May 18, 2009

The blessed grace of waking up
Of breathing in the sheets
And hello to you, at the window
Hello to you



Andrew Bush, High Schoolers, 1997

* Jack Kerouac, a huge baseball fan, created his own fantasy baseball league. excerpt:

"Almost all his life Jack Kerouac had a hobby that even close friends and fellow Beats like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs never knew about. He obsessively played a fantasy baseball game of his own invention, charting the exploits of made-up players like Wino Love, Warby Pepper, Heinie Twiett, Phegus Cody and Zagg Parker, who toiled on imaginary teams named either for cars (the Pittsburgh Plymouths and New York Chevvies, for example) or for colors (the Boston Grays and Cincinnati Blacks).

"He collected their stats, analyzed their performances and, as a teenager, when he played most ardently, wrote about them in homemade newsletters and broadsides. He even covered financial news and imaginary contract disputes. During those same teenage years, he also ran a fantasy horse-racing circuit, complete with illustrated tout sheets and racing reports. He created imaginary owners, imaginary jockeys, imaginary track conditions.

"All these 'publications,' some typed, some handwritten and often pasted into old-fashioned composition notebooks, are now part of the Jack Kerouac Archive at the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. The curator, Isaac Gewirtz, has just written a 75-page book about them, 'Kerouac at Bat: Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats,' to be published next week by the library and available, at least for now, only in its gift shop."
...
"Among other things, Mr. Gewirtz has learned that Kerouac played an early version of the baseball game in his backyard in Lowell, Mass., hitting a marble with a nail, or possibly a toothpick, and noting where it landed. By 1946, when Kerouac was 24, he had devised a set of cards with precise verbal descriptions of various outcomes ('slow roller to ss,' for example), depending on the skill levels of the pitcher and batter. The game could be played using cards alone, but Mr. Gewirtz thinks that more often Kerouac determined the result of a pitch by tossing some sort of projectile at a diagramed chart on the wall. In 1956 he switched to a new set of cards, which used hieroglyphic symbols instead of descriptions. Carefully preserved inside plastic folders at the library, they now look as mysterious as runes."
...
"The prose in Kerouac’s various publications mostly imitates the overheated, epithet-studded sportswriting of the day. 't was partly homage,' Mr. Gewirtz said, 'and perhaps partly parody, but every now and then an original phrase leaps out.' For example, the description of a hitter who 'almost drove Charley Fiskell, Boston’s hot corner man, into a shambled heap in the last game with his sizzling drives through the grass.'

"Mr. Gewirtz said, “I really like that ‘shambled heap.’ Another description he enjoys is one of an overpowering pitcher who after defeating the opposition by a lopsided score “smiled wanly.”

"Kerouac wrote his last baseball account, two mock United Press International reports, in 1958, but he continued to play the game and to tinker with its formulas, making them more realistic, until just a year or two before his death in 1969. His friend the poet Philip Whalen was probably the only one of the Beats who was familiar with this side of Kerouac."

* The Foreign Press is performing at the West Main Development showcase Friday May 22, 2009 at Baltimore's 2640 Space. Also playing: Don Zientara, The Caribbean, HD, and Nathan Bell. Doors at 7:30. The Foreign Press is scheduled to start at 8:15. Should be a fun evening.

-- Listen to West Main Development kingpin Matt Byars discuss the label.

* "I only like whiskey all the time." -- Ed McCarthy

1 Comments:

Anonymous Mike A. said...

The Kerouac thing is pretty mind-blowing. Had he made the publication of his game the central intellectual pursuit of his life he most likely would have been hugely successful, capitalizing on a golden age of baseball and the baby boom love of board games.

10:53 AM  

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