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The Sinister End-of-the-World Homerun
May 21, 2009 3:50 PM   Subscribe

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved" .... and mad enough to play fantasy baseball. In the new book Kerouac at Bat: Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats, a NY Public Library archivist considers documents revealing the author's detailed obsession with the imaginary exploits of players like Pictorial Review Jackson and teams like the "Pontiacs, Nashes, and cellar-dwelling LaSalles" in his finely grained, fictional Summer League.
posted by Miko (22 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh the memories. The CBA website was one of my first favorite sites online. Great post.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 3:58 PM on May 21, 2009


I'm mad for it. Mad for bullshit. Can't get enough of that mad shit. Last holiday I took was to Madchester and that was yeeeeears aaaaagoooo!
posted by Elmore at 3:58 PM on May 21, 2009


Woah, this well put together post isn't about chanelling Mark E Smith??? My apologies. I'll sneak back to under my eeeeROCKuh.
posted by Elmore at 4:05 PM on May 21, 2009


He is not fucking appreciated.
posted by item at 4:19 PM on May 21, 2009


Damn-uh. I seem to've said the same once before-uh.
posted by item at 4:21 PM on May 21, 2009


Wow, Miko, thanks for this. It's fascinating. What is it about baseball and writers, anyway?
posted by dersins at 4:33 PM on May 21, 2009


Wow, Miko, thanks for this. It's fascinating. What is it about baseball and writers, anyway?
posted by dersins at 4:33 PM on May 21 [+] [!]


As a writer/baseball obsessive I can tell you it's about timing. The game is happening at fractions of a second and that amounts to a kind of alchemy. I love all sports and think they each have wonderfully unique things about them. Hockey has toughness. Basketball is sheer force of will and convergence of talent and fluidity. Soccer is the great sport of the world ingrained into a kind of nationalism. Football is a true chess game and the perfect combination of strategy and execution.

But baseball... baseball is a game where everything happens in fractions of a second. On some kind of intuitive level that we can't even see, especially if we blink. There's magic in that. Plus it requires the most repetitive training and care for minutiae. There are 180 games and it basically becomes a daily part of life. Sure sabremetrics and moneyball are taking over the game. It's becoming science. But that's just a modernization that's both much needed and kind of exciting. No matter what you can write always about it as a kind of alchemy and romance.

In short, baseball kicks ass.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 5:50 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's weird, but I used to do this too (albeit not as creatively). I had notebooks filled with fake stats and the bios of imagined players.

Good to see that wasn't totally weird to do on my part.
posted by reenum at 5:51 PM on May 21, 2009


Baseball is a cerebral game. Unlike most other team sports, it isn't on a clock. The numerology is captivating with nine players, nine innings, three outs per inning, three times through the batting order. The geometry of the playing field makes for action at multiple points on any ball hit in play. All it needs is croquet wickets in the outfield.
posted by netbros at 5:56 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Baseball is a cerebral game. Unlike most other team sports, it isn't on a clock. The numerology is captivating with nine players, nine innings, three outs per inning, three times through the batting order. The geometry of the playing field makes for action at multiple points on any ball hit in play. All it needs is croquet wickets in the outfield.
posted by netbros at 5:56 PM on May 21 [1 favorite +] [!]


Agreed. Plus, a lot of the reasons writers love baseball are the same reasons DFW loved tennis.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 6:19 PM on May 21, 2009


Baseball has a deceptively leisurely aura. It's a game of patience. When things happen, they do happen in a fraction of a second, but between the happenings, there is a lot of time to assess, consider, think, and reckon. You can look around the field at the players, and see their minds are busy calculating and forecasting. Same with the fans. To me, that's at least one of the reasons it's such a fascinating game - you aren't just constantly taking things in at whipcrack speed, you have time to absorb the mood, the tension, the possibilities, and to consider. Time in which to expand one's observations - and yet, time that's loaded with interesting tensions. Exquisite waiting.
posted by Miko at 6:37 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Baseball is a cerebral game. Unlike most other team sports, it isn't on a clock.

Actually, it is.

Major League Baseball Rulebook, 8.04:
When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.” The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

The beginning of the game is also precisely timed according to network specifications, and the 2nd base umpire carries a stopwatch, to signal the start of each inning based on the set length of commercial breaks.
posted by ericbop at 6:53 PM on May 21, 2009


I think "not on a clock" means that the game's length isn't predetermined, as in basketball or football.
posted by Miko at 7:10 PM on May 21, 2009


Although the existence of overtime and the possibility of a tie at the end of regulation means that those sports' lengths aren't predetermined, either.
posted by ericbop at 7:29 PM on May 21, 2009


Right, but the actual game time is a fundamental parameter of the game structure in a way that isn't true with baseball. Baseball has extra innings, not overtime, because winning depends on accumulating the highest score within a set of stages rather than within a time frame.
posted by Miko at 7:33 PM on May 21, 2009


I just find it interesting that baseball also has a "play clock," which, at 12 seconds, is twice as fast as the one used in the NBA or NFL. I think if this rule was enforced with an actual clock, as is the case in those other sports, then many of our romantic notions of the timelessness of baseball would quickly go out the window.
posted by ericbop at 8:16 PM on May 21, 2009


I'm curious if anyone's ever seen that 12-second rule enforced.
posted by danb at 9:26 PM on May 21, 2009


I'm totally, totally obsessed with Kerouac. I knew about his fantasy baseball and horse racing, but this post truly, truly amazes me. Thanks, Miko!

The horse-racing game was played by rolling marbles and a silver ball bearing down a tilted Parcheesi board, using a starting gate made of toothpicks. Apparently, the ball bearing traveled faster than the marbles, some of which were intentionally nicked to indicate equine fragility and mortality.

Amazing.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:39 AM on May 22, 2009


This is fascinating. I dreamed about doing something similar to this as a kid, but came to the conclusion that I didn't know enough about baseball (or any sport, really) to pursue it further.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 4:32 PM on May 22, 2009


The 12 second rule isn't enforced, ever, so the point is kind of moot.

This all reminds me The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., a fantastic book.
posted by imabanana at 9:38 AM on May 23, 2009


I see your Coover's fantasticness and raise you the Dixie Association.
posted by leonard horner at 10:34 AM on May 25, 2009


Weird coincidence. I just re-read the UBA book this past week. The main character reminds me of myself in lots of ways (not too many, whew!) but the Joycean last chapter is just odd.

But then again, it's Joycean.

Also: I share a birthday with Kerouac and my own private obsession of a fake baseball league.
posted by grubi at 6:20 AM on June 8, 2009


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