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.
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.
And to all of you reading my blog, I say be well and keep in touch.(To steal Garrison Keillor’s phrase.)
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.
It is a lot easier seeing Johnny Damon in a Tigers’ uniform. Baseball celebrates the past, by its very nature, but then I find myself wondering what might have been Last night during the game, while the Detroit announcers(Long Live the beautiful voice of Ernie Harwell) were recalling the days of Ortiz-Manny and commenting on how much more difficult it was then to pitch to Papi, I started wondering what would have happened had we kept Manny, despite everything, Unrealistic perhaps.Then I wondered how feasible it was to keep Damon away from the Yankees. What’s the difference in having a Mike Cameron than keeping a 36 year-old Damon, one Globe reader asked. Good question. The Tigers talk about how important he is in the clubhouse. Maybe Manny’s antics were more of a disturbance to the team after Damon left. I can’t pretend to know these things but I often wonder.
I recently mentioned Roger Angell’s amazing essay on the home run, “Homeric Tales,” and last night’s game was a great addition to the Tales of Papi. Two blasts, or as he called them, “lasers.” Nick Cafardo writes about the quicker, shorter swing employed by Papi. It is magnificent to watch. Then there was Bill Hall’s shot.The pinch-hit homer is gratifying in a unique way. (As a side note, did anyone see the behind the plate camera view in replays? Why doesn’t MLBtv use that more often?) Angell writes about the most famous pinch-hit home run in baseball history. (You know what it is.)
What is your favorite Red Sox home run?? My choice, for now, is Johnny Damon’s grand slam in Game 7 of the ALCS. That’s when I knew we changed baseball history.
“The port is near, the bells I hear, the people are exulting,” Walt Whitman wrote for Lincoln and the soldiers of the Civil War. But I write here about our captain and the exultation I feel when Tek hits one these days. Home runs always feel good. Even in the later innings of a drubbing, they always seem to lift the spirit a little. Roger Angell’s wonderful essay on the home run, ‘Homeric Tales, first published in the New Yorker in the early ’90s is probably my favorite piece by him. With our Captain’s uncertain future, and in the face of what many thought was an adversarial platooning with Victor, Jason Varitek is still producing and he is still our captain. Seeing him trot the bases last night with those cypress tree trunk legs makes me hope he will stick around for a while.Anytime I am feeling a bit down after a loss to the Yankees, I look at that photo of Tek punching his mitt into A-Rod’s jowls.The new issue of ESPN magazine reports that Kyle Farnsworth is the biggest bad*ss in baseball. My vote is for Tek, who makes sure our “ship is anchored safe and sound.”