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One popular young sports hero was Dick Merriwell, whose name, as we've seen, is positively subtle in the dime novel milieu. This issue of Tip Top Weekly exhibits a masterful display of euphemistic layering.

We begin with the straightforwardly dirty title, "Dick Merriwell On The Rubber," followed by the more subtly evocative "Playing Baseball In The Flowery Kingdom." What exactly does "The Flowery Kingdom" refer to? Ah, how a skilled writer engages the reader.

But the glorious stroke comes in the caption, a magnum opus of opaquely-suggestive filth: Zaru, the great Japanese batter and Harvard graduate, caught Dick's jump ball full and fair with his bat and drove it far into the field, clearing the bases and bringing in four runs.

I mean, that's just sublime. I can hardly begin to parse the layers of sexual analogy. Kids in 1900 put us 21st century degenerates to shame.

Naturally such virtuosity in dime novels was not the common case. Which isn't always so bad.

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Text © 2005 Kris Andrews