268 hitter with 253 home runs and 975 RBI. He played in six World Series and won four championships, with the 1938, 1939, and 1943 Yankees and the 1948 Indians. He was a nine-time All-Star, was the American League MVP in 1942, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

Gordon's career helps pin down the chronology of a few of Turtledove's works. In The War That Came Early: Hitler's War, Pete McGill and his fellow Marines are able to hear part of the 1938 World Series, and catch Gordon going 2-4 with a home run and three RBI.[7] In The Hot War: Bombs Away, we learn that Gordon was hired by the PCL Sacramento Solons to manage the team and play second base just weeks before the outbreak of World War III.[8]

Red GrangeEdit

Harold Edward "Red" Grange (June 13, 1903 – January 28, 1991), nicknamed "The Galloping Ghost" or "The Galloping Red Ghost", was a college and professional American football halfback for the University of Illinois, the Chicago Bears, and for the short-lived New York Yankees. His signing with the Bears helped legitimize the National Football League. He was a charter member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. In 1924, Grange became the first recipient of the Chicago Tribune Silver Football award denoting the Big Ten's most valuable player. In 2008, he was named the best college football player of all time by ESPN, and in 2011, he was named the Greatest Big Ten Icon by the Big Ten Network.

In the novel Joe Steele, Mike Sullivan attributes his survival of both World War II and the Japanese War to "running like Red Grange."[9]

Pete GrayEdit

Peter James Gray (March 6, 1915 – June 30, 2002, original surname Wyshner) was a professional baseball player best known for playing as an outfielder with the St. Louis Browns in the major leagues, despite having lost his right arm in a childhood automobile accident.

In The Man With the Iron Heart, Tom Schmidt sees a Liberty Ship called USS Peter Gray in New York Harbor, and can only think of Pete Gray, the outfielder.

Bucky HarrisEdit

Stanley Raymond "Bucky" Harris (November 8, 1896 – November 8, 1977) was an American Major League Baseball player, manager and executive. In 1975, the Veterans Committee elected Harris, as a manager, to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In the novel Joe Steele (novel), Harris becomes manager of the Washington Senators as in OTL, and leads them to a dismal season in 1937. Thanks to President Joe Steele, the actual Senate is having a similarly dismal year.[10]

Joe HauserEdit

Joseph John "Unser Choe" Hauser (January 21, 1899 - July 11, 1997) was a professional baseball player. He played first baseman in the major leagues from 1922-1929, with the Philadelphia Athletics and Cleveland Indians. Hauser's major league career was undistinguished, but he made a name for himself in the minor leagues, where he became the first player ever to hit 60 or more home runs twice in a professional career: 63 in 1930, and 69 in 1933. That record was matched by Bob Crues in 1949, and surpassed by Joe Bauman, who hit 72 in 1954. He remained the only player to hit 60 or more twice until Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa accomplished the feat in 1998 and 1999. His career as a hitter is references in "The Star and the Rockets".

Joe LouisEdit

Joseph Louis Barrow (May 13, 1914 - April 12, 1981), who used the sporting name Joe Louis and was nicknamed the Brown Bomber, was an American professional boxer.

Louis is well-remembered for his rivalry with German boxer Max Schmeling. The two first met in 1936. Louis, rated the number one challenger in the world heavyweight division and undefeated thus far in his career, was heavily favored to beat the former heavyweight champion; however, Schmeling prepared more thoroughly than Louis and won an upset victory by knocking Louis out in the twelfth round of their match.

In 1937, Louis defeated James Braddock to become heavyweight champion of the world. He would reign as heavyweight champion until 1949 and would defend his title a record twenty-five times, including a rematch with Schmeling in 1938, where his victory badly embarrassed the Nazi Party, and a storied, hard-fought victory over Billy Conn in 1941. Louis served in the United States Army in World War II, rising to the rank of sergeant. After the war he resumed his boxing career, continuing to defend his title but clearly no longer at the prime of his career. He announced his retirement in 1949, ceding the championship to Ezzard Charles. He returned to the sport in 1950 and briefly attempted a comeback, but retired for good in 1951 after an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Rocky Marciano.

Louis is referenced a number of times in Turtledove's work. Both Joe Steele and "Cayos in the Stream" use the metaphor of "having gone a few rounds with the Brown Bomber" (or words to that effect) in passing. In The War That Came Early: Coup d'Etat, Pete McGill reflects that the United States Navy's attempts to offer battle to its Japanese counterpart did not resemble the epic bout between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, but was more like Hank Armstrong on Benzedrine.[11] Later in the same volume, after enduring a heavy Soviet artillery bombardment, Luc Harcourt feels like he'd just gone 15 rounds with Joe Louis.[12]


  1. Upsetting the Balance, pg. 381, HC.
  2. Coup d'Etat ch 19
  3. Joe Steele, pg. 50.
  4. Coup d'Etat ch 12
  5. Hitler's War, pg. 41.
  6. The Center Cannot Hold, pg. 432.
  7. Hitler's War, pg. 40.
  8. Bombs Away, pg. 36, ebook.
  9. Joe Steele, p. 374.
  10. Joe Steele, pgs. 154-155.
  11. Coup d'Etat ch 19
  12. ibid ch 25

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