Craig: Dutch Levsen’s historic feat and meteoric downfall

From Mary Craig at Beyond the Box Score on June 3, 2017:

In baseball, we often pick out one or two particular players to tell the story of certain eras on the field, to represent an entire generation of forgotten events. For many, Babe Ruth undeniably assumes this role for the 1920s, as his towering home runs signified the end of the dead ball era and the reinvention of the game. But to tell the tale of the 1920s as a whole, rather than label baseball an abstraction, it is necessary to turn to a largely forgotten player. For many who have heard of Dutch Levsen, his name is just the answer to a trivia question: “Who was the last person to start and win both games of a doubleheader?” While this undoubtedly celebrates the peak of his career, the distinctness of his years in the majors is hidden in the folds of the 1920s.

The 1920s was one of the most economically prosperous decades in America’s history, behind only the 1950s. The recent victory in World War I gave many Americans a sense of invincibility that reverberated throughout life, and efficiency was the name of the game. New products hit the market daily and were gobbled up by eager consumers, creating a revived middle class that feasted on advertising and the appearance of luxury. Many viewed the Roaring Twenties as the golden age of America, ushering in new counterculture movements centered on female sexuality and empowerment, led by the likes of Clara Bow and Mary Pickford. Capitalism was in full force, wrapped in the shiny branding of the American Dream. Underneath the wrapping lay a careful arrangement of racism, worker exploitation, and misogyny; for those privileged enough, though, the decade was full of hope and social progress.

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Originally published: June 5, 2017. Last Updated: June 5, 2017.