Jack Kerouac’s brief stint as a running back for Columbia University and early crack at sportswriting for the school’s Daily Spectator have been well documented. Unknown ’til now, however, was Kerouac’s obsession with a self-invented fantasy baseball universe. The Lowell, MA native “charted the exploits of made-up players like Wino Love, Warby Pepper, Heinie Twiett, Phegus Cody and Zagg Parker, who toiled on imaginary teams named either for cars (the Pittsburgh Plymouths and New York Chevvies, for example) or for colors (the Boston Grays and Cincinnati Blacks),” explains the New York Times’ Charles McGrath.
He collected their stats, analyzed their performances and, as a teenager, when he played most ardently, wrote about them in homemade newsletters and broadsides. He even covered financial news and imaginary contract disputes. During those same teenage years, he also ran a fantasy horse-racing circuit, complete with illustrated tout sheets and racing reports. He created imaginary owners, imaginary jockeys, imaginary track conditions.
All these œpublications, some typed, some handwritten and often pasted into old-fashioned composition notebooks, are now part of the Jack Kerouac Archive at the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. The curator, Isaac Gewirtz, has just written a 75-page book about them, œKerouac at Bat: Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats, to be published next week by the library and available, at least for now, only in its gift shop.
The prose in Kerouac™s various publications mostly imitates the overheated, epithet-studded sportswriting of the day. œIt was partly homage, Mr. Gewirtz said, œand perhaps partly parody, but every now and then an original phrase leaps out. For example, the description of a hitter who œalmost drove Charley Fiskell, Boston™s hot corner man, into a shambled heap in the last game with his sizzling drives through the grass.
Mr. Gewirtz said, œI really like that ˜shambled heap.™ Another description he enjoys is one of an overpowering pitcher who after defeating the opposition by a lopsided score œsmiled wanly.