Grantland Rice
Grantland Rice in 1921
Born(1880-11-01)November 1, 1880
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
DiedJuly 13, 1954(1954-07-13) (aged 73)
New York, New York
Alma materVanderbilt University
Spouse(s)Katherine Hollis
ChildrenFlorence Rice

Grantland Rice (November 1, 1880 – July 13, 1954) was an early 20th century American sportswriter known for his elegant prose. His writing was published in newspapers around the country and broadcast on the radio.


Henry Grantland Rice was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the son of Bolling H. Rice, a cotton dealer,[1] and his wife, Beulah Grantland Rice.[2] His grandfather Major H. W. Rice was a Confederate veteran of the Civil War.[3]

Rice attended Montgomery Bell Academy and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he was a member of the football team for three years, a brother in the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, and graduated with a BA degree in 1901.[4] After taking early jobs with the Atlanta Journal and the Cleveland News, he later became a sportswriter for the Nashville Tennessean. Afterwards he obtained a series of prestigious jobs with major newspapers in the Northeastern United States. He is best known for being the successor to Walter Camp in the selection of College Football All-America Teams beginning in 1925, and for being the writer who dubbed the great backfield of the 1924 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team the "Four Horsemen" of Notre Dame. A Biblical reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, this famous account was published in the New York Herald Tribune on October 18, describing the Notre Dame vs. Army game played at the Polo Grounds:

Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.

The passage added great import to the event described and elevated it to a level far beyond that of a mere football game. This passage, although famous, is far from atypical, as Rice's writing tended to be of an "inspirational" or "heroic" style, raising games to the level of ancient combat and their heroes to the status of demigods. He became even better known after his columns were nationally syndicated beginning in 1930, and became known as the "Dean of American Sports Writers". He and his writing are among the reasons that the 1920s in the United States are sometimes referred to as the "Golden Age of Sports".

File:Grantland Rice Headstone 1024.jpg

His sense of honor can be seen in his own actions. Before leaving for service in World War I, he entrusted his entire fortune, about $75,000, to a friend. On his return from the war, Rice discovered that his friend had lost all the money in bad investments, and then had committed suicide. Rice accepted the blame for putting “that much temptation” in his friend’s way. Rice then made monthly contributions to the man’s widow for the next 30 years.[5]

According to author Mark Inabinett in his 1994 work, Grantland Rice and His Heroes: The Sportswriter as Mythmaker in the 1920s, Rice very consciously set out to make heroes of sports figures who impressed him, most notably Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Bobby Jones, Bill Tilden, Red Grange, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, and Knute Rockne. Unlike many writers of his era, Rice defended the right of football players such as Grange, and tennis players such as Tilden, to make a living as professionals, but he also decried the warping influence of big money in sports, once writing in his column:

"Money to the left of them and money to the right
Money everywhere they turn from morning to the night
Only two things count at all from mountain to the sea
Part of it's percentage, and the rest is guarantee"¹

Rice authored a book of poetry, Songs of the Stalwart, which was published in 1917 by D. Appleton and Company of New York.

Rice married Katherine Hollis in 1906; they had one child, the actress Florence Rice. Rice died at the age 73 on July 13, 1954, following a stroke.[2]


"For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes - not that you won or lost -
But how you played the Game."
(from the poem "Alumnus Football")
"The loafer has no come-back and the quitter no reply,
When the Anvil Chorus echoes, as it will, against the sky;
But there’s one quick answer ready that will wrap them in a hood:
Make good."
(from the poem "The Answer")


File:Fred Russell Grantland Rice 1951.jpg

In 1951, in recognition of Rice's 50 years in journalism, an anonymous donor contributed $50,000 to establish the Grantland Rice Fellowship in Journalism with the New York Community Trust.[2][6]

In 1954, the Football Writers Association established the Grantland Rice Memorial Award, given annually to an outstanding college player selected by the group.[7]

The Grantland Rice Bowl, an annual college football bowl game held from 1964–1977, was named in his honor, as was the Grantland Rice Award given to the winner.

Rice was posthumously awarded the 1966 J. G. Taylor Spink Award by the Baseball Writers Association of America. The award, presented the following year at the annual induction ceremony at the Baseball Hall of Fame, is given for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing".[8]

At Vanderbilt, a four-year scholarship named for Rice and former colleague and fellow Vanderbilt alumnus Fred Russell is awarded each year to a freshman who intends to pursue a career in sportswriting. Recipients of the Fred Russell–Grantland Rice Sportswriting Scholarship include author and humorist Roy Blount, Jr.; Skip Bayless of ESPN; Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post; and Tyler Kepner of The New York Times.[9]

The press box in Vanderbilt Stadium at Vanderbilt University is dedicated to Rice and named after Rice's protégé, Fred Russell. For many years, a portion of one floor of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism was designated the "Grantland Rice Suite". Grantland Avenue in his hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee was named in his honor.

Rice was mentioned in an I Love Lucy episode entitled "The Camping Trip", and was portrayed by actor Lane Smith, also a native of Tennessee, in The Legend of Bagger Vance.

On June 8, 2011, ESPN's Bill Simmons launched a sports and popular culture website titled, a name intended to honor Rice's legacy.[10]

References Edit

  1. "Obituary Notes", The New York Times. October 9, 1917. Accessed on June 29, 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Grantland Rice Dies at the Age of 73", The New York Times, July 14, 1954. Accessed on December 27, 2012.
  3. "Major H.W. Grantland dies", The New York Times, February 18, 1926. Accessed on June 29, 2009.
  4. Fanbase page for Grantland Rice
  5. The Great Scorer
  6. "$50,000 Fund Created", The New York Times, May 3, 1951. Accessed on June 29, 2009.
  7. "Grantland Rice Award Established in Football", The New York Times, August 14, 1954. Accessed on June 29, 2009.
  8. "J. G. Taylor Spink Award Honorees", Baseball Hall of Fame. Accessed on June 30, 2009.
  9. "The Fred Russell–Grantland Rice Sportswriting Scholarship" (PDF), Vanderbilt University. Accessed on June 29, 2009.
  10. ESPN MediaZone (2011). All-Star Roster of Writers and Editors to Join New ESPN Web Site. Retrieved May 3, 2011.

Further reading Edit

  • Rice, Grantland, "The Tumult and The Shouting" 1954 [Autobiography available at Amazon Books.]
  • Inabinett, Mark, Grantland Rice and His Heroes: The Sportswriter as Mythmaker in the 1920s. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994 (ISBN 0-87049-848-7)

External linksEdit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.