On The Road of Fantasy Fanatacism


An article in today’s Times about Jack Kerouac’s fixation on fantasy baseball caught my eye. (The term “fantasy,” in this case, refers to a sort of role-playing baseball, rather than the rotisserie-type “fantasy” baseball that is so popular nowadays.) Seems most of his life Kerouac was obsessed with a baseball simulation game of his own creation, peopled with entirely made-up leagues, teams, and players. He chronicled the results of his games in various ways, including fake newspaper stories. (He also had a thing for fantasy horseracing, of all things.) Anyway, it appears that Kerouac kept this particular obsession entirely to himself, so even Beat buds like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs knew nothing of it. I find it fascinating that the celebrated author of On The Road and The Dharma Bums had this secret life… as a nerd.

When I was a kid of about eleven or twelve years old, right when I really got into Dungeons & Dragons, I also really got into baseball (specifically the San Francisco Giants, as I lived in Frisco at the time). One of the things that drew me to both pursuits was their almost religious reliance on statistics: constitution values, batting average, hit points, earned run average, armor class, slugging percentage, saving throw — this way of measuring the world made sense to me. (A shrink would probably say it was my way of imposing a sense of order on what had been a fairly rootless, chaotic life up to that point.)

Subway Series: A City Divided

Yankess vs. Mets

This illustration of mine was published by The Washington Post in July 2007



That was the soundtrack to my Friday evening, at Shea Stadium for the second game of Yankees-Mets doubleheader. (In a rare event brought about by an earlier rain-out, the first game was played at Yankee Stadium, and the nightcap was at Shea.) The fans in our section were about 60-40 Mets-to-Yankees fans, with me sitting it out in my S.F. Giants cap. It was an entertaining place to be, though, as the Yankees fans would chant “Let’s-Go-Yankees!” and the Mets fan would instantly retort with “Yankees-Suck!” There was something poignant about this song of opposition: they were “singing” the same tune, and each side would dutifully wait for the other to finish their part.

The game started out evenly, with each group of fans getting their chance to make rude gestures and flaunt their team jerseys at the others, but the Yanks took control in the fourth inning, and ended up winning in a rout, nine-zip. Actually, it was when the game got out of the hand that the fans did too, and what seemed good-natured at first started to turn ugly. Groups of young men from each side got louder and more raucous, and security came by a couple of times to make sure things didn’t get violent.

As a fairly rabid Giants fan, I don’t have a problem with loudly rooting for your team, but there is something odd about this kind of intra-city rivalry. Unlike San Francisco and Oakland, two separate cities; or the North Side Cubs fans and South Side White Sox partisans; Yankees and Mets fans seem to split up much more raggedly once you get beyond the borders of the Bronx and Queens. For instance, in my experience, it seems like most Brooklynites favor the Mets, while those from Manhattan and Staten Island are Yankees lovers. Come to think of it, there definitely seems to be a class thing in evidence: Yankees fans proliferate in the Jersey suburbs and Westchester. It’s weird taking the train to Yankees games, with all those beefy Italian-American kids in Yankees jerseys and caps — who ever sees anyone like that in New York anymore? My assumption is they’re a bridge-and-tunnel crowd.

So maybe what was going on in our section Friday night was not so much a baseball rivalry as the first blow of a full-fledged class war?

Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto, dead at 89


Ex-Yankees player and broadcaster Phil Rizzuto passed away today. I listened to The Scooter during my prime baseball-fan days, as an adolescent, and he shaped my feeling for the game. I loved the way he combined a passion for baseball with a clear awareness that it was just a game, not to be taken too seriously.

He was known for his distinctive “Holy Cow!” exclamation, and I also loved how he called people “huckleberry.” During his prime as a Yankees broadcaster, he teamed up with classic straight man Bill White. They made a great duo, the wise-cracking, diminutive old Italian-American bantering with the tall, distinguished African-American.

During broadcasts, Phil would get so involved in anecdotes, stories, or noting fans’ birthdays and anniversaries, that he would forget all about the game. The resulting non-sequitors made for classic TV and radio. And if a summer thunderstorm passed by the Stadium, he would literally run out of the broadcast booth to find shelter!

Years ago, the Village Voice took a few classic Phil monologues and transcribed them into poetic form. It was pure brilliance. Eventually, Tom Peyer & Hart Seely put together a whole book of his “selected verse.” Here are some of my favorite Rizzuto “poems”:

Come say hello to my little friends!

Comics, Geek

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAfter some mix-ups with shipping, I finally received my X-mas gift from Sari, a set of curio cabinets for the small collection of toys, models, and action figures that I’ve acquired over the years. (Yes, like every other cartoonist on earth, I am at least part geek.)

So with a small amount of fanfare, I mounted one of the cabinets on the wall, and finally was able to create a home for (from top left. reading like a comic) Klinger, Hot Lips, Hawkeye, and B.J., Will Clark and Willie Mays; Boba Fett; Willie McCovey; Jack Clark; some cool Tintin chocolates; super-deformed Wolverine and Superman; the Giants Pontiac Firebird; Tintin, Snowy, and Captain Haddock; and Tintin, Snowy, and the Thompson Twins.

They all seem to be adjusting well to their new home.

Fashion Backward, or a Lonely Li’l Baseball Fan

1980 Giants

In honor of the upcoming baseball season, I thought it was time to dust this one off.

Seems when I was 13 or so, I felt compelled to draw the home & away uniforms of every MLB team, as well as alternate jerseys (an obscure practice in those days). I was obsessed with baseball, especially with the Giants — this was back when I lived in San Fran — and their distinctive orange & black. It was incredibly satisfying to get out the markers and fill the pages with all those colorful combinations of logos, stripes, and numerals.