Kerouac's Fantasy Baseball Obsession


So this is surprising: beat writer Jack Kerouac was way into fantasy baseball, and invented a detailed fantasy baseball game which he played -- by himself -- unbeknownst to his friends and colleagues. Lots of evidence of the game remains in his notebooks, allowing historians to piece together how it worked, and observe the progression of the game over different versions (starting when he was a teenager).

The New York Times reports that Kerouac's game was quite complex: "By 1946, when Kerouac was 24, he had devised a set of cards with precise verbal descriptions of various outcomes ("slow roller to ss," for example), depending on the skill levels of the pitcher and batter. The game could be played using cards alone, but Mr. Gewirtz thinks that more often Kerouac determined the result of a pitch by tossing some sort of projectile at a diagramed chart on the wall. In 1956 he switched to a new set of cards, which used hieroglyphic symbols instead of descriptions." Read on:

[Kerouac] collected [players'] 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 "publications," 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, "Kerouac 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.

Read the rest for an account of Kerouac's refreshingly nerdy pastime. For readers who aren't entirely sure who this guy is, check out Kerouac's Wikipedia page. I'll summarize: he wrote On the Road and Dharma Bums, drank a whole lot, and heavily influenced American writing in the latter half of the twentieth century.