'Golden Age of Sports Journalism' comes to VU library

Aug. 6, 2014

By Jerome Boettcher | Subscribe to Commodore Nation

With one exhibit, Vanderbilt Libraries have brought two legendary sports writers -- and Vanderbilt alums -- together. 

From now through April 20, 2015, "The Golden Age of Sports Journalism: Grantland Rice and Fred Russell" is free and open to the public on the second floor of Central Library. 

Rice, a 1901 grad, and Russell, who attend Vanderbilt for his undergrad and law school, were friends, Middle Tennessee natives and two renowned sports writers in the Golden Era of Sports in the 20th Century. 

"We tend to choose things that are really very popular to the community and still academically important," dean of libraries Connie Dowell said. "I'm quite excited about this exhibit. It also shows Vanderbilt in a very special light. We're certainly very proud of these alums."

The collection features numerous mementos from both scribes. The last typewriter used by Rice is on display. He finished his story on Willie Mays and the 1954 All-Star Game on this typewriter moments before he died. The silent film from the Rice Collection highlights the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where Jesse Owens won four gold medals. 

The exhibit also includes coverage of the 1972 Olympics, where Russell reported on the Munich Massacre -- 11 Israeli athletes being taken hostage and murdered by Palestinian gunmen. Olympic history is a reoccurring theme in the exhibit as both writers covered 60 years of the Olympics from 1924 to 1984. 

Special collections also uncovered a baseball inscribed to Russell from former Major League Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth and a baseball signed by Larry Schmittou, former president of the Nashville Sounds. They dug into collections of Sen. Lamar Alexander, also a Vanderbilt alum, for those memorabilia.

The Central Library underwent renovations two years ago and allow for a unique experience for visitors. Touchscreens, media, such as audio files and films, enhance the exhibit.

"I'm very proud of the staff in special collections, throughout the library and the director of special projects who worked so hard to pull out and select because these collections of these two writers are enormous," Dowell said. "We just tried to pull a sample that would represent the collections. The exhibit program was designed to showcase our rare and unique items."

Rice was a renowned columnist and poet who is estimated to have write more than 22,000 columns and 67 million words. His column, "The Sportlight," was one of the more influential of his day. 

Russell worked for the Nashville Banner from 1929 until the newspaper closed in 1998 and wrote more than 12,000 columns.

The careers of these two beloved writers crossed paths and have aided future aspiring journalists. The Fred Rusell-Grantland Rice Scholarship provides a partial tuition scholarship to Vanderbilt students interested in pursuing a career in sports journalism. 

"The connections between these two, and also the connections to those who have started their careers based upon the scholarships honoring these two -- it's really fun to see the connections materialize," Dowell said. "We're thrilled to have the collections to begin with but it is so much more exciting to share with folks through exhibits like these."



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