RealClearPolitics has posted the column by Sam Adams celebrating John Updike’s skills as an essayist. Adams writes: “He was, for my money, one of the greatest belletrists of all time — a master of the short, casual, elegant, whimsical, roving piece about absolutely anything.”
One of Updike’s classics of the form is “Hub fans bid kid adieu.” Updike reports on Ted Williams’ last game at Fenway Park. It’s a beautiful tribute and much more.
At the heart of the essay Updike describes each of Williiams’ at bats and the fitting climax. Williams hits a home run in his last at bat, the fans going nuts:
Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs–hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn’t tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted “We want Ted” for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.
Updike does not end there. “Every true story has an anticlimax,” he observes. He concludes with the news that Williams had decided not to accompany the team to New York after the game: “So he knew how to do even that, the hardest thing. Quit.”
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