To reprint one of John Updike’s most beautiful pieces of writing, his essay on Ted Williams, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.” (And good for Alfred A. Knopf to give its permission.)
From its crisp, understated beginning—”Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyrical little bandbox of a ballpark”— to its description of Williams rounding the bases, it may be the best thing ever written about baseball.
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 refused. Gods do not answer letters.
…At the end of the inning, Higgins sent Williams out to his left-field position, then instantly replaced him with Carroll Hardy, so we had a long last look at Williams as he ran out there and then back, his uniform jogging, his eyes steadfast on the ground. It was nice, and we were grateful, but it left a funny taste.
Did we get to see Updike jog back into the dugout? And if not, I wonder, why not?