Read This: Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu

hub-fans.jpgFifty years ago, Ted Williams played his last major league baseball game; “on an impulse,” John Updike would recall years later, “I bought in for a few dollars… and the park was two-thirds empty. I was moved to write about the events of that game, in part because his departure, taking with it the heart of Boston baseball, had been so meagerly witnessed.” The essay Updike wrote, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” was published in The New Yorker a month later, and has been widely praised not only as one of the author’s best nonfiction works, but as one of the greatest pieces on baseball by any author. Earlier this year, it was republished in a commemorative Library of America edition, which is itself a fine bit of publishing. (Be sure to take off the Chip Kidd-designed dust jacket, even if only for a moment, to look upon the photograph reproduced on the book’s casing.)

It’s not a long essay, but Updike managed to fit a lot of tribute into it—recounting not only Williams’ performance in his final appearance at Fenway Park, and the reactions of Updike’s fellow fans, but also the exemplary features of the slugger’s long career in Boston, as well as his contentious relationship with the local press. It is a partisan account, but not belligerent in its advocacy, and though a bit florid in spots (“After a prime so hassled and hobbled, Williams was granted by the relenting fates a golden twilight”), it holds up as one of the most genuine expressions of fandom I’ve had the good fortune to read.

28 September 2010 | read this |