I was a kind of rookie myself, dealing with publishers who were returning my poetry manuscripts. Their polite, teasing notes recognized my work’s virtues and extended their regrets. I kept working hard — at writing itself, and also at overcoming the discouragement of rejection. Among other distractions from that double struggle, we went to a few games at Fenway Park. Walk-up tickets were easy to get, and bleacher seats cost only a dollar or two. We began following the Red Sox broadcasts of that exciting season. We exchanged the old “B” on the cap for a new one.
Yastrzemski, I noticed, was 27 — and so was I. In a certain way, you never feel older than you do at 27. Youth is about to end, and what have you done? The dentists and lawyers of your age cohort have reasons to feel better about this pressure: they have entered their career groove in a good way. And how, you might ask yourself, are you making out in yours? For artists as for athletes, the answer isn’t always reassuring.
...In the context of Boston’s academic snobbery, I and many others enjoyed Yastrzemski’s distinctly non-Harvard style: here was a local sports hero who came from a Long Island potato farm and Notre Dame, which he attended as a business major on a basketball scholarship. In a tense way, Yaz actually smoked cigarettes in the dugout, and to relieve the tension he would rush to after-game beers in the clubhouse. The elegance of that oversize, sweeping swing and of his fielding, the smooth precision of his arm, made an agreeable contrast with the homey inelegance of his speaking style. In his farewell speech at Fenway Park, in front of 30,000 people, he thanked God for giving him a great body.
Carl Yastrzemski and I did not and do not have much in common. (He fishes, he golfs, he supported a Massachusetts governor whom I did not.) That reality doesn’t diminish my admiration, but underscores it, purifies it: in his realm, Yaz applied grown-up qualities I aspired to, and still aspire to, in mine.
Posted: October 04, 2012 at 06:38 PM | 41 comment(s)
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