Dizzy Dean: the "school marms’" nemesis

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On August 15, 2002

St. Louis Cardinals pitching great-turned-sports announcer Dizzy Dean was well known in Missouri for his broadcasting style, which was full of mangled grammar and malapropisms.

This baseball legend’s colorful and unconventional career of (in his words) "commertatin’" included a brush with English teachers across the nation in the "School Marms’ Uprising" of 1946. That event is the subject of a Missouri Historical Review article co-authored by Patrick Huber, assistant professor of history.

"Butcherin’ Up the English Language a Little Bit: Dizzy Dean, Baseball Broadcasting, and the ‘School Marms’ Uprising’ of 1946," was co-written by Huber and David Anderson, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The article was published in the April issue of the Missouri Historical Review. "I’m a huge baseball fan and some of my academic interests include southern history, working-class history, and the American language," Huber says. "All of those areas of interest seemed to be reflected, in one way or another, in Dean’s broadcasting career and in the ‘School Marms’ Uprising.’"

That uprising was a national controversy sparked by the English Teachers Association of Missouri, which allegedly filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission charging that Dean’s mangled English was a bad influence on the state’s schoolchildren, Huber explains. "Growing up in Missouri, I was well aware of Dizzy Dean, but I had never heard about the ‘School Marms’ Uprising,’" Huber says. He began his collaboration with Anderson when the two were doctoral candidates at North Carolina. "Dave is a labor historian and actually played some baseball before entering graduate school," Huber says. "He was actually the one who got me interested in Dean." Anderson had seen the Dean biopic, "The Pride of St. Louis," as a teenager. The film concludes with a highly fictionalized account of the English teachers controversy. "He told me about the incident, and we decided that it might make an interesting article," Huber says.

And about that FCC complaint: It apparently never happened. While Huber notes that a St. Louis newspaper first reported on the story in July 1946, the FCC has no record of a grievance. It seems the hoax was "nothing more than a publicity stunt probably designed to generate even higher ratings for Dean’s already popular broadcasts."

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On August 15, 2002. Posted in News