JACK KEROUAC, BASEBALL FANATIC.

I have been waiting for this exhibit to arrive at the main branch of the New York City Public Library for months, because the centerpiece is the original scroll manuscript of On The Road, which is something I have been dying to see. Yes, I know the legend may eclipse the truth, but it still has iconic status for a writer. And the fact that I now work right by the NYPL and pass Patience and Fortitude every morning made it super-convenient. I saw the banner advertising the exhibit Thursday night on my way home, and decided that I would be dropping by on Friday during my lunch hour – not even realizing it was the first day of the exhibit.

I spent 15 minutes with the 60 feet of the 120 feet of scroll that is unfurled, and browsed some other parts of the exhibition. I mean, I can visit as often as I want over the next six months so there was no real need to see it all in one day. But as I was leaving, something caught my eye, and I went closer.

Wait, is that a SCORE CARD?

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So there is an entire segment of the exhibit devoted to Kerouac’s life as a sports fan, and an avid participant in fantasy sports. But not fantasy baseball as we know it today, a world which was constructed out of Kerouac’s imagination. From the exhibition guide:

Fantasy baseball, however, maintained its hold on him to the end of his life. In the “publications” accompanying the game, Kerouac provided the players, coaches, managers and owners with far more detailed biographical histories than he did for the fantasy horse-racing participants.

I also learn that he dreamed of becoming a sports reporter. And in another Kerouac biography, the biographer notes: “In a profound sense, it was sports, more than anything else, that galvanized Kerouac as a writer.”

I have read about half a dozen Kerouac biographies and had never run into this. Then again, if I had, it would have been years ago and I would have probably skimmed over it. I’m sure you’re all sitting there saying “Doh” but this was news even to TBF. I found this article online, but that’s all I came up with. So if you have more, send it along!

As the perennial newbie, I am still struck at who embraces baseball to their heart, and what it ends up saying to me about that person. Here, it’s an astonishing bit of insight. I can see the point that having something that was intricate enough to require devoted study could galvanize him to create a worlds and to consider thoughts and motivation, which of course is the perfect training for any writer. But it was the last thing I expected to run into today, and I’ll be back more than once to that section of the exhibit, likely with TBF in tow, to explore further.

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