Angels-Red Sox Game 1 ALDS threadOctober 1, 2008
Last year, the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the Red Sox traveled a distinctly Kerouackian path to their second World Series title in four years. Leave it to a blog devoted to poetry to point out many of the echoes of Kerouac sounded by the Red Sox’ 2007 victory, including not only that the Red Sox clinched the series “on the road” but that they did it in Denver, hometown of primary Kerouac muse Neal Cassady, and that they were led by their third baseman, the World Series MVP, whose last name happens to be the same, Lowell, as the Massachusetts town where Kerouac was born and raised. The famous traveler’s first trip out of Lowell may well have been the time, in 1933, when his father took him to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play.
That reported Fenway voyage aside, I had to dig around a little to convince myself that Kerouac was a Red Sox fan. I knew that he loved baseball, that baseball was something he carried close to his heart longer than he carried just about anything else—in fact he literally carried baseball with him in his rucksack, the hand-made cards of the Strat-O-Matic-like fantasy game he invented as a kid jammed in his traveling rucksack among his manuscripts and socks and cross-country stack of baloney sandwiches and, more and more as the year’s went on, his cheap rotgut wine—but I distrusted claims made in various places that he was a Red Sox fan because in all the words I’d read by him I’d never seen one specific mention of an allegiance to the Red Sox. My working theory was that he never built a strong childhood bond to the team because there were two Boston teams during his childhood, and the Braves were generally a little better in those years (late 1920s to early 1930s) than the profoundly putrid Red Sox squads of that era. It’s hard for a kid to get a handhold on a team that is, year in and year out, a hapless, featureless, unexciting blob, especially if that kid will grow up to write “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’” Suffice to say that the Red Sox of the 1920s and 1930s didn’t boast a lot of guys like that. But there does seem to be corroboration that in later years Kerouac was indeed a Red Sox fan—and a Ted Williams fan in particular—so even though there is no written evidence of it he may well have been able as a child to see unappreciated luminescence in the likes of long-forgotten 100-loss mainstays such as Rabbit Warstler and Danny MacFayden. I have decided to believe this to be true. Roman candles aside, Kerouac always had an eye for the pale nobody in the corner who everyone else ignored.
An instance of Kerouac noticing holiness in the margins provides the opening to Dharma Bums, his prayerful, less frenetic follow-up to On the Road. “Hopping a freight out of Los Angeles,” Kerouac begins, “at high noon one day in late September 1955 I got on a gondola and lay down with my duffel bag under my head and my knees crossed and contemplated the clouds as we rolled north to Santa Barbara.” Soon he is joined by another rider of the rails, “a thin old little bum” who “spoke from far away inside a little meek voice-box afraid or unwilling to assert himself.” The bum, used to being ignored, is drawn out by the novel’s Kerouac stand-in, Ray Smith, and eventually shares the words on a small slip of paper he carries with him everywhere, which affirm that St. Theresa will one day shower all living creatures with roses from heaven.
Los Angeles, receding into the distance as the late September train flew north, into the fall, never looked so kind.
To get to the World Series last October, as in October 2004, the Boston Red Sox had to first pass through Los Angeles, something that Jack Kerouac always seemed to be doing on his way to somewhere else. This year, the October road for the Red Sox once again either ends or goes through Los Angeles. To get to heaven, you’ve got to climb over some Angels.
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And if that literary malarkey doesn’t suit you, here are some baseball thoughts as my heart starts to pound:
According to the Boston Globe, the Bosox postseason roster is official. J[ack] D[uluoz] Drew is in, as is third baseman Mike Hometown-of-Jack-Kerouac.
Most people are leaning toward the Angels in this one. They whupped the Red Sox in the season series. They’ve got the pronounced edge in the bullpen, often a decider in the playoffs. They’ve bolstered their lineup with the midseason acquisition of the all-star slugger whose name is always mispronounced by my friend Ramblin’ Pete as if it were a special form a diarrhea contracted in Texas. Also, after ’86 and ’04 and ’07, they’re due. That’s the general thinking, I think, along with doubts cast on the banged-up Red Sox, who count among their limping the two roster members mentioned above as well as their big game ace, Josh Beckett, who has an oblique injury, and Big Papi, who hasn’t been quite right all year. And then there’s the glaring absence in the middle of their lineup. It’s October, and one of the first things I did today was turn my Red Sox calendar to its new page. Who should be standing there, bat cocked, in position to mangle the next pitch, but my old friend Manny Ramirez. I miss him. I wish things hadn’t gone sour this year between the team and him, and I really wish he didn’t shove a 60-something-year-old Red Sox employee to the ground, but what can I say, he gave me a lot of enjoyment, more than any other Red Sox player ever has, and I miss him. The Red Sox may find they miss him, too, or at least miss his batting skills, which have been equaled by very few in the history of the game.
But that sadness about Manny aside, I like this year’s team a lot. They had a lot of injury problems this year and they still found a way to make it to October alive. With their speed and deep rotation and good bench and strong defense, they have for most of the year been the most balanced Red Sox team I’ve ever had the pleasure of rooting for. The bench and rotation have been weakened by injuries, but who knows, maybe in a short series these weakened areas won’t hurt them. Anyway, it’s not like they’re going to Los Angeles empty-handed. They’ve certainly at least got, like Kerouac’s thin little dharma bum, a prayer.
Lineups courtesy of The Boston Globe:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Bay, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B
Jed Lowrie, SS
Jason Varitek, C
SP: Jon Lester
Chone Figgins, 3B
Garret Anderson, LF
Mark Texeira, 1B
Vladimir Guerrero, DH
Torii Hunter, CF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Mike Napoli, C
Gary Matthews Jr., RF
Erick Aybar, SS
SP: John Lackey
TBS has a four-camera video feed of the divisional games online.