March 28, 2007

La Plus Ca Change, etc

I came across the John Updike piece "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," about Ted Williams' last game at Fenway, a few years ago (in "Baseball: A Literary Anthology," I think), and recently stumbled onto it again online. Aside from what an amazing piece of writing it is, I was struck by his depiction of the relationship between Williams and the media. Updike quotes "a fair sample of appreciative sports-page prose" from the Boston American's Huck Finnegan:
"Williams' career, in contrast [to Babe Ruth's], has been a series of failures except for his averages. He flopped in the only World Series he ever played in (1946) when he batted only .200. He flopped in the playoff game with Cleveland in 1948. He flopped in the final game of the 1949 season with the pennant hinging on the outcome (Yanks 5, Sox 3). He flopped in 1950 when he returned to the lineup after a two-month absence and ruined the morale of a club that seemed pennant-bound under Steve O'Neill. It has always been Williams' records first, the team second, and the Sox non-winning record is proof enough of that."

I should add that Finnegan, clearly the Dan Shaughnessy of his day, published that on the day of Williams' last game. Anyway, I'm sure I don't have to spell it out for you: sounds familiar, doesn't it? Mainstream sports writing doesn't seem to have changed all that much since 1960. Although God only knows what Huck Finnegan would have made of WARP.

Best line in the whole terrific Updike piece, though, is on Williams' refusal to so much as tip his cap to the pleading fans, after hitting a home run in his last-ever at-bat: "The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he refused. Gods do not answer letters."


rufuswashere said...

Yes, great prose, and a perfect analogy with Rodriguez. Of course now Ted Williams is a God up here in Boston. Let's see what happens with A-rod this year, I'm certainly rooting for him.

Enjoyed your piece on BB today as well.

Vitamin Steve said...

I don't have much to add, but I just want to say that I really enjoy your writing. I followed the links over from Bronx Banter, and look forward to reading this on a regular basis.

Todd Drew said...

I found the blog from your piece on Bronx Banter. Very nice work.

Anonymous said...

Well.. I was at the game Updike wrote about, and was (then) one of those kids (now, Emma is my kid, in that strange way of life), and I always disgreed with Updike. Gods do hear the long and persistent cries of children, and I remember those crying kids still, screaming long and loud and hopelessly for their hero, who had just him a home run, to come out and say goodbye. I loved Ted Williams and love him still, but his farewell did not, to me, make him a God, but just another man with too much tostosterone and too much ego.
There was much glory Ted William's baseball career, but little, to me, in making kids cry and tarnishing their memories. It is much in fashion to be cynical, but that is a stretch for me.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Congrats to Emma, my daughter, for getting bounced from the Voice. The place has been a mess for years, and my money is on it staying that way, but life has a strange way of pushing us along in ways that end up pleasantly surprising us. As her unbiased father, I can say her piece here and in the Banter makes me feel that she has come home, not that she was thrown out. I've been reading locker room reports for too many years, and there is no baseball magic in the regular press. There is more energy, fun and real writing on the blogs in a given day than in most papers in months.

Anonymous said...


Sorry to hear the VV canned you. Silly them. Keep on pluggin' away.

Anonymous said...

Emma, I would just like to add my voice (if you will pardon that word) to the chorus of admirers who very much like your work, and who hope you hang in there despite recent setbacks. Your insights are amazing and you convey them via a magnificent writing style. We look forward to your pieces, whether your own blogs, or on Bronx Banter, or anywhere!