Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Halberstam. and Updike. Williams. and Knight.

On the somber occasion of John Updike's passing, much has been made of his "lyric little" essay, 'Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu."

An interesting sidelight, where Updike plays an 'off-screen' role, is David Halberstam's account of trying to obtain an appointment with Ted Williams in 1990:

My appointment with Mr. Theodore Williams of the Islamorda, Fla., Williams family had been agreed on well in advance, though we had not yet talked to each other. That is normal in matters of this gravity, and our earlier arrangements had been conducted through intermediaries.

My representative was Mr. Robert M. Knight of Bloomington, Ind., who in addition to being my occasional appointments secretary, is coach to the Indiana University basketball team. Mr. Knight, on occasion, has had troubles with members of the press himself, and was almost as celebrated as Mr. Williams in this regard.

It had taken no small amount of time to win over Mr. Knight's good opinion, for somewhat early in our relationship I had failed him on a serious literary point. Mr. Knight, unbeknown to many, is a literary man and I would not be amiss if I referred to him as a kind of literary executor for Mr. Williams. On that earlier occasion, he had quizzed me on my qualifications to write about Mr. Williams.

I had done reasonably well until the final question. Mr. Knight had asked to quote the best-known sentence of John Updike's famous New Yorker piece on Mr. Williams. I had not known, and Mr. Knight had, with no small measure of disdain, pointed out that it said, "Gods do not answer letters."

from Ted Williams: A Portrait in Words and Pictures.

Monday, January 12, 2009

All-Time Great Prefaces

From David Halberstam's "The Breaks of the Game"

"Fame," O.J. said, walking along, "is a vapor, popuularity is an accident, and money takes wing. The only thing that endures is character."
"Where'd you get that from," Cowlings asked.
"Heard it one night on TV in Buffalo," O.J. said. "I was watching a late hockey game on Canadian TV and all of a sudden a guy just said it. Brought me right up out of my chair. I never forgot it."
-- From an article by Paul Zimmerman, Sports Illustrated, November 26, 1979, on O.J. Simpson.
The next (and final) line in the Zimmerman piece:

"The character of O.J. Simpson will endure. It will be his legacy."

And who's on the cover of that issue of SI?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

All-Time Great Scouting Reports

On Eddie House: "Won't shoot it unless he has it in his hands." (Page 74)

On Jerry West: "Okay guys, West can only go right. But don’t concern yourself with that because you can’t stop him anyway. He’s been going right for twenty years." (Page 197.)

From Seven Seconds or Less, by Jack McCallum.