January 27, 2009

Updike: Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu

If you have never read "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu", written by John Updike (who died today at age 76) and published in the October 22, 1960 issue of The New Yorker, what are you waiting for?
My personal memories of Williams begin when I was a boy in Pennsylvania, with two last-place teams in Philadelphia to keep me company. For me, "W'ms, lf" was a figment of the box scores who always seemed to be going 3-for-5. He radiated, from afar, the hard blue glow of high purpose. ... I remember watching one of his home runs from the bleachers of Shibe Park; it went over the first baseman's head and rose meticulously along a straight line and was still rising when it cleared the fence. The trajectory seemed qualitatively different from anything anyone else might hit. 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.


L-girl said...

One of the greatest baseball pieces ever written.

L-girl said...

Gods do not answer letters.

Zenslinger said...

I had never read it. It's lovely.

johngoldfine said...

Updike was a wizard at putting words to the ineffable, but, wonderful as it was, the piece never made me like Ted Williams a jot more.

L-girl said...

the piece never made me like Ted Williams a jot more.

I don't think it was meant to. Part of Updike's point is that "like" is irrelevant.

johngoldfine said...

Of course. Gods do not answer letters, nor make any effort to make themselves agreeable to mortals. Understood.

All I can say about Ted Williams is that when I read in his book that he pumped himself up by reminding himeself that he was Ted Fucking Williams, it stuck with me, and, silly as it is, when I have to face down my own difficulties, I too remind myself that I am...well, at least I am John Fucking Goldfine.

But why would the city honor him at all? He was a great athlete, but he was very small too.

And if it had to honor him, why give him that nonentity of a tunnel at one end of the Big Dig and name the wonderful bridge at the other after someone no one has ever heard of?

L-girl said...

But why would the city honor him at all?

Men of lesser accomplishments have been honoured more. But what is this referring to? Is there some controversy over Boston honouring Williams?

johngoldfine said...

It's not controversial, laura--it's in the can and a wrap. They named a tunnel after the man. End of story.

God knows men of lesser accomplishments have been honored in Boston--one need look no further than Logan Airport, Callahan Tunnel, or the Tobin Bridge. My beef is that they didn't find someone with greater accomplishments to honor.

His contributions to the city were all by-the-way and accidental. He happened to play in Boston, but for TW Boston was little more than the venue for half his ABs. He disliked Boston and Bostonians, and honoring him seems like after-the-fact sentimentality and jock-sniffing.

If it were up to me, I'd honor native son Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Or I'd name it the 2004 Boston Red Sox tunnel. If I were in charge and really wanted to stir things up, I'd name it the Sacco and Vanzetti Memorial Tunnel.