Arthur (Bugs) Baer – Journalist, Humorist, Sports Writer
Arthur Baer was born in Philadelphia in 1886. The seventh of fourteen children, he dropped out of school in 1900 at the age of 14 to work in the textile industry designing lace patterns. He also enrolled in Art School where he learned to do line drawings.
By 1906, he found a job at the Philadelphia Ledger as an “office boy”, where he earned $2 per week. He worked up the ladder to obtain a position as a “Staff Artist”. Nine years later in 1915, Arthur took a job at the Washington Times as their Sports Cartoonist, where he gained notoriety. He developed his talent of drawing cartoons showing sports figures (mostly baseball players) as a combination of baseballs with “bug like” appendages.
The readers of the Washington Times liked his cartoons and humor, and their sports page became one the most widely read pages in any newspaper in the country. The “bug like” characters in his cartoons soon garnered Arthur the nickname “Bugs”, which he soon adopted and preferred to be called. “Bugs Baer’s” first newspaper column was called “Rabid Randolph”, a daily humor column in the New York World.
Bugs had an ability to interject humor into his early columns and is well known for his whit. One famous quote from Bugs, (when he was writing about New York Yankee Ping Bodie) who unsuccessfully attempted to steal second base. “His head was full of larceny, but his feet were honest”. That column attracted the attention of William Randolph Hearst, who hired him to work for the “New York American” in 1915.
When World War 1 came knocking on America’s door step, Bugs was taken into the US Army. In 1918, he enrolled into the “Field Artillery Central Officers Training School” (FACOTS) that was being conducted at Camp Zachary Taylor. The school was the largest school in the world at that time and enrolled 18,253 men over a six months period. Of those who enrolled, 8.737 men graduated, and they came from every state in the union, and several countries from overseas, such as Cuba, Japan, the Philippines and England.
Bug’s talent was not only in his studies during this grueling six-week course of mathematics, geometry and calculus, but his talent was also enlisted as one of several artists who were asked to draw cartoon panels for the 1919 book “FACOTS”. Bugs drew several panels for that publication.
After leaving the army, he also contributed cartoons for their quarterly publication while working for the New York American Newspaper. One was a look into the future (1980 to be exact) with the main character telling his grandchild about his embellished exploits in the Great War at Camp Taylor.
After leaving the army and returning to civilian life, Bugs returned to journalism, Broadway and Motion Pictures. While working for the Washington Times, Bugs switched to columnist when the his boss went on a two week long binge, leaving Bugs to write the column. He soon quit drawing cartoons and wrote full time as a sports columnist, injecting his humor along the way.
Bugs Baer was personal friend of Babe Ruth, and he coined the phrase “The Sultan of Swat” when referring to Ruth. In 1920, Bugs wrote the screen play for “Headin’ Home”,
a silent movie about Babe Ruth, where Ruth plays himself as the lead character. Although the story line was completely fictional about Ruth’s life, it was an attempt to create a mythology about Babe Ruth that put his troubled past in a better light.
In 1923, Bugs co-wrote the “George White’s Scandals” review, which was on Broadway, with George Gershwin as the composer.
Bugs Baer continued his work as columnist with a syndicated King Features column “One Word Led to Another”, which had a circulation of about 15 million readers.
Another syndicated column was “The Baer Facts” where common every day observations were humorously discussed, as well as his column “Bo Broadway” for the Evening World,.Bugs was also one of the writers for the “Mutt and Jeff” comic strip for two years. He wrote many of the story lines that were used by Bud Fisher, the creator of Mutt and Jeff.
He appeared on radio station WGBS as a humorist and writer, and was a regular emcee for various appearances and shows by the “Syndicated Newspaper Cartoonists”.
Friend and acquaintance, Milton Berle, said that “he tapped Bug’s wit on occasion for inspiration when needing fresh humor”.
Arthur “Bugs” Baer was considered by the New York Times as “one the country’s best humorists of his time”.
Other quotes by Arthur “Bugs” Baer
“A writer’s fame may be measured these days by the Lit’ry standing of the birds who steal his stuff.”
“America never lost a war or won a peace.”
In 1928, when referring to Philadelphia Athletics pitching ace Lefty Grove, “He could throw a lamb chop past a wolf.”
“You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy”
“Alimony is like buying oats for a dead horse”
Arthur “Bugs” Baer died in 1969 at the age of 83.