Jack Kerouac and baseball.

nash“Writers are a different breed of lonely and resistant re-arrangers of things; anxious malcontents,  children afflicted at birth with some presentiment of loss.” –Joan Didion

It is no secret among my cohorts that my sense of dislocation and fluid relationship to language gave me an extremely strong sense of the arbitrary when it came to systems of communication. In layman’s terms: I can see through the bullshit.

  But, before I turn this into a slander against greedy owners, bitchy players, or “literary” based baseball blogs whose editors couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag; I  would like to take a short walk down memory lane…. (if you can wade through the labyrinthine stories and digressions)

Jack Kerouac was a “be-bop” writer and one of my heroes as a teenager. I tried to dress like him (khakis, newsboy hat, white t’s) and even did funny things like taking hallucinogenic mushrooms in cemeteries and writing poetry. (anyone who sees this as “wrong” should probably analyze their own connection with a reality based culture in which facts, opinions and lies are interchangeable) Although my admiration had waned for “Ti Jean” by the time I had reached my 30’s, I was astounded when I had learned Kerouac had devised a fantasy baseball game as a child. kerouacThe game was based on a set of cards that had precise verbal descriptions of various outcomes (“slow roller to SS or 2B,” for example), depending on the skill levels of the pitcher and batter. The game could be played using cards alone, although sometimes 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. He collected their stats, analyzed their performances  and wrote about them in homemade newsletters and broadsides. I, too, had played a similar game as a child, using baseball cards, dice and statistics; (this was how i figured out the E.R.A., an arduous task as a boy) keeping track of careers (this involved ungodly amounts of paper), sending players to the minors (yes, I had minor league systems too!) and conducting drafts. It was sort of therapeutic to find out that one of my idols had done something so cerebral and individualistic with the same obsessive quality that I had.  This was a testament to my love for the game and a secret I had held close until now.

Thanks to Jim Nash for the personalized autograph. In the interviews I’ve listened to, you seem to be a good guy and have a lot of hilarious stories to tell.

6 Comments

Hey Gary, I remember reading this story in a previous coco crisp post and am just as amazed the second time around, but not surprised. Great minds think alike…you and Kerouac!! I’m not much of a reader other than baseball stuff, but of the writers who write novels, Kerouac and Hesse are the only ones who I managed to read more than one of their books. I read on the road, dharma bums and tristessa and that one about his french canada roots and the brother who got taken like enos too early, maybe that’s ti jean, yeh I thnk so. he even writes in Quebec french the coalice tabernac de cris ostie. I get a special kick out of that because i’ve been living in Montreal for more than 10 years now. Woops, there went another decade.

The first baseball game I had was all star baseball; the one with the little floppy circles. They were about half the size of 45 records. There was a spinner. Then an older brother of a friend got us into strato and the dice and nuance and chance and strategy…We were like 9 or 10 and we stayed hooked into our early 20’s. I remember thinking about how cool it would be to invent a game, but I could never do it. I had no idea how or where to start, but anyway it was great playing strato. I recommend it if you have never tried or if I’m ever in California again and I hope to be, we could roll some dice. It always goes better with a 12 pack of beer and what not. People play on line or through the mail, but nothing beats rolling dice in a basement with pizza and beer or in a graveyard with a flask. There’s an idea.

Anyway, great post as always!! And I guess Nash sent you an autograph! Alright!!! Hey by the way, any luck on the Blue Moon Odom interview?

Thanks Steve. I’ve decided to “re-print” some of the pieces that I thought were good when I was getting about 20 hits a month. Now that my readership is roughly 6000, well, you get the point.
Yep, Jim Nash….still working on that 1969 autographed set. I’m afraid it will never happen unless I just happen to run into Reggie Jackson one day and Rick Monday decides to quit being a butthole and signs through the mail. I was thinking about “stalking” him outside of the Vin Scully press box (lots of people do this) but rationale got the best of me.
No answer from “Blue Moon.” I don’t blame him though, interviews can be tedious, especially through the mail. I met him in person and he was the best! That’s good enough for me.

Yeh, that’s a good idea to reprint some of the classics like an ESPN classic station only this will be Coco Crisp Classics. I think I read most of them and there are definitely some memorable ones. That freaking Rick Monday. That’s a bad word in Montreal, ever since he hit that home run in 1981. Even the most light hearted of baseball fans know that name around here and so we say it with disgust. There’s gotta be a way to reach Reggie. Hmmmm. Don’t give up on that one and if I hear any new strategies, I’ll let you know.

Hey Gary, I was rifling through the Kerouac book Doctor Sax. That’s another one I have, but never seem to be able to finish. No surprise since it’s maybe the hardest one of his to get through. Anyway, I was looking for baseball game references, inspired of course by your post. Dammit. I got distracted again and remembered an article about Kerouac’s other side or something like that….easy street research Google.Once again, I put doctor Sax down. Dammit. Anyway, here’s the link to the NY Times article.. Love the name Kerouac gave his teams and players. This post of yours is giving me lots of long distance. Ya know, the more I think about it. Maybe best to see these posts-your posts in a book format. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/16/books/16kero.html

That article really hits home. I would make reports as well, (later this inspiration would turn into punk rock “zines”) and had oodles of paper with endless amounts of stats, and since that era was the height of the baseball card craze there were endless “prospects.” It was fun being in your own world. I would even announce the games…my mom would come into my room on occasion asking, “who are you talking to?”
The blogging thing has taken the paper aspect away and I sort of miss that.

I hope you didn’t throw them out. I would love to read some of those reports and the zines for that matter.

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