Tuesday, January 27

John Updike, dead at 76

John Updike died today at age 76. There's a lot that could be said about him here, but the best ITM can do is to direct you to the man's own writing. And since we are who we are here, we'll direct you to what is, without doubt, one of the finest pieces of sports writing around: Updike's 1960 New Yorker piece entitled "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu." We trust our readers won't need any more than that title to know the topic.

To give you a taste and to encourage you to read more, here's how it opens:

"Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg. It was built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1934, and offers, as do most Boston artifacts, a compromise between Man's Euclidean determinations and Nature's beguiling irregularities. Its right field is one of the deepest in the American League, while its left field is the shortest; the high left-field wall, three hundred and fifteen feet from home plate along the foul line, virtually thrusts its surface at right-handed hitters. On the afternoon of Wednesday, September 28th, as I took a seat behind third base, a uniformed groundkeeper was treading the top of this wall, picking batting-practice home runs out of the screen, like a mushroom gatherer seen in Wordsworthian perspective on the verge of a cliff. The day was overcast, chill, and uninspirational. The Boston team was the worst in twenty-seven seasons. A jangling medley of incompetent youth and aging competence, the Red Sox were finishing in seventh place only because the Kansas City Athletics had locked them out of the cellar. They were scheduled to play the Baltimore Orioles, a much nimbler blend of May and December, who had been dumped from pennant contention a week before by the insatiable Yankees. I, and 10,453 others, had shown up primarily because this was the Red Sox's last home game of the season, and therefore the last time in all eternity that their regular left fielder, known to the headlines as TED, KID, SPLINTER, THUMPER, TW, and, most cloyingly, MISTER WONDERFUL, would play in Boston. "WHAT WILL WE DO WITHOUT TED? HUB FANS ASK" ran the headline on a newspaper being read by a bulb-nosed cigar smoker a few rows away."

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/articles/hub_fans_bid_kid_adieu_article.shtml

Updike was lately a resident of Beverly Farms, Mass. He will be missed.

7 comments:

D Vicino said...

Did a project on Updike and his most famous piece back in high school....great stuff.

A true loss for the sports writing world.

Anonymous said...

Favorite line: "For me, Williams is the classic ballplayer of the game on a hot August weekday, before a small crowd, when the only thing at stake is the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill."

Anonymous said...

Favorite line: "For me, Williams is the classic ballplayer of the game on a hot August weekday, before a small crowd, when the only thing at stake is the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill."

eli said...

another great quote:
"There is no pleasing New Englanders, my dear, their soil is all rocks and their hearts are bloodless absolutes."

Joe Murph said...

Just a quick update. Here's the Sox official statement, echoing ITM: "The Boston Red Sox join literary lovers of all backgrounds in mourning the loss of the great writer and Massachusetts resident, John Updike.

For Red Sox fans in particular, a read of his essay, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," which was inspired by Ted Williams' last game, may serve as a fitting way to pay homage. The first few lines of this famous essay were inscribed on the walls of the Reception Area in our Front Office in 2002 and serve not only as a tribute to the ballpark he described, but also to the magnificent style in which he captured it. He will be missed."

Joe Murph said...

Also, nice reference Eli. Buchanan, pretty obscure.

coffee said...

John Updike's passing is sad, but he left a ton of awesome work. "Immortality is nontransferrable" he said appropriately.

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