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Patrick Sauer

It’s Tennis, Charlie Brown

Comic strips by Charles M. Schulz

Patrick Sauer | Racquet and Longreads | April 2019 | 11 minutes (2,896 words)

This story is produced in partnership with Racquet magazine and appears in issue no. 9.

In May 1951, seven months after a new comic strip called Peanuts debuted, an extremely roundheaded Charlie Brown is shown trying to return a tennis ball. He whiffs, then walks to the net to discuss a rule change with his pal Shermy, a once prominent but since forgotten character. The last panel shows both boys to be a half foot below the net as ol’ Chuck proposes, “One point if you hit the ball, two if you get it over the net!”

Throughout its 50-year run, tennis was a leitmotif in Peanuts. It wasn’t quite as prevalent as baseball or ice hockey, but forehands in the funny pages weren’t uncommon; the sport was shown or mentioned in a total of 236 Peanuts installments. The heyday of tennis in the beloved strip coincided with the tennis boom of the 1970s, which is when Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz was hitting the courts most frequently, thanks to his tennis-loving wife, Jean, as well as a close pal with 39 Grand Slam titles to her name. Read more…