Updike to Williams to This?!
John Updike was as fine a writer as Ted Williams was a hitter. Updike won two Pulitzers, Williams a pair of MVP’s.
When the former died in January of this year I marked his passing by listening to a recording of Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. It’s a classic essay he wrote for The New Yorker in the aftermath of Williams’ last game at Boston’s Fenway Park in 1960; a day when The Kid famously and fittingly homered in the final at-bat of a career that was both tempestuous and illustrious.
It’s beautiful; something that could turn non-believers into baseball fans the way Handel’s Messiah might call pagans to church.
It could not have been an accident that Updike was there to observe the event and later share his thoughts with whomever they concerned, although a preface to the recorded essay makes it sound as though it was just that. His first purpose for being in Boston that day was adulterous but, finding his paramour not at home, he went to the ballpark instead.
When Williams died in 2002 the poignancy of his death was overridden by the announcement that his head was to be frozen for future reference. His son, John Henry, who I recall accompanied his father on an autographing expedition to Des Moines in the mid-90's to raise funds for the Bob Feller museum not far from here, was having Ted posthumously decapitated and iced on the basis of a signed cocktail napkin that came with no certificate of authenticity. How at once cryonic and ironic.
It all seemed sad and grisly; certainly not befitting of the great slugger who was the last major leaguer to top .400 when he batted .406 in 1941 [inasmuch as that was the year of Joe DiMaggio’s legendary 56 game hitting streak, Williams didn’t even win the MVP award, nor did he in either of his two, count ‘em two, triple crown years!].
A plaque in Cooperstown, absolutely; a popsicle in a cryogenic warehouse in the Arizona desert - say it ain’t so!
But it was. And now breaks news that the stock boys at the freezer used Williams’ head for sport – even teeing it up on a can of tuna fish! If this too is so, Williams would have been better preserved had he been stuffed and mounted on the wall in a Beantown “man-cave”. Baseball cards are handled with more care than that accorded the remains of Teddy Ballgame. What, were the bored lab techs Yankee fans? Was the place so cold that decency went numb?
Aside from the indignity visited upon the man who aspired to be, “the greatest hitter who ever lived” [twice?], consider the macabre workplace shenanigans in their broader context. Baseball didn’t need another black eye, let alone the severed, frozen head of one of the game’s all-timers being the object of a game of pepper in a [meat] locker room somewhere. Probably just as well that the Bostons were excused early from this year’s playoffs. Had they advanced to the World Series around Halloween there would either have been too much talk or an awkward silence about The Headless Hitman.
Picture, if you can, the boss at the lab issuing a work order as follows: “Bring me the head of Ted Williams!” Then what - “PLAY BALL!”?
If it took none other than John Updike to do justice to Williams’ exploits on the diamond, then Stephen King writes the post-mortem. The whole thing smacks of Rod Serling.
For all his prowess at the plate, Williams earned his reputation for being surly and stubborn with the media and fans. He was repaid in the form of withheld MVP votes and occasional boos. Still, if he didn’t merit a pedestal, he surely deserved better than the alleged tuna can. It’s customary to commend the departed with hopes and prayers for resting in peace, not pieces.
Reports of the mishandling by the staff at the extended stay morgue have lent new meaning to baseball lexicon like bobblehead, sawed-off and disabled list.
Alas, the only head to roll in the matter is Williams’. The man in charge at the facility who should have been made to account for his slipshod oversight instead documented the goings on that he might profit from them in the form of a book.
What would John Updike have to say about all this? I just hope he has a grave to spin in.
been like that everytime I've been there too including Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium. Cubs travel well. It was pretty loud for Angels/Cubs this year and decent for Dodgers/Cubs but Dodger fans definitely turn out better than the Padre fans.
When I went in the 2007-2008 range, it was at least 75% Cubs fans.
Jeff Sullivan on Kris Bryant's lack of clutch hitting in 2016. Very good stuff, unsatisfying conclusion (it's probably random).
I was at Tuesday's game in San Diego. It looked like half of Chicago was at Petco. We were much louder than Padres fans.
We may have a chance to catch one in October. Although hell, I couldn't deal with my co-workers if we lose to them.
think I have to miss this series too (also was at the Arrieta game last year). But in my case, just had a busy weekend with work and kids have a bunch of activities and we made it to Opening Day in Anaheim and a couple of games in Wrigley this year which we normally don't get too...so not feeling like I'm missing out this year.
I hope the Cubs play three good teams.
First year I'm not going to a Cubs/Dodgers game in a long time. 4 month old baby kinda changes plans around. But the no-hitter I was at last year can last in the memory banks for awhile.
I think Dodger Dogs are awful. I love hot dogs, but those are crap.
ayyyy...get a doyer dog, then.
I'm going to be at this one! Am told a Dodger Dog is just a long hot dog. Disappointing.
If my math is correct, if the Cubs play .500 baseball for the rest of the season, they will finish with 99 wins. I only just confirmed through Baseball Reference that 97 wins last year (and 2008) were the most Cubs wins in my lifetime. I think that last year while Arrieta was pitching better than Cy F. Young I didn't really get or appreciate what he was doing. I'm trying to try to grasp in the moment just how fucking remarkable this season is.
This is awesome.
(CSN Chicago will air Vin Scully's call of the Sunday Cubs vs. Dodgers game...well for an inning at least)
I figured this was going to be the most meaningless regular season in Cubs history...and it is pretty much on point, although I certainly didn't think we'd have close to a 14 game lead.
But, one bad hop in game 1 in October could change absolutely everything we will remember about this year.
oh he's great, there's like 10 great pitchers in the NL right now that can flat out dominate though. Picking #2 (behind Kershaw) doesn't matter much to me right now. Much like whom the Cubs will play in the playoffs won't matter much, they're gonna be good teams.
The Cubs great pitching has a lot more to do with their great defense this year and plenty of good luck (#1 in ERA, #4 in FIP behind Nats, Mets and Dodgers with a rather ridiculous .258 BABIP against Cubs' pitchers).
Cubs pitchers do strike out more hitters than Giants pitchers and do walk more hitters than Giants pitchers so that's a few more balls in play. Cubs' pitchers actually have a higher groundball rate though. Crawford is just really good and baseball happens.