On September 28, 1960, John Updike went to Fenway Park "with the open heart of a fan" for what was likely Ted Williams's last game on the field he had called home for 21 years.
Updike spent the next five days writing his thoughts on Williams and that afternoon's game -- and his essay was published under the title "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" in the October 20, 1960, issue of The New Yorker.
It is one of the finest essays ever written on the national game. Its first sentence is the source of the oft-quoted description of Fenway Park as a "lyric little bandbox".
Before his death in January 2009, Updike worked with The Library of America on a special edition of the essay for the 50th anniversary of the game. The 64-page hardcover edition is now available ($15 US). (The LoA sent me a paperback copy of the uncorrected proofs.) In addition to the essay, Updike wrote a short introduction. His eight-page afterward draws on other TSW essays he wrote in 1986 and 2002.
It is a modest package -- any consideration about buying it will likely depend on whether you feel it's worth the sticker price (in that respect it's a lot like David Foster Wallace's "This Is Water") -- yet there is no denying the sheer beauty of the writing.
The afternoon grew so glowering that in the sixth inning the arc lights were turned on - always a wan sight in the daytime, like the burning headlights of a funeral procession. Aided by the gloom, Fisher was slicing through the Sox rookies, and Williams did not come to bat in the seventh. He was second up in the eighth. This was almost certainly his last time to come to the plate in Fenway Park, and instead of merely cheering, as we had at his three previous appearances, we stood, all of us, and applauded. I had never before heard pure applause in a ballpark. No calling, no whistling, just an ocean of handclaps, minute after minute, burst after burst, crowding and running together in continuous succession like the pushes of surf at the edge of the sand. It was a somber and considered tumult. There was not a boo in it. It seemed to renew itself out of a shifting set of memories as the Kid, the Marine, the veteran of feuds and failures and injuries, the friend of children, and the enduring old pro evolved down the bright tunnel of twenty-two summers toward this moment. At last, the umpire signaled for Fisher to pitch; with the other players, he had been frozen in position. Only Williams had moved during the ovation, switching his bat impatiently, ignoring everything except his cherished task. Fisher wound up, and the applause sank into a hush.