Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hopefully Clearing Up a Mystery

Here's a mystery - or maybe it isn't. A while back I wrote a blog about Jack Graney (left), who broadcast Cleveland Indians games for many years. Starting in 1936 I listened to him at every opportunity. He's the best play-by-play announcer I've ever heard. In the blog I wrote that the movie Eight Men Out pronounced the name of Chicago Black Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte wrong. It called him See-cot, but Graney who played in the American League for years at the time Cicotte was playing, pronounced it Sigh-cot-ee.
An e-mail from George Cicotte, Eddie's great-nephew, said the name is French and has always been pronounced See-cot. So who is right? Could Graney, who faced Eddie many times and knew him well, be wrong. No, I think both are right. George knows how to pronounce his own name. Graney wouldn't have forgotten after a mere 16 years.
Here's what almost certainly is behind the difference. At the time Eddie Cicotte, one of the eight Chicago White Sox players who conspired to throw the 1919 World Series, was active, most major league players were uneducated, a few even illiterate. Cicotte's teammate and co-conspirator, Joe Jackson (Shoeless Joe), was one of the latter. There were no public address systems, no radio, no television. Lineups were announced by a man standing at home plate with a megaphone. Few could hear him.
Those rough, crude, uneducated players who called the Series the "World Serious" were made fun of in numerous stories by Ring Lardner. What would they have thought when they saw Cicotte's name in the newspaper? Nothing French, that's certain. They would have pronounced the name as Graney did. George Cicotte says many people pronounce it that way so they usually just smile and either correct them or not. Eddie may have been the same way.
Here's the problem with French: the vast majority of Americans butcher it. Take those of us who participated in the invasion of Normandy. For 11 days my division was in a bitter battle near the village of Sainteny. That's what we called it, Saint-eny. More than 40 years later I learned it properly is Sahn-tuh-nay, or something like that. The town of Isigny was Easy-knee. Briquebec was Bric-uh-brack. You can imagine what we did with Pouppeville and Beuzeville. Nothing a Frenchman would recognize. One day in battle a Frenchwoman managed to make me comprehend that she was worried about her sister living in something like Luh-Hah-dew-Pwee. After much repeating and waving of arms I turned to the man with me and said, "She means La-Haye-du-Puits," a name we pronounced just as it looks.
What would those even less-educated ball players of the teen years have made of Cicotte? Just what Jack Graney did when he spoke of Eddie.
So who was right? George, obviously. Jack, certainly. That's explains why Graney, when Al Cicotte came along in a more enlightened time, thought he changed the pronunciation to avoid being associated with his father, the infamous Eddie. It's similar to the reason the people I came to know so well in Belgium couldn't say Clyde (my first name) and always called me Cloud.


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