Big League Poets & Ted Williams

When the writer John Updike was stood up after a planned adulterous meeting on Beacon Hill, he walked over to Fenway Park. Much has been written about that very game this week, since the small crowd that day fifty years ago saw the last at-bat of Ted Williams, his last home run as the baseball gods ordained. Ted Williams is one of greatest ballplayers ever, but he is also one of the great muses for writers and poets. From David Halberstam’s book, The Teammates, to Updike’s long essay, now a slim individual volume, Hub Fan Bid Kid Adieu. Add to these Roger Angell’s work, and many others. I know music fans often think of Dimaggio as the central basball muse, but there must be nine, right? I would like to invite readers to fill in the other 7 top baseball players that have served as writers’ muses.

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When my friend of Missing Fenway, Rachel Cantor, sent me Mikhail Horowitz’s wonderful volume, Big League Poets, I knew right away that the cover image of Walt Whitman grabbing a high line drive would end up on my blog. What I didn’t anticipate was the wonderful email I would receive weeks after posting the image from Mikhail Horowitz himself. As has been my genuine pleasure in starting this blog, writing about baseball and it’s constant surprises, one of the unexpected joys has been the ways I’ve connected with other fans and blog writers.

This is what Mr Horowitz had to say:

Hi, Mr Thomas —

I noticed that the cover of my “Big League Poets” book (City Lights, 1978) is prominently displayed on your website, blazoning a Red Sox poetry contest.

It just might interest you to know that I’ve been a Yankees fan since 1958.

I had a funny experience with this fact in New Hampshire two years ago, when I was performing at the World Fellowship Center in Conway. My audience was a bunch of progressive secular Jews who were members of the Workman’s Circle in Brookline, Massachusetts. I came out wearing a baseball cap that says Yankees, only in Yiddish — not thinking anything about it. Then I started to hear a murmur of boos. I quickly realized that a) unlike most audiences, these folks could actually read the cap, and b) I was–duh!–in New England, the cradle of Red Sox Nation. I knew that I had to act fast to keep them from stoning me, so I related, very calmly and honestly, that I came of baseball age in ’58 in New York City, a time in which there was only one team in town, the Dodgers and Giants having left and the Mets not having been born. As an eight-year-old taken with the game, what did I know of racist hiring practices, corporate fascism, money-grubbing owners, etc.? All I could ask, as indeed all any eight-year-old in New York could ask, was, “What’s not to love about Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle?” So I gave the audience this impassioned spiel, and there was a moment of silence for about ten seconds, as they considered what I said. And then . . . of course, the BOOS started swelling, much louder than before. QED: They were true Sox fans.

Be well,
Mikhail Horowitz

And to all of you reading my blog, I say be well and keep in touch.(To steal Garrison Keillor’s phrase.)
And
GO SOX!!!!!

right of the pesky pole notes:

Mike Lowell just launched one off of Garcia in Chicago. How can one not think that this home run could be Lowell’s last. If you are watching Ted, send some magic Mike’s way and let him put one over the Green Monster on Saturday, MIke Lowell Day at Fenway.

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2 comments

  1. theheirloom

    Michael, this is awesome! To hear from a scribe of considerable significance is an honor, indeed. The story he told – and the code was broken by Sox fans – reminds me of one thing: Why does it not happen anywhere in this country!

    Don’t answer that. I am regularly reminded that I am an auslander among the stoics in the Upper Midwest (being of Jewish stock from Los Angeles). 🙂

    http://heirloom.mlblogs.com

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